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Transcript: The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, 5/9/22

Guests: Eric Holder, Masha Gessen


Donald Trump`s secretary of defense says that Donald Trump threatens democracy. Interview with former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. It has been a very rough week for Samuel Alito`s opinion overturning Roe versus Wade, his draft opinion. Historians have been shredding the work of the amateur historians Justice Alito employs among his clerks. To counter Vladimir Putin`s massive military parade in Moscow today, Ukraine`s President Zelenskyy walked the streets of Kyiv alone.



So, let me see, Rachel Maddow and "MSNBC PRIME" -- and by the way, no one has told me -- am I supposed to ask the viewers to DVR THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL? Because I`ve never -- I have never quite gotten around to doing that.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, "TRMS": If you are embarrassed to do it, I could do it for you.

O`DONNELL: I don`t want to do it.

MADDOW: You want to busy yourself for a second, and I can talk to people.

O`DONNELL: Yeah, I just not --

MADDOW: Go do a thing, go look the other direction.

O`DONNELL: Yeah, yeah.

MADDOW: If you haven`t set -- you want me to do it?

O`DONNELL: I`m just going to read the opinion.

MADDOW: If you haven`t yet set your DVR to every night record THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, now is a great time to do that, while you are thinking about it anyway. It`s called THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, and you can DVR it every single night here on your TV, Smart TV or DVR.

Lawrence, come back.

O`DONNELL: Okay, now, we finally have a commercial for this show.


O`DONNELL: That we can run forever. That is the best possible way.

MADDOW: I will toot that horn anytime you need me to.

O`DONNELL: Rachel, it has been exactly seven days since we were holding that draft, that leaked draft report, and I remember walking down on the studio, afraid that it might be proven to be false and inauthentic by the course of the end of the hour. This document has not had a good week or a good weekend, as it has been open sourced in effect now, left open to scholars everywhere, to take a look at it. And wow, it is really been falling apart!

MADDOW: I mean, I wouldn`t want anybody to have access to a first draft. I wouldn`t want the world to have access to the first draft of anything that I did, even if it wasn`t as earth shattering as what they`re trying to do with that opinion. One has to assume that that weapon would have gotten stronger, because it was a hot mess, to use illegal term.

The question though, with the political impact inside the court was, of somebody leaking it? Did it, in fact, as a lot of smart people said, sort of freeze the basis of the opinion in play, so that now, none of the conservative justices, Republican appointed justices is going to feel like they`re going to get too far away from that, in terms of what they sign on to with the court? I mean, the dynamic is one of the big wildcards, in terms of predicting whether ruling is ultimately going to look like.

O`DONNELL: And it was the second leak. There was that lead to "The Wall Street Journal" editorial board, earlier before this leak ever came out, which with without doubt didn`t have to include the opinion. It basically told the story of the opinion, and so, there was a kind of a sequence of leaks.

MADDOW: The leak this week into the Washington Post, where we learned about what, you know, what`s happened in conference, and what John Roberts supposed intentions were, and what he planned to write, and how many justices were on board with each ruling, and or concurrence, and each point in time?

I mean, the leaks continue. If John Roberts` stern statement about how damaging the leak was, when the political star came out last week, was meant to shut the leaks down, it didn`t last a week.

O`DONNELL: Right. Well, we will see what more leaks we might see, as this week goes on.

MADDOW: Indeed, thank you, Lawrence.

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

MADDOW: Thanks.

O`DONNELL: Well, it is a very tough time for institutionalist. Our first guest tonight is an institutionalist, the 82nd attorney general of the United States of America, Eric Holder.

The current Attorney General Merrick Garland is an institutionalist. If you asked, either of those Justice Department institutionalist say, ten years ago, if they believe that they knew attorney generals, serving a newly elected president should spent time investigating the previous president of another party, or the actions of the Justice Department itself serving that previous president, they both would have said no.

Yesterday, former Attorney General Eric Holder said, I am an institutionalist. My initial thought was not to indict the former president out of concern of what how divisive it would be.


But given what we have learned, I think that he probably has to be held accountable. Given what we have learned, that changes everything for institutionalist these days. Institutionalist and United States Senate, who are opposed to changing the 60 vote rule in the Senate, have changed their minds about that, given what we have learned.

Mark Esper, the secretary of defense during Donald Trump`s last year in the presidency is an institutionalist. When he was growing up, he was secretary of defense one day, he never dreamed he would ever reveal a private conversation with the president who he served. But, he changed his mind about doing that, given what he learned about Donald Trump.


INTERVIEWER: What specifically, was he suggesting that the U.S. military should do to these protesters?

MARK ESPER, FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY TO DONALD TRUMP: He says, can`t you just shoot them? Just shoot them in the legs or something! And he`s suggesting that that`s what we should do, that we should bring in the troops, and shoot the protesters.

INTERVIEWER: The commander-in-chief was suggesting that the U.S. military shoot protesters?

ESPER: Yes, in the streets in our nation`s capital, that is right. Shocking!

INTERVIEWER: We have seen another country`s a government to use their military to shoot protesters. What kind of governments are those?

ESPER: Those are banana republics, right?


O`DONNELL: The phrase banana republic was coined in the 1904 novel, describing the corrupt regime of a fictional tropical country. But 116 years later, to be pretending that corrupt dictatorial governments, that has no regard for the rule of laws, among two tropical countries capable of growing bananas is contemptible.

For this part of the world, we should use the phrase, Trump republic. What Mark Esper was describing was a Trump republic. The European version would be a Putin republic. The tropical countries of this planet do not have nuclear weapons, and do not pose a threat of firing missiles into neighboring countries or any other country.


ESPER: The president pulls me aside on at least a couple of occasions, and suggests that maybe, we have the U.S. military shook missiles into Mexico.

INTERVIEWER: Shoot missiles into Mexico for what?

ESPER: He would say to go after the cartels. And he would have this private discussion or I would say, Mr. President, you know, I understand the motive.

INTERVIEWER: You politely pushed back on this idea. Did President Trump really say, no one would know it was us?

ESPER: Yes. Yes, he said that. And I just thought it was fanciful, right? Because of course it would be us. I was reluctant to tell the story, because I think, I thought people won`t believe this.


O`DONNELL: Unfortunately, that is a completely believable story in a Trump republic, because Donald Trump is obviously by a gigantic order of magnitude, the stupidest man who has ever won the Electoral College. And the president`s stupidity is dangerous.

And thanks to the corruption of the Constitution, which has turned down to be a much weaker document than we thought, Mitch McConnell refused to follow the constitutional requirements of the Senate giving the president of the United States advice and consent on President Obama`s last Supreme Court nominee. By refusing to even vote on President Obama`s nominee to the Supreme Court, Mitch McConnell said set up the stupidest president in history to appoint one third of the Supreme Court, using a list of possible nominees, given to him by Mitch McConnell. That is corrupting the Constitution.

And now, the constitutionally corrupted Supreme Court is working on a draft opinion, in which five Supreme Court justices, only one of whom was appointed by a Republican president, who actually got the most votes in the presidential election, will for the first time in the country`s history, revoke a constitutional right -- the constitutional right for women and girls and children who get pregnant, to decide what happens next inside their own bodies.

The Supreme Court is going to say, it is not up to them. The Supreme Court is going to say, it is entirely up to politicians. The Supreme Court is going to say that every woman in America, to every teenage girl, to every 12 year old child, raped by her father or uncle or neighbor in Mississippi or Alabama or Texas or several other states.

Supreme Court is going to say to all of them, you must have the rapist`s baby. You must see your rapist`s eyes in your child for the rest of your life.


A majority of Americans believe that is barbaric. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, who lied his way out of the Supreme Court, by among other things, claiming he never discussed or thought about Roe v. Wade, which was decided when he was in law school, and everyone, at every law school in America was talking about it, everyone except Clarence Thomas, if you believe his under oath testimony to the Senate.

On Friday, that same Clarence Thomas gave a speech to a group of judges, complaining that Americans are, quote, becoming addicted to wanting particular outcomes, not living with the outcomes we don`t like. Clarence Thomas is now making it difficult to choose the most sickening things he and his wife have said since Donald Trump was defeated in his reelection campaign by Joe Biden. Clarence Thomas dared to say that two judges on Friday, when all of those judges, already knew that Clarence Thomas`s wife was texting White House chief of staff Mark Meadows repeatedly after Donald Trump lost the presidential election, urging Mark Meadows to do anything to overturn the results of the election.

Clarence Thomas`s wife never said that overturning the election had to be done legally. Every judge listening to Clarence Thomas gave the most absurdist speech he`s ever given in his life, knew the Clarence Thomas`s wife tested the White House chief of staff, saying there are no rules, when urging him to do everything possible to deny the voters of the United States of America, the president they voted for. There are no rules in war is as clear a commitment to criminal conduct as you could ask for from the wife of a United States Supreme Court justice.

Clarence Thomas`s wife is addicted to wanting a particular outcome, and not being willing to live with any other outcome. And she proved her addiction in her utterly deranged constant texting so the last Trump White House chief of staff. It is the obliviousness of the United States Supreme Court that America is living under tonight. The outer obliviousness of the way people live, it is the utter obliviousness of the plight of the 12 year old girl who was raped.

And speaking to those judges on Friday, Clarence Thomas celebrated the dense obliviousness he and his Republican colleagues bring to work at the court every day. Clarence Thomas said the quote, quote, can`t be an institution that can be bullied into giving you just the outcomes you want. The events from earlier this week are a symptom of that.

Leaking from the Supreme Court has continued over the weekend as Rachel just mentioned, with more details reported in "The Washington Post". A person close to the most conservative members of the court said, Chief Justice Roberts told his fellow tourists in a private conference in early December that he planned to uphold the state law, and write an opinion that left Roe and Casey in place for now.

If true, that recording is of what chief justice said in a room with only eight other people, all of whom were justices in the Supreme Court. Statements like that, when only the Supreme Court justices are in the room, are all often relate to the justices` clerks, so they can begin researching positions that each of the nine justices will take in their opinion.

And so, all of the clerks working for nine justice, justices would have known that information. But those justices are all free to discuss this with other people. There is nothing stopping Clarence Thomas, for example. From telling his wife at dinner, what the chief justice said in the conference today. And given what we have learned, about Clarence Thomas`s wife, we know there is nothing stopping her from saying anything to anyone because there are no rules in war.

After this break, President Obama`s first Attorney General Eric Holder will join us, next.



O`DONNELL: Donald Trump`s secretary of defense says that Donald Trump threatens democracy.


MARK ESPER, FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY: I think that, given the events of January 6, given how he has undermined the election results, he incited people to come to D.C., start them up that morning and failed to call him off. To me, that threatens our democracy.


O`DONNELL: Joining us now, former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. He is the chair of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee. His new book, "Our Unfinished March: The Violent Past and Perilous Future of the Vote, A History, A Crisis, A Plan", is up tomorrow.

You know, I was on an elevator in Boston with my father when I was in high school, I think, when a former Massachusetts attorney general and my father said, hello, general. Where I learned the official direct address title for you is general, and I just wanted to let the audience know that so it doesn`t sound too weird.

ERIC HOLDER, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL: I`ve been called a lot worse than general. So if we can settle it right now --

O`DONNELL: So, General Holder, let`s go with would define secretary say, the Donald Trump`s defense secretary just outlined prosecutable crimes for which Donald Trump should be prosecuted?

HOLDER: I don`t think there`s any question that, as I`ve said, by the end of this investigative process, you`re going to find the Donald Trump has done the necessary things to meet all of the elements, variety of statutes, and also we have showed them the requisite intent in doing those. The tough question is going to be whether or not we`re going to indict him, given the fact we`ve never done this and the history of -- of this nation.

O`DONNELL: Why is that a tough question?

HOLDER: Indicting a former president brings into bear a whole bunch of things. It`s going to be unbelievably divisive. It undermines, in a lot of ways, the continuity that we`ve had.

But what you said at the beginning of the show, the notion that attorney general would look back at a prior administration, and think about going after, that`s what happens in other republics, and other nations. We don`t do that in the United States.

We may disagree vehemently with policies that require administration put in place, but the prosecute people in prior administrations, a president of a prior administration is something that we`ve never done, and frankly, really never really considered.

O`DONNELL: But here`s something they don`t say in the countries where these things do happen. And by the way, in the countries where former presidents can be prosecuted, they include places like France, okay? So, we`re not talking about a strange place.

One thing they don`t say in those countries is, no man, no person is above the law. We have been saying that constantly. It`s something I stopped saying a long time ago. But that is one of the mystical beliefs, it seems, of the United States, that no one is above the law, and yet, to say it`s difficult to prosecute a former president is to suggest when there`s someone who`s above the law, if it`s not bad enough, I can`t quite figure out what that formulation is.

HOLDER: Yeah, there are norms, they tend to guide how we operate, especially in the use of federal criminal process. But if nothing else Donald Trump was a norm breaker, and he has taken us to a place where a consideration of a prosecution of a former president, and his closest allies.

Let`s understand, this is not simply a look at the president. This is a look at his chief of staff, his cabinet members, the people who served at high-levels in the Justice Department. Considerations for all these people is totally appropriate.

O`DONNELL: You used the word "divisive" as a reason the attorney general will consider in whether or not to prosecute here, if the evidence is there. Are Democrats the only ones who think about that word, divisive? The Supreme Court obviously doesn`t think about the word divisive. They`re willing to rule against the interests and the concerns of 70 percent of the public.

I have never heard of Donald Trump be inhibited, or any Republican being inhibited by the notion that what they are suggesting is divisive. The word "divisive" is something I -- in the last, you know, several years, certainly the Trump era, that I only heard as a concern of Democrats.

HOLDER: Well, good prosecutors have -- all prosecutors have discretion. Good rescuers use that discretion to bring cases that will forward the cause of justice. I mean, there are cases, lots of cases that I made as a prosecutor, a young prosecutor, we had to prove a case, prove the intent, and ultimately decide not to bring the case, because it was not necessarily the appropriate thing to do, the right thing to do.

And so, yeah, prosecutors do that. I would tend to think that in this situation, and I`m a partisan Democrat, Democrats would dial in that notion of discretion, take into account the impact on the nation to a far greater in the present iteration of the Republican Party would.

O`DONNELL: Your new book is about, among other things, voting rights and holding on to voting rights in this country, something to the Supreme Court, by the way, felt perfectly contempt to shred. They thought that we had reached the point where we don`t need voting rights protected anymore, and now, they believe that all fetuses should be protected, all embryos should be protected, and they`re much stricter about that protection then voting rights.

And one of the cries that we hear in the voting rights crusade is the fight to preserve our democracy or achieve our democracy. I`m willing to have that discussion with that language, but it`s about a federal government that is structured in an anti-democracy style, which is to say, two senators per state. Democrats can win more votes for the United States Senate and the other party for the rest of time, and never controlled United States Senate again. The Republicans have today no plan for the Republican nominee to ever win the most votes in America again.


They only have schemes about how to steal their way in through the Electoral College, and stealing votes, and changing votes, if necessary, in those states, with a new secretary of state. And so, with that kind of depressing overlay to it, it makes the voting rights issue all the more urgent, because not only do you need everyone to have the voting rights they need to exercise those rights, but you actually need on the Democratic side, just to approach democracy in this country will, a massive upswing in the number of voters voting for Democrats.

HOLDER: Yeah, there are structural difficulties that we have in our system. We have a Senate that was designed to give to senators, in every state, I think the statistics now are the top nine states in the country that have 18 senators actually represent 80 percent of the population in this country. We have electoral college that is not designed necessarily to get the win to the person who won the most popular votes. These are the things that we talk about in the book.

And so, when I`m talking about in the book is that there needs to be, as we`ve seen in the past, a commitment by individuals. And that means individual Americans to say, you know what? The system is not right. The system needs to be changed. And we need to bring about the structural changes that will put us back to being with a democracy that we talked about in our funding documents.

Now, I talk a lot of different things. I talk about the Supreme Court. I talk about gerrymandering. I talk about a whole range of things that sound really kind of, big and expensive.

But it`s time for us to start asking ourselves those questions. We can do big things. We have done big things in the past, you know, we`ve done the New Deal, the interstate highway system. You know, the new frontier, the Great Society.

And that`s something that we, as Americans, I think, have gotten away from, and we need to get back to. Let`s do big things.

O`DONNELL: The book says that you have -- it`s called our unfinished march, and it`s a history, a crisis and a plan. What is the plan? And how is that plan involved the viewers of this program right now?

HOLDER: Well, the plan says, let`s for instance, limit the number of terms where, leave enough time for the Supreme Court, 18 years, you should have people who get appointed, but the first year, third year of a presidents turn, try to de-pressurize the process. We should do away with partisan gerrymandering.

There`s all of this stuff that can be put into place by people who go to the polls, people will vote for representatives who will stay for the kinds of reforms that I have in the book. It`s not something that is necessarily going to be easy, but I think about this guy Thomas door. We talked about him in the book, a guy who fomented a rebellion in Rhode Island, so that a white man who did not own property would have the right to vote, you know. We have to have that. Those kinds of things.

Alice Paul who had a two stuffed down her throat, and was fed intravenously, and she was trying to get women the vote, they recognized in their time that there was structural issues that had to be addressed, as we must understand that there are structural issues in our times, we have to look at our history to understand that we can make those changes, if we get involved.

And so, that means voting every time we can, contributing in any way that you can`t candidates who you support, and holding accountable those people who will do things that are ultimately anti-democracy.

O`DONNELL: The Supreme Court, they drafted an opinion, essentially challenges voters. It says, look, in effect, you can`t vote to get the result you want on abortion rights by voting for a new state legislation.

HOLDER: This is the same Supreme Court they said we`re not going to outlaw partisan gerrymandering. You know, they`ll say, we`re not going to take away right for the first time, that`s ever happened to American history. We`re going to let the state legislatures decide that.

Oh yeah, by the way, in their decision, we decided that the federal courts would not have their ability to say that partisan gerrymandering was unconstitutional. So, you know, they want to have every way that they can.

I was struck by Justice Thomas, when he said that people don`t accept things they don`t like. I think about the iteration of this court. Griswold was decided in the `60s. Bakke, the affirmative action case was decided in the `70s, they`re going to look at that. Roe was decided in the 70s, apparently, they`re going to look at that.

Again, things that you don`t like. His wife apparently didn`t like the outcome of the presidential election, and she was engaged in that to somehow subvert the will of the American people.


So don`t you lecture the American people about people not accepting outcomes that they don`t like. That is what Clarence Thomas certainly has done in his professional life, certainly in conjunction with his wife, apparently. I will let people investigate that.

But this iteration of the Supreme Court, it is doing it. They`re not doing things on the basis of legal interpretation. What we`re seeing now in the change in the courts position is a function of personnel. And that is not how the American system is supposed to work.

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Should Clarence Thomas recuse himself from any Supreme Court cases involving the communications of his wife, or the presidential election generally, since his wife was a participant in the highest levels with the White House chief of staff?

HOLDER: Yes, that is a no-brainer.

O`DONNELL: And that is all the time we have for this discussion, which I wish we could go on and on with former attorney general Eric Holder. His new book is "Our Unfinished March".

Thank you very much for joining us tonight. We really appreciate it.

HOLDER: Thanks for having me.

O`DONNELL: Thank you. I`m honored.

And coming up, former Senator Claire McCaskill and Dahlia Lithwick will join us with their views of the draft Supreme Court decision on abortion after one full week of it being on the threshold of becoming the law of land.

That`s next.



O`DONNELL: It has been a very rough week for Samuel Alito`s opinion overturning Roe versus Wade, his draft opinion. Historians have been shredding the work of the amateur historians Justice Alito employs among his clerks. The opinion turns on the notion that Roe versus was wrongly decided because the right to privacy leading to the right to abortion is not mentioned in the constitution and is not quote, "deeply rooted in this nation`s history and tradition."

The opinion presents the phrase, "deeply rooted in this nation`s history and tradition" as if that phrase is deeply rooted in this nation`s history and tradition when in fact, the Alito opinion is simply quoting an 1997 Supreme Court opinion which is in turn using that phrase to echo phrases written by Justice Cardozo in the 1930s. So that phrase is not deeply rooted in this nation`s history and tradition.

And to prove how deeply rooted in our history and tradition abortion is not, Justice Alito ended up quoting 17th century English aristocrats who very much believed in witchcraft and very much believed in sentencing witches to death in England, at the same time that Justice Alito finds their reasoning on abortion to be flawless.

Justice Alito quotes Matthew Hale, an English judge, who sentenced women to death as witches. His opinions in witch trials were then used to support witch trials in the United States, 30 years later, when we too had respected judges sentencing witches to death.

Justice Alito quotes Sir Edward Coke, who rewrote English law to strengthen the penalties against witchcraft, including a death penalty for being a witch.

And so, 70 percent of the American people, are about to have a constitutional right revoked from them against their will, for the first time in history. And the moral guiding lights for the Supreme Court majority, that is revoking a constitutional right for the first time in our history include men who believed witches must be sentenced to death.

Joining us now, Claire McCaskill who served as Democratic senator from Missouri. Also with us Dahlia Lithwick senior editor and legal correspondent for Slate, and host of the podcast "Amicus". Both are MSNBC analysts.

Claire, you`ve had a week to calm down about this. How is it going?

CLAIRE MCCASKILL, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Not very well. I`m not very calm. Of course I`m living in a state where they have not only a trigger law, but no exception for rape or incest -- a personhood law which means any fertilized egg now has the protection of a felony statute, with a minimum sentence of five years.

So it is -- and by the way, Alito`s opinion -- and listen I`m here with Dahlia, and she is the expert on all of this, but it`s so bombastic. It`s so gratuitously negative and slashing. It is so hard to read, as a woman and as a lawyer. It`s painful to read it. I made myself read it because I thought it was important. But this Supreme Court does not realize the damage it is going to do, has done to the institution, to say nothing of all the ethical transgressions that are running unabated in the Supreme Court, and have for sometime now.

O`DONNELL: Dahlia, the draft opinion had a particularly bad week with historians -- a very, very bad week with historians. And for me it`s just - - it`s what will happen when you open source a document.


O`DONNELL: If you put it out there in the world, you are going to find out that there are people who know more about whatever you are saying than you do. And that certainly has been the case with this opinion.

DAHLIA LITHWICK, MSNBC LAW AND POLITICS ANALYST: Yes. The historians have really gone to town on some of these citations. Matthew Hale, I think, the fellow you cited for the proposition that witches should be burnt, also didn`t believe that a husband could rape his wife. There was no such thing as a rape exception for your spouse because your spouse was fundamentally your property.

And there is a huge, huge affront, I think to women. And I think it`s what Claire is expressing here too, that women are utterly invisible from this opinion. They actually are nowhere to be seen, not their interests, not their economic opportunities, not how they organize their families, not the medical imperatives that might guide them to seek this basic health care. All of that is gone.

And instead we get medieval man who hate women. It`s an amazing, amazing erasure and an affront.

O`DONNELL: Senator McCaskill, you know, right up until the time when I was holding a leaked Supreme Court draft opinion in my hands, I respected and I think believed in all of the institutional practices of the Supreme Court, including the secrecy of the conference of nine and the deliberative processes.

But then I realized, wait a minute, I`m holding the law of the land in my hand, and according to Supreme Court practice -- and not according to any law -- but according to Supreme Court practice, I`m not supposed to know a word about this until it is the law of the land.

On the legislative side, that would be like we discover what is in legislation only when the president signs it into law. This thing is kind of like the bill the committee votes on in the Senate, and then get sent to the floor, where it might change in various ways, and the public knows every word of that process or they`re free to know every word of that process as it`s going along.

I`m not so sure that the Supreme Court secrecy process around developing these opinions is actually worth preserving.

MCCASKILL: Yes, and here`s the thing, this is a branch of American government and some transparency is not going to hurt anything here. American people understanding more about how this works is not going to hurt anything.

The idea that they have no ethics guidelines, the idea that they have secret dockets. You know, all these things that have come to light.

I really -- you know, we talked about -- you talked about an earlier segment, Lawrence, about no one is above the law. Well, I`ll tell you who is above the law in the United States of America, that`s the Supreme Court. Because there is very clearly a law that says, Clarence Thomas should in fact recuse himself.

But the only person who can enforce that law is Clarence Thomas. The other justices are doing nothing to enforce that. And they`re the only court in the land that has not ethics guidelines whatsoever. They can take money for speeches.

They have nothing -- there is no inspector general. You know, I`m kind of an expert on inspectors general. I did a lot of work on that when I was in the Senate. The notion that there is not an inspector general of the Supreme Court is outrageous.

And if Roberts wants to restore respect to the Supreme Court, he ought to start with some ethics guidelines and some more transparency.

O`DONNELL: Claire McCaskill and Dahlia Lithwick, thank you both very much for joining us tonight.

LITHWICK: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

Coming up, May 9th was supposed to be Victory Day in Russia, but it turned out to be a day of humiliations for Vladimir Putin. The "New Yorker`s" Masha Gessen joins us next.



O`DONNELL: To counter Vladimir Putin`s massive military parade in Moscow today, Ukraine`s President Zelenskyy walked the streets of Kyiv alone. President Zelenskyy told the world in a video, this is not a war between two armies, this is a war between two world views. There is no occupier who can take root in our free land. There is no invader who can rule over our free people. Sooner or later, we win.

Russian troops have been unable to gain ground in the south or east of Ukraine, with Ukrainian forces fiercely defending even battered Mariupol. A senior Pentagon official said Russian efforts in the Donbas region have not been successful, calling them, quote, "incremental and somewhat anemic ". And Russia`s main target of capturing Ukraine`s capital, Kyiv, of course failed earlier in the war.

President Biden signed a bill that will help expedite the shipment of weapons to Ukraine, after speaking with Ukrainian president Zelenskyy, and the G7 leaders today.

Also yesterday, first lady Jill Biden made a surprise trip to Ukraine, where she met with Ukrainian first lady Olena Zelenska, who has not been seen in public since the war started. The two visited a school which is being used as a shelter for displaced families.


O`DONNELL: Bono and The Edge met Ukrainians in Kyiv, and performed a concert in a subway station to support Ukraine`s fight for freedom.

And joining us now is Masha Gessen, a staff writer for the "New Yorker" and author of the book, "Surviving Autocracy". Thank you very much for joining us tonight.

So Vladimir Putin had a big speech scheduled for today, the annual celebration of Russia`s Victory -- the Soviet Union`s victory in World War II. And it was an ally of the United States and Britain.

What did Russians expect to hear from Putin today? And what did they hear?

MASHA GESSEN, STAFF WRITER, "NEW YORKER": Well, I think actually the Russians heard exactly what they expected to hear, which was a speech. And this is not unique to Putin`s speech, right. There were parades all over the country, and the local leaders spoke at these parades -- both local military and local civilian leaders at every single parade and made the connection between the victory in World War II or what Russia calls the Great Patriotic War, and the current war in Ukraine, which is being portrayed by state television -- which is the only kind of television available to Russians -- is being portrayed as a continuation of this battle against Nazism.

The line is basically And now 77 years after the end of World War II, Nazism is once again rearing its ugly head in Ukraine. And valorous Russian soldiers are fighting it there. So that`s the speech Russians are expected to hear.

Some people in the west, some very few activists inside Russia, wondered based on western rumors, whether Putin might declare total mobilization, which would basically mean that a very large number of both men and women, who are considered to be reserves, would be subject to being called up to act of duty. It would also mean functionally closing the border.

And another guess was would he officially declare war with Ukraine?

He didn`t do those things. I, frankly, wasn`t surprised, because generally speaking, he doesn`t tend to do things that he is expected to do. What he likes most is the surprise effect. What he likes most is keeping secrets and then striking when people least expect him to.

So I don`t think that mobilization is off the table, but I think it`s probably going to happen in the next few weeks.

O`DONNELL: Talk about the Russian attachment to and identification with the victory in World War II. Because obviously, most of the people who can remember any of that are no longer with us, and that`s true in every country where the war was fought.

What is the difference, if there is one, between say a typical 40-year-old American`s attachment to comprehension of World War II, and the average 40- year-old Russian`s view of that?

GESSEN: You know, that difference couldn`t be bigger. In Russia, it`s almost the effect that of time having collapsed. You would think, walking down the street in Moscow that World War II had been fought yesterday. And that`s true, not just around Victory Day in the spring, it`s actually true year round. There are displays everywhere. There are commemorations constantly. World War II is really or again which Russians` called the Great Patriotic War, which is important because they see it as a Soviet war, or a Russian war.

It`s the central fact of Russian history. And it`s this victory that sheds its light both backwards and forwards. It justifies everything that came before. It justifies Stalinist era (ph) because it made the country strong for the battle against fascism. And it also justifies Russia`s superpower status.

And in a way, it is in fact connected to this -- to the war in Ukraine, or to the way that Russians feel about the war on Ukraine because the war in Ukraine is a war of aggrievement.

It`s a war that`s being fought to say we matter in a world. And the world should be divided up between the United States and Russia, just like we agreed all those years ago, after the victory in World War II which we shared, and then we sat down, and we divide up the world.

And since then, we feel that we`ve been betrayed. We want our part of the world back, and we want our super power status back. We earned it by sacrificing 20 million of our citizens.

And now, Ukrainian citizens are being sacrificed on the altar of that imperial ambition, which is rooted in this mythology of World War II.

O`DONNELL: How long can that the mythology hold in the face of the realities of this war?


GESSEN: Well, as Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the Ukrainian president said today, soon Ukraine`s going to have two victory days and some people will have none. I think that`s a great line. I don`t know that I entirely share his optimism, right.

It`s very easy right now to talk about the war in Ukraine as though Ukraine had won it. But the fact is, Russia as Russia was having its Victory Day salute in Moscow today, it was also shelling Odessa. It was killing people and it has been killing people every day. Targeting civilians, destroying cities and villages.

Ukraine has done incredibly well in this war, but Russia is continuing to wage a genocidal war to the best of its ability, which is still extensive.

And so, I think this (INAUDIBLE), this stagnation of killing based on this horrible mythology had actually gone pretty well.

O`DONNELL: Masha Gessen, thank you very much for joining us tonight.

GESSEN: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

We`ll be right back.



O`DONNELL: Time for tonight`s LAST WORD.


O`DONNELL: Should Clarence Thomas recuse himself from any Supreme Court cases involving the communications of his wife or the presidential election generally since his wife was a participant in it at the highest levels with the White House chief of staff?

HOLDER: Yes, that is a no-brainer.


O`DONNELL: And that is what former attorney general Eric Holder told us earlier in this hour.