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GOP police reform bill TRANSCRIPT: 6/23/20, The Last Word w/ Lawrence O'Donnell

Guests: Cory Booker, Rep. Mikie Sherrill, Zerlina Maxwell, Ashish Jha,

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST:  Good evening, Rachel.

We have breaking hopeful news from Major League Baseball. They have scheduled a season, according to the commissioner, that will start approximately one month from today. It`s kind of proximate -- 


O`DONNELL:  -- because, you know, it`s something they hope to do. But things could get in the way between now and then, so there might or might not be Major League Baseball. We`ll kind of know when we get there. It will be an unusual season no matter how it turns out.

MADDOW:  I feel like -- I feel like every plan in my life has that asterisks on it right now. Like, I`m thinking that at some point, I`ll need to get new contact lenses in approximately 110 days. I don`t know, maybe I can start wearing them for three days at a time.

You know, I feel like the most basic things that require the least amount of planning at this point can`t be planned.

O`DONNELL:  Well, one of the obvious big planning questions that`s on people`s minds are the kids going back to school? Is anyone -- who is going back to school in August? And at the hearing today in the House, with the members of the president`s coronavirus task force, they didn`t really have an answer. I mean, the best Anthony Fauci could do is to say, well, in some places that will be reasonable. He didn`t say which places.

But you couldn`t make any -- you could listen to every word of that hearing and couldn`t come out of that making a plan to do anything.

MADDOW:  No. And in part, that`s responsible, because I mean --


MADDOW:  Reasonably, you could say yeah, in any community where your case curve looks like a mountain, yeah, you could probably start making plans for what you can do in an environment where there`s baseline very low amounts of coronavirus, and where it`s a small enough amount of virus circulating in the community that any time it does flare up, you catch it with testing, you trace people, you isolate, and you suppress it. But if your coronavirus case curve where you live looks like this, which is what it looks like overall for the country, then no, no point making plans, because there`s nothing that we can plan to do that we`re not doing already that`s going to be safe.

And it`s -- that`s just the national failure under which we`re -- under which all of our lives sort of proceed at this point.

O`DONNELL:  And that`s where we will be for a while. Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW:  Yeah, thanks, my friend.

O`DONNELL:  Thank you.

Well, we`re keeping an eye on primary election results in Kentucky tonight, and elsewhere. Steve Kornacki will join us later in the hour with updates on all of that. And Senator Cory Booker will join us and give us a report on the situation in the Senate on Democratic police reform legislation that he has co-authored with Senator Kamala Harris. And we`ll get Senator Booker`s perspective as a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee with jurisdiction over the Justice Department on this week`s shocking revelations about Attorney General William Barr, his interference with the Roger Stone sentencing and his interference with the U.S. attorney`s office in Manhattan.

Today, every member of the president`s coronavirus task force who testified in that hearing in the House of Representatives said that the president they work for is lying.


REP. GREG WALDEN (R-OR): Has President Trump ever directed you to slow down testing for COVID-19 in the United States, Dr. Redfield?



UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  No, Congressman.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES:  I know for sure that to my knowledge, none of us have ever been told to slow down on testing.


O`DONNELL:  Today, Donald Trump said that White House staffers, like the press secretary, for example, were lying when they claimed that he was joking when he told his rally audience on Saturday that he wants to, quote, "slow the testing down."

Here`s what Donald Trump said about that today.


REPORTER:  Mr. President, at that rally, when you said you would ask your people to slow down testing, were you just kidding or do you have a plan to slow down testing?



O`DONNELL:  No, he doesn`t kid. So that`s Donald Trump saying that he meant every word of this.


TRUMP:  They called me, they said the job you`re doing -- here`s the bad part. When you test -- when you do testing to that extent, you`re going to find more people, you`re going to find more cases. So I said to my people, slow the testing down, please.


O`DONNELL:  So now they`ve all been accused of lying. The president has been accused of lying by Dr. Anthony Fauci and the other members of the coronavirus task force, and the president has accused the White House staff of lying about him telling a joke when he really meant very seriously that he wants to slow the testing down.

It is possible that Donald Trump gave the order to slow the testing down to someone who wasn`t testifying today, like maybe Mike Pence, or Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar. We don`t know.

Dr. Fauci said that Donald Trump`s flying into coronavirus hot spots and holding rallies without social distancing and without masks is highly irresponsible. But he didn`t actually mention Donald Trump when he said that at today`s hearing in the House of Representatives.


FAUCI:  You should not congregate in crowds. You should keep distance. And even though many people, for a variety of reasons, do not listen to the not suggestion but plea to not congregate in crowds, some people are going to do that any way. If you do, please wear a mask. And as you wear a mask and you`re in a situation where you`re getting animated in a demonstration or in a rally or wherever you are, avoid as best as possible, the urge to pull your mask down and shout. So plan A, don`t go in a crowd. Plan B, if you do, make sure you wear a mask.


O`DONNELL:  The only person in Donald Trump`s crowd today who was social distancing was Donald Trump.

There he is on stage in Phoenix, Arizona, speaking to a crowd of 3,000 students for Trump, who were packed into that audience, shoulder to shoulder, with only a handful of masks spotted among the thousands. And when a couple of those students were allowed to come up on the stage with Donald Trump, they were not allowed to get anywhere near him. They were way more than six feet away. Way more than ten feet away.

From the one person in that room today who fears the coronavirus more than anyone else in that room -- Donald Trump. That is a picture of Donald Trump in abject fear of the coronavirus. It may be the one rational fear that Donald Trump has.

He did the right thing by keeping those kids very far away from him. But he did a profoundly cruel and inhumane thing by encouraging those kids to gather shoulder to shoulder, sitting before him in praise of him, because he is America`s Dracula, who takes his sustenance from other people.

The image of himself that he sees in the adoring eyes of his audience is what Dracula Trump so desperately needs to get through another day of the excruciating insecurity of being Donald Trump, a weight that he has born with varying degrees of rage his entire life. If some of those kids get sick today, and if they go home and kill their grandparents, then that`s what had to happen. To make America`s Dracula feel good for 90 minutes on that stage today in Arizona, a state where Joe Biden has a lead in the polls over Donald Trump, which is much, much more important to Donald Trump than the health risks to his audience or the deadly risk to their parents and the even more deadly risk to their grandparents.

If some grandparents have to die for Donald Trump to catch up to Joe Biden in Arizona, if some grandparents have to die for Donald Trump to help the incumbent Republican senator close the 13-point lead that Democratic candidate Mark Kelly has in the Senate race, then that`s what Donald Trump`s father taught him to call the cost of doing business.

We have never before seen an American president willfully put people`s lives at risk, simply so that he can enjoy the sound of applause from the people whose lives he is risking and whose family and friends he is risking. Thousands of people who were not in that room today with Donald Trump now run the risk of being infected and possibly killed by people who were in that room today with Donald Trump.

No previous president would ever have done something like that, and you must not allow the American news media to normalize these Trump events for you as some kind of rerun of what we saw in the campaign four years ago. This is new. We have not seen this before.

If the polls are right, Joe Biden will crush Donald Trump. And if we`re lucky, we will never see anything like this again, a president who risks the lives of his own supporters for his own profoundly perverse psychological needs. Donald Trump arrived in Arizona today. When he arrived, the state reported yet another record high for new coronavirus cases in a continued rise in hospitalizations.

Today, Arizona reported a new high, 3,593 new cases of coronavirus. Arizona now ranks 12th out of the 50 states for cases per 100,000 people. The state is now reporting 2,136 hospitalizations, up about 7 percent from the 1,992 reported on Monday. And more than double the number at the beginning of the month.

Hospital bed usage in Arizona is at 83 percent. And intensive care unit use in Arizona is now at 84 percent. The Republican governor reversed his position on facemasks in Arizona last week, allowing counties and cities to mandate facemasks to residents.

Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego released this statement before the Trump event in her city today: While I do not believe an event of this magnitude can be held safely, particularly as Arizona sees rising COVID cases, the president has decided to continue this rally.

We`ve seen tremendous compliance with the mask ordinance that went into effect this weekend. Everyone attending, particularly any elected official, should set an example to residents by wearing a mask. This includes the president.

But a mask is an admission of vulnerability, as well as even more importantly, an expression of concern for other people. And America`s Dracula has never felt that concern. And never will.

Leading off our discussion now, live from Phoenix outside the mega church where President Trump`s rally was held today is NBC`s Vaughn Hillyard.

And, Vaughn, I know you were talking to a lot of the people attending today, and it looked to me, correct me if I`m wrong, something on the order of 95 percent or above without masks. The people without masks, what were they telling you about their sense of their own safety?

VAUGHN HILLYARD, NBC NEWS POLITICAL REPORTER:  It`s denialism, Lawrence. I don`t think there`s any other way to put it. One person after the next that I talked to, I said are you not concerned about your own health? And they just flat out told me no, that they believe the COVID numbers the government is putting out are inflated. They do not believe the number of deaths that they are seeing, that are being accounted for. And they don`t believe that the spread has impacted them.

And I think that`s the reality. What you`ve seen over the course of just the last few weeks in the state of Arizona is a doubling in the number of cases. You know, I can`t help if one of these individuals hasn`t been impacted. But, you know, the likes of Lina Washington (ph), whose father Robert Washington worked at a casino here. When he returned to work on May 15th when that stay at home order expired, two weeks later he came down with COVID and he passed away. He was just laid to rest this Sunday.

What you saw here were thousands of folks congregated into a pen. There was another compact line here. I think it`s important to note, and we`re talking about Phoenix, we`re not talking about some desert wasteland. We`re talking about the nation`s fifth largest city. You said it. Today was a record for hospitalizations, a record for ICU beds, a record for ventilators in use here in the state.

Doug Ducey himself, while he appeared here today, he`s acknowledged the need for Arizonans to take this seriously. But what you saw was the president, four months out from this election, deciding to have thousands of people congregate around him, because as you said, it`s neck and neck in the polls here.

Let`s say Michigan and Pennsylvania go for Joe Biden. All it takes is Arizona at that point. There`s a reason he`s been here. Two times in the last two months, Lawrence, and I think what you saw today was a willingness to do whatever it takes here.

O`DONNELL:  Vaughn Hillyard live from Phoenix, thank you very much for that report, Vaughn. Really appreciate it.

HILLYARD:  Thanks.

O`DONNELL:  And joining our discussion now is Dr. Ashish Jha. He`s the director of the Harvard Global Institute.

Rick Stengel is also with us. He`s a former undersecretary of state in the Obama administration and an MSNBC political analyst. He`s author of "Information Wars: How We Lost the Global Battle Against Disinformation and What We Can Do About It" and the paperback is out this week.

Dr. Jha, the message has not gotten across to those kids, mostly college kids, some high school kids in that audience today, that they could go into that room of 3,000 today. They could pick up the coronavirus, they could never show a symptom and never feel even slightly sick, and they can go home and kill their grandparents. They don`t seem to know that.

DR. ASHISH JHA, HARVARD GLOBAL HEALTH INSTITUTE DIRECTOR:  Yeah, Lawrence, thanks for having me on. There is, to me, this sort of -- there are two sets of issues here. There`s one around campaign by I think a lot of media outlets and individuals to down play this disease, to say it`s no worse than the flu, that all those deaths are made up and they`re not real. And some people of course believe that.

The issue around young people getting infected, you know, it`s absolutely true that they will then go on to infect others, older people, people with chronic illness. We`re also seeing young people get very, very sick and some of them actually die.

So the idea that it`s completely safe for them is also a myth. This is also just very concerning to me as a physician and as a public health person.

O`DONNELL:  Let`s take a look at what has happened to what Donald Trump said about wanting to reduce the amount of testing going on. It`s already in a TV ad against him. Let`s look at what the Lincoln Project did with that.


TV AD ANNOUNCER:  Hey, Donald, your campaign manager told you a million fans wanted to come to your first big rally. Turnout in Tulsa -- a dud. You`ve probably heard this before, but it was smaller than we expected. It sure wasn`t as big as you promised.

Honestly, we`re not surprised. We`ve seen that you`re shaky. Can`t keep your polls up. And it`s getting worse. You talk a big game.

TRUMP:  The event in Oklahoma is unbelievable. The crowds are unbelievable. They haven`t seen anything like it.

TV AD ANNOUNCER:  And can`t deliver. Sad. Weak. Low energy. Just like your presidency. Just like you.


O`DONNELL:  Rick, we had the wrong ad there cued up for you. But they already have an ad out using those words, those infamous words that the president used about wanting the testing to go down.

And those words are going to chase him all the way to Election Day.

RICK STENGEL, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Absolutely. And the irony of all this, Lawrence, is not so much that the testing shows who has the virus, but so many more people have had the virus because they haven`t been tested and we don`t know about it.

I was listening to the report and you were talking about young people giving it to their grandparents. I haven`t talked about this before, but my mother died about six weeks ago.

She was 91 years old. She seemed perfectly healthy. The nurse called and says she seems to have pneumonia. By the time we got there, she was gone.

It`s undoubted that she probably died of coronavirus. One of her nurses tested positive for it later on. And she`s not one of those 120,000 people that we`re measuring. There are many more people that have had the virus than we know about.

And in fact, the testing that we do is meager compared to what we need to do. There may be 50,000 tests a day. We need to be doing five or ten times that. So, it`s just -- it`s a tragic thing that we`re seeing and we see a president who is colossally irresponsible, as you showed earlier.

O`DONNELL:  Rick, we`re very sorry about the loss of your mother. Sorry to hear about that.

And, Dr. Jha, what about that? I mean, this is one of the questions that came up in the house hearing today, how accurate do we think the death count is, and is it -- how are we recording the death count from this disease? Is there an undercount? And, you know, Rick`s mother is an example of what we know to be some of the undercount.

JHA:  Yeah. So, Rick, also I`m really sorry for your loss. I think unfortunately this is the reality of many Americans are facing.

I think most experts, Dr. Fauci said this in the past as well, believe and I believe that we have had a substantial undercount, that there have been a lot of people that passed away. But because of our terrible testing infrastructure, we haven`t been able to identify them before they got sick and we weren`t able to test them after they passed away. So this disease has taken enormous costs on the lives of Americans, and the idea that we should somehow slow down testing as a way to help the numbers look better to me is astonishing.

O`DONNELL:  Thank you both for starting off our discussion tonight. Appreciate it.

When we come back after this break, Senate Judiciary Committee Member Cory Booker will join us to discuss the state of policing reform legislation in Congress, and the shocking conduct of the attorney general of the United States in the last few days that has gotten him a rebuke from the faculty of the law school he graduated from.



SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ):  Who do you trust on police reform in America, the NAACP or Mitch McConnell? Who do you trust on police reform in America, the ACLU or Mitch McConnell? Who do you trust, the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights or Mitch McConnell?

The reality is, the legitimacy of this process that we have been pushing all the time, asking for real reform has been betrayed by what Mitch McConnell is doing through this procedures that he`s set up to fail this moment, and that to me is unacceptable.


O`DONNELL:  Our next guest, Senator Cory Booker is the co-author, along with Senator Kamala Harris of the Senate Democrats` legislation on police reform, the Republican version of police reform legislation in the Senate is unacceptable to Democrats and they want to work with Republicans to try to develop bipartisan legislation. The traditional process for that would be having the Senate Judiciary Committee, which has jurisdiction over law enforcement, work together to produce a bipartisan bill.

Senator Harris had this exchange today on the Senate floor with a Republican member of the Senate Judiciary member, John Cornyn, of Texas.


SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA):  We have asked that there would be a meaningful discussion of the Justice and Policing Act in that committee. None has occurred. So if we`re going to talk about process, let us look at all the tools that are available to well-intentioned, well-meaning legislators if the goal is actually to solve and address the issue at hand. I see no evidence of that.

SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R-TX):  What I`m trying to fathom, Madam President, is why the senator would rather have these negotiations occur behind closed doors as opposed to hear on the floor of the Senate for the American people to see broadcast on television.

HARRIS:  Indeed, that is the beauty of the Judiciary Committee. Our meetings are public meetings.


O`DONNELL:  Joining our discussion now is Democratic Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey. He`s a member of that Senate Judiciary Committee.

Senator, thank you very much for joining us tonight.

It`s so ironic to hear Senator Cornyn talk about something being developed behind closed doors.

Correct me if I`m wrong, but isn`t that the way the Republican legislation was developed?

BOOKER:  Incredibly so, behind closed doors. That`s the way they operate. You remember that toxic Trump tax plan was done behind closed doors, not through normal process.

So to get lectured by them about this being something that they are sincerely trying to do, to me is outrageous, because I`ve seen this from the criminal justice reform legislation we passed to how immigration reform was done in the years before I came to the Senate. When they`re serious about something, they`ll put it through a committee or create a gang of eight or gang of ten, you`ve heard of these before.

There`s no desire to get something substantive done. They`re pushing a bill on the floor that does not answer the demands of so many of the people out there on the streets that want to see an end to the killing of unarmed black people, because let me just be clear, it would not have stopped the awful practice, like our bill does, that got Breonna Taylor killed in her bed. It would not have stopped the awful chokehold that our bill bans that got Eric Garner killed. It would not allow George Floyd`s family to hold those officers accountable in federal court through civil rights claims.

These are all things they don`t address. Our bill does. And it`s just so frustrating that they`re setting up process to fail so they can turn the page and not rise to this moment in history.

O`DONNELL:  Senator McConnell is saying just let us put the Republican bill on the floor. You have enough votes to block them procedurally from getting the Republican bill on the floor. He`s saying let us put the Republican bill on the floor, and then it`s open to amendments. You can bring in the Booker/Harris amendment to ban chokeholds by American police officers, and then it`s up to a vote in the Senate, and 51 votes, it will go into the bill.

What`s wrong with that approach?

BOOKER:  Well, every major civil rights organization agrees with us, over 130 organizations signed on to a letter that this is a plan set up to fail, because what Mitch McConnell has -- said he would do is in the Senate he would make a 60-vote threshold for everything. That means we would need to get 14 senators to defect and do chokehold legislation, to defect to end racial and religious profiling, to defect to stop military equipment to be given to police departments.

And he knows he can stop those amendments from passing one by one by one by one. And so, it`s not a serious offer. He set the system up to fail. And getting on this bill, letting him go through these processes, to me, would be an exercise in futility when he`s preordained the result.

So what we`re asking for is just simply to allow us to come together, because there are Republicans that have already -- one has introduced legislation on qualified immunity. I`m having conversations with other ones about other things. I think if we sat down and started working on this, the way we`ve done other things, we could come up with a bill that honors the moment and actually creates real accountability in American policing.

O`DONNELL:  Yeah. I mean, him imposing a 60-vote -- asking for an agreement of a 60-vote threshold for amendments does make amendments impossible. It doesn`t seem like that long ago, but I guess it was, Senator, when I was working in the Senate and it took exactly 51 votes to get your amendments onto a bill.

So what about this other procedural possibility? Letting the Republican bill go to the floor with a 60-vote threshold, absolutely you won`t get any amendments on that bill. But then it just goes into conference with the bill from the House of Representatives, what Nancy Pelosi and the House Democrat`s bill, and from that, either something comes out the Democrats vote for or it doesn`t.

Why not leave that negotiation to what is the conference committee that could produce a bill that both bodies could vote on?

BOOKER:  Yes, well, that`s the point. If it went into the Senate, we would have to vote it out. So he would have to get 60 votes to go to conference.

And that`s the absurdity of what he`s proposing. First of all, you`re not going to get Democrats in good faith to vote for a bill that doesn`t address any of the issues that are core and purposeful to us.

But you don`t have to go to conference. I`ve watched in the Senate in the short six years I`ve been here so many in what they call four corners negotiation. We did it on criminal justice reform. We have the White House at the table.

We had members on the Republican and Democrat side of the Senate. We had house members at the table. We all got together and hammered out, because we all desire to get something done. So this idea that you have to go to a conference and have a negotiation is just wrong. I can tell you confidently that Nadler, the Head of this Congressional Black Caucus Karen Bass they would love to get into a room everybody and start to negotiate what real reform would look like. We do not need to go through these processes that Mitch McConnell is establishing to get into a room for negotiation.

In fact, I don`t think I can remember a time when Democrats have pleaded this much to please sit down in a room and negotiate with us. What Mitch McConnell clearly wants to do is to turn a page and be able to point a finger of blame at Democrats is opposed to accepting responsibility for what is really needed right now, which is not partisanship.

It`s to address generational long - generations long problems, that even king, when he stood on the march in Washington and people forget in his I have a dream speech. He specifically called out police brutality. From that to the Kerner report to the 21st Century Task Force and Policing. I can`t tell you how many times this country has studied it held commissions on it, done reports on it, all the things Republicans are calling for in their bill yet again.

People are not marching in the streets saying we want a commission. They are not marching the street saying we want more data. They are marching the street they say they want to stop police from choking them to death. They want to stop being profiled based upon their race. They want to end no- knock warrants. They want have transparency in the police departments. And if a cop or a police officer does wrong, they want to make sure that federal authorities can prosecute them and either they won`t have impossible standards to reach. This is not that complicated, we can get this done if we sit together and have a real conversation about what will save black lives in this country.

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Senator Cory Booker, thank you very much for joining us tonight. We really appreciate it.

BOOKER: Thank you very much. Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Thank you. Well, I ran out of time to ask Senator Booker about the attorney general`s conduct of the last few days, but we are lucky because we have a Former Assistant U.S. Attorney from New Jersey, who is now a member of the House of Representatives joining us next. We will get her expert view of the attorney general`s conduct.


O`DONNELL: Today, 65 professors and faculty members at George Washington University Law School expressed their contempt for Attorney General William Barr`s contempt for basic constitutional rights. Attorney General Barr is a graduate of George Washington University Law School. A law school faculty there today wrote, in a public statement that the attorney general has, "undermined the rule of law, damaged public confidence that the law applies equally and fairly to all persons, and demonstrated contempt for basic constitutional rights. In short, Attorney General Barr has failed to fulfill his oath of office to support and defend the constitution of the United States.

In written opening remarks for his testimony tomorrow at a house judiciary committee hearing, federal prosecutor Aaron Zelinsky says when he was working on the Roger Stone case, there was "heavy pressure from the highest levels of the department of justice to cut Roger Stone a break, and that the U.S. attorney`s sentencing instructions to us were based on political considerations. I was also told that the acting U.S. attorney was giving stone such unprecedentedly favorable treatment because he was afraid of the President".

Joining our discussion now, Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill, a Democrat from New Jersey, she is a Former Navy Pilot and a Former Assistant U.S. Attorney in New Jersey. Congresswoman Sherrill thank you very much for joining us tonight. I want to get your reaction first of all to what is emerging as the testimony that we`re going to hear in tomorrow`s hearing about of the attorney general`s interference in the Roger Stone case.

REP. MIKIE SHERRILL (D-NJ): Well, as you mentioned, I was in the navy and I have served all over the world. I`ve always been incredibly proud of our justice system, the impartiality of our justice system, free from political interference. And yet everything in Zelinsky`s opening statement speaks to exactly what we - everything against our values. So for those of you are unfamiliar with sentencing guidelines, as you`re an assistant U.S. attorney, you look through the sentencing guidelines. They`re fairly rigid, they lay out the case. Sometimes you have enhancements for bad behavior.

So things like for example, what Mr. Stone did, painting a target on the face of the judge, lying to the judge, lying to Congress, and yet here in this, we see because of political pressure, they were being - the assistant U.S. attorneys were being asked not to enhance the sentence or make it longer, but rather to lower the sentence, which, you know, here is someone who was show nothing remorse whatsoever. I see no evidence that any U.S. attorney`s office would somehow lower that sentence. So this concerns me and should really concern every American.

O`DONNELL: I want to read more from what Aaron Zelinsky is going to say tomorrow. He is still a prosecutor working in this justice department with William Barr technically as his boss. He`s going say tomorrow in his opening remarks, what I heard repeatedly was that Roger Stone was being treated differently from any other defendant because of his relationship to the President. And Congresswoman Sherrill, that`s what it appeared to be from the outside. But here`s someone who is inside saying yes, that`s exactly what it was.

SHERRILL: Exactly. Which, I think we have to really admire this country`s wonderful public servant. Here is someone who is a line prosecutor, his boss, and the U.S. attorney was afraid of the President. He was told by his supervisor, according to this opening statement, that yes, this was unethical and wrong. However, they had to pretty much keep their heads down or they could lose their jobs. And he didn`t do that. In fact, all four of the prosecutors, according to this testimony, all four of the prosecutors resigned after their sentencing memo was withdrawn and a new one that they felt was incorrect was put forward.

O`DONNELL: I want to take you to the strange situation that developed with the U.S. attorney in Manhattan over the weekend. I had to learn a lot of things quickly that I didn`t know about before, which was that a U.S. attorney appointed by the district court judges in that district cannot be fired by the attorney general, which seems to be something the attorney general didn`t know. But the U.S. attorney knew. And so he refused to leave when the attorney general tried to fire him. And then the President could fire him.

Once that was all exposed, the Attorney General and the President had no choice apparently but to leave in place the deputy U.S. attorney, which is the normal successor when the office is vacated that way, and we have reason to believe that she will carry on what Geoffrey Berman was working on there. But that was a very, very dramatic 24 hours where it was very hard to tell what was happening next, but it seems very clear this is another case of very willful, political interference with some objective to protect someone in Trump world, and possibly Donald Trump himself.

SHERRILL: It was very, very weird and difficult to understand. You have the attorney general on a Friday night putting out a statement that U.S. attorney Berman had resigned. Berman said the first he heard about was the statement. He had no intention of resigning. And then he made a statement that, again, I think points to the concerns about political influence in our U.S. attorney`s offices across the country.

He said he was worried and he wanted to make sure the investigations continued unimpeded. And so that says to me that he was concerned that there was some political maneuvering here as many of us are now concerned. So it was very odd and then to have the attorney general say well, the President said you have to leave and the President saying no, I didn`t say that, and very, very odd.

O`DONNELL: Were you as impressed as I was with the way Geoffrey Berman handled it, and he actually managed to win 24 hours into this story and get the successor he wanted in place taking over for him?

SHERRILL: Not the successor he wanted just because he was playing political favorites, but the successor he wanted to ensure the integrity of this investigation.


SHERRILL: And so yes, I was impressed with him, as you said. And again, you know, as I have seen so many of our public servants come forward and protect this country, protect the institutions of our democracy, protect our values, I`ve become more and more proud of our public servants.

O`DONNELL: Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill of New Jersey, thank you very much for joining us tonight. We really appreciate it.

SHERRILL: Thanks so much for having me.

O`DONNELL: Thank you. And when we come back, voters in Kentucky and elsewhere went to the polls today, to among other things, choose a Democratic nominee for Senate to run against Mitch McConnell in November. We`ll get the latest from Steve Kornacki at the Big Board, next.


O`DONNELL: As polling places in Kentucky are about to close at 6:00 p.m. today, voters at Jefferson County`s one polling location were running through the parking lot to get in line where the doors were locked at 6:00 p.m. They then banged on those doors, begging to be let in. Jefferson County, which includes the city of Louisville, had just one polling location for more than 616,000 voters, and an emergency court injunction then extended voting at that location for 30 more minutes. Earlier today, NBC`s Shaquille Brewster reported that voters were waiting over 30 minutes just to park their cars at that one polling place. Joining us now is MSNBC National Political Correspondents Steve Kornacki. Steve, what can you tell us as of this hour?

STEVE KORNACKI, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I can tell you a little, and you can see it right here on your screen. These are the results we have right now from Kentucky. It is not a lot. Amy McGrath, though, in the votes that have been released so far, narrowly ahead of Charles Booker. You see 44 to 40. You can see when I say not a lot, 22,000 to 20,000 a little less down here, south of 50,000 votes have been counted so far. When all is said and done we are looking at probably more than half a million votes being cast in this Democratic primary. So a long way to go. What you have here are some counties in this state, and some precincts in some counties in the state decided to release the vote that they received today that people went out and cast in person today.

A lot more of the vote in Kentucky, though, was cast by mail. Days ago, weeks ago, or was thrown into the mail just today and they can still count if it comes in, in the next couple of days. So basically we may get some more results from some of these counties overnight into tomorrow in terms of what was cast today. Then we may wait a week for more to come in. I just let you know, Louisville, biggest city in the state, biggest county, a quarter of the vote in this county right here, also Lexington. There`s only a couple of pressing in Lexington right now. These two counties are about 35% of the vote. They may be the ball game for booker and basically we don`t have any votes in those counties yet, and we may not for a while.

And quickly, Lawrence, there is one other big story brewing here. New York, 16th Congressional District. Eliot Engel is a Democratic Congressman who was elected in 1988. This is incomplete. A big county in the district we`re still waiting on. But in the results that are in, his challenger, Jamaal Bowman, with a big early lead on Eliot Engel.

O`DONNELL: That would be an Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez like upset if that one comes through that way. Steve Kornacki, thank you very much for that report. Really appreciate it.


O`DONNELL: And when we come back, the team is back, Barack Obama and Joe Biden, running again, this time with Joe Biden as the candidate for President and President Obama as the campaign supporter. That`s next.


O`DONNELL: The Presidential campaign trail now passes through President Barack Obama`s living room.


BARACK OBAMA, 44TH U.S. PRESIDENT: There is no disconnect between the urgency of this election in the political moment and what has been happening on the streets and what we`ve been seeing on the TV screens. We have this unique chance to translate a growing awareness of injustice in this society into actual legislation and institutional change that can make a difference in people`s lives. And those moments don`t come that often.


O`DONNELL: That was President Barack Obama tonight participating in his first fund raiser for Joe Biden`s campaign. More than 175,000 people were actually able to attend the event without risking their lives because it was held online. The Biden campaign raised over $11 million today. A national poll released today by Harvard University and Harris polling gives Joe Biden a 12 point lead over Donald Trump, 56 to 44.

And joining our discussion now is Zerlina Maxwell. She is the Senior Director for Progressive Programming at SiriusXM Radio. She is the author of the upcoming book "The End of White Politics: How to Heal our Liberal Divide". She`s an MSNBC Political Analyst. Zerlina, I want to give Barack Obama one more chance to make one more point before we jump into this discussion, and let`s listen to what he said kind of in reaction to polls showing Joe Biden with a 12 point lead. He doesn`t want people to take that for granted. Let`s listen to this.


OBAMA: We can`t be complacent or smug or sense that somehow it`s so obvious that this President hasn`t done a good job because, look, he won once. And it wasn`t like we didn`t have a good clue as to how he was going to operate the last time. And obviously we have more evidence that it`s not working out real good. But it still means we got to do some serious work.


O`DONNELL: Zerlina, it seems - it`s hard to say, but if these polls keep coming in this way with Joe Biden at 56, I mean 56, 44 is a devastating poll for the Trump campaign. But Donald Trump remains the energizer of the vote, doesn`t he? I mean the complacency would depend on people relaxing and going, eh, I don`t care that much about going out there and voting against Donald Trump.

ZERLINA MAXWELL, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I think that the trick here is to both excite the Democratic base and get them behind Joe Biden and whoever he picks to be his Vice Presidential nominee and also ensure that they have access to the ballot. So any polling that puts Joe Biden up, that`s good news of course because that means that his campaign is doing what`s necessary to get enough support to win the election in the popular vote.

But as we learned in 2016, Lawrence, it`s not the popular vote that decides who the President is. It`s the Electoral College. And so those state-by- state polls, we should be looking at those very closely but also ensuring state-by-state that voter access, absentee balloting, early voting hours and days are extended so that the base of the Democratic Party, which very much needs to get that access that is being taken away intentionally by Republicans, mind you, because the base of the Democratic Party is so much bigger than Donald Trump`s base.

So that`s where I think Biden needs to focus. And President Obama, oh, man, I miss him. I miss sleeping soundly at night and not worrying about the existential threat that is Donald Trump. That has been true for three years. And now we`re in a moment where we`re finally in the home stretch here and we can live in a reality where we have a competent and experienced President at the helm in one of the worst crises. And so what we need to focus on above all is voter access.

O`DONNELL: And, Zerlina, in terms of fund raising for the campaign, the campaign had a very good day on fund raising, and that`s not even counting, because we can`t count, we don`t know how to count quite yet the Mike Bloomberg input. He has pledged to spend whatever it takes in negative advertising against Donald Trump to take him down. But all of that, as you say, the more negative it gets for Trump, the harder the Republicans will be fighting to suppress the vote.

MAXWELL: That`s exactly right because the numbers are not on their side, Lawrence. In my book "The End of White Politics" I`m basically looking at the data of the American electorate and predicting or he was predicting that the American electorate will be majority non-white by 2045. That means that the Democrats have a leg up in terms of who their base is and who they need to turn out. And that is critically important. So no matter what Donald Trump does, we need to turn our people out. We know he`s terrible and bad. We`re all at home in quarantine. But what we need to do is change the person at the top. And the way we do that is working every single day. We can take nothing for granted. Zerlina Maxwell gets tonight`s Last Word. Thank you for joining us tonight, Zerlina, we really appreciate it. The 11th Hour with Brian Williams starts now.