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Jamaal Bowman TRANSCRIPT: 6/24/20, The Last Word w/ Lawrence O'Donnell

Guests: Ezra Klein, Jamaal Bowman, Charlie Cook, Dr. Cameron Webb, Jamie Raskin, Ezra Raskin

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

As you know, New York politics has a lot of very big stars like, say, Andrew Cuomo, Chuck Schumer, Democratic leader of the Senate, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. "The Daily Beast" has decided that the new star of New York politics is Jamaal Bowman, and he hasn`t even quite won his congressional election that the primary where he challenged Eliot Engel, the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the House.

But Jamaal Bowman is going to join us tonight since he`s on the threshold, the verge once the votes are counted of becoming the new big star in New York politics.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, "TRMS":  What an excellent booking. I`m jealous.

O`DONNELL:  Yeah. Well, you know, we work hard at this.

MADDOW:  I`m going to start stealing your stuff.

O`DONNELL:  Here is the way it`s going to work. I will get him before he`s technically won, and then the second he`s won, he will be on THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW. That`s how this will work.

MADDOW:  If you can promise that on his behalf, I will both be surprised and hold you to it.

O`DONNELL:  I will book him, I will book him for you tonight on TV.

MADDOW:  Thank you. I owe you.

O`DONNELL:  Done. Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW:  Thanks. Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL:  Well, it is not a coincidence that on the day that the United States sets a new grim record for the largest number of new coronavirus cases reported in a single day, a "New York Times" poll comes out, a poll of the presidential race that shows Joe Biden with a record high lead in that poll over Donald Trump. Ezra Klein believes that is not a coincidence, those two things, and he will make his case later in this hour.

He`s already being called, as I told you, the new star of New York politics and Jamaal Bowman has not yet officially won yesterday`s primary election for the congressional seat currently held by the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, but Jamaal Bowman does have a very, very big lead. Looks like an insurmountable lead in the vote count already, and he will join us later in this hour.

If Jamaal Bowman is sworn in as a member of the house of representatives next year, he might be taking his place in a much more sane atmosphere than it is today because Republicans in the House of Representatives now seem to have only one mission, to impress Donald Trump and Trump voters by vandalizing House proceedings in every way that they can think of.

As we saw in the House impeachment inquiry last year and again today, House Republicans have a strategy when all of the evidence at the hearing reveals Trump corruption and in today`s hearing corruption by the attorney general, and that strategy is chaos, confusion and parliamentary vandalism. Republican members of the committee did not have to do any homework for today`s hearing about corruption and Donald Trump`s Justice Department headed by Attorney General William Barr because their plan was to try to make the hearing incomprehensible.

The first witness to speak today was interrupted in a way we have never ever seen before. The witness was Donald Ayer who served in the Justice Department in Ronald Reagan`s administration as well as George H.W. Bush`s administration. He served under Republican attorneys general and rose to the number two job, deputy attorney general.

Republicans on the committee today were not impressed with Mr. Ayer`s Republican credentials. That meant nothing to them. When Mr. Ayer went slightly over the five-minute limit for his opening remarks, which is very, very common in congressional hearings, Texas Republican Louie Gohmert tried to drown out the witness testimony with increasingly loud banging on his desk.


DONALD AYER, FORMER DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL:  He said that Bill Barr does regularly lie in ways that impact official actions.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Mr. Chairman, there is not order in the room. There is a banging.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  No, there is certainly not.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Mr. Chairman, would you have Gene Cooper removed?


O`DONNELL:  That kind of madness has never happened in a congressional hearing before Republicans like Louie Gohmert started competing for Donald Trump`s affections with more and more outrageous conduct.

The star witness of the day was Aaron Zelinsky, who was one of the prosecutors working on the Roger Stone case. He described the pressure from the president and the attorney general to reduce the prosecution`s sentencing request for Roger Stone.


AARON ZELINSKY, ROGER STONE PROSECUTOR:  We were pressured to reduce the initial sentencing guidelines calculation for Mr. Stone without any clear, legal rational for doing so. When we refused to go along, we were instructed instead to disregard the guidelines entirely and to recommend an unspecified sentence -- lower sentence for Mr. Stone. I was told that to the best of anyone`s recollection, such a recommendation has never been made by the fraud and public corruption section of the United States Attorneys Office.

When we again refused, we were told that we could be fired if we didn`t go along. I notified the office I intended to withdraw from the case rather than file a memo that was the result of the wrongful political pressure.

And while all this was happening, I was repeatedly told the department`s actions were not based on the law or the facts but rather on political considerations, Mr. Stone`s political relationships and that the acting U.S. attorney was afraid of the president.


O`DONNELL: And there you have it, a condemnation of the attorney general from inside the attorney general`s own department. Aaron Zelinsky revealed that he was testifying remotely today because he was being extra cautious, as cautious as possible, about exposure to the coronavirus because he has a newborn baby at home.

And when Louie Gohmert finally got his precious five minutes to question witnesses, here is everything, and I mean the totality, of what he had to say to the biggest witness of the day, Aaron Zelinsky.


REP. LOUIE GOHMERT (R-TX):  And the fact that Mr. Zelinsky, I was going to ask him questions but -- and I understand family matters and by the way, I`m grateful for my wife for sticking with me for 42 years today and there are family matters. Yeah, she`s a lot more fair than we`re getting around here. But so 42 years. Thank you, Kathy.

Some of us have family matters, too, that are very pressing. But this is very pressing, too. And I won`t try to compare those.


O`DONNELL:  That`s it. That`s everything he had to say to and about the most important witness in that hearing today. That`s how Louie Gohmert used his valuable time.

He did not ask a single question, not one. He did not make a single coherent point other than it was his wedding anniversary today. Louie Gohmert who was so desperately concerned with the use of the committee`s precious time, by that first witness, just threw his own five-minute opportunity away, as so many Republicans do in hearings like this.

The one witness appearing in defense of Attorney General Barr was former Republican Attorney General Michael Mukasey who served in George Bush`s administration. Congresswoman Val Demings left a very big crack in Michael Mukasey`s defense against political interference in the Justice Department.


REP. VAL DEMINGS (D-FL):  Do you believe that the president, nor the attorney general who has been acting more like the president`s personal body guard and his fixer, have not engaged in politics as it pertains to the president`s friends?

MICHAEL MUKASEY, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL:  I can`t speak for the president. The president is, by definition, a political --

DEMINGS:  Based on your professional decision, political or professional experience, do you believe the president has engaged in a political way as it pertains to sentences or what happens to his friends?

MUKASEY:  The attorney general himself criticized the president for tweets that he --

DEMINGS:  So that`s a yes.

MUKASEY:  It`s a maybe. Go ahead.


O`DONNELL:  A maybe.

Donald Ayer lived through the Nixon administration and saw President Nixon resign the presidency in the middle of impeachment proceedings. He saw President Nixon`s attorney general convicted of crimes, felonies in that investigation. Donald Ayer has seen it all, but he had never seen a greater threat to our rule of law than William Barr.


AYER:  I was privileged to serve in the Department of Justice under two Republican and one Democratic president and I am here because I believe that William Barr poses the greatest threat in my lifetime to our rule of law and to public trust in it. That is because he does not believe in its core principal, that no one is above the law.

Instead, since taking office, he has worked to advance his lifelong conviction that the president should hold virtually autocratic powers. That includes immunity from nearly all checks and balances and being able to accord special treatment to himself and his friends.


O`DONNELL:  During today`s hearing, the Justice Department announced that Attorney General William Barr has agreed to testify to the House Judiciary Committee on July 28th.

Leading off our discussion tonight, Democratic Congressman Jamie Raskin from Maryland. He`s a member of the House Judiciary Committee. Neal Katyal is with us. He`s the former acting solicitor general and an MSNBC legal contributor.

Congressman Raskin, were you surprised by the attorney general`s announcements during the hearing that he is agreeing to testify, although it`s going to be five weeks from now?

REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD):  Well, he`s agreed several times before and he`s always found a reason to back out. So I think most members of the committee feel like we`ll believe it when we see it.

And, I mean, it`s scandalous that he won`t appear. One of the things that Donald Ayer pointed out so well was that this administration has been openly defying the approach appropriations power of Congress. We appropriate money for certain purposes and they steal the money to build the president`s infantile, medieval wall at the border instead. They have defied dozens and dozens of subpoenas that we have issued, demands for information, requests for interviews and so on. They just categorically reject the demands of Congress, which is the law making power in article one of the Constitution.

So, you know, it was very powerful when Donald Ayer said today that Donald Trump is the biggest threat to the rule of law in the country today, which is resonant with I think Donald Trump`s niece who`s saying he`s the most dangerous man on earth. But we should reflect on what the rule of law means. In the hands of the right wing judges like Justice Scalia, the rule of law is just the law of rules. It`s just what`s in the statute books.

But the American revolutionaries and the French revolutionaries and the enlightenment thought that the rule of law was a system of legal controls against people who had power. They understood that the rabble below would always be subject to the baton in the ribs and the equivalent of the rubber bullets and the tear gas and so on.

But the rule of law was a way to control people who get state power, and that`s what they`re in the process of trying to demolish, by taking over -- taking over every governmental entity and stuffing it with their authoritarian puppets and then wiping out the civil rights and civil liberties of the people. So we`ve got a few months left to try to defend democracy at every turn on a daily basis, and we will continue to see these chaotic circus shows by people like Louie Gohmert who believe or not was a judge in Texas, which gives you a sense of what judges are becoming in a lot of parts of the country.

But they`re going to continue, you know, just to, you know, scroll graffiti on legal documents and throw tomatoes and try to make as much chaos as possibly, why, to distract America from the world historical failure of this administration to deliver any kind of public safety or security to the American people in this pandemic, which has cost more than 120,000 lives of our people.

O`DONNELL:  I want to continue with our analysis of what we heard and the important points of what we heard today. But, Congressman, I do think we owe it to the audience to try to explain as quickly as we can why these hearings get out of control like this. There was a call by some Democratic members we heard, could the chairman get the sergeant in arms to drag Louie Gohmert out of there.

And the truth of the matter is the House rules just really have not anticipated clearly situations like this. I used to work in the Senate. I know what the rules are there. But I studied House rules today. The most I could come up with for unruly behavior was simply a rule about the House floor, where it says the sergeant at arms is authorized to hold up the mace, the symbol of the sergeant at arms authority, before unruly members and carry the mace down the aisle of the House chamber to subdue disorderly conduct.

These rules haven`t really anticipated Louie Gohmert, have they?

RASKIN:  No. Or James Warden (ph), or a lot of their friends, Matt Gaetz. If you are going to go down with that mace, you better bring the other mace with you, too, because these people were completely out of control.

Look, Lawrence, they won`t even wear masks. We even have the Dr. Fauci and the president`s medical personnel saying everybody should be wearing a mask, and they make it a point of macho pride not to wear a mask when we go into Congress, which is terrifying a lot of members, including some Republicans who have medically vulnerable people at home.

And, you know, Jim Jordan has made a point of never wearing a jacket. I don`t care about that. I would not want to kick him off the floor for not wearing a jacket. That`s a fashion statement.

But when it comes to wearing a mask, that`s a public health decision. He`s imposing it on everyone else. It`s extremely dangerous and we have had a lot of members come down with COVID-19. As you know, the pandemic is out of control in the red states. It`s a lot of the Republicans who refuse to wear a mask.

O`DONNELL:  Neal Katyal, what we reportedly saw here in the conduct of the Republicans in the hearing is connected to what we`re talking about in the Justice Department because what we have discovered in the Trump era is that so many things that we thought were rules that we thought were kind of unbreakable turn out just to be customs, and being sane in a committee hearing is just a custom that was shared by every single member of the House of Representatives up until the Trump era. And so also with so many practices in the Justice Department that we had a sense we`re codified. We had a sense there were legal lines drawn, but there weren`t as many as we thought.

And that`s part of what was under examination today in that hearing, wasn`t it?

NEAL KATYAL, MSNBC LEGAL CONTRIBUTOR:  Absolutely. So, the first thing I want to do is agree with the congressman about Attorney General Barr and whether he`ll actually testify on July 28th. I mean, the attorney general has been scared of testifying. The House has been trying for more than a year to get him to testify, and he asked -- and he acts scared at every turn and dodges it. He`s kind of like Trump at a spelling bee, just frightened out of his mind.

So, you know, I`ll believe it when I see it. I absolutely agree with you, Lawrence, that the justice department is built on the rock of traditions and norms and chief among them is the idea of independence that presidents don`t tell you if you are at the department who to prosecute or who to let go. Both of those story lines today are clashing because you have the president saying, let go of my pals like Roger Stone, and that`s where the testimony of Aaron Zelinsky today was flabbergasting.

I mean, people like me who have heard it at the department before, we`ve heard it whispered from all sorts of people. People have called me, prosecutors at the top of the department and in the career, you know, in the middle ranks saying this is unbelievable, they politicize law enforcement. You can`t believe it.

But they have been afraid to testify. Here you have got this brave guy, Aaron Zelinsky, career prosecutor who has evidently documented everything, that`s what he testified today, and he said this president was interfering with law enforcement decisions by telling him to go easy on his pals and then there was other testimony today from other folks saying this president is saying to go hard on his enemies and use the prosecution power.

And once that happens, our law enforcement system, you know, will become on the verge of collapse because it depends on the integrity and even handed enforcement of the law, as all law enforcement systems do.

O`DONNELL:  Neal Katyal, a quick word about the appeals court ruling in the Michael Flynn case today saying that it should be dismissed. Is that the end of this story?

KATYAL:  Oh, absolutely not. First of all, the opinion is legally flimsy to put it mildly, so it very well may get further appeals.

Second, the president said that Michael Flynn was exonerated today. Nothing in the decision says anything about that, Lawrence. It`s just about does the president have the raw power to drop a prosecution after someone pleads guilty. And, you know, the exercise of craw power is very different than the wisdom of doing it.

Here, everyone agrees this guy, the national security adviser to the president, pled guilty for lying to the FBI about his conversation with the Russians and that gave the Russians huge comfort because they knew that our national security adviser was now compromised, that he had lied to the FBI. And could you imagine having that person in the White House, which is what the president wanted. It was a grave sin. It was criminal.

And nothing in today`s decision takes any of that back. And Michael Flynn is not vindicated relative to this decision, whatever happens to it. It happens to be a terribly weak decision and should be the basis for further appeal. But whether it is or not, Michael Flynn is not exonerated.

O`DONNELL:  Neal Katyal and Congressman Jamie Raskin, thank you both for starting us off tonight. Really appreciate it.

RASKIN:  You bet, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL:  Thank you.

After this break, today the United States set a grim record. More than 36,000 new coronavirus infections reported. The highest single day total yet.

And at the very same time, a new poll today shows Donald Trump`s disastrous response to the pandemic is possibly the main reason for Joe Biden`s big lead in that poll and others. Ezra Klein joins us next.


O`DONNELL:  Today, the United States is reporting 36,358 new cases of coronavirus today, the highest single day increase in the United States since the pandemic began. And remember on February 26th, Donald Trump promised this.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  When you have 15 people and the 15, within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero.


O`DONNELL:  Zero, that`s what Donald Trump promised.

As of tonight, there have been 2,389,672 confirmed cases of coronavirus in this country, and as of tonight this country has suffered 122,521 deaths from coronavirus.

Today, Florida reported a new state daily record of 5,508 new cases of coronavirus. Florida has now moved up to ranking 29th out of the 50 states for cases per hundred thousand people.

A new national poll released today by "The New York Times" and Siena College found that Joe Biden has a 14 point lead over Donald Trump, 50 to 36.

One explanation for that lead is revealed in voters` assessment of Donald Trump`s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, 58 percent of voters disapprove of Donald Trump`s handling of the coronavirus pandemic. Only 38 percent approve.

The poll also found that 55 percent of voters say the federal government`s priority should be to contain the spread of the coronavirus, even if it hurts the economy. Only 34 percent say what Donald Trump believes, which is restarting the economy is worth it even if it increases the risk to public health.

Joining our discussion now, Ezra Klein, co-founder of "Vox", he is the host of podcast "The Ezra Klein Show", and author of the book, "Why We`re Polarized".

Ezra, the numbers in the poll are so -- they`re such mirrors of each other. The Biden 14-point lead. And then this massive disapproval of Donald Trump`s handling of the pandemic.

EZRA KLEIN, CO-FOUNDER, VOX:  Yeah. It`s a disaster politically because, and I think this is really important, because it is actually a disaster. There is simply no better politics than governing well. Donald Trump, I think, didn`t quite get that. It is unusual we elect a true outsider to be president. He had never been a mayor, had never been a governor, had never been a member of the House or Senate. He had never governed anything at all.

So he ran as a pure political entertainment character. He watched politics on TV. He figured out how to do TV politics and to our discredit as a nation, we elected him as president. So now he`s president and he still does not understand that you can`t run next time the way you ran the first time.

His great advantage in 2016 was he had no record. In 2020, he does, and that record is a disaster. Right before I came on air, Lawrence, I saw a chart from "The Washington Post." You mentioned today`s number in America, something like 37,000. The European Union is up to 4,000 new cases a day.

If you look in March, look in April, we`re about the same as the European Union. And then they went down, and we`ve gone back up and run an upward curve. This is not a disaster that was inevitable. It is a disaster that is the function of product of terrible governance.

O`DONNELL:  And the other phenomenon here, political phenomenon, which is the worst thing you can possibly do in politics is that Donald Trump is scaring people. He is scaring people with this threat to their health that he is clearly not defending them against. It`s kind of an extension of health care politics, which is a much more innocent version of this.

But we discovered in polling in 1994 when the Clinton health care bill was moving in the Senate, I was working in the Senate then, that people were just afraid, they were afraid of what this change might mean for their own health care, that same phenomenal of being afraid of the Obama legislation recured. But that`s a mild fear compared to the fear that people are feeling right now that they or someone they love might be infected by this virus, might be killed by this virus and the president is not defending us against this virus.

KLEIN:  The core argument Donald Trump had running for re-election was that the economy looked pretty good. You go back six months, that`s what he`s saying in every speech, that`s what anybody who he talked to was thinking about running the campaign on the Democratic side, or the Republican side is telling you.

What was important about that was that the American people are not stupid by any means. They look at Donald Trump. They know he acts crazy. They know the things he says are a bit ridiculous. But what you hear is maybe it will make him effective, right, or maybe he`s a wrecking ball that will get things done in Washington when the normal, gentle politicians don`t.

The issue with coronavirus, which among not only causes tremendous levels of death and sickness and harm, but also has collapsed the economy, is that it washed all that away. You can now see the consequences of ill governance.

The thing Donald Trump had before was an economy that was the same trend, by the way, that we had seen in the last couple years of the Obama administration, which he continued to benefit from, covered up the fact that he functionally wasn`t acting as president at all. He was acting as president on TV, but not running a White House, not running an administration, not setting an agenda.

I spoke, by the way, today with Mitt Romney`s chief strategist in 2012, and the thing he said to me, which is the Republican Party collapsed as a governing institution. It`s not just Donald Trump. It`s not like Mitch McConnell is doing a great job here either in stepping into the void Donald Trump has left.

And so, what`s happening now is that people can actually see what it looks like when the president isn`t doing his job during a crisis, and it is terrifying and it has taken away the argument he had, which is if people were willing to give him the benefit of the doubt so longer.

So long as the country`s economy and basic functioning seemed like it was working well. Now that it doesn`t now that there is a match between the ways he acts and what appears to be the actual state of the country? He is collapsing in the polls.

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Big surprise terrifying people lose bad politics. Something that I think we already knew. Ezra Klein, thank you for joining us tonight. Really appreciate it.

KLEIN: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: After this break, Charlie Cook will join us with his expert view of the new polls, including swing state polling that is all very, very bad news for Donald Trump.


O`DONNELL: Exactly two weeks ago tonight, Donald Trump had his lawyers draft a letter threatening legal action over a CNN poll that showed Joe Biden with a 14 point lead over Donald Trump, and since that poll was released every other credible national poll shows a similar lead for Joe Biden. That includes a national poll released today by "The New York Times" showing Joe Biden with a 14 point lead over Donald Trump.

The Coronavirus pandemic has more voters using mail-in ballots than ever before, which means we will be having delays in getting final vote counts. That includes many of last night`s primary races where it could be up to a week before winners are declared.

Joining our discussion now is Charlie Cook. He is the Editor and Publisher of the Cook Political Report and Columnist for "The National Journal". He is an NBC New Political Analyst. Charlie, the last time you were here, Donald Trump was threatening CNN with a legal letter over the 14 point lead poll, and you said then that the CNN poll since it was the most recent poll was probably a leader and it was going to - we were going to end up seeing other polls like it, and here we are.

CHARLIE COOK, COLUMNIST NATIONAL JOURNAL: Now, I said that after you told me not to talk about it.

O`DONNELL: That`s right. Because you might get a lawyer`s letter, yes.

COOK: Yes, yes. You can argue, you know, this NBC, Wall Street Journal, NPR, PBS had it at 7:00, but those were a couple weeks ago 14 for CNN and New York Times. You know, the thing is, whether it - and this may just be a high point, but this is way, way, way down.

And when you`re looking at, you know, look at the swing states, look at where he - where the President is tied - Joe Biden is tying him in North Carolina and behind by at least four or five points on average in every other swing state.

So right now if you just push every state wherever it`s going and give the President North Carolina, even though it is like a half a point, which you would have is Democrats are like three or Biden would have like 318 electoral votes and the President would have 220.

And even a Democrat probably has to win the popular vote by, you know, three or four percentage points to make for all the wasted votes by run up the score in California, New York and Illinois and places like that.

But - and then a couple points above that and you start having a cascading effect on Electoral College where you start winning lots of states by small margins, and it - you know, after a point, it just starts exaggerating.

So that`s why the difference between a lead of the President, you know, four or five points as it was, you know, six, eight weeks ago, four weeks ago, and something like even eight or ten, forget the 14, this is a really big difference.

O`DONNELL: And, Charlie, we have some individual state polls that are pretty surprising. We have an Ohio poll with Joe Biden one point ahead of Donald Trump ahead in Ohio 46/45 Wisconsin Joe Biden eight points ahead of Donald Trump in Wisconsin.

And, so, there isn`t a place to look for reassurance for Donald Trump except maybe, maybe 1988 and the 18 point lead that Michael Dukakis had over George H.W. Bush. Can that happen again?

COOK: I don`t think, I do think given the partisan ship in this country, it is just hard to get up to those - to run up the score. I mean, when you have got two parties, the President can do little or nothing wrong and in the other the President can do little or nothing right, it kind of elevates the floor for both parties, for an incumbent in both parties.

So it is really hard to win by those kinds of margins. But early tomorrow morning "The New York Times" is supposed to be releasing their polls in the battleground states, and the six battleground states, so that will be very, very interesting to watch. And this is a - it is a very high quality poll.

O`DONNELL: Charlie, Jamaal Bowman is our next guest. He apparently is going to beat the Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Why don`t we able to call that race? He`s going to be with us right after the commercial break. He`s got 60 percent of the vote right now, but we don`t have the final tally because of the mail-in ballots.

COOK: Well, his race could get called before most of the others. But we`re talking about election night is now election, you know, weeks. I mean, so his will be called earlier because that`s a really big lead. So, you know AP and that works - will move a little quicker.

But some of these states, I mean some of these districts it is going to be weeks and weeks. This is going to be welcome to the new world. The old election night, Lawrence, you and I - we`ve had our last one.

O`DONNELL: Yes, I guess so.

COOK: We`ve had election months instead of Election Day and we have had election weeks instead of election night.

O`DONNELL: We will wait for the mail. Charlie Cook, thank you very much for joining us tonight.

COOK: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: And when we come back after this break, you and I will meet Jamaal Bowman together. I`m very excited about this. He`s already being called the new star of New York politics which already had a few big stars like Andrew Cuomo, Chuck Schumer and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

But Jamaal Bowman seems to be on the verge of making New York political history. All the votes have not yet been counted as we just said, but he currently has a huge lead over a powerful house Committee Chairman in New York`s Democratic Primary Jamaal bowman will join us next.


O`DONNELL: Today Jamaal Bowman tweeted, I`m a black man raised by a single mother in a housing project. That story doesn`t usually end in Congress. But today that 11-year-old boy beaten by police is about to be your representative.

I can`t wait to get to D.C. and cause problems for those maintaining the status quo. Jamaal Bowman has already caused the ultimate problem for Democratic Congressman Eliot Engel who was the powerful Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Jamaal Bowman has a massive lead over Eliot Engel in the Democratic Primary vote which will not be fully counted for several days because of mail-in ballots.

Like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez before him Jamaal Bowman had no political experience until he decided to quit his job as a middle school principal and run for Congress. "The Daily Beast" greeted Jamaal Bowman today with a headline calling him `The New Star of New York Politics".

And joining us now is Jamaal Bowman, Democratic Candidate for New York`s 16th Congressional District. Congratulations on what you have achieved so far. We don`t have the final numbers.

But by the way, I don`t know if you saw the beginning of the show, as soon as you are officially declared the winner and only then, Rachel Maddow desperately wants you on her show, can you commit to that tonight?

JAMAAL BOWMAN, DEMOCRATIC CANDIDATE, NY-16: I cannot, I have to talk to my - soon about that.

O`DONNELL: Okay. That`s right. Take your time. Play hard to get. It will pay off. So what made you decide that Eliot Engel should not continue representing this Congressional District? You are both Democrats. What did you see that made you say I need to get in there I need to take that job away from him, here`s how I can do the better job?

BOWMAN: Well, I have worked in this district for ten years as a middle school principal and I have spoken to and built relationships with thousands of students and parents over that time. And Congressman Engel was an absent Congressman, quite frankly.

You never saw flyers advertising town halls or assemblies talking about the most important issues in the district. When we decided to explore potential run for office we spoke to hundreds of constituents from the North Bronx all the way to New York, and we continued to hear the same thing over and over again.

He wasn`t present. He`s not engaged and it is time for a change. So that`s that side of it. On the other side, you know, when you work with children who come from, you know, troubling backgrounds, who suffered through poverty and trauma, you realize the impact of bad policy on the lives of kids who are most vulnerable.

And as an educator all of those issues intersect at your doorstep. Children can`t thrive in school when they are dealing with food and housing and security, criminal justice entangle them with lack of opportunity.

So it was those experiences as well as an absent Congressman that led to me running this race.

O`DONNELL: How did you deal with those challenges yourself in your own life as a kid growing up in a housing project in New York City, getting yourself beaten by police when you were 11-years-old? How did you deal with those challenges? How did you get to where you are tonight?

BOWMAN: My mother. I have the most amazing mom anyone can have. She gave me love. She gave me stability, and she gave me self-esteem and self-worth. And also I had two amazing older sisters who helped raise me as well.

And then I had friends and mentors and people outside of my home, whether it`s through cultures through sports, through the arts or music that kept me on the straight and narrow so the anger of not having my father around or anything like that wouldn`t overtake me. So I had a great mom, great sisters and great family and great mentors growing up.

O`DONNELL: What is your number agenda item when you get to the House of Representatives, if you do?

BOWMAN: Racial and economic inequality. It is about time that we deal with race and we continue to sensor race and class and put it at the top of the political agenda. Our campaign recently released a reconstruction agenda hoping that third time is a charm.

You know, America needs a reckoning. We need to reckon with our history, and we need to reckon with the impact of slavery and racism on every American institution, whether you are looking at environmental issues, wealth, education, health outcomes.

You know, African-Americans and Latinos continue to be at the bottom of the ladder there. We have to deal with race and economic issues very aggressively and urgently, especially coming out of the COVID epidemic as we see black and Latinos being disproportionately impacted there.

So what that looks like for us is pushing for our federal jobs guarantee, getting people back to work in alignment with the demands of climate change and the Green New Deal. This is the biggest crisis we have had since the great depression, and after the great depression, a new deal was implemented and we put people back to work. We have to do the same thing now.

O`DONNELL: It is such an impressive campaign. I wish we had more time to talk about it. I`m interested in how you did so well in the northern sections of the district which are wealthier suburbs of New York City? We`ll talk about that Jamaal Bowman, thank you very much for joining us tonight and we really appreciate it.

BOWMAN: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: When we come back you will meet another big winner in last night`s Democratic Primary race for a Congressional seat in Virginia, he is a physician who worked in the Obama White House and had the very strange experience of then working in the Trump White House for a while.

He will be the Democratic Nominee in a Congressional District that leans Republicans. He has changed Republican minds about him before and will try to do it again in November`s election. Dr. Cameron Webb joins us next.


O`DONNELL: Dr. Cameron Webb won a four-way Democratic Primary in Virginia`s fifth Congressional District last night with 2/3 of the vote. Here is Dr. Cameron Webb explaining why he decided to run for office?


DR. CAMERON WEBB, DEMOCRATIC NOMINEE VA-05: I went to work for President Obama as a White House Health Care Advisor, helping people give good care they can afford. I expected to serve the first woman President too. But when that didn`t work out I prayed for perspective.

My parents` words came back to me. Be there for people. So I decided to finish my fellowship. The Trump White House staff treated me with suspicion. They moved my desk into the hallway and eventually took it away entirely. They expected me to quit and to give up. That is not who I am.

Then President Trump tweeted about drug pricing. No plan. No thought just 134 characters. His staff had no warning. They looked around the room for answers. Eventually turned to Obama`s policy guy, me, the guy in the hallway.

Big Pharma showed up pushing policies that protect their profits but hurt patients. I convinced the staff to slow down to be smarter despite our disagreements when asked for help, I gave it. That is the example I want to set for my children.


O`DONNELL: Joining us now Dr. Cameron Webb, Democratic Candidate for Virginia`s fifth District. Dr. Webb, I am no good at math but even I know in a four-way race it is hard to win 2/3 of the vote. You obviously have to appeal to yet a larger group of voters in the General Election but only have to win 51 percent and you are going to need to appeal apparently to Republican voters in the district. How do you intend to run the campaign from here to Election Day?

DR. WEBB: I think it is one of those realities, you can`t choose your moments in politics. We are in a really unique moment now I think the crisis of health care, the crisis of racial injustice all over the country.

And I think that I am a physician I`m a healer by background and focused my entire career on being at the - healthcare and social justice. So it I think the timing is right, the messaging is right and it is just a matter of connecting with people who are here in the part of Virginia where I grew up.

O`DONNELL: How much of the campaign - your campaign has been about dealing with the Coronavirus pandemic?

DR. WEBB: It has been significant. Of course every campaign had to change our strategy when the pandemic really struck. And for me I am still practicing clinically. I am taking care of COVID patients in hospitals here at the University of Virginia.

And so I`m continuing to see patients in the hospital. I am working in the community to lead community testing events and also get services to folks. So there is that dynamic because like I said, I am a healer first. And then on top of that we are running a campaign virtually.

And so that has been a huge impact but I think that for a lot of voters seeing that, seeing that commitment to being there in that moment and not to rip off of my commercial, but being here in that moment and making sure that I can step up to serve my community. I think it mattered and I think that is a big part of the resounding vote we have got.

O`DONNELL: What is your number one argument against the Republican opponent going forward in this campaign?

DR. WEBB: Well, to be quite honest I don`t spend all of my time arguing against him. The number one argument for my candidacy, we are in a critical moment to fix our health care system. To be honest I haven`t heard much in terms of nuance to my opponent`s plan.

But I know that from my prospective there is a critical need to fix our health care system. Everybody needs access to care, every single person in this country and we need to make that happen we need to deliver on that urgently.

And so that is the argument that we are making. It is something that resonates with every single voter, Democrat, Independent and even Republican. I think that is something that we are leaning into and making sure that we are delivering especially in deciding at this pandemic.

O`DONNELL: Do you support Medicare for all or do you support the Joe Biden approach to health care reform?

DR. WEBB: I am not beholden to either. I`ll tell you, I think Medicare for all may be the - it is more about the path to something along those lines. And to me I am focused on what our next steps? I think the public health insurance option to urgently cover the 30 million plus Americans who are uninsured that`s got to be our next step.

I think we`ve got a as in meaningful or formed to break the bond between employment and health insurance to change private insurance to something that`s more a nonprofit endeavor to be honest and change our payment structure.

But I think the path is very likely leading to something that looks like a Medicare for all system. It is a matter of focus ultimately voting with their feet though and our next step is getting everybody covered.

O`DONNELL: At some point doctor we just want to hear about your days working in the Trump White House but we don`t have time for that tonight. We`ll have to do that in other time. Dr. Cameron Webb, thank you very much for joining us tonight. I really appreciate it.

DR. WEBB: Thanks for having me Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Thank you. That is tonight`s "Last Word". "The 11th Hour with Brian Williams" starts now.