Taking action on gun violence falls, again, to Manchin, who fails, againThe Rachel Maddow Show
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- 24 Mar 2021
Tonight's guests are Rep. Joe Neguse, whose district includes Boulder, Colorado, and LaTosha Brown, co-founder of Black Voters Matter.
The Rachel Maddow Show weeknights at 9:00 Eastern on MSNBC, after the shootings, the mass shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut in twenty twelve. President Obama asked the then vice president, Joe Biden, to lead a task force for the Obama administration on potential reforms to gun laws and gun policies to try to find a way to advance gun safety somehow to try to find a way around the obstacles that had made any kind of progress on that issue completely politically impossible since the early 2000s.
All the while, the country was experiencing more and more and more increasingly horrific single shooter, mass killings, gun massacres every year, while it became increasingly impossible to do absolutely anything in response to them. President Obama put Joe Biden, then vice president, in charge of leading a task force in the Obama administration to try to find a way around the obstacles that have made progress impossible to try to figure out what could be done. Vice President Biden took charge of that and they moved very, very fast.
It was December 14th, 20 12, when the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting happened. Twenty six little kids and teachers and school staff. And that was a Friday, December 14th, before the next week was up. The following Thursday on December 20th, then Vice President Joe Biden had already started convening the first meetings in Washington. The president asked me to convene this meeting with you and we'll be talking with other stakeholders as well, because we we have to have a comprehensive way in which to respond to.
The mass murder of our children that we saw in Connecticut near the first group with whom when the president gave me this charge, along with some of our cabinet colleagues here, the first group that I wanted to speak with. And so what I'd like to do is the president is absolutely committed to keeping his promise that we will act and we will act in a way that is designed even if, as he says, we could only save one life. We have to take action.
And there are a number of things, you know, because I've spoken with you all over so many years and continue that relationship over the past four years, that there's some things we can immediately do.
Then Vice President Joe Biden, that was less than a week after the elementary school massacre at Sandy Hook in December. Twenty five, that was only six days after it happened, convening that first meeting in that case with law enforcement officials. That was the first meeting of that task force that he held. But then he worked like a whirlwind on it. The pace of it, looking back, is I had forgotten how quickly it moved before I went back and looked at the timeline.
Here's how The Washington Post described it just the following month in January. Twenty thirteen, they said, quote, In the thirty three days after the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, gun control rocketed through what one administration official called a time warp, transforming from an issue that was politically off limits to one at the top of Obama's agenda. At the center of the transformation was the Biden led task force. It held twenty two meetings, most of them in the same week, many of them stretching past two hours long.
Biden furiously scribbling notes in a black leather bound spiral notebook. The group collected ideas from two hundred and twenty nine organizations, or, as Biden put it last week, reviewing just about every idea that has been written up only to gather dust on the shelf of some agency. The Post continues, quote, The vice president personally placed phone calls, too, including one forty five minute long talk one night with the parents of a student who had died at Sandy Hook.
One administration official said, quote, It was like watching an entire term of Senate hearings compressed into a week. Biden was gently interrogating witnesses, following up, finding common ground, finding discrepancies. Again, that's thirty three days after Sandy Hook happened, in the end, the Biden task force moving incredibly quickly, meeting with everybody from law enforcement in that first meeting to clergy to families of gun violence victims, to the NRA. Biden took an NRA meeting.
He met with hunting groups, one of which gave him a duck decoy at the meeting. And he even met with video game manufacturers. All of those different people being brought into the discussion at the end of all of it. A month into it, they recommended twenty three different actions to try to increase gun safety, to try to reduce the number of Americans being killed by guns. I have no illusions about we're up against what we're up against or how hard the task is in front of us, but I also have never seen the nation's conscience so shaken by what happened at Sandy Hook.
The world has changed and it's demanding action. It's in this context. The president asked me to put together, along with cabinet members, a set of recommendations about how we should proceed to meet that moral obligation.
We have a moral obligation. That was January twenty thirteen. That was just a month after the Sandy Hook killings. And Vice President Biden led this whirlwind, incredibly intense, incredibly intensive process and at the end of thirty three days had a set of twenty three recommendations for everything from new federal research funding to things that could only be done by Congress, things that could only be done through legislation. President Obama himself stood next to Vice President Biden as he explained the recommendations.
And then the president talked about the one single simplest, smallest thing that could be done by legislation, something with more than 90 percent support among the American people, something that had massive support, more than 70 percent support even among members of the NRA. It's time for Congress to require a universal background check for anyone trying to buy a gun. The law already requires licensed gun dealers to run background checks, and over the last 14 years, that's kept one point five million of the wrong people from getting their hands on a gun.
But it's hard to enforce that law when as many as 40 percent of all gun purchases are conducted without a background check. It's not safe, it's not smart, it's not fair to responsible gun buyers or sellers, if you want to buy a gun, whether it's from a licensed dealer or a private seller, you should at least have to show you are not a felon or somebody legally prohibited from buying one. This is common sense. And an overwhelming majority of Americans agree with us on the need for universal background checks, including more than 70 percent of the National Rifle Association's members, according to one survey.
So there's no reason we can't do this. There's no reason that we can't do this. He says there's no reason that we can't do this, except apparently even that we cannot do. You might remember how this all unfolded. You're forgiven if it has blurred together over the years because of the way these things always resolve. But remember how this how this happened after after Sandy Hook, Vice President Biden put in charge of a task force which moves with incredible alacrity, incredible speed, to come up with concrete proposals for things that can be done to try to reduce the number of people killed by guns in this country.
President Obama proposed just what you heard there, universal background checks, background checks should be run on the buyer any time anybody wants to buy a gun in this country, 90 percent plus support for that among the American people. It's simple. You have to have a background check if you want to buy a gun. That's a simple idea. Overwhelming support, near unanimous support among the American people. But Republicans in Congress, including Republicans in the Senate, are not among that 90 percent plus, apparently.
And they decided instead that they would go for something even lower than that smallest, unambitious, simple goal, conservative Democrat Joe Manchin and Republican Pat Toomey, both with a ratings from the NRA. They said that they wouldn't. Pursue they wouldn't allow the pursuit of a simple rule that there ought to be a background check if you want to buy a gun. Instead, they had their own idea and they said they could get it done. They had their own way.
They had something that they said they could pass. We wouldn't actually do what more than 90 percent of the country wanted to do. We instead just do a tiny little piece of it because they said so. So instead of that simple thing saying you have to have a background check in order to buy a gun, full stop. Senator Manchin and Senator Toomey said, no, no, no, we think that's a terrible idea. We're against that. We know that more than 90 percent of the public is for it, we're against it, but we've got another idea.
Our idea is that the law will be changed to just say you have to have a background check. If you buy a gun at a gun show or on the Internet will only extend background checks that far gun show purchases, Internet purchases. That's it. It is hard to imagine a smaller reform. But that is what they said they would do. That's what they said they could do. And so the rest of the country, again, more than 90 percent of whom just want fucking background checks for gun sales full stop.
The rest of the country stood back to let these very serious, very credible senators pursue this basically rinky dink, tiny reform instead, because they said that was something they could get done and they failed. They couldn't even get that done, not through the United States Senate, not even right after the Sandy Hook massacre, Joe Manchin and Pat Toomey were convinced. They convinced the whole political class that they had magic gravitas on this issue to show that the legislative process in the United States Senate can be trusted to work to do at least the smallest imaginable thing on an issue of overwhelming public concern.
They were wrong. They could not even do that one pitiful thing. Not in the US Senate. Not with filibuster rules in place that say a majority vote doesn't count. And so nothing happened in American law, no law changed. Nothing made it through Congress. In the final year of his presidency, President Obama was still not just expressing regret about that, not still, not just exhibiting a rare for him show of anger about that and the final year of his presidency.
He was still actively emotional about that years later. Second Amendment rights are important, but there are other rights that we care about as well, and we have to be able to balance the. Because our right to worship freely and safely, that right was denied to Christians in Charleston, South Carolina, and that was denied Jews in Kansas City and that was denied Muslims in Chapel Hill and Sikhs in Oak Creek. They had rights to. All right, to peaceful assembly, that right was robbed from moviegoers in Aurora and Lafayette.
Our unalienable right to life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness, those rights were stripped from college kids in Blacksburg and Santa Barbara. And from high schoolers at Columbine. And from first graders. And Newtown. First graders. And from every family who never imagined that their loved one would be taken from our lives by a bullet from a gun. Every time I think about those kids, it gets me mad. That was President Obama in twenty sixteen, emotionally reflecting on the fact that even after the murder of all those six year olds at Sandy Hook, even after all of those other mass murders of dozens of Americans, all killed by individual shooters, legally armed to the teeth, even with all that, I know the United States Senate insists there can be no changes, no reforms.
Joe Manchin insisted after Sandy Hook in 2012 that he was the one who could do it, that he would show that the United States Senate was not broken, that it could absolutely do its job on this issue just as long as you let someone like him define the job that was to be done just as long as you let someone like him lead the way. Just as long as you let somebody like him work with other senators like him who had so much credibility in the gun lobby, we can't do anything more ambitious than what he wants and what they want.
But watch what they can do when they finally decide to work on this. Right, because they have people like Joe Manchin said they have such credibility on this issue, they could get things done. The things that we all agree should be done, just watch the Senate can work on this issue when it needs to just watch, just put things in the hands of the senators who disagree with 90 plus percent of the American public on this. The senators who represent the friendliest, smallest, most hard line, vestigial ancient paleo politics position on this, they're the only ones with credibility on this issue.
They are the ones who decide what's possible and they will show that the US Senate isn't broken. But things can be done as long as they decide what those things are, watch. Everything else stopped all of that momentum after what happened in this country after Sandy Hook. The outflowing of emotion after Sandy Hook, all of the momentum that was taken by the administration, all of the public desperation to do something.
Joe Manchin said, give that to me, I'm the one I owed my way, this is the way we'll get things done. What we watch today really involved only one piece of what has been a big, complex debate about guns, and it includes just a few senators. And yet the impact seems so much larger, in part because of the emotion that helped make it happen.
Driven by their loss, I feel like I carry my daughter Spirit when I go into those meetings.
I wanted them to hear me as a mother. I asked them if they could please give me something I can tell my son.
Surrounded by Newtown families to talk about today's breakthrough on background checks. But only an emotional whisper would come for Senator Joe Manchin.
The state Manchin, a Democrat, partnered with Pat Toomey, a Republican, both a rated by the NRA to forge a compromise today.
I think that the substance of our bill just makes a lot of sense to me. This isn't gun control. This is common sense. Under the plan, background checks expand to cover buyers at gun shows and shopping on the Internet, just like those already required when buying from licensed dealers. But the law would not affect individuals who privately buy, sell or give their weapons to family, friends or even strangers.
This is something that's so right, and it does so much good to prevent people who shouldn't have a gun from having it.
He could not get that done. Something that's so right, it does so much good. He couldn't get that done, and now he is insisting that he is the one who has to be trusted with this task again, because he will not allow anybody else's ideas to move forward. The alleged shooter in the Boulder, Colorado, massacre yesterday was released from the hospital after receiving medical treatment and is now at the Boulder County jail. He was charged today with 10 counts of murder.
He is 21 years old. He was born the same week as the Columbine High School massacre in Colorado in nineteen ninety nine. When Columbine happened, it felt like the world stopped and it would never start up the same way again, 13 people killed at Columbine High School in nineteen ninety nine. And again, it felt like the biggest news we know for a decade. Right. But the country would continue to have mass shootings at an accelerating pace in twenty twelve just before the Sandy Hook massacre.
It was Aurora, Colorado, massacre in a movie theater there that left dozens of people shot and wounded, left 12 people killed. But actually, the Colorado experience shows that the Joe Manchin don't actually do anything plan is not the only option. And when we hear from senators like Joe Manchin that we can do nothing else, we have to put it in his hands. Despite all the ways he's failed in the past. You can look at a state like Colorado and say, actually, there are other options we could try.
At the time of the Aurora killings, the governor of Colorado was a fairly moderate Democrat named John Hickenlooper, not exactly a champion of gun reforms at all. But after Aurora, he came to believe that some common sense, popular gun safety reforms were not only necessary, they were possible and it was worth doing. And Governor Hickenlooper announced his support for new gun safety reforms in Colorado. State law actually announced it in December. Twenty twelve, just just a few days before the Sandy Hook shooting happened.
And that, of course, focused the whole country's attention. But Colorado was already moving in Colorado. They did pass new laws, nothing radical but commonsense changes that were very, very popular with the public, including limiting high capacity ammunition magazines and, yes, requiring background checks. And the Republicans and the gun lobby went nuts and they vowed revenge. And they did get some of that. Two Democratic state senators who supported those reforms were recalled from office, two of them.
The year after those gun reforms were signed by Governor Hickenlooper the following year, twenty fourteen and then again in twenty sixteen, Republicans took control of the Colorado state Senate. But in twenty fourteen, John Hickenlooper was also re-elected as Colorado governor. And in twenty eighteen, Democrats won back the Colorado State Senate.
One progun, hardline Republican incumbent in the state legislature was ousted from his seat, he lost his seat and by a lot to the father of a young man who was killed in the Aurora massacre. The gun lobby Republicans who had run the recall effort against those other two Democrats in the state Senate who supported gun reforms, those those those gun lobbyists went after Representative Sullivan as well. But their efforts to recall him collapsed and failed. And last year, Representative Sullivan was just re-elected.
Colorado is now representative in the United States Senate by Senator Michael Bennet and by Senator John Hickenlooper, the former governor, in order to get his seat in the US Senate, Senator Hickenlooper ousted pro NRA incumbent Republican Senator Cory Gardner last year. Senator Hickenlooper and Senator Bennett said today in the wake of the Boulder massacre that they support national reforms to improve gun law and gun policy nationwide. And a lot of Democratic senators are saying that today. But when you hear that from Colorado, Senator Hickenlooper in particular has at least lived through what it means to not only say that, but to do it.
To show that, yeah, you might rattle some cages when you do it, but if you've got the vast support of the people on your side, it will be viewed as the right thing to do, despite the fact that you will have opposition. And if you do it, there's no guarantee in life, there's no guarantee in politics that your career will thrive. But Hickenlooper shown that it can. Today, President Biden is calling once again for action for the country.
I don't need to wait another minute, let alone an hour, to take common sense steps or save the lives in the future and urge my colleagues in the House and Senate to act. We can ban assault weapons and high capacity magazines in this country once again. I got that done when I was a senator. It passed. It was a law for the longest time and it brought down these mass killings. We should do it again. We can close the loopholes in our background check system, including the Charleston loophole.
That's one of the best tools we have right now to prevent gun violence. The Senate should immediately pass.
Let me say it again. The United States Senate, I hope some are listening, should immediately pass the two House, pass bills to close loopholes in the background check system. These are bills that receive votes of both Republicans and Democrats in the House. This is not it should not be a partisan issue. This is an American issue. It will save lives, American lives, and we have to act. We have to act, but he is talking to the United States Senate there, and Joe Manchin, the senator from West Virginia.
He will not act even after the humiliation and what he dragged the country through in twenty thirteen. Senator Manchin reiterated today that he doesn't support background checks for all gun sales, which is something that has already passed the House. It passed the House even with some Republican support, which means Joe Manchin is to the right of House Republicans on the issue of background checks, which more than 90 percent of Americans and more than 70 percent of NRA members continue to support if he alone changed his mind on this and decided that he really does care about this.
That actually probably would be enough to get that one reform over the finish line if he changed his stance on the bill itself, if he found it in his heart to support background checks.
Given that and his stance on keeping the filibuster rule in place, that majority votes don't count even for his own legislation, those two issues alone, Joe Manchin holds the fate of this in his hands. And he promised this was an issue that moved him in tears as a parent, as a grandparent. He promised that he could get it done. He could get it done, actually, now. If you wanted to. I mean, even now, with the NRA almost dissolved in disgrace and in bankruptcy, instead of doing what he says he wants to do, he will do what the NRA wants instead.
Not even the NRA members want that, but Joe Manchin does. And because of that, he personally will stop the whole country from getting any substantive relief from this thing that plagues us still. And because of that, because the United States Senate is broken in that particular way, it will likely almost certainly come down again to whatever the president and President Biden can do on his own without Congress, which is not much. And that is because the United States Senate does not work even for things that more than 90 percent of the country wants done, even for things that tear our hearts apart of this much and that we agree on this much even when we seem to agree on nothing else.
The United States Senate does not work in large part because of Democrats like Joe Manchin and because of that we cannot do anything substantive as a country on this issue. Despite senators like Joe Manchin saying this means a lot to them. There's a lot going on right now, including in Washington, former first lady Michelle Obama has tonight published a powerful call on the Senate to pass the federal voting rights bill that's already passed the House that is pending before the Senate.
She's calling on them to change the filibuster rule if need be. In order to do that. We're going to have a report coming up tonight on the real urgency behind that right now, something that happened last night and tonight. And it's going to continue to happen this week that ought to be on the national radar in terms of the urgency for that federal voting rights bill. We've also got reporting ahead on a real problem at the Justice Department with a Bill Barr appointee, a sort of leftover in the Justice Department from the Trump era who has screwed up publicly now in a way that may screw up all of the January 6th capital riot or prosecutions.
A lot to come tonight. We're going to be speaking with Congressman John Lewis tonight, who represents Boulder, Colorado, where the shootings happened yesterday. Lots to come tonight. Stay with us.
There's a lot we don't know, there's a lot still unfolding from yesterday's events, but let me simply say this. This cannot be our new normal. We should be able to feel safe in our grocery stores, should be able to feel safe in our schools and our movie theaters and in our communities. We need to see a change because we have lost far too many lives. As I said, I've lived in Boulder County for many years. And one thing I am sure of is this.
Our community is strong, it is kind, it is compassionate and it is resilient. And we will get through this together.
Colorado Congressman John Boehner speaking today at a press conference about yesterday's mass shooting in Boulder, Colorado, at that press conference. Police released the names of the 10 people who were killed in the massacre. They range in age from 20 to sixty five. Also disclose the name of the twenty one year old suspect who is now in jail after being treated at a hospital at the hospital yesterday for a gunshot wound. He faces 10 counts of murder in the first degree.
Joining us now is Congressman John Lewis, who represents Colorado's 2nd District, which includes Boulder. He grew up in Boulder, has been serving his community there for years. Congressman, thank you so much for joining us tonight. I'm so sorry for what Boulder is going through right now. Thank you, Rachel, I appreciate what one of the things that has been difficult, even just nationally looking in on this disaster is how long it has taken to get basic information about what happened.
There's a long delay, obviously a chaotic scene and a very emotional one, including for the police who lost one of their own along the way, and then the late night news that it was worse than even initial reports had suggested. Now that we have a sense of the scale of this catastrophe. I have to just ask how you think your constituents are doing, how Boulder is doing today. They're hurting, Rachel, they are hurting. It's been a devastating thirty six hours for our community here in Boulder, for our state and for our country.
The loss of life is truly unimaginable. When you consider the 10 people who lost their lives yesterday that he supports people who were friends, family members, brothers, sisters, neighbors, treasured community members, each of whom lost their lives, and the families who woke up this morning without their loved ones, that that pain, that anguish is just too hard to fathom. So our community is grieving and it's going to take a while. Very difficult days, weeks and months ahead as we grieve with those families and of course, with Officer Talley's family, an officer who bravely gave his life for his heroism to save lives.
It's just a heartbreaking, heartbreaking tragedy. I think that it is heartbreaking for anybody looking in on this, particularly those who can empathize with it, because there have been mass shootings close to them or in their communities and there are so many Americans in that circumstance. I think that we are also becoming a little bit hard hearted about these things when we think about whether or not we'll ever adapt as a community and as a country to try to stop things like this from happening in the future.
We lament these things. We tell ourselves up about them. But I feel like we're sort of dissolving into a bipartisan, hard hearted cynicism that it's even worth trying, trying to reform gun laws, trying to reform the kinds of policies and processes around gun ownership and gun transfers and ammunition, ammunition purchases and things like that that might make a difference. How are you feeling on that on that scale today? I'm frustrated. I have to say, Rachel, I hear the frustration I can hear in your opening remarks on the program resonated with me and I think resonated with a whole lot of Americans and certainly many of my constituents whom I've spoken to in the last day and a half.
Folks are upset. They are grieving. They are angry at the inaction of the federal government in taking gun violence seriously. There clearly is a gun violence crisis in our country that has been metastasizing year after year, decade after decade. You mentioned Columbine High School. I was 14 years old when the massacre at Columbine High occurred. And to think of the ensuing twenty one years and the reality of the federal government has done virtually nothing to address the pervasive gun violence in communities across our country, and that literally in our home community just last night is it's difficult to fathom.
And we can't, at the end of the day, accept failure and in action is an option. I think we have to press forward and I'm certainly going to be pressing forward with my colleagues to ensure that we pass common sense gun violence reform. It's time has come. I think the American people have to say enough is enough and that we're not going to accept an extra. You, by dint of this tragedy, will now become one of the informal caucus in Congress, and there are many members of that caucus where your district has been marred by an act of national significance, a mass murder, a mass gun, a massacre, act of mass gun violence in your district.
And when these things happen in the future, you will be called on to speak as the representative of a community that struggled through one of these things. It does feel like the moral authority which you gain here, of course, will come at a cost in handling this tragedy. But you will have a voice from here on out in terms of talking about how the country should handle these things. When you hear frustration for people like me, when you hear frustration from your constituents about the Senate being the place where hopes for any help on these things go to die, is that leavened at all for you by any hope that it actually will change in the Senate, that hearts will change, that the Senate might get its gumption together to get rid of the filibuster rule that stopped these things?
Are you hopeful that things could move? I am Rachel, I am I have to be. I firmly believe public opinion has trended in the direction of support for these broadly popular provisions that we have been discussing, like universal background checks. And I intend to reach out to every single United States senator case about why we need to enact common sense gun violence reform legislation. I believe I truly believe that we can make this happen and that we can get it done.
And for those who doubt that, I would simply say in the last year, Rachel, in February of last year, I had an opportunity to attend the president's State of the Union, and I brought as my guest, Tom Mauser. Tom tragically lost his son Daniel during the Columbine High School shooting. Daniel was my age when he lost his life and Tom refused to give up. He spent the better part of the next year and a half campaigning for Amendment twenty two, which is an amendment that ultimately passed in our state.
Closing the gun show loophole. You articulated in great detail the various steps that Colorado has taken over the course of the last two decades. There's more work to do, but we have to be hopeful that this is a problem, a crisis that we can solve because there's simply no excuses to not doing so. And my constituents are tired of excuses. Congressman Joe Nagase, who represents Boulder, sir, thank you so much for your time tonight in this chance to talk with you.
I know it's a it's a really difficult time. Thanks for being here. Thank you, Richard. Hearing him say that you want you want public servants, particularly young, incredibly talented public servants like Congressman to go, I'm saying now because he's gone. I'm talking about him behind his back. You want people with talent and ambition and values and the kind of communication skills that somebody has like that. But you do actually want public servants with hope, right?
You do want people who believe even against the kind of circumstances that I've been describing here tonight, the sort of brick wall that we've run into so many times as a country, despite the public will to do something. You want people in positions of power and people who are ascendant in politics who believe that stuff can get done. Anyway, we'll be right back. Stay with us. With not one but two terrible mass shootings within the span of a week, debate in Congress is shifting to whether or not Democrats will change the filibuster rules in the Senate so we can finally have some gun safety reforms as a country because of where almost all Republicans stand on this issue of Senate Democrats don't at least try to reform the filibuster.
It is basically guaranteed there will be no gun reform at all. There will also be no move to protect voting rights at all. Last night, during a private call between President Biden and Senate Democrats, Georgia Senator Raphael Warnock reportedly raised with the president the urgent need for the Senate to pass national voting rights legislation to counter efforts by Republicans in his state and others to radically restrict voting rights. And that led apparently in this discussion between the president and Senate Democrats to a discussion during that call about reform of the filibuster.
If Democrats are going to do anything to stop Republicans nationwide from rolling back voting rights, they're going to have to do it soon if it's going to have an effect. In Georgia. Earlier this month, both the Georgia House of Representatives and the Senate passed a bunch of bills to try to make voting harder in just the past twenty four hours, two of those proposals made their way out of committee and are now on their way to becoming law. These bills would do everything from adding absentee ballot voter ID requirements to limiting drop boxes, to disqualifying provisional ballots, to making it illegal to hand out water to people who are waiting in long lines to vote.
Republicans in Georgia plan to combine all these voter suppression proposals into one big voter suppression bill before the state's deadline eight days from now to pass legislation this year and want to get it on the governor's desk for him to sign right away within the next few days. What's going on in Georgia or nationally over the next eight days that might derail this speeding train? Joining us now once again is Latasha Brown. She's co-founder of Black Voters Matter Group that's been campaigning to get Georgia based companies, businesses to come out against this wave of state legislation to restrict voting rights.
Mr. Brown, thank you so much for being with us. It's nice to have you back. Thank you for. So I asked the last time that you were here if you would come back and keep us apprised because it did feel like this was going to move fast when it started moving. I'm now making good on that. And I'd like to ask you just to get us up to speed about where things are and how fast this is going. So it's moving pretty fast.
What we are very, very deeply disappointed is that it seems like the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce cut a deal with Republicans and actually met with Republicans, according to the minority Democratic leader, didn't even bother. Meet the Democratic caucus and on see the Senate vote to go to, which is devastating. That's the bill that actually cuts out funding, voting on the omnibus bill, a new omnibus bill on on on during runoffs. And some of the things that you raise, including the most egregious part of it, is that it gives the the whoever the against the Republicans, whoever's in power authority over the board of elections.
So quite frankly, if they don't like what the results are, they can actually really recall a week or council elections. But the results and so that is part of the problem that's all predicated on this big lie that Trump made. And so right now, what we're seeing is we're seeing organizations like ours, the new Georgia Project Action PAC, NAACP. There were four ministers that met on Friday. They delivered a letter to Governor Brian Kemp's office saying that this is egregious and that we want to see him veto this bill, that this bill should not ask black voters and voters in the state should not be punished because these are civil.
Right. And this last election cycle. Now, you mentioned one change there that I think is worth pausing on and going back to for a second, this idea that the Republicans in the state legislature in this new legislation that they want to pass, they would have the authority to remove local elections boards and local elections supervisors if this bill passes. I mean, if you think about what they would have done with that power after the 20 20 election, the way that President Trump and President Trump supporters and Republicans pressured to try to stop the certification of votes in individual counties to try to reverse the vote count or try to undermine those things at the local level.
This legislation they're passing would have given Republicans and the legislature the ability potentially to stop individual counties from certifying the vote. They could replace whole local elections boards and just say, no, no, no, we're putting in our own people there.
Absolutely, it would have been devastating, the outcome would have been, I believe, totally different. And so as we're going forward, it's so antidemocratic. You know, it's interesting today on today, this is one hundred and fifty five years when Andrew Johnson actually, as the president of this country, vetoed the civil rights bill that was ultimately was overridden a couple of days later. But we're still one hundred fifty five years later fighting for the basic right to vote.
This is not a partisan issue. This should be basic civil rights. Latasha Brown, the co-founder of Black Voters Matter. Thank you for your time tonight. Thank you also for keeping our focus for Keeping US Honest on this issue about what Georgia businesses are doing here, their public platitudes to the contrary, their actual actions are being closely monitored by you and other groups in the state are keeping the national media honest on this in a way that I think we couldn't be without your without your close watching.
Thank you for helping us understand. Absolutely. Thank you for having. We'll be right back. Stay with us. The Justice Department is having an oh moment involving the guy who, until a couple of days ago was in charge of the investigations into the January 6th attack on the Capitol. That is a bad thing to be being screwed up by a former Trump Justice Department official. But that's what's happening. The former US attorney in D.C. who was installed by Trump, Attorney General Bill Barr, just last year decided as he was leaving office this past week that he would go on national television and publicly speculate about what further charges prosecutors might bring against the Capitol rioters.
His name is Michael Sherwen, and he went on 60 Minutes and said that he thinks federal prosecutors will probably bring sedition charges against some of the people who are currently charged in big conspiracy cases for their actions at the Capitol. He said, quote, I believe the facts do support those charges. And he talks about what the evidence is ultimately pointing at in terms of potential future charges. You were not supposed to do that. There are very clear Justice Department rules that say prosecutors aren't supposed to make out of court statements about charged individuals in pending cases, including potential future charges or the quality or nature of the evidence, the merits of potential charges.
You don't talk about those things in the press because people don't get tried in the press. You only make comments like that in official proceedings in court, not on TV. Michael Sherwen apparently didn't know that Justice Department veterans immediately raised red flags about that interview. We then learned that Sherman apparently did this interview without permission from the Justice Department, where officials were reportedly, quote, infuriated by his interview. Now, today, we're starting to see the repercussions play out in court in cases involving Capitol rioters.
One proud boy, its leader, citing Sherwin's comments and a court filing today opposing the government's attempt to put him in jail pending trial. The judge in another conspiracy case called an emergency hearing today on six hours notice, specifically to make all the lawyers in the case discuss Sherwin's comments. The judge told the lawyers, quote, I was surprised and I'm being restrained in my use of terminology, surprised, to say the least, to see Mr. Sherwen sitting for an interview about a pending case and an ongoing criminal investigation.
These types of statements in the media have the potential of affecting the jury pool and the rights of these defendants. And the government, quite frankly, in my view, should know better. The judge said, quote, Let this hearing serve as notice on the Justice Department that I will not tolerate continued publicity in the media that I believe affects the fair trial rights of these defendants. The D.C. US attorney's office said the head of their criminal division to this hearing with the judge today, he then told the judge, quote, The Justice Department has rules and procedures that govern contact with the media and interviews.
As far as we can determine at this point, those rules and procedures were not complied with with respect to the 60 Minutes interview. Therefore, that matter has been referred to the Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility to review.
So, Michael Scheuer, when this Bill Barr appointee who was acting D.C. US attorney when the capital attack happened, and so he took control of the Capitol investigation from the from the first days, he's no longer acting US attorney in D.C., but he is still a Justice Department employee. He's still subject to internal investigation of potential discipline by the Justice Department. He's now being investigated for having given this media interview about pending cases. But whatever happens to him personally is a repercussion for this boneheaded move.
What he did can't be undone when it comes to all these ongoing criminal cases the Justice Department has to deal with. The repercussions should be noted that that judge also took the Justice Department to task for a New York Times article which cited anonymous law enforcement officials discussing the case. Justice Department officials say they've opened an investigation into that article, too, which means the Justice Department's problems with its employees talking to the media about pending capital riot cases goes beyond Michael Sherwen.
But the Michael Sherwen problem is a really bad one. Is the Justice Department going to get this problem under control so it can try these cases without more surprises? I hate to say it, but watch this space. That is going to do it for us tonight, very happy to have you with us here. I'll see you again tomorrow night.
The same time, same bat channel, The Rachel Maddow Show weeknights at nine Eastern on MSNBC.