Biden announces vaccine mandate for federal workers. Cities reinstate mask requirements as variant spreads. Texas Governor Abbott blames migrants for COVID surge. Interview with Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN).
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Her family and friends are super proud as well. You can see some of them reacting there, the news is out. But if you want to watch the whole thing, you will see how Lee did when the competition formally airs tonight on NBC.
That does it for me. THE REIDOUT starts now with Alicia Menendez in for Joy. Hi, Alicia.
ALICIA MENENDEZ, MSNBC HOST: Hi Ari, thank you so much. And good evening, I`m Alicia Menendez in for Joy Reid.
And we begin THE REIDOUT tonight with the latest flash point in the COVID culture war, required mandates for masks and vaccines. With President Biden today asking federal workers and contractors to get vaccinated or else face testing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Every federal government employee will be asked to attest to their vaccination status. A mask is not a political statement. It`s about protecting yourself and protecting others.
Get vaccinated for yourself, for the people you love, for your country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MENENDEZ: The move could spur private sector companies to take similar steps, which some already have. The same goes with masks, which are required again indoors in Washington, D.C., even for the fully vaccinated. It`s the latest jurisdiction to change public health protocols since the CDC urged Americans to mask up again.
While some Republican governors are refusing to budge, one of them is Greg Abbott of Texas, who says he will not impose new mask mandates while at the same time ordering state troopers to pull over vehicles with migrants, saying it will stem COVID risk.
An order the Department of Justice today told Abbott to rescind. Meanwhile, in Florida another Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, is mocking the CDC guidance as his state reports over 16,000 new cases, the highest one-day total since mid-January when the vaccine was not widely available, and where a new variant discovered in Colombia is showing up in patients. Where is Governor DeSantis as all of this is happening? In Utah speaking about a Faucian dystopia.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): They should not be consigned to live, regardless of which state in the union consigned to live in a Faucian dystopia in which we`re governed by the whims of bureaucratic authorities who care little for our freedom, little for our aspirations and little for our happiness. No more. We can`t let it happen going forward.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MENENDEZ: Joining me now, Dr. Lipi Roy, Medical Director of COVID Isolation and Quarantine Sites for Housing Works in New York City, and Fernand Amandi, Democratic Pollster and an MSNBC Political Analyst. Good to see you both.
Dr. Roy, I want to start with you. Let`s start with the remarks from the president just hours ago encouraging vaccinations for Americans, requiring them for federal employees and contractors. The president also discussed paid time off for vaccinations, asking states and cities to offer $100 vaccine incentives. From a public health perspective, is all of this going to put us on the path to having a sufficient number of Americans vaccinated?
DR. LIPI ROY, MSNBC MEDICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, good to see you, Alicia. And yes. I really applaud President Biden`s remarks. You know, implementing the full power of a U.S. federal government to maximize vaccinations. This is what we need to do. I mean, the power of the United States, just as a simple example of the Olympics, on how well this country is doing at the Olympics.
I use that as an example because it doesn`t happen by accident. It requires preparation to achieve, to -- for a public health good that`s in the interest, in the health interest and safety of everyone, you need the backing of the U.S. government. From federal agencies, you heard about the V.A., Veterans Administration, a few days ago. This is what needs to happen. It starts with leadership at the very top.
And you heard the president talk about empathy. He said let`s do this together. Let`s protect one another. And to use the backing of the federal government, that`s exactly what needs to happen. And as a doctor, Alicia, and a public health advocate I think you`re going to hear a sigh of relief. It`s one step. But people now need to follow these recommendations, Alicia.
MENENDEZ: Fernand, let`s talk about the leadership Dr. Roy was just talking about and let`s talk about your state specifically. Because along with the devastating numbers that we`re seeing in Florida or hearing Baptist Health Hospitals in Jacksonville say their hospitals are at maximum capacity, that emergency centers have reached a critical point.
Meanwhile, your governor, Governor Ron DeSantis, is in Utah essentially on the trail, giving a speech at the American Legislative Exchange Council, mocking the CDC, reaffirming his continued resistance to mandates. How do you square the reality of what is happening in Florida with the governor`s performance in Utah?
FERNAND AMANDI, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, Alicia, what`s happening is a human tragedy unfolding before our very eyes. I`m actually on the ground right now here in Jacksonville and it is a very tense scene. A lot of the cavalier attitudes we have seen before when it came to the virus have looked to be receding are now back. More people are wearing their masks. We see less folks outdoors. And I think a lot of that has to do with Ron DeSantis` disastrous approach.
But, really, kudos to President Biden, who, today, took control of the situation that even was harming him and his administration. Let`s make no mistake. The success or failure of the Biden presidency, you can even argue the success or failure for the United States is about containing the COVID virus. With the delta variant spread, that was harming President Biden. How do we know that? Because his approval ratings were dropping, and they were tracking his approval ratings on his handling of the virus.
Today, though, as you heard Dr. Roy mention, they have reasserted control. These mandates on masks and vaccines for federal employees, I think we start to set a tone. And how do we know this is working? Because in the state of Kentucky right now, Mitch McConnell, that`s right, Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is paying for ads out of his own pocket begging the people of Kentucky to get their vaccines.
This was long overdue. This was necessary. But I think team Biden and the administration have now got it under control and it`s a huge contrast to the human tragedy that`s happening in my home state of Florida.
MENENDEZ: You know, Dr. Roy, what is so interesting as I listen to Fernand is that we have seen Republicans make something of a pivot when it comes to vaccinations and talking about the vaccine, but that means in some ways masks have become even more politicized. This has been an enduring flashpoint in this pandemic. You have Republican lawmakers like Senator Ron Johnson putting masks on trial, saying in a statement, do masks even work? Do they do more harm than good? Time to reclaim liberty and end this state of fear.
So, Dr. Roy, first of all, I would love you to speak to that point but also to speak to the medical consequence of something like masks being so politicized.
ROY: It is so infuriating, Alicia, to still see this pandemic, this infectious disease outbreak being so politicized. It was politicized from the very beginning last year, and it still remains so. It`s extremely frustrating as a doctor to see this happening because what`s the repercussions of this mixed, obscured and, frankly, false information is that people are getting infected, they`re getting sick, they`re getting hospitalized and they`re dying. It`s completely preventable. It really is.
And you mentioned that senator. In addition, I think yesterday or the day before, Representative Chip Roy talked about -- on the floor is it masks or is it vaccines, which is it? I mean, let`s not obscure things. The message is very clear. It`s vaccines. The gold standard is vaccination.
The reason why the CDC and other health authorities are now encouraging and now mandating masking is because 100 million Americans still remain unvaccinated. Yes, there are some that are ineligible because of age and certain medical conditions but there`s a large chunk of those people that refuse to get vaccinated, some of it because of misinformation, they`re just not clear, but others because of an aggressive anti-vaccination movement.
And we in media and in medicine, in health care, in leadership positions, policymakers, need to aggressively counteract -- counter the anti- vaccination movement. Alicia, it is killing people. And we need leaders and elected officials to get on the side of science, scientists and doctors because lives are at stake, Alicia.
MENENDEZ: Fernand, you need leaders on the side of science. Meanwhile, just another day on Capitol Hill where you had a group of conservative House Republicans today walking from the House to the Senate side to protest new mask mandates. That`s, of course, because there`s no mask mandate on the Senate side of the Capitol even though the attending physician has recommended that everyone in the Capitol wear one. I mean, is this whole mask thing just about 2022 and some faux claim of liberty?
AMANDI: Well, I mean, I think the best way to think about this is as follows. The Republicans, as you just showed there, are trying to free themselves from mask mandates and vaccine mandates whereas Joe Biden and the administration are making the case that we need to free ourselves from COVID. If we free ourselves from COVID as a country, we certainly can dispel with all of the mask mandates and certainly the pressure to vaccinate folks.
But look, they have made their bet on this. People say we shouldn`t politicize it. This issue has already been politicized. There is no crossing the Rubicon again for the Republicans. They have made their bet. They have chosen the side of being anti-science. They have chosen the side of being anti-truth. And the numbers are going up. Over Donald Trump`s last year as president, nearly 600,000 dead, and we now have close to 70 percent of folks vaccinated.
Those, by the way, who continue to resist, the polling shows a very clear profile. Who are those who refuse to get the vaccines?
They are men, they are white, they are Republican, and half of them are QAnon believers. I think those, like all of us who want to get past this COVID crisis, need to understand there`s no more tolerance for this type of thing.
MENENDEZ: All right Dr. Lipi Roy, Fernand Amandi, thank you both so much for getting us started.
Today Arkansas`s Governor Hutchinson announced a public health emergency due to a surge in coronavirus cases, deaths and hospitalizations. Only 36 percent of people in the state are fully vaccinated. Hutchinson also announced that he will call a special session of the legislature to lift the state`s ban on mask requirements in schools because children under 12 still cannot get vaccinated. But he stressed that there would be no statewide mask mandate and that Arkansas is wide open for business.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. ASA HUTCHINSON (R-AR): There`s no discussion about restriction on business, mandates on businesses. We are wide open in Arkansas. We are going to be doing business in Arkansas. We`ve got -- we have to live with the threat of the virus, the increase in vaccinations but also, we`ve got to continue to do business, provide for our families and there`s not going to be those kind of restrictions here in this state.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MENENDEZ: Joining me now, Dr. Rawle Seupaul, Medical Director at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock.
Dr. Seupaul, what do you make of Governor Hutchinson lifting the ban on school mask mandates but at the same time stressing that the state remains open?
DR. RAWLE A. SEUPAUL, ARKANSAS EMERGENCY MEDICINE PHYSICIAN: Well, I think there are a lot of factors that go into that and, quite frankly, given the state of emergency that we`re in today, we`re thankful that he declared a public health emergency and will bring this to our legislature to get our children masked in schools.
In our state, it`s one step at a time here and we`ve got to do everything we can to stay safe. The data shows that we`re not doing very well right now and Arkansans are dying.
MENENDEZ: Yes. I want to talk about those numbers. Your ICU at the University of Arkansas is at capacity. Arkansas Children`s Hospital is reporting a record high number of children hospitalized right now. Are hospitals in the state prepared if cases continue to rise, Doctor?
SEUPAUL: Well, we`re prepared. The question is do we have the capacity to take care of those patients that require critical care? And the one thing that folks have to realize is that these patients are far sicker now than they were earlier in the pandemic. So, their length of stay in our ICU is far longer. We`re using more sophisticated methods of life support.
And as of today, I was on a call with our Department of Health. We don`t have any ICU beds at the moment, and so we`re scrambling to open additional spaces to take care of these patients not just at U.A. mass but in every other hospital in the state of Arkansas.
MENENDEZ: Dr. Seupaul, Baptist health in Arkansas told Newsweek that not a single COVID patient there is vaccinated. Is that similar to your experience?
SEUPAUL: It`s close. So, we have several patients that are partially vaccinated and I think it was three patients that were fully vaccinated. But every patient was fully vaccinated that had a COVID infection are those that have some predisposing conditions, they`re immunocompromised for some reason and that puts them at increased risk.
But what I can tell you is that not a single one of those patients that are fully vaccinated has required critical care and none of them has died. As a matter of fact, the data shared by the governor today shows that greater than 97 percent of COVID-related deaths in the state of Arkansas are those that are not fully vaccinated.
MENENDEZ: All right. Thank you, Dr. Rawle Seupaul.
Up next on THE REIDOUT, Texas Democrats are demanding that their voices be heard on voter suppression efforts in their state and nationwide. State Representative Thompson, who testified before a House Oversight Committee hearing today, joins me next.
Plus, a surprising admission from Congressman Mo Brooks, why he was wearing body armor under his coat the day of the January 6th insurrection.
And our man, Steve Kornacki, joins us live from Tokyo with the very latest on how Team USA is fairing in the summer Olympics. THE REIDOUT continues after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STATE REP. SENFRONIA THOMPSON (D-TX): I`m here because this is the seat of democracy and my people who I represent has a right to be able to vote unabridged, just like all of you.
You`re damn right I left Texas and I`m glad I did. But you know why, Pete, I left them? I left Texas to give my people a right to be able to vote without them being infringed upon.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MENENDEZ: You are damn right. Today, three Texas Democrats who left the state to block Republican voter suppression bills testified before a House subcommittee on voting rights. As those lawmakers were speaking, other members of the Texas delegation met virtually with both Bill and Hillary Clinton and Stacey Abrams.
Well, the more than 50 Texas Democrats wait out the clock on the special legislative session in Texas and next week. They are lobbying Congress for federal voting right legislation, after Republicans blocked the For the People Act from advancing last month.
A group of Senate Democrats led by Raphael Warnock of Georgia are preparing a revised version of voting rights legislation which is expected to be unveiled in the coming days. The details are under wraps but it`s expected to include components of West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin`s proposed changes to the voting rights bill.
Meanwhile, pressure to act continues after leading a protest against Senate inaction on voting rights with black women activists, Texas Congressman Sheila Jackson Lee was arrested outside a Senate office building by Capitol Police.
I`m joined now by Texas State Representative Senfronia Thompson, who, as you just saw, testified at today`s hearing.
Representative Thompson, you spoke very powerfully about paying a poll tax, not being allowed to vote in primaries. What do you want Congress to understand about what it is at stake in Texas and nationwide?
THOMPSON: I want them to understand that our voting power is about to be ripped away from us unless they act, and here`s why.
When you get people keep chipping as your right to vote because you happen to be a minority within this country, and you are powerless, more or less, to do something about it, I want to -- I want this to be a Lyndon Baines Johnson moment, just like it was on August the 6th, 1965, when Martin Luther King and members of the NAACP group talked to Johnson and convince him to work the Congress, so that they would move on the voters right act. And he did.
I want this to be that moment.
MENENDEZ: It strikes me, Representative, that there is so much at stake for our country and for our democracy. And then there is a lot of stake for you as individuals.
The Texas House speaker signed the first arrest warrant for one of your colleagues. He signed the warrant Sunday, directing law enforcement to take Representative Philip Cortez into custody, bring him to the House after he returned to Austin to negotiate with Republicans, then went back to Washington.
Several Republicans raised that you could be subject to arrest. Your response to that threat?
THOMPSON: I`m ready to be arrested for the fight of my freedom to vote and my constituents` freedom to vote. Arrest me. I`m ready to go.
MENENDEZ: All right, that`s a clear answer there.
Senate Democrats, as I said, working on revised voting rights legislation. My question, did you come all the way to Washington, did you spend all this time away from the people you love, from the people you represent, for this to be where they are on voting rights legislation?
THOMPSON: I came all the way here.
I gave up -- we gave up our jobs, our families, everything in order to fight for our constituents` right to have the privilege of being able to have a say in their democracy. It`s just that important.
MENENDEZ: All right.
Thank you so much, Texas State Representative Senfronia Thompson.
Joining me now, Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon, one of the senators working on that new voting rights legislation.
Senator, people have been pretty hush-hush about what`s going to be in this proposed legislation. Can you give us a sense of what is going to look like, how it might be different than the For the People Act?
SEN. JEFF MERKLEY (D-OR): Well, the details have to be worked out.
But there are four main sections in the For the People Act. One is on dark money. One is on ethics. One is stopping gerrymandering. And one is protecting the ballot box. And I think we`re going to end up with a bill that`s strong in all four areas.
MENENDEZ: What about a voting I.D. mandate?
MERKLEY: Well, voting I.D. is one of the questions that we`re bringing everybody together. We`re meeting. Our staffs are meeting. We`re holding conversations.
Clearly, there are different practices in different states that people feel wedded to. In the state of California, they use signatures as a very effective instrument at the polling place. In Oregon, we vote by mail. We don`t really vote at polling places. But we also use signatures as a powerful instrument.
There is a possibility of looking at a range of ideas, including grandfathering states, giving some flexibility.
But here`s what can`t happen. We can`t allow I.D.s to be used in a discriminatory fashion, where a gun I.D. is permitted and a student I.D. is not. But if you look at what Senator Manchin put forward, it is a very extensive and flexible range that would be required, if we went in the direction of some states doing voter I.D.
MENENDEZ: Senator, let me ask this a slightly different way, which is, which additions or subtractions become deal-breakers for you?
MERKLEY: Oh, well, you know, the deal-breaker for me is a failure to defend the ballot box. And that could happen in multiple ways.
But I just -- I -- from these conversations, I am pretty charged up that we will have a strong bill that all 50 Democrats can support. There are members of our caucus who still think some Republicans will join us. I think that that`s a basically a wonderful sentiment that is never going to be real, because Republicans feel they benefit from gerrymandering, they benefit from dark money, billionaires buying elections, they benefit from being able to block targeted groups from voting.
We all think that Raphael Warnock really summed it up in his maiden speech, when he said, you know what this is all about? This is about some people not wanting some people to vote.
And what we`re talking about here is Republicans not wanting black Americans, communities of color, poor Americans, college students, Native Americans from voting. And they want to force people to vote on Election Day, and then use all the shenanigans that are time-tested.
You take, and you don`t put enough staff in an election -- in a precinct, and so they have a long line. And then even say you can`t even get water to people in that line. You put precinct locations in a different place every two years to confuse people.
You proceed to put them where there`s no parking. You proceed to put out false information about where those precinct places are. I mean, we understand the game being played here. And it`s the same game that haunted our country for a century before the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
And it`s unbelievable that our Republican colleagues are going back to these racist tactics of the past in their search for power.
MENENDEZ: Senator, I don`t need to tell you there is still the filibuster to contend with.
In "USA Today," your former colleague Doug Jones writes: "If Republicans remain uniformly opposed to policies that strengthen our democracy, Democratic senators, including my friend Joe Manchin, must do what is necessary to enact these critical protections, institute a filibuster exception for voting rights legislation."
Your sense, Senator, is there enough support for that kind of filibuster reform now?
MERKLEY: There are many ideas that people are considering.
And a carve-out on the constitutional right to vote is certainly one of them. Another is -- and this is the goal of balancing the Senate, so that the majority cannot overrun the minority, the minority has leverage to slow things down, and thereby seek amendments, make sure that a bill has been analyzed competently before we vote on it, seek a compromise, make their case to the public.
All those things are legitimate. What`s not legitimate is paralyzing the Senate from acting. Our founders operated under a paralyzed Confederation Congress. While they were writing the U.S. Constitution, they warned us never allow the body to be paralyzed by a supermajority.
And Hamilton warned us, and Madison warned us, because they were living it. And so we cannot allow that either. But perhaps that can be addressed by restoring the talking filibuster. Perhaps it can be addressed by establishing a clock, based on every time -- this is something Senator Harkin had proposed years ago -- every time you vote, and you fail to close debate, then, two days later, or a week later, in some fashion, the number required to close debate drops.
So, you -- the minority can delay, but they can`t completely paralyze, which gives both sides an incentive to compromise. And that -- if we can restore that type of social contract to the Senate, that would be a tremendous contribution, no matter who`s in the majority.
MENENDEZ: Senator Merkley, we will continue to follow along as these negotiations shake out. Thank you so much for joining us.
Still ahead: new revelations about a Republican congressman who encouraged Trump supporters to start -- quote -- "kicking ass" on Capitol Hill on January 6.
Plus: Officers who found themselves under attack from the right after testifying before the select committee are now fighting back.
Stay with us.
MENENDEZ: After boycotting the select committee investigating January 6, House Republicans are attempting to reframe the events of that day in a more favorable light.
They`re making the specious argument that former President Trump should not be blamed for inciting that attack, but that Nancy Pelosi should be blamed for not repelling the attackers. Yes, they continue to blame Pelosi, even though at least a half dozen fact-checkers have pointed out that she`s not in charge of Capitol security.
Today, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy took that argument in a bizarre new direction. He now appears to be drawing a connection between the security breach of January 6 and the protest during Brett Kavanaugh`s confirmation hearing for the Supreme Court back in 2018.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): Those Capitol Police officers should not have had to go through what they did. This line was broken in the Kavanaugh debates, but no change was taken since then.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MENENDEZ: A McCarthy spokesperson later clarified that word salad to Talking Points Memo that McCarthy was referring to the time that protesters pushed past the police line and reached the doors of the Supreme Court.
Meanwhile, another vocal critic of the select committee is now revealing he had advanced warning that violence could break out on January 6.
In an interview with slate, Congressman Mo Brooks of Alabama admitted that, on the Monday before the insurrection -- quote -- "I was warned that there might be risks associated with the next few days. And, as a consequence of those warnings, I did not go to my condo. Instead, I slept on the floor of my office. And when I gave my speech at the Ellipse, I was wearing body armor."
He said: "That`s why I was wearing that nice little windbreaker, to cover up the body armor."
In other words, Congressman Brooks knew there was a risk of violence that day, and yet he`s still incited the mob.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MO BROOKS (R-AL): Today is the day American patriots start taking down names and kicking ass!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MENENDEZ: I`m joined now by Congresswoman Stacey Plaskett, delegate to the House from the U.S. Virgin Islands and a former impeachment manager.
Congresswoman, good to see you. Do you have any sense of if Congressman Brooks warned his colleagues about the risk of violence on January 6, since he apparently had advanced warning?
For example, did he warn you?
DEL. STACEY PLASKETT (D-VI): Well, I have not had any conversations with Mo Brooks about this, or pretty much any subject, anything of substance.
So, has he warned other individuals? I don`t know. And we will soon find out.
MENENDEZ: So, tell me, specifically, to that point, should he be a witness in the select committee`s investigation?
PLASKETT: Oh, well, I think that the select committee has tremendous leadership through its chairman, Bennie Thompson, along with the incredible members, my colleagues, who are there.
And I`m sure that they`re going to be spending quite a bit of time ascertaining, what is the correct subpoenas, correct witnesses, correct documents to get? I wouldn`t want to impose my opinion on the work that they`re doing to determine who and what material they should get.
PLASKETT: But I can under -- I could believe that there may in fact be members of Congress who are material witnesses to that day.
MENENDEZ: I was going to say incredibly disciplined of you.
MENENDEZ: Well, today, we learned that Kevin McCarthy attempted to make a connection between the security breach of January 6 and the Kavanaugh protests in 2018.
How do you make sense of that latest attack?
PLASKETT: Well you can`t make sense out of stuff that isn`t sense, right?
And McCarthy is stretching incredulity each and every time he speaks. Listen, just a couple of weeks ago, he said there was no insurrection, that there was no riot. And now he`s saying there is a riot and the person to blame is Nancy Pelosi.
We know that Speaker Pelosi does not have authority over Capitol Police. But after that incredible, heartfelt -- the testimony of the four officers of the Capitol Police, as well as Metropolitan Police, there is no way that he could continue to say that there wasn`t in fact a riot.
And now he`s got to shift the blame. As a former prosecutor, I know that, when people are not dealing with facts anymore, when the facts are not working with them, they will throw out red herrings, as well as throw out process. And that`s where Kevin McCarthy is right now.
MENENDEZ: I`m going to loop back to that emotional testimony, but, before I do, a subject that I assume you`re going to be more comfortable opining on, which is that "The Washington Post" has new reporting on Donald Trump`s attempts to pressure the Department of Justice to investigate the 2020 election.
They reveal that -- quote -- "Trump called his acting attorney general nearly every day at the end of last year to alert him to claims of voter fraud or alleged improper vote counts. The notes from some of those calls could be turned over to Congress in a matter of days."
So, Congresswoman, given everything we know about the former president, what do you think those notes will reveal? What questions would you have about them?
PLASKETT: Well, if the notes are extemporaneous to the discussion -- and I believe that many officials that the Department of Justice would, in fact, take notes as they`re -- very detailed notes in their conversation with the president or with principals of that nature.
I would think that they`d reveal a man that was desperate to retain power, a man that desperation led him to continue to not only incite the riots, but to assist in the planning of that rally and the riots that led to an attempted coup of our government.
So, we will see how far he went with his attorney general and with other officials at the Justice Department. I wouldn`t be surprised if there were individuals at the Department of Defense and other places as well that the president was attempting to utilize to subvert the democratic process and keep himself in office.
MENENDEZ: I promised that we would go back to that emotional testimony that we heard.
After testifying to the select committee on Tuesday, Capitol Police Officer Harry Dunn responded last night to some of the very personal attacks that have been hurled his way on FOX News. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HARRY DUNN, U.S. CAPITOL POLICE OFFICER: You know what hurts more than -- well, just as much as what happened on January 6, the attacks?
The attacks on our credibility, and that we`re lying, and that we don`t love our country, and we`re fake police officers is more than frustrating. It makes you so angry.
But, unwavered, and I`m still going to go do my job tomorrow, just like I do for the last 13 years.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MENENDEZ: Congresswoman, what goes through your mind as you hear that?
PLASKETT: It`s very emotional listening to him speak, as well as it was emotional for so many members and staff and individuals who work in the Capitol Complex, because we know that not only did they fight to keep us safe, but to keep our democracy safe on that day, and the courage that each one of them have to continue to come to work after that each and every time and willing to defend us.
Our heartfelt thanks go out to each and -- each one of them. Every time I see Capitol Police officers as I`m on the complex now, I make it a point to thank them, ask them how they are, how their day is, let them know that they`re appreciated.
It appears now, and I think American people should see, that it is the Democrats who believe that blue lives matter, that are thankful for those who defend our democracy. And the Republicans, God help them.
MENENDEZ: Well, let me ask you about that, because there are things like McCarthy going after Pelosi that you can step back and say, that`s raw politics, right? That is the making of a fund-raising e-mail. That`s the making of an oppo ad.
Something like attacking members of the Capitol Police, I fail to see what the political calculus is there.
PLASKETT: I believe, and you will have -- we will have to someday get into the mind of these individuals -- that it is all about Trump.
Anyone who speaks against the president or who stands in contrast to the false narrative that they`re trying to put forward that this was not a riot, that this was not an attempted coup, that president Trump did not try to overthrow our government, those individuals stand in the way.
And the videotapes of the medieval fighting that these officers endured for four and five hours, injuries, death in some cases, over 140 officers injured, really stands in stark contrast to the false narrative and the misinformation that they`re putting out.
And so, they must in fact attack those individuals and try and tear them apart and try and tear apart what they have done to defend our country against the attacks of the former president and indeed potentially maybe even the attacks and the plotting of other members of Congress.
MENENDEZ: While Mo Brooks was wearing his bulletproof vest.
All right. Congressman Stacey Plaskett, thank you so much.
PLASKETT: Thank you.
MENENDEZ: Up next, senators struck a deal on infrastructure but will it pass muster with progressives in the House?
Congressman Ilhan Omar joins me after the break.
And later, Steve Kornacki joins us to tell us the very latest on how Team USA is doing in Tokyo.
THE REIDOUT continues after this.
MENENDEZ: Yesterday, 67 Senate Democrats and Republicans came together to advance a roughly $1 trillion proposal to improve America`s aging infrastructure. While many from both sides celebrated clearing the first procedural hurdle, new challenges emerge.
Today, West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin told reporters there`s no guarantee he will agree to passing the party`s $3.5 trillion human infrastructure spending proposal. The Democrats want to pass using a Senate procedure that would only require 50 votes. This comes on the heels of Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema announcing that she does not support that plan in its current form.
This almost immediately infuriated many House progressives who signaled that they would not vote for the bipartisan infrastructure bill without a separate human infrastructure bill that meets the moment.
New York Congressman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted this warning to Senator Sinema: Good luck taking your own party`s investment on child care, climate action and infrastructure while presuming you`ll survive a three- vote House margin especially after choosing to exclude members of color from negotiations and calling that a bipartisan accomplishment.
Joining me now, Minnesota Congressman Ilhan Omar, a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Her memoir "This is What America Looks Like" is now available in paperback.
Congresswoman, your take on this bipartisan deal.
REP. ILHAN OMAR (D-MN): Yeah. I mean, it`s really important for us to remember that we`ve laid out as members of the Progressive caucus, as you know, I serve as the whip, we`ve whipped on this, there is no path forward for a bipartisan bill that doesn`t move simultaneously with the reconciliation bill.
And I know that, you know, our colleagues on the other side on the Senate fully understand that and this is why I think that they`ve been lobbying these two senators to essentially as AOC was saying, to sink these bills that are a priority for Democrats.
MENENDEZ: Let me ask it a slightly different way, which is -- are you willing to pass it if the human infrastructure proposal is whittled down?
OMAR: I am willing to pass it, you know, if there is bills that are passing simultaneously. We believe this is a one-time opportunity, a generational opportunity that we have to truly create transformational policy and pass it through the reconciliation process. I don`t think it is possible for us to pass this bipartisan infrastructure bill without having the guarantee that a reconciliation bill that fully funds our priorities is going to pass as well.
MENENDEZ: Let me ask you about those priorities and are there deal breakers for you? Are there pieces of this legislation that if you start tinkering with or you take out from the human infrastructure piece that then you walk?
OMAR: Yeah. I mean, we`ve been very clear. We`ve said, you know, we`ve got the five priorities -- investigating in the care economy, addressing the climate crisis, obviously addressing things like immigration and expanding, you know, health care so that more people are covered.
You know, we are willing to negotiate the amount of investment that goes into these priorities, but we`re not willing to negotiate having these priorities not be included in the legislation that passes.
MENENDEZ: Congresswoman, when we zoom out, whether you`re talking about infrastructure, voting rights, the role of Sinema and Manchin is pretty clear. Where is that progressives` plan to hold the line?
OMAR: We`ve been very clear. We`ve got five priorities. If those priorities aren`t met, there is not going to be a piece of legislation that passes.
And we obviously, you know, don`t want to say we`re not going to support, we`re not negotiating, we`ve been very clear. Four months ago, we put out our priorities. We said this is what we`re willing to do. These are our red lines. This is what we want to bring with us as we negotiate.
It`s clearly understood. You know, Senator Bernie Sanders, who chairs the Budget Committee on the Senate side, has also been very clear about that. And I think it`s really important for us to realize that on our side, we are trying to do the most good on behalf of the American people that gave us the majority, that believed in us delivering something tangible for them.
And we definitely can`t allow Republicans who have been focused on obstruction to -- right?
To be able to lobby Democrats to actually get in their own way.
MENENDEZ: Congresswoman, I don`t need to tell you because I know you hear all time -- all the time what a tough moment this is for many Americans. We`re still struggling through a deadly pandemic. Partisanship seems to be getting worse. The country is grappling with civil unrest.
You write about overcoming similar challenges in your memoir. You write: If you can push through whatever is happening today, tomorrow might be worse, but it could also be better. The only option for the human spirit is to keep going.
To you, how does that apply in this moment?
OMAR: Well, I mean, it`s been, you know, my life story to really look for the opportunities that allow us to push forward. This is why I say, you know, this is once in a lifetime opportunity. The American people came out in droves to give us the majority in the House, in the Senate and the White House. They believed in the agenda we put in front of them and said this is what we are going to fight for if you give us the opportunity to fight on your behalf.
And it`s really important for us to keep that promise. This is, you know, our chance to deliver, and we can`t let them down.
MENENDEZ: Congresswoman, unfortunately threats of violence, white supremacy have been a part of your experience as a member since you were elected. Was January 6th -- was what happened on January 6th an awakening for some of your colleagues?
OMAR: Not enough awakening, as we`ve seen, you know, just the commission to study what happened and to hold those responsible accountable has become so polarized. I remember actually very vividly being in a room with, you know, Minority Leader McCarthy and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Scalise and others on the leadership team on the Republican side, both in the House and the Senate, that were held up with the leadership on our side. I was one of those designated survivors that because of my situation and the dangers that I faced, I ended up going to the same place that they were being kept safe.
And I remember the fear in their eyes. I remember Scalise looking at the images on TV and saying, what is happening? We have to do something about this.
I remember, McCarthy and Mitch McConnell actually being the ones that really wanted to go back, to send a message to not allow these people to win.
And then a couple of days later, we`re seeing these people say, oh, there was nothing that was taking place. What attempted coup are you talking about? What insurrection are you talking about?
And I am shocked, I will tell you, just the ways in which these people, you know, switch themselves around, really are willing to make up stories even though they know what really happened and even though those of us who were with them remember the fear in their eyes.
MENENDEZ: Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, thank you. "This is What America Looks Like" is out now in paper book.
Up next, our very own Steve Kornacki joins us from Tokyo. Stay with us.
MENENDEZ: Despite the absence of Simone Biles, the U.S. still won a gold medal in today`s individual all-around gymnastics final. Eighteen-year-old Suni Lee becomes the first Asian-American woman to win that title. She`s also the first Hmong American to compete in the Olympics.
Back home in Minnesota, here`s how her family reacted the moment she clinched that medal.
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MENENDEZ: Simone Biles cheered on Suni from the stands with her teammates posted this congratulatory Instagram story.
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MENENDEZ: I love it.
We are six days into the games and NBC`s Steve Kornacki has the latest on how America has been stacking up against the world so far.
STEVE KORNACKI, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Alicia. Well, greetings from Japan.
Yes, that gold medal you`re showing there, the reaction that Suni Lee won in gymnastics, that certainly adds to the count for the U.S. They now have 14 gold medals at these games. They`re actually right now second in the world. China just added one in the last few hours.
So China is still leading the way in golds with 15, the U.S. right behind it at 14. There`s a bit of a streak on the line here for the United States. The last two Summer Games before this, they ended up finishing with the most gold medals. It was a runaway back in 2016.
So, we`ll see here. We still have plenty of time left in these games. We`ll see if the U.S. can keep that streak going.
The other streak that is still alive right now for the U.S., they have also had the most medals of any country at the Summer Games for six straight Olympic games now. You`ve got to go all the way back to 1992 in Barcelona to find the last time they didn`t have that record, and they continue to lead, at least so far, about a week into these games in the overall medal count.
Suni Lee, everybody is still digesting her gold medal, but there`s more coming potentially for the United States just in the next few hours. Tonight the men`s 200-meter backstroke. Ryan Murphy, the American, trying to defend his gold medal there. A big opportunity for the United States, also qualifying tonight for the women`s 50-meter, a chance for Simone Manuel of the United States to potentially get a gold there. We`ll see what happens.
But a bunch of swimming opportunities and we haven`t even got to track and field yet, Alicia.
MENENDEZ: All right. Steve Kornacki, it is great to see you as always.
That`s tonight`s REIDOUT.
"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.