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Transcript: The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, 8/24/22

Guests: Andrew Weissmann, Roland Gutierrez, David Rothkopf, Phillips O`Brien, Adam Schiff


The Uvalde, Texas school board has just terminated school district police chief Pete Arredondo over his failures at the mass shooting at the Robb Elementary school where 19 students and two teachers were murdered three months ago. It was independence day today in Ukraine where they celebrated 31 years of independence from the cruel dictatorship of the former Soviet Union. Ukrainians also marked the six-month point in their survival of the terrorist attack on their country launched by the most murderous terrorist of the 21st century, Vladimir Putin; Interview with Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA). Today, the Justice Department decided not to continue a court fight over a freedom of Information Act Request to release a 2019 memo to Donald Trump`s attorney general, William Barr, saying that the special counsel`s investigation led by Robert Mueller did not find proof of obstruction of justice by Donald Trump.


LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Alex, and of course, tomorrow`s redaction day. Tomorrow is the day that 12:00 noon, the judge has set a deadline in that Florida court for the Justice Department submitting possible redactions to the FBI affidavit that the judge used as the basis for ordering the search warrant of Donald Trump`s home.

And so, it is time for night, we could be staring at all sorts of new information and that affidavit or tiny pieces of it, if it is mostly redacted.


O`DONNELL: Sentences --

WAGNER: A lot of black tape!

O`DONNELL: We shall see. Who knows --

WAGNER: We shall.

O`DONNELL: -- 24 hours will bring?

Thank you, Alex.

WAGNER: Have a good show. Have a good show.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

Well, one reason that the National Archives knew that Donald Trump did not hand over all presidential records when he left the White House was that some of the most famous documents of the Trump presidency were not delivered to the archives after Joe Biden`s inauguration day. First among them was the very first document Donald Trump received as document, a handwritten letter from President Barack Obama to his successor.

That, by tradition, as everyone knows, is tucked into a drawer in the desk in the Oval Office for the incoming president. It was public information on inauguration day in 2017. That president Obama left that letter for Donald Trump, who said, it was, quote, a beautiful letter. He actually said that about the president Obama letter to him.

And then, there were the letters that became, possibly, the most famous presidential letters in history. The Trump love letters.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: I got a very beautiful letter from Kim Jong-un, he really wrote beautiful -- three page, I mean right from top to bottom, a really beautiful letter.


O`DONNELL: Donald Trump never said very much about the text of those letters from the North Korean dictator. But he was never shy about the feelings expressed in those letters.


TRUMP: We fell in love. Okay? No, really. He wrote me beautiful letters. And they are great letters. We fell in love.


O`DONNELL: For most of us, and that was just more Trumpian buffoonery. That was just Donald Trump opening up like that about love letters from a murderous dictator, was, for the most of us, just another one of those moments when we knew he was crazy but we did not know he was that crazy.

But imagine, imagine you are a senior archivist at the National Archives. And you are watching the news that night on September 29th, 2018. And you see and hear Donald Trump say about Kim Jong-un, he wrote me beautiful letters and had great letters. We fell in love.

You are an archivist. You know those letters are coming your way at some point. Do you jump off of the sofa at home when you hear that? Do you spill whatever you were drinking when you hear Donald Trump say that? That he has beautiful letters from Kim Jong-un? He has love letters from the murderous North Korean dictator, who starves his people?

From that moment forward, every archivist working at the National Archives -- who knew that they were going to see, eventually, the Trump presidential papers had to be planning, on day one of delivery of the Trump presidential papers. An immediate high-speed search for the Trump love letters with Kim Jong-un.

But the Trump presidential papers showed up at the end of the Trump presidency. And the love letters weren`t there. President Obama`s letter, to Donald Trump wasn`t there. And that is why the archives lawyers started asking the Trump lawyers for the rest of Donald Trump`s presidential papers, not knowing how much more a Donald Trump had been illegally holding back at that point and keeping in his possession.


But they knew that he had the love letters and he had the President Obama letter. "The Washington Post" is reporting tonight on an email they have exclusively obtained from the chief counsel of the National Archives, Gary Stern, to Trump lawyers for months after Donald Trump left office, with the subject line, need for assistance regarding presidential letters.

Gary Stern had apparently been in communication with Trump`s White House counsel Pat Cipollone who apparently agreed that there were presidential records that still needed to be delivered to the National Archives.

Gary Stern`s email to the Trump`s lawyers four months after the presidency, he says, it is also our understanding that roughly two dozen boxes of original presidential records were kept in the residence of the White House over the course of President Trump`s last year in office and have not been transferred to the National Archives, despite a determination by Cipollone in the final days of the administration that they needed to be. "The Washington Post" reports that in his email, Stern cites at least two high-profile documents that the archives knew at the time were missing -- letters from North Korean leader Kim Jong-un -- and a letter from former president Barack Obama at the beginning of Trump`s presidency.

That`s how the investigation of Donald Trump`s illegal possession of presidential records and other governmental records, including classified records, began. It was about the love letters. The archives wanted to know where is that traditional letter on from the outgoing president, to the incoming president. And where are the love letters with Kim Jong-un?

In that first email, Archives Attorney Gary Stern seems to know something about the love letters already. He seemed to know that Donald Trump had specifically decided to take personal possession of the love letters in his very final days in office.

"The Washington Post" reports that attorney Gary Stern, quote, did cite the correspondence between Trump and Kim as an example of an item the former president requested just prior to the end of the administration. Stern wrote: It is our understanding that in January 2021, just prior to the end of the administration, the originals were put in a binder for the president, but we return to the office of records management for the National Archives.

So, already, just a few months after Donald Trump left office, people who work from the Trump White House, were obviously already informing the National Archives about exactly when Donald Trump took personal possession of the Kim Jong-un love letters. The National Archives spent the rest of that full year trying to get those documents back and whatever else Donald Trump had. And we now know that, at the end of that first year out of office, Donald Trump personally looked through the boxes of government records at his Florida home.

The New York Times reported, stir Mr. Trump went through the boxes himself in late 2021, according to multiple people briefed on his efforts, before turning them over. And then, one year after Donald Trump left office, and after Donald Trump personally went through all those boxes at the end of 2021, 15 boxes of documents were returned to the National Archives from Donald Trump`s Florida home, and still, still Donald Trump was illegally keeping more classified government records and other government records in his home.

And so, the National Archives got the justice department involved and federal prosecutors working with FBI agents issued a subpoena for all the rest of the records that could be remaining at Donald Trump`s home and in early June, federal prosecutors and FBI agents, visited Donald Trump`s home in a scheduled visit with Donald Trump`s lawyers, where Donald Trump`s lawyers handed over even more documents to return to the archives.


And then, one of the Trump lawyers, Christina Bobb actually signed a written statement saying, that`s it, that`s all the right material we have here. You now have it all. Signed your name to that. No more government records, no more classified material left in the home after that day in June.

Federal investigators became convinced very quickly that that was not true, and then they convinced a Florida federal judge to issue a search warrant of Donald Trump`s Florida home for evidence of illegal possession of government records and illegal possession of classified records, and evidence of obstruction of justice. And that search was carried out on August 8th.

Tomorrow, that same federal judge in Florida will decide how much of what the FBI told him about the possible crimes in this case, can be revealed to the public. Judge Bruce Reinhart will consider releasing the FBI affidavit, or portions of it, that convinced him to issue the search warrant tomorrow after a 12:00 noon deadline tomorrow that he imposed on the Justice Department, asking the Justice Department to submit to him suggested redactions to the affidavit to protect individual sources and other possible sensitive issues raised in that FBI affidavit.

Judge Reinhart has said that it is possible that the redactions would have to be so extensive that there would be no real point in releasing an almost fully redacted affidavit. The judge could decide as early as tomorrow afternoon about whether the affidavit can be released and in what form. But what will not be released tomorrow afternoon, or probably ever, or the Trump love letters, which are classified material.

Joining us now is Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff of California, chair of the house intelligence committee, and member of the January 6th select committee and served as the lead impeachment manager for the first impeachment trial of Donald Trump. The paperback addition of his book, midnight in Washington, how we almost lost our democracy and still could, he`s now available with a new afterward.

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

As you`ve seen the development of the evidence in this case, and just about every day, we`ve gotten a new piece of it, and now, we have this reporting of tonight from "The Washington Post", about this early email from the Archives, saying, any fact, we know that you have got some stuff and we know that we don`t have the love letters and we don`t have the Barack Obama letter. So, we know that is there. What else is there? Give it all to us.

And you can see, for a year, the Archives is playing very gently with the Trump team, and just hoping that the next communication will deliver all the documents.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): Well, Lawrence, you laid it out very well, and that`s exactly the chronology they learned because the president was talking about these love letters that they don`t have all the documents they should. And they asked for them, they played for them, the Trump team dragged their feet and drag their feet. They get the documents, or least some of them. They want to share them with the FBI because they are concerned now that there are classified materials and the Justice Department and intelligence agency need to assess what damage might have been done. The Trump people fight that.

And, as you said, a Trump lawyer ultimately certifies that they have given up all the classified information and they haven`t. I think what is particularly interesting about what you are mentioning is Trump`s own view of the materials because that puts him right in the middle of this. If he is looking over the boxes of materials that should have been provided at the end of the presidency, and he knows what is being turned over any knows, importantly, what is not being turned over. (AUDIO GAP) on someone else, as would be the president`s practice of somehow conveying responsibility to others and away of himself.

O`DONNELL: And there is that quote, "The New York Times" reported from staff, who were trying to convince him that this stuff had to be sent back to the archives, where Donald Trump said, it is not there, is it is mine. And he, it seems, believed that, even though he was told multiple times the law was.

You get the feeling -- do you get the feeling that he had his reason to believe that the law would not be enforced against him, was that William Barr made sure that obstruction of justice laws were not in any way enforced against Donald Trump?

SCHIFF: Well, yes. I mean, he certainly had that expectation during his presidency because that is exactly how the department of justice was run.

Now in recent days, Bill Barr and, indeed, Stephen Engel (AUDIO GAP) memorandum, this wreaths reads like a defense lawyers briefed. And that Trump shouldn`t be indicted they crossed a lot of lines before they ultimately decided they couldn`t cross the line of lying about the election.

But yes, Trump felt immune, and to some degree, may still feel immune, as long as he is a political (AUDIO GAP) as long as he is in the mix, I think it`s one of the motivations he has to once again run for the presidency, which is, to stay one step ahead of the jailer. But I do think that the search of Mar-a-Lago, after all of the abortive efforts to get these materials shows that there is a will in the Justice Department to follow the law, even when that law leads to the former president.

O`DONNELL: I know is a member of the January 6th committee, in that role, you had developed a certain amount of public and, shall we say, with the Justice Department in, as far as you can tell, not pursuing the same areas that you have been pursuing in the committee. How do you feel about the way that the Justice Department is proceeding now?

SCHIFF: I am encouraged by the steps that we are willing to take, with respect to the documents at Mar-a-Lago, which, among having some of those highly classified markings on them, pose a real danger for national security, should they fall into the wrong hands -- I would feel better, though, Lawrence, if I saw that same level of determination and urgency as it pertains to the much more serious events, in my view, revolving around an attack on our democracy in an attack on our capitol.

There is no reason why the Fulton County district attorney`s office should be so far out ahead of the Justice Department in its investigation of their former presidents efforts to overturn the election in Georgia. Or we are so far behind our investigation when they ask for all of our files, my first reaction was, why don`t you have your own files?

But it is encouraging, I think, that after showing great patience, some of these documents with Mar-a-Lago -- maybe too much patience -- they ultimately concluded they were being stonewalled and possibly obstructed in violation of the law and they would go forward with the search.

O`DONNELL: Congressman Adam Schiff, thank you very much for joining us tonight. We really appreciate it.

SCHIFF: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: And coming up, what a difference an attorney general makes. Donald Trump`s Attorney General William Barr covered up evidence of obstruction of justice by Donald Trump, and tonight, Attorney General Merrick Garland is actually pursuing a criminal obstruction of justice investigation of Donald Trump. Andrew Weissmann joins us next.


O`DONNELL: This time tomorrow night, we might be reporting on new information learned from the possible release of a redacted version of an FBI affidavit that a federal judge in Florida relied on and has says he believed when he authorized the search warrant of Donald Trump`s home in Florida because that affidavit convinced the judge that the FBI would probably find evidence of obstruction of justice as well as evidence of other possible crimes involving the possession of government documents, including classified documents.

It is not the first time that the Justice Department had evidence of obstruction of justice by Donald Trump.

Today, the Justice Department decided not to continue a court fight over a freedom of Information Act Request to release a 2019 memo to Donald Trump`s attorney general, William Barr, saying that the special counsel`s investigation led by Robert Mueller did not find proof of obstruction of justice by Donald Trump. Two Trump appointed Justice Department appointed lawyers said in writing, in the memo, that`s Donald Trump`s discussion with FBI director James Comey about the FBI`s investigation of Michael Flynn was not obstruction of justice because, quote, the presidents expression of hope that Comey would let this go did not clearly direct a particular action in the Flynn investigation.

The memo also said that Donald Trump ordered the firing of special counsel Robert Mueller was not attempted obstruction of justice or obstruction of justice because, quote, there is considerable evidence to suggest that the president took these official actions, not for an illegal purpose, but rather because he believed the investigation was politically motivated and undermined his administration`s efforts to govern.

The memo also said, we likewise do not believe that the president`s public statements exhorting witnesses, like Flynn, Manafort, Stone or Cohen, not to flip should be viewed as obstruction of justice. That means that the two authors of this bill are the only federal prosecutors in history who do not know what flip means.


It is, of course, the term traditionally used by gangsters and Donald Trump to mean a witness engaged in criminal conduct who flips and decides to tell the truth in court about that criminal conduct.

Joining us now is Andrew Weissmann, former FBI general counsel and former chief of the criminal division in the eastern district of New York. He is professor of practice at NYU law school and an MSNBC legal analyst.

Andrew, I want to first get your view of what you expect tomorrow at noon when the judge gets the Justice Department`s proposed redactions of that affidavit.

ANDREW WEISSMANN, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: So, Lawrence, I love that you are really optimistic about what we might expect tomorrow.


WEISSMANN: But I think that what we should expect tomorrow is nothing. That submission is going to be given to the court under seal, so we won`t see that, at least initially. And I think the judge is going to need to study it and look at it, and decide what party agrees with, what parts he may disagree with.

So, I think it may take -- I think tomorrow might be -- I wouldn`t hold your breath. But we will see. Maybe you will be right and that`s something by the end of the day. But I would think a couple days at least. You could ask the other side to submit something on a legal point.

O`DONNELL: So, he may just take the proposed redactions, study them, take his time, figure it out, and tomorrow, most likely, no action by the judge.

I want to get your reaction to this release, now, of this memo that we are seeing today for the very first time from two lawyers in the Justice Department, who up here,, as you read, it appeared to be working with Donald Trump`s defense lawyers trying to come up with the most absurdist possible defenses, like we think warning -- publicly warning -- witnesses not to flip, is okay.

WEISSMANN: So, it is hard to relive this. This was a very difficult moment in our lives in the special counsel, given what Bill Barr did here. It is remarkable that none of these people addressed in this memo the obvious point, which is, if they wanted director Mueller, who is serving a special counsel, to actually make a decision on the obstruction evidence, they could have just told him to do that. And it was good reason for them to do that, because, after, all this was given to a special counsel for Sicily because a determination was made that decision should not be -- the investigation should not be done by political appointees of Donald Trump.

There is a good reason that we now know from this memo, that that didn`t happen. Because in the memo, they say, when this report comes out, the public is going to think that the president obstructed justice, which, it`s pretty clear, that`s exactly what people would think. Many, many prosecutors said so.

So, they came up with really absurdist arguments that -- it reminds me of their position with Michael Flynn. They just said things that just don`t apply to anyone else. You made reference to some of it. There are other things in the memo where they say, you know, if you haven`t committed an underlying crime, then you cannot be guilty of obstructing an investigation.

But that`s insane. And the prosecutor knows that that is not true. You might lie to prosecutors because you just don`t want an affair to become public. You have all sorts of reasons that you might obstruct an investigation and it doesn`t mean that you committed some underlying crime.

They get the law wrong on that point. So, it`s really whitewashed. And there is a reason that the district judge in the court of appeals ruled against the department. And a district judge was quite vehement, saying that the department, which is under Bill Barr, was disingenuous, a fancy word for, they lied to her about what was in this memo.

O`DONNELL: Is it your impression that the authors of this memo hoped and believed that it could never become public?

WEISSMANN: I think that, yes, I think that`s right. This was written by the head of the Office of Legal Counsel and he probably thought that this would be governed by deliberative process.


And frankly, the court of appeals here said essentially, you know, if you hadn`t lied to the district judge about what you were doing, this might have been deliberative process. But they basically said, you know, if you lie to a judge, you are going to be sanctioned. And the sanction here was making it public.

O`DONNELL: Andrew Weissmann thank you very much for joining us tonight. Really appreciate it.

WEISSMANN: You`re welcome.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

And coming up, we have breaking news at this hour, the Uvalde school board has just terminated school district police chief Pete Arredondo over his failures at the mass shooting at the elementary school in Uvalde, where 19 students were murdered and two teachers were murdered three months ago. State Senator Roland Gutierrez will join us next.



DANIEL MYERS, UVALDE RESIDENT: You don`t care a squat about this family. If it was one of your children, heads would be rolling right now. But because it is not, you don`t care.


O`DONNELL: If it was one of your children, heads would be rolling right now. That was Daniel Myers speaking to a meeting of the Uvalde school board tonight, where the question before the school board was whether to continue the employment contract of the school district`s police chief, Pete Arredondo, who allowed over an hour to pass in Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, before police opened the door of a classroom and killed a mass murderer who had killed 19 children and two teachers.


CAITLIN GONZALEZ, UVALDE STUDENT: I have messages for Pete Arredondo and other law enforcement that were there that day. Turn in your badge and step down. You don`t deserve to wear one.


O`DONNELL: Chief Arredondo and his lawyers did not show up at the meeting tonight to present a public defense of the chief. But Arredondo`s lawyers did submit it`s a written statement to the school board in which they complained of inadequate due process as required, they say, by Texas law. And they said, quote, "Chief Arredondo did the right thing. The chief did everything he knew how to save the children and school employees on May 24th."

The technical legal argument Arredondo`s lawyers made in the written statement was clearly presented. But the rest of the statement was very badly written, and at times, directly insulted people who lost family members in the mass murder.

The statement actually says, "So, naturally, those affected lash out and seek more retribution by identifying a new target to focus their grief on, with the belief that it will help them stop hurting. Unfortunately, it won`t."

And so there are Pete Arredondo and his lawyers going inside the minds of the grieving families and claiming that those families are angry at Pete Arredondo and are expressing their anger at Pete Arredondo just to ease their own pain, not because of anything Pete Arredondo did or didn`t do. Brett Cross, who lost his nephew in the mass murder, asked the school board to not do their business this time in a closed session.


BRETT CROSS, UNCLE OF UVALDE VICTIM: Do not take this as a closed session. We deserve to hear -- our babies are dead, our teachers are dead, our parents are dead. The least you all can do is show us the respect to do this in the public.


O`DONNELL: And after that, the school board went into closed session. When they came out of that closed session, this happened.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Board president, I move that good cause exists to terminate the non-certified contract of Pete Arredondo effective immediately.

I further move that good cause exists to ratify the unpaid leave status of Mr. Arredondo starting July 19th, 2022.

Finally, I move to authorize a superintendent to issue written notice Mr. Arredondo of this board action including filing any needed reports required by the termination.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE). Any further discussion? None. All in favor? Motion passes unanimously.

Item number five --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. board president, I make a motion that we adjourn.

CROWD: We`re not done.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) We stand adjourned. Thank you. Have a good night.


O`DONNELL: And joining us now from Uvalde is NBC News correspondent Priscilla Thompson, who was at that meeting tonight. Priscilla, what was it like when the suspense was finally broken and they took that vote to fire Pete Arredondo?


PRISCILLA THOMPSON, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Lawrence, you saw it there with the crowd erupting in applause and cheers. This is something that many people in this community have been waiting on for three months. And finally, it`s coming tonight with the board finding that there is in fact good cause to terminate Chief Arredondo, or former Chief Arredondo`s contract, effective immediately.

And this was a very tense meeting. It began with around a handful of community members stepping to that microphone and sharing some of those very impassioned speeches that you heard, calling for transparency and accountability.

They did not want this to happen behind closed doors. But the board said that because this was a personnel matter, they were required to do it behind closed doors. And they also wanted to consult with the school board`s attorneys on this issue.

And so, they were in that closed-door meeting for more than an hour, during which you could feel the tension in the room steadily rising as people continue to get up and go to the microphone and share their frustrations.

At one point, a community member even saying, just tell come out and tell us what the decision is already, stop wasting our time.

And so, this was by no means a done deal. Many of the families here felt like there have been hiccups and misinformation every step of the way. Nothing about this process has been easy and they expected that they were in for a fight tonight.

As for Chief Arredondo, he did not attend in person. His attorney, of course, releasing that 17-page statement, calling for his reinstatement and also calling for back pay and benefits. That obviously did not happen.

Tonight, many of the families are calling this a victory for the victims, the families, and also this community, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: NBC`s Priscilla Thompson. Thank you very much for that reporting from Uvalde tonight.

And joining us now is Texas State Senator Roland Gutierrez. He represents Texas`s 19th district, which includes Uvalde. And he attended tonight`s school board meeting.

Senator, thank you for joining us once again tonight. What can you tell us about what it was like to be there tonight?

ROLAND GUTIERREZ, TEXAS STATE SENATOR: Well, thank you Lawrence, for having me. I mean certainly, this community is broken, Lawrence. I mean these families have been asking for this to happen for sometime now. It was 90 days too long.

But obviously, there is a process. They understand that. These folks at the school board probably took a little longer than they needed here to. But the families are absolutely certain that this is just the beginning of accountability.

We still have to look at the local police, the sheriff, and they are talking about those things and the Department of Public Safety. It is unfortunate but we still have so much information that we have yet to even find out, because DPS and this district attorney don`t want us to have the information that these community leaders are asking for this time.

O`DONNELL: One of the things and what I thought was the very badly written section of Pete Arredondo`s lawyer`s statement tonight, was a point that they inartfully, rather terribly and crudely made, that Pete Arredondo was the person who many -- who were involved in this are hoping everyone will just blame him and that will take care of it. He can be the scapegoat. Especially state police officials.

Those lawyers say, they are hoping at the state police level that everyone just looks at what happens tonight and says, ok, that is, it the person responsible for what went wrong there is now gone.

GUTIERREZ: Well, I can tell, you from my part, Lawrence, I am not stopping here. It was clear to me in everything that we have seen so far that the state police are equally as responsible. They arrived at 2:28 -- 91 of them on the scene.

I do find it ironic that Arredondo`s lawyer`s letter seeks justice, and said that he was not receiving justice. Talk to these families. You know, these families haven`t received an ounce of justice. This state, this government, has failed them and failed them prior to May 24th, failed them on May 24th, the worst law enforcement response in this type of case in Texas history. And it has continued to fail them.

This Department of Public Safety has refused to be honest with people, has refused to give us the information that we need. And to be clear, this is Greg Abbott`s own personal Operation Lone Star Task Force that was on the scene.

Greg Abbott has failed these people and his own director, who direct reports to Greg Abbott, has given no accountability and Greg Abbott has asked for no accountability.

O`DONNELL: Texas State Senator Roland Gutierrez, thank you very much for joining us once again on this very important story.

GUTIERREZ: Thank you, Lawrence.


O`DONNELL: Thank you. And coming up, today on Ukraine`s 31st independence day, President Biden authorized the single largest delivery of military aid yet to Ukraine. And terrorist leader Vladimir Putin committed yet another war crime with another missile strike on civilian targets.

That is next.



O`DONNELL: It was independence day today in Ukraine where they celebrated 31 years of independence from the cruel dictatorship of the former Soviet Union. Ukrainians also marked the six-month point in their survival of the terrorist attack on their country launched by the most murderous terrorist of the 21st century, Vladimir Putin.

Vladimir Putin celebrated Ukraine`s independence day, the only way a terrorist knows how, with another Russian war crime, missile strike on a civilian target. This time, Vladimir Putin and the terrorists in his military murdered 22 people and left 50 severely injured.

In a speech, before the Russian terrorist attack today, Ukraine`s President Zelenskyy said that Ukraine was reborn after the Russian terrorists invaded the country. He said, "We finally became truly one. A new nation that emerged on February 24th at 4:00 a.m., not born but reborn. A nation that didn`t cry, didn`t scream, didn`t get scared, didn`t run away, didn`t give up, didn`t forget.

We are holding on for six months. It is difficult for us but we punched our fists, fighting for our faith.

What is the end of the war for us? We used to say peace. Now we say, victory. We will not seek an understanding with the terrorists."

Today, President Biden honored Ukraine independence day by announcing $3 billion dollars in military aid for Ukraine, the largest single military aid package yet for Ukraine. In a written statement, President Biden said, "On behalf of all Americans, I congratulate the people of Ukraine on their independence day. Over the past six months, Ukrainians have inspired the world with their extraordinary courage and dedication to freedom. They have stood resolute and strong in the face of Russia`s full scale invasion of Ukraine. And today is not only a celebration of the past, but a resounding affirmation that Ukraine proudly remains and will remain a sovereign and independent nation."

Joining our discussion now, Phillips O`Brien, professor of strategic studies at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. He is the author of "How The War Was Won: Air, Sea, Power -- an Allied Victory in World War I"I. And David Rothkopf is joining us, foreign affairs analyst and columnist for USA Today and the "Daily Beast".

David, let me begin with you and where you think things stand in Ukraine at this six month point in this war of survival that Ukraine is fighting against Russia.

DAVID ROTHKOPF, FOREIGN AFFAIRS ANALYST: A few things. First, we were not supposed to get here. This was supposed to be over in three days. That did not happen.

In fact, Putin has demonstrated that he is a bad military leader, a bad national leader, and Russia has blundered at every turn. The U.S. Estimate is a loss of 70,000 to 80,000 troops be killed or injured, 4,000 armored vehicles. While Russia holds about 20 percent of Ukraine, the reality is that there are a number of signs that suggest Ukrainians are gaining strength, thanks to western, particularly U.S. support.

And I think now in the next two months we are going to look and see if they can launch a successful initiative to retake Kherson, if they can continue their strikes against Crimea. If they are able to successfully do those things, I think Russia is going to be further on a backfoot, further as we get towards winter.

The other thing we are going to look at is to see whether Europe is indeed able to withstand the pressure that might come from-limited Russian energy supplies. It looks like they are getting ready for that. And so it looks bad for Russia.

O`DONNELL: Phillips O`Brien, six months ago, the fear level of Russia in the neighboring countries was, of course, extremely high. Do they have reason six months later, Poland, for example, to be somewhat less fearful of Russia, when they are seeing what amounts to a Russian military failure so far in Ukraine?

PHILLIPS O`BRIEN, PROFESSOR OF STRATEGIC STUDIES, UNIVERSITY OF ST. ANDREWS: It is a great question, Lawrence. I think in one case, of course, what we had is a horrible military crime committed by Russia. But we also have a tremendous military disaster that we are seeing unfold amongst ourselves.

Putin has put almost his entire armed forces in the Ukraine. By some estimates, 80 -- more than 80 percent of Russian frontline military force has been deployed in Ukraine and it`s been destroyed. It has been stopped. It hasn`t been able to advance.

O`BRIEN: So the idea, for instance, that Russia would represent a threat to NATO now is farcical. I mean NATO would crush the Russian armed forces in a matter of days.

So you know, never before has NATO really been so secure. The reality is, the Russian army was terribly overrated. Ukraine was sadly starved of arms. I mean the big tragedy in this is, had we not overrated the Russian military as this great force going into the war, and had Ukraine been armed properly, the war might be over now because the Russian army simply isn`t as powerful as thought.

But we are where we are and NATO is secure. I mean you know, it doesn`t have to worry about a Russian attack now. And it is a question of helping Ukraine restore what they have lost.

O`DONNELL: Phillips O`Brien and David Rothkopf, thank you both very much for joining us on Ukraine independence day. Really appreciate it.

ROTHKOPF: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

O`BRIEN: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: We`ll be right back.



O`DONNELL: And that is tonight`s LAST WORD.