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Michael Cohen TRANSCRIPT: 6/25/20, The Last Word w/ Lawrence O'Donnell

Guests: Stacey Abrams, Katie Porter, Jay Brainard


We might have a tiny moment of leavening with Katie Porter, who`s going to join us later in this hour. But she`s got serious things to talk about, too.

I could -- I could keep you here for half an hour talking about this Geoffrey Berman, the breaking news tonight about the U.S. attorney`s office and how Geoffrey Berman, you know, I feel like I have under-described how heroic he is in this story as we know it so far with Attorney General William Barr from the start, according to "The New York Times" reporting tonight that you covered so well.

Attorney General Barr trying to interfere with the workings of that office, especially in the Michael Cohen case which, oh, by the way, includes individual one, Donald Trump, who is accused in all of those documents of directing the crimes Michael Cohen was committing, and that`s the case, that we discovered tonight that William Barr has been trying to interfere with as soon as he got the job.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: And if there is a systemic effort inside prosecutor`s offices to get the president`s ten drills extend to prosecutorial decisions, for there to be political pressure on how cases are resolved and brought or not brought, among other things, the judiciary should know about that because in some cases judges may want to correct for that or investigate that or figure that out if prosecutors are being importuned in that way.

So I realize that prosecutors are constrained in terms of what they can tell us, the public, but when cases are getting messed with, in the same way it`s a serious thing to intimidate a witness or do other things that obstruct justice, if the obstruction of justice is happening from the upper echelons of the Justice Department at the direction of the president, we need to know about it.

And this "New York Times" story tonight with these incredibly well sourced anecdotes about what`s happening inside SDNY, I feel like it is the first crack of us being able to see that. And more prosecutors need to squawk and need to let us know or we can`t help fix it.

O`DONNELL: And according, if tonight`s polls are correct, today`s "New York Times" polls, if they are correct, at noontime on January 20th, Donald Trump will become available for indictment as individual one in that case because he will no longer be president of the United States. And one of the big questions about that case is what happens. What happens if Donald Trump leaves office at the end of the first term? Does he immediately in effect get indicted in the Southern District of New York for the same charges Michael Cohen has gone to prison for.

MADDOW: For which U.S. attorneys -- assistant U.S. attorneys have spoken overtly in court in terms of his criminal liability for those acts. I mean, it does not get more serious than that in terms of whether or not this is a country that is built on the rule of law or not. And what we have seen the attorney general do to the U.S. attorney`s office in D.C., where he used to squelch cases related to the president and bring about unusual and extralegal lenience for the president`s associates in that office, we are now seeing him make the same attempt on the New York prosecutors off and we`re learning tonight about how much pressure they have been facing for months since Barr has been in office.

I mean, it is -- this is John Mitchell stuff. I mean, this is as bad as it gets in terms of the administration of justice.

O`DONNELL: And so far, Geoffrey Berman did succeed in fighting off this pressure in incredibly heroic style and getting his deputy installed as his successor who he trusts and generally people trust to continue his work. It`s just been -- the story Geoffrey Berman has to tell is the most remarkable story that I just can`t wait for.

MADDOW: Yeah, exactly. You don`t need -- I don`t think you have under- described this as all. I think you`ve got it.

O`DONNELL: I could go on and on. Thank you, Rachel. Thank you very much.

MADDOW: Thanks, Lawrence. Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Well, as I said Congresswoman Katie Porter will be joining us tonight.

In a House hearing today, she got to question the chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, Jay Clayton, who just happens to be the person William Barr said would be nominated to replace Geoffrey Berman as the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York when that scheme became public Friday night. Katie Porter`s questioning did not go well for Jay Clayton. You`ll see some of that later in this hour.

And Stacey Abrams is going to join us on a week that saw some record voter participation rates thanks to mail-in voting, something Stacey Abrams is trying to make available to all voters in November.

Joy Reid and Trymaine Lee are going to join us to discuss the bipartisan vote, really a historic vote in the House of Representatives tonight, on police reform. It is the only congressional action ever taken because it was provoked by the police murder of an unarmed black man. We have had police murders of unarmed black men throughout the history of this country. George Floyd`s murder was the very first one that ever provoked congressional action. The bill that passed the house tonight is called the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2020.

And at the end of this hour, we have a special report about air travel that you`re definitely going to want to hear about. When I think about air travel now, what about the risk of infection inside the airplane. But what about the risk of infection at TSA checkpoints?

A senior TSA officer with 20 years experience is now officially a whistleblower warning of the coronavirus dangers at TSA check points. He will join us at the end of this hour with his whistleblower report.

If you are thinking about possibly flying anywhere this summer, you have got to hear what he has to say about what`s been happening at TSA checkpoints.

O`DONNELL: Well,             today, Donald Trump took his presidential campaign to Wisconsin where he said the second stupidest thing he has ever said about the coronavirus. Donald Trump told his Wisconsin audience, quote, these are his words, easy to memorize, if we didn`t test, we wouldn`t have cases. But we have cases because we test.

Now, as you ponder that rank stupidity, here is the man himself saying it.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If we didn`t test, we wouldn`t have cases. But we have cases because we test.


O`DONNELL: That would be like saying, if we didn`t test for cancer, we wouldn`t have cancer, but we have cancer because we test. That`s the president of the United States. That`s the way his mind actually works.

That`s why he is incapable of processing any of the scientific knowledge being developed about COVID-19. That`s why he suggested that we might be able to cure COVID-19 by drinking Lysol. That was, of course, the stupidest thing that Donald Trump has ever said about COVID-19.

And that`s why he stopped having White House briefings about it, because it became clear when he said that, it became clear even to Donald Trump that he would inevitably continue to say grotesquely stupid things in White House briefings about the coronavirus and dangerous things. So those briefings had to be stopped.

But Donald Trump cannot stop his presidential campaign, and he cannot stop pretending that coronavirus is not a problem. And so those two things came together today in Wisconsin when he said if we didn`t test, we wouldn`t have cases. But we have cases because we test.

And because of shockingly imbecilic statements like that, Donald Trump is running 11 points behind Joe Biden in Wisconsin, the state where he said that today. And the latest "New York Times" poll released today. Donald Trump won Wisconsin four years ago and now he`s losing Wisconsin by 11 points, and that`s why he went there today.

Donald Trump`s trip was paid for by taxpayers. The White House labeled it an official government trip because Donald Trump made his speech at a shipyard that builds Navy ships.

But as John Bolton has told us and we already knew, everything Donald Trump does and says is about his reelection. So this is not the last trip that will be paid for by the taxpayers and falsely labeled by the White House as an official government trip. Donald Trump decided to say the second stupidest thing he`s ever said about coronavirus on a day when the CDC director revealed a stunning new dimension of the pandemic`s reach in the United States.

CDC Director Robert Redfield said our best estimate right now is that for every case that`s reported there actually are 10 other infections. Experts have long believed that we were undercounting coronavirus cases in the United States. But we now have an official estimate that there have been ten times more infections than we thought. That estimate is based on the presence of coronavirus antibodies in blood tests nationwide.

As of tonight, there are 2,424,025 confirmed cases of coronavirus in this country. And as of tonight, we have suffered 123,161 deaths from coronavirus in this country.

Today, Joe Biden went to Pennsylvania where, according to "The New York Times" poll released today, Joe Biden has a 10-point lead on Donald Trump. Joe Biden gave a speech in which he showed the best way to campaign against Donald Trump is with Donald Trump`s own words.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: President Trump publically claimed that, and I quote, anybody, anybody that wants a test, anybody can get it. It simply was not true, and he knew it.

Then five days ago, in his campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, he`d admitting -- he admitted telling people, and I quote, we have to slow the testing down. Slow it down, please. He actually said it. In his hour and 50 minute speech, slow the testing down, please.

At first, his spokespeople tried to say he was joking. But then Trump himself said he wasn`t joking. He called testing, quote, a double edged sword. Testing is a double edged sword. That`s the quote.

Let`s be crystal clear about what he means by that. Testing unequivocally saves lives. And widespread testing is the key to opening our economy again. That`s one edge of the sword.

The other edge is he thinks that finding out that more Americans are sick will make him look bad. That`s what he`s worried about. He`s worried about looking bad.

Well, Donald Trump needs to stop carrying about how he looks and start carrying about what Americans -- happening in the rest of America.


O`DONNELL: Joe Biden wore a mask before and after his speech in Pennsylvania today. Joe Biden is on the winning side of the mask issue in America with the latest "New York Times" polls showing that 54 percent of people say they always wear a mask when they expect to be in proximity of others. Another 22 percent say they usually wear a mask. So that`s 76 percent of Americans wearing masks, while only 22 percent support the Donald Trump position of rarely or never wearing a mask.

That`s just one of the ways Donald Trump is losing in the latest "New York Times" poll, which gives Joe Biden a 14-point lead nationally, 50 to 36. Joe Biden also leads Donald Trump in every battleground state polled by "The New York Times." I mentioned the 11-point lead. Biden has in Wisconsin, the 10-point lead in Pennsylvania Joe Biden has in Pennsylvania.

But Joe Biden also has an 11-point lead in Michigan at 47-36. A 6-point lead in Florida at 47-41. A 7-point lead in Arizona at 48-41. And a 9-point lead in North Carolina at 49-40.

And a FOX News poll in battleground states also has very bad news for Donald Trump. And the FOX News poll in Florida, Joe Biden has a 9-point lead over Donald Trump, 49-40.

In Georgia, Joe Biden leads Donald Trump 47-45, which is a tie within the margin of error in a state that should be overwhelmingly Republican. And in Texas, another Republican state, Joe Biden is running one point ahead of Donald Trump, 45-44.

Leading off our discussion tonight, Dr. Irwin Redlener, he`s a physician and director of the Columbia University`s National Center for Diseases and Disaster Preparedness.

John Heilemann is with us. He`s a national affairs analyst for NBC News and MSNBC. He is an executive editor of "The Recount".

And, Doctor, I want to begin with this new estimate that the real infection number is ten times higher than what has been reported. What is your reaction to that?

DR. IRWIN REDLENER, MSNBC PUBLIC HEALTH ANALYST: Yes, Lawrence. So the actual is 20 million cases as opposed to the two plus million. The fact of the matter is that by the end of this year, I think we`re going to see 150 million at least cases because we have been -- public health officials estimating from the beginning of this that about 50 percent of the population was actually going to get infected with the coronavirus. Not everybody is going to get fairly sick. In fact, the vast majority will be relatively symptom free, but there is going to be a whole lot of Americans that will come down with this disease between now and the end of the year with a lot more deaths that we`re currently experiencing at this moment, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: And also, Doctor, what about the surges that we`re seeing around the country. They seem to be mostly in the Southwest. Is there -- is there a way we can interpret that?

REDLENER: Well, first of all, in a pandemic like this, we see exactly what we have been seeing, that at one point New York, you know, was the global epicenter of this disease with a totally overwhelmed health situation. But it`s a whack-a-mole situation.

So, it`s typical for a pandemic to spread from one place. It diminishes, moves to another place. We`re seeing it now really, really breaking out in the Sun Belt and the southern parts of the U.S. It is very, very dangerous. A lot of things are making that the case.

But don`t forget, we are still in the first wave. We`re having first parts of the wave appearing at different places but we haven`t begun to see the totally expected second and third waves happening in the fall and winter of this year, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: And, John Heilemann, we`re showing on the screen there today Texas another record high day for coronavirus infections in Texas, and Donald Trump basically polling in a tie in Texas. Joe Biden one point ahead. Those two things are related. And if things get worse and worse in Texas with the coronavirus, who knows what happens to the presidential campaign polling.

JOHN HEILEMANN, NBC NEWS NATIONAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Right. I mean, Lawrence, one of the things that`s true is that, you know, three months ago at the beginning in the first peak of the first wave, you know, you saw the geographic split, right, where it was mostly blue states in blue cities that were affected by coronavirus. And out of that grew, this red/blue divide where the culture war that Donald Trump wanted to ferment.

He said, you know, over here is the liberals wearing the masks and we could free loving Americans don`t do that. That was an easy political division to try to sew and ride when most of red America hadn`t been affected by coronavirus. We all said what`s going to happen to the politics once this gets to red America, which it will in evidently for the reasons that Dr. Redlener said and others, we all wondered.

That`s exactly what we`re seeing now, right, whether in Tulsa, in Oklahoma, in the Texas, example you gave in battleground states like Arizona where the easy cheap politics that Trump was -- is a master of and that he was indulge in for the last three months started to look incredibly foolish because even the Republicans in those states are looking at him and saying, this is ridiculous the way you`re behaving and we care more about your life than some culture war you want to wage, and is going to hurt him politically in a lot of states, including places that are -- that would normally be considered safe for a Republican, places like Texas.

O`DONNELL: And, John, the mask issue in the polling is so fascinating. You have a maximum of 22 percent who see masks the way Donald Trump sees masks. Joe Biden very carefully putting his mask on and off, never been caught without it in public places when he`s not speaking. It seems to me that that mask issue is bigger politically than we could have imagined.

HEILEMANN: Much bigger. And, Lawrence, I`ll tell you, you know, another thing that we used to talk about three months ago and I know it was a conversation that took place in the Biden campaign and other places, right, where it was like on one side you had public health and on the other side you had political advantage, and they watched Donald Trump. They said Donald Trump has the air waves.

He`s on television every day. Joe Biden is being cautious. They`re trying to keep him healthy. And that was seen as a political disadvantage.

Now we look up and it`s June and the way this disease has unfolded and the way the politics around it played out, it turns out that being on the side -- I guess in some sense logical, but being on the side of public health turns out to be the best political position to be in and Joe Biden for being cautious and abiding by the CDC`s rules is now getting the benefit politically for being the one that cares about public health.

O`DONNELL: John Heilemann, Dr. Irwin Redlener, thank you both for starting off our discussion tonight. We really appreciate it.

REDLENER: Thank you.

HEILEMANN: Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

And when we come back, we have breaking news. A bipartisan majority in the House of Representatives as passed historic police reform bill tonight, a bill that would not have been possible just one month and a day ago when George Floyd was still alive.

Joy Reid and Trymaine Lee will join us next.


O`DONNELL: Since George Floyd`s murder exactly one month ago tonight, millions of protesters have filled the streets demanding lawmakers take action against police brutality and unjustified police killing of an unarmed black people.

Tonight, House Democrats responded to those calls by passing the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2020. The bill passed 236-181 with bipartisan support with three Republicans joining all the Democrats in voting for the bill. Changes also coming in elections as several progressive candidates had strong showings in Democratic primary races in New York, Virginia and Kentucky on Tuesday.

As "Cook Political Report`s" Dave Washington tweeted: In 2016, Dem voters showed an unprecedented desire to nominate women. In 2020, we`re witnessing another sea change in desire, this time towards black candidates.

Joining our discussion now, Joy Reid, MSNBC national correspondent and the host of "A.M. JOY" on weekends, and Trymaine Lee is with us. He`s Pulitzer winning journalist and MSNBC correspondent. He hosts the podcast "Into America."

Joy, your reaction to this House bill passing today and picking up three Republican votes today.

JOY REID, MSNBC NATIONAL CORRESPONDETN: Yes, and the three Republicans they picked up today are interesting. So, Will Hurd, of course, out of Texas, one of the few black Republicans who has been leaning toward in the way he`s been talking about these criminal justice issues, it is not super surprising. But that`s an interesting pickup. And then of course to swing state Republicans, Michigan and Pennsylvania.

So, look, you know, everyone is playing their politics here. And for, you know, the Republican base, criminal justice reform is obviously not a priority. But if you are in a swing state, whether you are a senator or a House member, this is going to become a problem for you in November, because the sea change is not only among black folk. Black people always agree that there needs to be fundamental reforms to policing.

It`s among white voters. It is among white voters that are starting to say, hey, wait a minute, you know, my kids are out there marching. Wait a minute, I also agree there is too much brutality. When you see eight minutes and 46 seconds of brutality on video, it`s very a hard thing to look away, and it`s a new thing that white voters are starting to not look away either.

O`DONNELL: Trymaine Lee, I remember your coverage on the streets of Ferguson six years when this summer when Michael Brown was killed by a police officer there. There was no legislative action in Washington because of that, nothing was even contemplated. It took a lot more to get to this point and it ultimately took George Floyd`s life to get to this point.

And then there is his name in this legislation. As I said, it`s the first legislation Congress ever considered that was provoked by the police killing of an unarmed black man.

TRYMAINE LEE, PULITZER PRIZE-WINNING JOURNALIST: It is hard to imagine, Lawrence, that it`s only within a month since George Floyd was killed. And think about this seismic shift that we have experienced. I recall being on air with you when those first tear gas canisters in Ferguson were fired off. And we thought that was a movement, right?

And then we saw the deaths of Eric Gardner and everyone else bubbling up in the communities. Everyone was pushing back. But the fact that the sweeping reform that they`re proposing, banning chokeholds, no-knock warrants, kind of chipping away at the protections against lawsuits that officers have. But another big one is a national use of force database.

Right now, we simply don`t know how many people police are shooting or killing, right? There is no mandate. So the world is certainly rocking. And the measure of the movement was always going to be, what about policy? What about legislation?

This is a first step. Clearly, it won`t pass the Senate. But this is a big show. But also you mentioned the primary elections all across the country, these aren`t just black folks on the ballot, very progressive black folks. So, a lot of establishment Democrats that most certainly should be worried.

O`DONNELL: Yeah. We had two of them on this show last night.

And, Joy, the -- in New York City, the state of New York has a ban on police chokeholds in law that is literally days old. It`s only days old.

REID: Yes.

O`DONNELL: It`s already been used. Used today in the arrest of a New York City police officer for using a chokehold just a few days ago. That kind of action, again, after Eric Garner, nothing like that happened.

REID: After Eric Garner, after Michael Griffith (ph), you could go all the way back. You can go back to 1978 case of a chokehold being use that killed a man in Brooklyn. Chokeholds have been used routinely over and over and over again in New York City. Nothing has happened.

I can`t breathe is what Eric Garner said and that didn`t convince the majority of Americans that something needed to be done. You know, and you wonder what is different now with George Floyd. Is it because it was -- the officers staring into the camera that look of complete autonomy that I can do this, that there is nothing that can stop me, that look on this face of just, I don`t care. I`m doing this and I can -- know that you see me.

Maybe it`s the indifference. I don`t know what it was. Was it the time? Was it 8 minutes and 46 seconds?

Whatever it was, it`s true that George Floyd absolutely has changed the world.

O`DONNELL: Yeah. Trymaine, video has made all the difference. We didn`t have a video like that of Michael Brown.

LEE: That`s right. And I think -- I think Joy is right. To some degree, some level of violence is expected among the community and black folks, right? We tolerate black death and black violence. But it was the spectacle of black death that harkened back to the old lynching photos when you see families crowding around and smiling as a black man or woman is hanging from a tree.

So, watch that man take his last breath. I think it kind of galvanized across cultural coalition that we haven`t seen. And because now, as Joy mentioned earlier, white daughters and white friends and family members are out there also, so it kind of creates this different kind of energy.

O`DONNELL: Trymaine Lee, Joy Reid, thank you for continuing this discussion.

And Trymaine`s podcast "Into America" just dropped a new episode this evening called "A New Generation of Black Candidates". You can listen to that wherever you get your podcast.

And Joy is hosting a town hall tomorrow night, right here on MSNBC called "The Road to Reform." She will be joined by members of the Congressional Black Caucus. That`s Friday at 7:00 p.m. Eastern with Joy Reid here on MSNBC.

And if you have a question you would like to submit to Joy`s town hall, you can go to

Joy Reid, I hope I got that all right. Thank you very much for joining us tonight.

REID: You got it all in there.

O`DONNELL: Thank you, Joy.

REID: Thank you. Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: And, Trymaine Lee, thank you for joining us. We`ll be listening to the podcast. Thank you, Trymaine.

LEE: Thank you.

REID: Thanks.

O`DONNELL: And when we come back Stacey Abrams will join us to discuss voting rights and vote by mail. We`ll ask Stacey Abrams about a new Fox Poll; this is a Fox Poll that shows Joe Biden two points ahead of Donald Trump in Georgia, Republican states. Stacey Abrams knows a lot about that state now Democrats can win it as Stacey Abrams joins us next.


O`DONNELL: We had a bunch of important primary elections on Tuesday, but we won`t know the results of many of them for maybe a week because of the flood of mail-in voting this year. Donald Trump is increasingly panicked by mail-in voting tweeting that it would, "lead to the end of our great Republican Party". In other words, the Republican Party cannot survive democracy. This week Kentucky broke voter participation records in its primary election thanks in large part to mail-in voting. Iowa also set a record for voter turnout in its primary after the Secretary of State sent mail-in ballot applications to every registered voter.

That has Republicans in the state legislature in Iowa trying to ban the Secretary of State from automatically mailing mail-in ballot applications for the presidential election in November. Joining us now is Stacey Abrams. She is the founder of the voter protection PAC Fair Fight Action. She is also the author of the new book "Our Time is Now": Power, Purpose and the Fight for a Fair America" Stacey Abrams is the Former Democratic leader of the Georgia House of Representatives. Thank you very much for joining us again tonight. We really appreciate it.


O`DONNELL: I wanted to get your view of what we have learned about mail-in voting this week and the surge in voter turn-out that some states experienced with it.

ABRAMS: One, we know it works. Despite the protestations of the Republican Party and the paranoia of Donald Trump, we know that mail-in voting works. We know it is safe. It is accessible. But the challenge we have is that, number two, it has to be scaled. We are seeing unprecedented participation in our elections via mail-in ballots. And we know that 34 states allow no excuses. 16 states require an excuse.

But every state is going to have to have it. We know that the COVID virus is going to ramp up again in the fall and we haven`t even made it out of the first wave. And that means we have to be ready as a nation to defend our democracy by allowing mail-in voting for every voter who chooses to use it.

O`DONNELL: What is the situation with mail-in voting in the - what we consider the battleground states, the states that could end up deciding this election?

ABRAMS: It is a mix. We have - mail-in voting is permitted in the State of Georgia for example with no excuses. We just unfortunately had a debacle in terms of actually managing the process and we need to scale it up. We know that in Wisconsin, Wisconsin is one of a handful of states that requires a signature or a witness in order to - sorry, requires a witness or notary in order to turn in your ballots. And so we have flocks like Michael Lies (ph) are suing to fix those challenges. But what we do know is that voter participation on the Democratic (inaudible) is up dramatically. And mail-in voting is not a Democratic or Republican way of voting. But when it is convenient, we know that more Democrats are participating and that`s shifting the landscape for the outcome in November.

O`DONNELL: So we have got a lot of battleground state polling released today by "The New York Times". We have national polls showing Joe Biden with double digit leads. And one of the interesting points in the states that have been polled is Georgia which we don`t normally have on the list of battleground states. But there is Joe Biden in a Fox Poll running ahead of Donald Trump by two points in Georgia. You know it can be done. You came as close as you can come to winning the State of Georgia if they didn`t suppress the vote as successfully as they did in your Governors election. What does Joe Biden need to know about winning the State of Georgia?

ABRAMS: That we haven`t stopped working since 2018. That we have added hundreds of thousands of new voters or disproportionately young, disproportionately people of color, that we live in a state that has unfortunately had to bury Ahmaud Arbery and Rayshard Brooks. And that we are driven. We are motivated and we can deliver 16 Electoral College votes as well as 2 Senate seats, both of which are going to be necessary to win our country back and fix our democracy.

O`DONNELL: When you look at the various voter suppression tactics that are still alive and still working for republicans in this country, how do you expect that to impact this election? Is it happening in the states that Democrats need to win?

ABRAMS: It is. Republicans have a battle plan. They are planning to raise an army of 50,000 whole patrol, people who are going to get in line and try to scare people out of voting. We know that they have committed $20 million to a litigation strategy to restrain people and constrict access to the right to vote. We know that they intend to spend up to $60 million in all of their voter intimidation platforms including through the vote honest elections, that they are filing lawsuits to undue and to in fact, eviscerate the second section two of the voting rights act.

They are desperate because they know they`re losing. But we are meeting them on the battlefield. We are organized earlier than we ever have been. We are working in those battleground states including states like Georgia and North Carolina and Arizona they can tip the ballots in the Sunbelts. We have got great candidates in Georgia like Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock who can carry us to victory. But across this country, we are prepared on our side for the first time to meet them and to win because we are on the side of democracy.

O`DONNELL: Stacey Abrams, thank you very much for joining us again tonight. We really appreciate it.

ABRAMS: Thank you for having me.

O`DONNELL: Thank you. And after this break, it was one of those days in a house hearing room today with Congresswoman Katie Porter. This time the victim was the guy who William Barr wanted to make the U.S. Attorney in Manhattan. Congresswoman Porter joins us next.


O`DONNELL: The most recent scandal involving attorney general William Barr walked into a house subcommittee hearing today and the person of Jay Clayton who was there to testify in his current role as Chairman of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, but as of last Friday night Jay Clayton was suddenly the person who attorney General William Barr wanted to install as the next U.S. Attorney in Manhattan.

To will recall that William Barr issued a press release saying that the U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Berman agreed to resign. Jeffrey Berman then issued a statement saying that he did not agree to resign. And within 24 hours Jeffrey Berman successfully fought off the attack on his office by forcing the attorney general to agree that Jeffrey Berman`s Deputy would take over his duties after President Trump then fired Jeffrey Berman on Saturday.

Congresswoman Katie Porter was in today`s hearing, and she used some of her questioning to focus on just how independent Jay Clayton can be from Donald Trump`s influence in his current job at the Securities and Exchange Commission and in any future possible job like U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. Mr. Clayton insisted that his work has not been influenced by Donald Trump in any way. And then Congresswoman Porter said this.


REP. KATIE PORTER (D-CA): How many times have you and President Trump golfed together?

JAY CLAYTON, CHAIRMAN, U.S. SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION: I`m not going to get into this. This is, you know, it - it`s.

PORTER: Is it a large number and you have trouble recalling it?

CLAYTON: No, no, no. Look, I have - I have played Golf with the President a handful of times.

PORTER: Okay. What did you talk about?

CLAYTON: Those are private conversations.

PORTER: Are you willing to affirm to this committee that you did not discuss any SEC business?

CLAYTON: There are no conversations that I have had that make me in any way, in any way uncomfortable with any independence.


O`DONNELL: So that`s not exactly a denial. Joining us now is Congresswoman Katie Porter, Democrat representing the 45th district of California and a member of the oversight and financial services committee. Congresswoman Porter, thank you very much for joining us tonight. You were kind of lucky that he was already scheduled to testify to this committee and suddenly became the real - one of the real centers of that scandal over the weekend involving Jeffrey Berman. What was your sense of his credibility on the issue of how influenced is he by, say, playing golf with Donald Trump?

PORTER: He was clearly very uncomfortable with that line of questioning. And if there is nothing wrong with it, he should have been willing to provide an answer. There is certainly an appearance of impropriety there. And I think the fact that he was stammering and struggling and really resisting that line of questioning goes to show you that he understands it does create at least the appearance of impropriety. The second thing I would say is that this is somebody who is trying to pretend he`s nonpartisan. But when I called today and the remainder part of my questioning was the fact that he`s actually voted in a partisan way repeatedly as he`s led the SEC.

O`DONNELL: Yes. That was clearly developed in the rest of the testimony. You - his answer to you when you said, you know, will you affirm that you have not discussed SEC business, what he said was he didn`t say any - none of the conversations with Donald Trump made him uncomfortable, but that`s kind of the point. Corruption discussions don`t make Donald Trump uncomfortable either.

PORTER: Exactly. The correct answer to that question clearly should have been, yes, I will affirm to the committee that I never discussed the SEC business with Donald Trump. The fact that he didn`t give a yes or no to what was really a softball opportunity for him to affirm his independence and his ability to separate himself from the President should be a big point of concern. And I hope the Senate takes up some of this line of questioning when they consider his nomination to be U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York.

O`DONNELL: Yes, if that ever happens. The - what about your oversight of what`s happening with these relief funds, the billions of dollars that have been handed out by the treasury? We now discover today that a lot of dead people got checks from the treasury because the treasury did not bother to check Social Security records about who is alive and dead with Social Security Numbers. What other oversight discoveries are you trying to get?

PORTER: Well, it`s really important that we get full transparency into the Paycheck Protection Program because this was $650 billion. This was one of the largest single relief bills we gave. And so we have been pressuring for six weeks now. I have been pushing and pushing for full transparency, and we have been making progress slowly with pressure on Secretary of Treasury Mnuchin. But today we learned from the GAO report that $38.5 billion in Paycheck Protection Loans were returned by businesses. Why would businesses return those loans? Perhaps, because they shouldn`t have been applying for them in the first place but for every loan that got returned, we don`t know how many got kept. And those are the kinds of questions taxpayers deserve answers to.

O`DONNELL: What do you think they should be trying to achieve with this relief money?

PORTER: Well, the point - the name of the program really says it all. It`s about helping businesses make payroll. It is about preventing massive labor market disruption. We have already gone back once and doubled the funding for this program, and we may have to give more help to small businesses. But before we do that, we need to make sure that we have transparency that we`ve done the analysis, and that with this program is actually working to save jobs. And that`s why we need these data, and we needed them yesterday frankly.

O`DONNELL: Going back to Mr. Clayton`s role at the Securities and Exchange Commission, how would you characterize it what you`ve seen of the way he runs the SEC?

PORTER: Well, he`s trying to claim now that he is up for this U.S. Attorney job that he`s so nonpartisan. But the SEC has historically really worked hard to take unanimous action because frankly doing things like protecting investors from fraud shouldn`t be a partisan matter. But today I went through a number of proposals. Most of them marquee actions of the SEC under Commissioner of Clayton failed to attract bipartisan support. They were party line 3 to 2 votes. So as I said to Mr. Clayton today claiming to be nonpartisan doesn`t make it so.

O`DONNELL: Congresswoman Katie Porter, you`ve done it once again. Thank you very much for joining us tonight. We really appreciate it.

PORTER: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: And when we come back, the inside of an airplane might not be the riskiest space for you from coronavirus infection in air travel. What about the TSA line, and what about the TSA agents themselves? A Senior TSA official has filed a whistleblower complaint about the coronavirus dangers at TSA checkpoints. That whistleblower will join us next.


O`DONNELL: When I think about air travel now and the reason I`m not doing it is I think about the coronavirus dangers inside the airplane. But a TSA whistleblower tells us we have a lot to worry about before we even get to the plane. Jay Brainard is a Senior TSA Official in Kansas with 20 years` experience, and he has filed a whistleblower report saying not enough is being done to keep TSA officers safe when screening passengers and not enough was done to keep passengers safe at the TSA checkpoints.

As of today, 763 TSA agents have tested positive for coronavirus. Six agents have died. Joining our discussion now is Jay Brainard. He`s a TSA Federal Security Director for the State of Kansas and has been with the TSA for almost 20 years. Thank you very much for joining us tonight, Mr. Brainard. Obviously you`re not here as an official spokesman for the TSA, but you`re telling us what your experience has been. How risky are the TSA checkpoints now, and how risky have they been in the past, in the past months of this pandemic?

JAY BRAINARD, FEDERAL SECURITY DIRECTOR, TSA KANSAS: That`s a great question. So there is two questions. What went wrong, and what do we need to do moving forward? If you go onset of this early March, we started having a number of transportation security officers test positive for COVID-19. The Federal Security Directors, which is what my position is, made efforts to try and get personal protective equipment to the workforce in mid-March. We were denied. We were told to withhold the N95 masks from the workforce. We were not permitted to mandate the wearing of masks until mid-April.

Protective eyewear, we still can`t mandate protective eyewear. So essentially you have our employees at the height of the breakout of COVID- 19 working at airport checkpoints. They don`t have the personal protective equipment that they need. And the worst part about this, it`s in the middle of spring break. We laid an overlay map on March 24th from Johns Hopkins University and lined up the top 25 airports on that map. And it was an exact match with the exception of New Orleans. And you can explain New Orleans, with the breakout there, simply from Mardi Gras. So the agency did not act swiftly enough. The agency in my opinion did not act responsibly.

So flash forward now four months later. The administrator has now man dated that they wear masks. We still are at odds about cross contamination and personal protective equipment when it comes to gloves because we do have a number of touch points for the public where we`ll interact, whether we`re checking identification of passengers and handing it back to them, whether we are conducting pat downs. TSA had indicated that they are mandating the changing of gloves every time gets a targeted pat down at these machines. There`s been no guidance put out on that. I spoke to a number of my counterparts tonight at the largest airport in the country. And they have seen no guidance on that. I have seen no guidance on that.

O`DONNELL: Let me stop you on that one for a second. So you`re saying that they are still in many places using the same gloves to pat down more than one passenger?

BRAINARD: Absolutely, yes. You can go to any airport, and the majority of them you`ll see it. You know and if you change gloves every passenger and you`ve got an airport that does 30,000 passengers a day, you`re going to go through 20,000 pairs of gloves. You know at the very least, they need to sanitize these gloves between passengers. You know when you get into conducting a bag search, it`s important to change those gloves and put on a fresh pair of gloves because people travel with their personal items.

And so when you put your hand in the bag and you`re going through and you`re searching, you`re touching the toiletries and the toothbrush. And so when we are not sanitizing those gloves at the very least between handling someone`s identification cards, whether it is conducting a targeted pat down in an area, if we are not sanitizing those gloves, we`re just passing it along to the next passenger. And when the passenger leaves the checkpoint they get on the plane, they touch the seat belt, the arm rest, the tray tables and everything else.

So it`s important for us, you know the agency is taking baby steps right now, and baby steps, at least they`re doing it four months later. They`re starting to go in the right direction. But baby steps are not going to make the military transportation system safer. They`ve got to implement meaning procedures.