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Transcript: The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, 5/23/22

Guests: Anat Shenker-Osorio, Gabor Rona, Josh Shapiro, Max Rose, Betsey Stevenson


Donald Trump`s chosen candidate for Georgia governor, David Perdue, is on track for a shellacking in Georgia`s Republican primary tomorrow. And he decided to spend his final night launching a racist attack on Stacey Abrams. The first Russian soldier on trial for war crimes was sentenced to life in prison today for fatally shooting an unarmed Ukrainian man in the early days of the war. Ukrainian officials say they`ve documented more than 11,000 possible Russian war crimes so far including allegations of brutalizing children and babies; Interview with the attorney general and the Democratic nominee for governor of Pennsylvania, Josh Shapiro. A U.S. military plane filled with 70,000 pounds of baby formula arrived in Indianapolis from Germany yesterday.


ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST: Nice to see you, my friend. We`ve been orbiting each other for a little while, but it`s been a very long time since we`ve had a chance to talk. So it`s good to see you.

And I was listening to the great interesting conversation with Kate Kelly about it being difficult to prove quid pro quo. But this stench thing, you know, you remember there used to be a day when that kind of stuff just lead to shame in and of itself, and certainly kept you out of political life later.

But that`s not there anymore either. Whether you can prove or not prove quid pro quo, that absence of revolving door that you described is compelling.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, "TRMS": Well, the shame issue here, I think, is compelling, Ali, because obviously, the Republicans, particularly Trump partisans, are aware that it is shameful to use government service or family connection to government service, to make private gain for yourself, and have private business game, because they use this as a way to try to attack President Biden`s family, for example, all the time. They know that this is something that is shameful and terrible, and that nobody should ever want to do, and they try to pin all sorts of stuff with that kind of a category on all sorts of Democrats.

They know it`s wrong. But when they do it, they`re assuming, you know, there is assuming that if we bring it up, that there shame will, that there shame isn`t operable.

VELSHI: It`s a strange phenomenon. But as you say, hold that thought. Nice to see you, friend.

MADDOW: You too, my friend, Ali.

VELSHI: All right. Well, its primary day in Georgia tomorrow. The Peach State was the canary in the coal mine, you recall, for publican attempt at election subversion. Back in 2020, it was something we`ve never seen before, outlier that would hopefully fade when Donald Trump out of the White House. If anything, the opposite has happened.

Donald Trump`s attempts to overturn the results of the 2020 election only failed because a handful of people stood up to him. And interestingly, one of those people was a Georgia`s Republican secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, who shot down Trump`s pleas to find 11,780 votes for him.

The more we look into that chaotic period of time, between Election Day and inauguration day, the more it becomes, it begins to look like a blueprint for contesting future legitimate elections.

And although Georgia lead the way in 2020, it`s looking entirely possible, likely, even, that in 2024, Pennsylvania maybe ground zero for an election takeover.

Let me explain this to you. This is Doug Mastriano. He secured the Republican Party`s gubernatorial nomination in last Tuesday`s primary in Pennsylvania. While denying the results of the 2020 election have today, become something of a litmus test in Donald Trump`s Republican Party, Doug Mastriano was way ahead of all of that.

Years before voters were going to the polls, to decide between Trump and Biden, Mastriano was warning of a Hitlerian Pusch from the American left. In 2001, in a thesis that Mastriano wrote, when he was studying at the Air Force`s Air Command and Staff College, he envisioned a future where American democracy had collapsed, a dictator had taken over, and millions had died in a purge with others being sent to political correctness, reeducation camps.

The document is revealing for what it says, about Mastriano`s worldview, where he thinks our country could be headed, and what he is willing to do to stop that somewhat outlandish scenario from coming into fruition. Not only did Mastriano work hard to overturn Biden`s victory in Pennsylvania, in 2020, he`s made it really clear that he will do so again in 2024.

In the days after the election, he was Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani`s go-to guy on the ground in Pennsylvania. Even staging this, this sham hearing, I got air quotes on that, that Giuliani spoke at, and Trump phoned in two. At this so-called hearing while making claims of electoral fraud, Mastriano reportedly said, quote, we are not kings. We are agents of public opinion.

Now, that quote is a special pointed in the context of how Mastriano has said he would oversee elections, if he becomes governor.



STATE SEN. DOUG MASTRIANO (R), PENNSYLVANIA: I get to a the secretary of state, who`s delegated from me the power to make the corrections to elections, the voting logs and everything. I could decertify every machine in the state with a stroke of a pen via my secretary of state.


VELSHI: Stroke of a pen. Corrections to elections, voting logs and everything. It sounds a lot like a king, or a not a craft, or a dictator, doesn`t it?

But you might be thinking, I live in Pennsylvania, I don`t care about any of this? Which is exactly what Doug Mastriano and Republicans around the country want you to think, it`s not your problem, don`t worry about it. Mastriano won his primary race easily, by the way, with almost 44 percent of the vote. Meaning his views on election subversion were not a deal breaker for Pennsylvania Republicans. If anything, they might be why he did so well.

Make no mistake, the potential cost of Doug Mastriano getting elected governor would be this devastating for the country. Joe Biden or any other Democrat is unlikely to win the presidency without winning Pennsylvania. And then a state that has traditionally been blue, or at the very least a bluest shade of purple, having a governor who`s already demonstrated that he has no qualms about using his powers to change the vote to his preferred candidates should terrify all of us, wherever we live.

Joining us now is that attorney general, and the Democratic nominee for governor, who`s going to run against Doug Mastriano, Josh Shapiro.

Attorney General, good to see you. Thanks for being with us.

JOSH SHAPIRO (D), PENNSYLVANIA ATTORNEY GENERAL: Good to be with you, Ali. Thank you.

VELSHI: In a weird turn of events in this campaign, you seem to be rooting for Doug Mastriano to win the Republican campaign, even putting some effort behind encouraging it. Tell me why.

SHAPIRO: Well, not at all, Ali. I mean, it was clear to us two, three weeks out, from public polling, private polling that Doug Mastriano was going to win that primary, and win it he did, by an overwhelming margin, as you said. And we want to get a jump start early on the election campaign, and pointing out just how dangerous this man is.

He wants to ban all abortion and criminalize and jail doctors who perform them, without any exceptions. He believes climate change is fake. He wants to take away marriage equality in Pennsylvania. He was there on January 6th when the police told him to stop, he kept marching in.

And finally, he has boasted, not just about his efforts to overturn the last election, but as governor, he would overturn the next one. And then, he would rig the system in favor of his preferred candidate, presumably Donald Trump.

There is a clear contrast in this race, the stakes couldn`t be higher. And this man is a danger, not just here in Pennsylvania, but to democracy all across our country.

VELSHI: So what happens? Does a guy like Doug Mastriano, sort of ensues the base, to come out and vote for him? Or do a middle of the road, Pennsylvania, you might skew all the Republicans, and say this is a bit much?

SHAPIRO: Look, I`ve been proud to win twice statewide in Pennsylvania, on the strength of not just tremendous support from the Democratic Party but really strong support from independents, moderate Republicans as well. I think we can do that again in the governor`s race in 2022.

But you know, he does have an enthusiastic, you know small group of supporters. And, you know, when you hear him talk to them, Ali, and this is an important point, he talks all about freedom. He talks about walking his free people.

I mean, that`s a total crock. This guy talks about controlling women`s bodies. That`s not freedom. He talks about telling our kids what books they can read. That is definitely not freedom.

He talks about, you know, being able to worship what you want but it`s only if you agree with his particular religious thoughts. That, certainly, is not free, and it`s not freedom to say that you`re going to let people go vote, but you`re going to pick the winner.

That`s not freedom, and I think the more people dig in, to what he really stands for, and the way he`s looking to impose his views, and his will on the people of Pennsylvania, that`s not freedom, and they`re not going to buy it.

VELSHI: This is interesting, because right after he won that primary, he made these comments about you, and they actually have to do with freedom. Let`s listen.

SHAPIRO: Go ahead.


MASTRIANO: The future for Pennsylvania and the Josh Shapiro is an oppressive regime, not unlike East Germany, where your freedom will be stashed away. So, let`s walk in freedom. Let choose this day. Let`s choose to stay to serve the Lord.


VELSHI: East Germany, he pegged you us. It`s going to be like East Germany when we drive to Philadelphia.

SHAPIRO: I think we`re a lot of people are learning is that he offers a lot of dangerous and divisive rhetoric, and the only thing more dangerous and divisive than his rhetoric are his policies -- policies that, again, with criminalize abortion here in Pennsylvania. Policies that would roll back so much of the progress we have made on civil rights.


The kinds of things that he is talking about would just inject total chaos in our system, and make it harder for our kids to learn, and harder for our economy to grow, and harder for us to have a safe community.

Look, I`ve been traveling all across Pennsylvania, talking to some of the institutions that matter the most. And what they`re talking about is the kind of things that we`re going to fight for, you know delivering funding for our kids schools, and more funding for police and safe communities across Pennsylvania, and a community that lifts everybody up, including those who have been left behind in urban and rural communities.

He`s not focused on any of that, just more dangerous, divisive, dark rhetoric that would take us backwards.

VELSHI: You and I were in West Philly, just before the election. We were out there one morning, and we were talking about election subversion, and you know, we often talk to Jocelyn Benson out of Colorado, the secretary of state there. I`m sorry, Michigan, or Jennifer Griswold of Colorado.

Pennsylvania`s going to difference system, the attorney general`s chosen, appointed, by the governor. Mastriano has been very clear that that`s what he`ll do. He`ll pick someone who will do the things that he`s sworn that he will do. That is the thing the fundamental threat, anybody look who doesn`t live in Pennsylvania, that`s a thing they have to worry about right now, that this guy`s going to pick an attorney -- a secretary of state, who might do something to overturn the election, which will have a national effect.

SHAPIRO: Yeah, that`s exactly right. Here in Pennsylvania, our governor picks the secretary of state, a person who oversees the elections. And our governor also is vested with the authority of appointing the presidential electors.

Now, historically, those electors have been appointed by the government based on the will of the people, based on which presidential candidate got one more vote than the other one. And that has been understood as part of our democracy for, you know, years and years and years.

Well, Senator Mastriano talks very differently. He talks about appointing correctly said 20 elections, it`s 19 electors in the next presidential election for his preferred candidate, not based on the will of the people. And again, this back to what I said before, it`s not freedom when you say to the good people of Pennsylvania, you go vote, but I`ll pick the winner.

I mean, that`s absolutely undemocratic. It`s not about the fundamental freedoms that we`ve come to rely on in this country. It is really dangerous. And when you begin to erode people`s confidence in our democracy like that, it makes it much harder to make progress on the other issues that really matter, like controlling costs, and dealing with kids, mental health, making sure we protect our planet.

There are so many issues that we need to deal with right now, and if you`ve got someone as governor, who`s going to pick the winner and erode peoples confidence in our democracy, it will have a massive impact here in Pennsylvania, and far reaching impacts all across our country.

VELSHI: Josh Shapiro, good to see you. Pennsylvania attorney general, and gubernatorial candidate, Joshua Shapiro. We appreciate your time tonight.

SHAPIRO: Thank you.

VELSHI: In our intro, we covered Doug Mastriano`s American conservative civil war fan fiction that he was writing back in 2001. And 2001, obviously, Doug Mastriano who would never have become the Republican nominee for a major statewide office with views like that. That stuff was too crazy for mainstream Republicans back then, but the Republican base has changed. Something that Donald Trump identified and ran toward.

Today, on Trump`s hard right social media platform, he`s getting attention for sharing the words, civil war. The former president, endorsing a civil war, at least floating the idea that Americans are at war with each other, or should go to war with each other. It`s unclear because he didn`t provide a lot of context, and in the wake of a deadly white supremacist, extremist attack on Black people in Buffalo.

Joining us now is a former Democratic Congressman Max Rose of New York, who focused on these issues, when he served on the Homeland Security Subcommittee on intelligence and counterterrorism. He is currently running again.

Max, good to see you again. Thank you for being with us.

You know, we were talking a little bit about Mastriano and what he believes, but he comes by this, honestly, he`s been doing this for a long time. He wrote about Hitlerian Pusch. He talks about Josh Shapiro, the attorney general of Pennsylvania, will run Pennsylvania like East Germany.

This kind of talk used to be nonsense, but I worry now that it riles people up, and in a world where we`ve actually seen it manifest in violence -- it`s irresponsible.

FORMER U.S. REP. MAX ROSE (D), NEW YORK: It`s beyond irresponsible. And, you know, the thing that I think we all have to remember here is that this is not accidental.

Tucker Carlson has mentioned replacement theory hundreds of times. The chairwoman of the Republican caucus openly discussed it in advertisement, in multiple advertisements.


And they are undeniably pushing and organized base. They see political gain here, and this is a party that is willing to do and say anything to win.

Just look at the CPAC conference. Their centralized conference and movement ideology, is being held right now in Hungary. Last year, they held it in Florida to celebrate Ron DeSantis. This year, they held it in Hungary, to celebrate Viktor Orban, perhaps --


VELSHI: A right-wing anti-immigrant president.

ROSE: Absolutely. I mean, it is just shocking. A former president who was arguably promoting civil war, 12 members of Congress, and the Texas delegation, all Republicans have signed a letter, just this week, talking about an invasion from Mexico, just days after that same sentiment, that very ideology of the great replacement theory motivated someone to kill -- to execute a mass shooting in Buffalo, mimicked after previous mass shootings in El Paso, Christchurch, as well as Tree of Life.

We cannot take this for granted, and every time the Republican Party uses this language, it is dangerous, but it`s also not accidental. And they have to stop acting like that.

VELSHI: So, what do you do on the consumption sides? That`s on a production side. But you represented Staten Island. You represented a congressional district that is mix Republican and Democrat.

How do you convince potential Republican voters that this is actually the thing they have to worry about? That they may not like Joe Biden, they may not like inflation, they may not like things that are going on in the economy, they might not even like what happened in Afghanistan with the pullout, but you have a Republican Party that is embracing conspiracy theories, embracing extremism, and embracing anti-democratic platform and ideas. How do you have that conversation with people without alienating them?

ROSE: I don`t think that`s the correct juxtaposition. The Republican Party at this point, many members of the Republican Party, not all, and this is certainly not a characterization of Republicans themselves, are actively rooting against America. In January 6, they actively rooted against our Constitution and encouraged, supported a violent insurrection. We see them using language as I just mentioned that has resulted in people getting killed.

And lastly, though, I think it is also essential here to remember that the Republican Party is not presenting any plans or proposals for the very things that the American people care about right now, public safety, inflation, economic growth, a large in the middle and working class. That`s because those problems will continue because they believe they believe their electoral gain. So, certainly, elections are about choices, as important of the Democratic Party, dispel any notion that they are not for public safety, that they are not patriots and so on and so forth.

We people have got to feel proud to support the Democratic Party, but we have to go to the offensive as to who the Republican Party actually is.

VELSHI: Max, good to see you. Thank you for joining us tonight. We appreciate your insight and your experience. Max Rose, former congressman from New York.

ROSE: Ali, great to speak with you.

VELSHI: All right. Coming up, the baby formula has landed and more is on the way, thanks to the Biden administration doing exactly what government should do, marshalling the powers of the United States, and in this case, the United States` military to solve the problem that the private sector wasn`t able to.

Plus, a surprising piece of economic data that could be a bright spot for Democrats in a tough midterm year. That`s next.




KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is a scary situation for parents and their caregivers who are taking care of these babies. Our administration is working around the clock to ensure that there is enough safe baby formula available for who all who need it, and it is truly one of our highest priorities.


VELSHI: That was Vice President Kamala Harris at the Children`s National Hospital in Washington today. A U.S. military plane filled with 70,000 pounds of baby formula arrived in Indianapolis from Germany yesterday, another shipment is expected to arrive at Dulles International Airport in Virginia on Wednesday. And from there, the formula will be transported to a Nestle facility in Pennsylvania.

It`s all part of Operation Fly Formula, the president`s initiative to provide much needed relief to parents struggling to find formula.

Republicans have criticized President Biden about the baby formula shortage, but 192 voted against the bill that would give the FDA funds for inspections of formula, and thereby address supply chain issues. Ninety percent of House Republicans voted against the bill that would address those supply chain issues, while offering criticism of the administration`s handling of a major economic issue.

But despite supply chain issues like the one plaguing baby formula and high inflation, that is dominating the current discourse about the economy, the Federal Reserve`s annual report on households released today shows that self-reported financial wellbeing is at its highest level since the survey began in 2013. In the fourth quarter of last year, 78 percent of adults reported either doing care living comfortably financially.


This as unemployment hit a pre-pandemic low of 3.6 percent, and wage growth continues.

Joining us now is Betsey Stevenson, professor of economics at the University of Michigan. She was the chief economist for the U.S. Department of Labor under Barack Obama from 2010 to 2011.

Good to see you again. Thanks for being with us, Betsy.


VELSHI: Let`s talk about the situation. There`s stuff going on out there in the ether that`s real. Prices are up and people see prices every day. There is an impact on how they feel about things, about how they feel about politics, how they feel about the country.

But it`s with us because of a bunch of things. We`ve got supply chain crisis still from the pandemic. We`ve got high oil prices, largely because of the war in Ukraine.

How do - how should people think about this?

STEVENSON: What happened was, the government responded by making sure -- responded to the pandemic by making sure households could pay their bills, put food on the table, that people didn`t really go loved behind. And it worked.

You know, if you look at the 2008 recession, it took eight years to get unemployment below 4 percent. We`re able to do that in less than two years this time.

And what we`ve seen in this recent survey is that people took some of the extra money that were given and said, I don`t need to spend all of that, and they saved it. And what that means is we have highest share of households who tell us that they could cover an emergency expense of $400 than we`ve seen since the survey began in 2013. It`s the highest share of households to say they could cover three months of expenses if something bad happen.

Households need this kind of cushion, and we see that giving them support gave them this kind of cushion.

VELSHI: OK. So, we gave people support --

STEVENSON: Now, that`s the good news. But the bad part --

VELSHI: Right.

STEVENSON: -- I`m going to get there, which is, the thing is, it`s really hard to get these numbers precisely right, exactly how much money should we given households, where they spend what they needed, save the rest, and didn`t go chasing things where we just didn`t have enough supply.

So, what happened this, people got a little bit of extra money, and then wanted things like cars, and we didn`t have cars to give them because of supply chain problems. So, that pushed up that the price of used cars 40 percent as people were chasing cars that didn`t exist.

Millennial started feeling more comfortable. Maybe it`s time to buy a home. We didn`t increase the number of houses available. We have low interests. People have a lot of people push the prices of the houses up.

We have so many people trying to relocate around the country because they were able to work from home for the first time. Again, recent research showed that that -- being able to work from home is responsible for a large share of the increase and housing prices, as people sort of moved in reshuffled around to take advantage.

So we have a problem which is supply constraints mean that sellers can`t respond this quickly as they normally do to increased supply and we`ve got all these households that have a lot of cash, the end result is inflation.

That`s not the biggest reason we have inflation, though. The biggest reason we have inflation is energy prices and that`s on Putin. So, I mean, really, it`s bad luck for the administration --

VELSHI: Right.

STEVENSON: -- that they got a situation where maybe there`s a little bit too much money put on people`s hands. It should lead them in a great place, but now, we got higher prices.

VELSHI: So, let me ask you this, though, because there is a way to fight inflation, and the Fed is trying. But the same problem, we don`t know lunch money to put in people`s hands. The same problem in interest rates, right? You can slow inflation down, you can 100 percent solve the inflation problem, but you could end up with interest rates that are high enough that it slows the economy now, which is also bad luck for the administration.

So, what`s the answer?

STEVENSON: Absolutely. So, the problem is, the only thing the Fed can do, it can`t give us more cars, it can`t give us more houses, it can`t solve any supply problems, what it can do is try to lower demand by raising interest rates.

Well, we need to get the goldilocks just right amount.


STEVENSON: Do too much, and you`re going to put us in a recession. You`re going to raise, you know, the unemployment going up, as businesses and consumers peel back more than is necessary to sort of lower inflation.

Do too little, and inflation starts to take off. So they got to do the goldilocks amount, but I think that the Fed has a lot of experience in figuring out the goldilocks amount. So, I trust them to do it. I think the more we all trust them to do it, the more likely they are to get there, without a recession, but there is some rest because getting that exact, right amount of raising rates to cool the economy, just right, but not too much. It`s tough.

VELSHI: Yeah. And sometimes, you don`t know which is right until a lot later.

Betsey, good to talk to you. Thank you for being with us. That was a great explanation. Betsey Stevenson.


All right. Joining us now is Anat Shenker-Osorio, she has joined this program many times to talk about how Democrats should be talking to voters about tough issues. This is a tough issue. She`s the founder of progressive research and communications firm ASO Communications. Anat, thank you for being with us.

There you go. Betsey laid it out. It`s a tough issue. Bad luck for the administration that we`ve got a shortage of chips and we`ve got people who are home and we`ve got a stimulus program that actually allowed lot people to spend some money and we`ve got low unemployment. We`ve got higher wages. All of that stuff is actually really good.

But on this side, we`ve got higher energy prices. We`ve got supply chain issues. We`ve got inflation.

What would you tell the administration that they need to do in order to communicate this, that the bright side of this as opposed to just the negative side of it.

ANAT SHENKER-OSORIO, FOUNDER, ASO COMMUNICATIONS: So the fundamental framing shift that we need people to be able to internalize is a move of weight from why is stuff so expensive to why are you so broke.

And what I mean by that is two things. Number one, a focus on the things that cost the most -- housing, childcare, higher education -- the things that we need most. Health care, care for our loved ones that cost the most are being put deliberately out of our reach by a handful of a MAGA Republicans who are bound and determined to keep us struggling, so that they can keep handing it back to their corporate donors. So that is number one.

And number two, there needs to be a clear indicator of the origin story of where this hardship comes from, that in essence, GOP might as well stand for gouging our prices, because as we have seen time and again, given any and every opportunity to actually help Americans afford the things that all of our families need and want, they choose not to.

VELSHI: How does that work, though, because as much as oil prices are up all over the world and inflation rates are up all over the world, so it can possibly be all Joe Biden`s fault.

Ultimately, we know that that`s the connection people make, right. When their stocks are down, their retirement looks bad, their prices are up, they may see it every day in the price of a gallon of milk or a gallon of oil. It sometimes, isn`t the most sophisticated conversation people have with themselves. It`s -- under these people, my life seems less prosperous.

SHENKER-OSORIO: Yes, that`s exactly right. And so first and foremost, we don`t argue with people`s feelings. That is a bad thing to do in life and in politics. You cannot argue people out of the feeling that they`re having, so some sort of vague reassurance that the economy is going great, look at the Dow, we have all this unemployment.

If that, as you rightly raise, isn`t what people are feeling in their day-to-day lived experience, arguing them out of that makes you sound not just out of touch, but kind of callous.

VELSHI: Right.

SHENKER-OSORIO: So what do you say? You say something, with an opening value, that begins, no matter what we look like, or where we come from, most of us believe that people who work for a living or earn a living and have time left over for a life.

But today, a handful of Republicans or MAGA Republicans, Trump Republicans, take their pick, want to divide us from each other, have us pointing our finger in the wrong direction, while our families keep struggling, and they can`t get back to their corporate donors.

Any and every time a bill comes up for what we need, and what the majority of Americans support, whether that be childcare support, whether that be making health care affordable, whether that be bringing baby formula home to the United States where we need it, they block it.

And then they hope we`ll look the other way, and blame Democrats, who in every single instance, are standing with and for our families.

VELSHI: Anat, thank you for joining us tonight. Anat Shenker-Osorio, we appreciate your time.

Coming up Donald Trump`s chosen candidate for Georgia governor, senate loser David Perdue is on track for a shellacking in Georgia`s Republican primary tomorrow. And he decided to spend his final night before that shellacking, launching a racist attack on Stacey Abrams. That`s next.



VELSHI: We are just hours away from polls opening in Georgia`s primary election. Tomorrow, Georgia voters will decide whether Republican efforts to steal the next presidential election will be stopped. And the Republican who tried to steal the last presidential election in Georgia, Donald Trump, is poised to become a loser once again.

Donald Trump`s chosen candidate, the former senator David Perdue, the man on the left, who lost to John Ossoff last year, is challenging the current Republican Governor Brian Kemp, who Donald Trump hates because he believes that Kemp refused to overturn Joe Biden`s victory in Georgia.

David Perdue is pushing Donald Trump`s big lie that the election was stolen. That`s why Donald Trump has campaigned vigorously for Perdue, including appearing on a local radio show today, spewing these lies.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They tried to put out some fake news about me sort of losing faith in David. And I`ll tell you what, if you know David, you don`t lose faith in him.

I think a big, big surprise is going to be tomorrow. It`s much closer than the fake news wants you to believe. It`s called suppression polling.


VELSHI: Suppression polling. The suppression polling that Donald Trump is talking about is a recent Fox News poll showing Brian Kemp ahead by 32 points. Brian Kemp has a bigger lead than David Perdue has percentage points.


VELSHI: David Perdue is already claiming that he might not accept the results, showing that Republicans are not just willing to subvert elections that are won by Democrats. They`re also willing to undermine other Republicans.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you going to accept the results of this election?

DAVID PERDUE (R), GEORGIA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: Well, it depends on if there`s fraud or not. If this is straight up election, I`m going to support the winner, just because my number one objective is to make sure Stacey Abrams never governs Georgia.


VELSHI: Where does this end, seriously? If a Republican who`s on track to lose by 30 points can`t admitted that he failed and he`s not the choice of the voters, we are in a world of trouble. And if that`s not bad enough, which it is, Perdue also decided on the eve of an electoral walloping to launch a racist attack on the Democratic nominee for governor, Stacey Abrams.


PERUDE: Did you all see what Stacey said this weekend? She said that Georgia is the worst place in the country to live. Hey, she isn`t from here. Let her go back where she came from. She doesn`t like it here.

When she told black farmers, you don`t need to be on the farm and then she told black workers in hospitality and others you don`t need to be, she is demeaning her own race.


VANIER: Joining us now, Greg Bluestein. He is a political reporter for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and an MSNBC political contributor. He`s the author of "Flipped: How Georgia Turned Purple and Broke that Monopoly on Republican Power:.

Greg, good to see you. Let`s talk about, first of all, the polling. It`s quite lopsided in Georgia. What`s the background there? And what`s the likelihood of David Perdue and Donald Trump being right that there`s some kind of suppression polling going on? Is it going to be a big surprise in Georgia tomorrow night?

GREG BLUESTEIN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: If there`s suppression polling, and it`s literally every single public poll that has come out in months all showed Governor Brian Kemp, above the 50 percent margin he needs to avoid a runoff.

And many of those polls show him at close to 60 percent. There are Republicans who now think he could inch over 60 percent which would be a walloping. It would be an epic collapse.

It would also be the most significant political defeat for Donald Trump, probably since he lost the 2020 election because of all the effort and resources he has put into propping up David Perdue.

So this would be a collapse. And there`s no indication from anyone close to Governor Brian Kemp or any -- neutral advisers too. I haven`t really come across anyone neutral in this race, or allied with Brian Kemp, who is worried about Brian Kemp`s chances tomorrow.

VELSHI: Brian Kemp has the support of Mike Pence. Tell me about that dynamic and how that`s playing out in Georgia because we haven`t seen a lot of instances where you got Mike Pence actively campaigning for someone, against whom a Donald Trump endorsed candidate is running.

BLUESTEIN: Yes, so they have a proxy war really in Georgia between Donald Trump and Mike Pence. This was the most significant split for Mike Pence and Donald Trump since the 2020 election where Mike Pence is now backing Brian Kemp forcefully. And even traveling to Georgia. Just now -- he just wrapped up his speech a few hours ago in Georgia up in Cobb County -- up in a formerly Republican stronghold, Atlanta`s northeast suburbs.

Just moments after he wrapped up the speech, Donald Trump gets on a tele-rally for David Perdue and insists that David Perdue still has a shot at this race.

So What we`re seeing -- what we saw tonight in Georgia could be a foretelling of 2024 presidential politics.

VELSHI: All right. Go to bed and now and sleep in late in the morning, Greg. Because tomorrow is going to be a big day and a long night for all of us. Nice to see you my friend.


VELSHI: Greg Bluestein.

Coming up next, the latest reports of war crimes in Ukraine are beyond description. Russian soldiers are accused of brutalizing and raping children and babies in front of their parents.

And today Saudi Arabia signaled, it`s going to stand behind Russia. We`ll get the latest, next.



VELSHI: It`s been 90 days since Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, had a message for corporate executives and government officials attending the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland today.

"This is the moment when we decide whether brute force will rule the world." Speaking to the conference by video link, Zelenskyy said sanctions against Russia need to go farther, and should include Russian oil embargo, the blocking of all Russian banks, and cutting off all trade with Moscow.

Zelenskyy said, quote, "Sanctions should be maximum, so that Russia and every other potential aggressor that wants to wage a brutal war against its neighbor would clearly know the immediate consequences of their actions," end quote.

Saudi Arabia, siding with Russia, at least when it comes to oil markets. The Saudi energy minister told "The Financial Times" that Saudi Arabia was hoping quote, "to work out an oil production agreement with OPEC Plus, which includes Russia," and quote. OPEC Plus is made up of the 14 members of OPEC, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, and ten other non OPEC members, including Russia. The group coordinates oil production among its members in a bid to stabilize prices.

And the first Russian soldier on trial for war crimes was sentenced to life in prison today for fatally shooting an unarmed Ukrainian man in the early days of the war. Ukrainian officials say they`ve documented more than 11,000 possible Russian war crimes so far including allegations of brutalizing children and babies.

We`ll be joined momentarily by an expert in war crimes to discuss that. But first, let`s get the latest from Ukraine, from NBC correspondent Cal Perry in Kyiv. Good morning to you, Cal. What`s the situation?


CAL PERRY, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Hey. Good morning, Ali. So we`re following really two different fronts to this war.

First in the eastern part of the country, where we heard today President Zelenskyy in that speech to that delegation in Davos, saying that it`s possible that 50 to 100 Ukrainian soldiers could be dying every day. That is the first estimate that we have gotten on Ukrainian casualties.

The Ukrainian government is not really one to disclose these numbers. They call it operational security.

To the sort of northern part of the country now, and the town of Desna, there was an air strike on Tuesday, in which at least 87 people were killed. We think the numbers could be far higher, Ali. Again, this is a number of those situations where we have these military targets being struck.

We cannot access these military targets, again for operational security. But it gives you an idea of how that death toll could be far higher. In and around the city of Kharkiv, there`s been heavy shelling all night as Ukrainian troops continue to try to push Russian forces back to their side of the border.

That is where we are now seeing these American-made Howitzers go into the field. That is where the Ukraine troops are using them, Trying to keep Russian troops at a far distance back, Ali.

VELSHI: Cal, the Ukrainians have sort of said that they feel like they were at a turning point, with the amount of weaponry they`ve been getting. It`s not that they don`t want more support and more weaponry, but they feel like, they are now -- they`ve even started talking about the fact that towards the end of August, they think they`re going to be able to make a big push, vis-a-vis the Russians.

PERRY: Yes, so right now they`re sort of framing it as a stalemate. But again, some of these counterattacks are really starting to work. And we had that video of Ukrainian soldiers making it all the way to the Russian border. It`s a sign that they can punch through those lines.

I think the one bit of sort of caution that they would lay out is on that eastern front, where you now have these fortified positions. Once the enemy in this case the Russians, have those fortified positions, it`s hard for the Ukrainians to push them back and vice versa.

It`s one of the reasons the international community is worried that we could sort of have a stagnation here on the ground, Ali.

VELSHI: Cal, thanks for staying up for us. We appreciate it. Cal Perry for us in Kyiv.

Joining me now is Gabor Rona, professor of international human rights humanitarian and criminal law at the Cardozo School of Law here in New York City. He`s also the director of law and armed conflict project at Cardozo. Professor, thanks for being with us.

We are seeing these war crimes prosecutions. This one soldier, young guy, prosecuted. He admitted his guilt, shot a 67 year old man, he was on his bicycle. He and other soldiers were trying to get away after they had been ambushed.

Tell me how this looks to you. Is this -- what are the Ukrainians doing? And how does this set them up to be able to begin war crimes trials?

GABOR RONA, CARDOZO SCHOOL OF LAW: It looks good, Ali. And the reason it looks good to me is that there`s been an inordinate amount of attention to international tribunals, the International Criminal Court, the U.N.`s Human Rights structure.

These structures, at their best, can work to hold those who are most responsible for the kind of depravity that we are seeing in Russia. But not for the foot soldiers.

For the foot soldiers, it`s got to a be domestic institutions, domestic courts, national law. And so, the fact that Ukraine is now conducting its own investigations, conducting war crimes trials, with the help of the international community, I think is a very good sign.

What we do have to watch out for, though, is to make sure that the Ukrainian procedures are in compliance with international human rights law obligations for fair trials.

This trial happened very quickly. We don`t know too much about who was the defendant`s lawyer, and how much time they had to prepare, to gather evidence, how much of the responsibility can be sent up the chain of command, rather than to this individual. These are all things that are important, in connection with war crime trials. And we will need to keep a close eye on how Ukraine follows up this trial with others.

But I think, bottom line, as a template for proceedings in the future, it`s a good sign that Ukraine has both the will and the capacity to conduct war crimes trials.


VELSHI: So this was the shooting of a civilian in the head, on a bicycle -- absolutely not something that you`re allowed to do under the rules of war. Although, we are now hearing about things that are really beyond the pale.

Obviously, we`ve heard about sexual violence, as a weapon in this war. We have had reports of rapes of women and the brutalization and sexual assault of children and babies.


VELSHI: Is there -- is it the same mechanism to deal with those things? Because clearly, people who can say bad things, including civilians might get shot in the course of war.

We are now into a different category. These are what most of us would know to be war crimes.

RONA: There is no doubt that war crimes are occurring. They are occurring on horrific scale. The extent of depravity is horrendous.

I would caution though that we are maybe not all that used to paying attention to the conduct of war and the commission of war crimes in non European context. These kinds of crimes occur in armed conflict, generally. They`re not unique to the Ukrainian armed conflict.

What perhaps is unique is the extent of media coverage, the extent of the ability to amass evidence for the purpose of prosecutions. And the breadth of the concern of the international community.

VELSHI: You are right. And you make an important point, and in fact, there`s been reasonable criticism of that, to say if we follow this all around the world, we`d see way more of these war crimes, and we`d know how to respond to them.

Professor, thanks for your time tonight. We appreciate it. Gabor Rona is an expert on these matters.

Tonight`s LAST WORD is next.



VELSHI: That`s tonight`s LAST WORD.

MSNBC`s going to complete coverage of tomorrow`s primaries, including Georgia, starting tomorrow night, 7:00 Eastern.

"THE 11TH HOUR" with my friend Stephanie Ruhle begins right now.