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Transcript: The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, 5/6/22

Guests: Danielle Holley-Walker, Maria Teresa Kumar, Ana Marie Cox, Joyce Vance, Austin Goolsbee


More anti-choice legislation to be pushed by Republicans if the Supreme Court rules on Roe V. Wade even as majority of Americans supports it. Governor Greg Abbott of Texas plans to fight a law allowing immigrant children free public schools. Today, a judge ruled in Greene`s favor in a lawsuit filed by a group of her constituents. In Georgia, a special grand jury was seated in the investigation into whether Donald Trump tried to illegally interfere with the 2020 election.


ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST: It`s time now for THE LAST WORD and my friend Alicia Menendez is filling in for Lawrence tonight. And if you`re confused about time changes, you saw Alicia on TV at 5:00 a.m. this morning. So, don`t be puzzled. It`s still the -- it`s the same day and you`re doing a second show, 15 hours, whatever it is.

ALICIA MENEDEZ, MSNBC HOST: Ali Velshi, someone tweeted at me, "Who do you think you are, Ali Velshi?" And I think that is a joke I have already made to you. Have a wonderful night my friend.

VELSHI: You, too, my friend. Have a good one. We`ll see you tomorrow.

MENENDEZ: A new poll confirms that the extreme Republican majority on the Supreme Court way out of step with the nation -- 66 percent of Americans support Roe v. Wade and the constitutional right to have an abortion. Red state Republicans are pushing for even more extreme anti-choice legislation.

In Louisiana, the Republican legislature advanced a bill classifying abortion as a murder allowing prosecutors to criminally charge patients with murder. The bill would grant constitutional rights to a person, quote, "from the moment of fertilization." Raising alarms with the bill, if signed into law, could restrict access to in vitro fertilization and emergency contraception.

So, will there be a murderer`s row for those who take the morning after pill? It sounds crazy, I know, because it is. This is why thousands of people, thousands of women, have turned out across this country to protest having a constitutional right taken away. A new political video imagines an America where abortion is illegal.


UNKNOWN: Listen, everything is going to be okay. All right? Just let me do the talking, okay?

UNKNOWN: Evening, ladies. License please. Where are you headed?

UNKNOWN: We`re just out for a drive.

UNKNOWN: Headed to the border?

UNKNOWN: Oh no, no. We were just going up to the --

UNKNOWN: Hey there! What`s your name?


UNKNOWN: Are you pregnant, Grace?


UNKNOWN: Step out of the vehicle.

UNKNOWN: She does not have to get out of --

UNKNOWN: Yes, she does.

UNKNOWN: No, no, no.

UNKNOWN: Show me your hands on the wheel please. Grace, step out of the vehicle.

UNKNOWN: Mom? Mom!

UNKNOWN: On the wheel.

UNKNOWN: Grace. Grace. It`s okay.


MENENDEZ: Sound impossible or hysterical? Well, some states where abortion would immediately be outlawed are considering laws to prosecute those who travel for abortions. In March, the Missouri House of Representatives blocked a Republican sponsored bill that would allow individuals to sue anyone helping a patient cross state lines for an abortion.

If Roe v. Wade is overturned, legislations like this could gain more support. Here`s the thing. Many have pointed out it is not just abortion. The draft Supreme Court decision opens the door for ending even more rights, from health care to interracial marriage, to marriage equality.

An extreme right-wing politicians know five extreme right-wing justices on the court have got their backs. But will they come for next? In Texas, Republican Governor Greg Abbott says he will seek to overturn a 1982 court decision that ruled the public schools must educate all children that is including immigrant children. Throwing school children out of their classrooms probably not something the majority of the American people want, but it`s possible. Republican lawmakers don`t need a majority of the voters anymore. Just the majority of the Supreme Court. Conservatives achieving the very thing that they always claim they hated, making policy from the bench. Leading off our discussion tonight, Danielle Holley-Walker, the dean and professor of law at Howard University. Professor Hawley Walker, what do you fear from this draft opinion and what could be next?

DANIELLE HOLLEY-WALKER, DEAN, HOWARD UNIVERSITY LAW SCHOOL DEAN: Thank you so much for having me on this evening. I think we have seen with the Louisiana bill that you just spotlighted, how fast this train can move down the tracks once Row and Casey are overturned.

I think what we`ve seen in the Louisiana law is we have many states like Louisiana that have what are called trigger laws, which basically allows them to outlaw abortion the minute that Roe is overturned. And that`s what Louisiana has and we see them blowing past what they`ve had with this committee vote out of committee to vote in Louisiana House to basically criminalize abortion and move beyond finding abortion providers to actually targeting women who are seeking health care and charging them with murder.

And so, when we hear experts and people who are raising the alarm around this draft opinion, it`s not just histrionics.


And it`s really important that everyone who is watching us tonight understands that the broad language that`s in the draft opinion really does put on the table everything from the right to interracially marry, the right to prevent forced sterilization, all of these things that are protected by the right to privacy and by our 14th Amendment right. That could all be up for discussion.

MENENDEZ: Stay on that point, walk us through what would a reversal of Roe v. Wade mean for other landmark Supreme Court decisions?

HOLLEY-WALKER: So, for example, there are many rights that we think of as being protected under the constitution. And I think it`s important to remind people that Roe was affirmed in Casey. And Casey is also an opinion that protects the right to privacy and abortion.

But once you start saying that if it`s not written in the text of the constitution and it has to be deeply rooted in the American law, which is what the draft opinion says, it really takes us back as Justice Alito and the draft opinion does to the 18th and 17th century. And if you think about how many rights were not protected for many people in this country, including women, people of color, or LGBTQ community, all of those rights are now on the table when you say that the rights that are protected under the 14th Amendment are only the ones that are deeply rooted in American history.

And as Linda Greenhouse and others have pointed out today, it also sweeps away a lot of the progress that`s been made on women`s equality. I think what we saw in that ad is really the specter of women and our healthcare being criminalized by states. And without the protection of Roe, that is really what`s on the table.

MENENDEZ: I want to read you this tweet from Congressman Adam Schiff. He says, "I don`t care how the draft leaked. That`s a sideshow. What I care about is that a small number of conservative justices who lied about their plans to the Senate, intend to deprive millions of women of reproductive care. Codifying Roe isn`t enough. We must expand the court." Your thoughts?

HOLLEY-WALKER: You know, I think this is something that really has to be thought about when we`re asking what do people want to mobilize around to stop what we`re seeing from this draft opinion? I agree that the leak is not important in the sense that what is critically important is protecting rights that have been protected for a long amount of time.

Row has been in place for half a century. So, these are settled rights, and also to think that only rights that we`d be protected by are constitution are ones that would have been there before. Most of us had recognized constitutional rights is something that is deeply troubling.

I think when Congress Schiff is talking about the idea of federal legislation, federal legislation is honestly, that would be a backstop, that would be a last resort, but it is not the same thing as protection of constitutional rights in the sense that before the federal legislation passed this week at (inaudible) states like Louisiana doing what we saw there, and also federal legislation can be overturned as we have seen.

And what would need to be done to pass federal legislation would include probably ending the filibuster, which would mean if we end the filibuster to pass federal legislation protect abortion rights, then in the next Congress they could absolutely pass another law that would take away those same rights.

So, I think the constitutional protection of these rights is incredibly important to everyday citizens, women, and everyone who cares about liberty around this country.

MENENDEZ: Professor Holley-Walker, thank you for walking us through this as dark as it may be. Joining us now, Ana Marie Cox, columnist for "New York Magazine," Maria Teresa Kumar, President and CEO of Voto Latino and an MSNBC contributor, and MSNBC legal analyst Joyce Vance. Maria Teresa, you work with voters. You mobilize voters. Are Republicans going to take this right away without a fight?

MARIA TERESA KUMAR, PRESIDENT AND CEO, VOTO LATINO: Absolutely not. I think we forget that one of the things that we were able to do the day after, Alicia, that President Obama was sworn into office, we had the Women`s March. And it wasn`t just in the United States. It was global. And it wasn`t just in blue states. It was red ruby states.

People marched and they decided that not only were they going to knock on doors, they were going to volunteer, they were going to donate, they were going to run for office. And in 2018, I call that the dress rehearsal. That all of a sudden, we had the most diverse members of Congress in our nation`s history because Americans mobilized.

We live in a multi-cultural democracy and what the Republicans are trying to do is that they`re trying to take away the rights of a majority of Americans and allow it to be relegated to have just a few individuals of the Republican Party control it.

Whether we`re talking about controlling our bodies, access to the voting booth, burying books, bullying trans children, taking away immigrant rights. You name it, and that`s what they`re trying to do. They`re trying to create control of a minority few.


But what 2020 taught us was that when you start rattling the cages of women, we not only stand up, but we do the work to ensure that we are saving the country.

MENENDEZ: Yes. Ana Marie, the point of Maria Therese just made right there. The culmination of this Republican project. It comes on the era of Trump. There`s no longer any question, if there ever was, no fiction about Republicans are all about. Your thoughts.

ANA MARIE COX, HOST, SPACE THE NATION PODCAST: Yes. I guess the Republicans knew themselves better than we knew them right away, right? Like they have no illusions about being a party with any kind of moderate wing. Like they are catering to who they are. And I just think it`s taken Democrats a long time to figure out who we`re dealing with and hopefully this has kind of ripped everything away.

Maybe even Susan Collins knows that they are lying to her. I don`t know what would actually get her to that point. But we know who we`re dealing with now. I would also say that women have been saying this for a long time, right? Like women have been warning this is coming for a long time.

And, I do believe in our ability to get out on the streets. But, I also think we need to start planning. Like, I live in Texas right now and I love Texas. I love tacos. I love bluebonnet, but I also now worry about my health. So, I am going to start donating what I can to abortion funds. And anyone who really wants to be in this fight, do that right now. Do that right now because women are going to die because of this if it happens. Although, I guess, we`re all kind of thinking it`s going to happen.

MENENDEZ: Yes. Joyce, Ian Millhiser tweeted, "It strikes me as an unfair structural imbalance in our constitutional system that Democrats have to win enormous super majorities in the popular vote to be able to change federal laws, but Republicans only need to file a lawsuit." Your reaction to that Joyce.

JOYCE VANCE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Well, I think, Ian is dead on the money here. And look, there are a lot of structural problems that we`ve identified over the last four years. We now appreciate, for instance, that the Electoral College is a process that makes it very difficult for Democrats, even when they have a majority of the popular vote to take control. So, we have the structural issues that we have to deal with, but the reality is that Democrats never took the Supreme Court as seriously as the Republican Party did when it came to voting for the presidency.

The Republicans did a great job of convincing their voters that it mattered, that taking control of the court mattered, and of course, that resulted in Mitch McConnell who did what Republicans would view as an excellent job of conserving court resources so that President Obama wasn`t able to get a final appointment to the court, and Merrick Garland was essentially shut out while giving Donald Trump three votes.

That`s why we find ourselves where we are. So, ultimately, the lesson that has to be learned is that court politics are for keeps. Presidential elections are about the future of the Supreme Court. And now we find out, we are in a difficult situation that it will be tough to get out of because of the structural issues.

MENENDEZ: Maria Teresa, I want to look back to this idea of extreme power. Your read on Texas Republican governor, Greg Abbott, thinking he can use this Supreme Court to go after education for migrant kids?

KUMAR: Well, I encourage him to see what happen when Pete Wilson tried to do that. And Pete Wilson, that`s where I would say, honestly, that politicized me and politicized Senator Alex Padilla and politicized our vice president, Kamala Harris, and so many others because we were living under a place in California that just by we see (inaudible) being brown, you are racially profiled.

Imagine having a seven-year-old child right now having -- pulling them out of the classroom and having an authority ask them if they`re an American citizen. How frightening is that? This opens up not just whether, you know, you have a piece of paper. But it goes against the very fabric of our country because you`re encouraging racial profiling among the youngest among us.

And it didn`t go well against Pete Wilson and I can`t imagine it going well for Greg Abbott. Part of the reason, and get this, this is the fun part, in Texas you have 23 percent of the electoral base is Latino -- 52 percent of the classrooms are Latino. The more important part though is that 92 percent of them are American born.

So, the majority of young people that are about to turn 18 and when ballot is on that -- is on the ballot, are going to be young Latinos who are eligible voters and they`re not -- this is not going to sit well with them.

MENENDEZ: A potent power voice, and to your point, yet reconstituted California politics. We could see very much that same realignment in Texas. Ana Marie, I got to ask you before we go, this idea of extreme power. Where do you see them trying to use it next?

COX: Where won`t they? I mean, it`s true. Like, this is now a slot machine for them. So just bring things up to the Supreme Court. They know they can do it. They know that these justices are no longer constrained by what they used to tell people, right?


So, I mean, I see we`ve already had attacks on trans kids, that`s what`s going to continue. I do think that immigrants are going to suffer. I think they`ll find new and exciting ways of making women`s lives harder. Basically, that it is going to pose any kind of threat to the white male, you know, patriarchy, needs to be concerned.

And I agree that there`s going to be a backlash to all this. I agree that people are going to mobilize and in collection, and I agree that what Greg Abbott wants to do, which is unpopular with the vast majority of people, but we need to start thinking about what is going to happen, like win these -- like it`s not going to happen fast enough, but our ability to mobilize is going to be outpaced by the ability of the Supreme Court and the Republicans to pass these trigger laws.

So, I really want people to think about what they`re doing in their communities right now, who they can reach out to? What kind of support they can offer each other? This is the time to come together. One of the best things about the Trump era -- I can`t believe I just used those words all together in one sentence, but I`ll just finish the sentence.

Was that a lot of us did find support with like-minded people. This is a chance words and, I feel like a news those words together in one sentence. Let me finish the sentence. A lot of us did find support with like-minded people. This is a chance to do that again.

MENENDEZ: Ana Marie Cox, Maria Teresa Kumar, thank you so much for joining me. Joyce Vance, I`m going to see you in just a little bit. Because coming up, Democrats are fired up about reproductive rights, but their ability to hold their majorities in Congress still likely dependent on how voters feel about the economy.

Today brought more good jobs numbers, but inflation still high. We`re going to talk to Austin Goolsbee about that, next.




REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): Sometimes it really just takes something as appalling and at such an assault on privacy on precedent on the constitution on personal liberty, the rights of women and family. It`s really not country, that bring people focus into -- this is what your vote means and the elections and how it affects the courts and how it affects you.


MENENDEZ: That was House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on MSNBC earlier today. We are now six months out from the midterm elections and the attack on reproductive rights is galvanizing Democrats. But the public`s perception of the economy could still be the single most important factor in Democrat`s keeping their majorities in the House and the Senate when voters head to the polls in November.

Of course, reproductive choice is an economic issue for many families. Something Republicans never acknowledged that Democrats will surely remind them of. Another economic front, today brought good news on jobs. The labor department reported that the U.S. added 428,000 jobs last month while the unemployment rate remained 3.6 percent. The economy has regained nearly 95 percent of the million jobs lost at the height of pandemic related lockdowns before President Biden took office.

Despite these strong job numbers, inflation remains a concern for voters according to a new CNN poll. Forty-six percent of registered voters say the Republican Party`s views on the economy are closer to their own. That`s compared with 31 percent for Democrats.

Joining us now, Austin Goolsbee, the former chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers for President Obama. He`s currently a professor at economics at the University of Chicago`s School of Business. It is good to see you. You know, earlier this week, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said, quote, "the economy is strong and is well positioned to handle tighter monetary policy, but I`ll say I do expect that this will be very challenging. It`s not going to be easy."

So, Austin, for those of us who thought we could skip Act X, what does that mean and what do you see as the state of the economy?

AUSTIN GOOLSBEE, FORMER COUNCIL OF ECONOMIC ADVISERS CHAIRMAN: Well. I`ll tell you, Alicia, it depends which part of the economy you`re looking at. The job market is red hot. Looks fabulous. That the unemployment rate is already 3.6 percent and we still added more than 400,000 jobs in the month is almost jaw-dropping. I mean, that`s a fabulous number.

And normally, when the unemployment rate is that low, it`s hard to add that many jobs. At the same time, you`ve got inflation made worse by the war in Ukraine and what is happening in commodities. Made worse by COVID. And that we shifted what we were spending away from services and on to physical goods and that over loaded the supply chain and that led to a bunch of problems.

So, what the Fed is trying to do is navigate a little bridge. And I guess it`s kind of like if you got in the shower and you want to take a nice temperature shower, you`ve got some burning hot water is coming from part of it, and then there`s some cold water coming in and the Fed is trying to balance those off and raise rates to cool some of it without sending us into recession. Let`s hope they can do it.

I think if COVID starts to fade, they have a better chance to be able to do it. But that`s where we are. It`s kind of mixed up. Some of it looks great and some of it looks not as great.

MENENDEZ: Right. You sort of began to answer this question, but I want to dig into it and make sure that I understand what it mean. How much of this is really in the administration`s control? How much can they do actively to improve the problem? And how much of it is just, you know, as you said, COVID, the war in Ukraine, outside of their control?


GOOLSBEE: Yes. Mostly it`s not under their control and that`s what drives people crazy. In the White House, there is no, as I said, you know, you go all through the basement, there`s no switch down there. We`re like oh, if we had only flipped the switch then it would be fixed. Mostly, for inflation, it`s the Fed that`s the tip of the spear.

And that`s because the Fed can control the interest rate. Very abruptly they can change it, they can monitor conditions, they can go up, they can go down. And so we rely on the fed to be the first line of defense against inflation.

In the White House, it`s much slower moving. It`s got to go through Congress for the most part. They got to pass legislation. That could takes months or years and I don`t see that -- much of that happening to deal with inflation now. There are certain things they can do, for sure, on the geopolitical fronts and they can release from the strategic petroleum reserves to have a small impact on fuel prices in the short run.

You can address bottlenecks through the Defense Production Act and you can do everything you can, but everything you can do when you`re in the White House isn`t that big because 95 percent of what happens in the economy has nothing to do with Washington. It`s being set in the private sector. It has to do with the nature of demand and the supply chain problems that we`ve been facing for a year now.

MENENDEZ: Also, I would layer on to that challenge the fact that the answer you just gave, which is completely illegitimate answer, is a process answer, right? And that is not going to fly out on the trail.

GOOLSBEE: Yes. Right.

MENENDEZ: So then what explanation can Democrats give, do Democrats give to voters who may be frustrated?

GOOLSBEE: Yes. Look, the first thing to note is partly, you just got to grin and bear as the -- if you`re the political leadership, that that economic timetable is not on a political calendar. And that`s just reality. But I think the things that you will likely see them emphasize are, number one, the job market is great and if anybody wants a job, now is the time to get a job. Wages are up, and hopefully, they will get real incomes rising more. Two, if we get relief on COVID, I do think there is a chance that you start to see relief on the inflation front. That is people stop spending their money on physical goods and go back to spending it on services, you know, as I say, it`s not me, but a lot of people stop going to spend money on haircuts and, you know, going to the dentist and a bunch of services.

Going to restaurants, going on vacation. If they shift back to spending on that, I think you will see relief on the inflation front. And then you will likely see the White House and the Democrats as they go into the fall, into the midterm election, emphasizing, look, this was a humongous problem that landed on us, but we`ve worked our way through it and they`ll hope that`s the persuasive argument.

MENENDEZ: Awesome. Thank you for that self-deprecating joke. I needed that today. Austin Goolsbee, as always, thank you for your time.

GOOLSBEE: Great to see you.

MENENDEZ: Coming up, today a judge ruled Marjorie Taylor Greene can remain on the ballot in November. And Donald Trump making robocalls against Brad Raffensperger as a special grand jury investigates Trump`s crusade to find 11,780 more votes in Georgia. We get to all of it, next.