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Transcript: The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, 5/12/22

Guests: Adam Schiff, Hakeem Jeffries, Susan Squier, Cecile Richards

Summary

The committee investigating the January 6th attack on the Capitol sent identical letters accompanying subpoenas to Republican Congressmen Kevin McCarthy, Jim Jordan, Mo Brooks, Andy Biggs, and Scott Penny. Interview with Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA). "The New York Times" is reporting that federal prosecutors are conducting a grand jury investigation into whether Donald Trump and Trump White House staff mishandled classified information after the National Archives discovered classified materials and 15 boxes that Donald Trump removed from the White House residence and took to Florida, before being forced to return the material to the National Archives. Interview with Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY). Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas said that peaceful protesters near the homes of the Supreme Court justices are bullying the justices and that Americans are quote, "becoming addicted to wanting particular outcomes, not living with the outcomes we don`t like," end quote. The now looming certainty of Roe v. Wade being overturned has pushed abortion policy to the top of voters` concerns, abortion policy is now tied with economic policy in a Monmouth poll as the most important issues facing voters.

Transcript

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

And we are going to start off with Adam Schiff tonight, because he`s a member of the committee that has issued these historic subpoenas to members of the House of Representatives, the January 6 Committee, he`ll explain those subpoenas and his hopes for them.

And also, Hakeem Jeffries is going to join us he really, really just let it go on Clarence Thomas in the Judiciary Committee yesterday. We`re going to show the video and get more from Congressman Jeffries about that.

And at the end of the hour, there is another, there`s someone else who let it go. And that is Patty LuPone, Tony winner, Patty LuPone, current Tony nominee, who in a discussion with a audience at her Broadway show the other day, had to enforce the mask policy in her theater.

ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST: Yeah.

O`DONNELL: And the video`s gone viral, a lot of people have seen already. But it deserves, it absolutely deserves the national TV attention that we`re going to give it at the end of the hour. And Patty LuPone deserves the Broadway and she`s going to get it.

VELSHI: I love that.

I was on the subway they, thinking I could use Patty LuPone. No one`s wearing mask any more. But, yeah, I`m looking forward to that. You have a great show, my friend. I`ll watch it to the end.

O`DONNELL: Thank you, Ali. Thank you.

VELSHI: All right.

O`DONNELL: Once again, Donald Trump and Trump Republicans have brought us to a place tonight where we have never been before. In the Trump era of our politics, which is still ongoing, when I`m about to say might be very hard to believe so I will say it slowly. In the 233 years that the House of Representatives has been in business, the number of House subpoenas issued in a year has usually been zero. That`s right. In most of the 233 year history, the House of Representatives issued zero subpoenas in those years.

The House Ethics Committee is the only committee that actually has ever subpoenaed a member of the House of Representatives and the House Ethics Committee did not even exist until 1967. And in most of the 55 years of the House Ethics Committee`s existence, the committee has not issued a single subpoena to a member of the House. That`s a typical year, in the House of Representatives.

I`m trying, and I know I`m failing to convey here just how shocking, how monumentally historic it is that on this day in history, by those the House of Representatives including the Republican leader of the House of Representatives were subpoenaed by a House committee. That is not the ethics committee. The committee investigating the January 6th attack on the Capitol sent identical letters accompanying subpoenas to Kevin McCarthy, Jim Jordan, Mo Brooks, Andy Biggs, and Scott Penny.

Each letter to the members receiving the subpoena said: We have a solemn responsibility to investigate fully the facts and circumstances of the violent attack on the United States Capitol and issues relating to the peaceful transfer of power. A solemn responsibility.

I note in the age of Trump, with subpoenas flying around Washington constantly from the Mueller investigation beginning in the first year of the Trump presidency to the generous committee now. It is impossible for subpoenas to have shock value. Donald Trump and his children have been subpoenaed by the New York state attorney general, Donald Trump`s business records were subpoenaed by the New York attorney general and by the Manhattan district attorney who is now prosecuting Donald Trump`s business and his chief financial officer, as a result of what they found in the subpoenas.

Robert Mueller`s long forgotten subpoenas created an evidence trail that sent Donald Trump`s campaign manager to prison. Federal subpoenas in New York City sent on Trump`s fixer, Michael Cohen, to prison and exposed on Trump as and a coconspirator in that case. Along the way, Donald Trump has been impeached twice.

The January 6 committee`s subpoena power has unearthed electronic communications between the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and Trump White House chief of staff in which both of them were engaged in a criminal plot to overturn the presidential election with Clarence Thomas`s wife telling the White House chief of staff there are no rules in war.

[22:05:02]

And so, our shock reflexes are worn out and were worn out a long time ago. In Washington, just the word subpoena used to be terrifying.

I saw exactly one senator get hit with a subpoena in the years that I worked in the senate. In 1993, the Senate Ethics Committee subpoenaed the diary of the top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, Bob Packwood of Oregon who`s been investigated by the ethics committee on multiple sexual harassment charges over a span of 20 years. Because I was working with the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, we had endless dealings with Senator Packwood who was then considered a moderate to on some issues liberal Republican. He politely opposed us on tax policy but work cooperatively with us on many other issues. And there are two points to the Packwood story that are very important. In telling us how far Republicans have traveled since then and how they have lost their way on ethics and policy.

Bob Packwood was one of several pro-choice Republicans fully supportive of Roe versus Wade. In fact, Senator Packwood was even stronger supporter of abortion rights than many Democrats. Senator Packwood was endorsed by the National Abortion Rights Action League and one Planned Parenthood`s Margaret Sanger Award in 1979 when supporting abortion rights still took real political bravery. And no one said that Bob Packwood wasn`t a loyal Republican because he was pro-choice.

The second part of the Packwood story that is important tonight is that the lawsuit that he filed to block the ethics committee subpoena of his diary went all the way to the United States Supreme Court where a Republican appointed chief justice, William Rehnquist, the most conservative member of the court, refused to issue a preliminary order blocking the subpoena for the Packwood diaries which were then handed over to the ethics committee.

So, William Rehnquist then the most conservative Supreme Court justice of the modern era, appointed by Ronald Reagan, did not pause for a second in deciding to destroy the Senate career of Bob Packwood, Republican, who became the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee in 1995 as the ethics committee investigation of his diaries and other evidence dragged on. And when the investigation was complete, the Senate Ethics Committee voted unanimously to recommend to the Senate that they vote to expel Bob Packwood, the ultimate penalty that the ethics committee can recommend.

The ethics committee was equally divided between three Democrats and three Republican members, the Republican members of the committee were always in a position to block the investigation, to refuse to authorize subpoenas and they never did. They all felt a solemn responsibility.

The Republican members the Senate Ethics Committee approached the newest occasion with the same way the Democrats did. And in the middle of the multi-year investigation, Republicans won back the senate. So the chairmanship of the Senate of his committee shifted from a Democrat to Republican and the investigation continued.

And the Republican chairman of the ethics committee, who led the ethics committee to vote unanimously, to expel the Republican chairman of the finance committee, was Senator Mitch McConnell. And the Republican chairman of the Finance Committee, Bob Packwood, still respected as a legislator but now disgraced in as personal behavior to the right thing in the end, basing the inevitable and resigned from the Senate after Mitch McConnell recommended his expulsion.

And Mitch McConnell knew that expelling Bob Packwood would lose a Republican seat in the senate. Democratic Senator Ron Wyden won the special election to fill that seat. Mitch McConnell wanted -- was expelling a Republican senator knowing that they would lose the seat to the Democrats.

At the beginning of the Packwood investigation two years earlier, there was not a single senator in either party who actually expected Bob Packwood to suffer any serious penalty from the ethics committee. But Mitch McConnell did with the January six committee is doing now and simply follow the evidence without trying to hide any of the evidence and protect his fellow Republican.

Most senators, Democrat, Republican, did not want to vote to expel Paul Packwood.

[22:10:02]

But all of them knew how, that they would have to vote to expel Bob Packwood after Mitch McConnell presented the findings of the ethics committee investigation against a fellow Republican on the Senate floor 27 years ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): A lot of people in the media and in the public think that we can`t handle the job of disciplining our fellow members and guarding the integrity of this institution. I don`t believe that. I never have. And if I did believe that to be true, I never would`ve agreed to serve on this committee.

The question before us today is really, whether we are up to the job. That`s the question before us today. Are we up to the job? Can we, through the instrument of the ethics committee, impartially and thoroughly investigate instances of misconduct by our colleagues? And will we give the committee the authority it needs to get the job done right?

If you believe the answer is yes, you will vote to uphold the unanimous decision of the ethics committee.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: That`s the way it used to be. Not anymore. No one was surprised by Mitch McConnell and the other Republican members of the Senate ethics committee followed the evidence and made a recommendation to expel a Republican senator based on the evidence. That`s the way everyone expected the ethics committee to work then. That`s the way of unexpected House and Senate investigations to work, follow the evidence and never lose sight of your solemn responsibility.

Today, Kevin McCarthy ridicule the January 6 committee after receiving a subpoena from them saying, it`s an illegitimate committee which is a lie. Mitch McConnell avoids commenting on activities in the House of Representatives but he will surely get around to ridiculing the January 6 Committee`s subpoenas. Exactly the kind of subpoenas Mitch McConnell would have issued as the senator in the 1990s before he stopped believing that his oath of office conferred on him at the title of senator and a solemn responsibility.

Joining us now is Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff of California. He is chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. A member of the January 6th Select Committee and was a lead impeachment manager for the first impeachment trial of Donald Trump.

Chairman Schiff, thank you very much for joining us tonight and thank you for patience with that history lesson. It just strikes me on a day like today which is a historic day, as you know, it is a historic day, subpoenaing members of the house like this. To see the way it used to be and to see the way enforcement of ethics, enforcement of what -- kinds of things are trying to enforce. We`re a completely bipartisan effort in the house in the senate.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): I`m so glad that you did and I had never seen that footage before. It really is breathtaking to consider how far the Republican Party has gone from those days. Mitch McConnell who could give a speech like that and then more recently, call in a personal favor with his Republican members, urging them to vote against a bipartisan commission to look into the first violent attack on the capitol to stop the peaceful transfer of power.

So there you have them, warning his colleagues, that was then toward do the right things, to do the ethical thing, saying that most people don`t think we can do the ethical thing. And today what is he doing? He calls in shifts to stop an investigation to January 6th but also another illustration of just how far the GOP has gone from those days where ethics into matter, Kevin McCarthy call recently lying about what he was saying on January 6th.

That`s not a scandal. The scandal is that if he wouldn`t lie he couldn`t occupy Republican leadership. You have to be willing to lie about something as fundamental to our democracy as whether the last election was legitimate, if you want to be part of GOP leadership now. That`s how much the Republican Party has changed either Donald Trump.

O`DONNELL: I want to listen to just a few seconds of Kevin McCarthy on this tape that was recently released. Just to show the kind of evidence you`re trying to get at. Let`s listen to this.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): The only discussion I would have with him is that I think this will pass. And it would be my recommendation you should resign. I mean, that would be my take. But I don`t think he would take it.

[22:15:03]

But I don`t know.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: I suppose one of your questions from that to get McCarthy could be, why should the president -- why should Donald Trump have resigned at that time? But when we look at evidence like that, we have to assume that you know an awful lot about what Kevin McCarthy did that day, what he said that day. What`s more are you trying to obtain from Kevin McCarthy through testimony?

SCHIFF: Well, you`re right, we do know a lot about this. But most of what we know, much of what we know, we are here secondhand. And, of course, no one would be better position to testify about conversations that he had with Donald Trump than Kevin McCarthy. And indeed, he`s making reference there to what he would tell the president. What`s in fact did he say over the phone with the president? What was the president saying to him on January 6th, we are hearing from other members as we did earlier from Herera Beutler that the president irritated with McCarthy when McCarthy was begging to call it off said these people who are attacking the Capitol, these people apparently care more about the election than he does, or worse to that effect.

So there is a lot we would like to ask McCarthy. These other members we subpoena today, some allegedly involved or were involved in seeking pardons. Why do they think parties would be necessary? Or were involved in an effort to overturn the election that they -- judge of California recently proclaimed was likely a in criminal act violated multiple laws. So, these witnesses, clearly relevant information. If their oath of office means anything to them, it means cell -- subpoenaed to testify.

O`DONNELL: I think we both know seeing here that our audience listening to us right now does not expect anyone who received these subpoenas today to comply with them. Is there any reason that you have a greater confidence in that than our audience does?

SCHIFF: You know, I would never want to second guess your audience, Lawrence. But part of the reasons why as you are pointing out, these circumstances are so impressive. It`s not just that we`re doing an investigation of all attack on the Capitol that is obviously completely unprecedented in terms of stopping an election result.

But the reality is that when we`ve asked members to come in, we have a path to subpoena them, even as recently as a Russian investigation and it at a time when I believe it was shared by Republican Devin Nunes -- we had a Democrat and Republican with relevant information. We asked them to come in. They both did, to be interviewed by our committee.

They didn`t require subpoena, they didn`t try to fight it. And so, what`s unprecedented here is you have Republican members potentially involved in a plot to overturn the election. But also if they do refuse, already to refuse legal process, they`re willing to break the law to avoid having to come in to testify about what they know.

O`DONNELL: Congressman Adam Schiff, thank you very much for leading off our discussion tonight.

SCHIFF: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

And coming up, federal investigators are moving ahead with investigation into how classified documents ended up and Donald Trump`s club in Florida. Daniel Goldman and Tim O`Brien will join us next.

And later, Congressman Hakeem Jeffries has what he called a simple question for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES (D-NY): Hate on civil rights. Hate on women`s rights. Hate on reproductive rights. Hate on voting rights. Hate on marital rights.

Hate on equal protection under the law. Hate on liberty and justice for all. Hate on free and fair elections. Why are you such a hater?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Congressman Hakeem Jeffries will join us later in this hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[22:23:12]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): An attempted coup and a violent insurrection at the capitol interrupting the peaceful transfer of power are unprecedented events. And people have asked, does this set a precedent for the issue of subpoenas for members of Congress in the future if there are coups and insurrections? I suppose that it does.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: "The New York Times" is reporting that federal prosecutors are conducting a grand jury investigation into whether Donald Trump and Trump White House staff mishandled classified information after the National Archives discovered classified materials and 15 boxes that Donald Trump removed from the White House residence and took to Florida, before being forced to return the material to the National Archives.

"The New York Times" reports, prosecutors issued a subpoena to the national archives and records administration to obtain the boxes of classified documents, according to two people familiar with the matter. The authorities have also made interview requests to people who worked in the White House in the final days of Mr. Trump`s presidency. The prosecutors` moves show that the Justice Department under Attorney General Merrick B. Garland is at least willing to examine a matter that may ultimately touch directly on the president`s conduct.

Joining us now is Daniel Goldman, former house majority counsel during the first Trump impeachment trial, he is also the former U.S. attorney for the district of New York.

Also with us, Tim O`Brien, senior columnist for "Bloomberg Opinion", and author of "Trump Nation", both are MSNBC analyst.

And, Dan Goldman, let me begin with you and your experience with classified material. What does this investigation sound like to you?

DAN GOLDMAN, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it is pretty remarkable to have 15 boxes that include a string, or a slew of classified materials, as you know, Lawrence, from working on the Hill.

[22:25:07]

When I worked on the house intelligence committee, we were in a secure location where classified information could remain. But there were still tremendous precautions that we had to take with any classified information. And the notion that it would just be thrown in moving boxes, and sent down to Mar-a-Lago is completely an accurate to anyone who regularly handles classified information.

So the question becomes, how did these classified documents get in those boxes? I tend to think that lower love royal stuffers, middle-able staffers, paid very close attention to those rules, and that perhaps more senior level political employees do not, or politicians themselves.

So I think that this investigation has to go directly to the people who pack those boxes, and to understand exactly what orders they had, what issues they brought to the attention of their superiors, and what they were told, so that the Department of Justice and the FBI can get a real story as to how classified information ended up in boxes. This is far more serious than Hillary Clinton`s emails.

O`DONNELL: I am very much out of my depth on unclassified information. I worked for a senator who served on the Intelligence Committee. But I was not on the Intelligence Committee staff. So I have never seen anything close to a classified document.

And, Dan, what I`m wondering about is, when those things are being moved, when they are in boxes, is there something that a staffer would see that would make a staffer realize, oh, this is a hot item here. This is classified. And at what point did the staff moving those boxes, those individuals, at what point do they face possible criminal liability?

GOLDMAN: The classified information relies heavily on markings, which is to say that you know things are classified, and what degree they are classified as because every single document has a marking of what the classification is. And in some cases, you know, secret or top secret, those words are written in diagonal, in huge letters, like you would see add a water stamp on a piece of paper. There is no possible way to look at a classified document and not know that it is classified.

So that is not an excuse. You cannot simply say, oh, I had no idea that there were markings on the classified documents. And so, you know, everyone knows that. And when these documents travel from one place to another, they are literally put in a bag with a lock. I am not kidding. You have a key and a lock for a bag where you bring the classified information.

So if you somehow lose that bag, nobody can get access to that information. That is how seriously these things are taken. So it is truly remarkable that we have this issue. And I think it is important that not only trying to figure out what information got out and where it may have gone so that they can cover their tracks on the security angle, but they are also interviewing people who worked at the White House, which means they are trying to figure out how these documents got to Mar-a-Lago.

O`DONNEL: Tim O`Brien, we have been working at these pictures of the boxes, we know who didn`t carry the boxes. There is no way Donald Trump, the man you know so well, was carrying those boxes.

So when he tries to fall asleep tonight, he has to think about everyone who was carrying those boxes, and exactly how loyal are they to Donald at this point.

TIM O`BRIEN, MSNBC POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Are they going to stay quiet as this proceed? I was just thinking, as my friend Dan was talking about secure locations for classified documents, and bags with locks on them, that this was a White House that was flushing documents down the toilets. That this was a White House in which aides were visually running around with scotch tape to tape back together documents that Trump had sort of just torn up at his desk.

I don`t think that there was a culture of document preservation to be kind in this White House. And I don`t think there was any loyalty in this White House. I think when push comes to shove, and they need to find out about who is in charge of moving them, why they were moved, and what they contained, all of which we still don`t know.

[22:29:48]

We don`t know what the subject matter was of these, and why these ended up at Mar-a-Lago rather than in the toilet. So there is a lot of a pattern we simply don`t know yet.

I also am not sure at the end of the day that there are going to be severe consequences for Donald Trump in this one. You know, the president has a lot of leeway to declassify documents.

I think there is a lot of ways that he could get around this in the courtroom. I am assuming that the Justice Department has convened a grand jury because Merrick Garland is always concerned about his investigations looking politicized.

And it reminds me yet again that if the DOJ has the time to convene a grand jury to look into this matter, why don`t they have the time to convene a grand jury to look into what January 6 committee is doing which has far more serious consequences around it.

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC: That is the great question. Tim O`Brien and Daniel Goldman, thank you both very much for joining us tonight.

O`BRIEN: Thanks Lawrence.

Coming up, Congressman Hakeem Jeffries has a few questions for Clarence Thomas that we don`t expect Clarence Thomas to answer. Congressman Jeffries joins us next.

[22:30:58]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas said that peaceful protesters near the homes of the Supreme Court justices are bullying the justices and that Americans are quote, "becoming addicted to wanting particular outcomes, not living with the outcomes we don`t like," end quote.

Our next guest, Congressman Hakeem Jeffries responded to Justice Thomas during yesterday`s House Judiciary Committee hearing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES (D-NY): If Justice Thomas really wants to deal with bullying in America, or this problem of people supposedly unwilling to accept outcomes that they don`t like, I`ve got some advice for justice Thomas: start in your own home. Have a conversation with Gini Thomas.

She refused to accept the legitimacy of the 2020 presidential election. Why? Because she didn`t like the outcome. And so instead, she tried to steal the election, overthrow the United States government and install a tyrant.

That`s bullying. That`s being unwilling to accept an outcome because you don`t like the results. Because the former twice impeached so-called president of the United States of America lost legitimately to Joe Biden. How did she respond? Instead, she said, the Bidens to face a military tribunal in Guantanamo Bay on trumped up charges of sedition. You`ve got to be kidding me.

And lastly, let me ask this question of Brother Thomas. Why are you such a hater? Hate on civil rights, hate on women`s rights, hate on reproductive rights, hate on voting rights, hate on marital rights, hate on equal protection under the law, hate on liberty and justice for all, hate on free and fair elections. Why are you such a hater?

And you think you can get away with it, escape public scrutiny. Because you think that shamelessness is your superpower?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Chairman, a point of order.

JEFFRIES: Here is a news flash --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Chairman --

JEFFRIES: from the House Judiciary Committee. (INAUDIBLE) to the ground will rise again and truth will be your kryptonite.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Joining us now is Democratic Representative Hakeem Jeffries of New York. He is the chair of the House Democratic Caucus and member of the house Judiciary Committee and was an impeachment manager for the first impeachment trial of Donald Trump. Thank you very much for joining us tonight.

And that sounded like a moment that had been building for you for a while.

JEFFRIES: Well that certainly is the case. I think Justice Clarence Thomas has been an outrage and an abomination from the very beginning. And I think many Americans across the country feel that way.

But the culmination was really twofold for me. One, this was a hearing where we were discussing and marking up a bill on the absence of a judicial code of ethics for the Supreme Court. Every other federal judge in the system has to abide by a code of ethics. The Supreme Court does not. They think they can police themselves.

We see it`s a runaway majority. That`s what the leaked opinion suggests. And then Justice Thomas had the nerve to lecture America about bullying and being unwilling to accept outcomes that we don`t like. It was just too much to take at that particular point in time.

O`DONNELL: And this is a judge who has ruled on a case involving his wife`s communications with the White House chief of staff, that it is against the law. There is one federal law saying that judges cannot -- the Supreme Court justices cannot rule on cases involving their spouses. He has already done that.

JEFFRIES: Yes and this is part of the challenge that we have here. That Justice Roberts has taken a position that Supreme Court justices effectively can police themselves. They cannot. And Clarence Thomas and the sordid affair with Ginni Thomas and her involvement in the January 6 insurrection and the effort to try to hide her records which is the case that Justice Thomas was ruling on is totally unacceptable.

And so I think as Democrats, we wanted to make the point that no Supreme Court justice, and certainly Justice Thomas, is above the law, above publics scrutiny or above public accountability.

[22:39:59]

O`DONNELL: Because they do not discipline themselves, the only discipline available for Supreme Court justices is impeachment.

JEFFRIES: Well that`s the ultimate penalty that should be paid in cases of egregious violation where there`s been a constitutional crime committed. But I think the step that we have taken as House Democrats at this moment led by Chairman Nadler and Congressman Hank Johnson is to actually put a judicial code of conduct into place for the Supreme Court justices and then work to try to make sure that there`s teeth and accountability if there is a failure to comply.

So that was what the legislation that we were marking up at that particular hearing was all about. Of course, every single Republican opposed it.

O`DONNELL: Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, thank you very much for joining us tonight.

JEFFRIES: Thank you, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

28 women who were Princeton classmates of Justice Samuel Alito have shared a letter expressing their outrage at his draft opinion overturning Roe versus Wade. The author of that letter will join us next, along with Cecile Richards.

[22:41:10]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: The "New York Times" reports half of the women in this country of reproductive age live in states where they will lose access to abortion when the Supreme Court overturns Roe versus Wade. 33.6 million women of reproductive age will lose the constitutional right to control their own bodies."

The now looming certainty of Roe versus Wade being overturned has pushed abortion policy to the top of voters` concerns, abortion policy is now tied with economic policy in a Monmouth poll as the most important issues facing voters.

In the last congressional midterm election, abortion policy was an important concern for only 9 percent of voters. It has now rocketed up to 25 percent with economic policy up 26 percent.

New Hampshire`s Republican Governor Chris Sununu is betraying the voters who reelected him last year when he said, "I`m a pro-choice governor. I`ve been pro-choice.

That is what Republican John Sununu said to win his reelection last year. He is now fully in line with the Republican Party on banning abortion and just signed New Hampshire`s first abortion ban into law.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOVERNOR CHRIS SUNUNU (R-NH): Look, I`m the first governor in 40 years to sign an abortion ban, right. Republican governors before me never signed that. I`m the -- I`ve done more on the pro-life issue, if you will, than anyone.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: 28 of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito`s college classmates have signed a letter that begins, "We the undersigned Princeton woman of `72 have been deeply shocked by the leaked Supreme Court draft authored by our classmate, Justice Samuel Alito.

We find it bitter indeed to see the draft Supreme Court reverse the strides we thought we were making as part of one of the first classes of Princeton women towards a world of equality and fairness for women of all races and social and economic positions."

Joining us now Cecile Richards, co-chair of American Bridge 21st Century, a former president of Planned Parenthood. And also with us, Susan Squier, emeritus professor of gender and sexuality studies at Penn State University. She was a classmate of Justice Alito at Princeton University and wrote a letter protesting his draft opinion.

Thank you both very much for joining us. And Professor Squier, let me begin with you tonight. And what moved you to write this letter about your classmate?

SUSAN SQUIER, PROFESSOR, PENN STATE UNIVERSITY: Well, it was really very simple. I had already been planning to go to my 50th reunion. And I woke up the morning, I guess it was May 3rd and saw the news of the leaked document.

And I read it because I am trained as a literature and medicine scholar, so I pulled up the whole document, and I read it. And as someone who works with literature, I know this nuance and word choice. And I was appalled at what I saw.

So I got in touch with a couple of the women who went to Princeton with me and said this is not a time when we can do business as usual. We have to make something happen here. We have to do something. We weren`t sure what.

And then I finally decided I would draft a letter. I put it up on a Google document, and I started contacting women in our class asking if they were willing to sign.

And quite quickly, we got a lot of signatures, both from the class of `72 and the class of `73 which would have been the class in which Roe versus Wade turned 50. You know, they would have been the ones to celebrate that.

And it sort of happened very quickly. There were no negatives. There were no people who said they didn`t want to sign. Everyone was just, you know, thrilled that we were doing this and very urgently angry about it.

O`DONNELL: Cecile Richards, we are seeing now that the estimate is that basically half of the women of reproductive age in this country will lose the constitutional right when the Alito draft becomes official -- the official opinion of the court.

[22:49:56]

O`DONNELL: And we now know that it could expand -- the deprivation of rights could spread all across the country if this same court decides that the constitution really does hold that all abortion is, in effect, murder.

CECILE RICHARDS, CO-CHAIR, AMERICAN BRIDGE 21ST CENTURY: No, I mean this is, beginning as you said -- it is beginning to dawn on people. This isn`t just an idle threat. This is actually the future that we are probably facing.

And it is more than half the country, 28 states are poised to ban abortion in some way, 13 of them very, very quickly. And one of the things that is interesting, I think Lawrence, is thought some of these states where this is going to happen are states that are hotly contested this November.

So you look at the state of Arizona where there is a 1901 abortion ban on the books that would also allow for jailing people, anyone who helped a woman get access to an abortion. That could go into effect immediately.

The state of Georgia, a six-week abortion ban that is already, you know, if Roe is overturned, will take effect immediately. This is going to increasingly rise up in the consciousness of people because abortions are no longer going to be available in more than half the country.

As you said, already people are taking notice. And as we saw this week, not a single Republican United States senator voted in support of protecting a woman`s rights to make her own decisions about her pregnancy. This is going to be an increasingly important issue to voters this fall.

O`DONNELL: Professor Squier, I was stunned by the shoddy scholarship in the opinion, especially quoting a couple of English aristocrats who were believers, both believers in witches, and believed that witches had to be prosecuted and put to death, and did their part as -- in the British judicial system to actually make sure that witches were executed.

Those are legal authorities in Samuel Alito`s draft.

SQUIER: Yes. When I read it I thought I wouldn`t have given this a C if he had been my undergraduate student. It was very badly sourced. He didn`t consider the context at all. And this from a man, I am sorry to say, who is trained as a historian at Princeton, as well as a political scientist.

For me, the really stunning thing was when you can watch the language from the Mississippi Gestational Age Act which I understand maybe settled law in Mississippi, but hasn`t yet been ratified by the Supreme Court as far as I understand it.

Now, I am not a lawyer. And that language seeps into the documents, so he is referring to unborn children rather than fetuses. I just found it stunningly duplicitous, and badly argued, and shoddy and embarrassing.

O`DONNELL: Cecile, what is your reaction to what we are seeing in the polling now on how serious an issue abortion has very quickly become in the congressional campaign?

RICHARDS: Well, I think it is because, of course, all of these Republican candidates and folks who were in office are saying they are being asked, do you support these abortion bans? Do you support the repeal of Roe versus Wade?

And they are on record now. In fact we just launched a site at America Bridge so that people can see the exact quotes of what Republicans are saying. They are all on record now. And they are on the record saying that they would agree to an abortion ban.

Places like Pennsylvania, you know, a state where the gubernatorial candidates in the Republican primary are saying yes, we want to ban all abortions. And so I think it is no longer a Texas issue, it is no longer a Mississippi issue, it is an issue that is impacting folks all over this country.

And that`s you know, that to me, that is going to continue to happen as these abortion bans get passed, and go into effect.

O`DONNELL: Cecile Richards and Professor Susan Squier thank you both very much for joining our discussion tonight.

SQUIER: Thank you.

RICHARDS: Good to see you.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

And we have a very special and slightly profane LAST WORD from the fabulous Tony award winning Broadway icon Patti LuPone. You are going to want to see what she said from a Broadway stage to an audience member about obeying the mask rule in the theater. The glorious fury of Patti LuPone is next.

[22:54:25]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: Since Broadway theaters reopened after the COVID shutdown, I have ventured into exactly one Broadway theater to see the Tony nominated "How I Learned To Drive" with its brilliant Tony nominated cast.

Entering the theater, everyone had to show their vaccination cards and wear a mask throughout the play which everyone did without the slightest complaint, thrilled to be back in a Broadway theater.

Two-time Tony winner Pattie LuPone was just nominated again this week for a Tony for her part in a revival of Stephen Sondheim`s "Company". After a performance this week, the cast reassembled on stage to take questions from the audience.

It did not go well for an audience member close to the stage who didn`t follow the rule about masks.

[22:59:50]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PATTI LUPONE, ACTRESS: Put your mask over your nose. That`s while you`re in the theater. That is the rule. If you don`t want to follow the rule, get the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) out. I`m serious.

Who do you think you are that you do not respect the people that are sitting around you?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We pay your salary.

LUPONE: You pay my salary. (EXPLETIVE DELETED) Chris Harper pays my salary.

Who do you think you are?

Just put your mask over your nose.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Chris Harper, the producer of "Company" issued a statement fully supportive of his Tony nominated star. And you can support Patti LuPone by buying tickets to "Company" at the Bernard Jacobs Theater.

Patti LuPone has been receiving standing ovations today from people all over the world. Standing in front of their computers watching that video. People who love the theater and will always love Patti LuPone.

Patti LuPone gets tonight`s LAST WORD.

"THE 11TH HOUR WITH STEPHANIE RUHLE" starts now.