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Transcript: The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, 1/22/2021

Guest: Katie Benner, Michael Moore, David Cicilline, Ritchie Torres

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Programming note for you. Monday night I`m going to be sitting down with the new Senate Majority Leader, Chuck Schumer, at the U.S. Capitol. This will be his first national interview since he has become the leader of the United States Senate.

Monday night, right here at 9:00 p.m. eastern. I will see you then. Now it is time for "The Last Word" with Lawrence O`Donnell. Good evening, Lawrence.

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel. Best interview of Anthony Fauci yet. It was -- I learned more with him tonight with you than I have in any interview he`s done, including the interview he did with me which was while Donald Trump was still president.

And to have the liberated Anthony Fauci finally being allowed to speak with Rachel Maddow was just riveting television. Thank you very much for that. I felt sorry for you at the same time because I knew this massive story was breaking from "The New York Times" and you were going to have to deal with it --

MADDOW: Yes.

O`DONNELL: -- in your hour, and somehow read it while you were talking to Dr. Fauci. I don`t know how you did that, but the magic of how you do it will be your secret. But it is a stunning story, Rachel. We have Katie Benner, "The New York Times" reporter who has delivered --

MADDOW: Oh, good.

O`DONNELL: Yes. So we`re going to be able to be ask things like, what was in that letter? You know, (inaudible) every paragraph in this story has things you want to expand on, and so, she`s going to join us. She will be our first guest.

Andrew Weissmann is going to join us. He says what he is reading here is election fraud. So, Andrew Weissmann believes this is an additional description of criminal activity by the president. This is -- this thing, it`s impossible, I think, at this stage to exaggerate the importance of this story.

MADDOW: Yes. And, you know, Lawrence, it puts a spotlight on something that had sort of stuck out for me when the House brought its article of impeachment against the president because it was a very straightforward thing, incitement of insurrection, and they talked about how the president egged the crowd on and pointed them at the capitol and told them to go.

But they also referenced the president`s pressure on Georgia state officials that they needed to recalculate the results there, that they needed to undo the election result there. They put that in there as part of what the president is being impeached for.

And this article by Katie Benner tonight is more to that point of how the president tried to use the powers of his office to upend the election result to keep himself in power. That is already spoken to in the impeachment article.

And thank god it is, because now that is going to the United States Senate. That`s what senators are going to have to decide whether or not to convict the president on, and here is this whole new raft of evidence about how he tried to do it.

O`DONNELL: Rachel, two important words I just heard in your discussion with David Laufman about this former Justice Department official. He said he couldn`t figure out what the strategy was. When you were introducing the story, you used the word "insane" more than once because as you stare as it, you are staring at what appears to be insanity because if it succeeds, Joe Biden still wins the Electoral College.

I mean if you somehow magically erase Georgia`s Electoral College votes, which was their ambition, Joe Biden still wins.

MADDOW: I mean I think that the idea must have and given that they were willing to use mob force against the U.S. Capitol as part of their plan and that they were doing different things in different states, right. Remember bringing Michigan Republican state legislatures to the White House to go lean on them individually?

I think they thought that if they were able to use force and legal pressure, all of these other things they were trying to get one state to reverse its result at the president`s insistence that it would set off a domino effect where other Republican-controlled states would then get permission to do it, and it would start other states doing what the president wanted. It would start the coup.

And so they were pressing all the different ways they could. They thought Georgia was their best bet. This was their effort to do it, and I think that`s how they thought they would ultimately seize power and negate the election. It is just absolutely stunning that this is not a "B" movie. That this is actually what we just lived through.

O`DONNELL: What Katie Benner delivered, I`m telling Hollywood right now, if you just get the rights to this article, you have got a flawless two-hour movie right there of the final days of Donald Trump.

MADDOW: I`m going to call my -- I`m calling my agent.

O`DONNELL: Option that. Thank you, Rachel, very much. Really appreciate it.

MADDOW: Thank you lots. Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Thank you. Well, the likelihood of Donald J. Trump becoming a criminal defendant this year just skyrocketed tonight with a breaking news report in "The New York Times" that contains strong evidence of criminal solicitation to commit election fraud, which Donald Trump is already reportedly being investigated for by the Fulton County district attorney, Fani Willis, in Georgia.

Katie Benner has released the most dramatic reporting yet on the final days of the Trump presidency with a story that reads like a movie with a seemingly insane president conspiring with a seemingly insane Justice Department lawyer to try to overturn the results of the election in Georgia, which would have been both criminal and utterly insane because, as I just said, if the plot had succeeded, which it never could have, Donald Trump still would have been the loser in the Electoral College vote.

As you consider the madness of the scheme, Katie Benner will describe for you when she joins us. Keep in mind throughout that there was no version of this scheme that would have stopped the inauguration of Joe Biden this week. It is the story of a madman in the White House, in the death throes of his presidency.

In this story we can see reasons why Attorney General William Barr resigned in December because he probably knew what Donald Trump was going to demand from the Justice Department or was already demanding from William Barr.

We also see why the U.S. Attorney in Georgia suddenly and mysteriously resigned his office. There are heroes in this story who all threatened to resign from the Justice Department if Donald Trump fired the acting attorney general, Jeffrey Rosen, for refusing to go along with this scheme.

It would have been a Sunday night massacre at the Justice Department in which Donald Trump would have once again outdone Richard Nixon, outdone Richard Nixon`s famous Saturday night massacre at the Justice Department, which was not enough to save Richard Nixon from drowning in his own criminality.

Here is how Katie Benner`s report in "The New York Times" begins. The Justice Department`s top leaders listened in stunned silence this month. One of their peers, they were told, had devised a plan with President Donald J. Trump to oust Jeffrey a. Rosen as acting attorney general and wield the department`s power to force Georgia state lawmakers to overturn its presidential election results.

The unassuming lawyer who worked on the plan, Jeffrey Clark, had been devising ways to cast doubt on the election results and to bolster Mr. Trump`s continuing legal battle and the pressure on Georgia politicians. Because Mr. Rosen had refused the president`s entreaties to carry out those plans, Mr. Trump was about to decide whether to fire Mr. Rosen and replace him with Mr. Clark.

The department officials convened on a conference call then asked each other, what will you do if Mr. Rosen is dismissed? The answer was unanimous. They would resign. For hours, they anxiously messaged and called one another as they awaited Mr. Rosen`s fate. And from there, the story only gets more dramatic.

Leading off our discussion tonight is Katie Benner, Justice Department reporter for "The New York Times". Thank you very much for joining us tonight with this important article. I have read nothing like it.

We have all read everything that has been reported from inside the Trump presidency these final days, especially with the Justice Department activity, is beyond anything we`ve read before. Tell us how this began. When was this plot first discovered within the Justice Department?

KATIE BENNER, JUSTICE DEPARTMENT REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: So, the pressure on the acting attorney general, Jeff Rosen, began literally the day after William P. Barr said that he was going to step down. He still had another week to go as attorney general, but Trump immediately he called Jeffrey Rosen and said I need you to come to the White House to talk to you about election fraud.

So from the second the public knew that Rosen would take over, the pressure on Rosen begins, and he and his deputy are fighting off these demands from the president to open special counsel investigations, to file litigation on behalf of his own legal team, his campaign legal team.

And while they are doing that, what they do not know is that one of their own colleagues, a top official in the Justice Department, Jeff Clark, who runs one of the biggest parts of the department, the civil division, has quietly been communicating with Mr. Trump.

He was introduced by a Pennsylvania politician, and basically communicated to the president that he actually truly believes these unfounded theories that the election was stolen. So, as the acting attorney general is trying to defend the department from Trump, he has no idea that within his own department, he is facing another growing threat. And that is sort of comes to the fore through December.

O`DONNELL: One of the questions I have about the reporting in your article, there`s a line in here that says Mr. Clark had been introduced to Mr. Trump by a Pennsylvania politician. Do we know who that Pennsylvania politician was and how that introduction happened?

BENNER: I don`t know how the introduction happened. I do believe that I know who the person is, but because I wasn`t able to contact the person in time to get comment for the story, I felt like it would be unfair to include the name.

O`DONNELL: And to just to clarify for the audience, Mr. Clark`s function in the Justice Department had absolutely nothing to do with any kind of criminal investigation anywhere in America. He was in the civil division. And so when you are talking about investigations of this sort and he`s going to the attorney general saying, we should either do one or say we`re doing one, apparently, Katie, clarify this for me.

In your reporting, there are indications that he wanted an investigation, but there also comes a time when it seems like he wants the Justice Department to just say that there`s been an investigation.

BENNER: Yes, and the reporting shows that he really believed that there had been massive amounts of voter fraud. It was one of the things that puzzled his colleagues and puzzled, you know, acting attorney general Rosen. He told them that he had read things on the internet that they hadn`t read that had convinced him of this.

And each time he asked them to do something, whether let`s make a public statement saying that the Justice Department was investigating massive amount of fraud, whether it was sending this letter to Georgia lawmakers, they would say, we have already gone over this. This is not true. This did not happen.

And, you know, there was a very serious meeting that happened on New Year`s Eve where the acting attorney general Rosen, his deputy spoke with Mr. Clark and said, you really need to stop this. And instead, what he did is he went to the president and spoke with him directly that weekend and said I have a plan.

O`DONNELL: And the plan he then announced to Jeffrey Rosen. Te plan was, if you don`t go along with this, you are going to be fired or removed. I`m going to replace you. And he then says to him in one of the stunning pieces of dialogue when this movie is made, you can be my deputy if you want to after we knock you out of this job.

BENNER: Yes. I think that really left Jeff Rosen speechless. There isn`t really much to say to that. It`s pretty shocking. But I do want to point out he first approached the acting attorney general and said, I would like to send this letter with your signature. There were signature lines for Jeffrey Rosen and for deputy attorney general Donahue, Richard Donahue -- that they would have signed it and sent it.

The original plan wasn`t to get rid of Jeff Rosen, it`s just that once Rosen made clear he wasn`t going to do it and Jeff Clark spoke to the president about it, he came away from that meeting believing that the president intended to make him the new attorney general.

O`DONNELL: And what did that letter say?

BENNER: You know, the letter essentially said, "Dear Georgia state legislators," you know, because the Justice Department is investigating massive amounts of voter fraud, keep in mind that the Justice Department has now said many times to the president and to the public that they have never seen evidence of any voter fraud.

But in the letter it says, because we are investigating massive amounts of voter fraud, we really believe that you should take this into consideration, you know, in particular, take this in consideration when you look at the results of the election in your state. It`s probably not valid.

O`DONNELL: So there wasn`t anything in the letter. There wasn`t anything legally that the Justice Department could do to force Georgia to do anything. They had absolutely no power whatsoever. This was just a letter saying, please do this.

BENNER: Right. You know, this is what we would highly recommend based on an investigation that didn`t exist. Also keep in mind that, you know, there was no information in the letter that showed that anyone from the intelligence community or the FBI had ever found evidence of this either.

You know, there was no evidence that Mr. Clark was working on information from reliable sources. It really just seemed to be, you know, the things he had picked up, whether on the internet or through conversations with people that, you know, he believed that the election had been stolen.

O`DONNELL: Katie Benner, thank you very much for joining us tonight. This is a very important report. It is so important for us to be able to hear from you some of the details of how you developed this story. We really appreciate it. Thank you very much.

BENNER: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Thank you. Joining our discussion now, Michael J. Moore. He is a former U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Georgia. Also with us, Andrew Weissmann, former FBI general counsel and former senior member of Robert Mueller`s special counsel that investigated the Russia interference in the 2016 election. He is an MSNBC legal analyst. Andrew Weissmann, what do you see in this report from Katie Benner?

ANDREW WEISSMAN, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: Three things. First, the law. Second, the facts. And third, remaining investigations. So on the law, I`m going to read to you what the Department of Justice defines election fraud to be.

Election fraud is conduct intended to corrupt the process by which ballots are tabulated or election results are certified. So, look at the reporting from Katie today and put it in context. You have the president pressuring the Georgia secretary of state. You now have evidence that the president pressured people of the Department of Justice to pressure Georgia and to open up a fake investigation.

You have pressure on the vice president not to certify the results. You have the inciting of a rebellion on January 6th. And then put this in context, Lawrence, of you were saying it sounds like the president just wants an open investigation. Well, that certainly sounds like exactly what we heard about a year ago in the first impeachment of the president in his so-called perfect Ukraine call, which was election interference because it was to have a fake investigation into Joe Biden.

So, that is all a series of facts that help prove election fraud. And the investigation piece is, it`s really important now for people to look at other sources of evidence, to talk to Barr, to assistant attorney general Rabbitt, who also resigned, the attorney general in Georgia and other states.

You really want to find out who else was pressured by this president, not that you need more evidence, but I think at this point it is pretty clear that more evidence is going to come out.

O`DONNELL: Michael Moore, you were here when we had that very, very surprising and sudden, mysterious resignation by U.S. Attorney in Georgia. You didn`t believe on its face that it was just -- needed to spend more time with the family.

It turns out this reporting proves you right about that. I re-read Georgia`s statute tonight on voter fraud and solicitation of voter fraud. It seems to me like the Georgia statute is violated in the evidence we`re reading in "The New York Times".

MICHAEL MOORE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY, MIDDLE DISTRICT, GEORGIA: Yes. I don`t think there`s any doubt that there`s a problem with the violation of the Georgia statute. I mean, it`s pretty clear here that there`s been an effort to solicit somebody to commit voter fraud.

I think it also puts the meat on the bones of why the U.S. Attorney in Atlanta resigned. And I felt like all along that he was likely asked to do something that he didn`t think was appropriate, and that`s what it looks to be now.

And I am not, you know, the administration is gone. We are dealing with actings now, but you know, this is sort of the classic example. While the last bird may be gone, you just can`t get the stink out of the chicken house. And that`s really what`s going on here as we`re sort of seeing the remnants of the Trump administration, the efforts that he has used in the Department of Justice to act as his own personal attorney.

I think it`s pretty clear that you had a rogue DOJ official who took it on himself to try to counsel the president as an individual as opposed to the institution, try to counsel the campaign essentially on what to file. This was not an effort to come in and investigate a case. It was to use a statement which has a huge impact.

If you use a statement from the Department of Justice that there`s an investigation, that there`s an inquiry, that there`s a concern, that has a ripple effect that goes on and it would have buttressed I think the arguments that you were hearing from sort of the lunatic fringe of some of the Georgia delegation about, you know, whether or not the votes should be certified. And so it strikes me as fairly clear that the U.S. attorney was just not going to play ball with the president on this.

O`DONNELL: Andrew Weissmann, you just said that not that more evidence is needed. Are you saying that what you see in this evidence so far, unless something comes up to contradict it, represents material for a federal criminal indictment of Donald Trump?

WEISSMANN: Both federal and state. And as far as we know, there now is no pardon that the president tried to issue to himself. And so one of the many, many issues confronting the attorney general nominee, Merrick Garland, is what to do here.

As you know, my view is if we are going to be a nation of laws, it means that the president has to be held to that just as much as an average citizen. In fact, what he did here is far worse because it undermines a valid Democratic election.

And there is just so much proof and there are so many leads for additional proof, and you no longer have the president in power, sort of keeping a muzzle on people. And, yes, you can see from Katie`s terrific story, people are now willing to talk. So, I suspect we are going to hear more.

O`DONNELL: Andrew Weissmann and Michael J. Moore, thank you both for joining us on this breaking news story. Really appreciate it.

MOORE: Great to be with you. Thank you.

WEISSMANN: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: After this break, we will be joined later in the hour by one of the impeachment managers, one of the House impeachment managers. We will ask Congressman Cicilline how this will affect the impeachment trial. We will also take a look at what this means to the politics of the impeachment trial going forward with Eugene Robinson and Renee Graham.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: The House prosecutors of Donald Trump in his Senate impeachment trial now have more homework to do with the evidence revealed in the breaking news report in "The New York Times" tonight about Donald Trump trying to use the Justice Department to pressure Georgia into reversing its election result.

Our next guest just got an extension of two weeks for his preparation for the most important work of his life. That work will secure him a place in American history. Congressman David Cicilline from Rhode Island is a House Manager in the impeachment case against Donald Trump and he will begin presenting the prosecution`s case on the floor with the United States senate on the week of February 8th.

The first day of the trial is likely to be Tuesday, February 9th. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced today that he reached an agreement with Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on when to proceed to a Senate trial after the House of Representatives delivers the articles of impeachment to the Senate, which Speaker Pelosi said today would actually happen on Monday.

So, the impeachment schedule is the article of impeachment arrives in the senate on Monday of next week. The day after that, on Tuesday, 100 senators raise their right hand and take the oath as jurors in the Senate trial.

The Senate trial will then in effect be recessed for two more weeks, allowing the lawyers on both sides, to refine their constitutional arguments and evidentiary arguments and study this "New York Times" reporting.

Joining us now, one of the nine House Managers Who just got that two-week extension and whose homework just got even thicker than it was before tonight. Democratic Congressman David Cicilline representing Rhode Island`s first district. He is also co-author of the article of impeachment against Donald Trump.

Congressman Cicilline, we had so much to talk about before "The New York Times" broke this story tonight, but I want to go straight to that with you. What are you seeing in the evidence presented in this "New York Times" report that Donald Trump tried to use a Justice Department lawyer who he would install as acting attorney general to then pressure Georgia into reversing its election result?

REP. DAVID CICILLINE (D-RI): Well, Lawrence, what we know is the article of impeachment charges the president with incitement of insurrection, and that insurrection happened at the capitol on January 6th, which was the meeting of the Electoral College, this sacred ritual that represents the peaceful transfer of power.

And this was an effort to stop that from happening so that he could remain in power. And we know this all began with the big lie where he said he actually won the election and he won it by tens of millions of votes, but it was stolen from him. And then he engaged in a whole series of activities to try to undermine the democratic election that was held in this country and to try to promote this lie.

And this is just more evidence of that. This is more evidence that the president`s desperate attempt to stay in power, to hold on to power, to subvert our democracy, that ended with an actual violent attack on the capitol that left five people dead as terrorists stormed the building with plans to hang the vice president, to assassinate the Speaker of the House, hunt for members of Congress and cause incredible damage, dozens of people were injured, 15 were hospitalized and five people died.

This is the most serious attack on our democracy of our lifetime, and this evidence that you are talking about today is just one more example of a president desperate to hold on to power, to the point that he incited violence against the capitol and the Congress of the United States.

O`DONNELL: When Rachel Maddow and I were discussing this "New York Times" report at the beginning of the hour, she pointed out how the article of impeachment that you co-wrote focuses on Georgia. It brings a particular focus to Georgia which seems unnecessary in an article that is about what happened in Washington, D.C.

And I have to say and while discussing with Rachel, I think there was a sense that there was -- that you were prescient in some way about possibly more information coming out about Georgia when you co-wrote that impeachment article.

CICILLINE: Absolutely. When we drafted the article of impeachment, we were very careful about the language that we used and the events that we referenced. And that Georgia conversation was part of an ongoing effort by the president, again, to corrupt the results of the election, to maintain power by casting doubt on the results of the election, even though they were all certified by all 50 states and accepted by all of the election officials.

This was an effort by the president to feed lie to his supporters to the point that they became enraged and violent. They came to Washington at his urging for the stop-the-steal rally, again promoting the story that he had won.

And I think just more evidence of his efforts to hold on to power no matter what, which is why his conduct is so serious and rises to the level of high crimes and misdemeanors because it`s a fundamental attack on our democracy, on our peaceful transition of power which is a cornerstone of American democracy.

And it was an incitement of serious violence during the meeting of the electoral college in an effort to stop that proceeding. And he delayed it for a bit. He didn`t stop it. We came back and did our work but that was the result of the violent attack on the Capitol incited by the president.

O`DONNELL: Now, Speaker Pelosi said earlier today that you House managers were ready to go. You are ready to go to trial Monday morning if necessary.

Given this "New York Times" reporting tonight, are you now glad that you have another two weeks to develop evidence for the trial?

CICILLINE: Well, we are ready. We have been working around the clock. All of the managers with our incredible staff that have been working around the clock. We are ready whenever the Senate is ready to allow us to begin. We will deliver the articles on Monday, and we are prepared to proceed Monday.

We`re prepared to proceed in a week or whatever time they designate, that`s the constitution allows them to set the terms of it. We obviously want the proceeding to be fair. And so whatever time is necessary for the president`s lawyers to prepare is acceptable.

Obviously the Senate will make that determination, but we are ready Monday. We are ready in a week. We are ready in two weeks. And obviously we are going to present a very strong case of compelling evidence that the president incited a violent insurrection against the government of the United States and has committed high crimes and misdemeanors and should be convicted of the impeachment article.

O`DONNELL: Congressman David Cicilline, thank you very much for joining us on this important night. We really appreciate it.

CICILLINE: My pleasure.

Eugene Robinson and Renee Graham join us next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: Even if Donald Trump`s election fraud scheme in Georgia had succeeded, Joe Biden still would have won the electoral college and still would have made this announcement today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The crisis is only deepening. It is not getting better, it is deepening. Yesterday we learned that 900,000 more Americans filed for unemployment -- 900,000. They join millions of Americans who, through no fault of their own, have lost the dignity and respect that comes with a job and a paycheck.

This is happening today in America. And this cannot be who we are as a country. These are not the values of our nation.

We cannot, will not let people go hungry. We cannot let people be evicted because of nothing they did themselves. We cannot watch people lose their jobs, and we have to act. We have to act now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Joining us now Eugene Robinson, associate editor and Pulitzer prize winning columnist for "The Washington Post". He`s an MSNBC political analyst. And Renee Graham, opinion columnist and associate editor for "The Boston Globe".

And Gene, what we just heard Joe Biden say is, of course, why we invited you here tonight. But "The New York Times" has intervened and has now had its reporting backed up by reporting in your "Washington Post" about Donald Trump trying to use the Justice Department to falsely tell Georgia legislators that they should throw out their election results.

And if he had succeeded, he still wouldn`t have enough electoral votes to become president. Donald Trump had a tough case going into the Senate impeachment trial before tonight. That case just got a lot tougher.

EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: It sure did. This is evidence. This is evidence of this, you know, really a plan, a plot by the president that culminated in the incitement to insurrection that is the main thrust of the article of impeachment. but they do, as you mentioned -- mention what he -- (AUDIO GAP) the call with secretary of state Raffensperger that "The Washington Post`s" Amy Gardner got hold of and published in which he tried to somehow convince him to find or invent 11,780 votes so he could steal the state of Georgia.

And now Katie Benner in this incredible story -- this is the kind of story that the late, great Ben Bradley had two names for. He would call it a holy bleep story or a bacon cooler.

It was the kind where, you know, you are eating your breakfast and your bacon gets cold while you are reading this because you can`t pull your eyes away from it.

And this is a portrait of Donald Trump. This man is so -- was always so unfit to hold the presidency. I don`t put it past Republican senators to find some way to acquit him, but it just got a lot harder. It got a lot harder.

O`DONNELL: Renee, we have a new group of people, mostly Republicans in the Justice Department in this case, who stand up to Donald Trump and say, we won`t do it, we absolutely will not do it. And that`s the thing that is the road block here that he decided in the end he couldn`t get around.

And the day he`s making that decision, do I fire my acting attorney general and replace him with this stooge is the same day that "The Washington Post" is revealing that phone call to the Georgia secretary of state and the "find me the votes that I need".

And so there`s a certain amount of luck in the way this story turned out, but what is clear to me throughout the story is that it was always hopeless. It was always a mad man thrashing around in the death throes of his presidency.

RENEE GRAHAM, "THE BOSTON GLOBE": You know, except the mad man didn`t know that. You know, I`ve got to be honest, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Yes, exactly. Exactly.

(CROSSTALK)

GRAHAM: You know, it is nauseating to think about what we don`t know yet, you know.

You know, Donald Trump wasn`t sitting around wishing and hoping for a different outcome. He was scheming and conniving to steal a fair election. You know, he used every means legal and criminal to attempt to overturn the election.

And he telegraphed this for years. He was talking about rigged elections back in 2016. But now he had weaponized the full weight of the presidency.

The fact that it didn`t work, the fact that Joe Biden was still sworn in as the 46th president in no way lessens the gravity of what Trump tried to do. This is nothing short of the attempted murder of American democracy.

And we watched it happen in real-time. We are hearing the details now, but Donald Trump being Donald Trump let us know that he was willing to do whatever it took to change the outcome of the election.

You know, the details in this "Times" story are absolutely stunning but they`re not surprising. We knew this was a man with no bottom. We knew this was a man who wouldn`t cross -- there was with no limit that he wouldn`t cross.

And we`re just going to see that again and again. And again, I don`t think this is the culmination of the worst. I think there`s going to be more.

O`DONNELL: Renee, I`m so glad you made that point that it is not surprising. It is new. It is a new scene in which an insane person is being insane. But this is exactly who he appeared to be every day that he was running for president in 2015 and 2016. This is one of those predictable events.

Gene Robinson, I think I`m sure what is coming here is we are eventually going to see that letter that was drafted in the Justice Department because that`s going to be an exhibit in the impeachment trial, if not revealed by "The New York Times" before that.

ROBINSON: Yes.

O`DONNELL: And the other things that -- there was an earlier discussion I noticed today about is it better or worse for Donald Trump if there`s a delay in the impeachment trial? This suggests that it is worse.

ROBINSON: Yes.

O`DONNELL: Because on any given day we might get new information of his criminality. And what if there are other kinds of attempts to reach people in other states that we don`t even know about yet?

ROBINSON: I`m going to go out on a limb and say we`re going to amass a whole lot more evidence in these intervening two weeks.

I think it is much worse for former President Trump to have this trial on February 8th as opposed to beginning, you know, tomorrow or Monday coming. It is because of the evidence.

I mean if he did this in Georgia, imagine what he was doing in Wisconsin, imagine what he was doing in Arizona, imagine what he was doing in Nevada and Pennsylvania. And it was probably pretty much the same thing.

As Renee said, it is shocking but it is not surprising, and I just think we`re going to learn a whole lot more between now and when the impeachment trial begins.

O`DONNELL: Eugene Robinson and Renee Graham, thank you both for joining our discussion tonight.

ROBINSON: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

When Kamala Harris first joined us on this program, she was the district attorney of San Francisco. When Ritchie Torres first joined us on this program, he was a city counsellor representing the Bronx in New York City.

Tonight Ritchie Torres will join us again as United States Congressman Ritchie Torres. That`s coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: Here is Congressman Ritchie Torres` first speech on the House floor.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. RITCHIE TORRES (D-NY): Madam Speaker, the dangerous mob that Donald Trump unleashed on the United States Capitol represents a violent assault on the separation of powers and on the peaceful transfer of power that we have long taken for granted.

The impeachment of Donald Trump is not politics but law, not passion but reason, not vengeance but justice. And we as the people`s representatives must rise to the challenge of defending democracy in the face of its gravest threat. And we will.

I yield back.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Congressman Ritchie Torres made history along with 14 other freshmen Democrats by casting their very first votes as members of the House for impeachment of a president. No other House freshmen have ever had their first vote be an impeachment vote of a president.

We first met Ritchie Torres five years ago when he took us on a tour of public housing in the Bronx when he was a New York City councilor. 700,000 people live in public housing in New York City. That is more people than the entire population of Boston.

Public housing is a forgotten city within a city in New York, but not forgotten by Ritchie Torres, who grew up in New York`s public housing.

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So I grew up in a public housing development in the East Bronx known as Throgs Neck houses, which is part of its own tale of two cities. It is right across the street from Trump golf course.

And I grew up facing many of the same conditions that are facts of life here in public housing, you know, never ending molds, leakage, which was a difficult thing as an asthmatic growing up in public housing.

Without the New York City Housing Authority my mother, who raised two children on a low-wage job, would have been in a homeless shelter. She would have been among the 60,000 individuals in our shelter system. And so I`m indebted to public housing for giving me a fighting chance at a decent life and becoming the youngest member of the city council.

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O`DONNELL: That segment we did was me just listening and learning from Ritchie Torres, was nominated for an Emmy not because of anything I did but because of the compelling way Ritchie Torres made the forgotten city a place no one who saw that segment could forget.

Congressman Ritchie Torres joins us next.

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O`DONNELL: In the Bronx when you win the Democratic primary, you have in effect won the November election because the Democrat always wins in the Bronx. Here is Ritchie Torres the night he won his seat by winning the primary for the House of Representatives, New York`s 15th congressional district.

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TORRES: It would be the honor of my life to represent this borough. It`s my home. And I would not be here today were it not for my mother and the south Bronx is full of mothers like mine who have suffered and struggled and sacrificed so that her baby boy could have a better life than she did, and the opportunity to represent the essential workers of this borough, to represent and powerful mothers of this borough, it`s the culmination of a dream.

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O`DONNELL: It is now my honor to introduce once again the Honorable Ritchie Torres, now Congressman Torres representing New York`s 15th congressional district, which is the only congressional district located entirely within the Bronx.

Congressman Torres, thank you very much for joining us tonight. And it`s no more Ritchie for me anymore. It`s Congressman Torres from now on. And I felt the need to clarify that about the Bronx because there`s three congressional districts that have the word Bronx in them but you`re the only one who`s all Bronx.

I want to ask you, first of all, before we move on to other issues about this "New York Times" reporting tonight. And I want to confess to you that on inauguration day I found myself feeling that I don`t want to talk about Donald Trump anymore.

And I made, you know, a tentative promise to myself, that I wasn`t going to bring him up on this program except as a defendant, criminal defendant or defendant in the Senate impeachment trial.

But what we`ve been covering tonight is new information about him as a potential criminal defendant in, according to a former federal prosecutor who discussed this evidence tonight. And obviously additional evidence for this article of impeachment that you voted for that did make very specific reference to the way Donald Trump was trying to interfere with the electoral college result in Georgia.

What does this information tonight add to your understanding of the case against Donald Trump in the Senate.

TORRES: Well, it serves as a reminder of the need to investigate everyone in the prior administration who aided and abetted Donald Trump`s attempt to overturn the result of the election.

And as far as I`m concerned, Jeffrey Clark (ph) should be disbarred. And if he committed a crime which I believe he did, he should be prosecuted.

O`DONNELL: Congressman Torres, you know, I would like to do kind of one of my favorite things, which is a "Meet the Freshman" segment here and learn about you. Viewers of this program know a lot about you already, but let`s just go to what you want to achieve for your congressional district and where you see the opportunity to do that legislatively.

TORRES: My highest priority is to put my constituents back to work. In the South Bronx the unemployment rate is 25 percent, which is comparable to the joblessness of the Great Depression. We`ve seen a catastrophic loss of income.

And so I want to see an infrastructure package that puts my constituents back to work. We need to extend the child tax credit which would cut child poverty by 40 percent in the span of one year.

And we need to reinvest in public housing. The worst slumlord in the country is the federal government, which has savagely starved public housing of the funding it desperately needs.

O`DONNELL: You -- when we talked before, one of the issues for you was the lack of understanding of public housing in government. It is government-run housing, and yet it has -- there are no lobbyists for public housing in Washington. There`s no one there to represent the interests. And here you are now, someone who grew up in public housing.

How is that -- how do you think that will change the way you`ll be able to help your colleagues understand the needs of the forgotten city, as it is, in New York?

TORRES: Look, I`m going to fight from a place of lived experience. I would not be in the United States Congress were it not for public housing, which gave me something that all of us need -- a safe, decent, affordable home.

There are children who have been poisoned by lead because in public housing because of the federal government. There are senior citizens who are freezing in their homes with their boilers breaking down because of the federal government.

We have what I call an FDR moment and we should make the most of that FDR moment. We should harness the power of this moment to rewrite the social contract with public housing residents and give them the safeties in affordable housing that they deserve, which is long overdue.

O`DONNELL: What has it been like for you in the Bronx these days now that it`s Congressman Torres instead of Councilor Torres?

TORRES: Let`s just say my mother has never been more excited about watching C-Span. When I came from the orientation, she said this is the first time I`ve had dinner with a congressman. She`s my greatest cheerleader and I`m the product of a wise Latina who suffered and sacrificed so that I could embark on a journey that took me from public housing in the Bronx to the House of Representatives in Washington, D.C.

O`DONNELL: Congressman Ritchie Torres, congratulations to you and your mother. And thank you for joining us tonight.

TORRES: Always a pleasure. Take care.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

The Honorable Ritchie Torres gets tonight`s LAST WORD.

"THE 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS" starts now.

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