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[00:00:00]

And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour, know where to begin tonight? Seriously, this is almost like the bad old days. Again, planning our coverage, planning what stories we are going to be covering and reporting on tonight, booking reporters and guests, getting everything all set up and then blooey tear up the whole rundown, start again. We made a whole new plan and then we had to tear that one up, too. We haven't had a night like this in a long time, but this is turning out to be one of those nights.

[00:00:26]

There's lots of different places that we could start. Let's start here. If you were a second grader and you were trying to show for a class project that you had mastered a second grade level understanding of what corruption is, what it means to be a crooked, corrupt public official, one of the things you might conjure up from a second grade level understanding of that concept is that like hypothetically, you might have a person in the government whose job in the government was that they were in charge of road building projects.

[00:01:01]

Right. That person could not also own part of a company that was the country's biggest supplier of road building materials. Right. If you were a second grader trying to show that you understood what corruption is, that would be like an almost oversimplified example of what it would mean to be corrupt, being in charge of road building while also holding a personal financial stake in a company that does road building that stands to benefit financially from your actions as a public official, which means you can take actions as a public official that will put money in your own pocket.

[00:01:37]

That's a second graders level understanding of corruption and oversimplified one. Right. Except for the fact that in real life, in the Trump administration, when Elaine Chao was appointed to be secretary of transportation, she was told by ethics officials that she needed to divest, she needed to sell her stake in a company described by The Wall Street Journal as the country's largest supplier of crushed sand and gravel used in road paving and road building. Right as well as any second grader understands these things could tell you as transportation secretary, you have a lot of say in, say, roads.

[00:02:16]

So you can also own a company that does road paving and road building. Elaine Chao was advised by ethics officials that, of course, she needed to divest from that company. You can't be transportation secretary stuck in a road building company. Come on, she was told she had to divest. She said she would. Wall Street Journal had the scoop in twenty nineteen that Elaine Chao actually did not divest from that company. She held on to the stock.

[00:02:41]

Tons of it. In fact, remember how the Trump administration was always declaring that it was infrastructure weak and that became a big punch line for them. I mean, every time there was some new scandal, some new indictment of a Trump friend, some something something new worthy of yet another impeachment, they declare infrastructure week, even though the Trump administration never actually did anything on infrastructure. But American Public Media was first to report that one of the actual material consequences of them repeatedly declaring infrastructure weak is that every time they announced again that it would be infrastructure weak again, the stock price would go up at that crushed sand and gravel company that Elaine Chao stayed invested in even while she was serving as secretary of transportation.

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Nice gig, if you can get it right. But in your hypothetical second grader project, explaining to your second grade colleagues what corruption is even beyond the holding stock in the road building company thing, if you if you don't have that much faith in your second grader colleagues, you don't think they maybe they can grasp something even that simple. You might conjure an even simpler example, a parable, an idea of what it means to be a crooked public official.

[00:03:57]

You might imagine say that in your job as a public official, in your job as transportation secretary of the United States, you took official action. You arranged official travel, you arranged official government meetings and photo ops to benefit your family business. Is that an even simpler idea of the basic idea of corruption? Because in twenty nineteen, The New York Times was forced to report on a series of actions taken by Trump Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao in which she brought or tried to bring her father and other family members involved in her family's massive China based transportation business on official US government trips and to official US government events into what we're supposed to be official US government meetings.

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She brought her family members, I wanted to bring her family members who run the family business and would have been her first trip to China as Trump's transportation secretary. So she's there on behalf of the United States of America as a high ranking government official. She tried to get the US embassy in Beijing to help her arrange meetings with high ranking Chinese government officials for her relatives who were going to travel with her on the trip, her relatives who run her family business that have extensive business interests in China and want additional business from the Chinese government.

[00:05:16]

She wanted the US embassy, the State Department, to help set up those meetings for her family members as part of her trip there as a US government official. And the embassy personnel, the US embassy personnel in China who got asked to do that for her family, freaked out about how blatantly unethical that was. They squawked about it. Ultimately, Secretary Chao called off that trip altogether. But I mean, come on. I mean, the Trump administration had a lot of corruption scandals, this is the kind that you can write in capital letters and fit on a bumper sticker.

[00:05:55]

Elaine Chao, of course, is now no longer transportation secretary. She quit the cabinet right after the Capitol attack in January. Elaine Chao famously is married to the top Republican in the Senate, Mitch McConnell. The widespread and and and quite towering allegations of corruption against Secretary Chao while she served as transportation secretary. There were, you may remember, twenty nineteen. These scandals were reported one after another during her time in office. At one point in twenty nineteen, there were like five separate corruption scandals all raging around her, all at the same time, most of which dwarfed the other concurrent Trump cabinet member corruption scandals.

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And that's really saying something, given the level of corruption at the highest levels of the Trump administration.

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But it's interesting, Senator Mitch McConnell and and his wife, Secretary Chao, never really seemed all that worried about any of these scandals, about any of this public reporting. They never seem to sweat any of it. McConnell, in fact, frequently joked about this as if it was no problem whatsoever and they didn't have a care in the world about it. Well, now we know why tonight, the inspector general at her department, the Transportation Department, has just released a public report on the matter, on the investigation that was done by the inspector general's office at the Transportation Department into these multiple allegations of corruption against Elaine Chao.

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The public report, the letter tonight released to the public, discloses that investigators looking at these corruption allegations against Elaine Chao actually found the allegations to be substantiated enough and serious enough that she was referred to the US Justice Department for potential criminal prosecution. Now, she is not the first Trump cabinet official who this has happened to, this is actually, by my count, I think the fourth Trump cabinet official that we know of who the inspector general investigators referred to the Justice Department for federal criminal prosecution on corruption charges after they looked into serious allegations against all these different Trump cabinet members.

[00:08:02]

I mean, that said, if you spread the corruption around thick enough, it seems like nobody ever gets in trouble for it. I mean, under the Trump administration. See if you can spot the pattern here. Robert Willke, Trump Veterans Affairs secretary, was investigated for corruption. The investigation resulted in a referral to the DOJ for federal criminal prosecution. Trump's DOJ declined to prosecute Secretary Willke. Also, Trump's interior secretary, Ryan Zinke, investigated for corruption.

[00:08:29]

The results of the investigation was that it was found to be substantial, substantive and serious enough that it was referred to the Justice Department for criminal prosecution. Trump's Justice Department declined to prosecute Secretary Zinke. Also Trump Labor Secretary Alex Acosta investigated for corruption. The results of the investigation was that the allegations were found to be substantive and serious enough that he was referred to the Department of Justice for potential criminal prosecution. The Trump Justice Department declined to prosecute him as well.

[00:08:58]

Well, now, tonight, we know that it's four of them. At least we now know that it was Trump, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao as well, also referred to the Justice Department for criminal prosecution. And referred to the Trump DOJ in a very interesting timeline before they, too, decided that they would not prosecute her in this letter explaining the actions of their office tonight, the inspector general's office says they started their corruption investigation into Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao in twenty nineteen.

[00:09:28]

Based on that investigation, they decided that some of the allegations were serious and substantive enough that they required a criminal referral to the Justice Department. They made that criminal referral based on the findings of that investigation. They made the criminal referral on December 16th, 20, 20, that's when they referred her for potential prosecution to the US attorney's office in D.C. And the following day, December 17th, they referred to the Public Integrity Section, which is essentially the public corruption section at Main Justice for potential prosecution there as well.

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So this is in the waning days of the Trump administration during the transition, just a month before Biden was sworn in as president, the Justice Department receives these criminal referrals to potentially prosecute Transportation Secretary and Mitch McConnell's wife, Elaine Chao, and they quietly decline those prosecutions. What other president in one term was efficient enough, effective enough, laser focused enough to have four different cabinet secretaries, at least referred for criminal prosecution, for corruption? And this isn't like somebody writing a letter and say, I hate this guy, you ought to look into him.

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This is like a real investigation that was done by inspector general, professional investigators. And what they found was serious enough that this should probably be a court case. This should perhaps possibly be a criminal matter. We ought to refer this. I mean, that happening to one high ranking government official of any kind is a big deal. He had four in the cabinet in four years. That's like that's that's. Well, it tells you something about the Justice Department.

[00:11:13]

I mean, that's that's like an exhausting amount of work for the Justice Department alone, bashing and turning down all of those already investigated, substantiated, serious corruption prosecutions of all the highest ranking officials in the government must have been exhausting, turning all of those away one after the other.

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Why does Merrick Garland become attorney general? What's the plan for dealing with improper political influence and corruption inside the Justice Department during the Trump years? Are they going to fix that? They're going to look into that. They're going to be consequences for that. But Mitch McConnell is still the top Republican in the Senate. So at least we know in this case that if any ill gotten gains from his wife's alleged corruption made their way back to the family, at least we know those ill gotten gains are staying close to the most powerful people in Republican governance even today.

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Just incredible. We will actually have more on that story with one of the reporters who broke some of the most lurid allegations against Elaine Chao for The New York Times. That's coming up a little later on this hour. We had been expecting tonight that the Senate right now would be taking its first action on the big covid relief bill. That did not happen because of some procedural delays in the Senate. But we also know now that when they do start to debate and take votes on the Kovik relief bill, Mitch McConnell and the Senate Republicans are going to string it out for as long as possible.

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They're going to sort of pull out all the procedural dirty tricks to muck it up as much as they can, including things like forcing the clerks to read every word of the bill out loud and to read out loud every word of every amendment. And they can offer basically infinite amendments. So that could take essentially infinite time. They're going to try to slow down covid relief as long as possible with 20 hour and 30 hour marathon stunts on the Senate floor.

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Because it's not like the American people are in any hurry for covid really for anything. No need to rush like the funding for a vaccine distribution or funding for reopening schools or relief checks to people who are unemployed right now. No need to rush. Let's see how long we can stretch this out. Maybe we can make it take weeks.

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Meanwhile, on the other side of the Capitol tonight, there is a rush on a surprise late in the day announcement from the House today that they're going to be staying late and taking votes tonight on their big election reform bill, H.R. one the for the People Act, as well as their big policing reform bill. They decided to to rush to do those both tonight, essentially so that the House could not be in session tomorrow. The reason they decided late in the game that they do not want to be in session tomorrow is for security concerns.

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It is not yet two months since the January 6th attack on the US Capitol by the Trump supporting mob. But the Capitol Police and the House sergeant at arms and apparently also a joint bulletin from Homeland Security and the FBI have all now warned that the same kind of attackers might be coming back tomorrow, March 4th, Thursday, March 4th. At least that's what militia groups and conspiracy theory adherents have discussed, apparently trying to attack the Capitol again tomorrow on March 4th because they are fantasizing that somehow tomorrow will be the day that Trump will come back to power.

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Now, why did they pick March 4th? It's the day that new US presidents used to be inaugurated before they changed the date of the presidential inauguration to January.

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They did that, I think, in the nineteen thirties for four for several weeks now, even before the capital insurrection that that quirk in history has made March 4th, another day of focus for the extremists and cloud cuckoo land. Trump supporters and conspiracy theorists who think he's an emperor or something and that he secretly won the election. And Mike Flynn and the military are now somehow going to install him back in the White House and kill everybody else. Incidentally, I also just want to note here that as random and weird and unsettling as these conspiracy theories are about this idea that on something March 4th is for some reason on March 4th, something's going to happen to reinstall Trump in power.

[00:15:26]

And there therefore might be another effort to to attack the US Capitol for as weird and unsettling as that is, for as far fetched as that still feels, even after the January 6th attack. You should know that the Trump Hotel in Washington, D.C., does appear to think that something really special is going on tomorrow in Washington, D.C. This is something that was first reported by the Washington Washingtonian magazine last month. But we checked today and it is still absolutely true that the Trump Hotel has marked up its hotel rooms for tonight and tomorrow to nearly triple their usual rate.

[00:16:06]

They're usually at four hundred five hundred dollars a night. That's in fact, what they are. The nights preceding March 4th and 5th. That is what the excuse me, March 3rd and 4th. That is what they're going back to next week. What that's what they have been in recent days. But for tonight, the eve of the 4th and for tomorrow night, the fourth itself, the Trump Hotel, is charging a minimum of over thirteen hundred dollars a room and then the room rates go right back down.

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Now, why is that the FBI and Homeland Security are warning that tomorrow may be the date of a new attempted siege of the Capitol by Trump supporting extremists. And the Trump Hotel has tripled the cost for a hotel room tonight and tomorrow. Why is that? I mean, it's not like something else is going on in D.C. that would explain their hotel rates being jacked up tonight and tomorrow. We looked at equivalent hotels in D.C., places like the Four Seasons or the Hay Adams.

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Their rates for tonight and tomorrow are absolutely the same as they always are. It's just the Trump Hotel where if for some reason you're going to be in town tonight for something special tomorrow, they are going to absolutely get triple the money they usually would. So it's a special day for them. For some reason, the FBI, Homeland Security Joint Intelligence Bulletin to state and local law enforcement agencies says that these Trump supporting groups have, quote, discussed plans to take control of the US Capitol and remove Democratic lawmakers on or about March 4th, remove Democratic lawmakers, remove them from the Capitol.

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Really? Well, lawmakers, it turns out, are removing themselves, they're doing these two big votes tonight so that they won't have to meet tomorrow and they don't want to meet tomorrow because of the heightened security status around these threats, which seems both nuts and also maybe necessary, given how undefended the US Capitol was to disastrous effect the last time these netball's said they were coming to try to install Trump by force and then they did. Today in the Senate, they tried to get to the bottom of one of the really vexing, worrying questions about what happened on on the day of the attack, why didn't the police get back up when the Trump mob started overrunning the Capitol, when they absolutely overran the police, when police police officers were being beaten and gassed and having their their protective equipment torn off and they were being dragged down the Capitol steps and.

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When police officials were begging for the National Guard to come in and backstop them, why didn't it happen? Senate tried to get to the bottom of that today, and it was a remarkable series of revelations. Today, we learn that the D.C. National Guard was told the day before the attack, January 5th, that they were going to need special permission directly from the secretary of the army himself personally if they wanted to employ a quick reaction force in case of attack.

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We learned then that the next day when the attack, in fact, happened, they refused to give that permission for more than three hours while the Capitol was overrun. And five people, including a police officer, died. And the request to send in the National Guard as backup languished for hours. For hours. We also got confirmation today, believe it or not, that at the Pentagon, one of the senior officials who fielded that desperate call from the police for help, one of the Pentagon officials who expressed the opinion that now wouldn't be a good idea to allow the National Guard in there to help was, in fact, the younger brother of Trump, National Security Adviser Mike Flynn, who, of course, was a focal point and hero of the extremists who carried out the attack, who himself promoted and even spoke at the events in D.C. that preceded the attack, who had publicly called for Trump to use the military to overturn the election to stay in power.

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His younger brother, Lieutenant General Charles Flynn at the Pentagon, was in on the decision on January 6th to hold the National Guard back and not let them in to help the police who were being overrun by the rioters as the rioters swarmed into the Capitol. Now, the Pentagon made multiple public statements explicitly denying that General Charlie Flynn had any part in these discussion. The army lied about that. Why did they lie about that? Who made that statement, so that was senior leaders in the United States Army, General Pietje, General Flynn and others, as they got back to me saying and that was on the phone call with the District of Columbia senior leaders, that it wouldn't be in their best, it wouldn't be their best military advice to send uniformed guardsmen to the capital because they didn't like the optics.

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Senior leaders in the US Army, including General Flynn and others, General Flynn in this case is General Charlie Flynn, Mike Flynn's brother, why did the Pentagon lie and say that he wasn't part of this disastrous decision when he definitely was? At 140 9pm, I received a frantic call from the chief of United States Capitol Police, Steven Sun, where he informed me that the security perimeter of the United States Capitol had been breached by hostile rioters. Chief's son, his voice cracking with emotion, indicated that there was a dire emergency at the Capitol, and he requested the immediate assistance of as many available National Guardsmen that I could muster.

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Immediately after that one thirty one forty nine call, I alerted the U.S. Army senior leadership of the request. The approval for his chief son's request would eventually come from the acting secretary of defense and be relayed to me by Army senior leaders at five 00 p.m., about three hours and 19 minutes later, I had already had guardsmen on buses at the armory ready to move to the Capitol. Consequently, at five 20 p.m., less than 20 minutes, the District of Columbia National Guard arrived at the Capitol.

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So I just keep imagining the scene. The whole country, the whole world is seeing this on TV. You've got the police line breached at this moment. You have you have smashed windows. You have insurrectionist going through the police lines. You are on the phone. Everyone is seeing this on TV and they're not immediately approving your request. And in your recent testimony, you just said, hey, I could have gotten them on those buses and ready to go.

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Is that correct? That is correct, Senator. And as you just testified in response to Senator Peters, you believe that would have made a difference to have them at the perimeter and a sooner point. And I know that the people in charge of Capitol security felt the same. Yes, ma'am. And so you could have had them there earlier, hours earlier if it had been approved and then you had them on the bus. And so they were actually sitting on the bus for a short period of time.

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Right. Waiting because you thought, well, they've just got to honor the request. Is that how your head was working? So you actually put them on the bus so they were ready to go, but you couldn't let the buses go? Yes, Senator, I just came to the conclusion that that eventually I'm going to get approval. And I didn't want and I at that point, seconds mattered, minutes mattered. And I needed to be ready to get them there as quick as possible.

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So I already had District of Columbia National Guard military police vehicle in front of the bus to help get through any traffic lights. So we were there in 18 minutes. I arrived at 17, 20. OK, yeah, they were sworn in as soon as they got there. As soon as the Pentagon finally told them, yes, it's OK to go. The Guardsmen were at the Capitol in 18 minutes. They could have been there in 18 minutes instead of the Pentagon, including Mike Flynn's brother.

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After Mike Flynn is publicly calling on the military to do what the rioters were trying to do, overthrow the government and reinstall Trump in power. General Flynn's brother and other Pentagon officials told them they didn't like the idea of sending in the National Guard. And so the Guard was held back for more than three hours while the capital was overrun. They could have been there in 18 minutes, but instead they were held back for more than three hours while everything that happened that day happened and five people died.

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Joining us now is Senator Amy Klobuchar. She's chair of the Rules Committee, one of the committees that oversaw today's hearing. She also serves on the Judiciary Committee, as well as the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. Her committee assignments are basically the nexus of all of these developing stories tonight. Senator, you are right in the middle of it all. Thank you so much for making time to be here tonight.

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I felt like I learned a lot at the hearing today in terms of what happened with the National Guard situation with that delay. I was frustrated, though, to not hear from the Pentagon officials who made the decision that the delay should happen. Do you expect that we will hear from General Flynn, from the former defense secretary, from the chief of the army who actually made these calls? Well, first of all, as you know, last week and we talked about this, we found out the mess ups that happened on the capital side and that was not requesting the guard earlier.

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That wasn't really the the Defense Department's fault. That was decisions that were made by the then sergeant at arms that were wrong. That would have made a big difference. I want to look at the big picture here, because our whole focus, Rachel, is on being constructive. We did this on a bipartisan basis. Senator Peters and I, as well as Senator Blunt and Senator Portman. So that's those were those were major issues. We have the structure of the Capitol Police Board, where multiple people have to make decisions and give the go ahead to the Capitol Police.

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That has to change. Then you get to what you're focused on, rightfully so today, the day of where we heard this stunning testimony today from General Walker, where, in fact, he said he was ready to go. He had a number of trained men and women of the National Guard who, by the way, are guarding us today, will be guarding us tomorrow when we come in to do our work to get the covid package done. And they were ready to go.

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And he waited and waited and he waited. And, yes, this raises many other questions and there's many ways we can get those answers. Additional hearing. We can have interviews, we can do written questions. But clearly, we were left with a big, fat question mark about what the motivations were, the walkers, the general walkers, the head of the D.C. National Guard, which was who is incredible today. His theory was that they were concerned somehow of how it would look.

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They said that they were concerned this is his testimony, that it could have gotten the protesters going more. But the point was, no, wait a minute. There was this moment where everyone in the world saw it on TV when they made that call, it was already on TV that the glass was breaking, that they breached the lines, that they were entering the capital, as we now know, with bear spray and with stun guns and with polls that they used as weapons.

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And to just delay at all is what shocked the head of the Metropolitan Police last week when he testified. And this general said the very same thing. They should have immediately, immediately made that decision. And by the way, if people say, well, it doesn't matter, they already entered the Capitol. Every second mattered. Every minute mattered. As you look at the loss of life with Officer Nick, you look at the people that were severely injured in that interaction.

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Senator, it's been a little bit jarring today to see that testimony, to look at what happened that day, to get new information about what happened, and also to see these warnings about another threat from the same types of folks pinned to tomorrow in these conspiracy theories about March 4th. I didn't I haven't known how how much attention to pay to them, how much, frankly, to talk about them on television. I don't want to amplify them more than they deserved.

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But there has been dramatic movement tonight. We're seeing the House deciding basically to not be in session there, changed their voting schedule. They're there late tonight so that they don't have to be there tomorrow. We've seen security advice that that that members of Congress and senators should use underground tunnels and have staff teleworking tomorrow with possible just in case there is there is more trouble. What's your perspective on that? Well, we are all listening to the acting police chief.

[00:29:12]

We also have the acting sergeant of arms and of course, we have so much more security than we had. It's not even a comparison and so much more intelligence coming our way. There were issues, as you know, before the insurrection where raw intelligence was put out. It didn't get in the right hands. We think there have been improvements there until the Senate. Really, Rachel. We've got to get this covid package done. And Ron Johnson, Senator Johnson has decided, as you rightly pointed out on your show, that he's going to make the parliamentarians read the entire bill.

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Into the record, read it out loud that he's going to make the Senate do that, and that's his choice. Anyone could read the bill. It's been out there actually for a while, and I'm sure he could read it at home or he could read it himself out loud if he'd like. But that's one of the things we have to do tomorrow. We have a vote and then that's going to happen and then we'll go into the week. We don't think the American people can wait if he wants to delay them getting their direct checks, people who need the help or he wants to delay that money and the rest of the Republicans want to delay the money going out there to pay for the vaccine distribution.

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We want to get the shots in the arm. And we want to follow through on President Biden's incredible news yesterday that there's going to be shots available for every adult by May. Well, we've got to make sure that distribution is in place. So we've got to help our schools. And so we are staying in until it gets done. Senator Amy Klobuchar, chair of the Rules Committee, again, right, right at the heart of all of these things happening all at once right now.

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Senator, it's good to see you. Thanks for making time. As I mentioned, one of the things the House is voting on tonight is the For the People Act, H.R. one, which is all these election reforms trying to gerrymander the country, trying to bolster voting rights. When that goes over to the Senate, it'll be Senator Klobuchar and her committee that will be helming that as that heads toward a big filibuster standoff in the US Senate. We're watching that vote tonight in the House, the vote on the George Floyd Policing Act Policing Reform Act.

[00:31:21]

It's a big night. Lots still going on. Stay with us. As I mentioned at the top of the show, we're following developing news tonight concerning allegations of potential criminal activity by Trump Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, who also happens to be the wife of Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell. The New York Times was first to report tonight that the inspector general at the Transportation Department had made a criminal referral to the Justice Department concerning Chao's alleged behavior after they investigated allegations that she misused her office to benefit her family's shipping company.

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The IG said, quote, We concluded that a formal investigation into potential misuse of position was warranted. We also learned from the IG tonight that the Trump Justice Department gave that criminal referral on Elaine Chao to the Justice Department. Sorry that the inspector general gave that criminal referral about Chao to the Trump Justice Department on December 16th and December 17th, 20 twenty. So during the transition between the Trump and Biden administrations, the Justice Department declined to take up the investigations.

[00:32:25]

They're not pursuing Chao despite the referrals. In twenty nineteen, it was The New York Times that was first to break the story that Chao had been using her role as secretary of transportation to boost the profile of her family's company. Now we know what that reporting sparked.

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Joining me now is someone whose byline is on both of those stories I just mentioned, New York Times investigative reporter Eric Lipton. Mr. Lipton, thanks very much for making time to be here tonight. Thank you. So the inspector general has described that office's investigation of what you and your colleagues reported at the Times and some of the other allegations against. How did you learn anything from the inspector general's disclosure tonight about Chouest behavior or about the seriousness with which it was investigated?

[00:33:11]

Yeah, I mean, in fact, we learned that there are many more examples of her intervening in ways that were to benefit her father and at times her sister, her father was one of the founders of this shipping company, which largely operates out of China. And her sister currently is the chief executive there. And so there were many more examples of her taking actions that was helping elevate the the the sort of the promotional aspects for this company, particularly as her father, who's now retired but still is is associated with the company, was promoting a book and was being described in Chinese media as being, you know, a major player in the shipping industry in China.

[00:33:53]

One of the things that this brought home to me is the sheer number of times we've now learned that the Trump Justice Department got a criminal referral for a serving member of the cabinet and then declined to take up the case from your reporting and your your your long career of reporting on public corruption and bad behavior by public officials. Is it a surprise to you that the Justice Department declined to take up these referrals, either in terms of the US attorney's office in D.C. or the or the public integrity division?

[00:34:27]

Not really, I mean, you know, these are not matters where she was taking actions that brought her direct financial benefit or that there was allegations of money being exchanged or anything like that. I mean, I think that what the inspector general found were instances that that really appeared to be, you know, ethics violations. And they made a referral to DOJ and they also made a referral even after DOJ didn't take it up to the the office of the General Counsel at the Department of Transportation.

[00:34:57]

And and what they got back from DOJ was that that we don't see grounds for a criminal case, but we're not we're not adjudicating on whether there were ethical violations here. That's up to an administrative process for for Department of Transportation to take up. So I'm not surprised that that was the outcome. What I was surprised was how many examples there were that this report documented a dozen different cases where the Department of Transportation staff were used to help promote her father's interest or her sister's interests, particularly as it as it pertains to their face to China, which is where their business operates mostly.

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Eric, one quick last question for you, obviously, Secretary Chao is now out of office, but her husband is the Republican leader in the Senate. Is there any indication that any family benefit that accrued to the Chao family through the actions of Secretary Chao might have made its way home to Secretary Chao into and to Senator McConnell themselves? Is there any indication that he might have benefited from any ill gotten gains? Nothing direct. I mean, I think the benefits would be that she used her staff and her office to help elevate her father and at times her sister, who are executives, you know, her sister in particular, is still an executive at this prominent Chinese largely opera is the New York based, but it's building ships in China and its freight delivering freight to China.

[00:36:23]

This this is a company that's gotten financial backing from the government of China to build its ships there. So it you know, I think that her work helped continue to elevate his stature in China and that could potentially bring the family company some benefit, but nothing directly that benefited financially, her or Mitch McConnell. New York Times investigative reporter Eric Lipton, thank you so much for helping us understand this story tonight and congratulations on being there for the beginning of the end of this arc.

[00:36:52]

Really appreciate your time. All right, more ahead tonight. Stay with us. Barbara Howard is a professor at Jackson State University in Mississippi. This picture was taken this week on Professor Howard's back porch in Jackson. She left that silver pan outside overnight to try to collect rainwater because like tens of thousands of Americans in Jackson, Mississippi, right now, Professor Howard has no running water. She told The Clarion Ledger newspaper it's getting complicated, running all over town, trying to schedule water, pick up so she can do very basic things like fill up her toilets so they can be flushed.

[00:37:28]

So she started collecting rainwater instead. She said so far, this is easier. This woman here spoke to the local news in Jackson today. She's showing them all the bottled water she just bought at the store. She says she spent 13 dollars on a supply that might last her two days max. Unlike Professor Howard, this woman says she does have water coming out of her taps. It's just not clean enough to drink. And so the bottled water.

[00:37:52]

Jackson is the largest city in Mississippi, it's the capital of the state, today is the 16th day in a row that the entire city of Jackson is without safe drinking water. A cold snap last month knocked out aging pipes and water treatment facilities for Jackson. 16 days after that, tens of thousands of people in the city still have no running water. The whole city remains under a boil water advisory, which means you can't just drink anything that comes out of the tap.

[00:38:16]

And today it actually got worse. The city's public works director gave a press briefing today to update everybody on how things are coming along and trying to fix all the broken water mains and all the pipes knocked out by the storm. This is how that press conference started.

[00:38:32]

Be prepared as possible, today was not a good day for us, today was not a good day for us, he says.

[00:38:41]

And the reason is water pressure. Yesterday, the water pressure in Jackson was around 80 pounds per square inch. For context, the pressure needs to be about 90 pounds per square inch to to generate enough force to push water through everybody's pipes. So yesterday it wasn't 90, which is what it needs to be. It was 80. Today it tanked all the way down to 50, which means some people who had regained water pressure to get running water back in their houses in the last few days have since lost it again as the water pressure dropped again from 80 all the way down to 50.

[00:39:14]

The public works director did say that the city is making some progress on fixing all the leaking pipes. There's about 20 broken water mains throughout the city that are still spilling water into the streets instead of into people's taps. He said today he's expect all of those leaks to be those broken pipes to be fixed by the end of the weekend, which is good news for people who don't have any water in their homes right now. But it doesn't change the fact that the water itself still isn't safe to drink.

[00:39:38]

The city, as of yet, has no guess as to when Jackson's water will be drinkable, even if and when people do get it back in their faucets and running out of their taps. 16 days of this. How much more of this can Jackson take and what can the rest of the country be doing to help? The mayor of Jackson joins us live here next. Stay with us. Clams, mussels, other fish and other items. That was the official tally of what was clogging Jackson.

[00:40:07]

Mississippi's water intake filters today filters that raw intake water has to pass through on its way to the water treatment plant and eventually into people's pipes. That debris in trouble with the filters caused water pressure to plummet again today in Jackson. In the midst of this crisis, tens of thousands of people still without water, the entire city under a boil water notice, which means the water is not safe to drink. More than two weeks now with a great American city, a capital city having no drinkable water.

[00:40:35]

When is this going to end? Joining us now is the mayor of Jackson, Mississippi, Chokwe Lumumba. Mr. Mayor, thank you so much for being here. I know this is a critical time, and I really appreciate you being here. Thank you for having me, Rachel. How are your constituents, how are your residents holding up? This is a lot to ask of even the very resilient people of Mississippi. Well, I think that that's your package describes it accurately, it is it is critical not only do people depend on water for the ability to to drink and to cook, to bathe, but we're in a critical hour as we're fighting a pandemic.

[00:41:18]

So it quite literally is a protection mechanism to wash their hands and keep themselves safe. As you can imagine, residents are frustrated, residents have questions, and they deserve to know why this is the case. And so we have been working day in and day out to get the system back running. We are operating from one piece of equipment to the next. And this is on account of years of neglect, years of insufficient investment. And that's not just simply on the local level, that's on a state level, that's on a federal level, understanding that we have legacy cities that are grappling with this.

[00:41:59]

That's why you're seeing the same narrative from Texas to Mississippi and beyond. And so we are fighting in every way to to get this system back running. But my most recent report from my public works director is the issue that we suffered from today has has fortunately been resolved. And we are hopeful that overnight the gains that we sustained over the last few days, we can revisit early in the morning. Do you need more help at the federal level than you've had thus far?

[00:42:35]

We've been showing images of National Guard, for example, distributing non potable water in some places in the city. You talked about this being a problem both at the state level and at the federal level in terms of what Jackson needs to make sure this never happens again and to try to build out of it. But in terms of immediate assistance to your residents, do you need something that you are not getting right now and that you're trying to get? Absolutely, the city of Jackson, like most cities, is under-resourced and not capable of making these corrections based on our own budgetary ability.

[00:43:09]

And so I penned a letter to our governor because it takes the state to activate the federal resources coming to the cities. I think that in the midst of this challenge, we have to consider how we create a direct pipeline, no pun intended, for resources to go directly to cities, to cities where the rubber meets the road is the cities where we see the efficacy of the investment of our federal government. I think we've been having this discussion concerning a a large infrastructure package from the federal government for quite some time.

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It is beyond time that we leave the discussion phase and really, truly implement something that that will help American cities.

[00:43:52]

Chokwe Lumumba, the mayor of the great city of Jackson, Mississippi, thank you so much for being here tonight to help us understand and please keep us apprised. So I know this has just been an incredibly difficult thing for the residents of your city to be through, have gone through. Keep us updated as you as you try to dig out from us and let us know what the country needs to know. Thank you. All right, we'll be right back.

[00:44:15]

Stay with us. As we mentioned at the top of the show, the House is taking votes late into the night tonight. They're planning on not being in session tomorrow for security reasons. They're voting tonight on their big for the People Act, democracy and election reforms. Also, the George Floyd Justice and Policing Act, which has just passed. There were initial reports that one Republican voted for it, which itself would be news that turns out one Republican voted for it by accident and is going to change his vote.

[00:44:44]

Well, that's going to do it for us for now. See you again tomorrow. Now it's time for The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell. Good evening, Lawrence.

[00:44:50]

You're doing Rachel. We're going to be joined by Ben O'Rorke tonight, because today was the day that the Texas governor decided, let the good times roll, forget about masks, fill up businesses with as many customers in the room as you want. At the same time, all restrictions lifted, better or worse. Going to give us his reaction to what that means for Texas. Excellent. And you know, the thing I was just speaking with the mayor of Jackson, Mississippi, where the Mississippi mosque mandate was also unilaterally rescinded by the governor there, too, and Jackson's got all these troubles in terms of water and everything else.

[00:45:25]

But it's just such a way to put people who work in jobs where they have to be face to face with people. And now they have no defense in terms of protecting themselves. It's just it's one thing if you want to go out to a restaurant or go out to some sort of retail place and not wear a mask, and you want you to see that as part of your personal freedom. But to people where that's their job, it's just an impossible imposition on people's public health, just crazy.

[00:45:47]

And I was so glad to hear your interview with the mayor, Rachel, because Texas does command the attention in this story. But the same stuff was happening in Mississippi. It's so good to make sure we keep the focus on that, too, now.

[00:46:00]

Thank you. Thanks, Lawrence.