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Transcript: The Rachel Maddow Show, 9/24/21

Guests: Katie Hobbs, Lina Hidalgo

Summary

The Arizona GOP-ordered election audit results show Biden won the state in 2020. Texas is going to hold audit of 2020 election results, despite Trump winning the state.

Transcript

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: I, in fact, loved your piece in "The New Yorker", Chris, the bit that you wrote, which is something you and I talked about before, which is, you know, thousands and thousands of flattering and complementary and kind words will flow right through you. But something on the other side, something critical, even mildly critical will stick to you for life, and we should think about that in a way that we can extrapolate, to the ways we live on the internet now and everybody having those feelings -- it`s very insightful and very unsettling.

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Thank you very much, Rachel. I really appreciate if.

MADDOW: It`s fantastic. You`re amazing. Have a great weekend, my friend. Thank you.

HAYES: You too.

MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. Happy to have you here. Happy Friday.

Are you familiar with the concept of an own goal? Like two teams playing against each other, each team is trying to score a goal against the other team. But when you own goal, that means you accidentally scored a goal against yourself.

In the beautiful game of soccer, the phenomenon of an own goal happens infrequently. But it does happen. It sometimes happens in ways quite beautiful. But they`re always dramatic and always traumatic to the people involved.

If this isn`t ringing a bell, if you don`t know what the picture, if you don`t know what I`m describing, even if you never watched a soccer match in your life, just watch this. You`ll understand instantly what I mean.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SPORTS COMMENTATOR: Pierre, give away. La France, two centerbacks. What a mistake. Can you believe that happened? Oh, my word.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Oh, my word!

The goalkeeper is very relaxed gently passed the ball which the member of his own team own defender chill, relaxed just going to catch that trap that ball and then clear it right back out to his own offense. And he kind of bobbles it at first and bobbles again. And then, own goal!

Here is one more. In this one you can`t -- you can`t blame the goalkeeper as much. You can only blame the goalkeeper in this one for not accounting for how windy it was that day.

Now in this one it`s the -- the team wearing the green jerseys trying to score against the goalkeeper in the black shirt. He gets the ball. But then watch. See how windy it is there.

He goes to kick the ball to clear it downfield and the wind blows it back. And he can`t defend against the ball he kicked and went up into the wind and came back at him. Own goal. Own goal. Sad infuriating, and hilarious, in equal measure.

Right after the election this past year, we had a pretty own goal in our country. Actually, a remarkable series of them. After Democrat Joe Biden, for example, won the state of Wisconsin in the presidential election, the defeated incumbent now former president, Donald Trump, complained and complained and complained about Wisconsin.

Wisconsin is one of the states where he said he was sure he had won it. It must have been stolen from him somehow. And actually, you know, he had proof that it was Wisconsin was stolen, he would show everybody the proof and wouldn`t they be sorry.

What was different about the allegations he made about Wisconsin is that the Trump campaign put their money where their mouth was in Wisconsin. They put up cash. They put like $3 million in campaign money to pay for a recount of the presidential election vote in Wisconsin, in two big Democrat counties, Milwaukee and Dane County, Wisconsin, where Madison is.

They actually paid for it. They hate paying for anything, right? But they were sure this would be money well spent. They were sure they won. It was worth it. Plunk down the millions. Sure it was it would overturn the results in Wisconsin. They were sure that would show that Trump really won. That was an own goal?

What was the results of them paying the money and paying for the recount? Quote, after the completion of the recount in Wisconsin`s Milwaukee County and Dane County, there was little change in the hundreds of thousands of ballots that had been cast in the two jurisdictions. In the end, Joe Biden`s lead over Trump in the state grew by 87 votes.

Own goal, right? They forked out, paid all that money because they knew it would prove that Donald Trump actually won Wisconsin. When what it really actually proved was that Trump lost Wisconsin by even more than they had thought. Own goal in Wisconsin. Then there was Michigan.

Trump lost by a lot in Michigan. But that didn`t stop him from once again complaining loudly that he must have won Michigan.

[21:05:03]

That there must have been some kind of scandal, some kind of fraud, must be investigated and exposed. And everybody will know he won it. In the case of Michigan, Republicans in the state legislature were happy to oblige this complaining and the Republicans in the state legislature conducted a months long investigation of the election results in Michigan.

Ooh, ooh, this will be it. The Republican report will finally show that Trump actually won Michigan, Michigan was stolen from him, and the election results were all fake, all fraud, right?

These were the report conclusions quote: this committee found no evidence of widespread or systematic fraud in Michigan`s prosecution of the 2020 election. Beyond that, the Republicans and the legislature went on to pronounce themselves, quote, appalled. It could only be deduced to a woeful ignorance by those claiming that there was fraud in Michigan.

Even beyond that, the Michigan Republicans in the legislature actually recommended that the states attorney general should consider bringing prosecutions against people who are still flogging the fake fraud claims about Michigan. Quote, the committee recommends the attorney general to consider investigating those who have been utilizing misleading and false information about alleged fraud in the election to raise money or publicity for their own ends.

Own goal! We are sure this will work, we`re all about -- the wind is bringing it back! Own goal!

Former President Trump reacted to that Michigan report by denouncing all the Republicans involved in that investigation saying, the truth will come out and the RINOs will pay.

Funny thing about that. Lawyers acting on behalf of President Trump figure that they had another way to out the truth, another way around the problem they were having in Michigan, they would do it through the courts. They would release the kraken and prove the fraud in the Michigan election, they would prove it in court in Michigan, that will show everybody, everybody will pay, who doubted them, the election will be overturned, Trump ought to be shown to have won Michigan, he will shown to have won reelection and released the kraken.

And that lawsuit was laughed out of court. The judge in the course called it, quote, nothing but speculation and conjecture. Them but then the kraken sailed up in the wind and ended up crashing back into their own goal, because it wasn`t just that the lawsuit got thrown out, the judge eventually ruled that not only was that lawsuit baseless, it was so baseless, and so disingenuous has to be effectively of fraud on the court, the judge demanded a hearing, in which all of the Trump lawyers involved in the case would appear before her and explain themselves.

At that hearing, many of the Trump lawyers tried to pretend that they hadn`t really anything to do with the case, at least one of the lawyers and fall broke down and cried at the hearing. A judge eventually ruled that all the Trump lawyers involved in the case would be sanctioned for it. Sanctioned financially, the exact amount that they are all going to have to pay is still being educated now. The judge also declared that each of those lawyers would be referred for discipline to the bar associations to face potential penalties up to, and including, disbarment. They may all lose their law license is for having done that -- which is, in its way, an own goal, right?

We`ll show them, oh no, they showed us! This keeps happening to them.

Today, it happened in their biggest try yet. In the Republican bizarro world, months long election review, called an audit in the state of Arizona, another state that Joe Biden won where Trump has complained that he must have win, he must have actually won it.

Former President Trump proclaimed that the Arizona audit would turn up the real evidence, the real proof, that he actually won, all these states. And Arizona, with its audit, they would be the first, and then all the other states, where it looked like he lost, they would all end up fessing up too after Arizona collapsed and all the states would end up admitting that he really won. Watch, Arizona will go first.

We reported here on the show last night that I had seen that our staff had obtained and seen the draft version of the Arizona audit report ahead of this formal release today. And because those results were going to be formally released today, we decided not to put those purported results from the draft on television. After all a draft report is something that might be revised substantially before the final results came out. We decided given that nobody believes what`s going to be in the report anyway we will wait to see what they finally release.

I did tell you last night that what we were seeing in the draft report showed the results of the Arizona audit were hilarious. Well, today we got the final report. They released it to the public. And indeed, in fact, it matches with the draft that we saw last night.

[21:10:03]

And hilarity did in fact ensue. After their five months of trying and searching for secret bamboo fibers and using UV lights and putting the ballots on lazy Susans and spinning them around and hiring the weirdest clown car imaginable of conspiracy theorists and QAnon promoters and crackpots, to slice, dice and Julie the ballots and the voting machines from the voting machines in the great state of Arizona, the end the result of their five months-long audit is that they are count showed that Joe Biden `s margin of victory in the state increased by about 360 votes. That Trump lost Arizona even more than he had previously believed. Which is an own goal. Indeed.

Infuriating to those involved, hilarious to all those watching. Just like it is in soccer. Them but despite the big score, here for the Arizona audit, from the point of the so-called audit, the point of this whole turned Republican politics in fact, it`s not necessarily to concretely overturn the election results and reinstall Donald Trump as president, you know, ten months after the election. I don`t know if that is still is their day to day concrete goal. I`m sure it`s for some of them.

Now that Mike Lindell, the pillow guy, says that he will be reinstated as president by Thanksgiving. Okay. All right? Maybe some of them still think that.

I think more presently, the goal is to on more the election results from the fact based world for Republicans and right leaning Americans. And how do you measure success in that? Well, but they are trying to achieve, but they are actually doing in the work. Today in Arizona, despite concluding on their own terms that, by their count, Trump lost Arizona even worse than the certified results say heated, nevertheless, the Republican audit folks today spent hours today, very excitedly, they spent more than three hours, excitedly, showing PowerPoint slides and giving long, confusing presentations. All aimed at casting dispersions on the election process in Arizona.

They did not produce any actual proof of any fraud in Arizona. They didn`t even produce any credible claims of fraud in Arizona. But they did give hours of ominous sounding, confusing testimony about the things that they did not understand about the election process that thereby seem suspicious to. Them they rejected and rebooted in real-time by officials in the county that actually carried out this election that has been driving for all these months.

All day long, the Maricopa county had to post real life time rebuttals in response to all of this -- we don`t understand this, this seems ominous claims of the people giving their presentation today. The county was posting things like this, all you are talking about the server, this server named REWEB1601. As you might gather from the naming convention, yes the server connects to the Internet.

You were claiming that`s a terribly ominous things to the server why does it connect to the internet? That`s the server for the website of the Maricopa County Recorder`s Office. This is not the election system, they explain. We shouldn`t interest to explain this. You think you found this terrible smoking gun that something in the recorders office is linked it the internet. It`s their website. Websites tend to be linked to the Internet. That`s not the election.

Here is the elected county recorder himself having to do the same sort of baseline explanation rebuttal fact checking all day long. He reiterates what the county says yes the server, REWEB1601 is our web server, so, yes, it connects to the internet. Also, quote, none of this is the election system. This is the voter registration system. Sigh. So irresponsible.

This is fantastically irresponsible. And any accidentally proved via their methodology which was insane that Trump lost the state worse than we know he did.

But we are back to where this started, which is that it is hilarious. And you can`t take that away from me. But it is hilarious and infuriating. And it is also corrosive. Because as stupid and embarrassing as this whole exercise has been, this is the other thing that happened today in Arizona. These were the folks who showed up to the big audit reveal in the Arizona state Senate, to show off their guns and their military-esque equipment.

Now, this is not a shockingly poorly disciplined National Guard unit that turned out to keep the peace on official business as the National Guard.

[21:15:03]

These are just randos. These are just pro-Trump, pro-audit militants who dressed up like this and got their guns. And what looked like working dogs to show you they have guns and dogs. And they`ve been trained. They are ready. What are they ready for?

On the eve of the audit release, the conservative commentator, very conservative intellectual Robert Kagan, somebody with whom I disagree on everything, Robert Kagan wrote a piece for "The Washington Post," the most widely read and shared thing on "The Washington Post" web page. And he`s writing this as a conservative.

But it`s titled, "Our constitutional crisis is already here". I want to read you the lead of this because as hilarious as this was and as much as schadenfreude as there was today about this failure in Arizona, this own goal, the embarrassment, step on a rake failure. This is also a very dark day. And this is a dark thing we are going through. I`ll read you what Kagan said today.

He said, quote, the United States is heading into its greatest political and constitutional crisis since the civil war, with a reasonably chance over the next three to four years of mass violence, of breakdown of federal authority and the division of the country into warring between red and blue enclaves. The warning signs may be obscured by the distraction of politics, the pandemic, the economy, global cries and by wishful thinking and denial, but about these things there should be no doubt.

First, Donald Trump will be the Republican candidate for president in 2024. The hope and expectation that he would fade invisibility and influence have been delusional. He enjoys mammoth leads in the polls building a war chest, at this moment, the Democratic ticket looks vulnerable. Barring health problems, he is running.

Second, Trump and Republican allies are actively preparing to ensure his victory by whatever means necessary. Trump`s charges of fraud in the 2020 election are now primarily aimed at establishing the predicate to challenge future election results that don`t go his way. Some Republican candidates have begun preparing to declare fraud in 2022, just as candidate Larry Elder tried to meekly do to the California gubernatorial recall contest.

Meanwhile, the amateurish stop the steal efforts of 2020 have given way to an organized nationwide campaign to ensure that Trump and his supporters will have the control over state and local election officials that they lacked in 2020. Those recalcitrant Republican state officials who effectively saved the country from calamity by refusing to falsely declare fraud or find more votes for Trump, those officials are systematically removed or hounded from office. Republican legislatures are giving themselves greater control over the certification process.

As of this spring, Republicans have proposed or passed measures in at least 16 states shifting election authorities from the purview of the governor, secretary of state, and other executive branch officers to the legislature. One Arizona bill flatly states that the legislature may revoke the secretary of state`s issuance or certification of a presidential elector certificate of election by simple majority vote. Some state legislatures seek to impose criminal penalties on local election officials alleged to have committed technical infractions, including things like obstructing the view of poll watchers.

The stage is thus being set for chaos. Imagine weeks of competing mass protests across multiple states as lawmakers from both parties claim victory and charge the other with unconstitutional efforts to take power. Partisans on both sides are likely to be better armed and more willing to inflict harm than they were in 2020. Would governors call out the national gourd? Would President Biden nationalize the guard and place it under his control, invoke the Insurrection Act, send troops in Pennsylvania, or Texas or Wisconsin to quell violent protests?

Deploying federal power in states would be decried as tyranny. Biden would find himself where other presidents have been, where Andrew Jackson was during the nullification crisis, or where Abraham Lincoln was after the South succeeded, navigating without rules or precedents, making his own judgments about what constitutional powers he does and doesn`t have. Today`s arguments over the filibuster will seem quaint in three years if the American political system enters a crisis for which the constitution offers no remedy.

Most Americans -- and all but handful of politicians -- have refused to take this possibility seriously enough to try to prevent it. As has often been in the case in other countries where fascist leaders arise, there would be opponents paralyzed in confusion and amazement at this charismatic authoritarian. They followed the standard model of appeasement which always begins with underestimation.

The political and intellectual establishments in both parties have been underestimating Trump since he emerged on the scene in 2015. They underestimated the extent of his popularity and strength of his hold on followers.

[21:20:00]

They underestimated his ability to take control of the Republican Party and then they underestimated how far he was willing to go to retain power. The fact that he failed to overturn the 2020 election reassured many that the American system remains secure though it could have easily gone the other way. If Biden had not been safely ahead in all four states where the vote was close, if Trump had been more competent and in control of the decision makers and his administration and in Congress and the states.

As it was Trump came close to bringing off a coup earlier this year. All that prevented it was a handful of state officials with notable courage and integrity. And the reluctance of two attorneys general and a vice-president to obey orders they deemed inappropriate. These were not the checks and balances the framers had in mind when any designed the Constitution, of course. But Trump has exposed the inadequacy of those protections.

And that`s from Robert Kagan. He was a very conservative thinker, somebody with whom I agree on basically nothing. But who has put a point on this moment.

He published this in "The Washington Post" last night on the eve of the election results being released and the Arizona election results result released today were hilarious. They found by their own methodology that Biden won by more than in Arizona than we previously knew. But then they spent hours today laying out why they thought the election seemed suspect to them, the result from former President Trump was to call on the basis of this a audit for the Arizona election results to be decertified for himself to be pro claimed the winner in Arizona. Even after this audit that proclaimed he lost worse than we knew he did before.

We are at a moment that is hilarious, and infuriating. But it`s corrosive in a way we need to talk about too. We`re speaking tonight this hour live with the Arizona secretary of state with the actual state official in Arizona in charge of administering elections in that state. Her reaction to what happened with this Republican audit of the election results was stinging and you should hear it and from her. We will talk with her.

We`re also going to speak tonight with the top county official in a large county in Texas. Trump yesterday demanded that Texas, Texas should have its election results forensically audited as well. Texas officials today ordered that that will happen in the four largest counties in the state. We`ll speak with the top county official in one of the counties to get her stinging response to that attack on the integrity of elections there.

But before we talk with either of the officials, I asked to be here tonight my friend Steve Schmidt, who is not directly involved in these matters not an elected official. But he is somebody who has had clarity on this issue I think before a lot of the rest of us did. And this does feel like a crisis now. This does feel like a splitting point that has grown out of whatever is wrong in Republican politics and in the politics that have arisen around the former president.

And today with this call, even after the results of this audit showed that Trump lost worse than he thought, this call that this necessarily means the election results should be thrown out and Trump declared the winner, it does feel like a breaking point, a full on separation between election results and facts in a way that feels irrevocable.

And that feels unmooring and alarming to me as hilarious as I find it in the short run, but I found myself all day wanting to take to Steve Schmidt about what feels like a very precarious moment. I asked him to be here tonight.

Steve Schmidt, thank you so much for making time, my friend. I really appreciate it.

STEVE SCHMIDT, FORMER REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: It`s great to be with you, Rachel. Thank you.

MADDOW: I wanted you to be here tonight, Steve, because I feel like you have been throwing bull`s-eyes in these proverbial darts match from the very beginning. I wanted to know if you are sort of your state of mind, whether you are reassured or comforted at all by the way things took turn today, or whether this feels ominous to you, the way it does to me and people like Mr. Kagan writing "The Washington Post."

SCHMIDT: I think it`s extremely ominous, Rachel. I think we are in a crisis. It`s hard to overstate the magnitude of the crisis. I agree with Mr. Kagan that Donald Trump will certainly be the Republican nominee in 2024. We have an autocratic movement in this country. And one thing is certainly true. The Republican Party of late September 2021 is a profoundly more radical party than it was on Election Day, than it was on January 6th, than it was inauguration day.

And part of the strategy -- and it`s important to understand -- you see this with the chaos that could result from the debt ceiling -- is they are trying both chaos at the same time where they are selling order. So, all right-wing authoritarian movements always do this. It`s how they come to power. They drive chaos through policies of cynicism and nihilism and then they promise to restore order with easy scapegoats.

[21:25:04]

It`s very important. We should never talk about these issues without mentions these are minority voters that are alleged to have fraudulently voted. That`s not so much hidden by a dog whistle as loudly screamed by the Trump people and lawyers. And so there is that aspect of it, number one. And two, when you have mainstream leaders supposedly like Elise Stefanik, imagine someone with the last name of Stefanik, engaging in replacement theory, engaging in white nationalism, white supremacist white replacement there in ads in her Albany district.

This is mainstream. The party is in open alliance with extremist elements, including the fascists that you saw outside the Capitol, white nationalist, and a bevy of other extremist groups. Certainly there is political violence in the country because the argument that Trump is making and so many of his allies is that civilization is going to collapse because of the hordes of minorities being imported to steal the birth right and the franchise of the American citizen.

It is evil. It is demagogic. It has been done before in history, the stigmatizing of people who are the weakest in a society, so scapegoat and to diffuse the blame from the problems that those that are -- that are attacking them are responsible for creating in the first place. So, yeah, we`re in a dangerous moment, Rachel in the country and it`s going to get worse.

MADDOW: And, Steve, when you talk about danger, as you describe it, increasing radicalization -- the thing that stuck with me today about Mr. Kagan`s piece, is his critique of the underestimating of this as a threat, the understating of the power of in authoritarian movement, and the consequence of underestimating which is appeasement. What it has me wondering is what is the opposite of underestimating it? What is the opposite of appeasement?

What are the options that are available if we decide to confront this as a country and do not take this -- to not play this down, to recognize the threat here and the historical echoes you describe here in a way that is bone chilling? What does that look like? What is the opposite of appeasement?

SCHMIDT: Confrontation. What you did at your show brilliantly was this, and it puts you at the front of a fight that will determine whether we`re able to maintain the republic and the front of the fight is the sideways where the lie is confronted with the truth. That`s the battleground. And it plays out in a million ways.

But a democracy cannot survive in a world where the lie and the truth stand equally. The system that we have is the based on a compact that requires faith and belief and trust. It`s how we share power with people that we disagree with. We acknowledge that we live in a complex world where people have different perspectives. And we have to accommodate those views.

In the 21st century, I believe that there was a consensus that has unraveled in a startlingly short period of time that you can trace back to the beginning of the country. In the name of political power, also the same people claiming that they`re doing it in the name of freedom are saying that the preservation of freedom means maintaining our power, not necessarily abiding the results of the election.

And when you get to that territory you`re in a scary space. It`s essential to remember to understand one thing, and this has to be brought forward into the debate. Despite all the flaws of American democracy or any democracy, democracies are the only system of government that has ever existed in the history of humanity that puts the individual human being on top of the power of the state. Every other system subordinates the dignity of the human being to the power of the state for the purposes of the state, often controlled by self--interested, corrupt minority.

So this is the most profound moral issue that you could possibly talk about on any given evening in this country, because it goes to the heart of the American idea, the embrace of humanism, of natural rights, of pluralism and this idea that anybody can be an American, that we can all stand equal, co- equally in a society under the rule of law where we all get a say and get to participate.

[21:30:17]

And that is what is being vandalized and attacked and successfully so. They are on the march. They are ascendant. They`ve raised more money than the Democrats. Republicans have tremendous advantages heading into this next midterm election.

So we are indeed, as you have pointed out at a very frightening moment.

MADDOW: Steve Schmidt, political strategist and my friend who I most wanted to talk to today about in for your clarity and your seriousness of purpose on this -- Steve, thank you for being here tonight. I really appreciate it.

SCHMIDT: Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW: All right. We`ve got much more to get to tonight. As I mentioned we`re going live to Arizona tonight also live to Texas which is the next place in their sights. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[21:35:11]

MADDOW: So today we were treated to a multi, multi, multi-hour presentation by the Cyber Ninjas in Arizona. It took a minute to deliver the so-called audit of the 2020 election in Arizona. Their audit confirmed that Joe Biden won. There was no hidden stash of Donald Trump ballots, no fake Biden ballots. In fact by their count, Joe Biden increased the margin of victory by a few hundred votes.

But then the Cyber Ninjas and their subcontractor and the Arizona state Senate Republicans who hired them nevertheless spent hours all day attempting to create a big fog of uncertainty around the election itself, and voting itself and what is this thing we call counting anyway? Why are you plugging that computer into a wall? Who runs the wall?

None of the people who spoke today actually runs elections in Arizona. Arizona does have a chief elections official. Her name is Katie Hobbs. She`s elected secretary of state.

Throughout these months of the Cyber Ninja Republican exercise, she has basically been doing her best to contain the damage. Her office sent observers elections professionals to the random arena where the Cyber Ninjas sifted through the ballots. Her observers reported back all kinds of chaos and security breaches, and chain of custody breaches that no real professional audit would allow.

The secretary of state`s office kept a running online list of all the concerns those observers had as the audit chugged along. It was in not a short list.

Ultimately, after consulting with real election securities and technology experts and federal Department of Homeland Security, Secretary of State Katie Hobbs moved to decertify all of Maricopa County`s voting machines. She said she had no choice. Arizona Republicans handed those machines over to the unaccredited Cyber Ninjas company. Nobody can say what they did to them. The security of the machines couldn`t be guaranteed.

Maricopa County has to decommission all voting machines, having to spend millions to buy new ones. In the midst of this, Secretary of State Katie Hobbs had to be assigned extra personal security protection because she was getting so many death threats. At one point, she was actually chased down the street by a man screaming at her Arizona accusing her of trying to shut down the Cyber Ninja audit.

Today with the audit over, Secretary Hobbs said her piece, releasing this statement. Quote: The state senate president and Cyber Ninjas dragged our state and country through months of partisan political theater culminating in a report reinforcing what elections experts have been is a saying all along that the exercise was a scam. The partisan review was never about affirming the election. Instead, it was an outright attack on our democratic process that has stoked violence against election worker a political stunt with massive security risks, costs millions of dollars and has shaken faith in free and fair elections.

Joining us now is Katie Hobbs, secretary of state of the great state of Arizona. I should tell you, she`s also running for governor of the great state of Arizona.

Madam Secretary, thanks for making time tonight. I know this is kind of a bewildering day.

KATIE HOBBS, ARIZONA SECRETARY FO STATE: Well, great to be here, Rachel. Thank you so much for having me.

MADDOW: I say bewildering, because I don`t even know what to ask in terms of your feelings and reaction now that this is done. Do you have a sense of relief? Do you have a sense of dread as to what this means and what it may have unleashed? Do you feel this isn`t necessarily over even just in Arizona and we should stay vigilant the way we have been? How do you feel about today?

HOBBS: Yeah, I think mostly what I`m feeling is a sense of status quo, that this report didn`t change anything about the exercise that we have been through over the last several months. There was nothing earth- shattering in the report. It contained tons of misinformation which we knew it would and which we`ve been seeing all along throughout this process.

But I think what`s important to remind people that the Cyber Ninjas didn`t just come in and do this. They were enabled and in fact allowed to do this by Arizona`s elected leaders, by the Senate president and the judiciary chair who issued a subpoena.

These are the people leading our state. And they dragged our state through this embarrassing saga, potentially compromised voter security. This is dangerous. And they are being led by these conspiracy theorists.

And then there is the enablers in the governor`s office who stood silent and said let`s just see, even though he knew better. He certified the election results, knew they were accurate and valid.

Our state is in need of new leadership and voters in Arizona are tired of these partisan games.

[21:40:04]

They are mad about in audit, mad that these folks -- this third party had access and their hands on their ballots and potentially their private data. And this is keeping us from solving real problems.

We have a lot of issues in Arizona. We`re still dealing with COVID. We still have a lot of people that we need to get back to work. We need to invest in education so that every student has access to high quality public education. These are real issues that Arizona voters care about.

And it`s important to remind people that this whole exercise in futility has completely derailed any real action on these issues. You know, that`s why I`m running for governor. If folks want to join me, they can do that at katiehobbs.org.

MADDOW: Because you are running for governor, the secretary of state position which you hold now is going to be an open seat in terms of the next balloting in Arizona. Former President Trump has endorsed a Republican candidate for the job you now hold, somebody who says in fact that Arizona was stolen and the election stolen from Trump. And he ought to be reinstated as president and the election results ought to be overthrown.

As somebody mo holds that job now, if somebody who holds those views got into your position, how dangerous would that be?

HOBBS: Well, I think this is a concerning trend that we`re seeing not just in Arizona but across the country. I can tell you as the chief election officer of the state of Arizona, as an elected official, I took an oath to uphold the Constitution and laws of the United States and of Arizona. And if I was making statements like the Republican that you mentioned running for secretary of state was making, that would be an abject opposition to the oath I took. It`s concerning that we`re seeing these kind of candidacies across the country especially for positions that oversee elections, that should be impartial, and should be focused 100 percent on the process of ensuring that every single eligible voter has access to the ballot and that our elections are fair and secure.

And that`s what I`ve been focused on. It`s what the voters of Arizona elected me to do. And certainly when you start talking about the outcome that`s not what you`re doing. And it should concern everyone that folks across the country not just Arizona are trying to get their hands on these positions to influence the outcome of elections.

MADDOW: Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs who again is a declared candidate for governor in Arizona -- Madam Secretary, thank you for your time today. I know today has been exhausting in Arizona and a lot of work to come thanks.

HOBBS: Thank you.

MADDOW: We`ve got more ahead tonight. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[21:46:58]

MADDOW: Yesterday on the eve of Arizona Republicans releasing the results of the so-called audit of the election today, audit results which as we`ve been talking about proved to be a real own goal for the Republicans, their audit count showed president Biden winning Arizona by even more than the official count showed him winning.

Nevertheless, yesterday on the eve of the release of those results, President Trump released a statement demanding that Texas must immediately open a forensic audit of its results too. He said it must be done, quote, this week. Let`s get to the bottom of the 2020 presidential election scam.

Why do you want Texas audited? You won Texas you think you didn`t win Texas you wanted that double checked? Did you see what happened today in Arizona?

Nevertheless within hours, because he told them to, Republican leaders in Texas obliged. Late last night, the Texas secretary of state office announced they had begun a comprehensive forensic audit. Not in the whole state, the four largest counties -- Dallas, Harris, Tarrant and Collin Counties, three of which were won by President Biden. This despite the secretary of state overseeing the election previously said it was smooth and secure. Now Trump wants it reviewed anyway, and so sir, yes, sir.

Exactly who ordered the election audits of the Texas counties does remain a mystery. The Texas secretary of state`s office has technically been vacant since May. The news was announced in a two-sentence press release from the secretary of state`s office. So the office decided? What part of the office?

The largest county in the state of Texas is Harris County, home to Houston. That county`s elections administrator told "The Houston Chronicle" she was surprised as she had spoken with staff from the secretary of state office hours earlier and nobody mentioned anything about this.

Nevertheless, today, the chief executive of Harris County, Judge Lina Hidalgo, had this response to the news.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JUDGE LINA HIDALGO, CHIEF EXECUTIVE OF HARRIS COUNTY: Yesterday, President Donald Trump urged Governor Abbott to investigate the Texas election results. And within hours an investigation was announced. In Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, politics who lost all decency are pursuing similar audits.

Texans are smarter than this. Sling politics with the integrity of elections threatens our democracy. Every time you cry wolf, every time you yell fraud, every time you run a phone audit, you are tearing down or democracy brick by brick. I`m speaking to every person who is playing a part in this.

This does not deserve to be treated as a serious matter or a serious audit. It is an irresponsible political trick. It is a sham. It is a cavalier and a dangerous assault on voters and on democracy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[21:50:01]

MADDOW: This does not deserve to be treated as a serious matter or serious audit. It`s an irresponsible political trick. It`s a sham. It`s a cavalier and dangerous assault on voters and on democracy.

Joining us now is Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo. She is the chief executive of the county, the most populous county in the great state of Texas.

Judge Hidalgo, it`s an honor to have you with us tonight. Thank you very much for your time.

HIDALGO: Thank you.

MADDOW: So, we learned today you had no heads up about this. You found out in the secretary of state`s office press release just like everybody else. Since that mysterious announcement late at night, have you or the county been given additional information as to what this is going to entail?

HIDALGO: We have not. And that just tells you how nakedly political all of this is, how obviously fraudulent all of this is. We have to remember we had incredibly successful elections here in Harris County in 2020. We had innovations that led to record turnout from both parties, the highest in 30 years. I mean, it was beautiful.

And since then, no evidence has come out that would in any way cause the need for this kind of audit. All we have seen is President Trump exhorting the state -- or Abbott to have this audit. You ask, you know, okay the office sits vacate, so who really did this?

The governor appoints the secretary of state. That gives you a clue. The reality of it is that Texas is being run from Mar-a-Lago. And that is dangerous. And it`s not appropriate.

It`s -- it`s frankly it`s dangerous and it`s extremely, extremely concerning.

MADDOW: You spoke very passionately about this today. You said what Republicans were doing with audits across the country. Indeed in your county now you said it`s the strategy of one party to burn it all to the ground when their candidate doesn`t win.

Now that you`re up against that, and that is about -- that is -- that`s your county in which you are the highest elected official, what is what does fighting that look like? What does standing up to that look like? We`ve been talking about not underestimating the corrosive impact of these things and not appeasing people who want to go along with these things and we understand the danger of them. But what does confrontation look like, what does fight going look like?

HIDALGO: There are different pieces to it. First, it is seeing this for what it is. We heard about the Cyber Ninja audit in Arizona. This similar thing is happening in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Now here.

So recognizing that trend, recognizing in the state of Texas it`s not just this audit. The state just passed legislation that creates this veil of criminality around election, basically sets traps so that innocent mistakes that routinely happen and routinely dealt with by offices of election administration, that those are sort of pegged as purposeful fraud and prosecuted as such. And now, we see this.

So, on the one hand, obviously, it`s pandering. The folks doing this know it helps with their base. But there is something more sinister and concerning there, which is that tears down trust in the election systems. And in doing that it conveniently sets Republicans up to question the results of elections they don`t like.

So we have to call that for what it is. And we have to make sure we don`t create some sort of false equivalency. On the one hand, there is the audit. On the other hand counties oppose it.

No, all of us have to recognize this is a cynical effort, a tragic one at that and tampers with democracy. As far as what specifically we can do, I have our county attorney here looking at legal options. It`s not clear to us that there is a statute under which the state can conduct the audit. But we also recognize the state Supreme Court will be friendly to whatever claims the state makes. We also are calling on legislatures not to fund this.

This is the time where they should look at the moral compass, who they are as public servants. The legislatures in Austin cannot fund in audit because they will need to approve the funding for it.

And, finally, we need the federal government to act. This has gone too far. We had legislatures break quorum functionally move to D.C. over a month. I`ve been fighting tooth and nail since the election, remember they closed our mail ballot locations. They`ve interfered every step of the way.

And so this should be another call to action that we`ve got the writing on the wall. We got to get offer our chairs and get moving on all of this.

MADDOW: Harris County, Texas Judge Lina Hidalgo, appreciate you being here tonight. That`s all concrete and interesting information. I`m trying to make sure we can post the interview online tonight. I think officials around the country are facing these threats are taking some inspiration or at least some points of thought points of order from the way you and your colleagues approach this. Thanks for helping us understand.

[21:55:01]

HIDALGO: Thank you.

MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: It`s Friday. Congratulations. We made it. We made it to Friday. There were times this week I wasn`t sure we would. But we made it to Friday.

Democrats in Congress didn`t. I mean it`s Friday for them as well. But they have to work through the weekend.

Today, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the House is going to vote on the infrastructure bill, the bipartisan infrastructure package on Monday. Now that means two things. That means drama, because progressive Democrats are not voting for that before there is a vote on the much bigger build back better legislation that matters much more to them.

So it means drama around that. But it also means work. Because if they`re doing this thing Monday they`ve got work to do before they get there. They will be working through the weekend to see if there is a path forward for both bills. I`m bad at predictions but what we are broadly expecting is that when the infrastructure bills comes up Monday, it`s going to fail.

That`s part of the plan at this point, the ultimate plan being to pass both pieces of legislation together but that takes more time. Anyway we shall see.

But if you get the weekend off don`t take it for granted. Not everybody does.

That does it for us for now. We`ll see you again on Monday.

Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL".

Good evening, Lawrence.