IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Transcript: The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, 8/19/22

Guests: Tom Nichols, Stuart Stevens, David Cay Johnston, Mandela Barnes, Allison Donahue, Jared Bernstein


The Republican Party`s acceptance to Trump`s extremist ways, a crusade against American democracy. A judge has denied Sen. Lindsey Graham`s bid to delay his testimony on a grand jury in Georgia`s election probe. We`re 81 days away from the 2022 midterm elections, the forecast for a Republican takeover is looking a lot worse than it did at the start of the summer.


ALEX WAGNER, MSNBC HOST: Well, the judge made sure to remind the public that October 24th is the last day to register to vote in the state of Michigan. And come November if on the ballot, Michigan may become the first state with an abortion ban already on the books to try an abortion right in the state`s constitution. Just 81 days until election day, folks. Tick- tock.

That does it for us tonight. Rachel, will see you on Monday and I`ll be back on Tuesday. And now it`s time for "The Last Word" with Ali Velshi in for Lawrence tonight.

Ali, I just want to say to you personally as we hand the show off, thank you, thank you, thank you for everything you have done to keep everything afloat at 9:00 p.m.

ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST: It has been a tremendous end to a tremendous week, Alex. Congratulations for that. You are in great hands with that team. It`s one of the finest teams in journalism, and you`ve done a great job with it. And it`s been my pleasure to be there.

The story you just ended with, it`s kind of remarkable. The judge basically saying, that it should be in the hands of the people, so let`s get it into the hands of the people. Let`s put it on to that docket or at least on to the ballot for November.

This is a difficult situation in Michigan because while it does allow for exceptions for the health, the life of the pregnant mother, doctors I`ve spoken with have said, even that`s not clear what that means. The doctor may say this is a dangerous pregnancy that should be terminated.

But in a state where you`ve got government attorneys looking to make an example out of someone, even that`s not clear to doctors and that`s going to prevent women from getting the help that they need. It`s going to prevent some woman who maybe miscarrying from getting the medical help that they need.


VELSHI: And it`s going to prevent some doctors from acting because it`s a felony. So, this is a -- this maybe one of the most important things that happens on November 8th.

WAGNER: And hats off to Gretchen Whitmer for looking before the Dodd`s draft is even released.


WAGNER: And saying we got to do something preemptively about this.

VELSHI: We`re going to watch that one very, very -- we`re going to watch a lot of things on November 8th, but that one I`m going to be paying particular attention to. Alex, get some rest. You`ve earned it, you deserve it and we`ll see you next week.

WAGNER: Thanks, Ali. Have a great show.

VELSHI: Alright. Well, Donald Trump is using the FBI search of his Florida property to appeal to his extremist supporters and bring Republicans who were ready to move on from Trump`s policies back into his fold. In a statement today, Donald Trump reiterated his well-worn lies that law enforcement is out to get him, but this one sentence in Donald Trump`s statement, you need to hear it in his own words, quote, "I do not believe the people will stand for it."

He`s right in a way. Not the people, but his people. It`s not just Donald Trump and what`s used to look like a clown car of conspiracy theory fueling big liars. Now it`s the voters. The criminal investigation is not a problem for them, on the contrary.

Tom Nichols, who is going to join us in a moment, writes in "The Atlantic," quote, "I spoke with one of the original Never Trumpers over the weekend, a man who had lost friends and family because of his opposition to Trump, and he told me that one of the most unsettling things to him is that these same pro-Trump family and friends now say that they believe that Trump broke the law. They believe it, but they don`t care. They see Trump and his crusade, their crusade against evil, the drama that gives their lives meaning, as more important than the law" end quote.

Some of his supporters identify with him. You`ll remember that "Washington Post" report that said nearly 60 percent of the people facing charges related to the Capitol riot, January 6th, showed signs of prior money troubles, including bankruptcies, notices of eviction or foreclosure, bad debts, or unpaid taxes over the past two decades.

All of those Capitol attackers believed in Donald Trump. Choosing his easily disprovable and regularly disproven lies over democracy itself. But even the violent insurrection wasn`t enough to poison many mainstream Republicans against Donald Trump. Unbelievably, the state of the Republican Party is more crazy today than it was in January of 2020. Don`t take my word for it. Look at the primary elections. We`ve seen Republican senate candidates advance to the general election in November who promoted Donald Trump`s election lies.

Later this hour, we`re going to speak with the lieutenant governor of Wisconsin, Mandela Barnes, to discuss why these extremist candidates endorsed by Donald Trump are now trailing Democrats in the polls.

Extremism has also found a place on the Supreme Court which stripped Americans of their constitutional right to an abortion. Now, Americans are no longer guaranteed the right to an abortion in all 50 states. And at least 10 states, they`ve imposed bans on abortion at any state of a pregnancy with zero exceptions.


With just 81 days until the midterms, these are real concerns that should motivate Democrats to go to the polls, but they should motivate people who are not Democrats. Conservatives, who do not want to live in a world where Democratic norms are being eroded by extremist Republicans.

Donald Trump`s legal problems, Donald Trump`s extremist candidates who are winning primaries, a policy of forced birth, forced birth for rape victims, forced birth for children victimized by sexual assault. A recent poll shows that 79 percent of American voter`s support abortion in cases of rape or incest; 79 percent. Two thirds. The supreme (inaudible) -- of the Supreme Court holds the position of 79 percent of the American voters.

And now, with Roe v. Wade overturned, any pro-life Republicans who claimed they had held their nose and voted for Donald Trump because of abortion has been relieved of their number one issue. So, go ahead, Republicans, now is your chance to exercise the grotesque from your party, the accused abusers, the kooks (ph), the cranks, the liars, the racists, the misogynists, the stalkers of violence. Come on! Nothing?

Tom Nichols writes, quote, "When enough Americans decide that a cult of personality matters more than a commitment to democracy, we risk becoming a lawless autocracy. This is why we must continue to demand that Trump and his enablers face the consequences of their actions. To cave in the face of threats means the end of democracy. And it would not, in any event, mollify those among their fellow citizens who have chosen to discard the Constitution so that they can keep mainlining jolts of drama from morning until night," end quote.

The choice for Republicans to put an end to Trump`s crusade against democracies is this, wreck the country by voting for Trump endorsed candidates, or work for, vote for, and hope for big D Democratic victories in the hopes that a small D, entirely Democratic, sensible, and functional Republican Party will rise from the ashes of this burning dumpster fire.

Leading off our discussion tonight is Tom Nichols, a former professor at the United States Naval War College. He`s a contributing writer at "The Atlantic" where he`s the author of the "Peacefield" newsletter.

Stuart Stevens is joining us too. He`s a veteran of five Republican presidential campaigns. He is the author of, "It Was All a Lie: How the Republican Party Became Donald Trump."

Gents, good to have you here tonight. Thank you for joining us. Tom, you`ve really put into words what`s the issue here is now. This cannot be any longer about your small ideological concerns, about how much you must be taxed or things like that. Your choice as a voter now is, are you upholding democracy or are you choosing not to?

I would love a day where we have legitimate debates between Democrats and Republicans on an important policy issue. But that`s not going to happen between now and November.

TOM NICHOLS, CONTRIBUTOR, THE ATLANTIC: No, and that, you know, I would love to see that day return. I mean, I`m sure Stewart and I and everybody else would love to have pitched arguments about whether the marginal tax rate should be 37 percent or, you know, 42 percent.

VELSHI: And for the record, I`ll invite you both on to have those arguments with me because that`s what this should be. That`s what our dialogue should be. But that`s not what the Republican Party is bringing to the table right now.

NICHOLS: That`s not going to happen anytime soon. And I think what the past few years, and even longer, since 2016 have really proven, is that the cult around Donald Trump doesn`t care one bit about policy. It doesn`t care one bit about issues that used to be owned by the Republican Party like respect for law enforcement, national security, smaller government, more constrained executive branch. All things that were once bedrock principles of the conservative movement and the Republican Party.

The folks around Trump don`t care about that. What they care about is soothing and energizing, at the same time, this itching sense of resentment that they want to get back at other people, they want to make other people angry and miserable as a way of trying to kind of quell that sense of anger within themselves.

But also, not to let go of this constant stream of drama that they -- too which they have just become addicted. That every day is a heroic battle against caravans, against conspiracies, against election rigors, against, you know, shady foreign characters.


It`s not a way to live. People, you know, real life is boring. It takes perseverance. It takes, you know, kind of getting up in the morning and balancing your checkbook and going to work.


NICHOLS: And people just aren`t going to do that anymore. This group of people are just -- have said we`re not interested in that anymore. We are going to live in this enervating drama every day.

VELSHI: And this whole question, Stuart Stevens, about this group of people. It`s kind of interesting because for a while it`s been the leadership of the Republican Party and the people around Donald Trump and his enablers and a whole lot of people in Congress and the Senate. But the (inaudible), this is in the hands of voters.

I don`t know what I would do. If I were a Republican voter, but I was frustrated by where some of these things are going both with the Republican Party and Donald Trump. What`s actually are you supposed to do right now? What does that mean? What action can you take to say, one day I would like to vote for a strong Republican Party, but that doesn`t exist right now.

STUART STEVENS, FORMER REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, look, Tom`s more optimistic than I am. I think it`s not about Donald Trump as much as it is about this sort of total corruption that within the Republican Party. Your only choice in that situation is you have to vote for a Democratic candidate in most of these races.

There really is this dividing line, as you mentioned. It`s between, do you believe in democracy and do you believe in autocracy and what is the choice. And I think one of the most difficult things for us to come to grips with, those of us who have worked in the party, is they won`t an autocracy.

I don`t think Donald Trump is a deviation. When we look at these values that Tom was talking about, I mean, Tom and I believed in this stuff, right? We thought it was true. But the conclusion I`ve come to is, that for the majority of the power structure of the Republican Party and a lot of the voters, these weren`t values, they were just marketing slogans, because you don`t abandon deeply held beliefs in a few years unless something radically changes and nothing did.

I don`t believe in UFOs. If a UFO landed, I would. That didn`t happen here. Donald Trump gave people permission to be their worst self. And that is entirely different relationship between an individual and politics than we are accustomed to in America.

Politics used to be striving to be something better and I think, you know, I spent 30 years pointing out flaws in the Democratic party, but I think it is the last best hope to preserve a democracy where we can get back to arguing about things like capital gains tax.

VELSHI: What is that best argument for the point that you just both made, Tom, to go to moderate Republicans who`d say, you know what, Donald Trump is crazy. I don`t support this stuff. I`m just going to sit on my hands in this next election because the sitting on the hands may not result in Democrats defeating election deniers and conspiracy theorists.

So, what`s the best argument to be because not everyone is watching to be all the time and not everybody is on these T.V. shows talking about it. What do you do about these rank-and-file people who are just trying to make a buck, get through life, to say you need to have a level of civic engagement that you otherwise may not have thought you needed to have right now?

NICHOLS: Well, first, I want to bristle for a moment that Stuart called me an optimist because I bet -- I bow to no one in my horrific pessimism about the future of democracy in America. But, you know, I think, Ali, that the argument that you make is to call -- for people that you think can be reached, you have to call out the argument that they are making as a defense which is -- and you hear this from, by the way, from prominent Republicans who say, well, I can`t vote for Democrat because in the end the left-wing is still just too much of a danger.

And I think you have to talk to your -- I think former Republicans and Conservatives have to talk to their friends and members and say, look, you know that`s not true. They have policies you disagree with that you and I both disagree with. They are wrong headed about a blot of things. They want to do things that you and I both find offensive. But they are not trying to set fire to the Constitution of the United States.

And that means that you must be their ally and then vote for them, and then call them out when they make a mistake. Tell them they`re wrong, tell them that you would -- you don`t want a particular policy. But the idea that this is about policy is a kind of -- it`s the tall grass the moderate Republicans hide in rather than simply say, I`m going to have to enter a coalition with the Democrats to save the constitution of the United States.

And I think, I`ve -- one time, I was asked, you know, what could an ordinary person do? I said, look, ake the oath to the Constitution that I took as a federal employee for 25 years, tape it above your mirror and just kind of remind yourself that your oath is to the constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic and, you know, true faith leads to the same.

And it`s not about whether you`re getting -- whether they`re going to spend too much forgiving student loans or how they feel about abortion or any of that stuff.


If you don`t save the Constitution, everything else goes down the drain. And I think you just have to short circuit those objections that you`re saying.

VELSHI: Whatever your priority might be, whether it`s climate or whether it`s lower taxes or whatever, none of it matters if you don`t take this action in this time to preserve democracy.

And fortunately for a lot of Democrats who also can`t understand how they can make those alliances; they have seen examples in some Republicans including Liz Cheney. A person with whom most Democrats would not share a single policy or many policy agreements, but they would say, she chose democracy over party.

Guys, thanks a lot. I appreciate this. This was a great conversation. Todd Nichols and Stuart Stevens, we appreciate your time.

Alright, coming up, the latest on the FBI search of Donald Trump`s Florida home as we wait for the Justice Department to turn over the affidavit. And, David Cay Johnston joining us to discuss what prosecutors might be looking for from the new felon, Allen Weisselberg.



VELSHI: The bad legal news for Donald Trump and his allies continuing today. This time it involves South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham. For the second time this week, a federal judge denied his motion to quash a subpoena from the Fulton County grand jury that`s investigating interference in the 2020 election in Georgia.

Graham has been trying to wiggle his way out of the subpoena for weeks now with his lawyers arguing that his calls to the Georgia Secretary of State, Brad Raffensperger, were part of his duties as the Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and are protected under the speech and debate clause of the constitution.

Federal Judge Leigh Martin May isn`t buying it. She writes in her ruling, quote, "The court finds that under the unique facts of this case, the public interest would not be served by granting a stay. In this context, the public interest is well-served with a lawful investigation aimed at uncovering the facts and circumstances of alleged attempts to disrupt or influence Georgia`s elections is allowed to proceed without unnecessary encumbrances. Indeed, it is important that citizens maintain faith that there are mechanisms in place for investigating any such attempt to disrupt elections and, if necessary, to prosecute these crimes, which by their very nature, strike at the heart of a democratic system."

By their very nature strike at the heart of a democratic system. Pending the results of another motion to stay, Senator Graham is testifying -- scheduled to testify before the Fulton County grand jury on Tuesday. The Fulton County investigation is just one of the major investigations into Trump world that we`re following. Of particular interest, is the DOJ`s investigation into the classified documents that they recovered after a search of Donald Trump`s Florida home this weekend, or last week, actually.

The judge overseeing that case told the Justice Department to submit its proposed redactions to the affidavit that convinced him to sign off on the search warrant. Trump has claims he wants the full unredacted affidavit released publicly, but notably, has not directed his lawyers to actually file any motions to that effect. Trump`s attorney, Christina Bobb, was questioned about the decision last night on Fox.


LAURA INGRAHAM, FOX NEWS HOST: Are you not concerned that because you didn`t join any of these motions, for again, the full release of this affidavit, that you are then waving possible objections to the way redactions are being done by the Justice Department later on?

CHRISTINA BOBB, ATTORNEY FOR DONALD TRUMP: We will maintain that we haven`t waved our right, and that is still is maintained. You know, we need to wait and see. I can`t be certain at this point because we haven`t seen the affidavit. We certainly haven`t seen the redactions and how it`s going to play out, but you know, we`ll be making that decision as it comes out. You know, we got to see it. We haven`t seen it. It has been under seal. So, I don`t know. We can`t say.


VELSHI: Joining us now is Paul Butler. He`s a professor of law Georgetown University and former federal prosecutor. Also joining us Jill Wine-Banks, served as an assistant Watergate prosecutor. Both of them are great friends and MSNBC legal analysts. So good to see both of you.

Jill, let me start with you. Christina Bobb, Trump`s lawyer saying we haven`t seen this affidavit so we don`t know what`s in it. So, she didn`t really know what`s to say about it, which seems reasonable if she hasn`t seen it. So, why does talk from Trump world about release the whole thing, unredacted, everything in there, we`re not sure what`s in it, but release the whole thing. I`m having trouble as a non-legal person understanding what this dance is that`s going on.

JILL WINE-BANKS, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: It is a dance. It isn`t a serious legal position. You are not alone in being baffled. I scratch my head. You cannot say to the American public, I want this released, but I`m not willing to go to court and make that argument. He doesn`t want it released because he knows and his lawyers know that there will be very damaging information in that.

It will -- yes, release the names of people that we should not have released and there is no way, in my view, that this judge or any judge in America would release the names of people who are cooperating with the investigation because it would endanger not only the investigation, but the lives of those.


And also, would deter future witnesses from coming forward if that were to happen. But if you really wanted this, instead of making this a game where you could take the narrative and say, I want this out there, I`m not hiding anything.

VELSHI: Right.

WINE-BANKS: Then -- I would quote William Barr in his reaction, but I don`t want to say it on live television. But it is exactly what he said about the arguments that were being made before.

VELSHI: Paul, the Department of Justice has said there are things that we do, people who we`ve talked to, as Jill just said, it would compromise that and may compromise future cooperation from certain people or deter people from coming forward. This does -- I don`t know what`s in it either, but a lot of these does seem to hinge on names and ways in which the Department of Justice got its information.

And it seems like the Trump side would like to have -- they always seem to want to have names out there and things like that out there. And some of that is actually just dangerous these days. Being a named FBI agent involved in this would be dangerous to you.

PAUL BUTLER, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, Ali. So, the judge has to balance the values of our open criminal legal system and freedom of the press. I guess the prosecutor`s concerns about protecting the integrity of the ongoing investigation. Remember, this affidavit contains a detailed statement of probable cause in which the FBI explained why it believes there is evidence of three different felonies at Mar-a-Lago.

And there is a really interesting line in DOJ`s filing that says releasing the affidavit would serve as a roadmap to where the investigation is going and if that is made public, its investigation will be compromised.

VELSHI: You both have made it a little bit clearer to me and I appreciate that. Although it seems like folks on one side of this thing will confuse me again tomorrow because that seems to be the way they roll these states. Jill, good to see you. As always, Jill Wine-Banks. And Paul, thanks again for being with me. Paul Butler.

Joining our conversation now is David Cay Johnston. He`s a Pulitzer Prize- winning investigative reporter. He`s done extensive reporting on Donald Trump`s finances. He`s the author of "The Big Cheat: How Donald Trump Fleeced America and Enriched Himself and His Family," which has aged quite well. David, good to see you my old friend. Thank you for being with us tonight.


VELSHI: Donald Trump has posted on his social media site that, "A major motion pertaining to the Fourth Amendment will soon be filed concerning the illegal break-in of my home Mar-a-Lago, right before the ever-important Mid-term Elections. My rights, together with the rights of all Americans, have been violated at a level rarely seen before in this country. Remember, they even spied on my campaign. The greatest Witch Hunt in USA history has been going on for six years, with no consequences to the scammers. It should not be allowed to continue!"

I`ll give him credit. He puts a lot into a social media posting. There`s a lot of grievance in there, including, I suspect, a whole lot of Americans looking up the Fourth Amendment right now.

JOHNSTON: Yes, and Donald should actually read the Fourth Amendment, which provides for the execution of a search warrant, which was done midmorning by unarmed FBI agents who effectively made an appointment. Trump`s lawyers were there during the search. That says you can`t search your home and your papers after a magistrate signs a warrant based on probable cause. What we`re seeing here is a clown show legal defense, that is as clownish as his failed coup attempt on January 6th last year.

VELSHI: Let`s talk about Allen Weisselberg for a second because you have spent a lot of time covering the financial side of Donald Trump. Allen Weisselberg`s plea deal points to federal tax violations with the Trump organization.

The court has said, as part of this, that it`s also true that from at least 2005 to 2021, together with the Trump Corporation and the Trump Payroll Corporation, Jeffrey McConney and others, you engaged in a scheme to defraud federal New York State, and New York City Tax Authorities with the purpose of compensating yourself and other Trump corporation employees in a manner so that substantial portions of your income and theirs were intentionally unreported or misreported by the Trump Corporation or Trump Payroll Corporation to the taxing authority.

The defendant, Weisselberg says, "Yes, your honor." Connect this to me to any of the larger things going on with Donald Trump and what role Weisselberg will play, if any?

JOHNSTON: Well, Donald Trump has, throughout his career lied and denied in financial records. He tried to cheat the city of New York out of about $2.5 million a year and went through farcical attempts to hide the business records, that`s in my book, "The Making of Donald Trump."


And in this case, this is a matter where Donald`s lawyers went, oh, the money isn`t that much and everybody does this. If you are a median wage worker in this country, you have to work 52 years to make $1.8 million. I don`t think that qualifies as fiddling.

What is significant here is that now that Allen Weisselberg is a felon, he is a confessed thief, he has to testify against the Trump Organization when it goes on trial, currently scheduled for October 24th, just before the elections.

So, I suspect it may get delayed. And he has to answer questions truthfully, or he faces much more serious penalties. And there`re going to be questions about how did this scheme work, and what, no doubt, what other tax schemes were going on.

And one other thing, Ali, I think it`s become clear why Alvin Bragg shut down the racketeering investigation which he had the best racketeering lawyer in America, Mark Pomeranz and a superb prosecutor Carrie Dunn (ph). It looks like there`s something else they found or come across or a new theory in the way they`re handling this case.

And I`m not the only want to point this out. Andrew Weissmann, I think, among others, has come to this conclusion. And we should be watching that very carefully because Donald certainly has exposure about his corrupt actions in not paying taxes, in lying on insurance applications and loan applications. And of course, famously for decades, refusing to pay people he owed money to.

VELSHI: David, good to see you as always, my friend. Thank you, there`s always so much information that you have that the rest of us don`t. But we can follow you, and we can read your stuff, and we can be a portion as well informed --

JOHNSTON: Have a good weekend, Ali.

VELSHI: Thanks, buddy. David Cay Johnston.

Coming up, Mitch McConnell has some quality concerns when it comes to Republican Senate candidates. Mandela Barnes who`s working to unseat one of Trump`s strongest backers in the Senate joins me next.



VELSHI: All right. We`re 81 days away from the 2022 midterm elections, the forecast for a Republican takeover is looking a lot worse than it did at the start of the summer. Don`t take it from me. Listen to Mitch McConnell.


SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), SENATE MINORITY LEADER: There is probably a greater likelihood the House flips than the Senate. Senate races are just different. They are statewide. Candidate quality has a lot to do with the outcome. When all is said and done we`re all likely to have an extremely close Senate. Either our side up slightly or their side up slightly.


VELSHI: Candidate quality, that`s a diplomatic way to put it. In Arizona, the Democrat Mark Kelly leads the Trump endorsed Republican Blake Masters 50 to 42. Blake Masters once claimed that the Unabomber was one of his ideological influences.

In Florida, the Democratic Congresswoman Val Demings leads the Republican incumbent Marco Rubio by four points.

In Georgia, Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock leads the Republican Herschel Walker by three points. A new ad features Herschel Walker`s ex wife describing his threats while holding a gun to her head.

And in Wisconsin, our next guest, Wisconsin`s Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes, leads Republican Senator Ron Johnson by four points.

Joining us now is the lieutenant governor of Wisconsin, Mandela Barnes. He`s Wisconsin`s Democratic nominee for senator.

Lieutenant Governor Barnes, good to see you again. Thank you for being with us tonight.

LT. GOV. MANDELA BARNES (D-WI), SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: Great to see you too. Thanks so much for having me today.

VELSHI: Let`s talk about how you deal with a candidate like Ron Johnson because there was a time I still remember when Ron Johnson was a fairly mainstream Republican candidate. What happens -- what happens now? Because he`s not. He`s endorsed conspiracy theories, he has endorsed various levels of election denial. What does that make you need to do now?

BARNES: I`ll tell you, the choice is simple. We are leading with our values, we are leading with our vision. On the other hand, you have Ron Johnson who drifts further and further out of touch from reality. Further out of touch from the reason that he was elected to serve. Leaving people behind whether its Social Security, whether it`s Medicare.

And I will tell you, he has doubled his wealth in office, but could not be concerned but quality of life for the rest of Wisconsin. That is the problem here. That`s exactly why I`m also leading Ron Johnson with Independent voters in Wisconsin.

This is a person who has spent his time in office delivering $215 million in tax deductions for a handful of his wealthiest donors. And we also have the Marquette poll that shows us with a seven-point lead over Ron Johnson.

People understand very well who he is. He has been much more blatant than he had been in previous years. But still, we can`t take anything for granted. We need all the help we can possibly get because Ron Johnson is in the pocket of big pharmaceutical companies and big oil.

And that`s why the folks step up and join us so we can win in November by going to and helping us out.


VELSHI: But tell me about those people who you might try and raise (ph) -- the Independents, maybe disgruntled Republicans, conservatives, moderates. Does all the stuff you just talked about, which feels like the way politics should be talked about, the policies that affect people and where you stand and where Ron Johnson stands.

Does that matter? Or do you ever talk about the unusual and extreme positions that Ron Johnson seems to like to carve out for himself these days?

BARNES: Well, these things do matter because Wisconsin is a working class state and this is not going to be about left or right, red or blue. It`s going to be about the people that had been at the top with the assistance of Ron Johnson, everybody else has been left behind at the bottom.

He`s gone across -- has run against every middle class family in the state. Every working class family and individual, regardless of what party you identify with, this stuff transcends ideology. He is a person who is against letting Medicare negotiate fair drug prices. He voted against capping the cost of insulin. He doubled down in this fight to slash social security. I can`t think of a more out of touch and extreme positions to take.

And he has shown that we cannot trust him to represent us in the United States Senate. It`s also one of the reasons why 110,000 people voted against him in the Republican primary last week.

And we all know that we deserve better in the state. We all -- we`re going to fight for it. We`re going to organize for better. That`s what this campaign is about.

VELSHI: Lieutenant Governor, good to see you. Thank you for joining us tonight. Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes is running in Wisconsin for that Senate seat.

All right. Coming up another dispatch from the post-Roe world. Women in Michigan have lost their constitutional right to an abortion. Now Republican prosecutors in the state want to enforce the states 1931 ban. And today a judge said no.



VELSHI: Chilling and dangerous. That`s how a Michigan judge described the impact of that state`s 1931 abortion ban that he blocked today, meaning that for now, abortion will remain legal in Michigan and health care providers will be protected from prosecution.

Now the 1931 law quote, "makes almost all abortions a felony with no exemptions for rape or incest allowing it only in the vaguely defined instances where abortion is necessary to preserve the life of the mother. Abortion providers and people who use medication to self manage an abortion could face up to four years in prison", according to the "Washington Post".

Now today, the judge seemed to scold the prosecutors, who were seeking to enforce that 1931 ban.


JUDGE JACOB CUNNINGHAM: Weaponizing the criminal law against providers to force pregnancy on our state`s women is simply contrary to notions of due process, equal protection, and bodily autonomy.

I`m not issuing an injunction today. The court would send the health care system into crisis. The extreme cost of which would then be put on the women of our great state and not lost on the court without any repercussion for that men who, without a doubt, are a necessary component to create a pregnancy.


VELSHI: But the judge concluded with an important point. And that is that Michigan voters should ultimately decide the fate of abortion rights through an initiative that is likely to appear on the ballot in November.

Joining us now is Allison Donahue, reporter at "Michigan Advance", where she covers education and women and LGBTQ issues. Alison, thanks for being with us tonight.

I do want to figure out, I want to let you know what I`ve said, when I said it will likely be on the ballot. They collected more than enough signatures to get the ballot measure on, but some things happening right now that is adding a little confusion to the matter.

ALLISON DONAHUE, REPORTER, "MICHIGAN ADVANCE": Yes. Thanks for having me, first of all. The challenges for a ballot initiatives were submitted today. And one group challenged the reproductive freedom for all initiatives because of a line spacing issue and the text, the language of the proposal.

VELSHI: A line spacing issue?

DONAHUE: Yes, some of the words were squeezed together. Yes, just clearly a spacing issue happened with the printer, but that`s what`s being challenged.

VELSHI: Wow. Ok, let`s assume that the ballot measure gets on for the ballot. This stuff that the judge did today, putting the state into place, the doesn`t outlive the ballot, and then, right? He`s basically saying this is for the people of Michigan to decide, and then whatever happens on November 8th then supersedes the stay or the stay expires.

DONAHUE: Yes, so this stay is in place just while there are some abortion rights, abortion acts lawsuits going through the courts right now through litigation. So, this stay will be in place until litigation is settled, which is unclear exactly when that will happen in the Michigan Supreme Court. But then, again, however voters decide in November could make the law move anyway.

VELSHI: Yes. So that -- right. So I guess it becomes very important to Michigan voters to understand that the right to an abortion continues today in Michigan but could end on November 8th, if this doesn`t go a certain way.

Alison, thanks for joining us tonight. Thanks for your reporting, Allison Donahue.

DONAHUE: Yes. Thanks so much for having me.

VELSHI: All right. Coming up -- how Democrats plan to talk to voters about the economy this fall. Jared Bernstein, a member of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, joins me next.



VELSHI: Here is a truly shocking headline. Inflation over 10 percent in the United Kingdom. It`s a sort of headline that messes things up for Joe Biden`s critics who feel like he is kind of to blame for all the ills, but it`s hard to blame Biden for the record breaking inflation in the U.K. or in Turkey where it`s over 75 percent, or Argentina at about 60 percent.

Are Joe Biden and his policies to blame for that to? Of course not. Inflation in the U.S. is still high. It`s over 8 percent, but it`s trending down in large part due to global factors.

Supply chain issues caused by the pandemic, Putin`s invasion of Ukraine and its impact on world oil and gas prices. Gas prices now averaging $3.91 a gallon according to AAA with many states in the south significantly lower than that.

And remember, during the presidential campaign, Donald Trump used to taunt voters to check their 401(k)s before they voted.


VELSHI: Well, the Dow is currently 33000, a number far higher than it ever was during the Trump administration, the unemployment rate is as low as it`s been in recent history, 3.5 percent.

A recent Gallup poll shows voters understand all of this. 72 percent of people say it`s a good time to find a quality job. That`s the highest that number`s been in 20 years.

Joining us now is Jared Bernstein, a member of the White House Council of Economic Advisers. Jared, good to see you. Thank you for being with us.

I`m kind of -- you know, this act, this big bill that`s passed, the Inflation Reduction Act. I know that there is going to be a big effort by you folks to go out there and tell people about how it reduces inflation, or fixes things in the economy. But you`re dealing with a broken start.

You`re dealing with a whole bunch of critics blaming Joe Biden for things that Joe Biden didn`t do.

JARED BERNSTEIN, WHITE HOUSE COUNCIL OF ECONOMIC ADVISERS: Yes, it`s very important to bring in the global perspective, as you just did there. Inflation is a global phenomenon and Joe Biden is not president of the globe. If you ask yourself well what did happen in every country over the past couple of years, and of course, the answer is COVID-19.

And as you`ve mentioned, it wrecked havoc on supply chains across the globe. Especially during the period where we were importing a lot of manufactured goods, that helped to contribute to the inflation problem. And it is still elevated today.

But as you suggested, the month of July, inflation posted a zero, 8.5 percent year over year, down from north of 9 in June. So that`s a movement in the right direction, but it is still unacceptably high inflation.

So I think the issue there is what is our administration doing under the president`s leadership to try to ease prices? And there you have the results at the pump which he talked about, very much related to his release of oil from the strategic reserves.

But even that unsnarling of the supply chain relates to many of our efforts in the ports trying to get goods from ship to shelf more smoothly. We will certainly be trying to help people understand the efforts we have been undergoing to help reduce price pressures.

VELSHI: In all the stuff that is happened and all the enumeration of the bills that have been passed, and even some bipartisan work that has been done, the one that`s almost most interesting to me and probably the least newsworthy to a whole lot of people is semiconductors.

We have a serious semiconductor problem in this country. We have a bill that is now going to try and alleviate that. Do you even bother trying to tell that to people? Like is that the kind of stuff that you guys are going to go out and talk about?

BERNSTEIN: Well, definitely. Every accomplishment that this president has overseen is fodder for trying to explain how he`s made and kept the promises that brought him here. I think that one way to think about this, Ali, which I think might resonate with you. We`ve been talking about this kind of economics for a long time, you and I. Is if you think about the infrastructure plan, it`s investments in public goods. If you think about the Inflation Reduction Act, it`s investments in clean energy. And the Chips Act, it standing up domestic semiconductor industry here on our shores.

What you really have there is a triumvirate to reverse the disinvestment in America that has occurred for decades on end. Disinvestment in public goods, disinvestment in resilient supply chains, certainly disinvestment or not enough investment in clean energy.

So not only will we boost the general public goods -- the roads, the bridges, the ports, the broadband systems. That`s the infrastructure bill that you like so much, as do I.

But also, we will crowd in private investment by signaling that in the area of clean energy, in the area of semiconductors, this is a great time to invest in America for a strong return on investment. And especially with semiconductors, we are already seeing that. Numerous companies are telling us they`re going to take advantage.

VELSHI: And that`s where people used cars, and new cars are going to become cheaper. I have one last question for you. What do you say to people that say you all caused some of this inflation stuff by giving everybody money when you got into office?

BERNSTEIN: Yes I think when you look at some of the supply concerns we mentioned earlier, that`s very much related to the inflation. Look, I think that fiscal policy and monetary policy, what the fiscal authorities and the Federal Reserve were doing was very much trying to fight off the deepest recession that we`ve seen since the Great Depression.

And this was a real success under the American Rescue Plan. You know, we haven`t had a chance to talk about this today, but we learned today that there are now 22 states with record low unemployment rates below 3 percent. That is a record, going back to when those data started in the mid 70s.


BERNSTEIN: That relates directly to shots in arms and checks in pockets that this president did when we got there. So did we help to create more demand? Absolutely. Did that demand help to build the strongest labor market we`ve had in generations? No question that it has.

VELSHI: Jared, good to see you, my friend. Thank you for joining us tonight.

Jared Bernstein joining us from the White House. Tonight is -- that`s tonight`s LAST WORD, by the way.

I`m going to see you tomorrow morning, special edition of "THE VELSHI BANNED BOOK CLUB".

Stephanie Ruhle joins us now -- I`m going to talk about Salman Rushdie, by the way.

Stephanie Ruhle joins you for her show starting right now.