Interview with Washington Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Former President Donald Trump has filed a lawsuit against "The Times", three of its reporters, and his niece Mary Trump, claiming they hatched an insidious plot to obtain his private records for a story about his tax history.
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: That is "ALL IN" for this evening.
THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now. Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thanks, my friend. Much appreciated.
And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
When World War I started in Europe, our president here in the United States was President Woodrow Wilson. And Woodrow Wilson was bound and determined that the United States would not get itself involved in that war. And that really worked for him politically for a while.
Woodrow Wilson was elected in 1912. World War I started in Europe two years later, 1914. Woodrow Wilson really wanted us to stay out of it at all costs. And indeed, when he ran for reelection in 1916, he ran with the slogan "He kept us out of war."
And that was true. He had kept us out of the war at that point. And that was a popular enough sentence in the United States up until that time that Wilson got reelected as president, in part -- you know, thanks to those bragging rights, along those lines. By keeping us out of the Great War. He was reelected in 1916.
But World War I was nevertheless dragging on, and expanding. It started in 1914, dragged on into 1915, into the 1916, into the 1917, it involved dozens of countries, the huge swath of the world, it really was reshaping the world, with all the alliances that various countries had all over the world. Ultimately, the German started sinking our ships in the Atlantic, even though we technically weren`t part of the war yet.
Other countries in our hemisphere started getting dragged into it. By the spring of 1917, not even six months after Wilson had been reelected on that slogan, he kept us out of war, not even six months after that the U.S. Congress in fact voted to declare war. And we jumped in.
But the political wrangling over the decision in our country was really something back in 1917. And it turns out that political wrangling back then, in 1917, over the decision to turn America around and abandon our previous isolation pose and get ourselves involved in World War I. All the political wrangling around that hard decision in 1917, a little parting gift, in fact, that is still totally screwing us up today. Because one of the many objections that people had, when entering World War I, was cost. It was going to be expensive. We didn`t have the means to pay for it at the time.
And then unlike some finite expenditure of something we need to build here at home in the U.S., and during that giant mega war in Europe, that was already years old, it just seemed like it would be a bottomless expenditure that we would never be able to control. And there is logic to. That war does have a way of doing that physically.
But while the U.S. was turning itself around and getting ready to enter the war anyway while arguably were being dragged into that war, part of the way they tried to win over people who had objected us joining the war on cost grounds, people who are worried about the expenses, part of the way they decided to placate those critics was to create a new thing in U.S. law. A new limit in the law on what our country could spend. We could spend up to X amounts, but for any reason if the government wanted to spend any more than that, the Congress would have to affirmatively regroup, write a piece of legislation, and pass a new limit on what we could spend.
That process was created in 1917 to placate the isolationists who didn`t want us to enter World War I. That is the very specific history of how we got what we call the debt ceiling. We got it in 1917, the same year we did finally declare war on Germany.
And, you know, we eventually got over the whole gigantic, endless, apocalyptic war with Germany thing, it took two tries, but we didn`t get over the debt ceiling gimmick that we used to placate people who object to the first one of those wars. We kept that for some reason, for more than a hundred years now, we have kept that.
And it doesn`t function as a barrier to our government spending money, obviously. It doesn`t even keep us from spending endlessly and rapaciously on years-long epic wars. It doesn`t constrain U.S. government spending in any meaningful way at all. It just gives Congress something to do that they have to do every so often, because if they don`t, the most country in the world economy will default on its debt, will flung ourselves into a fiery self-imposed financial train crash for no substantive reason other than the fact that nobody ever thought to turn off this stupid thing that we turned on in 1917 because we need to do placate people who felt bad that we changed our minds about entering that war.
And over the 100-plus years that we have been saddled with this thing, it has loomed smaller or larger depending on the decade, depending on circumstances. But just since roughly 1960, Congress had to vote to raise the stupid debt ceiling dozens of times, nearly a hundred times under presidents of both parties.
Again, it`s work that you have to do for no benefit. You get nothing positive for doing it. But if you don`t do it, fiery financial disaster on a national, and indeed, international scale.
It`s like if you have a backyard at your house or your apartment and you decided you were going to keep a piranha-filled lagoon right next to the swing set. I mean, yes, theoretically, having the piranha filled lagoon there might make your kids more careful in the swing set, make them develop a good balance so they don`t fall in and get eaten by the piranhas, right? Theoretically, okay, maybe there`s some benefit to it. But honestly, it`s all downside.
Why would you do that? They might fall in. Why would you set a trap like that in your yard? Why would you set a trap like this in American law?
I mean, thanks to this trap, if Congress fails at any time for any reason to do this dumb procedural thing they don`t want to do for which they get no credit or no benefit, at any reason at any time the Congress fails to do that, the country gets it. Default on our debt, downgrade our credit rating, potentially trillions of dollars in extra expenses for our country for no reason.
Why would you put a piranha-filled trap like this in our law? I mean, I do know why they first did it in 1917, when Woodrow Wilson was changing his mind about waging war in Germany. OK, I get it for then. I don`t know why we have kept it ever since.
But we have kept it ever since. There it is. This time four years ago in 2017, Donald Trump was in his first year as president of the United States, crazy as that still seems, right?
In 2016, he had been elected president. Republicans in that same election also secured majorities in both the House and the Senate, and that trifecta of Republican control set all kinds of things in motion, some of which we`re definitely recovered from yet. But one problem they did not have that first year Donald Trump was president, they didn`t have a problem over raising the stupid debt ceiling.
This time four years ago, September 2017, Democrats are out of power in the White House. They`re in the minority in both houses of Congress, but nevertheless, September 2017 Democrats agreed. They voted to pass a spending bill that kept the government from shutting down, keeps the lights on, and in that bill they agreed to raise the debt ceiling. September 2017 passed both the House and Senate by overwhelming margins.
Not a single Democrat voted no in the Senate. Not a single Democrat voted no in the House, even though there was a Republican-controlled Congress and a Republican-controlled senate, they voted unanimously not to throw the country in the proverbial piranha pit. Do not hit the debt ceiling on purpose, right?
Yes, the other party is in charge, but let`s not self inflict a totally pointless crisis and huge unnecessary expenditure on our country by having us hit the debt ceiling, default on our debt, have a credit rating downgraded, throwing ourselves and big part of the world into another financial crash for no reason. Democrat said let`s not do that. That doesn`t matter that the Republicans are in charge. Nobody wants that for our country. We will vote unanimously, so that should not happen.
That was four years ago. September 27. Now it is September 2021. And it`s the mirror image of the tubes partisan control, right?
Now we`ve got Democratic President Joe Biden, who is in this first year as president. In the 2020 elections last year, Democrats secured narrow majorities in both the House and the Senate. And just like September 2018, once again, it is time to do that thing. That we have been doing since World War I.
Once again, it is time to take that dumb vote to, A, keep the government funded, so avoid a government shutdown, but also raise the debt ceiling, in order to placate the ghost of the Austria Hungarian empire, or why ever we still do this.
It is ridiculous that we still do it, forgive me for saying. But if we don`t do it, real problems, default crisis, huge, expensive, self-inflicted wound. It is time to do that again.
And this time, with Democrats in control, Republicans say they won`t do it. They will not vote to keep the lights on. They will not vote to avoid a government shutdown, and they will not vote to raise the debt ceiling. In fact, they say they will filibuster the debt ceiling vote, which means that Democrats can`t even raise the debt ceiling with just a majority vote. It will mean that Democrats can`t raise the debt ceiling unless they get Republican senators to side with them and Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell says no Republicans are going to do that.
When Trump and the Republicans were in charge four years ago, Democrats did this unanimously for the country. Now that Biden and the Democrats are in charge, Republicans stand unanimously against it. So, apparently, we`re going to take a deliberate leap into the piranha pool, unless something changes, soon?
Tonight, the House just in the last half hour has voted for legislation to keep the lights on to avoid a government shutdown and for our country to stay out of the proverbial piranha pool. The house has voted to raise the debt ceiling. Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi knows how to drive the bus here, so there`s not there was not that much suspense as to whether or not the house would get this done. That said, zero Republicans voted with the Democrats to do this.
It was a pure party-line vote. It has now passed the Senate -- excuse me, it has now passed the House again, just within the last few minutes and so this means it goes to the Senate. And in the Senate, Republicans say they won`t do it. They say, you know, listen, if Democrats are in control then, the U.S. should default on our debt, crash our credit rating, because, you know, something-something, neener-neener, we hate you. We`re not going to allow you to do it.
It doesn`t matter that Democrats voted to do that unanimously when Republicans were in control. With Democrats in control, Republicans say no, screw it. And as I mentioned, passing the debt ceiling legislation doesn`t actually get you anything. It does not do anything for the country except to avoid a self-inflicted disaster. But while there -- the Senate is going to have to try to get through this murder-suicide plan from the Republicans, Democrats are simultaneously also right now trying to definitely pass legislation that has a big upside as far as they`re concerned they`re trying to pass legislation that encompasses most of President Biden`s agenda for his first term, something they will also have to do without Republicans and something the Democrats will have to agree to pull together on in order to get it done.
So we`ve got to deal with the stopping the government shutdown, we`ve got to deal with this debt ceiling thing and nobody knows how they`re going to do that. But there`s also this positive legislative agenda that the Democrats are trying to get done and it is in fact Biden`s legislative agenda for his whole first term. It`s live now. It`s either going to happen now or it`s not going to happen.
And a handful of conservative Democrats in the House, a couple of contrarian Democrats in the Senate have been getting all the attention from the press for weeks, for months, in terms of their threats to block President Biden, to block every Democratic priority themselves if they don`t get what they personally want as conservative Democrats.
But look to the other side too. This was the scene today. Look at this shot. This was the scene today when the leader of the progressive caucus, Washington Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal came out of a 90-minute meeting with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. You have to take it from my -- take my word for it that Pramila Jayapal is in there. You can`t see her there because she is mobbed by all those reporters trying to hear from her what went on in that meeting.
That attention from the congressional press corps there is actually a healthy development in terms of the coverage here because Pramila Jayapal doesn`t represent some tiny rump group of Democrats who are trying to get attention and get their names in the paper and get their moment in the sun by opposing what the Democratic president, what the Democratic party is trying to do here. Pramila Jayapal represents a number that`s closer to half the Democrats in Congress.
There`s 220 Democrats in the House. Ninety-five of the 200 of them are members of her caucus, the Progressive Caucus, which Pramila Jayapal leads.
And no the progressives do not want to purposely you know jump into the pool of piranhas and smash the country into the debt ceiling and hurt the country for no reason.
That`s what the Republicans are doing. The progressives have the opposite plan. They today are voting to keep the government open and to extend the debt ceiling, to raise the debt ceiling so we don`t have those crises. But they are also working on this positive legislative agenda in a very muscular way.
They today are flexing their muscles as progressives counting their members of whom there are many, taking a stand today and tonight that they want to go big. They want the president`s bill to pass in its entirety, this $3.5 trillion bill that encompasses much of his agenda for his whole first term, they are not going to settle for the small bipartisan bill that some Senate Republicans want and that conservative Democrats say they`re prioritizing.
The progressives are insisting that nobody`s going to get anything unless the infrastructure bill, the big one moves as well.
Pramila Jayapal today in response to questions from those reporters that you just saw, she said today that they are not bluffing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: In your view based on the conversation with the speaker, are these packages still coupled or have they been decoupled?
REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL (D-WA): No, they`re -- she`s very clear that she doesn`t have the votes to pass the infrastructure bill without the reconciliation.
REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE) progressives were bluffing about tanking the bipartisan infrastructure bill, that bill comes first. What do you have to say to them?
JAYAPAL: Try us. I got more than half of the caucus who feels very strongly we`re going to deliver the entirety of the president`s agenda to the president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Try us. Hey, some people say you`re bluffing about your strategy here. Try us.
Pramila Jayapal leads the progressive caucus in the House of Representatives. Democrats are hitting crunch time now. They are trying not to hit the debt ceiling, thanks, Republicans. Trying to avoid a government shutdown, thanks, Republicans. They`re trying also to pass the legislation that contains the bulk of President Biden`s agenda.
It is Jayapal`s progressive caucus that has the numbers here they are using them aggressively to try to get this done. What are the prospects?
Joining us now is Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal. She`s chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. She`s kind enough to join us tonight even though it is her birthday.
Happy birthday, Congresswoman. It`s nice to see you.
JAYAPAL: Thank you, Rachel. Can`t think of a better way to spend my birthday than with you.
MADDOW: I can think of tons of better ways to spend your birthday than being on cable TV with or without me. So it makes me all the more grateful that you are here, especially because I you are in the middle of some high- stakes negotiations and having high-stakes meetings and really in the middle of crunch time right now. Tell me if I -- if I characterize sort of the moment in the right way, tell me in your own words where you think this process is right now and how close the Democrats are to a decision.
JAYAPAL: Yeah, and Rachel I just you characterized it perfectly I just want to take us back just a minute to when President Biden got elected and actually even before that during the campaign what he campaigned on it was on child care, universal child care, paid leave, making sure we repair housing, making sure we address climate change expanding healthcare addressing immigration. These were all things that he campaigned on and when he became president, this was the agenda that he put forward and it was called the Build Back Better agenda.
We progressives three and a half months ago said let`s just pass the whole thing together, jobs infrastructure and all of these other pieces that I mentioned which are the largest part of the president`s agenda when it became clear that some moderate Democrats conservative Democrats whatever you want to call it wanted to have a bipartisan infrastructure bill, then we said we are not willing to leave out women from coming back to the workforce by getting child care, we are not willing to leave out health care and so we will agree to that bipartisan bill if and only if we also pass the reconciliation bill first.
That was our position. We whipped our members on it. Over half of the progressive caucus three months ago today said we will vote for both bills. We will vote for the bipartisan infrastructure bill which is much smaller and frankly Rachel it has a lot of things that our members don`t like. But if we can get the reconciliation bill that has the majority of the president`s agenda in it the majority of what we ran on then we will vote for both bills. That has been our position three months ago, it remains our position today.
Now when the Senate passed the bipartisan bill, Senator Sanders, Senator Warren, many other progressive senators only voted for that bipartisan bill because they were given a commitment by the senators in the Democratic Party and the president that we would move these two things together -- the reconciliation bill, the Build Back Better Act, as it`s called now and the bipartisan bill.
So they come over to the House and all of a sudden the tables get turned on us and we are now finding that people are saying oh no just pass the infrastructure bill and you know what, we`ll get to child care later, we`ll get to paid leave later. Well, Rachel, we are committed to delivering the entirety of the president`s agenda to the president`s desk and that is what we have had to do. The speaker says it beautifully she says the children have the leverage and we`re not going to give that up. This is the leverage for transformational investments that people will wake up and feel differently about themselves and will know that government delivered for them, and half of our caucus, over half of our caucus has said that they will not just vote on the bipartisan infrastructure bill, we have to vote on the reconciliation bill first and then we will even though some people don`t like it we`ll vote for the bipartisan bill because we understand we`re all part of the Democratic team, this is the Democrats agenda and we are willing to vote for both bills.
Anyone that is blocking the reconciliation bill at this point is voting against the president`s agenda, against the Democratic agenda. So, look, it is a -- it is a tough deal now. We`re trying to get the reconciliation bill done. We need the Senate to actually work with us to say, okay, we are pre- conferencing everything, which means we got to agree between the house and the Senate and the White House on a bill. It`s not like we`re going to pass something send it to the Senate, they`re going to send it back.
No, no, no, that takes too much time. We`re going to pass one bill that all of us agree on, and once we pass that bill we will vote also for the bipartisan bill and we will see both of them on the president`s desk for a signature.
MADDOW: How much distance is there between you and Speaker Pelosi on this? We`ve seen all these -- you know, that the -- it`s like the irresistible template headlines today from all the Beltway press, Democrats in disarray, you know, right? I mean, they all write themselves. You know, internal strife among Democrats.
When you had this meeting today with Speaker Pelosi, came out of it afterwards and spoke with reporters about the same things you just talked about here and the broader ways that you think about this. But are you and Speaker Pelosi pulling in the same direction or is there -- is there distance that needs to be bridged between you to get to the kinds of outcomes you`re describing?
JAYAPAL: You know, the speaker has been terrific in really pushing for the entirety of the president`s agenda, and she also understands that if we have over half of the progressive caucus that won`t vote for the bipartisan bill, she is a master vote counter. She is not going to bring a bill to the floor that she knows is going to fail. And so, she has been trying to communicate that to people in the Senate, in the House, and to say they are all ready to vote for the bipartisan bill, we just have to pass the reconciliation bill first.
And so, there hasn`t been distance. She`s been a great champion of making sure that we get women back to work, that we create jobs, that everyone can participate in, that we give free community college to people, paid leave, pre-K, child care, all of these things and of course that we fight climate change which is just so crucial in this moment.
The bipartisan bill doesn`t have any of that Rachel. So, if we were to just vote on the bipartisan bill, we would leave behind all of these other priorities. Sixty, 70 percent of the president`s priorities would be left on the table with no urge to do anything. And so, it`s been really -- she`s been a very strong champion of pushing for all of these things and again as I said, I wanted to make sure she understood that we simply don`t have the votes and she really does get that.
MADDOW: Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, chair of the congressional progressive caucus, which again is a large caucus, 95 Democratic members in the House, which means it has a lot of weight to throw around. We are seeing that process at work right now, as this -- as this process works its way through Congress.
Congresswoman, thank you very much for joining us. I hope that the rest of your night involves no more cable news and lots of birthday things.
JAYAPAL: Thank you so much, Rachel. Great to talk to you.
MADDOW: You too as well.
All right. Much more hatred tonight. Stay with us.
MADDOW: President Biden addressed the U.N. General Assembly today, his first address to the U.N. as president. He covered a lot of ground in his speech.
One part of his address to the general assembly today really caught my attention because of something else that`s going on in today`s news.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We`re hardening our critical infrastructure against cyber attacks, disrupting ransomware networks, and working to establish clear rules of the road for all nations as it relates to cyberspace. We`ll reserve the right to respond decisively to cyber attacks that threaten our people, our allies, our interest.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Hardening our critical infrastructure against cyber attacks. You might remember that phrase critical infrastructure used in this context from a few months ago this spring when a criminal hacking group based in Russia shut down the largest fuel pipeline on the East Coast with a big ransomware attack.
Remember the Colonial Pipeline attack knocked that offline for a better part of a week, we had fuel shortages in multiple states?
Attacking critical infrastructure like fuel pipelines and water supplies and hospitals, things we really can`t live without, that`s supposed to be America`s bright line when it comes to cyber attacks. That`s what President Biden meant when he said we reserve the right to respond decisively when that line is crossed.
Well, now, we have just learned about a new ransomware attack by apparently a Russia-based criminal group on the very critical infrastructure that is our food supply. The company that`s been hit this time is an Iowa-based farming cooperative called New Cooperative. Among other things, they say they provide feed for 11 million farm animals in this country.
Their computer systems were hit on Monday, hit yesterday. Now, they are operating with pen and paper. Some of the farm co-ops negotiations with these cyber criminals that are trying to ransom them have been have been posted online. The degree to which the co-op is going out of their way to explain to the hackers that they are crossing this bright line, the amount the hackers don`t seem to care and they`re willing to explain that they don`t care, it`s just -- it`s very cinematic it`s the sort of thing you would expect to see in a movie not in real life.
But look, we`ve got the screenshots. This is the co-op. Quote, we are critical infrastructure. We are intertwined with the food supply chain in the U.S. There`s going to be a very, very public disruption to the grain pork and chicken supply. This is pretty much out of our hands. We can`t control what the regulators in the U.S. government do.
The impact of this attack will likely be much worse than the Colonial Pipeline attack. Quote, I`m just telling you this so you`re not surprised as it does not seem that you understand who we are, what role our company plays in the food supply chain, it`s the co-op speaking to the hackers.
After all of that, the hackers reply, no one will give you decrypters for free, look for money. Meaning, we don`t consider you to be on the other side of that bright line.
Well, if the U.S. were to respond decisively here since this bright line has been very overtly crossed, what would that actually mean? I mean, if a -- I`m not -- I`m not the world`s techiest person, if there is a piece of technology that can`t be fixed by restarting it, I`m sort of out of luck.
But luckily for us, yesterday, a very distinguished computer scientist named Dimitri Alperovitch, who`s best known as the co-founder of the cyber security company CrowdStrike, he published an op-ed in "The New York Times" explaining what it might mean for America to really go on offense in these matters. He laid out a proposal for America targeting ransomware criminals and these hacking groups essentially in the same way that they targeted ISIS online, including disrupting their financial structures but also revealing personal details about the perpetrators, taking down their servers, introducing bugs into their code so that even when they think they`re operating on their own terms they`re actually operating on hours.
It`s an aggressive proposal from Dimitri Alperovitch. We contracted contacted the former homeland security cyber chief Chris Krebs about Mr. Alperovitch`s proposals for how the U.S. should be handling these issues now. He told us that what Alperovitch is recommending is basically that the U.S. should, quote, release the hounds against these criminal groups. I have to tell you, as far as we can tell, Mr. Krebs meant that in a good way, he meant that as a compliment.
Joining us now is Dimitri Alperovitch. He`s chairman of a cybersecurity think tank called the Silverado Policy Accelerator. He`s the co-founder of the cyber security firm CrowdStrike.
Mr. Alperovitch, thank you so much for joining us tonight. I appreciate you taking the time.
DIMITRI ALPEROVITCH, CO-FOUNDER, CROWDSTRIKE: Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: Am I right to suggest that you think that America has the skills to be more aggressive, to act offensively toward these criminal groups, in a way that would be much more destructive to them? But we have until now reserved those sort of skills for international terrorist groups and not applied it as aggressively as we could towards groups like this?
ALPEROVITCH: Well, there`s no question that we have the skills. We have stood up Cyber Command well over a decade ago, which has thousands of military personnel working for them at Fort Meade, Maryland, engaging in cyber attacks in other nations, specifically what we gave them billions of dollars to do. Unfortunately, we currently use that capability primarily to go after nation states, go after terrorist groups, but have not used them to go after criminal groups like these ransomware operators, and I think it`s long past time that we do that.
You know, we had this Geneva summit with President Putin as we recall three months ago, and it`s pretty clear now that President Putin has not lifted a finger to start try to stop these groups, most of them -- most of which are operating from Russia. So it`s now time for -- long past time for us to take matters into our own hands and try to get these groups shut down online make their lives very difficult for cyber operations.
MADDOW: I feel like a lot of us who are sort of outside the cyber and cyber security world run up pretty quickly against the idea of blowback, that when we talk about defensive hard -- defensive capabilities hardening yourself as a target, and then you talk about offensive capabilities going after the perpetrators of these kinds of crimes and attacks, one of the things that we hear from sort of your sector is that the potential blow back, the potential consequences of a very aggressive offensive action is something that may be hard for us to conceptualize, maybe something that`s hard for us to get our head around.
How do you think about that? If we did do, as the U.S. -- if the U.S. government did do the kinds of things that you`re proposing, treating these groups effectively the same way that we`ve treated international terrorist groups, what is the risk in terms of how they could retaliate, what the blowback might be?
ALPEROVITCH: Well, this concern about blowback is something that has been raised over years now anytime that the U.S. is considered engaging in offensive cyber operations, the response has always been, oh, no, we can`t do that. We have all these vulnerabilities. It`s going to come back and hunt us.
And, of course, our adversaries have not restrained them in this way. Russia, China, Iran, North Korea, they`ve all launched a continuous flood of cyber attacks against us pretty much non-stop over the last 20 years, without any concern for blowback. And empirically when we look at the evidence over the last years cyber, has not led to escalation.
So, so far, and when it comes to these groups constraining themselves, does anyone really believe that when they`re going after critical infrastructure, when they`re going after these food cooperatives, when they`re going after Colonial Pipeline and other critical infrastructure, we`re basically telling them that they get to decide what is critical and what is not critical and they`ll make the decision of whether they`ll give you a ransom key for free or not. That`s just unacceptable for us to give so much power to these criminals.
MADDOW: In terms of the Biden administration`s approach to this, the types of diplomatic approaches that you that you`re describing including that meeting with President Putin and President Biden where they address this matter directly, the Biden administration has been very focused on the idea that Russia has essentially given groups like this a place to operate from, they`ve given them safe haven in the same way that maybe, you know, Pakistan was allowing the Taliban to regroup, rearm and organize across borders.
And so, the Afghanistan war against the Taliban was never going to be won because they always had safe haven in Pakistan across the border, the Biden administration has essentially explained explain that problem is similar with Russia giving these places -- these groups a place to operate from, not so much a blind eye as an encouraging wink and a nod from the Russian government.
Is there any way to change the Russian government`s attitude or their incentive structure around these groups or should we see that as a lost cause.
ALPEROVITCH: I still believe that we can. You`re absolutely right, the Russian government, there`s no evidence that they are involved in these attacks. However, we know that these criminal groups are operating within their borders, they`re well -- very well known to Russian law enforcement. So, if President Putin wanted to do something, if he wanted to shut them down, if he wanted to arrest these individuals or even just send them a message, hey, knock it off, you`re crossing the line here, he absolutely has the capability to do so.
It costs them very little politically because these are not oligarchs, these are not people they`re part of his entourage, he doesn`t know them personally. So these are individuals that are very easy to round up and send a very clear message to.
So, the question is, does he have the will to do so? And right now, so far, we have not really pressured him significantly with real threats of perhaps major sanctions against his oil and gas sector, sanctions that would really impact the Russian economy, unless he gets these groups to stop. We have not done that. We`ve sort of asked nicely. And so far, clearly, that hasn`t worked.
MADDOW: Dimitri Alperovitch, chairman of the Silverado Policy Accelerator, co-founder of the cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike -- thanks very much for talking to us about this tonight, especially and for sort of general audience and for somebody like me who`s not tech minded on this stuff. Your clarity on this is really appreciated. Thank you.
ALPEROVITCH: Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. Much more ahead. Stay with us.
MADDOW: The doctor broke the law and we know he did because he told us so in public in the pages of "The Washington Post". He said, quote, since the Texas abortion ban went into effect September 1st, most of our patients have been too far along in their pregnancies to qualify for abortion care.
I told them that we can offer services only if we cannot see the presence of cardiac activity on an ultrasound which usually occurs at about six weeks before most people know they`re pregnant. The tension is unbearable as they lie there waiting to hear their fate. If we detect cardiac activity, we have to refer them out of state. One of the women I talked with since the law took effect is 42 years old. She has four kids, three of them under the age of 12.
I advised her that she could go to Oklahoma. That`s a nine-hour drive one way. I explained we could help with the funding, she told me she couldn`t go even if we flew her in a private jet. She asked me who`s going to take care of my kids. What about my job? I can`t miss work.
And so, after hearing stories like that from his patients for four days in a row, on the fifth day, Dr. Braid says he made a choice, quote, on the morning of September 6th, I provided an abortion to a woman who though still in her first trimester was beyond the new limit in Texas. I acted because I had a duty of care to this patient, as I do for all patients and because she has a fundamental right to receive this care.
It was written by long time San Antonio physician, Alan Braid. Dr. Alan Braid.
Dr. Braid started his OB-GYN residency before Roe versus Wade guaranteed the right to obtain an abortion in all 50 states. Now, today, Dr. Braid says he feels like he`s back in 1972 all over again now that Texas has banned essentially all abortion in the state and set up a system that allows for private citizens to sue anyone who helps a woman in Texas get an abortion. That`s the way of enforcing the new ban in Texas have private citizens sue.
And that last part, the vigilante part of this new law in Texas, that`s part of the reason Dr. Braid says he knowingly and openly violated the Texas abortion ban a few weeks ago. He did it as a way to try to stress test the legality of it in court.
He writes, quote, I fully understood that there could be legal consequences, but I wanted to make sure Texas didn`t get away with its bid to prevent this blatantly unconstitutional law from being tested.
And, of course, tested it will be. After that public admission, Dr. Braid has now indeed been sued by a private vigilante who is exercising his newly established right under this new Texas state law to bring the doctor to court. The man suing Dr. Braid is not from Texas. He is a convicted felon. He says he`s a disbarred lawyer. He`s currently serving out his criminal sentence on house arrest. He has no obvious connection to the abortion issue at all, in fact doesn`t even say that he`s necessarily anti-abortion, but it`s hard to discern the suit is kind of crazy but this will now be the first challenge of the constitutionality of Texas`s new abortion ban.
Will it work?
Joining us now to help us understand is our friend, Joyce Vance, former U.S. attorney.
Joyce, it is great to see you. Thank you so much for making time.
JOYCE VANCE, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: Thanks to have for having me, Rachel.
MADDOW: So we`ve talked in recent weeks about how Texas devised this law to work in this specific way to shield it from federal court scrutiny, but there`s -- it`s been mostly speculation until now as to whether or not that enforcement mechanism would do more than just shield the law from federal scrutiny, whether the law would actually work to punish abortion providers and people who help women in this state. How do you think this is going to play out?
VANCE: So, this is a very interesting situation and I think this statute which is designed to outsmart the justice system may be too cute by half because in creating this private vigilante mechanism, it sort of becomes a chaos. And so, we have here this by his own admission disgraced and disbarred former lawyer who is filing this lawsuit and it opens a huge can of worms.
But the biggest can of worms it opens for the state of Texas is the possibility that now that the law is actually in effect, that there will be a challenge to the law, lawyers call this an as applied constitutional challenge. And this may give opponents of the bill a much more certain path towards having a court block the law, enjoined the law during the pendency of the litigation.
MADDOW: So the vigilante element of the law is no longer hypothetical. It exists. It is a concrete process that is quite, that is observable, provable and therefore sort of testable in court. Is that effectively it?
VANCE: I think that`s right, and this is vigilantism perhaps even of a higher caliber than the Texas legislature could have imagined. This is just rank vigilantism, someone from out of state of Texas with no connection whatsoever to the doctor or to the patient in this case.
And the complaint that he files is really interesting, Rachel, because Texas law authorizes a minimum ten thousand dollar bounty in this situation, but the plaintiff here, Oscar Stilley, says that he`d like a hundred thousand dollars for his lawsuit but he`ll settle for ten thousand.
MADDOW: I will say, going through his complaint today was an exercise in sort of tripping without taking drugs. There`s a lot of weird elements to it, but if this is going to be the -- if this is going to be the camel`s nose that gets -- the gets the tent opened, there we go.
VANCE: Be careful what you ask for.
MADDOW: Yes, exactly, you`re going to invite randos around the world to sue on as a basis as -- as the means by which you`re going to enforce this law. Well, welcome to the world of randos and their -- and their litigation.
Joyce, while I have you here, I really hope you do not mind that I do this and you are totally welcome to shut me down and not engage with me on this at all. But since our last commercial break, since we had you in the chair, a little piece of news has broken at "The Daily Beast" concerning the former president and his niece Mary Trump, and I would like to just -- I am reading this. I have known nothing about this other than what is in "The Daily Beast", I`m going to just read you their reporting and I`d like to get your response to it but again shut me down if this is an inappropriate thing for me to ask you.
The headline here as you see is that President Trump is -- has filed a lawsuit. Donald Trump sues "New York Times" and his niece over tax story. Here`s the entirety of their reporting at this point.
Former President Donald Trump has filed a lawsuit against "The Times", three of its reporters, and his niece Mary Trump, claiming they hatched an insidious plot to obtain his private records for a story about his tax history. The lawsuit was filed today in Dutchess County, New York. It alleges that the paper convinced Mary Trump to, quote, smuggle records out of her attorney`s office and turn them over to "The Times", despite her having signed a confidentiality agreement.
The suit demands damages in an amount to be determined at trial but believed to be no less than $100 million, each of those words capitalized.
A hundred million dollars from both Mary Trump and "The Times". Mary Trump in giving a comment to "The Daily Beast" about this said, quote, I think he is an effing loser and he is going to throw anything against the wall he can. It`s desperation. The walls are closing in. He is throwing anything against the wall that will stick, as is always the case with Donald, he`ll try and change the subject.
That is -- that is the total of what has been reported about this thus far. I just want to ask for your initial take on whether this is a real thing or whether this is a joke.
VANCE: Yeah, good luck with that as a legal theory. Just based on what you`ve read, Rachel, it`s a tough theory to argue that Mary Trump couldn`t do what she did in this case. It does sound very much like someone who`s desperate to try to turn the tables and certainly the former president has a history of trying to abuse the legal system for his own benefit. So this looks like another chapter in that same book.
MADDOW: Joyce Vance, able to turn on less than a dime to a totally different story that you`re learning about live on TV. Joyce, thank you very much for being here tonight. Invaluable as always. Thank you, my friend.
VANCE: Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Finally, today, some substantive news for people who have had the Johnson & Johnson single shot coronavirus vaccine. Today, the company reported their first data on the prospect of booster shots for people who have had that single shot vaccine. J&J reported results of its study on a second J&J shot administered two months after the first one. They said that second shot increased protection against mild to severe COVID to 94 percent. That`s up from the 74 percent protection after just one shot.
Those are good numbers. Johnson & Johnson has submitted those good new numbers to the FDA for potential approval of a Johnson & Johnson booster shot. We shall see what happens. That process is now underway.
Of course, this past Friday, it was an FDA advisory panel that recommended Pfizer booster shots to people age 65 and up and people at high risk of severe COVID. The FDA itself looks like it`s going to act on that Pfizer recommendation from their advisory panel as soon as tomorrow. The CDC will also start meeting on the issue tomorrow. Their advisory panel meets tomorrow and Thursday to talk about the Pfizer booster shot specifically.
But again, this is all sort of in the hopper now. This time tomorrow we should have further clarity in terms of booster shot recommendations on Pfizer. That should tell us where things are going in terms of Moderna and we`ve got the first data in toward a booster shot recommendation on Johnson & Johnson.
It`s been a long time and coming, but we`re at the point where this is going to go fast now starting tomorrow and over these next couple of days.
Watch this space.
MADDOW: All right, that is going to do it for us tonight. Thanks for being with us. I`ll see you again tomorrow night.
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL".
Good evening, Lawrence.