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Transcript: The Rachel Maddow Show, January 14, 2021

Guests: Devlin Barrett, Jon Tester


"The Washington Post" is reporting tonight that current and former law enforcement officials are now arguing that the presence of so many watch-listed individuals in one place without more robust security measures to protect the public is another example of the intelligence failures preceding last week's fatal assault that sent lawmakers running for their lives. President-elect Joe Biden announced an ambitious plan to both fight the virus and help American families and businesses struggling in the devastated COVID economy. Interview with Democratic Senator Jon Tester of Montana.


CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST, "ALL IN": All right. Senator Tina Smith of Minnesota, thank you for making time tonight.

That is "ALL IN" on this Thursday night.

THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now.

Good evening, Rachel.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thanks, my friend. Much appreciated.

Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.

We are less than a week from the inauguration of President Joseph R. Biden.

The country, of course, still reeling from the mob attack on the Capitol last week by President Trump's supporters. As more and more people are criminally charged for being a part of that attack, we're going to talk about some of those new arrests and new charges tonight.

But it remains an open question, of course, what kind of repercussions the current president may face for inciting that attack, whether through the still ongoing impeachment process as he faces a Senate impeachment trial, or whether through potential criminal prosecution. But with all eyes on Washington right now, where the National Guard is massing by the tens of thousands to protect the Capitol in advance of next week's inauguration, we're going to start our news tonight with something that actually happened quite far from D.C. today, something that nevertheless, I think helps with the story of how we got to this chaotic and violent national moment.

I want to start tonight in a county courtroom this afternoon. In the proceedings in this county courtroom this afternoon, proceedings because of the pandemic had to happen over Zoom just like all of our work meetings and school meetings do, but still hard to get used to seeing that be the case for court proceedings. Nevertheless, here it was.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Okay. Good morning. Yun can you hear me over there?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, your honor.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, your honor.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Okay. I got to get the attorney general in another window here, just a moment. Then we're going to start.

Okay. Here goes. All right there. Our attorney general, can you hear me?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can, your honor. Yes, your honor, thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Okay. Everybody can hear me. Everybody can see me I assume. If for any reason you can't hear me or you can't see me, any time during these proceedings, let me know, raise your hand, indication in some fashion.

This is case number 21G0046SM. People of the state of Michigan versus Richard Dale Snyder.


MADDOW: People of the state of Michigan versus Richard Dale Snyder. The need to do everything by, you know, online meeting during the pandemic has rendered everything a little bit like at a out of remove right now, literally out of remove.

But, even, it's still strange, right? Serious court proceedings start with judges saying, can you hear me now? And the assistant attorney general forgetting to unmute himself before he starts talking.

Yeah, court proceedings are solemn for a reason. This does inject a little Benny Hill aspect to it, but it's what we've got now.

In this court proceeding today in Genesee County, Michigan, in the box in the upper right that's labeled "Genesee jail booth 2," the guy with the white hair on the right side in the upper right box, that is Richard Dale Snyder who you heard in the title of the court case.

He's better known as Rick Snyder. Until recently, he was the Republican governor of the great state of Michigan and it's not every day that you see a former governor hauled before a judge to face criminal charges. In fact, in the state of Michigan it has never happened before. No Michigan governor or former Michigan governor has ever before been charged with a crime for his or her alleged conduct while serving as governor -- until today.

Two-term Republican Governor Rick Snyder of Michigan is charged with two counts of willful neglect of duty. He has pled not guilty. According to the indictment, Rick Snyder, quote, as governor of the state of Michigan, a public officer, did willfully neglect his mandatory legal duty to protect citizens of the state against disaster and/or emergency. When the governor had notice of a threat of a disaster and/or emergency in the city of Flint.

Flint, Michigan's, lead poisoning disaster, that manmade disaster when Rick Snyder's state government poisoned an entire city with lead, and on top of that apparently caused a legionnaire's disease outbreak, the death toll from which will probably never be fully known, that manmade disaster started seven years ago. It remains one of the most outrageous stories of fatally malevolent terrible guidance in U.S. history. And it's been an open question whether Snyder, himself, the man who ran the government, pushed the switch, to poison Flint, whether he would face personal criminal liability for what happened.

And, you know, the thing about the Flint disaster, the thing that drew us to report the story in the first place, the thing about it that helps us understand the disaster that we're now in as a country, I think is that the story of Flint was really the story of giving up on democracy.

At the start of Snyder's first term as Michigan's new Republican governor a decade ago, Rick Snyder signed legislation that allowed him to just overturn an election anywhere in Michigan he wanted to.

Yeah, in your town, you could elect your mayor and your town council and all that, but if Rick Snyder didn't like the people who you elected, by that legislation, he gave himself the power to reject the choices you and your town made in your election. He gave himself the power to declare an emergency, ignore the results of any democratic election, and instead just install his own handpicked person to come in and run your town or your city or your school board without any need to have any pesky answering to the voters.

People kept making the wrong choices with their democracy and so by rule, by order from the governor of the state, democratic choices would be overruled. They would be done away with because he knew better.

And the people he gave himself the power to install were called emergency managers. The idea being that they would step in at the governor's say so, fix some sort of emergency and then hand back the reins of government to democracy, to local democratically elected officials. That was the idea in theory, but, of course, most of the time, these emergency managers once they were installed they ended up just staying indefinitely.

So there was always some reason to consider it an ongoing emergency. And so town after town after town in Michigan under the Republican souped-up version of emergency management, town after town started getting a nonelected overseer brought in chosen by the governor, a person who could make basically autocratic, solo, personal decisions by fiat.

No need to answer the -- no need to answer to the governed. No need to answer to the voters. Local elections that purportedly were designed to choose local decision-makers, the results of local elections no longer counted.

And, yes, the towns this was happening to that kept having their elections nullified and overseers installed by the governor instead, yes, as you have probably already surmised, yes, they were for the most part majority black towns or largely black towns.

Eclectablog, which is a reported about Michigan politics, it's essential reading, Michigan politics, Eclectablog first dug into the census data and proved that Michigan Republicans' souped-up emergency manager law was being disproportionately used to take away small "D" democracy from black voters in Michigan. They were right about that.

In 2013, two years into unilateral Republican control in Michigan, half the black voters in the whole state had no local democracy, had no local small "D" democratic representation. Yeah, they could, if they wanted to, go through the motions of voting for local officials, voting for a local mayor, voting for a local city councilor or a local school board. But those local officials they elected would have no power, no voice, no ability to actually do anything about local problems. That was taken away from them.

And voters in Michigan actually hated this. They hated this emergency manager law so much, they actually pulled together to get a referendum on the ballot to repeal the law statewide and the referendum passed. The law was repealed.

But, again, there was a little too much small "D" democracy for Republicans in Michigan, and so, with Rick Snyder and the Republican legislature there just passed a new version of the emergency management thing except the new version of it made it virtually impossible to repeal. And the results of taking away local democracy, overruling local democracy and instead installing these emergency managers, the results were dramatic.

In Detroit, the emergency manager there cut off water to tens of thousands of households that weren't able to keep up with their bills. It was a situation so horrifying the United Nations intervened to declare it a violation of those residents' most basic human rights.

In Flint, in what appeared to have been an effort to save money, the city under its emergency manager made a decision that Flint would no longer get its water from the great lakes where they always had. They, instead, would start getting their water from the local Flint River. And they made the switch -- I'm going to understate it wildly here, though -- they made the switch improperly.

Among other things, river water is much more corrosive to pipes than lake water is. But they ignored that. They didn't treat the water before they pumped it into the city and the city's water pipes. And that corrosive, untreated water in a totally predictable way basically destroyed the pipes in the city's water system.

And that's what created the disaster. It created a number of disgusting consequences for the people of that city that were immediately apparent to them.

The people of the city of Flint could instantly tell there was something wrong with their water as soon as it was switched. They besieged their local officials, at least their local officials in name to the extent that they had any, they confronted the people who they thought ought to be in charge of these things immediately as soon as they saw the switch was made.

But that's the beauty of having an emergency manager in place, right? Democracy is no longer operative. You don't actually have to answer to anybody in that town.

You weren't elected. You're not susceptible to them and their whims. You don't have to answer to their needs. You were put in charge by a higher power.

When the city council, the local elected officials, voted overwhelmingly, 7-1, to switch the water source back to the old clean water supply that they had and that they had never had trouble with before, the emergency manager appointed by Governor Rick Snyder not only rejected what they said to do, he called their vote, quote, incomprehensible. He basically said, no, I don't care about this overwhelming vote from this city's elected officials since they have no power, I'm not even going to take that under advisement, I think it's stupid, I overrule them.

And that disastrous water switch and the refusal to listen to the people of flint about its consequences led to the mass poisoning of every kid in the city of Flint, the mass poisoning of the people of that city. Thousands of kids who will live for the rest of their lives with the consequences of having been poisoned by lead early in their life, having lead exposure in their drinking water when they're kids. It's something you don't grow out of, it's something for which there's no magic antidote.

The Rick Snyder administration ignored warnings about the lead. They attacked scientists and a local doctor who tried to warn residents about the lead.

It was the same thing with the legionnaire's outbreak apparently caused by the same botched water switch. That killed at least 12 people. Some estimates put it as high as 70 people dead from that. And nobody in Flint was warned about that outbreak for a full year even as emails about it pinged around the highest levels of the Snyder administration. They just didn't tell anyone.

And now, now, finally, Governor Rick Snyder and many of the most senior officials involved in the Flint disaster have finally been indicted. These are their mug shots from today.

Governor Snyder indicted on two counts of willful neglect of duty. His former health department director and chief medical executive both indicted on nine counts of involuntary manslaughter for deaths in the legionnaires' outbreak. Governor Snyder's former top adviser indicted for felony perjury, obstruction of justice and extortion for threatening a state-appointed research team investigating the legionnaires' outbreak.

Two Flint emergency managers including the guy who overruled the city council and told them it was incomprehensible they didn't want to keep drinking the brown lead-tainted water was indicted. Again, those are their mug shots. All of them have pled not guilty to all the charges.

Governor Rick Snyder's lawyer today called the charges wholly without merit and all of those people will have their day in court. They're all innocent until proven guilty. But this is part of what accountability looks like.

Rick Snyder has been out of office for two years now, but he still has to answer for what he did while he was there. He has to sit in Genesee County jail booth number 2 just like any other defendant and plead his case. The people versus -- excuse me, the people of the state of Michigan versus Richard Dale Snyder.

But what ever happens in those court cases, remember that the Flint disaster was caused by getting rid of democracy. It was the results of the evolution of the Republican idea of governance in Michigan right? Which in some ways is microcosmic in terms of what counts for a theory of governance in the Republican Party today.

Oh, you have some democratically collected officials you've chosen to make decisions for you? That's nice. Actually, we'll take over from here. Doesn't matter what you voted for, who you voted for, we will take that power.

And Rick Snyder is gone from the governor's mansion in Michigan. Michigan voters pretty resoundingly rejected his Republican attorney general who run to succeed him. They elected Democrat Gretchen Whitmer as their governor.

But that problem, that toxic core tenet of the Republican idea of governance that we saw play out to disastrous and fatal effect in Michigan under Rick Snyder, the democracy and democratic elections are no longer how we make decisions, that those are inefficient, unwise, that once you have the powder to do it, you just take the power anywhere you want. Democratically elected officials have an obstacle to be overcome.

That spirit is alive and well in Michigan and now well beyond Michigan as we can all see. I mean, for the last year, as coronavirus has ravaged Michigan, and in particular, the majority-black city of Detroit, and as Governor Whitmer has tried to use her powers as governor to prevent the spread of coronavirus and try to keep the people of Michigan safe, Republicans in the legislature have done everything they can up to and including suing Governor Whitmer to throttle her efforts, to make it so there can be no state action against COVID.

Armed protesters swarmed the Michigan state capitol multimillion times this past spring. At one point, lawmakers found themselves attempting to do their legislative business with multiple men with rifles looming over them from the balcony inside the Capitol. Ultimately, the armed mob forced the Michigan Capitol to shut down. When lawmakers returned to work, some of them brought their own security guards.

After the November election, the Trump campaign filed multiple lawsuits in Michigan trying to get Joe Biden's victory there overturned. Specifically, they wanted all those votes from majority-black Detroit thrown out. They were all presumptively fraudulent. The Trump team claimed.

And the local board of canvassers in Wayne County where Detroit is, they went along with it, at least for a while. The Republicans on that board for a time blocked the certification of that county's votes, apparently hoping they could throw the whole state to Donald Trump by disqualifying all those mostly black Biden voters that they just presumed were frauds.

I mean, Trump tried this everywhere, but Michigan was the place it actually worked for a second, right? Where the local officials actually started to go along, right? At least until there was overwhelming public backlash, got those Republican board members to think better of it and recant and certify their votes.

I mean, and at that point Michigan had only barely absorbed news about this in the run-up to the election. The thwarted plot by right-wing extremists to kidnap and possibly execute Governor Whitmer, hatched by rogue right-wing extremists who surveilled her house and practiced making explosives in their backyards and studied the routes by which police might respond to an emergency at her house so they could head the police off and headache sure they make sure they could get away with the governor before police could respond.

Some of those people implicated in that plot had been at the armed protest at the state Capitol. But according to Michigan's attorney general, their ambitions to topple the government went beyond just Michigan.


DANA NESSEL, MICHIGAN ATTORNEY GENERAL: I think it's important to remember that in terms of the siege that we saw at the Capitol in Lansing last April, that firstly, many of those, ultimately, were involved in the plot to kidnap and kill the governor and that an alternative plot they had was to actually take over the state capitol and to either bomb it or to execute people by firing squad, but then many of the people who were not arrested as part of the plot to kill the governor actually traveled to Washington, D.C., and so they were part of the events that took place at the Capitol.

I think Michigan was definitely ground zero. It was a dry run. People saw how easy it was to essentially take over a state capitol building.

And the lesson that they drew away from that was why not try it at the nation's capitol? We can do it in Lansing, Michigan, maybe we can do the same thing in Washington, D.C. and they were right.


MADDOW: Michigan is ground zero, Michigan as a dry run. Michigan has been a laboratory for this kind of anti-small "D" democratic right-wing politics for years now.

And I'm not saying that Michigan started all of it, but Michigan has been a microcosmic experience of it. In Michigan, part of what we have seen is that there's right-wing extremists, just like there are in lot of states and something happens when right-wing extremists aren't bound any more to a right-wing governing party, to a party that takes responsibility for governing and getting stuff done according to the will of the people.

When you give up on governance, when you give up on democratic accountability and responsibility for your actions and you're the political wing of the right, what do you expect to happen to the unhinged part of the right? The mooring that political activists, politically active people have in responsibility is a mooring in small "D" democratic governance, is a mooring in getting things done, in being basically competent and being accountable to the voters when you're not.

When you lose that mooring, the crazies among you can float off into territory that is hard to come back from. And so we are seeing a specific form of accountability today in Michigan, seeing those mug shots, seeing Governor Rick Snyder, the first-ever governor of that state brought up on criminal charges for his actions in office. But it took years. And meanwhile, Michigan's been through the wars, almost literally.

Tonight, we're going to speak with Devlin Barrett. He is the lead reporter at "The Washington Post" who broke the news today that dozens of people on a federal terrorist watch list who all traveled to the exact same place at the exact same time to the U.S. Capitol last week, those dozens of people all on the same terrorist watch list all doing that same thing at the same time, apparently, that was not enough to trip any red flags among law enforcement or federal authorities. "The New York Times" and CNN reporting today that now after the fact, federal law enforcement is looking at top-down planning for the assault on the Capitol.

Reporter Evan Perez putting it at CNN, quote, evidence uncovered so far including weapons and tactics suggests a level of planning that has led investigators to believe the attack on the U.S. Capitol was not just a protest that spiraled out of control.

As "The New York Times" puts it tonight, "Federal authorities are now looking at the attack as derived from, quote, coordinated efforts by small groups of extremists, which means basically that they're looking at potentially prosecuting the Capitol attack like a terrorism case. We shall see.

Republican Congressman Peter Meijer, one of the Republicans who voted yes to impeach President Trump yesterday, told MSNBC early in the day today that he and other members of Congress are now buying body armor to protect themselves at work. The House has advised members since the attacks that bulletproof vests are a reimbursable expense for congressional offices to try to protect their members.

We expect now, we're told, roughly 21,000 armed National Guard troops in Washington to protect the inauguration next week. The FBI director has now personally briefed law enforcement agencies around the country, even as he's still not spoken to the public about the attack, but he has reportedly warned law enforcement agencies around the country about potential assaults on state capitols, armed assaults on state capitols by the president's supporters.

In Michigan, we were just talking about Michigan, they've just now changed their laws to prohibit the open carry of loaded weapons inside the Michigan Capitol in anticipation of the president's supporters being expected there this weekend.

Meanwhile, though, I got to tell you, the Trump White House is still stoking the fires. Trump adviser Peter Navarro went on Fox today and literally kept insisting on the big lie that was the banner cause for the attack on the Capitol. He told Fox host Maria Bartiromo, quote: Trump was legally elected on November 3rd. He told Bartiromo he's never been more pissed off about yesterday's impeachment, because he still insists on a big lie that Trump secretly won the election and Biden didn't win the election and Biden isn't legitimately the next president, so this is some terrible, terrible, stolen election that needs to be avenged.

That's the Trump White House still promoting that now, still hyping the mob, still trying to spread the big lie and justify what they did. I should mention the Fox host to whom he said these things did not argue with him. She did not disagree. This is still where Fox is at, still promoting the cause of the mob and the rioters who may be charged terrorists, depending on how the FBI's investigation goes.

We are now six days out from the Biden inauguration. "The New York Times" reporting today that even with all those national guard troops in Washington, quote, how-ranking officials including some at the pentagon have maintained that they are still profoundly worried about inauguration day.

Even with 21,000 troops there. But there will been inauguration day. There will be a swearing in. Inauguration day may, in fact, be the same day that the impeachment trial starts against the outgoing president in the United States Senate. That means Chief Justice John Roberts may literally have to leave the Capitol after swearing Biden and Harris in so he can quickly head to the Senate chamber to start his other job for the day, which will be overseeing the trial of President Trump. It's going to be a big day for chief Justice Roberts.

President-elect Joe Biden tonight laying out his COVID plans for the start of his administration after we have had multiple days this week with over 4,000 Americans dead per day. We'll be talking about the president-elect's $1.9 trillion plan to try to alleviate not only the pandemic but its economic devastation. The boost to unemployment checks, a boost to the minimum wage. Not just a boost but what the Biden camp says will actually be the first real investment in trying to roll out a national plan for vaccinations.

They're now making clear that the Trump White House never bothered to put a national plan for that together. Let alone enact that plan once vaccines were available. So they have to build a national vaccination program from scratch after they get to -- after they get in there.

So there's a lot to get to tonight and there's a lot that's going to become clearer over the next few days. And some of it is about accountability for the violent catastrophe that the president and his supporters have brought on the Capitol with their attack on the Congress and the Capitol building.

But a lot of what needs to happen and fast now involves government, involves good government and, you know, independent law enforcement and expert administration and legislation that makes sense and the ability not only to pass it but to implement it.

When politicians and politics succeed because they represent good ideas about how to respect and use government for good, well, maybe that will be our next chapter. Maybe we can get somewhere. We've certainly seen what happens when the opposite is true. We are still surviving the outer reaches of that right now.

Lots to come tonight. Stay with us.


MADDOW: It was one of the more searing images from the Capitol attack, a man walking the battle flag of the confederacy through the halls of the U.S. Capitol. That flag may never have made it into the U.S. Capitol during the confederacy and the war this country fought against it, but there he is. It took until Donald Trump was president, but we got it.

According to law enforcement, the dude with the confederate flag brought that flag to Washington all the way from Delaware where he says he normally displays it outside his house. Today, that man was arrested charged with illegally entering the Capitol and with violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds.

His son was apparently with him inside the Capitol that day. He is allegedly seen here smashing through a glass window of the building with his hands. He then climbed inside. He, too, has been arrested and he, too, is being brought up now on federal charges.

This man here was caught on video throwing a fire extinguisher at police officers. He allegedly hit three of them on the head. One of them was not wearing a helmet. According to the U.S. attorney's office, the man who allegedly battered the police with that fired extinguisher is, himself, a retired firefighter.

He's now been arrested and is facing four federal charges including assaulting police officers. Pictures of this man were spread widely after his participation in Wednesday's attack. He was wearing a sweatshirt that said "Camp Auschwitz." He's also now been arrested and is being brought up on several federal charges including violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds.

This man is easy to spot in a crowd because he's unusually tall. He's a former U.S. Olympic swimmer seen here towering over a crowd that was pushing into police. I believe that's in the rotunda. Investigators referenced this video in their criminal complaint. They say it's how they were able to I.D. him. He's wearing his U.S. Olympic team jacket there. He's been arrested on a slew of charges including obstructing law enforcement and violent entry into the Capitol.

The man in the red sweatshirt here has also been arrested. He popped up on someone's live steam from inside a Capitol office. Here he is on the lawn allegedly setting what appears to be a news crew's camera equipment on fire. Same guy, same sweatshirt.

I mentioned the other night that a man was arrested after the Capitol attack for threatening to shoot Nancy Pelosi in the head. The Justice Department has now released this picture of what they found inside his car that day.

I'm now going to show a short video clip that's a little bit sensitive. It's quite violent. We have showed it to you before and warned you ahead of time when we did so. I'm just giving you a second to warn you ahead of time, again, now, in case you do not want to see it.

Okay. It is this upsetting angle from the steps of the Capitol. We, again, showed this for the first time a couple days ago. This shows a mob of Trump rioters pulling D.C. police officers down the Capitol steps and stomping and beating them mercilessly. One officer was beaten by a number of different men who are wielding implements like crutches and flag poles.

One of the men allegedly wielding a flag pole in that video seen here repeatedly hitting that officer. He was just arrested late this afternoon.

In a video obtained by the FBI, he's reported to have said before the rally, quote, everybody in the Capitol is a treasonous traitor. Death is the only remedy for what's in that building. And then he appears to try to beat a Capitol -- a D.C. police officer to death with a flag pole to which an American flag is affixed.

More than 70 people have been arrested for their roles in last week's violent attack on Congress. Prosecutors say we could expect hundreds more arrests as well as potentially charges of seditious conspiracy, charges that could come with decades-long prison terms.

With each one of these new arrests, though, we are starting to get a filled-in picture, not just of what happened on Wednesday and who traveled from around the country to be part of it, but who may have been behind it, who may have been organizing it. Including the worst ways in which it played out.

We have some important new news on that front coming up next, courtesy of a scoop tonight in the "Washington Post."

Stay with us.


MADDOW: This was the unsettling front-page scoop of the "Washington Post" this afternoon. The headline: Dozens of people on FBI terrorist watch list came to D.C., the day of Capitol riot.

Quote: The majority of the watch listed individuals in Washington that day are suspected white supremacists whose past conduct so alarmed investigators that their names had been previously entered into the national terrorist screening database, a massive set of names flagged as potential security risks.

Now, this is not the no-fly list that keeps people from boarding airplanes. For one thing, this is a larger database of people. People who are on it aren't automatically barred from any public or commercial spaces but all that said, it's a shocking revelation.

You know, why exactly do they put people on a watch list in? What's a watch list for if it's not going to trigger any sort of alarm when dozens of people who are all on that same list all for the same reason all travel to convene at the same place at the same time? If that doesn't trigger the watch list's utility, what does?

Reporter Devlin Barrett and his colleagues at "The Post" report tonight that current and former law enforcement officials are now arguing that the presence of so many watch-listed individuals in one place without more robust security measures to protect the public is another example of the intelligence failures preceding last week's fatal assault that sent lawmakers running for their lives.

Joining us is now Devlin Barrett. He covers national security for "The Post." He's one of the reporters who broke the story.

Earlier today, I should also note that Devlin had another big scoop earlier this week detailing an internal FBI report issued a day before the attack on the Capitol that warned that extremists were preparing to travel to D.C. to commit violence in what they called war.

Mr. Barrett, I know it's an incredibly busy time giving that this is your beat. Thanks very much for taking time to talk to us.


MADDOW: There's been controversy over the years and real civil liberties concerns and lots of glitches and worries about various watch lists that we've come to learn about as Americans. Particularly, since 9/11.

What's this list that all these dozens of people were on who ended up at the Capitol attack?

BARRETT: So this list, the TSDB, is shared primarily between FBI and the Department of Homeland Security. And it's very important to understand, I mean, this is sort of in some ways a throwback issue to the post-9/11 era when a lot of people thought watch lists would, you know, protect them from everything and prevent threats from ever coming to fruition.

You know, watch lists are a tool. They're an information-gathering tool and they're an analysis tool. They're not perfect by any stretch and you have to do a fair bit of analysis and understanding and they're still not going to predict the future for you.

However, what I think is interesting about this situation and what happened with these people on this watch list is that it's part of a larger conversation going on inside the FBI and some other federal agencies about whether or not more could and should have been done before January 6th.

MADDOW: Well, do the FBI and homeland security and whatever other relevant agencies may see this as their remit, did they believe that they had set up systems that would raise a red flag, that would sound an alarm, that would signal something that needed more attention from them if multiple flagged extremists traveled from all over the country to the same place at the same time?

Did they think they had a system that would alert them to that as a problem and it turns out those alarms didn't go off, or did they know that they didn't have capacity to monitor extremists in that way?

BARRETT: Well, I think two things happened. One, it worked in some instances. We know that the FBI went and knocked on doors before the event and to certain extremists that they had been sort of keeping tabs on or interested in and gently suggested, you know, it's not a good idea for you to go to Washington. So we know it worked in some instances, but it's not foolproof, it's not perfect. And what we're told is a number of folks who are of concern to the government, or have been of concern to the government, traveled to this, anyway.

That's obviously a concern, and I think there's going to be a number of discussions going guard about, you know, are we not combining this information fast enough? Are we not contemplating the degree of danger that some of these people pose? Because, look, there's hundreds and thousands of people on this particular list. It is not practical to track them all all the time.

The -- so the important question for investigators is, which ones do we care most about? That, I think, is part of the conversation where they may ultimately decide they have to recalibrate that answer.

MADDOW: Right. And when they move in aggregate, how can our systems be set up to let us know so we don't have to be watching each one of them individually but when we see lots of them all move in the same direction at once, that tells us something?

It's a -- it's a -- I mean, it's a systems problem, but it's a fascinating look at how law enforcement approaches this.

Devlin Barrett, national security reporter for "The Washington Post" -- thank you for helping us understand this reporting. I appreciate it.

BARRETT: Thanks for having me.

MADDOW: All right. We've got much more ahead tonight. We're going to be joined by Montana Senator Jon Tester ahead.

Stay with us.


MADDOW: So far the coronavirus vaccine has been given to a little under 10 million Americans according to the CDC's vaccination tracker. That's quite a bit fewer than the 20 million Americans who were supposed to be vaccinated by last month according to the Trump administration's plans.

Right now, the U.S. is facing its deadliest week from COVID yet. The daily death toll from coronavirus reached over 4,000 people per day on 3 separate days this past week. A new CDC forecast today shows that nearly 100,000 more Americans are expected to die from COVID in just the next three weeks. Nearly 100,000 Americans expected to die over the next 3 weeks.

Just before we got on the air tonight, President-elect Joe Biden announced an ambitious plan to both fight the virus and help American families and businesses struggling in the devastated COVID economy. Plan includes more than a trillion dollars in direct relief for families. It includes boosting the stimulus payments from the last paltry relief bill up to $2,000, also a boost in the minimum wage, a boost in unemployment checks.

A lot of money for testing and for vaccine distribution. The Trump administration never bothered to develop a national vaccine plan. So they'll not only build one but fund it.

There's also more help for small businesses and more help for state and local governments. There's also an extension of the eviction ban. It's pretty comprehensive.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT-ELECT: We need more action, more bipartisanship, and we need to move quickly -- direct cash payments, extended unemployment insurance, rent relief, food assistance, keeping essential frontline workers on the job, aid to small businesses. These are the key elements to the American rescue plan.

We not only have an economic imperative to act now, I believe we have a moral obligation.


MADDOW: I believe we have a moral obligation.

Joining us now is Democratic Senator Jon Tester of Montana.

Senator Tester, it's really nice to see you. Thanks for making time tonight.

SEN. JON TESTER (D-MT): My pleasure, Rachel. Thank you.

MADDOW: I have been wall to wall covering the attack on the Capitol since it happened last week. It feels good, actually, to be able to pivot and talk about governing a little bit and what the president-elect is proposing.

Do you like the relief plan that he has laid out?

TESTER: So, let me just say this as far as Joe Biden goes, the next president of the United States, I think he has put forth the proper tone since the Capitol got taken over by domestic terrorists a week ago and once again he's shown great leadership with this plan he's put forth.

He's stepped up to the plate. He's talked about what needs to be done. Now it's going to be up to Congress to move forward.

Joe is a product of the United States senate. He spent decades there, and he knows that this bill, this proposal, will have different fingerprints on it when it gets to the end.

But I think Joe's made a great case for why we need something that's big, why we need something that meets the means of our small businesses and our working families for unemployed and underemployed in the country right now.

And the list goes on and on. Let me say this. The part about vaccine distribution may be the most important part of this plan. As Joe pointed out, this country will not get back to normal economically until we get majority of the folks in this country vaccinated.

And I think it's all hands on deck in this next administration to make sure that's done, and I look forward to next Wednesday when Joe Biden is sworn in as the next president of the United States.

MADDOW: The Democratic majority in the Senate is going to change so much about your daily work life and the what -- and what the incoming administration is able to do. And that's not just in terms of confirmations and getting the cabinet in position. It's in terms of legislation as well.

I wonder what you expect or what you've seen so far in terms of communication with the incoming president, in terms of communication with your colleagues. I'm thinking about you, being from Montana, a senator like Joe Manchin being from West Virginia. There's a few Democratic senators from states that have different political imperatives. You come from a state that Trump won handedly.

And I wonder what it's like to be part of that conversation, with a new but slim Democratic majority in that Senate.

TESTER: I'm glad you asked that, Rachel, because I am looking forward to being able to use the committee process again. We just haven't done much of that in the last four years. The last two years in particular.

I look forward to having bills come to the floor so we can debate them and make our points, whether you're a Democrat from Montana or a Democrat from Rhode Island, you can stand up and debate the Republicans' plan and who maybe have the same point of view, may have a different point of view.

But the bottom line is I really want to see the Senate work again. It hasn't worked for years. The greatest deliberative body hasn't been deliberating at all.

And I think if we do deliberate, there's an opportunity to get bipartisan support for these pieces of legislation. Whether it's Joe Biden's plan for helping turn the economy and the country around or whether it's an infrastructure bill or whether it's taking care of our veterans, I think there's going to be some real opportunity out there to get things done in a bipartisan way because I look forward to -- and I will hold Senator Schumer accountable on this -- to making sure the Senate works again like our forefathers intended.

MADDOW: And at the same time, the Senate is convening at a time of unimaginable rancor, in part over some of its Republican members having essentially -- I don't want to characterize it, I don't want to put words in your mouth -- but essentially having been on the side of the people who came and attacked the Capitol last week.

You have an op-ed today in "USA Today" in which you don't mince words. You say if traitors to our democracy aren't held accountable, we will fall under siege again and if that happens, it will unfold with better planning and even bloodier results. To my colleagues who have set off this tragic set of events, I urge you to take an honest look in the mirror and accept responsibility for the damage you've done. The future of our fragile democracy depends on it.

I mean, I hear you want a working Senate and I know you well enough to know you really mean it. But it also -- it's hard to imagine how a Ted Cruz and a Josh Hawley fit into that vision.

TESTER: Well, look, I do think the point of that op-ed was to make sure that there's accountability with actions. I think in order to get unity, there has to be accountability. And I look forward to having that discussion too in the Senate, whatever that accountability looks like.

But in the end, after people are held accountable, I think we can move forward in a bipartisan way to help move this country forward.

But I will say this, whether you're talking about the president, whether you're talking about the 13 folks who enabled (ph) it in the United States Senate, whether you're talking about the folks in the House for the attack (ph), or the people who overrun the Capitol, there has to be accountability. Actions mean something, and especially if you're a United States senator or the president of the United States.

So, there's -- there's work to be done here. There's a lot of healing to be done. But I'm telling you accountability is part of the equation. Consequences -- actions have consequences and there needs to be accountability for those actions.

MADDOW: Senator Jon Tester of Montana, sir, it's always a real pleasure to have you on the show whenever you can be here. We'll have you any time. Thank you so much.

TESTER: Thank you, Rachel. Always a pleasure.

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


MADDOW: We are now 17 days, I think, into this week. But we'll get there. That's going to do it for us tonight.

I will see you again tomorrow. Dag nab it!


Good evening, Lawrence.


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