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Black Lives Matter TRANSCRIPT: 8/5/20 The Last Word w/ Lawrence O'Donnell

Guests: Ivan Melendez, Ashish Jha, Timothy O`Brien, Richard Blumenthal Renee Graham

ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST: Or Ali. I`ll take it. I`ve been called worse. 


VELSHI:  Rachel, it was a remarkable interview. It`s all good. You can see  these things, we work from home environment.

MADDOW:  Wait, wait. I`m very sorry. I couldn`t see you. And so I didn`t  know. I thought you were Lawrence tonight. I`m very, very sorry. Excuse me.

VELSHI:  It`s all good. That was an interesting interview with the  ambassador. 

And another point, and I appreciate you did, in talking about the Deutsche  Bank story. When we talk about Deutsche Bank, it could become numbing to  people. They don`t really get where it fits in, but you reminded us that we  have learned something that we did not know, and that is this bank that has  been loaning Donald Trump money against the advice of its own people for 20  years actually got subpoenaed. This wasn`t just another investigation into  why they had this cushy relationship with Donald Trump. 

This bank had information subpoenaed a year ago and they had been  cooperating with the district attorney, so that`s remarkable. 

MADDOW:  And handed it over. Yeah. 

VELSHI:  Yeah, there is a lot of information. 

MADDOW:  So much of -- yeah. We have had so much of interest in terms of  fighting those subpoenas. But for us to now learn that Deutsche Bank  received a subpoena, they complied and that information is in the hands of  prosecutors, that`s a whole new ball game. That is something that is  absolutely new with all the scandals and it is just important stuff. 

Anyway. Thank you. Thank you, Ali. Good to see you.

VELSHI:  I agree. Well, thank you for doing that and have yourself a great  evening, Rachel. 

MADDOW:  Thanks, Ali. 

VELSHI:  Donald Trump`s coronavirus comments now come with a disclaimer.  This misinformation could be harmful to your health. That`s not me talking,  that`s Facebook, which rarely steps in to impose standards on Trump. But  even Facebook decided that Donald Trump`s claims about children and the  virus are dangerous. 

Today for the first time, Facebook removed a video that Donald Trump posted  saying that children are immune from coronavirus, which Facebook classified  as, quote, harmful COVID misinformation. 

That harmful misinformation is the cornerstone of Donald Trump`s repeated  push to open schools, even though more children are testing positive for  coronavirus shortly after returning to in person school. And even though a  new study found, quote, higher rates of coronavirus infection amongst  minority and socio economically disadvantaged children. 

By the way, it`s poor children who are the most hurt by being out of school  because they are least likely to have adequate technology at home to fully  participate in remote learning. And Donald Trump says schools should open  even without teachers. 


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I think the teachers are a  different story. And if a teacher is at a certain age group, I think they  shouldn`t be going in and probably they`re going to have to wait until the  thing goes by. They will have to wait. It will go by. 


VELSHI:  Well, we know that Donald Trump doesn`t have a plan to help  schools reopen safely, and he hasn`t thought about it beyond what he thinks  will help him politically, which will be to wish the pandemic away. 


TRUMP:  My view is the schools should open. This thing is going away. It  will go away like things go away. 

REPORTER:  Sir, you said in an interview this morning on the coronavirus,  this thing is going away. It will go away like things go away. Isn`t that  without of touch from reality?

TRUMP:  It`s going away. No, it will go away. Things go away, absolutely.  No question in my mind, it will go away.

Please, go ahead. Hopefully sooner rather than later. 


VELSHI:  Now, if that sounds familiar, it`s because it is. Donald Trump has  repeated a version of that lie every month since February. 


TRUMP:  It`s going to disappear. One day, it`s like a miracle. It will  disappear. 

It will go away. Just stay calm. It will go away.

This is going away. 

This is going to go away without a vaccine. 

It`s going away. 

I said it`s going to disappear. I`ll say it again. It`s going to disappear. 


VELSHI:  All right. Thankfully, we have Dr. Fauci who today gave us this  assessment of what we must now do as a country. 


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NIAID:  We had the kind of response that was  not as well suited to what the dynamics of this outbreak is. What we have  seen is a great disparity in how individual states, cities, et cetera,  responded. As long as you have any member of society, any demographic group  who is not seriously trying to get to the end game of suppressing this, it  will continue to smolder and smolder and smolder. And that will be the  reason why, in a non-unified way, we have plateaued at an unacceptable  level. 


VELSHI:  As of tonight, the United States has over 4.8 million confirmed  cases of coronavirus. And the United States has suffered 159,215 deaths  from coronavirus, with 1,401 deaths reported just today. 

New cases are increasing in 12 states and Puerto Rico. New deaths are  increasing in 26 states and Puerto Rico. A split picture is emerging of  coronavirus in America. In some places like New York, there is a delicate  lull thanks to early containment. 

And yet in other states, thousands are still facing the worst of this  pandemic and trapped by the politicization of science as embodied by  Republican leaders and President Trump. 

We`re going to discuss both sides of this tonight. Dr. Ashish Jha will tell  us about New York which is currently on par with what successful European  and Asian countries have done. We will also get the crucial perspective of  Dr. Ivan Melendez, who brings us the devastating reality of the dire  hotspot of Hidalgo County in Texas. 

The population in Hidalgo County is 90 percent Hispanic or Latino. In July  alone, Hidalgo reported more than 600 deaths, more than the Houston area,  which is five times the size. And more than 85 percent of all coronavirus  deaths in Hidalgo County have been announced since the start of July, just  36 days ago. 

Joining us now, Dr. Ashish Jha, the director of the Harvard Global Health  Institute, and Dr. Ivan Melendez, the Hidalgo County, Texas Health  Authority. 

Thank you to both of you for being here.

Dr. Melendez, I`d say it is good to speak to you except every time we speak  it is about tragedy. You have been trying to explain to our viewers why  things are as bad as they are in Hidalgo County, much worse than other  places in Texas, making up for a disproportionate number of the illnesses  in Texas. What`s the situation? 

DR. IVAN MELENDEZ, HIDALGO COUNTY HEALTH AUTHORITY TEXAS:  The situation  has numerically perhaps shine a lot of hope. However, as you know, there is  a tragedy behind each number. And the reality of it is that still a vast  majority of the patients are admitted to our hospitals have negative  consequences. We still have a tremendous amount of deaths. We still have  our hospitals that are full. Our ICUs are full. 

Our numbers and deaths haven`t dramatically decreased and our utilization  rates haven`t decreased. From our perspective, are things better? I think  they are slightly better. But are they still extremely painful and  extremely busy? Absolutely. This is far from over in Hidalgo County. 

VELSHI:  Let`s talk about Hidalgo County. You described it as medically  sophisticated. It has 1,500 doctors, 14 hospitals. And, yet, the results,  the numbers we`re talking about from Hidalgo County are worse than other  border towns like Brownsville, El Paso, Corpus Christi, and Laredo. Why is  that? 

MELENDEZ:  So if you -- that`s such a very good question. Thank you for  asking it. It is one we ask ourselves almost every day. 

You say, which everybody has heard, diabetes mellitus, hypertension, morbid  obesity, one or two always in poverty per capita, proximity to the border,  density of population distribution. You know, we have all the, I guess, the  ingredients for a perfect storm. 

But the real question is why is it that the most sophisticated medical  communities south of San Antonio where you have an excellent hospital  infrastructure, why is it when we compare ourselves to other border places  like perhaps Brownsville, El Paso, close to Corpus Christi, why are our  numbers worse? 

I tend to believe our population was sick. Most of the people we`re seeing  in the hospital, which by the way, a majority are dying at the hospital,  they arrived very, very sick. And when you look at other border  communities, areas close to El Paso, they`re blessed with the V.A. system  at Fort Bliss, one of the largest military installations in the world.

So, their family members and the people, they have some access during  regular times. Our area, unfortunately, with a 40 percent to 45 percent of  under-insured population start off really sick. So by the time they arrive  at the hospital, we see a continuous trend of most people getting worse and  requiring more oxygen and requiring more treatments. 

So I think the answer is our underlying state even compared to other border  areas is probably sicker. 

VELSHI:  Dr. Jha, you tweeted out that you talk or you said you often talk  about states that are struggling. And you`re talking about New York as a  success story. To 67,000 tests a day, about 670 cases a day, 1 percent  positivity rate. 

This is South Korea level and it`s awesome. Transition levels so low New  York can with proper precautions open schools safely. Explain to me why  that`s working so well. 

DR. ASHISH JHA, DIRECTOR, HARVARD GLOBAL HEALTH INSTITUTE:  Yes. Ali, thank  you for having me on. New York, obviously, went through an extremely  difficult time in March, in April, into May. 

But here`s a couple of things that they did. During that time, they really  ramped up testing. They have an extraordinary capacity to do testing. And  they opened up very slowly and carefully into June. 

So while Arizona and Texas and Florida opened up too aggressively and far  too much, New York didn`t. And New York has been much more methodical. And  there has been a payoff of that. 

What the payoff is we`re seeing one of the lowest number of cases per  population in the country, a percent positive on tests of 1 percent puts it  -- there are only a couple other states in the same level. They`re  basically Vermont and Maine. But New York is outshining pretty much every  other medium or large state in the country. 

And when you have community transmission that low, it gives you a window to  open up schools safely. You still have to work on making sure the schools  have good ventilation and there is plenty of open space and all of that. It  doesn`t mean you can automatically open schools. But it certainly gives you  a window of opportunity that almost no other state in the country has. 

VELSHI:  Dr. Melendez, does any of this give you any hope? You have put  pressure on own governor to say, you could see the road you were going  down, not just in Texas but in Hidalgo County, in the Rio Grande Valley. Do  you have some hope that after looking at these examples of things that can  work, that somehow there is more help coming to you? 

MELENDEZ:  Thank you. We can never lose hope, so I always have hope. Those  of us in this field, once we lose hope, how can we be a source of strength  for our patients? 

The doctor made some excellent, excellent comments and I cannot agree more.  Our testing has been traditional underserved, although, it`s notably  improving. Our ability to control social mobility and social isolation has  been greatly hindered not only because of support from our state government  but also because of our population. The average age is 29 years of age,  which is an age where you`re extremely hungry to be out and about. 

So the hope that I have, and let me -- let me just say that I agree 100  percent what New York did as compared to what we`re trying to do. But I  agree 100 percent that even in these extremely difficult times in our  country, because we`re seeing less people coming in, even though still a  tremendous amount of people, because our death rates are still high but  they are improving, because the state government has given us four military  human resources to help us, because we have just opened up an additional  treatment center and because we have had focus up to 5,000 people a day  that are being tested with the assistance of the federal government -- yes,  there is hope. There is absolute hope. 

VELSHI:  Well, we continue to wish for an improvement in your situation,  Dr. Melendez. Thank you for being with us. 

Dr. Jha, good to see you again. Thank you as well for joining us tonight. 

Dr. Ashish Jha is with the Harvard Global Health Institute. Dr. Melendez is  with the Texas Health Authority.

Coming up, tonight`s breaking news, "The New York Times" is reporting  tonight that Deutsche Bank has complied with a subpoena for Donald Trump`s  financial records from the Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance. Andrew  Weissmann, a former senior member of special counsel Robert Mueller`s  investigative team and Tim O`Brien will join us next.


VELSHI:  We have breaking news tonight in the fight for Donald Trump`s  financial records. 

"The New York Times" is reporting tonight that Manhattan District Attorney  Cy Vance has subpoenaed Donald Trump`s long-time lender Deutsche Bank last  year for financial records related to him and his company. Quote, a sign  that their criminal investigation into Mr. Trump`s businesses practices is  more wide-ranging than previously known. 

Prosecutors in New York had been seeking Trump`s tax returns as part of  their criminal investigation into hush money payments to women, ahead of  the 2016 election. But prosecutors recently revealed in court filings that  they were looking into extensive criminal conduct at the Trump  Organization, including possible bank and insurance fraud. 

According to "The New York Times," Deutsche Bank complied with the  subpoena. 

Over a period of months last year provided Mr. Vance`s office with detailed  records, including financial statements and other materials that Mr. Trump  had provided to the bank as he sought loans, according to two of the people  familiar with the inquiry. The bank`s response to the subpoena reinforces  the seriousness of the legal threat the district attorney`s investigation  poses for Mr. Trump, his family and his company, end quote.

David Enrich, one of the reporters who broke the story told Rachel Maddow  last hour what this could mean for Donald Trump. 


DAVID ENRICH, REPORTER: Talking to people inside the bank over the past  couple of days, it`s clear that the bank has spent a lot of time over, you  know, over the past year now really fully cooperating with the district  attorney`s investigation and providing a lot of information. There`s wiser  perception within the bank that Trump was, you know, not playing it  particularly straight. And prosecutor`s standpoint, what they`re generally  going to look for in a bank fraud case is whether there is intent to  mislead. Having spoken to a lot of people inside the bank on this, they  perceive the intent as having been to mislead. 


VELSHI:  Joining us now is Andrew Weissmann. He`s a former FBI general  counsel and former senior member of Robert Mueller`s special counsel that  investigated Russia`s interference in the 2016 election. He`s now an MSNBC  legal analyst. 

And Tim O`Brien, senior columnist for "Bloomberg Opinion". He`s the author  of "TrumpNation: The Art of Being the Donald." 

Gentlemen, good to see you this evening.

Andrew, let`s just rewind this a little bit so our viewers can remember  what this is all about. We know that Deutsche Bank has been the banker to  the Trumps for two decades. And we know that the bank has its own  documentation that indicated that at various times in the lending of over  $2 billion Donald Trump was a bad risk. He`s not somebody that a financial  institution, particularly a public company should have been lending to. 

And there are all sorts of questions speculating why Deutsche Bank would  have been involved with the Trumps and what they know. 

What does this lead you to believe? 

ANDREW WEISSMANN, FORMER FBI GENERAL COUNSEL:  So I think it`s really  interesting because I think two things. One, it confirms what we learned  just a few days ago from the Manhattan district attorney`s office, which is  that their investigation, as you noted, is not just about hush money  payments. To me, this is going to be a classic money laundering and sort of  bank fraud investigation where you look to see what were the representations made to the bank. 

So I think that the D.A.`s office is going to be scouring the Deutsche Bank  documents to see what exactly was told to the bank about the Trump  organization assets. 

The other thing that I think is fascinating is that, you know, we had a  case, the Mazars case, that went all the way up to the Supreme Court  litigating whether the Manhattan district attorney could get documents from  the Trump organization accountants. In the meantime, Deutsche Bank, instead  of litigating it, just handed over the documents. 

My suspicion is its question of timing. I think that Deutsche Bank`s  subpoena was given by the Manhattan D.A.`s office while the special counsel  was still in operation. It would have given Donald Trump incentive to not  fight it publicly. The reason you are hearing it happened so long ago is  because it happened while the special counsel`s office was still  investigating. 

And the reason that Mazars was litigated is because that subpoena was  issued after the special counsel`s office investigation had officially  closed. 

VELSHI:  Mazars, of course, the accountants for Donald Trump. 

Tim O`Brien, there was a remarkable piece in "The New York Times." it was  12 pages or something of newspaper ink about the degree to which Donald  Trump`s family and business dealings were not kosher to say the least. In  it, there was an allegation that Donald Trump underestimated the value of  some of his assets for purposes of taxation, which would lead him to have  lower tax liability and overestimated them for purposes of the bank. 

Do you think this has something to do with this whole thing?

TIMOTHY O`BRIEN, BLOOMBERG OPINION SENIOR COLUMNIST:  You know, I would  suspect not in this case, Ali. The D.A. may go there, but I think a lot of  the transactions, the times you`re looking at in the piece you are  referring to, I think the statute of limitations may have run out in terms  of tax fraud. 

You know, Andrew touched on the issue of money laundering. I think that`s  very salient here. The question that always hung over Deutsche Bank is  after the early 1990s when every other bank fled from Donald Trump because  he essentially welched on $3 billion in loans, Deutsche Bank came back and  decided to do business with him. 

They litigated in the mid-2000s after Trump tried to walk away from a big  Deutsche Bank loan on a Chicago property. And, yet, the bank kept doing  business with him. They moved his bank from the commercial side of the bank  into their private bank. 

So why is Deutsche Bank, among all other major banks, continued to do  business with the president? Deutsche Bank has had a long history of  trouble, including money laundering issues that drew the attention of  investigators in U.S. and Europe.

Deutsche Bank knows very well that Donald Trump has inflated his assets for  a long time. When we litigated, we produced a document in that litigation.  When we litigated with Trump, he sued me for liable over my biography,  Deutsche Bank had an assessment of Trump`s wealth in 2004 at $788 million  at a time when Trump was saying he was worth $6 billion. 

So the idea that Trump is out there inflating his wealth isn`t a new thing  for Deutsche Bank. I think -- I think where this goes around bank fraud and  insurance fraud and possible money laundering is the stuff that could  really worry Trump. 

VELSHI:  Andrew, let`s talk about -- the southern district of New York  having some independence from the Department of Justice, but it is still  the Department of Justice. The Manhattan D.A. isn`t. 

We also the attorney general of the state of New York got elected on a  promise to prosecute the Trump family, the Trump Organization. Where does  all this lead? If the Manhattan D.A. has stuff, what does it mean? 

WEISSMANN:  Well, the clear immediate thing for your viewers is that what  it means is that no pardon is possible because the state, any state, is a  separate sovereign. So the president has no ability to pardon himself or  anyone else. Not an end state, not any people.

So he can`t protect people from what the Manhattan D.A.`s office, you know,  digs up. It still remains to be seen, of course, whether there is criminal  liability, whether they can make a case. But if they can, they`re not going  to have to deal with the issue of the president dangling pardons to try and  thwart the cooperation of witnesses. 

VELSHI:  Tim, this has long been a source of intrigue for a lot of people,  the relationship between the Trump companies, the Trump charity at the  time, the Trump family and the business that they did in New York. You, of  course, have studied this a great deal. What`s the stuff that you think the  D.A. is -- might be latching on to here? We know it is not just the hush  money payments. 

O`BRIEN:  Well, again, I think it`s the classic issue of the money trail  and the extent to which either foreign entities or domestic entities had  leverage over the president of the United States because of financial  relationships. Donald Trump has been in a, you know, a number of cash- centric businesses from real estate to casinos, both in Atlantic City and  New York. He openly did business with members of organized crime. 

And I think, you know, one of the great unanswered questions of his  presidency so far is why does he consort with dictators? What`s his  fascination with Vladimir Putin? Why does he get into these financial  entanglements overseas in situations that would make other reputable real  estate dealers blink twice, at least, or walk away? 

He doesn`t. I think that`s his motivation financially for pursuing the  presidency or for doing, I think, some of the things he`s done while  president that are very questions about his motivations. They`re answered  in his wallet. They`re answered in the money trail.

And the extent to which the Manhattan district attorney is going to explore  those relationships and document them is very significant. 

VELSHI:  Guys, thanks very much for your analysis on this one. It`s  valuable. 

Andrew Weissmann and Tim O`Brien, we appreciate it. 

Coming up, it`s happening again, foreign interference in our elections.  American voters are being kept in the dark about it. Senator Richard  Blumenthal wants classified intelligence to be made public, and he says  some Russian tactics released previously makes previous interference look  like, quote, child`s play. Senator Blumenthal joins me next.


ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST: We are 90 days away from election day. Lawmakers  are sounding the alarms about foreign interference in our election again.

This should come as no surprise. We have been uncovering the extent of  Russia`s 2016 interference to help Donald Trump`s campaign for the past  three and a half years. Now intelligence officials are briefing members of  Congress about the 2020 election.

Last week it was the House where Politico reports "National  counterintelligence and security center director William Evanina ultimately  acknowledged that Russia is again trying to boost Donald Trump`s reelection  and denigrate his opponent, the presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden,  sources who attended that briefing said. But that didn`t satisfy Democrats  who urged him to say as much publicly and to be specific."

This week it was the Senate`s turn to receive a briefing which set off this  hair on fire tweet storm from Senator Richard Blumenthal. "Shocked and  appalled. I just left a 90-minute classified briefing on foreign maligned  threats to our elections, from spying to sabotage. Americans need to see  and hear these reports. Protect our democracy from destruction by  declassifying key intel describing the danger of foreign subterfuge to our  elections. Congress has been briefed but sworn to secrecy unacceptably." 

Joining us now Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut. He`s a  member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. 

Senator, good to see you. Thank you for being with us tonight.

I guess I have to ask you. Remind our viewers about how this works. You and  your colleagues have been briefed about stuff that alarms you, but you are  not free to tell us about it because it is classified information. 

BLUMENTHAL: We go to a room that is debugged and set aside specifically for  these top secret briefing. We read documents there. We take no notes. And  we`re sworn to secrecy.

But the American people need to know. In fact, when you think about it, the  foreign maligned actors know what they`re doing. They know what they are  doing and that we know what they`re doing. The ones kept in the dark are  the American people and they need to know about these deeply dangerous  threats to our democracy which go to the core of our institutional  integrity.

And that`s why these documents should be declassified, or at least, as much  as possible without compromising sources and methods.

VELSHI: So I want to be careful here not to get you into trouble about what  you can tell us. You are no stranger to this. You and I have been talking  about this for years. You are aware of the most maligned threats, the most  dangerous things. You are alarmed. 

BLUMENTHAL: I`m more than alarmed. I`m shocked and appalled. These reports  are chilling. And if you want some flavor of the kind of malign activities  ongoing, you should read the report released today by the department of  State as to what the Russians are doing globally outside the United States,  the techniques and tactics now underway by the Russians globally make their  past disruption look rudimentary and quaint.

In fact, as I said, like child`s play. And that is a signal to the American  people of what the threats are from these kinds of maligned foreign actors. 

VELSHI: You tweeted an article out from "The New York Times" about that  State Department report. Let me just read a piece from that article.  "Russia continues to use a network of proxy Web sites to spread pro-Kremlin  disinformation and propaganda in the United States and other parts of the  West, according to a State Department report released on Wednesday. Most of  the report focuses on an ecosystem of Web sites, many of them fringe or  conspiracy-minded that Russia has used or directed to spread propaganda on  a variety of topics."

The question I have for you, Senator is that this is happening in broad  daylight. We have been studying this for the last three and a half years.  Books have been written about it. An entire Mueller investigation has gone  on about it.

Russia continues to, in the information given to us by the State Department  report, act as if nothing has changed, that they can act with impunity. 

BLUMENTHAL: Russia has been completely undeterred because it`s paid no  price. Donald Trump has, in fact, lifted up and elevated Vladimir Putin  rather than, in fact, enlightening the American people about a lot of what  was done, and he`s tried to discredit the Mueller report.

And even today in the United States Senate, in our Judiciary Committee,  there was an effort to deflect attention from it by focusing on  relitigating the Steele dossier when in fact there should be a complete  focus on the threat to our election integrity ongoing right now.

And sunlight is in many ways the best disinfectant. The Trump  administration is responsible for declassification. It could do it  literally tomorrow. And that`s why I am pushing for the American people and  their right to know. And they really deserve and need it. 

VELSHI: Well, that was -- you halfway answered my next question. What do  you do about it? And we appreciate that you are pushing for it. But if you  are out here, and my viewers and Americans are saying this is basic  information. It is not partisan. This is basic information that we have a  right to know.

Who else is pushing for it? Have you got Republican colleagues who are  pushing for it, too? Because we should know, no matter what party you vote  for, whether somebody else is influencing your election. 

BLUMENTHAL: No Republican seems to have been nearly as outspoken as a  number of us on this side of the aisle, but I`m hoping it will be  bipartisan because the threat to our democracy is, in fact, to the core  institutions that safeguard our election system. And I`m going to continue  pushing. I am obviously barred from talking about the contents of the  briefings and the documents but the people need to know.

And we can push the administration. There`s always the danger with  classification especially over-classification that it enables officials to  hide behind that kind of barrier.

My hope is that my Republican colleagues will join in this effort. It needs  to be bipartisan.

VELSHI: And by the way, this is a thing have commented on for years before  the Trump administration. That America does have a habit of over- classifying. Most times people don`t care about it because it doesn`t seem  to be stuff that matters to them, but this is. 

BLUMENTHAL: It is deeply dangerous information. And the American people  need to know it. And I would argue that a lot of that other information  that we cannot disclose is also information that would bear directly on  national security issues, on other kinds of foreign threats that Americans  should know.

There is over-classification. Obviously, we`re sensitive, protecting  methods and sources. But we live in a democracy and one of the guiding  principles of democracy is that sunlight is the best disinfectant.

But we also should go against the Russians now that we know what they`re  doing and use sanctions, use our allies and other means to stop this  interference.

VELSHI: Senator, good to see you. Thanks you for joining us. Senator  Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut.

Coming up, a tale of two campaigns. Donald Trump stokes racism and Joe  Biden gets closer to putting the first black woman on a presidential  ticket. It could be down to two.

That`s next.



JOE BIDEN (D), PRESUMPTIVE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: If I`m elected president  my cabinet, my administration will look like the country. And I commit that  I will, in fact, appoint a -- pick a woman to be vice president. There are  a number of women who are qualified to be president tomorrow. I would pick  a woman to be my vice president. 


VELSHI: Now, that was Joe Biden on March the 15th during what would be the  final debate of the Democratic presidential primary. The promise was made  well before the death of George Floyd and the national reckoning that  followed over race relations and the use of police force.

After encouragement and pressure from outside groups to pick a woman of  color, today Axios is reporting that confidants of Joe Biden think that he  has narrowed his VP short list down to two, Senator Kamala Harris of  California and Susan Rice, the former national security adviser under  President Obama.

Joe Biden is expected to hold final interviews with the top candidates in  the coming days and make the final announcement in the next week.

Joining me now to discuss this: Yamiche Alcindor, she`s the White House  correspondent for PBS Newshour and an MSNBC political analyst; and Renee  Graham, she`s an opinion columnist and associate editor at "The Boston  Globe". Good evening to both of you. Thank you for being here.

Renee, you and I spoke a few days ago after you had written a column in  "The Boston Globe" which you said, the headline was Biden must choose a  black woman for vice president. We don`t know really how accurate the  reporting is, but it sounds like he`s moving in that direction. What are  your thoughts? 

RENEE GRAHAM, "THE BOSTON GLOBE": That`s the feeling we have. I mean, it`s  down to two names, that`s what we`re hearing anyway. It makes sense. You  know, if you think about what Joe Biden is looking for. In Susan Rice he  has someone he`s already familiar with. I think that`s very attractive to  him. I think he wants someone with whom he could have a relationship like  he had with Obama during those eight years in the White House.

He wants a partner in this administration. And what he would get from Susan  Rice is someone with whom he could hit the ground running. They already  know each other, they`re familiar with each other. And I think that`s  something that`s, you know, very interesting to him.

And Kamala Harris, I mean let`s face it. I mean they had their issues  during the campaign, but she`s an extraordinarily strong campaigner.

She has done several -- she`s been on several campaigns. She`s battle  tested. And he also knows that, you know, she is going to do everything she  possibly can to add to that ticket and get him there in November. 

VAUSE: Yamiche, let`s talk about where we are as a country given all of the  reporting that you have done in the last few weeks, particularly about John  Lewis. We elected an African-American president. We didn`t elect a woman as  president. We haven`t had -- the first woman on a vice presidential ticket  was Geraldine Ferrero in 1984.

Now we`re talking about for sure a woman on the vice presidential ticket,  quite likely an African-American woman and someone who, given Joe Biden`s  age and the noises that have been made about him not staying for a second  term could be the next president of the United States or the next, next  president of the United States. 

YAMICHE ALCINDOR, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: That`s right. In picking a vice  president in some ways Joe Biden is already starting the 2024 Democratic  primary or the 2028 Democratic primary because this person, whoever he  chooses is going to be instantly be seen as the future of the Democratic  Party.

My understanding, based on my reporting, is that Joe Biden understands the  moment. He understands that Democrats, especially black women who are loyal  to the party, who are some of the most -- fiercest supporters of the party,  that they are looking ahead and thinking we want someone who looks like us  in high places.

Now, Joe Biden has already said his first Supreme Court nominee is going to  be a black woman. Not just any woman, an African-American woman. So in some  ways, my reporting bears out that he wasn`t feeling particular pressure to  pick a black woman. But now that it sounds like these two names are on the  finals list.

You have two women that are familiar with Joe Biden. women. Of course, they  each come with their own baggage and I think that`s what he`s weighing. But  he`s also weighing, based on my reporting, the personal connection that he  feels with each one of them. 

There`s going to be these one-on-one meetings. And I think that`s going to  be what seals the deal. And I think in some way when you think about the  larger picture, which is the moment that we`re all living through for the  Democratic Party to say look, we`re a party that only (INAUDIBLE) -- also  wants a black woman on the ticket, someone who understands firsthand what  it is to face the injustices that African-Americans all over this country  face every single day in health care and education and so many other  fields.

That`s going to say something for their party. I think that, of course, the  flip side of this is that President Trump is going to attack that person no  matter who he picks. So if it`s Kamala Harris, he`s going to quickly go to  her attacking Vice President Biden. If it`s Susan Rice, we all know that  Benghazi is going to be one of the things that Republicans hone in on. 

VELSHI: Renee Graham, you don`t get to be a vice presidential pick without  bringing some baggage along with you. But tell us about this moment that  Yamiche is talking about. How do we get to a moment where we`re talking  about a black woman as a vice presidential candidate, a black woman as the  next nominee to the Supreme Court? Is it a moment?

Is it the fact that when you start breaking that ceiling the cracks start?  Or is it the fact that what Joe Biden has done is presented us with or the  moment has presented us with a plethora of African-American women who it is  very easy to imagine as vice president or president or a Supreme Court  justice. 

GRAHAM: Well, look, in now way could Joe Biden get away with thinking that  there is a pipeline problem. There are way too many qualified and  formidable black women out there who could be on the ticket with him. I  think it`s also really important to remember that black women have been the  backbone of the modern Democratic Party.

And after all these years of the party looking to black women to be loyal  and to become these sort of king makers, it is time for them to be the  queens. It is time for them to be the people at the top of the ticket or  near the top of the ticket.

It has happened so rarely that a woman has even gotten this close. The idea  that it`s time for a black woman, it is not just time, it`s past time. It  is overdue for this to be happening. 

And Joe Biden, as Yamiche said, is seizing the moment. He sees what this  moment calls for and it is what the movement demands. You know, John Lewis  said it`s time for the ticket to look like America. This moves towards  that. 

VELSHI: Please stay with us, Renee and Yamiche. When we come back, we`re  going to look at what the other candidate for president did today because  it turns out Donald Trump had a lot to say about John Lewis` funeral,  athletes taking a knee and Black Lives Matter. 


VELSHI: You just heard what Joe Biden and his campaign are doing to address  the needs and concerns of people of color. Today Donald Trump called into  "Fox & Friends" for a 54-minute wide-ranging, perhaps rambling interview. 

This is what Donald Trump had to say about President Obama`s eulogy for the  late congressman and civil rights icon John Lewis whereas you recall,  President Obama called for the restoration of the Voting Rights Act. 


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I thought it was terrible  speech, it was an angry speech. It showed this anger there that people  don`t see. He lost control. 

I thought his speech the other day at the funeral was a terrible, terrible  representation of what our country is all about. 


VELSHI: Here`s what Donald Trump had to say about black lives matter  protesters. 


TRUMP: They had Black Lives Matter, where did it start? Marching down  streets screaming "pigs in a blanket", "fry them like bacon". They were  talking about policemen. So all of a sudden, this has taken on this air of  great respectability. Well, how does it start there? It`s a Marxist group.  It`s a Marxist group that is not looking for good things for our country. 


VELSHI: And with the return of professional sports, Donald Trump had this  to say about athletes kneeling during the national anthem. 


TRUMP: When I see people kneeling during the playing and disrespecting our  flag and disrespecting our national anthem, what I do personally is turn  off the game. We have to stand up for our anthem. And a lot of people agree  with me. Hey if I`m wrong, I`m going to lose on election, ok. And that`s ok  with me. 


VELSHI: Yamiche Alcindor and Renee Graham are back with us.

Yamiche, I saw you tweeting about this today, some of the things that the  President was saying. Some people do agree with him. There`s no question.  He doesn`t seem to be trying to expand his reach to others. Polling  consistently shows that Americans think, particularly on the issue of  African-Americans or treatment at the hands of police, inequality -- that  most Americans think there`s something to be fixed here. 

ALCINDOR: That`s right. I mean we know just through statistics that  African-Americans, they`re only 13 percent of the population, and African- Americans are more than 2.5 times more likely to be killed by the police,  by white people.

That`s at the heart of what Black Lives Matter is about. They`re about  stopping police brutality and about stopping the unjust treatment of  African-Americans in this country.

This, of course, is par for the course of President Trump. This is what he  does. He`s really been against Black Lives Matter for a long time. I should  just fact check really quickly which is the organization and movement did  not start with that chant denigrating police officers. They started with  the idea that Trayvon Martin was a young man who shouldn`t have been killed  and they went on to talk about the fact that there should be really reforms  in policing. 

But the President continues to say that these are anarchists. I know, as  someone who has reported on Black Lives Matter, that these are people who  want America to be better and want America live up to the ideals of  treating every man and woman equally. 

And quickly he talked about President Obama. It was a very political speech  by President Obama but he was calling for some of the same things that John  Lewis wanted which was a reuniting and really putting teeth back into the  Voting Rights Act. So that was President Obama saying this is what John  Lewis`s life and work was about and we should continue to do that work. 

VELSHI: Well, Renee Graham, this Black Lives Matter issue is interesting  because people who wear the shirts or have the sign don`t, in many cases,  know that they have anything to do with an organization or founding  principles. This idea of they`re Marxist and they`re anarchist. Most people  hear the three words Black Lives Matter and they say, come on, that`s true.  I can support that, it`s not a political thing to support it whatsoever. 

GRAHAM: I don`t think Donald Trump knows what Marxism is. It was just a  word someone said to him and he threw it out there. The thing to remember  is that racism is Trump`s comfort food. He`s doling it out in heaping  portions to his base because he believes that`s what binds them to him.

So what he`s doing right now as his campaign is failing, so he doesn`t have  to talk about the 157,000 people dead from coronavirus and COVID is he`s  playing a medley of his greatest hits. 

You know, he`s lambasting athletes because of kneeling, he`s talking about  Black Lives Matter banners. But this is all Donald Trump`s -- his idea of a  winning strategy which is to scare white people silly by painting  protesters as violent anarchists because he has nothing else to hang this  campaign on. 

VELSHI: Yamiche, at some juncture, you have been -- you`ll go down in  history as one of the people who attempts to hold the President to account  on these things he says. You do it very artfully. You simply state the  facts. You know the facts and you state them back to him.

It doesn`t move him. It doesn`t change his view. He`s not challenged by  that idea something he said -- as we saw with Jonathan Swan a couple of  nights ago, it doesn`t move him that somebody presents him with the facts. 

ALCINDOR: That`s right. The President since the beginning of his presidency  has trafficked in misleading statements from the virus to Black Lives  Matter to all sorts of other things. And what the President is doing is  really doubling down on a strategy that worked for him in 2016 and that  he`s hoping works for him in 2020.

I will say what is interesting about this "Fox & Friends" interview is that  the president is saying the hill the he dies on might be the fact that he  has a different stance on racial inequality in this country and that he  doesn`t believe that we should be focused on systemic racism and that he  wants to continue to talk about policing as if there aren`t things that  need to be fixed.

So I think the President is acknowledging, hey I might lose in 2020, and  maybe that`s because he`s seeing polling in swing states that I`m seeing as  a reporter that shows that he really has some work to do. That`s not saying  that he can`t win but it`s saying that he is not in a strong position.

So that being said, I think this is the President starting to maybe also  acknowledge that he might lose. 

VELSHI: Thanks to both of you. Yamiche, thanks as well for your great  reporting today. Yamiche Alcindor and Renee Graham, we appreciate your time  tonight.

And that`s is tonight`s LAST WORD. 

"THE 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS" begins right now.