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Transcript: The Rachel Maddow Show, September 23, 2020

Guest: Adam Schiff

Summary

A curfew went into effect in Louisville, Kentucky, tonight, with a heavy police presence downtown after a grand jury charged no officers directly in Breonna Taylor's death. Democratic California Congressman Adam Schiff, chairman of the Intelligence Committee, is interviewed.

Transcript

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

And thanks to you at home for joining us. We got a lot to get to tonight, there's a lot going on, including some absolutely unbelievable remarks from the president tonight.

I don't tend to cover things the president says as if they themselves are news because his words are just designed just to distract us from whatever else is really going on in the news. Tonight, though, the president has crossed a line in his public remarks that brings us to a new place as a country. And we're going to be talking about that in some details tonight.

But we're going to start tonight with our eyes on Louisville, Kentucky. An all night curfew has just gone into effect as of this hour, as of the last few seconds. That curfew comes at the end of a tense day in Louisville, which followed a tense summer in that city. There have been protests on the streets of Louisville, Kentucky, for 119 consecutive days.

Protests over the police killing of Breonna Taylor in March of this year, as Kentucky's attorney general prepared today to announce whether they would be any charges brought against any of the officers involved. Much of downtown Louisville was closed off to vehicles, including with concrete, jersey barriers and store fronts were boarded up. A three-night long curfew was announced. The National Guard was deployed.

It almost looks like preparations for hurricane or an in pending flood. Tonight, there has been continued protest. There have been some protests and arrests. Some protesters have set small fires.

Police are at a large numbers and we are receiving reports just in the last few minutes, preliminary reports that a police officer may have been shot in downtown Louisville. Our NBC affiliate in Louisville reporting tonight that an officer was shot around 8:30 p.m. tonight. We will bring you more information on that as we have it. We're going to be going to reporters live on the ground in just a moment.

But all afternoon and evening, reporters on the ground have said there is a palpable sense of anger, and grief and disbelief there. All these months into this controversy after a grand jury indicted one of the three officers involved in Breonna Taylor's death, not one officer was not charged for anything having to do with her death specifically. Former Louisville Police Officer Brett Hankison was charged with wanton endangerment.

Wanton endangerment specifically of Breonna Taylor's neighbors because as the grand jury described his indiscriminate shooting sent bullets flying into their apartment. So he's not charged with shooting Breonna Taylor, he's charged with endangering her neighbors by firing wildly into their apartment while this incident unfolded.

Of the six bullets that hit Breonna Taylor, the investigation concluded that the fatal bullet came from the gun of one of the other two officers. Those other two officers the investigation found were justified in their deadly fire because Breonna Taylor's boyfriend fired at them first when the police broke down the door into that apartment.

Now, Breonna Taylor's boyfriend maintains that the plainclothes police officers never identified themselves as police. He says that he and Ms. Taylor were woken from their bed they thought their home was being invaded. That's why he fired. The officers insist they did knock and announce themselves as police.

Today, Kentucky's attorney general announced that his investigation had found one civilian witness who corroborated the officer's account that they announced themselves as police.

This evening, Kentucky's governor publicly requested that the attorney general make public as much evidence as possible from his investigation, so the people of that state and the people of this country can see the evidence for themselves.

As for Brett Hankison, the former officer who was indicted today, he was booked into jail at 4:30 this afternoon. Thirty-two minutes later, he was released on fifteen thousand dollars bond.

When the grand jury decision was announced today, "The Courier-Journal" described the scene at Jefferson Square Park where about protesters had gathered to hear the announcement over a loudspeaker, they said, quote, as the decision concluded, there was confusion at first and then anger from those who had gathered. One woman asked, is that it? Protesters almost immediately began chanting, "no justice, no peace".

Several cried at the news of the grand jury's decision. One said, quote: I'm heartbroken. This is not a justice system if it's not for everybody.

An attorney for Breonna Taylor's family, Benjamin Crump, called the grand jury decision today, quote, outrageous and offensive to Breonna Taylor's memory. He said, quote, if Brett Hankison's behavior was wanton endangerment to people in neighboring apartments then it should have been wanton endangerment in Breonna Taylor's apartment, too. In fact, it should have been ruled wanton murder.

We've just gotten this from a police spokesperson in Louisville police spokesperson. Police spokesperson of Louisville now saying that two officers have been shot in Louisville this evening and are in the hospital. We'll bring you more details as we have them. I should tell you, we are expecting a press conference later this evening but you're looking live at images from downtown Louisville right now.

Joining us now is NBC News correspondent Cal Perry, who has been on the ground in Louisville covering this unfolding situation.

Cal, what can you tell us about where you are and what you've seen tonight, what we should understand about how this is unfolding tonight?

CAL PERRY, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: We're here just outside Jefferson Square Park. I'll get out of the way and show you the line of police. Keep in mind, curfew technically started about six minutes ago. We got alerts on our phone that folks should start to at home. So this is about as close as we're going to get.

We are about eight tenths of a mile from where that incident took place that we understand at least two police officers from LMPD were shot. We don't know the conditions we know that our University of Louisville hospital, and as you said, there will be a press conference we understand later.

That has immediately -- that news immediately changed the mood here. For about two hours, things were as they have been in the past. There was a lot of frustration. People very obviously upset and there were minor clashes with police. I'm saying minor because we're talking about water bottles being thrown at police, police using those sort of small pepper ball rounds and then as you can see here there's a few minor fires.

All of this a long way of saying that people here have been telling us tonight, they do not believe that the law was designed to protect Breonna Taylor. Over 195 days of protest leading to tonight and as used so still laid out, no charges related directly to the Breonna Taylor shooting. We've heard from her family who basically have called this a miscarriage of justice. They are very upset, the legal team as well, and we will have to see what that did these two police being shot and again we don't know their conditions what that does to this city.

I can tell you having reported here quite a bit that it will likely be a turning point that they will likely now enforce that curfew and as you can see the streets are almost completely empty of protesters there was a few hundred people out here earlier, Rachel. They've basically gone home now.

MADDOW: And, Cal, you mentioned that you're less than a mile from where we believe those officers were shot. Do we understand anything further about the circumstances of their shooting was that in an area where they were among protesters? Is there any -- any information that we've been able to obtain either from official sources or just from straight out reporting as to what may have occurred around the shooting of those officers.

We have -- we have been told by a police spokesperson that both us both officers are at the hospital.

PERRY: No further details. We know there were protests in the area, but we simply do not know what happened. I can tell you and it's important to note that there have been shootings here in the past during protests. About six months ago, there were seven people shot in a mass shooting. There has been live gunfire in the past, but clearly two officers shot has the police force on edge it has a city that was concerned about things turning violent, even more concerned now.

And as we head later in the evening, again, I think the real question is how strictly will they enforce the curfew? After Breonna Taylor was killed, there was a secondary incident. A few months later, David McAtee, member of the community, was shot by the National Guard and the police as they moved through the city. That forced the governor to withdraw the National Guard. The National Guard disappeared from the city. LMPD disappeared from the city and it lowered the tensions here.

Tonight, we're seeing the opposite. We're seeing a ramping up of force at a show of force as you can see behind me by the -- by the Louisville police, Rachel.

MADDOW: And, Cal, you talked about the enforcement of the curfew tonight and your expectations around that. As you mentioned, we're just a few minutes into the curfew by time.

In terms of the empty streets near you where you say there were several hundred protesters out there before, did police have to clear protesters from the streets in order to show us the kind of visuals that we've got right now from your shot or did protesters themselves withdraw as the -- as the clock struck the time that the curfew went into effect.

PERRY: So, at 8:00 p.m., one hour ago, there was an announcement made that it was an unlawful assembly, over a loudspeaker by the police. And the thing that triggered that were these fires, there's some small fires here, there's another one behind you mark on the other side, and once these small fires were lit, that was when the police decided to move in, they used some of those non lethal pepper ball rounds and they started to move the crowd.

The crowd tried to set one of the buildings on fire. Everything in the downtown area is boarded up and they tried to light some of those boards on fire. That was clearly a line that the police had laid down in their minds that they would step in and start to enforce, so at 8:00 p.m. They moved into this park, they started clearing it out, they used those flash bang grenades, they used some of that pepper spray and the crowds sort of backed off.

Once the word spread, again, that those officers were shot and I think it spread pretty quickly, and again it was about a mile from here, but this entire city is following one story and they've been following one story for 194 days and that's the story of Breonna Taylor.

So word spread fast and this area which has kind of been demarcated by the police. I mean, there is a ring of dump trucks that is blocking off a by block radius. Once those police officers were shot, once that were spread, it was like everybody cleared out of this area, Rachel.

MADDOW: Cal Perry, I know you've been there many times over the last few months, tonight is a night like no other, we'll be back with you as things evolve over the course of the night, Cal. Thank you.

PERRY: Thanks, Rachel.

MADDOW: NBC News's Cal Perry for us in downtown Louisville.

Again, we are following reports out of Louisville in the reaction to the news announced today that one officer will be charged in conjunction with the incident which Breonna Taylor was killed by a police bullet. One officer will be charged. It is not a police officer who shot Breonna Taylor. He was charged with wanton endangerment for having fired wildly into Taylor's neighbor's apartment and endangering the people in that apartment.

In the wake of that announcement after months of nightly protests in Louisville, calling for the charging of the officers who killed Breonna Taylor, we are as you're seeing in these images, seeing a huge police presence in downtown Louisville. We are seeing -- we have seen protesters out tonight. We have seen minor confrontations between police officers and protesters, but there is this late breaking news um that we just got from a Louisville police part police spokesperson that two officers under circumstances we cannot yet explain, two officers have been shot this evening and have gone to the hospital.

Again, we do not know more about the circumstances of those officers being shot. We are expecting a live press conference, I would expect within this hour but all eyes tonight on Louisville, Kentucky, for -- for all the obvious reasons.

We're going to be keeping our eyes on Louisville tonight. We're covering a bunch of breaking stories tonight, including as I mentioned a statement from the White House this evening that is causing me to break my rule about covering only what the president does and not what he says. The president crossing a significant line in terms of our democracy and our status as a republic tonight. We've got more on that ahead, stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: What wouldn't he do? Try to narrow it down, try to put your finger on it. What is the thing that you can think of that might conceivably be used to keep this president in power that he wouldn't do even if he had the chance what is the thing that is a bridge too far something that could work to keep him installed as president but he wouldn't resort to that because it would be too bad for the country, it would be too extreme.

Where do you think the line is? Were do you think his limits are?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPORTER: Will you commit to making sure that there is a peaceful transferal of power after the election?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, we're going to have to see what happens. You know that. I've been complaining very strongly about the ballots and the ballots are a disaster, and --

REPORTER: But people are rioting. Do you commit to making sure that there's a peaceful transferal of power?

TRUMP: Get rid of the ballots and you'll have a very transfer -- we'll have a very peaceful, there won't be a transfer, frankly. There will be a continuation. The ballots are out of control.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Get rid of the ballots and there won't need to be a transition of power there will be a continuation of power. Get rid of the ballots, there won't need to be a transition of power. There, well, frankly there will be a continuation of power.

What does he mean by get rid of the ballots? He literally means get rid of the ballots, whatever ballots come in for this supposed election, get rid of them, make sure they're not counted.

I mean, this isn't some inarticulate blurt or neural misfire from the president speaking at the podium at the White House tonight. This is what he is saying consistently now over the last few days. This is what he means.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: With the unsolicited millions of ballots that they're sending, it's a scam, it's a hoax, everybody knows that, and the Democrats know it better than anybody else. So, you're going to need nine justices up there. I think it's going to be very important, because what they're doing is a hoax with the ballots.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: What they're doing is a hoax with the ballots. Get rid of the ballots and there won't need to be a transition of power. There will be a continuation of power because with no ballots to tell anybody otherwise he'll just stay.

This is not a hyperbolic interpretation of what the president is saying. This is not him verbally glitching like he sometimes does. These are not idle musings from the president. This is now insistently and repeatedly and consistently from him where we are at now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: This scam that the Democrats are pulling, it's a scam. This scam will be before the United States Supreme Court. I think it's very important to have a ninth justice.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: All those remarks from the president today and yesterday, the president now saying insistently that the election will not be decided by the voters, that this election is not a real election. The ballots that we will all use to vote in the election, those ballots are a scam. We need to get rid of the ballots.

He also is saying explicitly that he expects the Supreme Court, to which he is trying to appoint a new justice right before the election, he expects that it will be the Supreme Court which handles the question of who the next president is, rather than the election itself, rather than the voters, it'll be the court, and he expects that the conservative majority will throw out the ballots and then we won't have to worry about any transition of power, peaceful or otherwise, because it'll be a continuation of power then because he will stay.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We want to get rid of the ballots and you'll have a very transfer -- we'll have a very peaceful -- there won't be a transfer frankly. There'll be a continuation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Yeah, it'll be very peaceful when I stay in power because we'll stop the ballots. We have to get rid of those and then I'll continue in power.

We are here. It is now upon us. There is not any ambiguity about where this is heading, or how bad his intentions might be or what lengths he'd go to. I mean, we're here.

When the president said weeks ago that he wanted to delay the election, remember that? Elected Republicans at least said at that point, no, we don't think we're going to delay the election. The election will happen in November.

But now, he's just flat out saying that the reason he wants to move ahead with getting a new Supreme Court justice on the bench before the election is because he's declaring now in advance that ballots cast in the election don't count, that ballots cast in the election are part of a fraud and a hoax that is illegitimate and therefore it will be the court including his newly appointed justice that will what was the phrase he used that will get rid of the ballots to stop the Democratic hoax election so there doesn't have to be a transfer of power to a new president.

We are there, everybody. Took four years turns out. Two hundred and forty-four years to stand this republic up, four years to cut it down.

Just under a thousand Americans died today from coronavirus. We are still up around new cases a day, and every single day now, seven days a week, we lose 400, 500, 700, 900, 1,000 Americans dying every day, depending on the day, depending on where it's surging now.

Missouri's Republican Governor Mike Parson and his wife just announced that they have tested positive. First lady of Missouri is apparently sick from her infection as well although the governor says he feels well.

Like a number of pro-Trump Republican governors, Governor Parson in Missouri has been something of a COVID denialist. Here's him at a political event a steak fry in July, telling a not socially distant, mostly elderly crowd, you don't need government to tell you to wear a dang mask.

Governor Parson is tonight resting at home with his wife. He's canceled his upcoming events. Neither of them is hospitalized but both have now tested positive.

CNN reporting today that Dr. Deborah Birx from the White House Coronavirus Task Force is, quote, distressed over the direction of the White House Coronavirus Task Force right now and the rise of a quack radiologist from Fox News who's apparently taken over the coronavirus task force now from the infectious disease and epidemiological experts who used to be part of it, including Dr. Birx, herself.

The president apparently prefers the advice he's getting from the radiologist guy who has no experience in epidemiology or infectious disease he publicly and apparently privately has questioned why people need masks and whether it might be a good thing to get as many people as possible infected and, boy, it seems like there's too much testing, doesn't there?

The president likes his advice and so that's what the White House is running with. So that's who's in charge of U.S. policy on coronavirus now.

Meanwhile, today, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the infectious disease expert in the U.S. government, lost his cool with one Republican senator today who kept spewing that same kind of Fox News nonsense about herd immunity and all the rest.

Dr. Redfield, the head of the CDC, is facing calls today for his resignation amen amid mounting reports of how he has failed to protect his agency, how he has succumbed and acceded and even participated in levying political pressure from the White House and other Trump administration officials against the scientists of his own agency pressuring them to distort and skew CDC scientific findings and reports to match the nonsense coming from the White House.

Some of that reporting about Redfield being a willing instrument of that pressure from the White House is coming from right here on this show. Today in Congress, under oath, CDC Director Robert Redfield answered questions about our reporting last night on him effectively tampering with CDC science, tampering with a report of CDC scientists who were investigating COVID transmission at meatpacking plants, making them rescind their report and water it down in an industry where tens of thousands of Americans have gotten infected at work and hundreds have died. We'll have more on that coming up this hour.

But this mix that we now live in right this mix of profound -- profound government failure and increasingly rapid profound government radicalization, right? We've got -- we've got over Americans dead in six months, twenty percent of the world's fatalities, we've got four percent of the world's population. We've got the most fatalities in the world, the biggest epidemic in the world and growing.

Our public health agencies undercut and messed with the economy a smoking wreck, the corruption in government off the charts to the point where it's literally hard to keep track on a daily basis, even when like me you get paid every day to follow this stuff in the news.

I mean, it barely even made a ripple today but the guy who's been running the Homeland Security Department, he's up for confirmation belatedly now after illegally running that agency for months without being confirmed. It turns out his wife's firm has received six million dollars in Homeland Security Department contracts since he's been on board there.

They never had contracts with homeland security before now, but they sure do now since her husband Chad Wolf got a Trump administration job there. I mean, that is a show-stopping multi-million dollar corruption allegation in any other modern presidency.

But here, you know, good luck squeezing a single headline or two out of that one. But it's absolutely par for the course when the corruption is this thick in this administration. But a couple weeks ago, this one went completely without notice. A couple weeks ago, we finally learned what was going on when the Trump energy secretary mysteriously and suddenly quit -- quit the cabinet, quit government, right, when impeachment charges were being brought against the president over him trying to force Ukraine to help him win re-election.

It turns out the Trump Energy Secretary Rick Perry had been using his own government job at the time his cap deposition as energy secretary to try to line up what might have been a $20 billion energy deal in Ukraine for a company run by his own political donors that he had just left the board of and that he has returned to the board of since he suddenly and unexpectedly quit right in the middle of impeachment.

And again, like that wasn't even one day's news because you can't keep up.

Today, Republican Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin published his long promised report which he said would prove terrible things about Vice President Biden and Ukraine and Biden's son and stuff, and it did not land the way Senator Johnson hoped it would.

This, for example, was the headline today from "The New York Times" on Senator Johnson's work. Quote: Republican inquiry finds no evidence of wrongdoing by Biden, the report delivered on Wednesday appeared to be little more than a rehashing of unproven allegations that echoed a Russian disinformation campaign. That's not the way he hoped it would land but when you're Senator Johnson, you get what you can.

Senator Johnson's sources for his dud-supposed bombshell report on Joe Biden included one guy who was just sanctioned by the U.S. government for being, quote, an active Russian agent for over a decade, maintaining close connections with the Russian intelligence services. The sanctions declaration against him said that in that role for Russian intelligence, this guy was, quote, waging a covert influence campaign centered on cultivating false and unsubstantiated narratives concerning U.S. officials in the 2020 presidential election.

Senator Ron Johnson started denying that he had anything to do with that source. He's a Russian intelligence agent after the sanctions announcement against him. But he kept citing another source that the FBI explicitly warned Congress about back in March, telling Congress that they should not necessarily take information from this other guy either because they believed him to be a conduit for more Russian intelligence-derived disinformation intended to disrupt our election.

But Senator Johnson went ahead with it anyway because that guy was his witness from whom he was getting all this good dirt, published his report, look at all this stuff I got about Biden. None of which is proven but all which came out of the mouth of this guy who the FBI says is a conduit for Russian intelligence to influence our election.

Senator Johnson doesn't have anything on Joe Biden or his family, but he did produce an 80-something page report today that turns out is a pretty good index as to what Russian intelligence has been cooking up this year to try to help Trump get reelected. And this time, they're doing it with a knowing assist from the elected Republican U.S. senator who chairs the Homeland Security Committee, even after the FBI explicitly warned against it.

The FBI also issuing that public warning last night that, in their words, foreign actors and cyber criminals will try to attack and disrupt the U.S. presidential election this year, specifically by exploiting the fact that we're not likely to have a result on election night. It will take a while to certify election results even in normal times but this year with COVID necessitating a lot of mail-in balloting, it could take longer than usual and that the FBI's warning is expected to create basically a bullseye for foreign actors and cyber criminals seeking to do us harm.

The foreign actors who want to make us disbelieve that the election is sound and that the election results can and should be trusted and that they will produce an election result that tells us legitimately who the next president of the United States will be. Foreign actors seeking to do us harm will seek to undermine our confidence in the election by telling us that it is a hoax, and they're telling us that any ballots that are counted after election day are some sort of scam. Foreign actors seeking to do us harm will stoke that for the FBI.

Also, the president will stoke that and do that from the White House tonight per your own eyes and ears. The president is doing exactly what the FBI just warned us is being done by foreign powers hostile to us to try to undo our democracy. They're doing it covertly. The president is doing out loud. It's the exact same message and it's apparently not just him.

As Trump appointed officials from the White House spokesperson to the attorney general and everyone in between starts parroting the president's disinformation about how the ballots are a problem and the ballots can't be trusted, reporter Barton Gellman reports tonight, excuse me, today at "The Atlantic", that the Trump re-election campaign and Republican legislatures are working right now on a plan to nullify the ballots, to nullify the results of November's election and just install Trump directly for another term through the electoral college. And again, I know it's like -- this sounds like the -- this sounds like brainstorming, right? It sounds like the worst case scenario stuff that everybody tried to stretch their brains to come up with as a like democracy and peril mind game when Trump started talking in these small D anti-democratic ways in 2016.

But now, it's here, right, and it's like solid reporting about what they're doing and it's our own eyes and ears in terms of what the president is standing in the White House saying. It's no longer theoretical. We don't have to wonder about it anymore. Now, we're living it. We just have to figure out what we're going to do about it.

I mean, here's Bart Gellman reporting today in "The Atlantic". Quote: The worst case is not that Trump rejects cases that he uses his power to prevent a decisive outcome against him. If Trump sheds all restraint and if his Republican allies play the parts he assigns them, he could obstruct the emergence of a legally unambiguous victory for Biden. He could prevent the formation of consensus about whether there's any outcome from the election at all. He could seize on that uncertainty to hold on to power. Trump's state and national legal teams are already laying the groundwork for post-election maneuvers that would circumvent the results of the vote count in battleground states.

And then, Bart Gellman gets very specific as to how they are doing it. Listen to this. December 8th is known as the safe harbor deadline for appointing the 538 men and women who make up the Electoral College. Each state must appoint them by the safe harbor date, December 8th, to guarantee that Congress will accept their credentials as electors.

Quote: We're accustomed to choosing electors by popular vote but nothing in the Constitution says it has to be that way. Article II provides that each state shall appoint electors in such manner as the legislature thereof may direct.

Since the late 19th century, every state has ceded the decision about who its electors are to its voters. Even so, the Supreme Court affirmed in Bush V. Gore that a state can take back the power to appoint electors, how and when a state might do so has not been tested for well over a century.

Quote: Trump may test this. According to sources in the Republican Party at the state and national levels, the Trump campaign is discussing contingency plans to bypass election results and instead appoint loyal electors in battleground states where Republicans control the state legislature. With a justification based on claims of rampant fraud, Trump would ask state legislators to set aside the popular vote in their state and exercise their power instead to choose a slate of electors directly.

The longer Trump succeeds in keeping the vote count -- vote count in doubt, the more pressure state legislators will feel to act before the safe harbor deadline expires. To a modern democratic sensibility, discarding the popular vote for partisan gains like looks uncomfortably like a coup whatever license may be found for it in law.

Would Republicans find that position disturbing enough to resist? Would they cede the election before resorting to such a ploy?

Trump's base would exact a high price for that betrayal and by this point, party officials would be invested in a narrative of fraud in the election. The Trump campaign legal advisor I spoke with told me the push to appoint electors would be framed in terms of protecting the people's will once committed to the position that any continued counting of ballots that extends beyond election day is somehow a rigged process, this advisor said, state lawmakers will want to judge for themselves what the voters of their states intended.

The state legislatures will say, all right, we've been given this constitutional power. We don't think the results of our own state are accurate, so here's our slate of electors that we think properly reflect the results of our state, the Trump advisor said.

Quote: in Pennsylvania, three Republican leaders told me they'd already discussed the direct appointment of electors among themselves and one, the Republican state party chairman for Pennsylvania said that he had discussed it already with Trump's reelection campaign.

Barton Gellman reporting at "The Atlantic" tonight based on sources at the Trump campaign, sources advising the Trump campaign on this strategy and sources in Republican legislators who say, yeah, they're talking to the Trump campaign about doing this.

The get-rid-of-the-ballots plan is a real plan, to have Republican-controlled legislatures in all sorts of swing states, like let's say Pennsylvania, let's say Wisconsin, right, let's say Ohio, have Republican-controlled legislatures nullify any election results in their states.

This is taking too long. We heard there's terrible fraud. There there's been allegations of terrible fraud here.

Mail-in ballots are a fraud. We didn't get them counted on election night. We don't think anything counted after election night counts.

They will nullify election results in their states say the -- the -- whatever ballots are being counted here, this is all a fraud, this is all a hoax. We know who won this state. We'll appoint electors to the Electoral College, who will tell you that Trump won this state, because the state legislatures have that power.

And that, of course, would only happen amid a blizzard of court challenges which would very quickly go to the Supreme Court, which is why the president insists he puts somebody on the Supreme Court right now before the election to make sure this plan works to keep him installed for a second term regardless of who votes how on election day or before.

It's here. We are here. It's happening.

We don't have to wonder anymore as individuals, right, we don't have to wonder -- well, as -- I mean, as citizens would have to wonder what it would be like to live through a time like this, as individual citizens, we don't have to wonder anymore how we would react, how we would act, what we would do for our country if our country was ever in this kind of peril. You now know what you would do for your country if your country was ever in this much danger. It's whatever it is you're doing right now.

What you're doing now, what you're planning to do for the next six weeks, that's what you're made of, that's what you'll be able to say you did when your country needed you.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPORTER: Will you commit to making sure that there is a peaceful transferal of power after the election?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, we're going to have to see what happens. You know that. I've been complaining very strongly about the ballots and the ballots are a disaster, and --

REPORTER: But people are rioting. Do you commit to making sure that there's a peaceful transferal of power?

TRUMP: Get rid of the ballots and you'll have a very transfer -- we'll have a very peaceful, there won't be a transfer, frankly. There will be a continuation. The ballots are out of control.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: The president crossing a bright red line tonight saying the ballots are a problem, that he expects the ballots to be gotten rid of and once that happens, there will be no question of whether there's a peaceful of trans -- peaceful transfer of power in this country because there will be no transfer of power once the ballots are gotten rid of, there will just be a continuation of his power and that he can guarantee will be a peaceful process.

The president's unequivocal claims now that the vote doesn't count, that the election is a rigged process, that he has plans to undo, that crossed from the level of sort of dystopian, small D democratic nightmare and threat today into something different when Bart Gellman at "The Atlantic Magazine" reported that the Trump campaign is, quote, also discussing contingency plans to bypass election results, and appoint loyal electors in battleground states using Republican controlled state legislators that the campaign is apparently already communicating with about this prospect.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff warned today, quote: we see this crescendo in an effort by the president to discredit the votes of millions, to stack the Supreme Court, to disenfranchise millions and perpetuate himself in office by enlisting foreign assistance. There's a common denominator and that is using instruments of power to perpetuate power in an anti-democratic fashion.

Chairman Schiff said, quote: It's how you see democracies come to an end.

Joining us now is the chairman of the Intelligence Committee, California Congressman Adam Schiff.

Mr. Chairman, thank you very much for making time to be here tonight. I know it's a busy time.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW: As a rule, I generally don't cover statements by the president unless they are somehow linked to actions by the president because he says a lot of things that come to naught and I think are designed to kind of rise out of people and to turn the news cycle to his advantage.

It strikes me that this remarks tonight that the election is fraudulent and that there will not be a transfer of power, it strikes me tonight that those are something different, that this sort of crosses the line into words as action, that this is essentially the president in new territory in terms of his threat to the democracy.

SCHIFF: Rachel, you are absolutely right to focus tonight on his words as well as his deeds. They do cross a very bright line. And over the course of this presidency, some of his supporters have been able to write-off his remarks as, well, that's just krumping (ph) Trump or clearly he was joking.

There is no question he means exactly what he said. And people fail to take it seriously at our national peril.

This is a moment that I would say to any Republican of good conscience working in the administration -- it is time for you to resign. It is time for you to resign. If you have been debating about whether you can continue to serve the country by serving this president, you can't. It is time to resign.

And I would say to those who have been on the sidelines maintaining a dignified silence who have served in the administration in the past, you cannot maintain your silence any longer. You have to maintain dignified speech now. You have to speak out.

Do not wait until after the election. Do not wait until we have the chaos the president wants after the election when he seeks to as he said get rid of the ballots, because if you do wait, knowing what is to come, you will share some of the burden and responsibility for that chaos that comes.

So this is a time for all good people conscience to speak, and to act, to preserve our democracy, because there is no longer any question about this president's intentions. His autocratic intentions are as clear as the writing on the wall. So, I am glad you're spending time focusing on this because I think no one will be able to say they did not see this coming when he so clearly telegraphed his intent now.

MADDOW: It seems to me, Mr. Chairman, that we have sort of -- what this does is we no longer have suspense. I think that a lot of the anticipation and worrying and sort of gaming out potential scenario in terms of how far he might go had a timeline in mind where it was, you know, we sort of waiting to see what happens on November 3rd.

It seems to me the president and his campaign and his supporter in the White House and elsewhere in the administration and in Congress have crossed into territory now where as far as they are concerned, it doesn't matter what happens on November 3rd. That the tallying of the ballots is declared in advance to be in authentic, to be something that is a sucker's game, that is part of this hoax, that the entire election is a hoax. He's essentially running against the election rather than running for reelection.

How should the Biden campaign or people who aren't supportive, who want to try to outflank the president and his supporters in this maneuver adjust accordingly given that I think their focus no longer is on whatever the vote tally starts to look like election night when the votes start getting counted?

SCHIFF: Well, you know I think the Biden campaign and certainly, those of us in Congress, are making every effort to push back, to prepare for these contingencies, to be ready to be engaged to save our democracy if and when the president seeks to throw out the ballots, get rid of the ballots as he was saying, and if Republican operatives around the country start to try to seek electors notwithstanding the popular in those states.

So we're doing everything we can, but those who are watching us now, they have a bigger responsibility, frankly, because it's in all of our hands to make sure that this scenario does not play out that the result is not close, that indeed it is a landslide repudiation of Donald Trump. That is really the only outcome that gives us a clear path forward.

The other alternatives like closely contested election or God forbid one in which the president should retain the Electoral College leads to a disaster for the country and for our democracy. So, you know, our mission has to be clear, which is to make these results so overwhelming that it cannot be contested, and that the president's efforts to throw out the ballots fall on deaf ears, because I think one thing that "The Atlantic" article gets quite right and that is -- there's just no clear playbook for this situation. We never had a president in advance say that he's unwilling to accept the votes of millions and will not transfer office peacefully.

So, we have to take matters into our own hands by registering everyone, turning that out. The good news is we have the capacity to do it because we have the numbers to do it. The reason why the president is so fixated and Mitch McConnell is so fixated in disenfranchising people and throwing out ballots is they know they represent a declining minority of Americans, a shrinking minority. And even if they do everything right, they can still lose if we do our jobs right. So that's what we have to do.

But, you know, this is, as I mentioned, a time where people of conscience in both parties, these are the statements of a would-be dictator. There's just no ignoring them anymore. There's no wishing them away. There's no pretending that he doesn't mean what he says. There's too much evidence to the contrary.

And so, we know we have to do in terms of turning our people out. But Republicans of good conscience now know what they need to do, which is they need to stand up and be counted.

MADDOW: Adam Schiff is the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee -- sir, when you asked you to be on the show tonight, I had a list of about 400 things to ask you about. I still have 399 of those left, despite what the president's remarks were tonight and your reaction to them. But I hope you'll come back soon. There's a lot going on, sir.

SCHIFF: Thank you.

MADDOW: All right. Much more ahead tonight. Busy night.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: We continue to watch unfolding events tonight in Louisville, Kentucky. A curfew went into effect at the top of this hour. There is a heavy police presence downtown.

After months of protests in the wake of the police killing of Breonna Taylor inside her home, today a grand jury returned an indictment against one of the three officers involved. That officer is not charged with anything related to do -- related with Taylor's killing.

He's charged with endangering Taylor's neighbors by firing indiscriminately into their apartment. Amid protests earlier this evening in downtown, Louisville. Police say that two officers were shot and taken to the hospital.

We're seeking further information on the condition of the officers and the circumstances of that shooting.

I'll tell you that that "Louisville Courier-Journal" is citing one source tonight telling them that one of the officers was shot in the abdomen below a bulletproof vest and that officer is surgery. They're reporting a second officer was shot in the high, but we're not independently confirming that and I will caution you it is a single source report in the local paper.

We did hear from Cal Perry this hour that after news spread of these officers being shot and as the curfew went into effect at the top of the hour, the protests downtown did quickly dissipate and it is just a police show down there right now. We are awaiting a press conference from authorities any minute now and we'll bring that to you live when it happens.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: At this hour, the public viewing, the ability for the public to pay their respects to recently deceased Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in front of the U.S. Supreme Court building, that public viewing is now right as I speak coming to a close for this evening.

That public viewing opportunity will resume tomorrow at 9:00 a.m. She lays in repose in front of the Supreme Court. There will be a second day of that again tomorrow starting at 9:00 a.m. going until 10:00 tomorrow night.

All right. That's going to do it for us tonight. We will see you again tomorrow.

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

Good evening, Lawrence.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.END

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