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Transcript: The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, 5/18/22

Guests: Ira Shapiro, Madeleine Dean, Stuart Stevens


Pennsylvania`s Attorney General Josh Shapiro got 1.1 million votes in the Democratic primary for governor, that`s more than any candidate for governor last year. Interview with Rep. Madeleine Dean (D-PA). It`s been almost a month since Attorney General Merrick Garland`s Justice Department sent a letter to the January 6 Committee requesting transcripts of interviews conducted by the committee, and the chairman of the committee, Bennie Thompson, has now made it very clear that the committee has refused to share that information with federal prosecutors. It has been almost a month since Attorney General Merrick Garland`s Justice Department sent a letter to the January 6 Committee requesting transcripts of interviews conducted by the committee. The candidate who got the most votes for Senate in yesterday`s primaries in Pennsylvania is John Fetterman who got 731,506 votes, winning 59 percent of the Democratic primary vote for Senate. The upcoming Senate elections in November are the most important Senate elections in our history. The dangers of returning Mitch McConnell to the majority leader position if Republicans win back the Senate.



And I know you suspect that Mitch McConnell does not take his oath of office as seriously as he might. But I`m going to be joined at the end of the hour tonight by Ira Shapiro, who has written now three books about the Senate. His latest book is about the damage to the Senate that Mitch McConnell has done. It is much more expensive than we get to cover in our hours of this kind of coverage.

And Ira Shapiro is going to begin to tell that story tonight. His book is really an amazing account of what is happening in the Senate, and how Mitch McConnell has brought us to hear.

And, the huge danger of returning him to the majority leader possession if the Republicans win the Senate.

MEHDI HASAN, MSNBC HOST: Yeah, and who are the people who will be with Mitch McConnell on that Senate majority? The likes of Herschel Walker, and who knows who comes out of Pennsylvania if they win that race. It will truly be Mitch McConnell emboldened, and the most consequential figure of her time, Lawrence, as you point out, with a bunch of extremist behind him this time.

O`DONNELL: Yeah, it`s very important book, we`re going to get to it at the end of the hour. Thanks, Mehdi.

HASAN: Looking forward to watching it.

O`DONNELL: Thank you. Thank you.

Well, there is now exactly one person, one person standing between the Republican candidate for governor in Pennsylvania, and the destruction of representative government in this country. That person is the candidate who got the most votes in the Pennsylvania governor`s primary last night, but whose name has been largely ignored in the coverage of the primary election.

Pennsylvania`s Attorney General Josh Shapiro got 1.1 million votes in the Democratic primary for governor, that`s more than any candidate for governor last year. Josh Shapiro was so strong a candidate, that he scared of any opposition in the Democratic primary, and was running unopposed. Josh Shapiro will have to be an even stronger candidate now, because unlike any other candidate for governor in our history, the future of the very existence of this republic is at state in Pennsylvania.

If Josh Shapiro loses the campaign for governor in Pennsylvania, we will lose. We will lose Pennsylvania, one of the original members of the United States of America, because Pennsylvania will be run as a dictatorship, with a governor who plans to crush democracy in Pennsylvania. We have more than one`s been told that we were voting in the most important presidential election in history, and that certainly has been true in the last two presidential elections.

If you voted against Donald Trump becoming president, or if you voted to prevent Donald Trump from being reelected as president, those are without doubt the most important presidential votes you have ever cast in your life. I have never before heard the claim that this is the most important governors election in history. The stakes are not nearly as high in governor`s elections, as they usually are in presidential elections, until now.

In a lifetime of newspaper reading, I have read no better written and no more important lead in election reporting, than Reid Epstein`s delivered in today`s "New York Times". Quote, Doug Mastriano, a central figure in former President Donald J. Trump`s efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election in Pennsylvania, won the state`s Republican primary for governor on Tuesday, making the general election a referendum on democracy in the place where American representative government was born.

Two hundred and thirty-five years after George Washington and Ben Franklin and James Madison, and Alexander Hamilton, and the others emerged from their deliberations at the constitutional convention, in Philadelphia with, as Ben Franklin famously put it then, a republic if you can keep it, 588,042 Pennsylvania Republican voters said they don`t want to keep it, 588,042 Republicans have voted for the candidate who appears ready to commit as many election crimes as necessary, for Donald Trump in 2024, to give Donald Trump Pennsylvania`s 20 electoral votes.


The next governor of Pennsylvania will appoint the next secretary of state of Pennsylvania. If Josh Shapiro points the next secretary of state to Pennsylvania, he will not choose someone who will try to rig the outcome of the presidential election. If Doug Mastriano appoints the next secretary of state of Pennsylvania, that person will be someone who denies, like Mastriano, that Joe Biden is the president of the United States.

Doug Mastriano would appoint a secretary of state who had taken Donald Trump`s phone call, telling that secretary of state exactly how many votes Donald Trump needs to win, as Donald Trump did in Georgia, made that phone call, and that secretary of state would deliver, whatever is necessary, to give Donald Trump Pennsylvania`s 20 electoral votes.

And so, Pennsylvania, the way where American government was born, will become the place where American government dies. And if that happens, the very existence of the 50 states as a Union would be in peril. What would be the continuing rationale for states that operate as democracies to be forced to suffer, anti-democratic outcomes in presidential elections, forced on them by a state run as a Vladimir Putin were governor.

Like Donald Trump, Doug Mastriano is a pathological liar. Like Donald Trump, Doug Mastriano was in Washington on January 6th, and we`ve seen near the Capitol grounds after the rally where Donald Trump told ally that he would march to the Capitol with Doug Mastriano and the rest of those Trump fanatics.

Doug Mastriano has been subpoenaed by the January 6 Committee, and he has illegally ignored that subpoena. We now know that Attorney General Merrick Garland`s Department of Justice is investigating exactly attempts to overthrow the federal election, that the January 6th committee is investigating, exactly the same territory. Doug Mastriano may well, then, we the subject of that Justice Department investigation.

The Republican candidate for governor in Pennsylvania, has been subpoenaed by the January 6 committee, ignore that subpoena illegally, and maybe the subject of a federal criminal investigation right now for his role in attempting to overturn the presidential election, and 588,042 Pennsylvanians voted for that candidate. Elections for governor are not supposed to matter like this. And yes, there can be important issues in government elections, but the future of the American government, the future of American democracy is not supposed to be one of the things at issue in the election of a governor. It never has been before, until now.

No candidate for governor deserves to have the kind of pressure that Josh Shapiro is bearing tonight. And it`s up to Josh Shapiro to save America? Yes, it is. That is what it has come to.

That is the agonizing absurdity that the Republican Party of Pennsylvania has now visited upon this company. "The Philadelphia Inquirer" wanted to do what`s so many newspapers around the country do during primary season.

"The Philadelphia Inquirer" wanted to endorse a candidate in the Republican primary, and endorsed candidates in the Democratic primary. The common technique for doing this is to submit a list of questions to the candidates, which they can take their time filling out. It`s a take home exam, take your time, consult the stuff, step fills it out, get the answers right, it`s easy.

The question that stumped all of the Republican candidates for governor in Pennsylvania was who won the 2020 presidential election. None of the Republican candidates for governor said Joe Biden, none of them. In its editorial announcing, no endorsements in the Republican primary for governor, "The Philadelphia Inquirer" writes, how do you fine points of agreement when you can`t reach common ground on facts, so basic that they could be used in a field sobriety test.

Republican voters in Pennsylvania yesterday didn`t do so well, on that field sobriety test, and so now you may be one election away from living in a country with newly installed Republican governors in Pennsylvania and other states, who conspired with newly installed Republican secretary of state in Pennsylvania and other states, who deny that the express will of the voters of those states, at the ballot box, and gleefully followed Donald Trump`s urgings to change the vote counts in their states, just as Donald Trump urged Georgia to do last time, and delivered their states electoral votes illegally to Donald Trump.


In a fair world, Josh Shapiro would get to run for governor, debating issues like taxation, economic development, education, environmental issues. The usual concerns of governors. But this time, Josh Shapiro alone in Pennsylvania has the job of saving worked on in Pennsylvania done 235 years ago by the delegates to the constitutional convention who created the government, that some Republicans are trying to now destroy.

Joining us now is Democratic Representative Madeleine Dean of Pennsylvania. She`s a member of the House Judiciary Committee, and was the impeachment manager in the second impeachment trial of Donald Trump.

Thank you very much for joining us, tonight, Representative Dean. It is so astonishing that our history can flow this way, that this government that was born in your state 235 years ago could now be at risk because of a governor`s election in your state.

REP. MADELEINE DEAN (D-PA): And, sadly, you paint the picture very vividly. You are absolutely right. I`m very proud of our state, and our roots in the development of our country, its heroic roots of independence, of possibility, of equal rights.

I`m a good friend of Josh Shapiro.

So, Josh, if you`re listening, a lot of pressure that Lawrence just put on you. But I would argue, Lawrence, that, yes, it surely is on this worthy candidate, my friend Josh Shapiro, who is our attorney general. But it`s on all of Pennsylvanians to come forward and make sure that we protect our democracy, that we reject not just an election denier as some have written.

This is someone who wants to do it again, who has said he will appoint a secretary of state, as you have pointed out who would undo an election. So, this is not just somebody living in denial about the past election. This is somebody who is qualified to serve as governor.

The good news is from your own reporting, Josh Shapiro, our attorney general beat him by nearly the twice, nearly the number of votes in a primary. I have a feeling that number will only increase in the general election.

Mr. Mastriano is not qualified to be state senator. You saw what he did, he participated, hired buses, brought people to the insurrection with his wife, broke through the barricades on January 6th, did he not see where this was headed? Did he ever disavow the violence Americans attacking Americans, Americans attacking Capitol police, metropolitan police officers? This sitting state senator is not qualified to be a sitting state senator, let alone the governor of the commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

You know what he has said? I want to lift up one of his ridiculous arguments, when he tried to hold Trump to the 2020 election. He adopted this radical argument that the Pennsylvania legislature had the sole authority to reappoint electors for Trump, because Biden`s win was compromised.

Of course, Biden`s win was not compromised. It was clear, convincing, and fair. And this person, if he were ever to be in a seat of authority, would actually throw out the will of Pennsylvania voters and seek his own electors. We can never let that happen.

O`DONNELL: As you watch this governor`s race go forward, in Pennsylvania, what are the strategic elements of it that you think Democrats statewide have to keep an eye on?

DEAN: I think we have to keep an eye on the ball, we have to make sure that every voter is engaged. I have to tell you, it`s not just Democratic voters that have to be engaged, I stopped by my post office on Saturday to pick up some mail at the box and a gentleman pulled up to me, put his window down and said you don`t know me, I`m your constituents, I`m a moderate Republican, please keep doing what you are doing and make sure you reach out to moderate Republicans.

So, Doug Mastriano, in areas like mine, southeastern Pennsylvania, and I would argue further than southeastern Pennsylvania, will not earn the vote of the vast majority of the commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

We are much more sane. We`re much more sensible than that. We reject insurrection. This gentleman embraces interaction.


O`DONNELL: Representative Madeleine Dean, thank you very much for starting our discussion tonight. We appreciate it.

DEAN: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: And joining us now, Eddie Glaude, chair of the African-American studies department at Princeton University, an MSNBC contributor. Also with us, Stuart Stevens, a veteran of five Republican presidential campaign. Stuart is the author of "It Was All a Lie: How the Republican Party Became Donald Trump".

And, Professor Glaude, it is all up to Pennsylvania once again. We will be waiting on election night in Pennsylvania, November, the way people were waiting outside the constitutional convention there.

EDDIE GLAUDE, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Absolutely. I thought your lead was spot on, Lawrence. And what we need to say and very clearly and forcefully is that Doug Mastriano is not a Democratic actor, he is illiberal to the core. And that over 580,000 Pennsylvanians have nominated, have elected for governor, a person who is fundamentally not committed to democratic principles.

I think it is really important for Democrats to follow your lead in this regard and to talk about the stakes, to not in some ways engaged in the traditional banter around the horse race. But to describe the stakes of this election that you have liberal actors who are seeking to hijack the republic and if they win, we may very well see all the faith of our democracy. Absolutely.

O`DONNELL: Stewart Stevens, how would you frame what we are seeing in Pennsylvania now and what is at stake in November?

STUART STEVENS, "IT WAS ALL A LIE" AUTHOR: Well, I work for the last Republican government to be reelected in Pennsylvania, Tom Ridge, and it wasn`t long ago, this is unrecognizable.

You know, I think the most typical thing that a lot of us, most of us, have grasped is that they don`t want a democracy in the sense that we know of a democracy. They want power. And that is not -- this isn`t just some quirk, it is very few Republican governors who will assert aggressively that Joe Biden won a legal and fair election. Ron DeSantis won`t say it, they say that they accept Joe Biden, I accept Putin doesn`t mean that he won a fair election.

It`s extraordinarily dangerous, but it`s very symbolic and meaningful as to where the party is going. Republican Party, for the most part, has become an autocratic movement, not a traditional political party.

O`DONNELL: And, Professor Glaude, it is going to be up to those voters, especially in the Philadelphia area to save that state once again, we are going to see massive resources poured into Pennsylvania as we did in the presidential campaign. But there really has never before, this year, been a governor`s race like this.

GLAUDE: Right, I think there is going to have to be a concerted effort to make sure that Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, places like that turnout in massive numbers. The argument has to be made, not only at the level of policies but at the level of the stakes. We are facing a political party that has nominated, to my mind, not just I said earlier not just a guy who is not a democratic actor, but someone who actively sought to overturn an American election.

And we cannot I think sugarcoat that, it is very important for folks who are working in organizing in Philadelphia to make that clear, even as we talk about specific policies that may follow from Shapiro, a governor`s house, as it were.

O`DONNELL: Stuart, I`ve been fascinated by the dependability of what appears to be the dependability of Republican voter turnout on midterm elections compared to the flexibility, I would call, of Democratic voter turnout on midterm elections. Democratic voter turnout tends to be a four- year phenomenon. How do you -- how should Democrats approach energizing that midterm turnout?

STEVENS: You know, there is a factor here that hasn`t been talked about much that is important, that is Shapiro`s running man. You run as a ticket in Pennsylvania, he has -- who would be the first African-American lieutenant, Austin Davis, who`s extraordinarily attractive candidate from western PA, who represents now a majority of white districts in the statehouse.

I think that is a big deal. You`re going to have a candidate, you`re going to have again, a Jewish and a black combination that I think it is going to be very appealing to the African American community, chance to make history.


And I think just in comparison to the Republican ticket, I would hope that the Democratic turnout would be a gangbuster. It was big yesterday.

O`DONNELL: Stuart Stevens and Professor Eddie Glaude, thank you very much for joining our discussion.

STEVENS: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

And coming up, why is the January 6 committee refusing now to give federal prosecutors copies of their witness interviews transcripts that may contain evidence of federal crimes? Neal Katyal will join us next.



O`DONNELL: It`s been almost a month since Attorney General Merrick Garland`s Justice Department sent a letter to the January 6 Committee requesting transcripts of interviews conducted by the committee, and the chairman of the committee, Bennie Thompson, has now made it very clear that the committee has refused to share that information with federal prosecutors. Thompson told reporters, quote, they made it a request and we told them that, as a committee, the product was hours, and we are not giving exodus to that work product.

Five months ago, the January 6th referred Mark Meadows to the Justice Department for criminal prosecution on contempt of Congress charges, for refusing to comply with the January 6th Committee subpoena. And so, the Justice Department has been investigating issues involving Mark Meadows subpoenaed to the January 6th committee for five months already. The January 6th committee invited the Justice Department to, in effect, overlap with their investigation involving Mark Meadows.

In an attempt to see through the legal fog, we are now joined by Neal Katyal. He`s former acting attorney general, and an MSNBC analyst.

Neal, I`ve been patiently waiting to hear one good reason not to turn over all of this information to federal prosecutors, right now. And if you have a good reason for that, please share it.

NEAL KATYAL, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: Well, Lawrence, I`m not going to give you a good reason, because I think it`s just -- I will give you descriptive reason, which is it`s not surprising to me that Congress has, initially said, hey, wait a minute we`re not just going to turn over everything. I don`t think they`ve said we`re not going to turn over the information, or parts of the information. I think they`ve just put a little bit of brakes on it.

In my view, the Justice Department absolutely, Lawrence, it`s going to get all the evidence, is just a question of when, not if. And one way to think about it is, the Justice Department is trying to copy off the smartest get in the class. And as we all know, this market in the classroom doesn`t let you do it without trading a piece of your lunch for it. Not that I`m speaking from experience.

The lunch here is going to be traded, the evidence is going to be shared. I think what`s going on is Congress is saying, look, you also have some information that we don`t have, and we`d like it to be a two-way street. So, for example, the Jeffrey Clark who tried that maneuver to take over the eternal generalship, you know, by kissing up to Trump, and telling him about the big lie and so on. You know, they may have Jeff Clark`s emails because they`re on their servers, it might be something that Congress wasn`t easy to get.

So, it might be a number of things like that, and look, everyone knows how important this investigation is. Everyone is a grown-up, from Jamie Raskin to Representative Thompson on down, and, of course, Merrick Garland.

So, this is going to workout, I`m not worried about it.

O`DONNELL: You know, but it sounded like right now, is you have to wait until we put on our TV show, and after we put on our show, then you can have this. I for one believe that this Justice Department can be interested with all of this material tonight, and that none of it would leak from this Justice Department, and they can begin working on whatever is in there now that contains a criminal inference or criminal evidence of any kind, and that to slow them down by a month, two months in doing that work, it strikes me as entirely absurd. It would turn on them not trusting the Justice Department.

KATYAL: Right, and your trust of the Justice Department in America is well-placed. We can disagree about whether it`s too cautious or something but there is no concern whatsoever so ever that this information is going to lead to something like that, which is why I don`t think actually Congress is saying, oh we want to do it because of our TV show and stuff like that, Lawrence. I really don`t think that`s what`s going on.

I think what`s going on is that everyone who is investigating -- wants all the information, possible and it`s very natural thing to say, hey, look, if you want some of our information, we want some of yours.


I would actually side with a Justice Department in the end on this, because criminal prosecution of these January 6 perpetrators has to be our highest and most important calling and, you know, everything else is secondary. But I can understand why there is going to be this kind of skirmish. I just think it`s going to, you know, dissolve overtime, in an expeditious manner.

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Neal, if you were an attorney representing one of the Republican members of Congress including Kevin McCarthy, Jim Jordan who have been subpoenaed by the committee, and have not yet decided what to do about that subpoena, what does -- you would now have new knowledge that there is a Justice Department criminal investigation going on of the same territory, how would that affect your advice to these clients and what their jeopardy might be?

KATYAL: Well, we don`t know there is that investigation but you would have to be kind of, you know, your head in your sand not to think that there would have been one if you`re a lawyer advising one of these clients because what happened on January 6 was an obvious crime and these people are at the very least material witnesses if not more.

So I think I would (INAUDIBLE) use caution and say, you know, fight the subpoena, and you know, this is something that we have seen in the insurrectionist playbook time and again. And you know, sometimes it seems like the insurrectionists are winning.

So for example, the chairman of the 1/6 Committee said right now the plan is not to call Donald Trump before those hearings, and you know, this is part of a pattern of Donald Trump getting off the hook. Whenever he`s asked to testify he claims, you know, any number of made up privileges, or says he`s too busy on the golf course or whatever.

And I think it is a huge mistake not to ask. He wouldn`t do it. He`s like scared to testify obviously. The guy is just allergic to telling the truth under oath as a vampire is to sunlight. But you know, I still think we have to ask. One of my concerns about the 1/6 Committee is we haven`t had some of those asks in the most aggressive ways possible. I was glad to see the subpoenas of these five members of Congress.

O`DONNELL: Neal Katyal, once again, defending the smartest kid in the class tonight. Neal, thank you very much for joining us, really appreciate it.

KATYAL: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Thank you, Neal.

And coming up, John Fetterman had a huge win in the Democratic primary for Senate in Pennsylvania last night. And the winner of the Republican nomination for Senate will be determined by the mail-in votes that Donald Trump claims are all fraudulent unless those mail-in votes are for his chosen candidate.

That is next.



O`DONNELL: The candidate who got the most votes for Senate in yesterday`s primaries in Pennsylvania is John Fetterman who got 731,506 votes, winning 59 percent of the Democratic primary vote for Senate. He accepted his victory quietly in his hospital room where he is recovering from a stroke. And he tweeted, "Thank you for choosing me as your Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania."

The winner of the Trump primary for Senate in Pennsylvania will be decided by the mail-in votes that Donald Trump insists no one should trust, unless they are mail-in votes for candidates supported by Donald Trump.

The Trump-endorsed candidate Mehmet Oz is ahead by a margin so slim that an automatic recount is likely to be triggered after the first full count of all votes. Both of the candidates running in the Trump primary for Senate refused to say that Joe Biden is the elected president of the United States and have given Pennsylvania voters every right to believe that they would vote against certifying electoral college results in the next presidential election if that is what is necessary to overturn the actual results of the election and give the presidency to Donald Trump once again.

The Senate seat the candidates are running for in Pennsylvania is currently held by a Republican, so a win by John Fetterman would be a huge win for Democrats and depending on the outcomes in other Senate elections, could increase the Democratic majority in the Senate.

Joining us now is Tim Miller writer at large for "The Bulwark". He is the author of the upcoming book "Why We Did It: a Travelog from the Republican Road to Hell" which is out next month. Also with us Tim O`Brien, senior columnist for Bloomberg Opinion and author of "Trump Nation". Both are MSNBC political analysts.

And Tim O`Brien, no surprise, Donald Trump is out there telling his favorite candidate in Pennsylvania just declare victory now before they have finished counting the votes.

TIM O`BRIEN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, Trump has a long history of playing at this game, Lawrence. You know, he blames his inability to get projects built in New York on mayors and residents who had rigged the game against him.

He may be the only person who owned a big casino and couldn`t make money in Atlantic City and he blamed Atlantic City. In 2016 running against Hillary Clinton when he thought he wasn`t going to win, began saying that the vote would probably be fraudulent anyway. Of course he did it with the big lie in 2020.

I think what we are seeing now is he is willing, I think, simply in the service of his own need to be seen as a king maker, acquisition of power, and his ego to throw sand in the machinery of his own party because a 31 percent share of the vote in a Republican primary doesn`t make you a kingmaker.


But nonetheless, he is willing to poison the process. It`s foreshadowing, I think, of what we`re going to see in 2024. It`s no coincidence that this is happening in swing states.

And I think, you know, the other thing to really focus on is that the gubernatorial candidate for the Republicans, Mastriano, has said that he would be willing to do all sorts of machinations to undermine a clean and clear vote in 2024. From looking at machines, to recounting ballots, to getting in the way of mail-in voting.

So this is entirely predictable, but completely poisonous.

O`DONNELL: Tim Miller, what is happening in Trump endorsement world? He throws a lot of darts at the endorsement boards and some of them seem to be, you know, as if he`s on a racetrack and thinking well, this horse is going to win anyway so I should bet on it so I can claim the horse won because of me.

A certain number of these endorsements where they win are people who`re going to win without Trump. What is your assessment of how that Trump endorsement racket is working?

TIM MILLER, WRITER AT LARGE, THE BULWARK: Yes. I think Trump just likes the juice of it, Lawrence. I think he likes people coming down to Mar-A-Lago and sucking up to him and so he feels like he has to pick somebody in order to kind of get that whole show and get, you know, the empty hole that exists inside his soul, to fill it up with people sucking up to him, you know, which is sort of why he did all of this in the first place.

So I think that the political analysts who look at, you know, and judge what`s happening on the Republican Party based on Trump`s score card and say oh he is six and three. You know, next week he`s seven and four. I think that`s a totally wrong way to look at what`s happening in Republican primaries.

Because if you look at a race like Pennsylvania, it wasn`t as if there was this race between you know, us never Trumpers, you know, versus Trump. It was three different flavors of Trump, right.

It`s like going to the grocery store and three different brands, right. You have diet Trump, and the regular Trump, ultra Trump. And so, you know, when you have Oz and McCormick, these are last two candidates. Oz, who`s running basically on this Trump endorsement. McCormick rolled out his campaign to Breitbart, saying that he was going to run as a full MAGA, despite the fact that he is a Tim O`Brien style, New York moderate, up until six months ago.

So, I think that`s, you know -- I think it`s like looking at the score card is less important for understanding what is happening in these primaries and looking at the candidates actions and how they are treating Trump.

O`DONNELL: And Tim O`Brien, nothing tells you just how finished with Congress Madison Cawthorn was more than then his willingness to actually concede, to just pick up the phone, call the other guy and say yes, I lost. And not even wait for Donald Trump to tell him not to do that.

O`BRIEN: And because he probably has a gig at Fox awaiting him too. He`s going to make more money. He`s going on to greener pastures. And I think that Trump`s currency could be shredding here, but as Tim pointed out, I think ultimately that may be irrelevant.

And I do agree with him that the scorekeeping, there is a big portion of silliness to it, because Trump is in itself is now firmly embedded in the party. It is going to be with us for a very long time and when, you know, when the Madison Cawthorns of the world just sort of flip their nose at their patrons, that is about as much as you need to know about the reality of all of that.

O`DONNELL: Tim Miller, in your experience working on the Republican side of our politics, in these kinds of midterm elections, one of the things you can count on normally is a lower level of voter enthusiasm on the Democratic side, a lower turnover on the Democratic side.

When you are watching that from the Republican perspective were you ever looking at it and thinking here`s the place that Democrats are missing that could have juiced their turnout and could have delivered the voters they needed to deliver?

MILLER: Look, I think that making these things more of a choice, it`s always going to be a challenge in the midterm. I think that no matter what the Democrats can do, we`re talking about margins here, you know, there is always going to be this sense of people want to change, people are upset with what was happening, especially with the economic struggling.

So what the Democrats can do to help on the margins is make this more of a choice about the actual candidates they`re running against. I think that is the tough part, right?

It`s easy to run against Trump who is sitting there in Mar-A-Lago. You know, it`s easy to try to say ok, we`re going to run on infrastructure, I think we passed, but you have to run against the extreme candidates like Mastriano and the threat that they pose.

O`DONNELL: Tim Miller and Tim O`Brien, thank you both very much for joining us tonight.

Thank you.


Coming up, here`s something I`ve never said before, this year`s Senate elections are the most important Senate elections in history. Senate historian Ira Shapiro will join us next to consider the dangers of returning Mitch McConnell to the majority leader position if Republicans win back the Senate. That is next.



O`DONNELL: The upcoming Senate elections in November are the most important Senate elections in our history. Our next guest who has written three books about the Senate, Ira Shapiro writes, "Make no mistakes the Senate`s performance during the Trump presidency is the story of the most catastrophic failure of government in American history. That failure undermined the rule of law and threatened our constitutional rights. It deepened our divisions, putting red states against blue states, whites against blacks. And endangered our national security, weakening our alliances and strengthening our adversaries. It caused many thousands of Americans to die needlessly before their time. It led directly to the insurrection at the Capitol. America had no defense against the novel threat presented by the unholy alliance between Trump and the Senate Republican Leader, Mitch McConnell.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi in a moment of anger, correctly observed that the founders had not contemplated the combination of a rogue president and a rogue majority leader.

Joining us now is Ira Shapiro, who served for 40 years in senior staff positions in the United States Senate. He is the author of the new book "The Betrayal: How Mitch McConnell and the Senate Republicans Abandoned America."

Ira, thank you very much for joining us tonight, I love this book, it`s one of those couldn`t put it down stories for me. And I have to say, as the Trump presidency was approaching I was actually expecting Mitch McConnell to be the kind of power player that we`ve seen in both parties as a majority leader of the Senate, and tell the president what he could and could not do.

Why didn`t that happen? Why didn`t McConnell rise to what the Senate required of him in the face of Trump?

IRA SHAPIRO, SENATE HISTORIAN: Lawrence, thanks for having me. Given your Senate experience, this is a great place to discuss the book and the Senate. I think what happened was basically McConnell had his agenda, some of which coincided with Trump`s, some of which actually went beyond Trump`s. But McConnell regarded this as an opportunity to cut taxes for the rich, attack the Affordable Care Act, but most importantly, turn the Supreme Court far to the right. Those were his objectives.

And obviously, with the exception of the Affordable Care Act, he accomplished them very well.

O`DONNELL: There is a passage towards the end of your book which is really haunting. It says, about McConnell, he will be principally remembered for remaking the Supreme Court, orchestrating Trump`s acquittal in two impeachment trials, and standing by while Trump provided unhinged leadership during the pandemic and trashed our democracy on his way out the door but McConnell`s legacy is far broader and more damaging to our country.

How could his legacy be more damaging than what you have just described?

SHAPIRO: Well, those are the major elements of his legacy that I described. But, I remind people that long before Donald Trump came down the escalator in 2015 to run for president, we had a broken politics and a dysfunctional Senate.

McConnell, in the eight years of President Obama, did great damage to the country through his obstruction. So he is not only guilty of the things that I`ve mentioned but he was the leading opponent for instance for climate change policies. He is the person who has done the most damage to the campaign finance system. And he is a person who, after 2013 at Sandy Hook when 20 five-year-old and six-year-old children were killed, he is the person who made sure that we would have no gun control legislation.

So, his legacy is a broad one. And while I write about the four years of the Trump presidency, because I regard that as a catastrophic failure of government by the Senate, his legacy is far broader and far darker.

O`DONNELL: You write of other majority leaders in here, the legendary Mike Mansfield who had bipartisan admiration. Howard Baker, Republican who also had bipartisan respect and admiration as a majority leader. Bob Dole.

And in none of those models did we see the model for the way Mitch McConnell has operated as a leader in the Senate.


SHAPIRO: You know, I think that is right, Lawrence. I mean Senate leaders always regarded themselves as having a special responsibility to work with presidents, whoever was in power, to work across the aisle in the Senate, to basically find common ground.

McConnell has been the exact opposite. I think of him as an architect of division, basically. Whenever you could bring people together, he chose instead to pull them apart and exacerbate the differences, which made him particularly disastrous when we had Trump as president.

Now it`s ironic to me and I`m sure to you, that this is someone who spent his 22 years trying to become Senate leader. That was his goal and he accomplished it. He is a phenomenal strategist and tactician and he is very patient.

And yet he took that position and then went on to bring the Senate down, and to divide the country. And it is striking that a person of his talents would do so little to bring us together.

O`DONNELL: Ira Shapiro, thank you very much for writing this book. I learned a lot. Thank you very much for joining us tonight.

Ira Shapiro`s new book is "The Betrayal: How Mitch McConnell and the Senate Republicans Abandoned America". There is no more important book out there today setting the stakes for this year`s Senate elections.

Ira, thank you very much for joining us.

SHAPIRO: Thank you, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Tonight`s LAST WORD is next.



O`DONNELL: Ira Shapiro`s book is "The Betrayal".