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tv   The Rachel Maddow Show  MSNBC  December 3, 2020 1:00am-2:00am PST

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well, i hope mark becker gets more conversations with republican -- although i think this is probably -- this is a good for one ride shtick here. mark becker. but i do appreciate you doing it and coming on the program. thank you very much. the progra. thanks very much. that is "all in" for this evening. "the rachel maddow show" starts right now. good evening, rachel. good evening, chris. thank you, my friend. >> you bet. >> much appreciated. >> thanks to you at home for joining us as well. pop quiz, real quick. don't think too hard about it. pop quiz. what is the greatest sissy spacek movie of all time? obvious right answer, "coal miner's daughter," right? where sissy spacek plays loretta lynn. there's none better. absolutely fantastic. now, you are forgiven if your answer instead was "carrie," the classic horror movie. epic. she personally was epic in that. but you know, of course, it's a
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hard call. sissy spacek has had such a great career, right? "north country," "affliction," so many great films. here's one, though, that deserves consideration anew. 1985, movie by the name of "marie." it was a true story. sissy spacek was the lead and title character. she played a little-known tennessee state official named marie ragiante. marie was a whistle-blower and a big scandal in the state of tennessee, a big scandal that had just an astonishing ending, an ending that we, apparently, as a country need to study now at the end of the trump administration, because this scandal is literally the only thing i know of in our modern american history that might help us out in terms of what's supposed to happen now and how the craziness we are living through right now is supposed to resolve. and luckily, this one isn't just
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history that we have to look up, like in random ph.d theses and old newspapers. trust me, i have done that with lots of state-level scandals. luckily, this one really does have a sissy spacek movie all about it so you can just cheat and watch the movie. it's a movie in which "the new york times" praised sissy spacek as, quote, effortlessly from a battered young wife to a self-possessed official, and gives yet another guileless, radiant performance of unusual mediacy." you can cheek and just watch "marie," sissy spacek, 1985. and the "times" praising her for over unusual immediacy. and it is unusual immediately relevant right now to what's happening in our country right now at this car crash end of this bizarre presidency. it is worth knowing what
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happened that became the basis for that movie in 1985. what happened is this -- there was this dixiecrat politician in tennessee named ray blanton. ray blanton had been in the tennessee state legislature, sort of an undistinguished run there. he ran for congress from tennessee in 1966 as an old, reconstructed dixiecrat democrat. he ran as a pro segregation candidate for congress in 1966, got to congress, had a few terms there, did basically nothing. but while he was there, distinguished himself as an, you know, unreconstructed southern democrat against the dirty hippies and antiwar movement, voting in extension of the voting rights act. he was a real peach. in 1974, that politician, ray blanton, got elected governor of the great state of tennessee. and while he was governor, he, like, gave his family's road-building company a state contract, and guys in his administration started selling off state-owned cars to their
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friends and cronies at a discount. he was basically a terrible and corrupt governor. but in 1978, after his time as tennessee governor, ray blanton was on his way out. he was not going to run for another term. they held an election in november of 1978 to pick the next governor, a republican named lamar alexander, won that gubernatorial election in tennessee to replace ray blanton. ray blanton had trashed lamar alexander. he called him a choir boy and did his best to keep lamar alexander from winning, but lamar alexander won. and after that 1978 election, ray blanton is on his way out, but he's in his lame duck period, right? so, he knows he's not going to be governor for long, but he's there for a little while until inauguration, until lamar alexander comes in, and in that lame duck period, stuff goes hay wire. blanton is hauled in before a federal grand jury to testify in an fbi investigation into whether or not his
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administration was offering pardons for state prisoners -- get out of jail free cards -- in exchange for cash bribes. blanton, himself, the governor, himself, got hauled in to testify in front of the grand jury in that investigation. three of blanton's staffers, including his chief counsel, got hit with felony charges in that investigation for selling pardons in exchange for cash. and this all happens after the election, after blanton knows he's leaving office, right, when he's in this lame duck period before the new governor is going to get sworn in. on january 4th, during that lame duck period, the local paper in nashville reports that not only was the bribery for pardons investigation ongoing, but the grand jury had heard tapes, right, had tapes of the bribery exchanges happening, people caught red-handed. two days after that appears in the nashville paper, blanton, himself, admits to reporters that the fbi has told him directly that he, himself, not just his staffers who have been
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charged, but he, himself, the outgoing governor, is a target of the fbi, a target of this federal bribery investigation. they said, it's not just his aides, it's the governor, himself, who they believe was involved in selling state pardons to prisoners for money. and then something really amazing happened. governor blanton, having been basically caught in this scandal with his staffers under indictment, including one who was arrested and frog-marched out of his office in the state capitol -- governor ray blanton, having been told by the fbi that he, himself, was the target of this investigation, he just brushed it off and decided he was going to go whole hog. he was still the governor, and he was going to get what people paid for. just after 11:00 p.m. on a monday night -- and this is the last week that he is serving his term as governor -- the inauguration of the new governor is scheduled for the following weekend, on saturday. this is monday night, before the inauguration. it's between 11:00 p.m. and midnight.
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governor ray blanton walks out of his office in the state capitol, and he announces that he just pardoned 52 state prisoners. 23 of them were murderers. one of the murderers was the son of one of his major political supporters and donors. the son had only served a few months of his sentence for double murder. the guy had shot his wife and another person 18 times. he put 18 bullets in them. and he did it with a two-shot daringer pistol, which meant he had to stop and reload that little pistol at least eight times in order to get all 18 bullets into them when he killed them. governor blanton explained that he pardoned the guy because he thought it was probably a crime of passion, so the guy should just get time served. reloaded eight times? the governor at this point has less than a week in office. he is under investigation, under federal investigation for selling pardons, and he does
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this, 52 of them, including more than 20 murderers. that happens late on monday night, before the saturday inauguration. tuesday morning, tennessee wakes up to this news and is somewhat astonished that he's doing this, right, while he's under fbi investigation for doing this sort of thing for money, while his staffers are under arrest for allegedly being the bad men, taking money for him on this. so, monday night he announces these pardons. tuesday, the state of tennessee is like, what is going on? what just happened here? and then wednesday, the next day, the u.s. attorney, top federal prosecutor leading that case in tennessee, all of 37 years old, himself a democrat, appointed by democratic president jimmy carter, that u.s. attorney gets a call from the fbi, and the fbi tells him that before blanton goes, before the new governor gets sworn in on saturday, to replace blanton, the fbi has word, they have indications that governor ray
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blanton is going to issue a bunch more pardons, including all the rest of the cases that led to the bribery charges and that are the subject of the ongoing bribery investigation of which he is a target. in other words, between that day and the day he finally has to leave office, the following saturday, the fbi believes he is going to make good on the bribes that were already arranged for those pardons. he, in fact, is going to sell them off. and once people are pardoned, it's not like you can do anything about it. you can't take it back. so, the u.s. attorney gets this intel from the fbi on wednesday, and the u.s. attorney does something quite extraordinary that wednesday afternoon. he calls up the republican, 38 years old, the new, young guy who was just elected governor to replace blanton, the guy who was due to be sworn in on saturday. he calls lamar alexander, and he til tells him on the phone -- the
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way he quoted himself to a newspaper later, describing what he said -- he said to lamar alexander, i think you've got to take office early in order to stop what's going on. inauguration for the new guy isn't supposed to be for another three days at this point, right? this is wednesday. the inauguration isn't until saturday. but that day, that wednesday, when the u.s. attorney calls lamar alexander, they thought the totally uncowed, brazenly criminal governor, was going to deliver on his bribes in a way that would be legally irreversible. and so, the u.s. attorney and the leaders of the legislature and lamar alexander and the democrats in office alongside blanton, who weren't part of the scheme, they all spend the day scouring state law and looking into exactly the terms that set that inauguration date for saturday. how firm is that? turns out, it with a little woolly, maybe not that firm. and by god, they did it. they kept it under wraps over the course of that day, that wednesday. they summoned the capitol press
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corps to the state supreme court that night, without telling the reporters what they were coming in to see, and surprise. what they were there to see was the swearing in of this new governor, three days early, without telling the guy who still thought he had the job. they didn't tell blanton until after lamar alexander was already sworn in, because they didn't want him to know his term was ending three days earlier than he expected. they didn't want him to be able to deliver those allegedly bought and paid for pardons before he went. it was absolutely bizarre. and of course, it was national news. >> ray blanton expected to be governor of tennessee until saturday, but the state hastily replaced him last night by swearing in a new governor three days early, because in blanton's last days in office, he was releasing huge numbers of convicts from the state prisons, including murderers, and planned to release more. kenley jones was in nashville. >> these are not very happy days
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for tennessee. this is not a happy day for me. >> reporter: with that, republican governor lamar alexander was sworn into office three days early to prevent outgoing governor, democrat ray blanton, from freeing any more state prisoners. earlier this week, blanton commuted the sentences of 52 prisoners, including some murderers, and was reportedly considering the release of at least 18 others before he was stopped. when blanton learned of the swearing-in last night, after it was over, he denied he had done anything wrong and said he was hurt. >> there is such a thing as courtesy, and i would have thought that there would have been a little bit of courtesy in informing me of the action before it happened. >> reporter: several officials in blanton's administration are the targets of a federal grand jury investigation into payoffs for pardons and paroles of state prisoners. blanton, himself, was called to testify before the grand jury. at a news conference today, the new governor said information
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given him by the u.s. district attorney is what led to the early swearing-in. >> he told me that he had substantial reason to believe the governor was about to release one or more persons from the state prisons who were the targets of the united states investigation and the payoffs to release people from our prisons. he asked me to take office in order to prevent that. >> reporter: alexander said there is nothing he can do about the release of prisoners earlier this week, while blanton was still governor. blanton has said he does not intend to run for political office again. a state legislator here was quoted as saying, "it's a good thing, because the people of tennessee will never pardon him for what he has done." >> the people will never pardon him for what he has done. it's a remarkable story, right? new governor, surprise, sworn in early to stop what was believed to be a crime in progress that would be irreversible if it was
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allowed to go forward. ray blanton's staffers did do prison time for their role in selling gubernatorial pardons for cash in the state of tennessee. blanton, himself, did a couple of years in federal prison for extortion and conspiracy for putting other official acts up for sale while he was governor. he was apparently also selling things like liquor licenses for the low, low cost of a $23,000 bribe slipped into his pocket. and in 1985, a fair to midling sissy spacek movie was made about the whole scandal with spacek starring as the head of the state parole board who blew the whistle on the scandal when she realized that parole and clemency was being sold. she's the one who called the fbi. and blanton, of course, did his best to destroy her for it. in the end, marie ragiante is the one who got the hollywood movie made about her. governor ray blanton is the one who went to prison and then died young. his last jobs were working at a
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car dealership and selling prefab metal buildings. the united states senate saw some big, interesting changes today. mark kelly was sworn into the u.s. arizona seat formerly held by senator john mccain. kello the swearing in marks the first time since the 1950s that they have had two democrats in its two senate seats. at the same time, the senate today got a farewell address from a senator named lamar alexander. the same lamar alexander who was just absolutely flummoxed by that call he got from the u.s. attorney on that wednesday in january 41 years ago, telling him that he was going to have to take office three days early to stop that corrupt outgoing governor from giving out irrevocable pardons that were illegally bought and paid for. they needed him to take office to stop a crime in progress. lamar alexander did not want to do that, but he did it at the request of law enforcement.
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lamar alexander would serve two terms as governor of tennessee after that weird start. he served three terms in the united states senate. he is now 80 years old and retiring from public service. he made a plea for bipartisan cooperation as his closing speech in the u.s. senate today. one of the things this speech will be remembered for today is that the top republican in the senate, mitch mcconnell, broke down in tears saying good-bye to senator alexander today. mitch mcconnell was actually quite unable to compose himself. he was very, very upset in his remarks saying good-bye to his friend. but it is just a remarkable snake eating its tail or maybe a puppy chasing its tail moment for history, for lamar alexander to have entered the national spotlight in public life because of a brazen, fearless, outgoing official, lame duck official accused of corrupting the pardon process for his own benefit. that's how he entered national
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news for the first time ever. and now today, lamar alexander leaves the national spotlight in public life amid a brazen, maybe fearless, outgoing lame duck official accused of corrupting the pardon process, this time federally, for his own purposes. after "the new york times" reported last night that president trump has discussed issuing blanket preemptive pardons to his eldest son, don junior, to his second son, eric, the blond one, to his son-in-law, jared kushner, and to his daughter, ivanka trump -- after that was reported last night by "the new york times," tonight we learn from a court filing first reported by cnn reporter kara scannell, that ivanka trump was deposed yesterday in the district of columbia in a case brought by the attorney general there over alleged misuse of funds by the trump inaugural committee. you'll remember that the illegal funneling of foreign money into the trump inaugural committee was already the subject of one of the successful federal prosecutions that derived from
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the mueller investigation. a man named samuel patton convicted in conjunction with illegal foreign money being brought into the trump inaugural. this one in d.c., for which ivanka trump was just deposed, this is not a federal case. it's one brought by the attorney general in the district of columbia, but the documents just released in that case show not only that ivanka trump was deposed in this case yesterday, but the head of trump's inaugural committee, tom barr k barrack, huge trump donor, was deposed in this case not two weeks ago. the documents released by the court related to the case today also show that first lady melania trump has been subpoenaed in conjunction with this case, again, about alleged massive misuse of funds for the trump inaugural. now, i should mention, this is separate from the new york state investigation that has reportedly zeroed in on the trump organization making allegedly illegal payments to ivanka trump and then writing them off for tax purposes. that's a separate matter entirely but one in which
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ms. ivanka trump does also appear to be in the crosshairs. and it should be noted that the president can only issue pardons for federal crimes, not for state crimes or for a kind of -- the kind of case that's being brought in the district of columbia over the inaugural committee here. but in the past 48 hours, we have learned that the u.s. justice department has been investigating some kind of alleged cash-for-pardons scheme involving the president's pardon powers and clemency powers, involving officials at the white house. we have learned that the president is actively discussing preemptive pardons for all of his children. and we have learned that the president has recently been in active discussions about also pardoning preemptively his made-for-tv lawyer, rudy giuliani, who is reported to have been under federal criminal investigation as recently as this past summer, before we suddenly stopped hearing all about that and then attorney general william barr fired the prosecutor who was overseeing that office in sdny that was apparently leading that
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investigation. and now tonight, this is how the president started talking in a truly bizarre speech, posted live on facebook that originated from the actual white house. >> all it's been is a big investigation in washington and new york and anyplace else they can investigate, because that's what they want to do. they want to take not me, but us, down, and we can never let them do that. everything's been looked at. friend of mine who's very smart said, you've probably seen more than anybody else. you've probably been investigated more than anybody else. and for you to come out with a clean bill of health makes you probably the cleanest person in this country. some people in this administration, but fortunately, not all, have been beaten down
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and disparaged. they just disappeared. >> they just disappeared, the people who you thought would protect you from -- the president tonight made this long, rambly, 46-minute facebook statement from the white house in which most of the time was spent making wild and false allegations that, somehow, he didn't just lose re-election, but he did. and no, before you ask, no, they can't move up the federal inauguration date for a new president the way they did for that governor in tennessee back in 1979. the presidential inauguration date is in the constitution. that's not changing, no matter who wants to change it. the only way the presidential handover of power might materially change this year is if president trump is persuaded that he needs not just pardons for his whole family, but if he's persuaded that he needs a pardon, himself. the way he's talking about how
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he's the cleanest person in the entire country but the investigations just won't stop kind of sounds like he may be coming around to that frame of mind. any president trying to pardon himself would be legally suspect, would be the first time that's ever happened, and there's no guarantee that it would hold up. if the president really believes that he needs a pardon, himself, conceivably, he might decide he needs to resign before january 20th, so mike pence would briefly become president. in that short time, mike pence could then issue a trump pardon. i mean, so, conceivably, they might try something like that, which would alter the course of how the presidential handoff of power's going to happen. something like that would be inconceivable at any other time, but this is the time that we are living through right now, and i think there's no reason to consider anything off the table. if nothing quite that dramatic happens, i suppose we'll just keep stretching this out another 49 days, wondering about that justice department investigation into selling pardons, wondering what else might happen, what else he might try to break as he leaves.
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in terms of the republican party's own political interests, this is what some of that breakage looks like tonight. >> where's kelly loeffler here? where's david perdue? he ought to be standing right here! those two people want your vote, then they ought to tell you what we're telling brian kemp, get a special session of the legislature now. do not be fooled twice. this is georgia. we ain't dumb. we're not gonna go vote on january 5th in another machine made by china! you're not gonna fool georgians again! if kelly loeffler wants your vote, if david perdue wants your vote, they've got to earn it! they've got to demand publicly, repeatedly, consistently, brian kemp, call a special session of the georgia legislature.
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and if they do not do it, if kelly loeffler and david perdue do not do it, they have not earned your vote. don't you give it to them. >> don't you give them your vote. don't you give them your vote. we're not dumb. don't be fooled twice. we're not going to go vote on january 5th for those republican senators. this post-election act by which rudy giuliani appears to be singing for his supper, dancing for his chance at a pardon from the president, has now devolved into a fairly crazed political environment in which the president's lawyers really are actively telling trump-supporting republican voters, including the guy wearing the maga hat while he does it, telling them they should not vote for the republicans who are up for senate seats in georgia next month. they shouldn't go out and vote. shouldn't get fooled twice. we won't vote the way they voted in georgia. i mean, these two senate seats will determine whether republicans or democrats are in control in the senate. they'll determine whether or not
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mitch mcconnell is running the senate or chuck schumer is. there is a sharpening divergence now between the interests of the republican party and the interests of the president, what he sees as his interests and what his strange and in some cases desperate lawyers are doing to try to please him, given what he sees as his interests. nobody quite knows what republicans are prepared to do about this divergence between what the president wants for himself and what the republican party needs to hold on to power. as the effort to defy the election results by the president gets more liminal and weird and failed, and also more dangerous to the republican party's interests, the president could sort of let it wither, right? could let it sort of drain off into the weird facebook neitherer regions in which it lives now, but he does appear to be trying to revivify it, this three-quarters of an hour-long screed from the white house tonight. and yes, it had to be carried
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live on facebook. facebook, bless your heart, because who else is going to run this much dangerous lying designed to unwire the democracy of the united states of america? facebook will do it. i mean, that's what's going on at the top of the u.s. federal government right now. that's what this lame duck period is. and you know, this is the united states of america. this is not some poe dunk dix democrat state governor selling off lilsiquor licenses and hand out pardons for his son's friends for $27 and paper bag. this is the dressed-up 2020 iteration of that in another lame duck period, in this case with no clear way to stop it. and the most important difference between then and now, between there and here, is that this time, what we're living through right now is happening while this is happening, too. this is the hospitalization numbers right now nationwide. we thought it couldn't get any
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worse than it was in the spring, right? these are the numbers from the covid tracking project. this is today's daily death toll. 2,733 americans dead in a day. we are very quickly heading toward 3,000 americans dead in a day, toward the number of americans who died on 9/11 dying every day. today, while the president was doing his energizer bunny destroys democracy speech live on facebook, also at the white house, we learned that the coronavirus task force is advising local public health officials that they should go rogue and they should defy bad local leadership at the municipal or state level if they need to, because they now need to start telling the american people a very blunt message. the white house coronavirus task force now advising local public health officials that they need to tell the local population where they are, whatever else is
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happening with local leaders -- public space where anyone is unmasked. if you are over 65 or have any significant health conditions, do not enter any indoor public space where people are unmasked. if you are under the age of 40 and you gathered with people you don't live with over thanksgiving, the white house is now telling local public officials to advise people under 40 who gathered with people they didn't live with during thanksgiving that they must assume that they became infected over the thanksgiving holiday. you are now dangerous to others and you must isolate, even though you likely do not have symptoms. these things are happening all at once. a careening, proverbial car crash with no obvious end in the white house and no easy way to end it, and a country hitting a brick wall in terms of the sheer numbers of deaths and the sheer
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scale of hospitalizations that we do not know how to handle. all at once. there is not going to be a hollywood ending here, no matter what. ng to be a hollywood ending here, no matter what
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waterloo, iowa, had allegedly organized a cash buy-in, winner take all betting pool for supervisors and managers to wager how many employees would test positive for covid-19. now, tyson seemed to respond to that allegation in the lawsuit quite seriously. they suspended plant managers at that waterloo plant, the ones who were allegedly betting on how many employees would catch this deadly disease. they also hired an outside law firm to conduct an investigation led by former u.s. attorney general eric holder. the ceo of tyson flew to waterloo, iowa, to talk to workers there in person. this is this grace live serious allegation in that lawsuit met by the company with a serious response. well, now that same lawsuit has been amended with another new and dramatic allegation about what workers say happened at that waterloo plant at the height of its outbreak. the families suing tyson say plant managers at the waterloo plant deliberately gave false information to nonenglish-speaking workers. according to the complaint, at
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the time tyson had knowledge that covid was spreading through the plant, they instructed interpreters to tell non-english-speaking employees, "everything is fine" and to tell them that county health officials had, quote, cleared the plant to continue operations. neither of those things was true. the complaint says the county health department told tyson around that time that they needed to close the plant. ultimately, a third of the workforce at that plant caught it. tyson's response to this newest terrible allegation is less forthcoming than it was to the first one. they have declined to comment specifically on this matter. they're citing the ongoing litigation. they did say they provided covid training and education to employees in multiple languages, though, so there's that. question is what you told them in multiple languages. what happened at that one plant in iowa -- more than 1,000 people infected, at least six dead -- we're still getting to the bottom of just how bad this was. but what's also becoming clear
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is that the disaster at that plant was exacerbated not just by the alleged very callous behavior of the company toward its employees, but by the state of iowa, too who totally bought into everything the company told them. there's a blistering column in "the gazette" newspaper today in iowa. this is the local paper there. written by todd dorman that lays the blame not just at the feet of tyson foods, but at the feet governor kim reynolds of wisconsin. because tyson wasn't just telling employees everything was fine, while the virus was spreading rampantly inside that plant. they were telling the governor that, too, and she was happily lapping it up. when local health officials were begging tyson to shut its doors to protect its employees, the governor said that she opposed the plant shutting down. around the time tyson plant managers were allegedly betting on the health and safety of their employees, while they were allegedly deliberately lying to them about whether the county had cleared the plant for it to be safe, governor reynolds said that she talked to the executives at tyson who assured
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her that tyson was doing everything they could to protect its workforce. yeah, everything, you know, including a winner take all betting pool on how many people would get sick and die. the consequences of what happened in iowa earlier this year didn't end when that tyson plant eventually did get shut down to try to get the virus under control. by that point, thousands of people were infected. the pork plant workers took the virus home to their families, spread it to their friends and community. today, covid deaths in iowa are near their all-time high. november was iowa's deadliest month since the pandemic began. like so much of the country, iowa is in trouble. like much less of the country, in iowa, we know where a lot of that trouble started. joining us now is tony thompson, who is the sheriff in black hawk county, iowa, which is where that tyson plant is located. he's somebody we check back in with frequently in april when so many of the employees there were getting sick. sheriff thompson, it's really nice to see you again. thanks for joining us again. >> it is my pleasure to be with you, rachel. thank you. >> let me just ask you how
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things are right now in black hawk county? obviously, so much of the country right now is looking at unsustainable numbers and scary numbers. how are things right now in your part of iowa? >> i think it's the same as what the rest of the country is dealing with. you know, obviously, this is a scary time, and covid surging again, we just have different culprits now. it's more of a shotgun approach than it was one particular plant that was spreading it, you know, in our community. now it's everywhere, and that's frustrating on more of a global scale. >> yeah. and it's frustrating both strategically in terms of how you do it, but also just because trying to stop it at the outset, you know, wasn't enough. and you were one of the local officials calling for that tyson plant in waterloo to close down when they were insisting on staying open. now that that is being literally litigated and the families of workers who were killed are
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bringing suit against the company and all these very scary allegations are coming out, i have to ask your response to some of these new allegations that are coming out of this lawsuit about how tyson was handling the outbreak. does it jive with what you saw at the time? >> it absolutely syncs with what we saw when we walked through the plant. it syncs with what we were getting at my emergency operations center, some of the information that caused us to want to go into the plant to begin with. you know, when tyson says, yes, we had education, we had training, they had videos up that were talking about, hey, wash your hands in multiple languages and wear masks, even though less than maybe a third of the plant was actually wearing masks when we walked through. we had family members of even usda inspectors telling us that plant management was telling them that they didn't wear masks because it was scaring employees
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and things of that nature. so, there was a lot of things going on that caused us and predicated us to want to be in the plant and visit the plant back there in april. so, it certainly syncs up with some of that information back then. >> the accountability is part of this, but obviously, it's not like this is over. the response continues. accountability is part of it, but telling the truth about what happened is the first step there. sheriff tony thompson from black hawk county in iowa. sir, again, come back any time. we'd love to stay apprised on how things are in your neck of the woods. thanks for helping us understand. >> my pleasure. >> all right. coming up next, we're going to talk about something that is not getting a lot of national attention, and i think ought to. there's a lot of noise about what the president is doing around pardons and his family and potential criminality right now. there's also the question of what the president is doing to kind of wreck the federal government on his way out the
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door, a big, important part of that is the subject of our next story. stay with us. s the subject of o story. stay with us
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when bipolar i overwhelms, vraylar helps smooth the ups and downs. this is something that i generally can't get my head around. i don't understand the implications of it. i'm going to talk about it publicly here because i would like to shed some light on it because i'm hoping somebody can explain it. one reason i think it's not getting more attention is that i think nobody really understands why it's happening. but i do think it requires some scrutiny. the basic question is this -- why, with 49 days left in office, is president trump stacking the top ranks of the pentagon with, forgive me, a bunch of junior-level screwballs? you'll recall that trump ousted his defense secretary by tweet less than a week after the election. he then put a new guy in charge of policy at the pentagon who says president obama is a terrorist leader. he then installed three
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different guys who were at the heart of that whole thing where trump said obama wiretapped trump tower. three junior staffers who made up the heart of that whole debacle are now the chief of staff at the pentagon, the top legal counsel at the nsa, and the chief of intelligence at the pentagon. and that last guy, the new pentagon intelligence chief, all of 34 years old, he's now not only the pentagon's intelligence chief, he is also in charge of, well, you can't quite believe it, trump's new last-minute, lame duck defense secretary appointee just changed the structure of the military so that special ops -- special operations, think like navy s.e.a.l.s -- they now all report to that 34-year-old guy. and now, that 34-year-old guy, the junior staffer who's running the pentagon's intelligence operations and special ops -- his name is ezra cohen -- now he's just been given even more responsibility. the trump administration has now suddenly and without warning ousted the head of the defense
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department's defeat isis task force. this is an intelligence officer who's worked counterterrorism jobs in the u.s. government for two decades. his whole defeat isis office has been disbanded and his responsibilities have been handed over to trump's brand-new junior-level appointees, ezra cohen and the obama is a terrorist leader guy. those guys are taking over the responsibilities from the guy who was running the operations against isis? the official that trump just fired, the head of the defeat isis task force, the "times" notes that his office was, quote, in the midst of answering dozens of questions from the incoming biden administration about the status of terrorist threats, relations with allies and counterterrorism missions. the elimination of that office, that central hub, will, quote, almost certainly slow the flow of counterterrorism information to biden transition aides. on top of all this, the trump administration is also now saying that the annual defense budget should zero out all
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anti-isis work. this, of course, is right on the heels of disbanding the task force that is supposed to be fighting isis and ousting its top official. why is all of this happening in the lame duck? we don't know what the end game here is or why they're going out of their way in the lame duck to make these very, very significant changes that are getting almost no attention. i am hoping that my next guest may be able to shed some light on what is going on here or what this might mean, at least what to watch for next. stay with us. at least what to watch for next. stay with us
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before she became a member of congress, elissa slotkin was acting assistant secretary of defense on security affairs and oversaw policy on russia, the middle east and africa and has years of intelligence and defense experience. now as a member of congress from michigan, elissa slotkin sits on the armed services committee and homeland security committee. she joins us tonight. congresswoman slotkin, thank you for joining us tonight. >> thanks for having me. >> so, i have been watching with sort of quiet consternation the changes at the top levels of the pentagon since the election, since march esper was fired as defense secretary just after the election. i spoke with a number of experts and a couple of them suggested that i talk to you to try to get your take on what you think this might mean or whether you see any sort of rhyme to this reason
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in terms of what might be behind these changes? >> yeah, well, i think when we see this many removals, it's one of three things, right? one, you can always wonder if there's gross negligence, if there's a problem with all of these different folks. i do not believe that's the issue, but that's always a reason why lots of people get fired all at once. number two is because you're trying to clear the obstacles to do something operationally, that maybe those folks didn't want you to do and argued against. and number three is just pure pettiness, right? is that, you know, people stood in the way of the president and on his way out the door, he was going to make the point that if you weren't loyal or supportive of him, he was going to get rid of you and put in people who were. a lot of arrows point to the last one, pettiness. but we do have to watch out for what the president might be interested in doing in his last 49 days. and i know there's a lot of people concerned about it. i tend to believe that this is
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really mostly about pettiness, though, but it does have strategic consequences. very few people know what the office of the secretary of defense is. it's the civilian part of the pentagon that provides silvan oversight over the military. it's designed that way. for generations it's been that way. and when you completely gut an organization and put in people who are just loyalists to the president, it basically sort of undercuts that civilian control. and certainly, if you're uniformed military, you want to know that the decisions that are being made about operations have real oversight, someone's really thought through them and thought about the consequences, and there's no way that's going on right now with the folks that they've put in. >> the official who was most recently ousted, the head of the defeat isis task force, is not somebody who's got a high-profile name. it's even, the position is not a high-profile thing.
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chris foreor for mayer is his n. but i was struck by "the new york times" that one of the things he's been doing is he's been essentially point person within the pentagon briefing the incoming biden folks on counterterrorism matters, about isis specifically, but also more broadly, and that the biden transition folks are worried that him being ousted may be some effort to try to basically fluster their ability to get up to speed on counterterrorism methods -- counterterrorism matters in a seamless way. >> yeah, i worked closely with chris mayer. he's a wonderful civil servant, has worked for both democratic and republican administrations. and i helped him set up the defeat isis task force. so i feel very strongly about his capability. and obviously, this is horrible that this is going on for him. i don't know if the intent was just to make it difficult for the biden team to get their information. honestly, particularly since they're also trying to zero out
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the money for the defeat isis task force and those activities, it feels like the president is trying to burnish his sort of legacy and say, you know what, we took care of isis, that was on my watch. we're done with that. and it was more of a symbol in that way. but it's true, i've been a part of two transitions now between different administrations, and you need competent people who do the briefings and the updates, walk you through current threats, and chris would have been a fantastic person to do that, and it's going to be a big gap that he's gone. >> congresswoman elissa slotkin from michigan, former senior pentagon official. you are uniquely placed to help us understand the imapplicables of these moves. thank you for helping us understand. i appreciate it. >> thanks. >> all right, we'll be right back tonight. stay with us. ight back tonight stay with us
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like you, my hands are everything to me. but i was diagnosed with dupuytren's contracture. and it got to the point where things i took for granted got tougher to do.
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thought surgery was my only option. turns out i was wrong. so when a hand specialist told me about nonsurgical treatments, it was a total game changer. like you, my hands have a lot more to do. learn more at today. i mentioned this late-breaking news at the top of the show, that we learned that ivanka trump was deposed yesterday in the case brought by the attorney general of washington, d.c., over alleged misuse of funds by the trump inaugural. we've also learned from those court documents tonight that first lady melania trump has also been subpoenaed in that case. we believe that that case was brought by the attorney general there in large part based on documents and materials that were handed over to that a.g. by stephanie winston wolkof, a longtime friend of melania trump, who wrote a tell-all book called "melania and me," that
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came out earlier this year. that case and those materials have never been more relevant than they are right now. we have just learned that stephanie winston-wolkof is going to be joining us here live and exclusively tomorrow night to talk more about that. i will see you then. "way too early with kasie hunt" is up next. this may be the most important speech i've ever made. i want to provide an update on our ongoing efforts to expose the tremendous voter fraud and irregularities which took place. >> president trump delivers a long and rambling speech filled with lies and falsehoods about the 2020 election. a white house official tells "the new york times" it was recorded last week. the question is, why are they putting it out now? plus, the united states hits another grim, new milestone in the coronavirus