Interview with Georgia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams. January 6th, investigators receive a treasure trove of new text messages from the Secret Service.
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: That is ALL IN on this Wednesday night.
ALEX WAGNER TONIGHT starts right now.
ALEX WAGNER, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris.
Why win a general election when you can just be a bonkers candidate carrying a shield with fake arrows sticking out of it as Don Bolduc did last night in his victory speech?
HAYES: Well, but here`s the thing -- yes, that, but also like, you know, a lot of these races are coin flips. Like your polarization gets you to about 44, 45 percent. So like who knows, you know? A break falls your way and then you`re a U.S. senator and you never had to like try to cross over and do anything.
HAYES: And that`s really -- that`s also --
WAGNER: And Don Bolduc is running only four points in the latest polling behind Maggie Hassan.
WAGNER: So, who knows? Maybe carrying a fake shield from the "300" movie with fake arrows sticking out of it is in fact good politics? Who knows?
WAGNER: It is a mad, mad world.
Thank you, Chris. Great show.
WAGNER: And thank you all for joining us this hour.
Consider what happened over the space of just three days in January of last year? Three events on three consecutive days that continue to shape our politics right up into this very moment. On January 5th of last year, in Georgia, Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock won their runoff election for the Senate which handed control of the chamber to the Democrats.
The next day, January 6th, well, we all know what happened that day. And then the day after that, on January 7th, back in Georgia, election systems in rural Coffee County were breached by a team working on Donald Trump`s behalf. This is them being let into the county elections office by a Trump supporting local official.
The team was sent there to search for evidence of election fraud and they later claimed to have made copies of every voting machine hard drive and every ballot. You`ve got to admit. It is a pretty brazen move to go breaching election systems in support of Donald Trump`s election lies literally the day after those election lies sparked a violent assault on the U.S. Capitol. But there they were in Coffee County doing just that.
Obviously, we talk a lot about January 6th, but it is worth taking a moment to consider January 5th and January 7th as well, and it`s no accident that both those events that bookended January 6, this big consequential election victory for Democrats and this possibly criminal election systems breach in support of Donald Trump`s election lies, that both of those events happened in the state of Georgia, because these days, Georgia is the center of the political universe in a lot of ways, and a microcosm of everything that`s happening in American politics.
Take that election data breach in Coffee County. That incident is now part of the sprawling investigation being conducted by Georgia`s Fulton County district attorney into election interference by Trump and his allies.
And among all the investigations currently being conducted into Donald Trump, many legal observers think the Georgia investigation may constitute his biggest legal threat. After all, the Coffee County election data breach capped him months-long push by Trump and his allies to overturn Biden`s win in Georgia, a push that included Trump`s infamous call to Georgia`s secretary of state Brad Raffensperger. You know that, that was the call in which Trump spent an hour berating and threatening Raffensperger to, quote, find enough votes for Trump to win.
Trump tried to overturn the results in lots of states, but no place got the attention and the pressure that Georgia did. So when we think about the universe of investigations of the former president and what effect those investigations might have on the country`s political future -- well, Georgia is right at the center of all of that.
Georgia is also at the center of the new wave of voter suppression legislation that has passed across Republican-controlled states since the 2020 election. Georgia was the first state to enact sweeping new restrictions in the wake of Donald Trump`s loss, just in case the subtext was lost on anyone. Republican Governor Brian Kemp signed the law surrounded as you can see right here by a bunch of white guys in front of a painting of a plantation.
The upcoming midterms are the first elections in which Georgia voters are contending with those new burdensome rules. And in those midterms, all eyes are on Georgia because it could determine which party controls the Senate again.
Raphael Warnock is defending his Senate seat against Republican Herschel Walker. Democrats have been buoyed by the fact that Reverend Warnock is such a blockbuster candidate and Herschel Walker is such a -- what is the diplomatic way to put this -- such a disaster.
A new poll today from Quinnipiac shows Warnock leading his Republican challenger by six points among likely voters, which is a close race but a decent margin for a Democrat in a state that until recently was pretty reliably red. But that same poll shows a tighter race for Georgia governor.
Sitting Republican Governor Brian Kemp is at 50 percent while Democrat Stacey Abrams is at 48 percent. The difference is within the survey`s margin of error and the pollsters describe this race as too close to call.
Meanwhile, a separate poll out today shows Stacey Abrams ahead by one point and that one`s from a Republican pollster.
So this is clearly a super close race. And it might also be the race that`s more of a bellwether for American politics, more of a reflection of where the country is at than just about any other race in the country. I mean, for one thing, this is a rematch. Stacey Abrams came within a hairs breath of defeating Brian Kemp for the governorship four years ago.
Kemp was the state top elections official at the time. And Abrams said her loss was made possible by Kemp`s voter suppression tactics in that role. B of course, since then, the Peach State has voted for a Democrat for president and has elected two Democratic U.S. senators. Was that a blip or is Georgia realigning itself politically in a more deep-seated way?
If it is realigning itself, that is in no small part thanks to Stacey Abrams herself who created the blueprint for turning Georgia blue with her groundbreaking blend of organizing and voter registration and outreach to often overlooked communities. A lot of the Democratic Party`s hopes and dreams for forging a long-term winning coalition of voters are bound up in whether Stacey Abrams can win this race and prove that her blueprint really works.
This afternoon, I sat down with Abrams to discuss the campaign and voting rights, abortion and a lot more.
WAGNER: It`s great to see you as always. I guess, you know, I just want to start with the big picture, as we sort of frame up what`s happening in this country. Georgia is so central to the American political landscape right now, so much has befallen that state by way of COVID, voter suppression efforts, the Dobbs decision.
You are out there campaigning with a very important part of the American electorate. What does it feel like on the ground?
STACEY ABRAMS (D), GEORGIA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: People are anxious but they`re also -- they have a sense of urgency that things have to change. They survived COVID. They survived racial violence. They have survived an economic downturn that they weren`t expecting, but they`ve also had to grapple with government that doesn`t seem to see them or care about their future.
And when we`re out on the ground whether it`s in Atlanta or out in southwest Georgia or northeast Georgia, I hear the same conversations. How do you get us back to safety? How do you ensure justice? How do we have economic opportunity that is real?
And that is for me the unifying theme, but it`s also the mission statement. That`s why one Georgia is what we`re working on. People want more. They just need to believe they deserve more and can have more.
WAGNER: The polls have you tightening. The polls are tightening and they have you getting closer to your opponent, Brian Kemp. There`s been some analysis, I`ll call it, about the strategy you`re pursuing, which in some ways gets to this age-old conundrum for Democrats and even Republicans, do you try and peel off voters from the center or do you try and energize the base? And a lot of the writing has compared your campaign to that of Senator Warnock.
Senator Warnock seems to be approaching moderates in particular, trying to peel off maybe some moderate Republicans and they say your campaign is focused more on turning out a new selection of voters, energizing the Democratic voters of Georgia that have in many ways reshaped the politics in the state.
Can you talk to me about that? Is that a fair assessment? How do you see the turnout operation in Georgia?
ABRAMS: One of the pieces of my approach to politics that is that seems to confound people is that I treat all voters as persuasion voters. I do not take for granted that anyone who shares my values will necessarily choose to vote. And so, where the typical political dynamic says, you`re persuading people who don`t share your political ideology all the time to come with you for once. My approach is to say, how do we share our values and how do we persuade people either to share those values or to participate in the election because those are both very important binary choices.
And we tend to overlook the vast community of people who simply choose not to vote because they don`t hear themselves in the conversation, that gets relegated to this sort of, oh, that`s base voting. It`s not based voting if you don`t participate in the elections. You`re not a base voter unless you actually vote.
And so we see those communities as persuasion voters as important as moderate Republicans, as important as independents. We go after all of them. When I talk about Medicaid expansion in Georgia, access to health care is not going to be determined based on your partisanship.
It`s going to be determined based on your income. And in Georgia, if you make less than nine dollars an hour, the current governor denies you access to health care. I will give that to you, using your own money, the money that Georgians have already paid into the system.
And so, I don`t see the tension or the conflict with the approach that Senator Warnock takes because we`re both trying to get every voter we can.
I`m in a posture though where I`m talking about state-level issues with a very large state that has very different dynamics depending on where you live. And so, my responsibility at the state level is to be as granular as possible with our policy messages. Senator Warnock has to talk about what he can deliver as a U.S. senator. He`s done an extraordinary job. But I think it is easy punditry to try to put us into conflict when there is no conflict.
Both of us want every voter we can and we want every voter to see themselves in this race as a part of how we make this decision.
WAGNER: Well, in particular in the state of Georgia when you talk about getting every vote or voters that don`t traditionally go to the polls, we`re talking about young voters, voters of color. What are you -- I mean, you talk about enfranchising these voters in a way, how do you do that in this political landscape, when so much seems so irreparably broken?
I mean what is the level of concern just about the action of voting itself which in Georgia is under threat?
ABRAMS: Georgia, unfortunately, remains ground zero for voter suppression and despite the misinformation and I would say outright disinformation delivered often by our top two leaders by the governor and by the secretary of state, the law that they passed in was not in response to any issues of voter security. It was entirely driven as the governor said by his frustration with the results. The wrong people voted in his estimation.
And so, our responsibility is one, to let those wrong people know you were right, you were right to show up and you should show up again. Now, he did not say wrong people. I`m paraphrasing his behavior or his language, but he did say he was frustrated by the results.
And if you look at who led to those results, it was largely young people, people of color, rural voters who had not participated. Those are the voters we are trying to galvanize, but we also have to guide them through the new minefields of voter suppression, the fact that under this governor, they have outsourced voter challenges. What he did as a governor purging more than 1.4 million people, now you have unlimited challenges, any person can come and challenge thousands of voters.
We know of at least 26,000 challenges that have been adjudicated and another 37,000 that are pending in Gwinnett County alone. That`s deeply problematic. We know that for senior citizens who for more than a decade knew that their absentee ballot was going to arrive like clockwork, it`s not showing up because they`ve changed the voting laws, and if you didn`t vote in the primary, you`re not going to get the ballot, unless you apply for it and it is not an easy to use application.
We know the same thing is true for the disabled community and I`ve had conversations. We know that young people are facing a harder time and so, we`re doing our best through the network of organizations that are focused on voter engagement to help people navigate the minefield. But also remind them of why it`s worth trying.
WAGNER: Are you worried? I mean, are you worried about the integrity of the midterm election in Georgia?
ABRAMS: I`m worried about access to the right to vote in Georgia because we know that there are roadblocks that were put in place intentionally designed to block access. We know that the state has underfunded once again our local elections officials but has made it illegal for them to seek outside funding to make up the difference. We know that these challenges that are coming do not come with additional money. It`s an unfunded mandate.
And so, every single blockade that`s been put up, our responsibility is to acknowledge it, to galvanize around it and to roadmap our way through it and that`s what we can do.
WAGNER: When you think about the fact that you are within -- I mean, you have a very strong shot of becoming the governor of the state of Georgia, a black woman in the top of the state house, running the state in Georgia specifically, in this moment in time. You know, one of the reasons I think we`re also transfixed by Georgia is because that special election happened on January 5th and then we all know what happened on January 6.
And it was almost a glimpse into the sort of two choices facing the country, a movement forward to a more inclusive multi-racial multivalent American society or a very violent pull backwards. And when you think about the stakes, when you think about what you all what you represent in this bid for the governorship, I mean, what is the lesson we should take away from what`s happening in Georgia right now?
ABRAMS: That Georgia is a microcosm of what is playing out across this country that what happened in Kansas is not an anomaly, that what happened in Alaska is not an aberration. But what can happen both in Georgia in January 5 and in D.C. on January 6 are also very much a part of our current politics.
The polarization that has happened is real and tenable, but it is not inevitable. And part of my responsibility as I`m campaigning is to talk about what does it look like to have a leader who actually believes in all of us being able to have access to opportunity.
I campaigned across the state. I was in north Georgia, which is largely white, largely rural, and one of the reporters asked me, well, why are you here? You know, this is a place that`s very red.
Like counties don`t vote, people do. My responsibility is to meet people where they are. My plan is a five billion dollar -- to use our five billion dollar surplus, and I`m not saying use it only for this community or only to satisfy this political end. I`m saying let`s invest in education because that lifts all of our children. Let`s invest in higher education so our young people have a pathway forward. Let`s invest in our small businesses because they`re 99 percent of the businesses and 43 percent of the jobs.
But a very small fraction of the investment that we make. Let`s invest in Medicaid expansion to save hospitals, save lives, create jobs.
For me the conversation has to be a broader one because the way we get to that binary dynamic that we saw between the fifth and the sixth is by ignoring the reality of both but ignoring more importantly the utility of what we accomplished in Georgia on the fifth, by electing Don Ossoff and electing Raphael Warnock, by engaging people who were told they would never participate in a special election run up for the U.S. Senate.
We demonstrated that there are voices that have long been ignored that can have volume and have effect. And my campaign, my mission is to make certain that those voices don`t get heard every two or four years and then dissipate, but there`s a constancy of volume, a constancy of engagement. And as someone who has lived many of the lives that I`m trying to help folks with, I want them to know that I`m going to be there every step of the way and that we can do it without raising taxes.
Stacey Abrams, Democratic candidate for the governor of Georgia, the Peach State, thank you for everything. Thank you for coming on.
ABRAMS: Alex, thanks for having me. I appreciate it.
WAGNER: Great to see you.
WAGNER: Just ahead, in one final part of that interview with Stacey Abrams, we discussed how her personal stance on abortion rights has evolved over her career and how she hopes others making that same journey will make their voices heard in November.
And the January 6 Committee gets its hands on thousands, thousands of new texts from Secret Service agents, including ones from that fateful day. That is next.
WAGNER: I spoke earlier with Georgia`s Democratic nominee for governor, Stacey Abrams, about how Georgia voters can actually be motivated by attempts to limit their voting rights. We also discussed how the same can be true this summer`s Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade.
As part of that discussion, Abrams talked about how her own thinking has evolved over time on the issue of reproductive choice.
WAGNER: Well. Surely, telling people they can`t vote is one way to galvanize them, right? The other is to hand down a Supreme Court decision that seems wholly at odds with where the public is at and I`m talking of course about the Dobbs decision.
WAGNER: We -- NARAL has information out this month, more than 60 percent of mail-in balance in the state of Georgia, more than 60 percent of those requests are from women. Requests from Black women roughly equal the requests of White men, which is not traditionally how it goes in a midterm election.
WAGNER: I mean, what -- let`s talk about abortion for a minute. There was actually a really interesting "New York Times" profile about you on the subject of abortion. You did not start out your life as a pro-choice person --
WAGNER: -- if you will. I mean, I`m not telling you something you don`t -- you know, you know this. But for those who don`t, I think that evolution is really unique in the Democratic Party at this stage, and I would love for you to explain a little bit about how you -- you came to the position that you now hold which is a proponent of choice.
ABRAMS: I grew up in the Deep South in Mississippi. My parents became ministers when I was in high school, but I come from a very religious family. And there was never an ostensible conversation about where we should stand, but it was endemic to the communities I was a part of that abortion was wrong.
It was when I went to college when I started meeting people who had my same faith tradition, but had a different perspective that I really started challenging my own beliefs. And it didn`t happen overnight, but it helped me reconsider conversations I had as a teenager with a friend who was grappling with the desire and the need to have an abortion. She came to me seeking guidance but I didn`t really understand what she needed for me.
And in retrospect, I`m deeply saddened that I wasn`t there for her. But what I know and what I learned over time was that, even if my personal belief system said that I would not make that choice, my responsibility both as a citizen when I`m voting and as a legislator when I`m making decisions is that that choice belongs to a woman. It is a medical decision. It is the only medical decision that politics has decided that it should interfere with. And that to me is untenable.
And so, when I was getting ready to stand for office, I`d already shifted to being pro-choice but I made myself write an essay to myself about my posture because I`m deeply nerdy in that way.
And in my essays --
WAGNER: You`re telling yourself this person is pro-choice.
ABRAMS: Well, I was saying how would you think about -- and it wasn`t just about abortion. It was a range of issues. How would you make decisions?
So you would -- when you`re running for office, you get these different applications and the endorsement requests.
And before I filled them out, I said, let`s think through where you stand on issues, and abortion was top of mind for me. And when I got to the end of my essay to myself, I was very strongly pro-choice. It is wrong for the state to impose its political values on a woman`s reproductive choice.
WAGNER: It seems really critically important that you are having that conversation with yourself, but also with voters, right? When you talk about rural voters, voters of color, you`re looking at abortion as kind of this Black and White issue that doesn`t involve any evolution, as you have had. I think can be alienating to some voters.
Do you see that when you`re on the trail? Do you feel like telling your own personal story is useful when you`re talking to voters who are themselves coming to and are having an evolution on abortion?
ABRAMS: Absolutely because so often, it`s treated as a binary. Either you`re right or you`re wrong.
What I want people to understand is you can have your personal beliefs but you can still vote for people who can create opportunities for others to have their beliefs, that the notion of freedom and liberty a civil liberty is about the state not interfering with that decision.
And I think because of my background, because of my empathy for those who are making that journey right now, I want them to know that I`m not castigating them for where they are. I`m here to say it`s okay for you to have these conversations. It`s okay to have these questions. It`s okay to vote in a way that says that you may not have settled where you are but you know it`s wrong to tell others that where they are is not appropriate.
WAGNER: With primary season now complete, Democrats are trying to figure out what will inspire all eligible voters to head to the polls this November. John Favreau, former speechwriter for President Obama, joins me to discuss what he has learned while talking to voters across this country. Hint: it is not what you expect or think.
MODERATOR: Do you believe, first question, that we can conclusively determine who won the presidential election?
KAROLINE LEAVITT, NH GOP CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: I am the only candidate in this race to say that Joe Biden legitimately did not win 81 million votes in the election. That`s preposterous.
WAGNER: That was Karoline Leavitt. Last night, she won the Republican primary for New Hampshire`s first congressional district.
At 25 years old, Leavitt is only the second member of Gen Z to ever win a House primary and she is the first Republican member of that generation to do so. In addition to believing that the 2020 election was stolen, she wants stricter abortion laws. She wants to privatize Social Security. She wants to kill Obamacare and she believes that climate change is a manufactured crisis by the Democrat party to frighten the American people into socialism.
Karoline Leavitt`s race this November is considered a toss-up. So she very well may be headed to Washington come December.
In the New Hampshire Republican Senate primary last night, General Don Bolduc came out ahead. Not only does General Bolduc think the election was stolen, not only has he expressed support for the January 6 rioters, but when he was asked late last year if he as a general thinks there is any role for the military to play if another election as he sees it is stolen, General Bolduc replied, I think there`s always a role for the military to play if there is a threat to the existence of our government and our Constitution and the oath that we take? Absolutely.
WAGNER: General Bolduc will run against Democrat Maggie Hassan for that Senate seat in November. Hassan won her last general election by only about a thousand votes. So even though the most recent polls this summer had her about four points ahead of the general, that race may be a little too close for comfort.
Now, we could spend all night reading the tea leaves about what those primaries mean for November and for the state of the country. But here`s the thing, a total of people voted in last night`s Democratic Senate primary in New Hampshire. Maggie Hassan was a shoe-in so to some degree that makes sense.
But in the heated Republican primary when you had a fringe candidate like Bolduc running against the establishment candidate, the president of the state Senate, a guy named Chuck Morse, even in a hotly contested matchup like that only 140,000 people voted. New Hampshire is a small state, but still, when you compare those numbers to what we should expect in the general election, it paints a clear picture.
In 2020, 800,000 people voted in the general election. In the last midterm, back in 2018, nearly 600,000 people did. So as much as we can analyze those 230,000 people who collectively voted in New Hampshire primaries last night, is that really a good predictor of anything? After all, those are the people who really pay attention to politics the kind of people who vote in primaries.
And November is likely going to come down to some 400,000 to 600,000 people who did not vote last night, but might vote in November. The people who don`t follow politics all that closely, who don`t vote in primaries and if we`re being honest probably don`t watch a lot of cable news. And that is basically former Obama speechwriter Jon Favreau`s theory of the case nationwide.
We know how the people who watched every night of the January 6 hearings are likely to vote. We know how the people who think the 2020 election was stolen are likely to vote.
What we don`t know is how the people who haven`t really been paying attention to all of this will vote or if they`ll even show up to vote at all. So, John is setting off across the country, running focus groups like this one to find out.
JON FAVREAU, OBAMA SPEECHWRITER: How many of you plan on voting in the midterm elections this November?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What is that?
FAVREAU: Who is your member of Congress and do you think they`re doing a good job?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don`t know anyone in Congress now.
FAVREAU: That`s totally fine. Does anybody -- does anyone know who their member of Congress is?
FAVREAU: Okay. That`s okay.
WAGNER: Joining us now is Jon Favreau, former speechwriter for President Obama. He, of course, co-host the podcast "Pod Save America", and is also the host of "The Wilderness", a podcast about the history and future of the Democratic Party.
Jon, thank you for being with us tonight and congratulations on running such a successful focus group I think.
FAVREAU: That was fun to listen to, huh? People are really excited about the midterms.
WAGNER: Yes, fun and shocking. I mean, we have been told -- I mean, we have been led to believe, we, in the press and the American public, that the mythic swing voter is some white dude in a diner in the Midwest. And I feel like your work tears that myth apart.
What have you found out in your travels across this great country, about who swing voters actually are?
FAVREAU: Yeah. So that`s one of the reasons that I did this series is because, you know, the 81 million people that showed up to vote against Donald Trump in 2020, a very small percentage of them as you mentioned actually follow the news closely. Most people who actually vote don`t have a pre-formed political opinion, they`re not super ideological, they`re not super partisan, they just show up on election day, and they pick between two candidates.
So I wanted to talk to some of these people, and I talked to Black voters in Atlanta, I talked to working class Latino voters in Las Vegas, I talked to disengaged Democrats in Pittsburgh. That group was young voters in Orange County. Katie Porter is actually their member of Congress. And they all voted for Joe Biden in 2020, but they`re not sure what they`re going to do in 2022.
And when you talk to these voters, what really comes through is the issues that they care about the issues, they talk about the most are trying to make their rent, trying to own a home, the cost of gas, the cost of food, they all talked about abortion. That came up a lot after because all these focus groups were in the wake of the Dobbs decision. Some of these voters talked about gun violence.
So they talk about a whole series of issues but issues that really affect their lives. And I ask all these groups. You know, what issues does the media cover too much and politic and politicians talk about too much and what issues do they not talk about enough.
And almost every group said, January 6th, elections, politics, that all gets talked about way too much by politicians in the media and no one`s talking enough about housing, rent, food costs. So they feel disconnected from politics because they don`t think politicians are speaking about the issues that matter most to them.
WAGNER: I mean, listen, I`m guilty of talking a lot about January 6, but not so much because it`s necessarily a sensational story but because none of it matters if we have a democracy that doesn`t fundamentally function, right? You can`t do anything about economic policy or student debt or the climate if you don`t have a representative democracy.
Are they engaged on -- are they are they aware of the existential threats to democracy? I mean, is that something that even comes across the radar or really does it have to be so literally personal that otherwise it doesn`t make it dent?
FAVREAU: So their views of democracy and politics are that politics isn`t working. Now, when I ask for views about the Republican Party, they do think that the Republicans are pretty extreme, but they don`t necessarily see the existential threat to democracy because they`re not listening to my podcast. They`re not watching cable, right?
And so, I do think if Democrats want people to join in the project of saving democracy, they have to prove to people that democracy is worth saving. And to do that, you have to show that democracy can actually deliver in ways that tangibly improve people`s lives. And I think that`s where the disconnect is and so, like, you know, I tweeted about these focus groups and everyone gets very frustrated. They`re like, forget these voters. Let`s focus on registering new voters.
Well, you had just had Stacey Abrams on, the work of registering new voters is talking to people just like this, people who don`t pay much attention to politics, happen to be more moderate, they`re younger, they`re more likely to be people of color, and you really have to engage in very difficult conversations to persuade people why they should get out of their house in November and actually go vote.
WAGNER: You mentioned Dobbs. I mean -- and we couldn`t play all of that focus group riveting though it was. That is kind of like a seismic shift as well at least from this vantage point in terms of how the Democrats fortunes in November. It`s something these voters who really did not seem particularly concerned with other aspects of our democracy were definitely viscerally concerned about.
Did you feel like this is going to be a catalytic event for young voters or -- I mean, is this going to drive them to the polls? And I know I`m asking you a very big question for a limited sample size. But what was the feeling that you had when you talked to these guys about Dobbs?
FAVREAU: Well, I will just say that I did the first focus group right when the decision leaked and then I did the last focus group at the end of August. But every single focus group without me prompting them, people brought up abortion. And it was interesting in Virginia, the focus group was people who voted for Joe Biden and then voted for Republican Glenn Youngkin, and the Virginia gubernatorial elections and there were a couple undecided voters, we went back to them after Dobbs was decided. And one woman who was undecided said that absolutely pushed me to the Democrats.
So that was just one sample, but there was outrage about Dobbs from all of these voters. But as you saw, the challenges, even these young voters who had heard about Dobbs and were pretty outraged by it didn`t even know for sure when the midterms were, how to get their ballot, who their member of Congress was. So, that`s the challenge and actually educating people about what they need to do to go vote.
WAGNER: Jon Favreau, former Obama speechwriter, focused group commander, season 3 of his podcast "The Wilderness" is out now, get it wherever you get your podcast. Thank you as always, Jon. Great to see you.
WAGNER: Still ahead, January 6th, investigators receive a treasure trove of new text messages from the Secret Service. Andrew Weissmann, former FBI general counsel, and former member of special counsel Robert Mueller`s investigation joins me.
WAGNER: In two weeks, the January 6 committee is expected to resume its blockbuster public hearings. And today, we are getting a sneak peek at what new firepower the committee might bring to the table the end of the month.
Today, Chairman Bennie Thompson and Committee Member Zoe Lofgren revealed that the panel has gotten a holds of thousands of exhibits from the Secret Service, including text messages from January 5th and 6th. Yes, those messages, the ones we all thought were infamously and irrevocably lost.
In mid-July, the watchdog for the Department of Homeland Security, which the Secret Service is a part of, it told Congress that a bunch of messages that Secret Service agents sent on and before January 2021, that those messages had been erased. They had vanished in a three-month system migration.
The Secret Service said the messages were not deleted maliciously and the system migration was planned well before the DHS watchdog told them to preserve the data, big if true as they say.
But now, there is a criminal investigation into how those messages got erased. And it is worth noting that "The Washington Post" previously reported that staff at the DHS watchdog`s office had planned to use a forensic data specialist to retrieve the lost messages, but the agency`s top watchdog, General Joseph Cuffari shut that down. If you missed that part of the story, here it is again.
This past February, when a senior forensic analyst took steps to gather staffers phones to begin that recovery process, Cuffari`s office told investigators to stop what they were doing. We don`t know why, but apparently, they did. And we all thought those text messages from January 6, ones that could offer some pretty important insight into what was happening with the president and the vice president as the capital was being stormed -- well, we thought that those text messages were just lost forever, gone. But now, the January 6 committee apparently has the messages and then some.
Here is Zoe Lofgren explaining today the magnitude of this new haul.
REP. ZOE LOFGREN (D-CA): There`s text, there`s emails, there`s radio track. There`s all kinds of information, teams meetings. So we`re going through everything that`s been provided. More is coming in.
As I say, some of it is not relevant and some of it is, and it`s -- it`s a -- it`s a huge slog to go through it, but we are going to go through it and the members of the committee themselves have been involved in this and we hope to have that completed, you know, soon.
NICOLLE WALLACE, MSNBC HOST: And it is nothing that has come in that you`re aware of so far is in conflict with any of the public testimony presented by the committee to date?
LOFGREN: Let me say I have some concerns about documents and then comparing to some of the testimony that we`ve received and we hope to resolve any discrepancies in a way that would make sense, and we`ll have to do that as we proceed in an orderly way.
WAGNER: Discrepancies in testimony. What could that be? And who does it implicate?
I know just who to ask.
Joining us now is Andrew Weissmann, former FBI general counsel, former senior member of the Mueller probe and current professor at NYU Law.
Andrew, thanks as always for being here tonight.
ANDREW WEISSMANN, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: Nice to be here.
WAGNER: So this sounds like a lot of new information that this committee has. And again, it`s not just text messages, it`s radio traffic, it`s -- I think she said teams meetings. Do you have any supposition about where this material may have originated from or how it`s being procured at this stage in time?
WEISSMANN: Yeah, I do. You know, it used to be when I started out as a prosecutor, if you obstructed justice and you destroyed paper copies, that was it.
It was -- it was gone.
But now with laptops and this device, the computer and iPhones, it`s really hard to get rid of something. So even though there may have been routine destruction or even worse, somebody may have intentionally tried to get rid of something, there are all sorts of backup systems. There`s a cloud system.
If you sent that message to somebody else, you can find it on their system that may not have been erased. So there are all sorts of ways that the Secret Service could have tried to recreate what it is that happened on January 6, January 5, January 7th -- the response to the subpoena they got calling for all of these documents.
WAGNER: This would seem to be really quite valuable correspondence, right? I mean, these are some of the biggest questions we have about what happened on January 6. What was Trump doing as the riot unfolded, the phone logs from the White House are missing. What kind of danger was Pence in? What kind of role did the Secret Service play in getting him off the property and maybe taking him to a secure location? Was that their intention?
You know, what kind of correspondence was there between the White House, the president and the Secret Service? Was Trump actually reaching over the back seat of his vehicle to try and stay or be taken to the Capitol as Cassidy Hutchinson testified?
I mean, these are kind of key moments from January 6 that in theory could be revealed by this tranche of new evidence that we have. What are -- what are the sort of most pressing questions you have in terms of this new information that the committee now has access to?
WEISSMANN: So I mean, I think you laid out a lot of them, but the key is that all of that, you could get testimony for. But you have to then make a credibility judgment if you have a conflict as to what people remember, what people are saying. So you definitely can still get witnesses. The reason prosecutors love emails and text messages and calendar invites and these sort of messenger shots is because it`s contemporaneously recording what people were seeing and doing at the time.
And I think the key thing for the prosecutors and I assume for the January 6 committee as well is going to be anything that directly ties to what the former president was doing and what he was saying.
So as you mentioned, did he -- intend to and did he really want to go up to the Capitol and participate in the insurrection, not just incite it, but actually be there on site. What was his reaction? What was he saying with respect to Mike Pence and his role?
I think anything that relates directly to the former president is going to be really key for prosecutors and for the January 6th committee.
WAGNER: Congressman Lofgren suggests that there might be some discrepancies between documents and testimony. Do you have any sense? I mean, do you have open questions? Does that sort of ring any alarm bells in your mind? Do you have anything in mind when you hear her say something like that?
WEISSMANN: You know, it doesn`t because, you know, as a prosecutor, there are times that you make a judgment that, oh, those are natural differences of different people may remember things differently or sometimes you see a document and it refreshes your recollection. You don`t think that person`s lying.
It really depends on what the discrepancy is because there are other times where it`s very black and white and you think to yourself how is it possible for someone to have forgotten that. So, for instance, you know, just to take an example on one side of the equation, you know, what Cassidy Hutchinson said is, you know, really not borne out by contemporaneous records that Secret Service has it means that when she was told this was what was happening, whoever told her that did not accurately recount what happened.
Conversely, if the Secret Service has been representing that something didn`t happen but they are on contemporaneous documentation and of course that`s I think a lot of people`s suspicion when they heard that certain people`s records were had disappeared, then of course your eyebrows go up and your antenna goes up. So, you know, it really is going to depend on what the facts are.
WAGNER: Andrew Weissmann, former FBI general counsel, former senior member of the Mueller probe and current professor of NYU Law, thanks as always for your expertise tonight, Andrew.
WAGNER: We have one more story to get to tonight. One that could have major repercussions all across this country.
WAGNER: Heads up, the country is on the verge of a huge railroad strike. The economic and political state could not be higher. As soon as this Friday, 115,000 rail workers could walk off the job to demand better working conditions over six days and regular time off from long shifts. If workers do go forward with the strike, it would have massive implications for American supply chains, creating new shortages just as the nation begins to recover from the biggest supply chain disruption in history.
Which is also why the strike is a big political problem. Organized labor is a key part of President Biden`s Democratic coalitions, support the Democrats will need heading into this year`s midterms. At the same time, a major supply chain disruption causing significant travel headaches and massive inflation would be a boon to Republicans.
So, the problem is complicated, which is why Democrats in Congress have been reluctant to get involved. Republicans meanwhile don`t face the same political realities. They are not crowing about being pro-labor basically ever. And so, they introduced legislation to force the rail workers back to work and, by the way, put pressure on the Democrats.
The White House says it`s developed contingency plans to get goods to markets via trucks and air freight, but that could prove to be a colossal challenge, given that rails carries 30 percent of the nation`s freight and other transportation systems are maxed out right now.
This has a potential to upend literally everything we thought we knew about the political landscape heading into this year`s election. And the White House has 48 hours to figure out. Time is ticking.
That does it for us. We will see you again tomorrow.
Now, it is time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL".