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Transcript: The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, 5/19/22

Guests: Iman Alsaden, Leigh Chapman, Katie Hobbs


"The Washington Post" is urging action on reforming the Electoral Count Act of 1887, so that it would be more difficult to steal an Electoral College victory in the states, or in Congress. "Politico" is reporting that the January 6th Committee has obtained official White House photographs from the National Archives that may provide the committee with real time visual evidence of former President Donald Trump`s actions and movements as a mob of supporters battered their way into the Capitol; Today, Oklahoma state legislature approved a bill that bans abortion beginning at the moment of fertilization. The Putin plan to weaken NATO by invading Ukraine has only made NATO stronger. And now Sweden, a country that has maintained military neutrality for almost 200 years, is applying to join NATO as is Finland, which shares 800 miles of border with Russia.


LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Mehdi. And what did it feel like for you as a father of getting that news today about vaccination for children?

MEHDI HASAN, MSNBC HOST: So, minutes before I went live on the show, I quickly rang my wife and said I am going live on TV. Could you try to book an appointment for our daughter tomorrow, or as soon as possible? We`re in as soon as possible camp. I really feel for the parents who are waiting for the first shot for their kids.

O`DONNELL: Yeah, it has been a long wait.

Well, I am glad it is there for your daughter. Thank you, Mehdi.

HASAN: Thanks.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

Well, "The Washington Post" gets it. "The Washington Post" understands the threat -- the enormity of the threat to the United States delivered by Pennsylvania`s Republican voters Tuesday night.

In an editorial under the headline, "After the Pennsylvania primary, the threat to U.S. democracy rises," "The Washington Post" says, quote, Republican voters overwhelmingly nominated State Senator Doug Mastriano, one of the country`s most ardent deniers of the 2020 presidential election results. If Mr. Mastriano is elected in November, he could directly threaten U.S. democracy going forward.

That`s all it takes to destroy the absurdly fragile electoral machinery that produces a winner in American presidential elections. Just one person. That is all it takes. One breathtakingly ignorant pathological liar, that is all it takes to and any semblance of democracy in presidential elections.

Pennsylvania State Senator Doug Mastriano was at Donald Trump`s January 6th rally, and was seen near the grounds of the capitol after Donald Trump told everyone to march to the capitol, and that he would march with them. After Donald Trump told them to fight like hell, Doug Mastriano was at the Capitol watching them fight like hell. He is under investigation by the January 6th Committee. The committee subpoenaed him. He has not responded to the subpoena.

And now we know that Attorney General Merrick Garland`s Justice Department is conducting a criminal investigation of the same elements that the January 6 committee is investigating. And so, Doug Mastriano, Republican candidate for governor in Pennsylvania, might be under criminal investigation right now for his attempts to overturn the presidential election. Voters say that is exactly who we want in charge of the next presidential election in Pennsylvania.

Now, we don`t normally think of governors as being in charge of elections, because they are not supposed to be. At most, in some states, a governor`s signature appears on a form certifying the electoral result.

"The Washington Post" says that Mastriano would do much more than that. Quote: There is little doubt he would use his authority to reject free and fair election results, should the voters favor a Democratic candidate.

In Pennsylvania, the governor of points that the secretary of state. So if election liar Doug Mastriano is elected governor of Pennsylvania, he will also be the de facto secretary of state of Pennsylvania, because he will appoint the secretary of state who will do exactly what he wants, and overturn the election outcome in Pennsylvania if the Democrat wins the presidential election there.

And a Republican controlled Congress could then accept the fake electors sent by an election criminal, operating as Pennsylvania`s governor.

None of this could be happening if we did not live under the immoral plague the founders call the Electoral College. The Electoral College is a standing crime against democracy. It never got in the way of democracy until the year 2000 because the winner of the most votes in the presidential election always turned out to be the winner of the most electoral votes, and the Electoral College.

Then came George W. Bush installed as president by the Electoral College after coming in second to Al Gore, with American voters. Sixteen years later, the same happened for Donald Trump who came in and even more distant second to Hillary Clinton with voters. The Republican Party, and Republican presidential candidates like Donald Trump have no possible plan to ever win the most votes in a presidential campaign again. They have given up on that.

The only way Donald Trump can become president again is by winning the Electoral College, or by stealing the Electoral College.


And so, Donald Trump has endorsed the Republican nominee for governor in Pennsylvania who tried to steal the Electoral College for Donald Trump once before. Much of the Democratic structure that the Founders created in this country has been copied in newer democracies around the world. The one thing, the one thing that no other country in the world has ever adopted is the Electoral College because it is so obviously recognized worldwide as a crime against democracy.

Each of the 50 states is a democracy. Governors are elected in a purely democratic election, so our mayors, so are the United States senators. It is only in presidential elections that voters don`t get their way.

One Republican in Colorado now wants to institute an Electoral College within the state of Colorado for the election of governor of Colorado because Republicans see no other way to win a statewide election for governor of Colorado. No plot to steal the presidential election could work without the Electoral College. Therefore, we should obviously abolish the Electoral College, but we never will, because that requires a constitutional amendment, which requires a two thirds vote in the House and the Senate, and that will never happen.

"The Washington Post" is urging action on reforming the Electoral Count Act of 1887, so that it would be more difficult to steal an Electoral College victory in the states, or in Congress. Senator Chris Murphy who is working on that bill told "The Washington Post": Hopefully, the Pennsylvania results crystallized the coming threat.

According to a new report by a group of voting rights organizations and the first four months of this year, 229 bills were introduced the 33 states that would allow state legislators to meddle in elections. The report concludes, left unchecked, these legislative proposals threatened to paralyze the smooth functioning of elections. Election administrators could be left powerless to stop voter intimidation. Election rules could devolve into a confusing and contradictory tangle, subject to change at the whims of partisan lawmakers.

Election results could be endlessly called into question and subjected to never ending destructive reviews conducted based on no responsible standard. At the extreme, election results could simply be tossed aside and the will of the people ignored. That is with the Republican nominee for the government of Pennsylvania tried to do in 2020. And we`ll do if elected governor. If the Democratic nominee for governor in Pennsylvania, Josh Shapiro, is elected governor, he will appoint the secretary of state who will do whatever you Pennsylvania secretary of state has always done. Follow the law, and report the honesty count of votes in the election and certify the candidate with the most votes as the winner.

"The Washington Post" says nothing else matters. Quote: General Election voters must reject candidates who, either through delusion or partisan calculation, deny valid election results. Inflation, the Ukraine war, gasoline prices, the COVID-19 pandemic, none of these issues are as important as preserving the democratic order. Americans should vote like it.

Today, the Senate Rules Committee chaired by Senator Amy Klobuchar had a hearing on election integrity testifying at that hearing today, where secretaries of state, election officials, including Leigh Chapman, the acting secretary of state of Pennsylvania who will join our discussion tonight.


LEIGH CHAMAN, ACTING PENNYSLVANIA SECRETARY OF STATE: It is especially disturbing that some disinformation has come from those with a sworn duty to defend our democratic process. The November 2020 election in Pennsylvania like any election since was free, fair, and secure. Allegations of illegal activity in Pennsylvania`s 2020 presidential election have repeatedly been dismissed, in more than two dozen federal court cases, and debunked by independent fact checkers. Repeating this falsehood over and over harms our democracy and voters confidence in our election process.


O`DONNELL: Joining us now, Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs. She is the candidate for governor of Arizona.

Also with us, Leigh Chapman, acting Pennsylvania secretary of state. She testified at today`s Rules Committee hearing on at the administration of upcoming elections.


And, Secretary Chapman, let me begin with you since the focus in "The Washington Post" editorial is on your state of Pennsylvania. You testified today at the Senate Rules Committee.

Is there anything that can be done in Pennsylvania law to limit the discretion of -- that might be available to a secretary of state or a governor in Pennsylvania on voting results?

CHAPMAN: I mean, certainly. There are many different things I can be done in Pennsylvania. But as the law stands right now, as the secretary of state, I am responsible for certifying the election. And that is something that is in the Pennsylvania election code. Unless that changes, I am in charge of certifying all election results after the counties certify the election results.

O`DONNELL: And, Secretary Hobbs, we are seeing an assault on this process all over the country. We have just heard that accounting of the number of bills that have been introduced to try to allow Republican legislators, and Republican governors to interfere with the result. The focus is on Pennsylvania this week.

But, how many other states do you think are at risk for this type of tampering?

KATIE HOBBS (D), ARIZONA SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, seats across the country are at risk. There are so many parallels given the gubernatorial race in Pennsylvania, and the one here in Arizona. The frontrunner in Republican primary that`s been endorsed by Donald Trump and espouses many of the extreme positions as the nominee in Pennsylvania, saying that we should decertify the 2020 election fully buying into Trump`s big lie, refusing to say whether or not she would certify the 2024. And we are seeing this in elections across the country.

Every voter should be concerned that those who are seeking the positions of oversight of our democratic and electoral systems are the very same people undermining them.

O`DONNELL: Secretary Chapman, in the state of Pennsylvania, would laws have to be changed in order for a secretary of state, or a governor to actually interfere with the vote count of the state?

CHAPMAN: Yes. Laws would have to be changed through the election code, or through a constitutional amendment. But we are in the process of counting results from Tuesday`s primary election. So voters really need to feel confident on the integrity of the elections. We need to make sure that the process plays out.

Yes, that could happen in the future. But where it stands right now, where the law currently stands, is that the secretary of state who is appointed by the governor, that is me, I have the authority to certify their election results. That is what I am going to do once I receive those certified results from the counties relatively soon.

O`DONNELL: Secretary Hobbs, you want to move from secretary of state to governor. Which one of those positions should voters be more concerned about when it comes to election integrity?

HOBBS: Well, voters should be concerned about all of these positions because no one actor can act alone and undo the election results. But acting in concert, should -- the elected, and actual insurrectionist running for secretary of state being elected, they could certainly put together to implement Trump`s plans to overturn the 2024 election.

No matter what position it is, democracy is on the ballot in 2022, and that is why I am running, and I need folks to help that, to make sure that we are protecting our democracy in every way possible.

O`DONNELL: Secretary Chapman, when do you think Pennsylvania will have a result in the Republican Senate primary?

CHAPMAN: Sure. So, the latest numbers that I have r that we have about 35,200 ballots, mail-in ballots, that are still being counted right now from ten different counties. So I am sure a lot of people forget about what was happening in the county regarding the 22,000 ballots who had the bar code error. I was told this evening that all of those votes have been counted. So they are complete with the count, the 22,000 ballots.

So the next step in the process is tomorrow at 9 am, election boards need to canvas ballots, and on Tuesday, by 5:00 p.m., counties will send me their unofficial results. And as we all know the statewide Senate race, the United States Senate race, it is within that half percent margin right now for a potential recount.

So after I receive those unofficial results, I will make a determination as to whether or not there will be an unofficial, an actual automatic statewide recount in Pennsylvania.


And so, we`ll make that announcement mid week next week Wednesday, or Thursday. That is where it is. I just need to let people let the process play out. You know, it`s important they count every vote, and that is what they are doing right now. They are doing their jobs to count every vote to make sure that every Pennsylvania`s voices heard.

O`DONNELL: And what would be the timetable for a recount of a recount occurs?

CHAPMAN: So, counties have to start by June 1st and it should be completed by June 7th. So it is about a week. But one thing to notice that counties, when they do the recount, they cannot do within the same method as how votes were counted the first time. So they have to use a different type of equipment for that recount.

But, the election code requires from June 1st to June 7th. So, a week.

O`DONNELL: Acting secretary of state of Pennsylvania, Leigh Chapman, and secretary of state Arizona, Katie Hobbs, thank you both very much for starting off our discussion tonight. I really appreciated. Thank you.

CHAPMAN: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: And coming up, what Donald Trump was doing at the White House while his mob was attacking the Capitol to overthrow the presidential election, and as they were saying, hang Mike Pence. The January 6th committee now has photographic evidence that could answer the question of what was Donald Trump doing. That`s next.



O`DONNELL: Caught on camera. That`s the word Republicans must be feeling now.

Today, we learned the January 6 committee has on camera evidence against Republicans from then president of the United States to members of Congress. "Politico" is reporting that the January 6th Committee has obtained official White House photographs from the National Archives that, quote, may provide the committee with real time visual evidence of former President Donald Trump`s actions and movements as a mob of supporters battered their way into the Capitol.

Axios is reporting that former Attorney General William Barr is an active discussions to appear before the January 6th committee for a transcribed interview. The January six committee revealed today that it has evidence that Georgia Republican Congressman Barry Loudermilk led a tour of the Capitol the day before the January 6th attack.

In a letter requesting Loudermilk`s voluntary cooperation with the investigation, the committee said: You have invitation regarding a tour you lead through parts of Capitol the complex on January 5th, 2021. The committee`s letter made reference to public comments by other members of Congress, who believed they witnessed tours being given that seemed like reconnaissance tours. That`s when New Jersey Representative Mikie Sherrill called what she saw, and she described that on this program.


REP. MIKIE SHERRILL (D-NJ): I`m a former Navy helicopter pilot and I`ve served all over the world. So we are trained to alert to report things that are unusual or that don`t seem right and certainly when the capital is closed to visitors, to have those tours going through the Capitol, and then to see what happened on January 6th, I reported that, a record needed effort that went into planning January six went far deeper than many of us had anticipated.


O`DONNELL: The committee`s letter to Representative Loudermilk says, in response to those allegations, Republicans on the Committee on House Administration, of which you are a member, claimed to have reviewed security footage from the days preceding January 6th and determined that that there were no tours no large groups no one with MAGA hats on. However, the Select Committee`s review of evidence directly contradicts that denial.

Joining our discussion now, Glenn Kirschner, former federal prosecutor and MSNBC legal analyst.

Glenn, let`s begin with the first point raised, which is the caught on camera situation. The January 6 committee now has apparently official White House photographs of Donald Trump during the attack on the Capitol. I have seen many times in the White House the way the official White House photographers always behave, and they are just a constant presence in every room the president goes into. They become part of the wallpaper. They are clicking away nonstop at everyone in the room, with always a focus on the president.

So there is a lot of photographic evidence of that day.


GLENN KIRSCHNER, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, Lawrence, and the more vivid picture for the January 6 committee campaigned for us all when public hearings open on June 9th, what Donald Trump was doing for 187 minutes while he angry mob, that he set on the Capitol, was attacking the Capitol, was hunting for politicians. It`s going to be really damning, because which we already know, and you know pictures have a way of driving it home.

What we already know is that the three hours, people were streaming into the Oval Office trying to convince the president to call off, let`s call it what it is, he is a attack, and he refused to do it. He said you know what, we even sent Ivanka Trump back into the Oval Office a second time to try to convince her father to call off the attack and he wouldn`t. Lawrence, I`m sorry, but we have to call that what it is. That was Donald Trump waging war with three hours on the Democratic process, trying to stop the certification of Joe Biden`s whip. And if we can see it with our own eyes, as captured in photographs, not only in testimony, which we will see beginning on June 9th, it`s going to be a powerful presentation.

O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to what`s Stephanie Grisham, the White House press secretary at the time, what she said about what Donald Trump was doing that we will probably see in the White House photographs.


STEPHANIE GRISHAM, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: All I know about that day was that he was in the dining room, gleefully watching on his TV, as he often did, look at all the people fighting for me, hitting rewind, watching it again. That`s what I know.


O`DONNELL: And, Glenn, still photographs can tell that story.

KIRSCHNER: Yes, the word gleefully jumps out. It`s horrific that we were all watching it and that anybody could watch it gleefully, regardless of your political persuasion, your ideology, but you could be watching it gleefully, knowing you were the only person who could put a stop to it.

The Capitol police couldn`t put a stop to it, because the Capitol was deprived of enough federal law enforcement resources to repel the attack Donald Trump had launched. And watching it gleefully and refusing to put a stop to it, even though people were pleading with you to do just that, I think, Lawrence, once we see this with our own eyes in these public hearings, we see the crimes that were committed. We see the evidence that can prove those crimes beyond a reasonable doubt. The only next reasonable step for a responsible government is for Donald Trump to be indicted for his crimes.

O`DONNELL: We also see from the January 6 committee that they apparently have video of Representative Barry Loudermilk getting a tour. They put that in writing in their letter to him after he had been part of a Capitol public denial for any of this, and that, for them to want to use it would have to be something in that video that is not just him showing a boy scout troop around the building.

KIRSCHNER: Yeah, and there is no innocent explanation, if Representative Loudermilk is proved to have lied and concealed the fact that he was giving tours. I hesitate to call them reconnaissance tours, but if he was giving tours of the Capitol to anyone on January 5th, when the place was shut down to visitors due to COVID protocols, there`s no innocent explanation for why he would hide that, why he would be hiding that for so long from everybody.

So I`ll be interested to see exactly what kind of evidence is produced.

O`DONNELL: And, Glenn, before we go, Attorney General William Barr, former attorney general, working out, it sounds like, an agreement to speak with the January 6 committee.

KIRSCHNER: Yeah, let me start with the caveat. If Bill Barr`s word is to be credited, we know that he has been on his reputation rehabilitation tours, selling books, and he has said among other things that on December 1st, he told the president that your claim, Mr. President, of election fraud, is, to paraphrase Bill Barr, BS.

What that does, Lawrence, is it provides powerful evidence of Donald`s criminal intent every day moving forward from December 1st when his own attorney general said your claims of election fraud are BS.


And yet Donald Trump continued to peddle them.

What does that do? It provides evidence of his corrupt intent.

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Glenn Kirschner, thank you very much for joining us again tonight.

KIRSCHNER: Thank you Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

Coming up today, Vice President Kamala Harris objected to the latest state law restricting abortion, this time, in Oklahoma.


KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Think about that for a second. From the moment of fertilization -- it`s outrageous, and it`s just the latest in a series of extreme laws (ph) around the country.


O`DONNELL: That`s next.



O`DONNELL: Today, Oklahoma state legislature approved a bill that bans abortion beginning at the moment of fertilization. The bill says, quote, "Fertilization means the fusion of a human spermatozoon with a human ovum."

The bill also defines an unborn child this way. "Unborn child" means a "human fetus or embryo in any stage of gestation from fertilization until birth." The only exceptions to the absolute ban on abortion are to save the life of a mother, or in cases of rape and incest that have been reported to police.

The law allows citizen bounty hunters to sue anyone involved in any way in helping a woman obtain abortion services.

Today, Vice President Kamala Harris said this.


HARRIS: Think about that for a second -- from the moment of fertilization. It is outrageous, and it is just the latest in a series of extreme laws around the country.

The strength of our country has always been that we fight to move forward. That we believe in the expansion of rights not the restriction of rights. So this, when and if it happens, will be an extreme step backward.


O`DONNELL: The House Judiciary Committee helped a hearing on the impact of restricting abortion access when the Supreme Court overturns Roe versus Wade. Congresswoman Cori Bush said this.


REP. CORI BUSH (D-MO): When I was 17 years old, I was raped. Weeks later, I found out I was pregnant. Without the protections afforded to me by Roe v. Wade, I would have been forced to birth a human being that I could not take care of and the father would have been my rapist.

The emotional devastation of this encounter was traumatic. I didn`t know if it was my fault. I didn`t know what to do. Did I do something wrong? I hadn`t consented. But I blamed myself. The stress of possibly having a child at 18 was more than I could -- I could bear.


O`DONNELL: Representative Lucy McBath said this.


REP. LUCY MCBATH (D-GA): After which failed pregnancy should I have been imprisoned? Would it have been after the first miscarriage? After doctors used what would be an illegal drug to abort the lost fetus? Would you have put me in jail after the second miscarriage? Perhaps that would have been the time.

Forced to reflect in confinement at the guilt I felt, the guilt that so many women feel after losing their pregnancies. Or, would you have put me behind bars after my stillbirth? I ask, because if Alabama makes abortion murder, does it make miscarriage manslaughter?


O`DONNELL: Joining our discussion now is Dr. Iman Alsaden. She is the medical director for Planned Parenthood Great Plains, which includes Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma. She is also an OB/GYN, a physician, and fellow with the Physicians for Reproductive Health.

Doctor, thank you very much for joining us tonight. Since your jurisdiction at Planned Parenthood includes Oklahoma, what is your reaction to a law saying that abortion is banned beginning at what they are calling the moment of fertilization?

DR. IMAN ALSADEN, MEDICAL DIRECTOR, PLANNED PARENTHOOD GREAT PLAINS: First, thank you for having me, Lawrence. I appreciate the opportunity to talk about this.

I agree with Vice President Harris. The law is ridiculous, it is cruel. We know that abortion is safe, essential, basic health care. And today, Oklahoma proved that they do not care about keeping us safe or healthy.

The interest of Oklahoma politicians that was proven today is that they are interested in controlling and criminalizing people who have uteruses, and the bodies of communities that are not white men, essentially.


O`DONNELL: So we are seeing a competition among Republican legislatures and Republican governors about who can come up with the most extreme abortion ban in a state. Oklahoma is a strong competitor here for this. But surely next week, there will be another one coming along that we can`t even anticipate now.

And this is the reality. Roe versus Wade is going to be overturned by the Supreme Court. And on that day, all of these laws become active and effective.

DR. ALSADEN: That is completely correct. I do think that there is a trend right now amongst Republican led states where they are prioritizing the control and coercion of people over the issues actually that should be addressed.

For example, Oklahoma ranks among the lowest in maternal mortality. One in five Oklahoman children live in poverty. Oklahoma ranks 39thj in the nation in gun violence and homicide.

We are looking at a states that is not focused on the right things. They are not focused on people`s health. They are not focused on facts, and science and medicine. They are focused on control.

For example, Representative Hamilton of the Oklahoma Senate wanted -- said that House Bill 4327 didn`t go far enough. He wanted it to also include ectopic pregnancies which are a known life-threatening emergency.

So we are dealing with medical misinformation that is rampant. It is uncontrollable. Medical misinformation kill thousands of people from COVID. And we are seeing medical information spread like wildfire in terms of abortion, which has proven time and time and time again to be safe, essential, basic health care.

And quite frankly, it is your basic human right to control your own body.

O`DONNELL: Dr. Iman Alsaden, thank you very much for helping us continue to cover this important story. Thank you for joining us tonight.

DR. ALSADEN: Thank you for having me.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

And coming up, another loss for Vladimir Putin today with Sweden and Finland officially applying to become members of NATO. That means that Sweden is finally breaking 188 years of neutrality to stand in opposition to Russia`s invasion of Ukraine.

Ben Rhodes joins us next.



O`DONNELL: Relegated to the dustbin of bad pundit history now are the oft- repeated assertions for years that turned out to be based on zero evidence that Vladimir Putin is smart. Vladimir Putin`s immoral invasion of Ukraine now takes its place as the stupidest military decision made by a Russian leader since Joseph Stalin aligned with Adolf Hitler at the beginning of World War II before switching sides after Hitler turned on Stalin.

The Putin plan to weaken NATO by invading Ukraine has only made NATO stronger. And now Sweden, a country that has maintained military neutrality for almost 200 years, is applying to join NATO as is Finland, which shares 800 miles of border with Russia.

Today, after meeting with Finland`s president and Sweden`s prime minister, President Biden said this.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Today my administration is submitting to the United States Congress reports on NATO accession for both countries so the Senate can efficiently and quickly move on advising and consenting to the treaty.

Let no one make a mistake the meaning of this historic day. In the face of aggression, NATO has not grown weaker or more divided. It has grown stronger, more united. With Finland and Sweden`s decision to request membership in NATO, it will be enhanced for all time.


O`DONNELL: Today the senate finally passed after a week of obstruction by Rand Paul, a $40 billion dollar aid package for Ukraine which includes military aid as well as aid funding for support of refugees, including English language instruction. The bill also includes $5 billion in global food aid to fill food shortages created by the collapse of Ukraine`s vast agricultural output.

11 Republican senators, including Rand Paul, Joshua Hawley and Mike Lee, voted against the aid package. Yesterday Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said, "For Senator Paul to delay Ukraine funding for purely political motives is to only strengthen Putin`s hand."

Today Chuck Schumer said the 11 Republican senators voting against the bill are, quote, using the same "soft on Putin" playbook used by former President Trump.


O`DONNELL: On Tuesday, on the senate floor, Senator Rand Paul proved that he has absolutely no comprehension about what war actually is when he said, "Yes, our national security is threatened not by Russia`s war on Ukraine, but by Congress` war on the American taxpayer."

Joining us now is Ben Rhodes, former deputy national security adviser to President Obama and an MSNBC political analyst. He is the author of "After The Fall: Being American in the World We`ve Made".

Ben, this is quite a historic day. It`s a thing we can say more than once a week these days, but to see Sweden after 188 years saying yes, we finally do want to step out of neutrality into an alignment, and to see Finland shares an 800 mile border with Russia saying yes, we now want to be part of NATO.

This is a moment that we could not have conceived of in January.

BEN RHODES, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, that is absolutely right, Lawrence. I mean you have to consider that Finland and Sweden made it through the Cold War maintaining neutrality. Sweden stayed out of World War I and World War II.

And Vladimir Putin`s invasion of Ukraine has precipitated this event. Vladimir Putin has become the single most important force for the enlargement of NATO. And if you look at his strategic war aims at the beginning of this war, they have failed spectacularly.

He wanted to stop the expansion of NATO to Russia`s borders. He just precipitated the doubling of NATO`s border with Russia with that Finnish border with Russia.

He wanted to divide the west, which frankly had already been divided badly in the Trump years. Instead he has done more to unify the United States and Europe and democratic nations around the world than anything that has happened in recent years.

He wanted to subjugate and decapitate the Ukrainian government. Instead he has a Ukrainian population that has made clear that they will never submit to any kind of Russian subjugation.

And the Ukrainian government led by President Zelenskyy that has won the admiration of people around the world. So all his strategic war aims have already failed catastrophically just in these early months of what is likely to be a long and grinding conflict.

O`DONNELL: And Finland polling on joining NATO hovered around 20 percent to 30 percent for years. It now stands at over 70 percent. And that was, as you say, Vladimir Putin`s strategic outcome here.

When he had the troops amassed at the border of Ukraine, that was the last -- it turns out, that was the last moment where he had any negotiating strength at all. And he apparently didn`t realize that.

RHODES: No, he didn`t, Lawrence. And clearly he didn`t because he thought that a kind of lightning move with this massive military force around Ukraine would lead to the rapid collapse of the Ukrainian government. And once the Ukrainian people and government stood strong against that move, is (INAUDIBLE) he essentially failed but he`d lost his leverage.

And I think it`s important to note, by the way, that those polling numbers mirror what happened in Ukraine, who used to have a minority of Ukrainians who wanted to join NATO, who wanted to orient this strongly toward the west.

It was after the annexation of Crimea and the initial Russian invasion of the Donbas region in Ukraine that you saw this significant uptake and Ukrainian support for NATO membership. That kind of popular sentiment, populist sentiment really ultimately led to the election of President Zelenskyy and we see now how important that is.

So time and again, you know, what Vladimir Putin has done is overplayed his hand in a way that has served to unify the Ukrainian people, it served to unify the Finnish people and it served to unify people across democracies, even as we are united in standing up for Ukraine as the vote in Congress suggests today we have a lot more work to be done within our own democracies if we`re going to win an enduring competition with authoritarianism.

O`DONNELL: So the president asked Congress for $33 billion for Ukraine. Congress says we will give you $40 billion. Including a majority of Republican senators saying we will give you $40 billion, more than you asked for.

What does that do for the Biden approach to Ukraine strategically going forward?

RHODES: Well, I think what is so important about this is that this is a significant amount of funding that could sustain Ukraine for the next six months. This is not like just a band-aid that we`re rushing assistance in. And by sending this signal, at a time when Ukraine in many ways has a significant amount of momentum in this conflict, although they have areas like Mariupol obviously, where they have lost territory.

By signaling this American commitment, not only are we going to be able to sustain the Ukrainian military and governmental effort but it sends a message to the rest of NATO, to the rest of Ukraine supporters that they should stay in this fight as well.

O`DONNELL: Ben Rhodes, thank you very much for joining us again tonight.

RHODES: Thanks, Lawrence.

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



O`DONNELL: During today`s Senate Rules Committee hearing on election administration, civil rights attorney Damon Hewitt said this.



DAMON HEWITT, CIVIL RIGHTS ATTORNEY: This week marks the 65th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.` famous speech, "Give us the ballot" where he warned us is about those who gained prominence and power by the dissemination of false ideas and deliberately appealing to the deepest hate responses within the human mind.

I said earlier that democracy is a promise. Democracy is also a choice. We have a choice when it comes to election administration. We can either strengthen democracy and make it easier to vote in administerial elections or we can make it harder. As policy makers, you can make a choice -- a choice in favor of democracy.


O`DONNELL: Attorney Damon Hewitt gets tonight`s LAST WORD.