Army reviewing probe of Mike Flynn's dealings with Russia, foreign firmThe Rachel Maddow Show
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- 13 Mar 2021
Tonight's guests are LaTosha Brown, co-founder of Black Voters Matter, and Ezra Levin, co-executive director of Indivisible.
The Rachel Maddow Show weeknights at 9:00 Eastern on MSNBC. Thanks for joining us this hour. Busy Friday and a busy Friday night. In the news tonight, New York's Democratic governor Andrew Cuomo is in water that appears to be getting deeper and hotter all the time after the publication of a long investigative piece by Rebecca Traister in New York magazine today. Basically a long form review of the work culture in Como's office and his administration and reporting on a litany of women who have worked for him who say he has behaved inappropriately toward them in the workplace.
Tonight, both US senators from New York, Democratic Senate leader Chuck Schumer and Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Kirsten Gillibrand both have called for Governor Cuomo to resign from the governorship. Senator Schumer and Gillibrand join a majority of the overall congressional delegation from New York and now calling for Cuomo to step down. This is the front page at Huffington Post tonight. Quote, It's over. Schumer and Gillibrand call for Cuomo as head. Now the photo there is one of an odd series of Reuters photographs taken today at the governor's mansion, apparently from quite a distance in these photos.
The governor is seen walking around talking on a cell phone while wearing a blanket. Also, it should be noted he's in the company of a really quite amazing looking good dog. But why the governor is wearing a blanket. Nobody knows the news of Senator Schumer and Senator Gillibrand joining the pile on now and demanding Camilo's resignation is front page news all over the country tonight. So far, Cuomo himself is showing no signs of heeding these demands for his resignation if he refuses to resign.
Ultimately, the only way he can be removed from office against his will before the next election, of course, is by impeachment. As we reported here last night, Democrats in the state legislature in New York have announced the opening of an impeachment inquiry targeting Cuomo as of yesterday. If they do impeach him in the assembly, he will then go on trial in the New York Senate, where a majority of New York senators have already called on him to resign, thus making it seem more than just likely that he would be convicted in the Senate and removed from office if the assembly goes ahead and impeach him.
But again, that process is just starting. And again, lots of calls tonight that this news about Senator Schumer and Senator Gillibrand means it is over for Governor Cuomo already. He seems to disagree. We will let you know if the story develops further over the course of the night. It seems like a fair bet that it will. And we will let you know tonight. The Washington Post has just reported that Trump national security adviser. Q And on conspiracy theory hero, the former US Army general who called on Trump to declare martial law and have the military seized control of the political process and forced the rerunning of the election.
So Joe Biden wouldn't win this time. Tonight, The Washington Post is reporting on interesting new news involving disgraced Trump national security adviser Mike Flynn. You will remember that Mike Flynn twice pled guilty in federal court to lying to the FBI about his secret communications with the Russian government. Before he left office, President Trump pardoned Mike Flynn for those crimes. But General Flynn may be in a new bucket of trouble that a Trump pardon and intervention from Attorney General William Barr at the Justice Department won't be able to save him from this time.
The Flynn story has become so junked up over time, with so much nonsense and conspiracy theories and smoke and mirrors from the right, that it is easy to forget sometimes that part of what went wrong for Mike Flynn as the first Trump national security adviser is that around the time he became national security adviser, it emerged that he had been acting as a secret unregistered foreign agent for another country for Turkey. He had been in the Turkish government payroll. You can't be on another country's payroll and be national security adviser in the United States.
You also can't take money from another foreign country like that. As a recently retired senior military officer, around the time that Flynn became national security adviser, it emerged that he had been a foreign agent for Turkey, also, that he had taken secret payments, tens of thousands of dollars from the Russian government without declaring those payments to the Pentagon as he is required to do as a recently retired flag officer. Well, the Pentagon started an investigation into General Flynn when those things first came to light again around the time that he became Trump's national security adviser.
It was only when Flynn was fired from the White House and then criminally charged for lying to investigators about his secret contacts with the Russian government that that internal investigation of him at the Pentagon got put on hold. And that's not unusual. A federal criminal case tends to put on ice or any other ongoing investigation related to the same conduct. Well, no surprise when when President Trump pardoned Mike Flynn for his federal crimes in November or it last fall, one of the surprise consequences of that pardon is that it unfroze.
What had been that Pentagon investigation into Mike Flynn secretly and potentially illegally acting as an agent of foreign countries and taking secret payments from our foreign adversaries when Flynn got pardoned? Well, that was no more reason to defer that investigation, right? To stop that investigation in favor of the federal criminal case. Federal criminal case is over thanks to the pardon. And so that pardon actually allowed the internal investigation at the Pentagon to start back up, which it did.
And we now know that report on Flynn is complete. And The Washington Post tonight, quote, The Defense Department's internal watchdog has concluded a long delayed investigation into Michael Flynn, defense official said Friday. The investigation focuses on Flynn's acceptance of money from Russian and Turkish interests before joining the Trump administration, a potential violation of the Constitution's emoluments clause. With few exceptions, US officials, including retired service members like Flynn, are prohibited from accepting money or gifts from foreign governments.
The inspector general's investigation opened in April. Twenty seventeen. It was put on hold for more than three years amid a broader scandal that included a criminal investigation of Flynn by the Justice Department. Flynn ultimately was pardoned last November by Trump after Trump's pardon. The Justice Department gave approval for the Defense Department's inspector general's office to resume its Flynn investigation. Quote, The watchdogs office closed its investigation one week after the Biden administration took office on January twenty seventh twenty twenty one.
Having concluded their investigation at that point, they then forwarded their findings to the US Army. So this has never been reported before tonight, but Mike Flynn, the hero of the far right, allegedly working as a secret foreign agent and taking secret payments from a foreign adversary.
Now, that's not something retired generals are supposed to do. The findings of this Pentagon review were put on ice in twenty seventeen. The thing only got thawed out and started up again in November when Trump pardoned the guy without ever thinking about this might be a consequence of it. Turns out the Army, the Pentagon, had it, had it done and ready to be handed over to the Army for action within a week of Biden being sworn in. So now what's the Army what's the Pentagon going to do with this information?
With the results of this report? The Post tonight, quote, An Army spokeswoman acknowledged that Acting Army Secretary John E. Whitley has received the Flynn case for review. She said, quote, We do not have any additional information for you at this time. The Trump people and the Q and on conspiracy theory, crazy people have turned McFlynn into this bizarre comic book figure since his disgrace along these lines. It's a it's a comic book portrayal of himself that he apparently believes in.
Mike Flynn really has taken a weird fake oath. He has taken a pledge to the Kuhnen conspiracy theory on camera and posted it online, posted video of himself taking the cue, a non pledge along with members of his family. Mike Flynn really did go on TV right before the January 6th attack and call on President Trump to order a military takeover of the country so he could hold on to power. Even though Biden had won the election, Mike Flynn was a big draw for the January 6th capital attack.
He was one of the right wing conspiracy figures demanding that all the Trump people had to be there at the Capitol on January 6th to stop the election from being certified to keep Trump in power. Well, now the US Army has to decide what to do with internal investigative, investigative, investigative findings about him illegally taking secret payments from Russia and potentially being a secret foreign agent of another country will presumably hear from them soon. Yeah, I'm sure there'll be no drama about that at all.
Again, that story just breaking tonight at The Washington Post. We have not obtained the report of this internal investigation from the Pentagon. Inspector general, as far as I can tell, nobody yet has obtained this report, although the army is reviewing it. We will keep you posted as this story develops tonight as well. Yet further breaking news tonight from reporter Ryan Reilly at Huffington Post, who was first to report on a court proceeding today that produced this very unsettling photo.
This is a photo. See what this is going to turn your head to the left. You can read that there. This is the badge of a D.C. Metropolitan Police officer, an officer who was at the US Capitol during the attack on January 6th, an officer who was dragged into the crowd, beaten unconscious, tasered, hospitalized for his injuries. That's his badge. It's covered in mud and it's in a Ziploc. See the FBI watermark there or the FBI notation there?
The reason we've got this photo is because the FBI has just recovered from a backyard in Buffalo, New York. This badge, this badge was buried there by one of the Capitol attackers who ripped this badge off of that officer during the Capitol attack and then took it home as some kind of trophy and buried it. The January 6th attack we all saw unfold live on TV that day, afterwards, we gradually started to see even more graphic detail about what had happened.
Security footage of how the attack had unfolded uploaded social media footage, a lot of it taken by the attackers themselves. Ultimately, we even got police body cam footage of what had happened. A lot of it, a lot of scariest footage, actually, we saw for the first time to sort of devastating effect at the impeachment trial of President Trump in the Senate, you might remember. But for all of that, for all of the we've seen some of the most unforgettable footage, I think that that I saw and unforgettable to me at least, was actually not footage of violence that day.
One of the things that I have found sort of hardest to get out of my mind and all the footage that we saw on the attack was a straight to camera explanation from an individual police officer after the attack, after he'd been injured in the attack, explaining what he had been through, explaining what had happened to him. I was just, you know, trying to fight as best I could. I remember like guys were stripping me and my gear, these riders pulling my badge off my chest.
They ripped my radio off of off my vest, started pulling ammunition magazines from their holder on my belt, and then some guy started getting a hold of my gun and they were screaming out, kill him with his own gun. At that point, it was just like self-preservation, you know, how do I survive this situation? And I thought about, you know, using deadly force. I thought about shooting people. And then I just came to the conclusion that, you know, if I was to do that, I might get a few, but I'm not going to take everybody and they'll probably take my gun away from me.
And that would definitely give them the justification that they were looking for to kill me if they already didn't have made that up in their minds. So the other option I thought of was to try to appeal to somebody's humanity.
And I just remember yelling out that I have kids and it seemed to work. Some people in the crowd started to encircle me and try to offer me some level of protection. And they gave that provided me with like enough time or other officers, specifically my partner, Jimmy. All right. Enough time to get to me and get me the hell out of there and back into the west front of the capital. A lot of people have asked me my thoughts on the individuals in the crowd that, you know, that help me or try to offer some assistance.
And I think kind of the conclusion I've come to is like, you know, thank you for being there.
D.C. Metropolitan Police Officer Michael Finnane was not in the shot with his service pistol by the mob, although the Trump mob very nearly did get that pistol off of him. And there has since been corroboration of his claims that the mob attacking him did scream that they wanted to kill him with his own gun as they fought with him to try to get that gun out of his holster. They didn't shoot him with that gun, but they did, however, shoot him with a taser multiple times.
So many times that Officer Phonon suffered a mild heart attack. He was hospitalized. Well, today in Buffalo, New York, police arrested a man who took part in that attack on Officer Phonon. Now, the man who allegedly fired the Taser into officer phonons neck, he's still at large. Ryan Riley and Justin Cooke at Huffington Post reported a few weeks ago on online. Investigators tracking that man down through social media postings and footage from the attack, even though he has now been publicly identified in the press and to the FBI as the one who tasered Officer Finnan.
He has for some reason not yet been arrested. But in Buffalo, New York, today, they did arrest, according to the FBI affidavit filed in conjunction with this case. They did arrest the man who officers say is the one who ripped Officer Phonons radio off him while he was being attacked and ripped his badge off of his vest while the mob beat and ultimately tasered him and knocked him unconscious and he was hospitalized. The man who ripped the badge and radio off of Officer Pheno and apparently took the badge home as a trophy and buried it in his yard.
FBI agents dug it up, got it. And him today and they brought that man to court to face multiple felony charges, including assaulting an officer. Again, this is the guy they found Officer Phonons badge buried in his yard. And yet the magistrate judge who oversaw that hearing today ordered the man released on his own recognizance. Go home, no worries, relax, you're only charged with multiple violent felonies and we've got the trophy that you ripped off the officer that you buried in your yard.
But you know what? Go home. You could probably have to clean up your yard. Some prosecutors are appealing the judge's order to have released him tonight. Sounds like there may be a hearing on that as of Tuesday. But as far as we can tell, as of tonight, he is out. He's home. Same day it was arrested, some of these cases are just inexplicable in the way they're being handled or otherwise mind blowing in terms of the circumstances.
Politico Dotcom was first to report this week that there are so many of these capital attack criminal cases now that the federal prosecutor's office in D.C. is fairly overwhelmed. Something like 80 percent of the caseload in the federal prosecutor's office in D.C. is related to the D.C. capital attack. Now, US attorneys offices around the country are now being asked to come in and have their prosecutors help take over some of the workload from the D.C. office. And amazing, one of those cases earlier this week in Florida did result in the guy being held in custody despite his best efforts to get out under fairly amazing circumstances.
I don't know why this didn't get more national attention this week, but it's crazy. This is a guy who was one of the few attackers at the Capitol on January 6th who actually was arrested that day. He was arrested on January 6th itself, although police later that day let him go. They ended up having to go out and find him again. About a week later, they rearrested him for being part of a crowd that prosecutors said was attacking police officers, including throwing some unknown substances at the officers.
Well, this week, that man, his name is Michael Crosio, was back in court in Florida, which is where he is being held, asking the judge where he was arrested, where he's being held, asking the judge in his case to please let him out of jail, please let him go home and await trial at home instead of staying in jail. One awkward point of discussion with the judge about that request in court this week is that this guy, Kurzer, the capital attacker, again charged with assaulting officers, among other things.
He did have to acknowledge in court this this week that, yes, he is a convicted felon. He did serve eight years in prison for attempted murder. And, yes, he is a long time member in good standing of a large white supremacist prison gang in Florida. But still, judge. Can I be trusted to be released on my own recognizance while I await trial on multiple felony charges for, among other things, assaulting police as part of the pro Trump mob, trying to seize control of the US Capitol?
What's the problem? So now he didn't get out. He didn't get out. But the guy with Officer Phonons badge buried in his yard, he did get out today. And the guy who is credibly accused of having multiple time multiple, he fired a Taser into officer finance and that he hasn't even been picked up yet. A little little snapshot of how things are going in the capital attack investigation, which Merrick Garland has just inherited as the new attorney general of the United States.
Good luck. Attorney General Garland, keep an eye out for the white supremacists, white supremacist prison gang members among the Capitol attackers. This was Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson tonight talking about why he wasn't afraid at all during the attack, because he could tell by looking at them that they were all good people who would never break the law. I'm also criticized because I've made the comment that on January six, I never felt threatened because I didn't, and mainly because I knew that even though those thousands of people there were marching to the Capitol, we're trying to pressure people like me to vote the way they want me to vote.
I knew those are people that love this country, that truly respect law enforcement, would never do anything to break a law. And so I wasn't certain I had the tables been turned. Joe, this could be in trouble had the tables been turned and President Trump won the election and those were tens of thousands of Black Lives Matter and TIFA protesters. I might have been a little concerned.
I might have been a little see if they if they'd been black, that would have been one thing. But these come on. These were white men who were convicted felons and members of large white supremacist prison gangs who were assaulting the officers at the Capitol and trying to kill the vice president. Look, look how whites look. How whites. How can I feel scared. Have you seen how white this memoir? If they had been black, God bless you, Senator Ron Johnson.
This was Senator Rick Scott last night at Mar a Lago doing the ring kissing thing with former President Trump, they're all doing that now, one after the other. Honestly, I mean, big picture. Look at what's going on right now. We're supposedly a two major party democracy. And the Democrats are in the Rose Garden today celebrating a one point nine trillion dollar covid relief effort. A record two point nine two million doses of vaccine administered today. Americans tonight are starting to see pending payments from the government for covid relief in their bank accounts tonight.
Nancy Pelosi tonight announcing that Democrats are starting work on a massive infrastructure bill yet. Coming up next. In the state of Georgia, which we're going to talk about tonight, big business is being drafted into the effort to stop Republican efforts to roll back voting rights, to stand with Democrats as they try to stop Republicans from cracking down on Democratic rights. That's what's going on, on one side of our two major party political system on the other side. Republican senators are all one after another making these little pilgrimages to Mar a Lago to go see former President Trump.
Did you ever see Animal House? It's like nineteen seventy eight. One of the great one of the great American comedies, John Belushi. Dan Aykroyd. Right, right. There's this you if you have seen even if you haven't seen it, there is a disturbing, iconic, very memorable scene in Animal House where there hazing the new recruits for the frat. And they've got like a paddle and they're spanking this guy. They're wailing away, hitting this guy.
And every time they hit him, he says, thank you, sir. May I have another? Every time he says whack. Thank you, sir. I have another. Just this excruciating scene, a very memorable right. It was a week ago tonight that President Trump sent a cease and desist letter to the Republican Party, telling them they were no longer allowed to use his name or likeness in any of their materials. That was a week ago, the Republican Party responded by sending a letter saying, sorry, you're a public figure, we can use the name and likeness of any public figure.
That's that cease and desist letter doesn't mean anything to us. Former President Trump responded to that by making a public statement telling all his followers that they must stop giving any support and any money to the Republican Party. They must henceforth only give their money to him at his Donald Trump website. That was Monday. Monday night, the Republican Party responded by acting real, not by acting real tough, by instead deciding, OK, they would move the next Republican Party meeting, their big spring meeting to Mar a Lago, where the party will have to pay Trump cold, hard cash for the privilege of using his resort.
Thank you, sir. May we have another? I mean, that's how they responded to his threat. He threatens them. They tried pushing back and he pushed them harder and they said, okay, do you want some money? Oh, you're mad. You're lashing out at us. OK, we pay you. Well, that make it better. Thank you, sir. May we have another following day? How did he respond to that? Did that calm him down and make him feel better?
No. Trump responded to that with, again, another public statement quadrupling down, telling his people once again, do not give your money or support to the terrible Republicans who are terrible. Only give it to me. Give me your money at my website, not to the Republicans. Do not support them. Only support me, starve them, pay me. How did the Republican Party respond? They responded to that the next day on Wednesday by literally putting out a statement expressing the party's gratitude to Donald Trump for all of his support.
Thank you, sir. May we have another? This is some masochistic stuff right here. It's almost like do you guys have a safe word to employ at some point? So we're going to hear the Republican Party in the corner going go in. What does he have to do to, like, get you to not give him more of what he wants to stop praising him, do not actually giving him more of your money? What does he have to do?
The meaner he gets, the bigger the swings in, the more insulting he gets toward you, the more you praise him and thank him. There's a name for this. But it's it's an incredible time, I mean, don't lose sight of this, right? There are more than three hundred members of the pro Trump capital riot. People who are part of that attack, who have been charged now in federal court for attacking the US government violently to try to keep Donald Trump in power.
Meanwhile, the Democrats are running the table in Washington with control of the White House, control of the House of Representatives, control of the Senate. They just passed the most important legislation in more than a generation, the biggest bill they have ever passed. The latest polling says it has seventy five percent public support, including majority support among Republican voters. And the Republicans are coping with this reality by making individual pilgrimage pilgrimages one after another tomorrow, Largo to pledge their loyalty and to beg for Trump's mercy and favor while he insults them and robs them blind and talk smack about them every chance he gets.
This is the lesson they have learned after all this time. You just feed him and feed him and feed him and maybe he'll stop being so mean. Sure, I keep making those pilgrim pilgrimages to see him. You guys keep him at the center of everything you do. Actually, if you could just devote more energy to trying to get him to love you and support you and help you, I'm sure ultimately it'll work out great. I'm sure he'll change
Here's what people in Georgia saw this morning when they open the local paper, a big dramatic, striking full page ad in the Atlanta Journal Constitution features that iconic photo at the top there, the late John Lewis facing off with state troopers on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma. It says, quote, "This week marks the fifty sixth anniversary of Bloody Sunday that led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965. However, the Georgia legislature recently passed one of the worst voter suppression bills in America that will erase the historic gains of expanding voting access. These measures are part of a targeted attack to undermine the voting rights of black voters, but will also impact all Georgia voters. We believe the business community has both a responsibility and opportunity to protect democracy and help stop this from becoming law, along with other racist, anti-democratic bills that will roll back and restrict voting access for Georgia voters." And then this is strategically the really interesting part. It urges anybody reading this ad or Georgia voters to, quote, "contact the Georgia based corporations listed below, headquartered in our state, and let them know we expect them to stand up and support Georgia voters as we support them." And at the bottom, there's contact information for the presidents and CEOs of all these big Georgia based companies, AFLAC, Coca-Cola, Delta Airlines, Southern Co., which is a big utility company, Home Depot, UPS.
Republicans in the Georgia legislature have passed no fewer than a dozen voter suppression bills in recent weeks, it's being called the largest rollback in voter rights since Jim Crow. The bills would limit everything: early voting, absentee voting, day of Election Day voting would increase voter ID requirements. It would even specifically target pre-election voting on Sundays because that is disproportionately used by African-Americans, because that's the day that black churches organize souls to the polls, events where parishioners travel to the polls together after Sunday services.
This is an interesting strategic decision, though: voting rights advocates in Georgia targeting the business community, targeting the biggest businesses in Georgia, asking these big American companies if they really want the state where they are headquartered, where they live and work and do business, to be the new national capital of what The Washington Post is calling the most sweeping contraction of ballot access in the United States since the end of reconstruction. Will the business community wade into this fight? And how much could that change things? And what other pressure points are there as the clock ticks down on these voting bills in the great state of Georgia? Joining us now is LaTosha Brown, she's co-founder of Black Voters Matter, which is one of the organizations behind that ad in the AJC today. Miss Brown, it's a real pleasure to have you with us tonight. Thank you so much for making time.
Thank you for having me, Rachel.
So help me understand the strategic thinking here, this decision to engage the biggest of big businesses in Georgia to try to get them on your side on this.
Corporations have a responsibility. They have a responsibility. We work there. We serve on their boards. We're actually consumers -- black people in the state of Georgia, we consume a hundred and six billion dollars as part of the economy here. And so we think that they have a responsibility. This is an attack on black voters, but this is also an attack on democracy. And so what we're saying is this is a prime opportunity -- many of these companies like Coca-Cola ran campaigns last year saying that they were standing with the black community and Black Lives Matter movement around racial equity and racial justice. And we're saying that this right here is a prime opportunity for them to stand up and use that leverage power and really push and stop these deals that will roll back voting access up until from reconstruction. And so we're calling them the question, and it should be an opportune time for them to really stand up, use their power and stand for what they know is the right thing to do.
And how open are their doors as you and your colleagues are starting to push on them now? As you say, a lot of these corporations have been trying to have a public face that is progressive, that is inclusive, that does identify with movements for justice, particularly around racial justice. Does that mean that they are more receptive to this kind of message, to this kind of pressure, to this kind of pressure? Are they are they hearing you?
We think that they need to respond much stronger. Where there have been a couple of comments, a couple of statements, that's not enough. We need to see action. And we know that they have the political leverage. They have the leverage to be able to put pressure. When you look at those deals, when you look at the Senate bill that passed on Monday, ironically, the same day that we were celebrating the fifty six anniversary commemoration of Bloody Sunday -- that literally, when you look at, it only passed by one vote. We know that Coca-Cola and Aflac and U.P.S. and Southern Company, all of those companies have a tremendous amount of political access and leverage power. And so we're not seeing the kind of action, the kind of pressure we think we need to see -- including the Georgia Chamber of Commerce -- to really say this is not going to happen in our state because ultimately democracy is good for business.
It's interesting to hear you push it down that many levels in terms of what you want to see for them, because I do think that we can see that they want the public relations credit for being on the right side of issues like this. But as you point out, just saying you're on one side of this isn't nearly enough in a fight like this, which is going to be lost unless something changes in terms of the momentum. You think that these businesses could become active participants in the process. They could bring their lobbying skill, strength and money to bear, to really put political pressure here. And it's not -- essentially that they're already willing to pay lip service, but in terms of actually doing the work to stop these bills, you're not really getting anything from them yet. Is that fair?
Absolutely. You know, when we think about -- let's let's think about what happened with the bathroom bill in North Carolina, it was because of corporate pressure that that bill was killed. When you go back and you look at even the abortion bill that was proposed a few years ago here in Georgia, it was corporate pressure along with community organizing that killed that deal. And so what we're saying is we live in a community together, that we are consumers, that we know this is the right thing to do -- It's all predicated on a big lie, on a lie that Trump told, but then what we're seeing is this punitive efforts for black voters using their civic responsibility. And so we believe that corporations also have a responsibility to stand along with the communities that support them. Just as we support them, we expect them to support us. It's not good enough for us just to watch a commercial. They want us to buy a Coke. Right. And so we're saying the same thing. It's not just good enough to actually say that you're going to do a statement. We want to see you use the full political power that you have and your leverage and stand strong with what you know are racist and anti-democratic bills.
LaTosha Brown, the co-founder of Black Voters Matter. Miss Brown, it's an honor to have you with us tonight. Thank you for helping us understand. And as this campaign evolves over the next weeks and days and weeks, keep us apprised. We'd love to have you back to track how this how this develops in the state.
Thank you. Thank you for having me. Mr.. All right. Much more ahead here tonight. Stay with us. To the members of the House and Senate, thanks for making this happen, what you shepherded through the Congress not only meets the moment, it does even more its historical and they call it transformational.
Joe Biden in the Rose Garden today with Democratic lawmakers talking about the historic nature of the huge covid relief bill that is now law, people are starting to get pending payments in their bank accounts tonight for these relief funds that are already going out. Fourteen hundred dollars per person. Eighty five percent of households qualify. It really is historic and huge. One hundred and fifty nine million households are about to receive a check for fourteen hundred dollars. At least everybody over the age of 17 in one hundred and fifty nine million households qualifies for a person who uses direct deposit.
When you file your taxes, that means your bank account information is already on file with the IRS. You could see that money in your bank account as soon as this weekend. Pending payments are already there. Now, for some people, nine in 10 families with children will start seeing more money in their bank accounts every month as soon as this summer. It is remarkable that Congress managed to pass this bill with this much transformative stuff in it, given the Democratic razor thin majorities in the House and the Senate.
When President Biden first announced this covid relief plan, the AP described it as an ambitious opening bid. Axios predicted that the one point nine trillion dollar price tag would, quote, likely be winnowed down in the Congress. That was the way this bill was talked about at the start as an opening bid. Sure to be hacked away and winnowed down once it started into the lawmaking process in Congress. But aside from a few tweaks here and there, that really didn't happen.
For the most part, the bill that landed on Biden's desk looked like the one he sent to Congress in the first place. He asked for this incredibly, incredibly progressive, ambitious one point nine trillion dollar plan, and that's what he got. And now it's law. How did that happen? The best window that we have had on this show during the course of the 50 days where this thing was fought over in Congress over the course of that fight, the best window that we've had on this show into who was fighting for what, into how different factions and different individuals inside the process were fighting to keep the bill intact.
We're fighting to keep it from getting watered down. Too much was from a progressive organizer we've talked to a number of times over the years named Ezra Levin. Ezra Levin is a former congressional staffer. He's co-founder of the grassroots group, indivisible. And it was he early on who tipped us off about how, for example, the Progressive Caucus in the House was holding together and using their votes as a bloc in a way they'd never done before in order to make sure the bill state is progressive as possible, in order to make sure that it retains some of the stuff that progressive members of Congress most wanted, even as Republicans and some conservative Democrats pushed against it.
Overall, the strategy really does appear to have worked and Democrats appear to have passed something more progressive and less watered down than almost any observer thought was possible. What else do we need to understand about how that happened? And could that happen again? Or was this the only time that could work? Joining us now is our tipster, Ezra Levin, the co-founder of INDIVISIBLE. Ezra, I'm sure we're due out a little bit for me to credit you that way.
But it's true. You did help us into this process in a way that nobody else really did. So thank you for that.
I'm just happy to be celebrating you this Friday night. I wouldn't spend a Friday night any any differently. Well, let me let me ask you about what you think people should understand about how the sausage is made. I feel like the Beltway press, as much as I love them, really, really focused on what Republicans wanted and what conservative Democrats whinged about and all these things that didn't end up actually winning the day in terms of what was in the bill.
If we put that stuff aside and look at what really did make a difference as to what was in the bill, what do we need to understand about how this process worked? Look, Top-level headline, you said in the opening, you got to give credit to President Biden, to Senate Democratic leadership, to House Democratic leadership, they put forward a really bold one point nine trillion dollar progressive proposal and ultimately signed a bill, one point nine trillion dollar progressive proposal.
But the below the headline, there's this really exciting thing happening that we talked about before, which is for military people represented privilege by Paul, who is chair of the Progressive Caucus, started transforming that caucus, especially in the last several months. You'll remember that late last year, the caucus adopted a set of new rules that allowed it to start actually whipping votes and holding the line, saying, if you water this down too much, we will not accept it.
So, yes, they pushed as hard as they could for a progressive bill going through the House of Representatives and they got it passed. And that's great. But progressive bills passed the House of Representatives all the time just to either die or be watered down in the Senate. The key thing that happened behind the scenes, which is so exciting, is that as the more conservative Senate, including conservative Democrats, were considering this one point nine dollars billion package, they were looking for ways that they could water it down.
But there is good reporting out there now that says they wanted to take more chunks out of it. They wanted to water it down more, but they were afraid that the Progressive Caucus, led by Representative Pamela Gypo, would refuse to accept those changes and would refuse to pass the bill.
So as a result of that, you had a one point nine trillion dollar bill passed the House. It goes to the Senate. Yes, some changes around the edges are made, but ultimately they say, well, we've got to pass this one point nine trillion dollar version in order for it to become law. Darn those progressives in the House. I guess we'll do that. And ultimately, that's the bill that Joe Biden signed into law. So is this one neat trick replicable?
Obviously, this was the Progressive Caucus, it was an organizing feat among members who decided that they were going to use their power this way, that held the line, that created a credible threat that they couldn't be counted on for their votes unless this thing state is progressive, as ambitious as they wanted to. Does that work a second time? And how does the fact that they may not be able to pass very much more legislation with 50 Democratic votes in the Senate?
How how does that factor in here, Ezra? So I'm hopeful I can say I'm hopeful because what you would want to see happening in order for this to play out again is for a series of progressive pieces of legislation to start passing the House. And lo and behold, what do we see over these past few days and weeks? We see LGBT rights being protected in legislation. We see gun violence prevention legislation and we see union organizing protection in legislation.
We see at top of the list we've heard from folks like Mark Elias and folks like Stacey Abrams and just now Latasha Brown. The importance of democracy legislation like the For the People Act that passing the House, all of these progressive priorities and now pro democracy priorities are passing the House. Yes, ultimately, it is going to go to the Senate, every single one of those. And ultimately they're going to come up against a Senate filibuster by Mitch McConnell.
But I believe I believe that based on what we're seeing now, the same kind of pressure that was applied to the American rescue plan can be applied to Congress now in order to break through the filibuster and get this wildly popular legislation done. And the reason why I believe that is because all of the Democrats in the House and the Senate are experiencing this great legislative high. They've just passed this incredible piece of legislation and the world is coming at them and saying, oh, my gosh, this is incredible.
I didn't know Congress could do work like this, but they did. So we need to fuel that. If you've got a member of Congress who voted for this piece of legislation, your job, job, no one is calling them and letting them know, hey, you did a good thing. We appreciate you. I got to say, as a former congressional staffer, you don't get that many calls like that. So be unique as a constituent and call your representative, call your senator, let them know they did good.
And the second thing is for us at indivisible and for folks all across the country who are worried about these attacks on democracy at the at the state level, we got to pass the for the people. And that means overcoming the filibuster to do it. So I did that. I advise people, if you're interested in that fight, go to save democracy dog. Figure out a way to get involved. Local time is limited. It is urgent. And we proved that success is possible if we all throw in for it.
Ezra Levin, the co-founder of Indivisible, Ezra, well, thank you for joining us. I really appreciate having you here tonight, my friend. Thank you for the time. We'll be right back. OSHA is the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, it's the part of the government in charge of making policies to make sure that you're safe at work. When President Biden took office, he said Ocean needed to study whether we need new rules to keep people safe from covid at work.
Specifically, asked to look at whether there should be a new rule requiring Americans to wear masks when they are at work. The president gave OSHA until March 15th to make a decision on that March 15th this Monday. This is now worth watching because this may mean that the federal government could announce a workplace rule on Monday, an enforceable rule that in effect would be a national requirement for masks in the workplace. OSHA is empowered to levy fines against employers who don't follow their rules.
They got it just they just got seventy five million dollars in the covid relief bill, which will boost their ability to enforce something like this. Right now, 16 states in the country don't have a mask mandate. There are thousands of businesses all over the country that don't require masks. But if we see a new rule on this from OSHA early next week, that will essentially be a freight train barreling down on us in terms of conflict between the federal government, a rule from OSHA and all these states that have told people they can stop wearing masks.
This is sort of a sleeper issue. It is potentially a really big deal. The new rule is expected no later than Monday. Watch this space. Very important note earlier in the show, I was talking about Animal House and I said Dan Aykroyd was an animal house with John Belushi, 10 aircraft was not an animal house with John Belushi. He was in other movies with John Belushi, but not Animal House. Very sorry about that.
Thank you, sir. May I have another with that heart rending correction in the books? I'm very sorry. That is going to do it for us for tonight and for this week.
The Rachel Maddow Show weeknights at 9:00 Eastern on MSNBC.