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Transcript: The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, 4/20/22

Guests: Beto O`Rourke, Timothy Snyder, Stuart Stevens


Actor and activist Rob Reiner tweeted that a vote for Republicans is a vote to destroy democracy. Under pressure from Beto O`Rourke, Texas Republican Governor Greg Abbott ended his utterly pointless state inspection of freight trucks crossing the Mexican border after they had already been fully inspected by federal customs inspectors. Texas Republican Governor Greg Abbott ended his utterly pointless state inspections of freight trucks crossing the Mexican border after they had already been fully inspected by federal customs inspectors. Heavy shelling and artillery attacks intensified across the Donbas region as Russia moved four additional combat units into Ukraine. The situation in Mariupol is worsening, as Ukrainian soldiers fight for control of their city and Russia again blocked starving civilians from evacuating.



You know, old rule that has disappeared is something that we just saw on display in your hour. That is when your Senate colleague from your state rises to defend you as a senator. And the best he or she can say is: the senator has not done anything illegal.

That used to be considered very bad. That used to be considered oh, no, you can`t. You`re not going to out there and say you can`t do anything illegal. That doesn`t help them. Well, for Mike Lee, maybe that`s the standard in Utah now.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, "TRMS": For Senator Romney, in his kind and diplomatic to say, listen, everybody who participated for that definitely committed a mistake. That was wrong, and I have always said that.

Now, what Mike did, it might not have been illegal. It`s just like -- oh man, to the point, having that politics reporter, from the "Salt Lake Tribune" here saying maybe none of this will hurt him you in Utah. I think is a fair assessment, he`s in a good position to know. But, boy, did Mike Lee tell the public something that was not true about what he was really doing in private.

O`DONNELL: I would like to say this about my friend Rachel Maddow, she hasn`t done anything illegal. I just want to --

MADDOW: You`re going to start rumors about us, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: All right. Disregard that last thing, we`ll just erase that, because this is taped, right? This isn`t live, right? Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW: Thank you, sweetness.

O`DONNELL: On this, the 469th day since the attack on the Capitol by a violent Trump mob, I read a tweet that stopped me in my Twitter tracks. And that was the kind of tweet that I feel like I have read hundreds of times since the attack on the Capitol, and I didn`t check, but it feels like I have ready version of this kind of tweet before from the very author of this tweet, of today, for some reason, for some accumulation of reasons.

The tweet shock to me, it shocked me because it should not be true. It should not be close to true. It should not be something that reasonable people say. The tweet was from my friend, Rob Reiner, actor, writer, director, who is passionate in all things, including Twitter.

Today, Rob Reiner wrote: It couldn`t be more simple. A vote for Republicans is a vote to destroy democracy.

Now, that looked too simple, so few words could not possibly convey something profoundly important and true about a country, of politics as complex as ours, right? I couldn`t do that, in a tweet that size.

The road to good writing is rewriting, and that`s mostly cutting the excess, the fewest words possible, to deliver the largest impact. And in this tweet, Rob Reiner has cut the idea down to its very essence. And I didn`t really read the tweet, so much as just stare at it, because the eye takes and all of the words at once.

I stared at it, not because I agree with it. I stared at it because I want that tweet to not be true. Stared at it hoping I could figure out a way to argue it`s not true. It is a tweet that does not stand the test of time, a vote for Republicans is a vote to destroy democracy. That statement does not stand the test of time if we look backward.

When this country was finally trying to extend voting rights to Black Americans in the 1960s, there were some Republicans who are stronger champions on voting rights than some Democrats, stronger champions of democracy that is. Voting Rights Act was reauthorized in 2006, with a 98-0 vote in the Senate, including Mitch McConnell`s vote and signed by George W. Bush. No one could have said then, a vote for Republicans is a vote to destroy democracy. And no one said it.


No one was saying in 2016, when Donald Trump was running for president, that a vote for Republicans is a vote to destroy democracy. It is only since the last presidential election in 2020 that the evidence began to mount and continue to mount, and continues to mount to this day. The evidence that could allow Rob Reiner to say today, a vote for Republicans is a vote to destroy democracy.

And all reasonable people would have to stop and consider whether that is true, that could not be rejected out of hand, by reasonable people, it is a statement that cannot just be rejected on its face, given the evidence we now have, 469 days after a Republican attack on the capital of the United States. And it was most definitely a Republican attack on the capital. Thousands of Republican voters, those are all Republican voters, violently attacked the Capitol, they beat police, Republican voters trying to kill police officers. Republican voters, some of them, hoped to kill Mike Pence.

And on the evidence developed by the January 6 committee, so far, it is very clear, that this was the outward violent expression of a conspiracy organized by a Republican president of the United States to destroy democracy. Today, Congressman Jamie Raskin, a member of the January 6 committee, said in an interview with "The Guardian", quote: This was a coup organized by the president against the vice president, and against the Congress in order to overturn the 2020 presidential election. Trump was prepared to seize the presidency and likely invoke the Insurrection Act, and declare martial law.

Destroy democracy -- 469 days ago after a violent Republican mob attacked the Capitol, as part of a criminal conspiracy to overturn the presidential election, eight Republican senators, 139 Republican members of the House of Representatives, still stood up in their chambers and did their part to overturn the presidential election, and voted to do exactly that on January 6th -- a vote for Republicans as a vote to destroy democracy. If you voted for any of those eight senators or any of those 139 House members, you voted to destroy democracy.

The reason democracy was not destroyed in the last presidential election is that Republican election officials refused to destroy it. Most famously, Georgia`s Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger who took a phone call from the president of the United States trying to get him to commit a crime, and he refused to commit the crime the president asked him to.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: All I want to do is this. I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have.


O`DONNELL: Donald Trump tried to pressure other Republican election officials around the country, and it did not work. And so, now, Donald Trump at the Republican Party are trying to replace all of the Republican officials with new Republican election officials. Including a new Republican secretary of state in Georgia, who will commit any election crime Donald Trump asked them to commit.

Republican candidates for the Senate, and for the House, and for secretary of state, and election official positions around the country, are pre- pledging to commit election crimes for Donald Trump in the next presidential election, and they are counting on their pledge to destroy democracy as a winning issue for them in their elections. And so, a vote for those Republicans is a vote to destroy democracy.

What about Charlie Baker? Massachusetts Republican Charlie Baker would not lift a finger to destroy democracy in Massachusetts. But he is not running for a reelection. And he is the Republican governor, in a state that is fully controlled by Democrats and every other office. And so, that one elective Republican is not a danger to democracy. And I`m sure there are many others like him around the country, and they are in a position to destroy democracy.

What does that make? That tweet untrue? A vote for Republicans is a vote to destroy democracy. Or is the Charlie Baker Republican just a minor footnote to that tweet?

Republicans did not destroy democracy on January 6th because Republican Mike Pence refused to play his part in the criminal conspiracy. "Politico" is reporting today that a crucial gap remains in the January 6 committee`s investigation involving the last phone conversations between Donald Trump and Mike Pence on January 6th.


Quote: Pence aides say the former vice president was in his residence when the call came in. He then left in the room and was out of your shot for 15 to 20 minutes. Those aides told the select committee that pence never disclosed to them the contents of the conversation. More importantly, Pence`s aides say he never revealed how he replied to Trump`s intense last- minute pressure. Even though Mike Pence has not testified on the January 6th committee, he may have testified to Bob Woodward and Robert Costa in their book "Peril".

Here is that phone call in quotation marks, in the book: "I`m heading to the Capitol soon," Pence told Trump. "I told you I`d sleep on it, I take a look with my team. We`ll hear objections and evidence. But when I go to the Capitol, all do my job."

"Mike, this is not right!" Trump said, calling from the Oval Office. "Mike, you can do this, I`m counting on you to do it. If you don`t do it, I picked the wrong man four years ago."

"You`re going to wimp out!" Trump said. His anger was visible to others in the Oval Office.

Mike Pence is a Republican. Mike Pence did not destroy democracy that day. So does Mike Pence disprove this statement a vote for Republicans is a vote to destroy democracy?

I invited comment on this today, by retweeting Rob Reiner`s tweet with this question. Can any New York Times political reporter, or anyone who claims neutrality, explain why Rob`s tweet is not true? And I did not get an answer.

"The New York Times" has a new editor and chief taking over soon. And in a "Washington Post" article about that transition, the former "Times" reporter Adam Davidson is quoted. Quote: Adam Davidson, who worked as an economics writer for "The Times" between 2011 and 2016, argued that "The Times" promoted a kind of both-sides-ism by prioritizing the appearance of neutrality over a dedication to the truth.

I think it`s been disastrous from a coverage standpoint and from an organizational standpoint, Davidson said. To get to the appearance of neutrality, you have to do violence to the truth, which is the opposite of what journalists should do.

Here is "The New York Times" original mission statement, printed and its first edition in 1851. We shall be conservative in all cases where we think conservatism essential to the public good and we shall be radical and everything which may seem to us to require radical treatment and radical reform. We do not believe that everything in a society is either exactly right or exactly wrong. What is good we desire to preserve and improve. What is evil, to exterminate or reform.

Leading off our discussion tonight: Peter Beinart, former editor of "The New Republic". He is a professor of journalism and political science at the City University of New York. Rick Stengel is with us, a former managing editor of "Time Magazine". He served as undersecretary of state in the Obama administration. They are both MSNBC political analysts.

And Stuart Stevens is with us. He`s a veteran of Republican presidential campaigns. He is the author of "It Was All A Lie: How the Republican Party became Donald Trump".

And, Peter, let me begin with you, as the professor of journalism here and former editor of a political magazine. The challenge that Rob Reiner`s tweet presents in today`s news world is was that an opinion, or is that a fact? A vote for Republicans is a vote to destroy democracy.

We would, of course, prior to this period we`re living in, immediately classify that as an opinion and a rather wild one, especially before the Trump era. But it might be a fact, and if it`s a fact, how does journalism, how does "The New York Times", and publications like that, deal with it?

PETER BEINART, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I think it`s an enormous challenge. Institutions like "The New York Times" develop a certain mode of operating in a very, very different moment in American political history. One when the differences between the two political parties were not nearly as profound as they are today.

And in which on a subject of divisive about tax cuts, or whatever, you would present different points of view in the news pages. And in the editorial pages you would come down on one side. But what`s important about the statement that you read about "The Times" initial founding statement, or about the Washington Post current statement. Democracy dies in darkness is that these institutions do not say that they are neutral on the question of democracy. They claim that at the core of their mission is to uphold democracy.

And so if one party, the dominant wing, the Trump wing of one party, is actually trying to overturn overthrow American democracy, you as a newspaper have to be against that.


You can`t be neutral on that. You can`t present both sides on that. And I think institutions like "The Times", which has done extraordinary reporting in the Trump era, and continuing on, unbelievably valuable reporting, are still adjusting to this new reality, one of that has not ended since Donald Trump left. And I think they have a ways to go.

O`DONNELL: Rick Stengel, go back to your old job. You`re editor of "Time Magazine", and you`re editor of "Time Magazine" in this era right now. Dealing with this question, is the Republican Party anti-democracy? And if so, what does "Time Magazine" have to say about it? And how does "Time Magazine" cover campaigns and which one side of the campaign is opposed to democracy?

RICK STENGEL, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, Lawrence, I used to tell my folks at time, there aren`t two sides to a lie, that you can`t be neutral in the face of corruption. You can`t be neutral in the face were Trump someone is trying to end democracy.

I think we have lost sight of something very profound. The reason we have the first amendment, the reason that frame has protected the press, is that the press can protect democracy, it`s not just there`s a wide range of opinion. The idea was that the press would hold the government to scrutiny. The people to scrutiny, and that`s why they would protect it.

We can`t ignore that, you can be impartial , but you cannot be neutral, you cannot be neutral and in the face of someone and democracy. You can`t simply chronicle the end of democracy. Then that`s the end of the free press.

So it`s a tough thing, and I think reporters and journalists need to have a different attitude. There is no objectivity when there is an authoritarian party that`s trying to end the protections of the press and democracy as we know it.

So, it`s a new day, and people have to behave in a different way.

O`DONNELL: Stuart Stevens, is a vote for Republicans a vote to destroy democracy?

STUART STEVENS, FORMER REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I really don`t see how you can argue with that. The Republican Party official platform is what Donald Trump says it should be. And Donald Trump does not believe that we live in a democracy. He doesn`t believe that Joe Biden is the legally elected president.

It is unimaginable that any Republican is going to be nominated, I think Donald Trump will be, to say, whoever when the Republican nomination in `24, they are going to aggressively assert that Joe Biden won a free and fair election. And this has never happened before, at least not since 1860.

It`s not going to be a normal election, where you have one viewpoint that`s center-right, or the other center-left. It`s going to be a running to restore what they say is democracy in the United States. Because they believe they live in an occupied country. We have to wrap our minds around that. It`s a very difficult thing to grasp.

O`DONNELL: Peter, going forward what is this challenge mean in terms of covering individual campaigns? Where within individual states there will be senators debating various issues. But one of them will be a senator who is -- senatorial candidate, who is pre-pledged to in effect, vote to overturn an election, a presidential election on the next January 6th of a presidential year, if a Democrat wins that election?

BEINART: I think part of it has to do with this kind of stripping away the euphemism that journalists sometime rely on and calling things by their name, not saying that Republicans allege voter fraud when everybody knows that this voter fraud somehow magically only exists with Democrats, with black or Hispanic people, actually turn out to the vote. But to actually use plain blunt language, to take a page from George Orwell, and say this candidate has pledged that if a Democrat gets more votes, or if nonwhite people are supportive of the candidate who gets the most votes. They will try to overturn that election. I think it`s that kind of plain speaking that can help inform Americans better about the true challenges that we face in this moment.

O`DONNELL: Rick Stengel, every member of the House of Representatives, running up for reelection in this term or election in this term, well over 100 of them voted to overturn a presidential election. How do you cover that candidate in the campaign, with that vote on the candidate`s record? Is that the single most important vote that that candidate running for reelection has cast during that term?


STENGEL: Well, Lawrence, I would say they have gone too far. You have to say, look, there`s some standards by which you can`t uphold support for a candidate. A candidate that doesn`t support democracy, that doesn`t support a constitution, is a candidate that`s gone beyond the pale. It`s not to be so much about party, but it`s about whether or not you support the constitution.

Every member of the House takes an oath to preserve, protect, and defend the constitution. If someone doesn`t do that, then that person is not able, or credible, to have our support. I think again, going back to what I was saying about the protection of the First Amendment. If you`re covering a candid, who basically calls for understanding the constitution you have to call it exactly like that.

As Peter said we have to use the kind of language that journalists are not trying to use, to try to be objective. But there`s no objectivity in the face of someone trying to destroy and undermine our democracy.

O`DONNELL: Journalism Professor Jay Rosen tweeted tonight, the both sides ritual remains because it delivers on goods other than journalism in. It feels like the safe option: down the middle. It protects against criticism, it`s easy to operate. When you don`t know much about the underlying conflict, get both sides and your halfway there.

Stuart Stevens, part of your work used to involve, as I have to say, mine did in the United States Senate to some extent, trying to manipulate reporters into covering something the way you want it covered. And it seems like that both-sides approach is an advantage when trying to manipulate reporters.

STEVENS: Yeah, 100 percent. Look -- Donald Trump has always benefited from the inability to imagine Donald Trump. It was unimaginable that a man who talked in public about having sex with his daughter would be the Republican nominee for president, or that he would win. It was unimaginable, even to me, that Republican senators and elected officials would not concede an election that wasn`t even close, the 300 votes, 8 million -- 300 electoral votes. But that`s what`s happened.

And it is autocracy`s win when we cannot imagine democracy losing. And that is the greatest challenge. I think to a certain degree, we are sort of sleepwalking through this moment. And inflation is a problem, but in the history of inflation over democracy is not particularly great.

You don`t have to look any further than 1930s Germany, and I`m afraid that that`s a terrible mistake that this country is making. And have to -- have to do everything we can to sound the alarm.

O`DONNELL: Yeah, that word unimaginable, that`s one of the things I was thinking when I was reading Rob Reiner`s tweet that a vote for Republicans a vote to destroy democracy. That was unimaginable until it was suddenly upon us.

Rick Stengel, Petr Beinart, Stuart Stevens, thank you all very much for starting us off tonight.

STEVENS: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: And coming up, Beto O`Rourke will join us after the Republican governor of Texas was forced to reverse himself under pressure from Beto O`Rourke, who is running to take his job. That`s next.



O`DONNELL: Under pressure from our next guest, Beto O`Rourke, Texas Republican Governor Greg Abbott ended his utterly pointless state inspection of freight trucks crossing the Mexican border after they had already been fully inspected by federal customs inspectors. Texas officials found nothing illegal in any of the thousands of trucks that they stopped, but the extra delays in shipping at the border cost the people of the state of Texas $4.23 billion in gross product, and those inspections cost people of United States nearly $9 billion.

That is money out of the pockets of Texas workers and consumers and money out of the pockets of American workers and consumers. Greg Abbott has not apologized. He abruptly in his policy after Beto O`Rourke joined this program and said this.


BETO O`ROURKE (D), TEXAS GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: It`s going to increase prices at our grocery stores even higher, and it`s worsening a supply chain problem that we already had, and this didn`t have to happen. It`s a decision of one man and one man alone, Greg Abbott.


O`DONNELL: Beto O`Rourke, former Democratic congressman representing El Paso, Texas. He`s now running for governor of Texas.

And that one man who you said was responsible for the decision to put this in place made the decision to stop it having accomplished nothing? Is that the correct accounting on was accomplished?


BETO O`ROURKE (D), TEXAS GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: I`m so proud of the people of Texas who forced Greg Abbott back down and offered this ridiculous proposal of these unnecessary inspections that cost the Texas economy $470 million a day was in the words of our statewide elected Republican agriculture commissioner, Syd Miller, economy-killing and drove prices up in every part of the Texas economy especially in our supermarkets.

The people of Texas -- Democrats, Republicans alike, this transcended partisanship, forced the governor finally to back off and to admit defeat. And so this is a victory for Texas but the damage has been done.

This has hurt businesses, especially along the border. It`s jeopardized trade with our number one trading partner, Mexico. We`ve already seen companies move to Nogales, Arizona, 1,200 miles away from where we had been importing two thirds of the produce that we consume right here in the state of Texas.

But the voters of this state -- Democrats, Republicans and independents alike will not forget what Greg Abbott has done. Every single day of this campaign, I`m going to remind them of it.

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: If you get to debate Greg Abbott in the general election, he is going to say what every Republican always says which is Democrats are terrible for business and Republicans are the only ones who understand what business needs. What will you say to that?

O`ROURKE: No one is doing more to hurt our competitiveness and our business prospects and the ability to ensure that we have great jobs in Texas than Greg Abbott. Banning abortion, putting a $10,000 bounty on the back of anyone who assists any woman in accessing reproductive health care. This crazed fixation on transgender kids and pursuing their parents for child abuse in the state of Texas.

Permit-less carry that allows anyone to carry a loaded gun on the streets of Texas without a background check or any vetting or training whatsoever. When you add to all of that fringe craziness, the fact that this guy cannot keep the lights on, that 700 people died last winter because in the energy capital of America, people were freezing to death in their own homes.

This shutdown at our international ports of entry, and in the inflation that he is driving in every part of the Texas economy, utility rates are up, property taxes up $20 billion since this guy took office.

And he will not take the common sense, common ground approach on things like Medicaid expansion or paying our teachers a living wage.

Business owners regardless of party affiliation understand that he`s killing our competitiveness and making it harder for the Texas economy to succeed. We have a huge opening here, Lawrence, to talk about how we focus on the big things like creating better jobs, focusing on public education and doing smart things like ensuring that people can see a doctor, fill a prescription, and be healthy and well enough to be able to live to their full potential.

That`s what we have to offer as a contrast and the people of Texas are behind us on it.

O`DONNELL: Last poll I saw, you`re running in a statistical tie with Greg Abbott, he was maybe two points ahead of you, that`s within the margin of error. That means that he`s looking over his shoulder at every single thing you say. Wondering when you might be taking voters away from him.

It seems this issue of bad business for Texas and for the country, bad supply chain complications created by the governor, is one that he had to be very worried about when he saw you go after it. And it`s his reversal on it was very quickly -- after you discussed it here and I`m sure discuss in other venues in Texas.

O`ROURKE: That`s right. I tell you what, it was the public pressure brought to bear on this guy that ultimately forced him to back down. But it also ensured that every single Texan understood and now understands the real cost and consequence of having Greg Abbott in office.

And it`s not just Democrats talking about it. I mentioned Syd Miller earlier but Greg Abbott also made the editorial page of the "Wall Street Journal" which talks about Greg Abbott`s five dollar avocadoes.

And I`m hearing back from people all over the state of Texas how much prices have gone up because of Greg Abbott in the grocery store.

So this guy has a lot of explaining to do. And this is how we are going to help win the voters we need to win this in November.

O`DONNELL: Beto O`Rourke, candidate for governor of Texas, thank you very much for joining us tonight.

O`ROURKE: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: And coming up, we`ve got a live report from Ukraine and we`ll talk to professor Timothy Snyder about the new reporting that has some of the letter Putin`s inner circle now worried about Putin`s war which should have Vladimir Putin very worried about his future.




O`DONNELL: (AUDIO GAP) its security compromised, and its global influence gutted. All were too fearful of course of retribution to speak out publicly now. From an unknown location Russian billionaire Oleg Tinkov spoke out on Instagram against Putin`s quote, "mindless war", saying 90 percent of Russians are against this war.

That isolation of Russia was on display today, as leaders from several countries, including the United States, walked out of a G-20 meeting when Russians started speaking. Today the Biden administration posted new restrictions designed to crack down on individuals and companies that have been evading sanctions.

President Biden met with his military leaders today at the White House as the White House prepares another military aid package for Ukraine. The U.S. is shipping aircraft parts to Ukraine, helping Ukraine assemble more than 20 fighter and bomber jets.

Today Vladimir Putin touted the test launch of a new intercontinental ballistic missile warning that it should make his enemies think twice about threatening Russia. But the missile is not ready to be used, the Pentagon such testing is routine and that Russia had actually properly notified the United States, in advance of the test.

Heavy shelling and artillery attacks intensified across the Donbas region as Russia moved four additional combat units into Ukraine.

The situation in Mariupol is worsening, as Ukrainian soldiers fight for control of their city and Russia again blocked starving civilians from evacuating.

One Ukrainian commander pleaded for help to rescue the more than 500 wounded soldiers and hundreds of civilians sheltering inside a steel plant.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is our appeal to the world. This could be the last appeal of our lives. We are probably facing our last days, if not hours. The enemy is outnumbering us 10 to 1. We appeal and plead to all world leaders to help us.


O`DONNELL: Joining us now is NBC News correspondent Ali Arouzi from Lviv.

Ali, what is the situation there tonight?


Well, Russia`s assault on Ukraine`s eastern front has intensified with relentless shelling in the Donbas, Luhansk and Donetsk region. They are hitting that area pretty hard over the last two days. And the Russians managed to capture a city called Kreminna (ph) with about 18,000 people. But the Ukrainians have managed to repel them in other areas.

And if you listen to the Ukrainian commanders on the ground there, they are saying that this is now a battle of artillery. Between them and the Russians. And that`s why they keep asking for more weapons.

They say their artillery is depleted, or the Russians destroyed their artillery. It will allow Russian tanks to roll into that area and give them a significant advantage in that pivotal battle on the eastern front.

And they are getting some new hardware. The U.S. as you mentioned, has pledged $800 million in new weaponry. And the Pentagon announced today that Howitzer have been delivered to Europe. And the U.S. is now training Ukrainian military with those Howitzers so they can get them onto the battlefield, a little quicker. And that may tip the scales in the balance of the eastern front to the Ukrainian side.

But unfortunately Lawrence, those weapons may be too late for Mariupol. With each passing moment, Mariupol becomes more and more desperate. There was a huge convoy of buses that were trying to get from Zaporizhzhia into Mariupol today.

But again, the Russians stopped them from getting in. They were meant to take about 6,000 people out of that area. But none of them got out. So another cascading humanitarian disaster there on purpose by the Russians.

And that Azov battalion that have been fighting so hard there, they say they will fight to the last drop of blood saying that they want to get out now if they can, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Ali Arouzi thank you for joining us tonight, and please stay safe.

Thank you.

AROUZI: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: And next, Yale professor Timothy Snyder will join us.




JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our allies are stepping up (INAUDIBLE) the impact of our response. NATO is united, focused and energized as it`s ever been. Not because of me or any particular thing but I`ve never seen NATO as united.

I`m confident of my view. Just this is Biden speaking that I don`t think that Putin counted on being able to hold us together.

Joining us now Timothy Snyder, professor of history at Yale University. The expanded audio book version of his bestselling book, "On Tyranny: 20 lessons from the 20th century" is available now.

And Professor Snyder, two things that Joe Biden just said he doesn`t think Putin expected NATO to be as united as they are. There is that.

And then there`s this report today on Bloomberg with people in the Kremlin indicating that Putin is now, there is a big ring of doubt around Putin and around Putin`s war by some of the people in the kremlin who should be supporting him.


TIMOTHY SNYDER, PROFESSOR, YALE UNIVERSITY: So on the first issue, I think probably the biggest surprise for Putin -- I mean such a big surprise, I don`t think he`s really absorbed it yet is how united the Ukrainians are. That`s I think the most important factor here.

He was expecting to win this war in 72 hours and instead we`re heading towards the end of the second month. And it`s been the Ukrainians, because they`ve resisted, who`ve given NATO and the West and other allies time to unite and to take serious measures.

That of course means that everything looks different from the point of view of Moscow. And indeed, the strange thing here is how, in a certain way Putin is the last to know. He is in this classic tyrannical position where he`s taken this big gamble on the basis of an ideology, which is simply wrong. And it`s going to be hard for people to talk to him about what`s actually going on.

So you mentioned the people, you know, in some kind of middle circle around him who doubt this is going well. That`s one group. There`s another group of people who he`s decided already are his enemies. People who are once fairly important in intelligence or propaganda circles who are now reportedly in prison or under house arrest.

But beyond that, you can see and this maybe the most important thing, that he doesn`t actually have any friends. There`s nobody really close to him. Everyone is letting him take the hit here.

I mean one way to think about this war itself, is that it`s all on Putin, right. Nobody else is stepping up to take responsibility.

And so, in that way, there`s really nobody standing beside him. Everybody is not far away from him, not just physically but he`s going to take the blame for this thing when it doesn`t turn out the way that it`s supposed to.

O`DONNELL: Talk about this upcoming anniversary, May 9th -- what May 9th means both in Russia, Russian history and what it`s going to mean for this war.

SNYDER: That`s a wonderful question because it`s really hard to overestimate how much the symbolism of dates matters in public culture in Russia. But also for Mr. Putin personally. He started this war on the eighth anniversary of his last anniversary -- of his last invasion of Ukraine which is an extraordinary thing. I mean to make a decision which was going to affect tens of millions of lives on the kind of basis of sort of a political astrology of an anniversary.

But May 9th is something very special because Putin`s ideology hangs on the idea that Russia is the Soviet Union and because the Soviet Union won a 1945, therefore Russia is always right and Russia always wins which are big claims to hang on a small war. At least a small war compared to the Second World War and one that you`re not are now winning.

So they`re going to have a tricky time on May 9th because, the pressure will be on, no matter how much they try to backpedal now for May 9th. They`ve already mentioned it. The pressure will be on now to have some kind of victory then, something they can march and celebrate.

And Ukrainians know this too and this is just one more reason for them to be determined not to let the Russians have something to celebrate.

O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to what Leon Panetta, former CIA director, said today about the situation.


LEON PANETTA, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR AND FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY: I think the most important mission right now is to do whatever is necessary to provide the weapons to the Ukrainians so that they can stop the Russian advance in Donbas.

If they can successfully stop that advance, that will be another defeat for the Russians and a real signal to Putin that it`s time to leave. I think that`s the primary mission right now.


SNYDER: And that`s someone who has advised presidents from the position of being a White House chief of staff, a Defense Secretary, CIA director. He`s been focusing on this for a long time. What`s your reaction to that, to what he had to say?

SNYDER: I think that`s exactly right. I mean what matters in Mr. Putin`s mind is symbolism. And the only way to have symbolic defeats is to have real defeats on the battlefield, unfortunately. I mean it would be a better world if somehow he can be reached some other way.

But the failure to take Kyiv in 72 hours, the withdrawal from around Kyiv. The sinking of the flagship the Moskva -- all of these things are symbolic defeats. And if they fail to secure something by May 9th, that`s another big symbolic defeat.

And at some point, the symbolic defeats accumulate to a point where the charisma of the great leader starts to break. And you know, when it happens, it will seem natural but up to the moment when it happens, he will be surprised. We won`t be able to imagine it until it all comes crashing down. That`s the way that it goes with tyranny.

O`DONNELL: And that`s exactly what we went through with the Berlin Wall. It was permanent until it wasn`t.

Professor Timothy Snyder, thank you very much for joining us, really appreciate it.

Tonight`s LAST WORD is next.



O`DONNELL: Time for tonight`s LAST WORD.


REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES (D-NY): You know the C in RNC doesn`t stand for Committee, it stands for Cult. It`s not the Republican National Committee. It`s the Republican National Cult.


JEFFRIES: That is the only way you can explain how the Grand Old Party would come to the conclusion that people who engaged in rampant mob violence, urinated, defecated, desecrated the Capitol, brutally beat up police officers, seriously injured more than 140.

Police officers lost their lives as a result of the events of January 6th. And the cult says it`s legitimate political discourse.


O`DONNELL: Congressman Hakeem Jeffries gets tonight`s LAST WORD.