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Transcript: The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, 8/5/22

Guests: Kristin Myers, William Spriggs, Ro Khanna, Cheri Beasley, Laura Jedeed, Eric Swalwell, Elizabeth Williamson, Kyle Planck


The best week of President Joe Biden. Jobs report is in the positive and gas prices are down. MAGA influencer cosplays as jailed January 6 rioter at the CPAC in Dallas. The real victims of the January 6 insurrection are the more than 150 police officers who were injured and the five police officers who were killed in the riot or died by suicide in the aftermath of the attack.


ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST: In fact, she called the 82 days Moses had already spent in jail because of the state's mistakes sufficient. Pamela Moses' case is the latest involving Amy Weirich and the Shelby County D.A.'s Office that's drawn accusations of prosecutorial misconduct.

And here's the twist I promised you. Yesterday, the people of Shelby County decided they'd had enough. They voted her out in favor of a progressive challenger, a former civil rights lawyer whose campaign promises included creating a conviction review unit.

So, as Rachel often says, elections have consequences. But maybe this time it should be consequences have elections. That does it for us tonight. Rachel is back here on Monday. THE LAST WORD with Zerlina Maxwell who's in for Lawrence O'Donnell starts now.

ZERLINA MAXWELL, MSNBC HOST: Thanks, Ali. This week may just go down as one of the best weeks of Joe Biden's presidency to date. Let's start with the economy. Today, we got a truly stunning jobs report for July. U.S. employers added 528,000 jobs, more than doubling projections. And the unemployment rate, well, it fell to 3.5 percent. The last time the unemployment rate was that low was in 1969, 53 whole years ago.

The economy has now recovered all of the nearly 22 million jobs lost since the start of the COVID pandemic. President Joe Biden and his signature aviator sunglasses took a much deserved victory lap earlier today.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: We're almost at 10 million jobs. Almost a 10 million jobs since I took office. That's the fastest job growth in history. Today, there are more people working in America than before the pandemic began. In fact, there are more people working in America at any point in American history.


MAXWELL: In a relief for drivers all across America, gas prices have dropped nearly $1 from highs in June. Highs that were driven in large part by supply shock after Vladimir Putin started a war with Ukraine. The average price of gas is now $4.11 a gallon. And in many places, including in many red states, gas prices are well below $4 a gallon. President Biden highlighted the seven-week decline in gas prices in his speech today.


BIDEN: Gas prices are coming down. They're down almost $1 a gallon from where they were just a month ago and we're making progress. We now have more than 50 straight days of falling gas prices in this country.


MAXWELL: President Biden's comments celebrated in drop in gas prices were a little bit confusing to the folks over at Fox News.


PETER DOOCY, FOX NEWS WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Why is the president bragging today about gas prices?



MAXWELL: And that's not all President Biden has to brag about. Next week could have another major legislative win for President Biden after the Democrats final hold out, Arizona Senator Kirsten Sinema announced that she was ready to vote for the Democrat's climate tax and health care package inflation reduction act.

To win over the senator, Democrats agreed to include $5 billion in drought resilience funding. Democrats also had to remove a provision on closing the carried interest tax loophole, which allows wealthy hedge fund and investment managers to pay lower taxes and restructure the 15 percent minimum tax on corporations, was also a piece that was included in the legislation.

But it was replaced, thankfully, with a 1 percent excise tax on stock buybacks, a policy passed by Nancy Pelosi's House that would, as Chuck Schumer put, reign in some of the most self-serving things that corporate America does. Okay.

Also, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is expected to hold the initial procedural vote on the reconciliation package tomorrow, Saturday, after the Senate parliamentarian reviews the bill. So, joining us now to break this all down, all of this economic news, Kristin Myers editor-in-chief of "The Balance" and former Yahoo Finance reporter. Also, William Spriggs, an economics professor at Howard University and chief economist for the AFL CIO. Kristen, I'll start with you. Break this all down for us. Break down these jobs' numbers. What stands out to you?

KIRSTEN MYERS, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, THE BALANCE: Yes. So, essentially, that 528,000 number was more than double actually what a lot of economists had been forecasting. And this is really huge news. Typically, I don't think too many of us would actually be talking about these jobs' numbers every single month. But given the context that we're in right now, we're just -- last week we had the second quarter GDP growth sinking 0.9 percent.


A lot of people were really, you know, essentially grabbing their hair and saying, okay, this guy is falling, maybe we are -- right now we're in a recession. But to see these absolutely staggering jobs numbers and the unemployment rate falling to 3.5 percent. I think the question right now really is, really, what recession?

So clearly, the economy is still going strong with employers adding back these jobs. The more workers that we have that are employed, the more income that we have in their hands and that means more consumers are spending their money. So, the U.S. economy seems to be doing pretty well, at least for right now.

MAXWELL: Professor Spriggs, do you agree with that analysis? And what do you think the impact of the IRA could be potentially? How will it help if at all with inflationary pressures on American families who have been dealing with all of these skyrocketing prices on essential items?

WILLIAM SPRIGGS, CHIEF ECONOMIST, AFL-CIO: Yes. So, the Inflation Reduction Act, the IRA, that you call it, is really aimed at the actual cost of price hikes, which is the tremendous shots that we're having right now to our food production system. A lot of that is the war between Russia and Ukraine. The effect it has on fertilizer production, the effect it has on fuel supplies, which then in turn affects the production of food.

But a lot of this is climate change. We are having a drought in Italy. We're having a drought in India. We're having a drought in Africa. None of that has anything to do with the war, but it has everything to do with global warming.

The Inflation Reduction Act finally gets us on the side of the environment and doing the things that will help to relieve this tremendous (inaudible) that we're having from global warming. It puts a check on health care cost. Many Americans benefited last year because the Rescue Plan gave them assistance to pay for their health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.

This will extend and make permanent their access so that they will be able to afford health insurance. We know how important that is having lived through COVID. And for seniors, we have huge (inaudible) on prescription jobs because for once, Medicare will finally be able to negotiate prescription drug prices.

So, a lot of the core things are going to be addressed, the things that are really getting at the price movements. My fear is that, you know, as Kristin said, the numbers are bigger than expected. This is going to make people at the Fed where I think who have been analyzing the economy totally wrong, go bunkers. They are going the have the sense that the economy really is overheating in their minds.

They, the Federal Reserve, are the risk that we could have a recession because they are interpreting the hindrance that we're facing incorrectly, they are real, they are strong, and tipping the scales by being aggressive and raising interest rates misdirected because they cannot affect the sources of price increases.

It can only threaten the jobs of autoworkers, threaten the jobs of construction workers, and raise unemployment. If we have a recession that would be one (ph).

MAXWELL: It's a really, really helpful analysis. And Kristin, you had mentioned the -- all the folks writing the headlines spelling doom and gloom for the economy and the impending inevitable recession. Today, I think people put a pause on that analysis. But do you agree and share the concerns, with the professor about the fed and an impending recession, and potentially the idea that they may overcorrect and lead us in that direction?

MYERS: You know, I'm not necessarily the only one. A lot of folks have really been sharing in some of those worries of the professor. I mean, you need to look no further than the stock market today. We really saw markets taking a tumble after this news that came out.

And that's what we like to call good news is bad news because folks have been routinely and repeatedly concerned that the Federal Reserve was going to go a little bit too far or wasn't really going to be able to handle this balancing act that they have in attempting to bring down inflation while also avoiding that recession.

It is a bit of a tightrope that they have going on right now and we've already heard several fed presidents come out, James Bullard, Mary Daly, saying, hey, we have a lot more work that we need to do, we need to bring inflation down, and saying that they were going to get more aggressive.

We've already had two super-sized rate hikes of 75 basis points this year, and I think the real big fear here is we're going to have another really large rate hike. Now, the more they turned down the flame on the U.S. economy, the more likely we're going to tip into that recession. Can the fed walk that tightrope? That really remains to be seen.


MAXWELL: Really helpful analysis to start us off tonight. Kristin Myers and Professor William Spriggs, thank you both for being here tonight. Joining us now is Congressman Ro Khanna of California. He's a member of the Oversight Committee and is a member also of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. So, Congressman, thank you so much for being here. It's great to see you.

REP. RO KHANNA (D-CA): Zerlina, always a pleasure.

MAXWELL: The economy is the top issue for voters. That's the thing that we hear all the time. So, with these new jobs numbers and gas prices going down, do you think that translates to perhaps more support for the president and Democrats whose policy choices actually you can say that they brought about many of these positive results?

KHANNA: Zerlina, it should. I mean, this has been the best week, I agree with you, of Joe Biden's presidency. You have -- the president has passed down the American Rescue Plan, which put money in the pockets of Americans and avoided the recession that's led to the job creation that we see.

The president passed the -- and signed the Infrastructure Bill. That has helped really build America, getting broadband to places, rebuilding our bridges, airports. The president passed the CHIPS Act. That was legislation I led so I'm passionate about it. We're bringing semiconductors back to America. We're making things in this country.

And we're going to now pass the largest ever investment and climate that any nation has ever passed in history. And that's under this president's leadership. So, this president has had a historic two years. And it's about time that he starts to get the credit for that.

MAXWELL: So, how do you plan on taking the message to voters so that Democrats and the president are able to get some of that credit, and what I mean is, votes at the ballot box? You were a big advocate of the Build Back Better package that didn't become a law.

But now, you have a smaller package in the Inflation Reduction Act. I mean, what message are you going to take to Democratic voters and hopefully get them to support the Democrats in the midterms?

KHANNA: Well, Zerlina, as you know, I was talking to Senator Manchin for almost a year and here's my message to Democrats. This is the biggest investment in climate by orders of magnitude that any country has ever made. We're going to get solar panels, we're going to get wind, we're going to get battery, we're going to get heating pumps, and we're going to unleash trillions of dollars in the private sector.

This is finally -- Democrats are making good on their promise to have Medicare negotiate to bring prescription drugs prices lower. Donald Trump used to talk about it, we're actually doing it. Third, this bill is going to provide health insurance, expand health insurance for those who can't afford the escalating premiums.

This bill is actually going to make a difference in people's lives. And that is what we have to do. And the president releasing the strategic petroleum reserve is one of the reasons that gas prices have fallen. So, I think we have to go talk about it. Talk about the two factories that are going to come up in the state of Ohio, $20 billion revitalizing that place because of the CHIPS Act that the president is going to sign on Tuesday.

MAXWELL: Congressman, one of the things that is happening in this pandemic is a lot of people are quitting their jobs. And "The Washington Post" reports, quote, "The number of Americans quitting their jobs remains high, although lower than its peak earlier this year in a phenomenon known as the Great Resignation. The hot labor market has allowed workers to demand higher wages and better conditions particularly in the leisure and hospitality sectors. While the trend is softening, the quits rate remains at a 20-year high."

You know, we were talking in the earlier segment with experts on the economy and there are a lot of like Harvard economists that are like wages are too high and we need to increase the unemployment rate. And I'm, like, I don't know. If your economic system requires those two things, maybe there is a flaw. There's a hitch in the giddyap, as my dad would say.

Do you think that, you know, our system requires a little bit of a recalibration and perhaps a bigger imagination, given the fact that we are in a pandemic and we are trying to figure out how to make sure that workers are paid living wages and are protected as they go out and do their essential jobs?

KHANNA: Yes, Zerlina. I mean, we need higher wages for the working in middle class. Let me give you one statistic that basically affirms what you are saying. Since 1980, the working class and middle class in America have lost 25 percent of wealth. They are being underpaid for the work they are doing. This is true about Starbucks workers in my state. This is true about fast food workers. This is true about many service workers.

And if they are finally getting a little bit of a raise, that's good news. They are finally earning the wage they should for the jobs they are doing. One of the reasons we have a great resignation is people weren't getting paid what they should.

They weren't being treated with the dignity that they should be treated. If you raise the wages of these jobs, then people would. And tax the billionaires. Tax the wealth that stock trades to be able to do that.


MAXWELL: Congressman Ro Khanna of California, thank you so much for being here today. Please stay safe.

Coming up, Republicans bet big on putting abortion rights on the ballot in Kansas this week, and they lost big too. But the state-by-state fight for reproductive freedom is far from over. That's up next.

Later on in the show, why is Marjorie Taylor Greene hugging this man pretending to be in jail today at CPAC? We'll look at the weirdest and the worst experimental theater we have ever, ever seen. Stay with us.



MAXWELL: We have breaking news out of Indiana tonight. The state's legislature just passed new legislation banning abortion, making them the very first state legislature to do so since Roe v. Wade was overturned. Indiana's Republican governor has not said whether he will sign it. It comes after voters in the red state of Kansas created a political earthquake turning out in record numbers to vote against an anti-abortion amendment to the state's constitution.

Voters rejected the extreme conservative views against abortion by an 18- point margin. And that's in a state where Donald Trump defeated Joe Biden by 15 points. And Kansas isn't the only state where voters are pretty tired of a Republican agenda with no respect for women or bodily autonomy.

In North Carolina, Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Cheri Beasley said she is seeing so many women and people who are afraid and disappointed by the Supreme Court's decision of overturning Roe versus Wade. Cheri Beasley is running against Republican Congressman Ted Budd for North Carolina's open Senate seat. Ted Budd supports a total ban on abortion with absolutely no exceptions for rape, incest, or risk to a woman's health.

In a recent poll, Ted Budd is only leading Cheri Beasley by three points as he pushes this anti-abortion agenda. Joining us now Cheri Beasley, former chief justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court. She is now a Democratic candidate for Senate in North Carolina. So, thank you for being here today. It's great to see you.


MAXWELL: Cheri, what is your reaction to what you saw in Kansas this with a record turnout and an 18-point win for the pro-choice side?

BEASLEY: You know, Zerlina, I think what it means is that politicians are out of step with the sentiment of people across this country and the majority of people here in North Carolina. And I've been a judge for over 20 years and the chief justice of the Supreme Court. And I know that Roe has been a protected constitutional freedom for nearly 50 years and that freedom exists without government interference.

And people in North Carolina are incensed by the court's decision. Contrarily, my opponent, Congressman Ted Budd is, as you've mentioned, are in favor of an absolute ban even in the instance of rape, incest, or risk to a mother's health.

And people here in North Carolina want to know that the next United States senator is going to fight hard to protect this fundamental freedom.

MAXWELL: One of the things that we learned this week is in a bright red state, you know, the data that says a majority of the American public supports choice actually pans out. Because even in the red state of Kansas, the pro-choice side won, as I said. North Carolina, it's a way more purple than Kansas. What are the voters of North Carolina telling you as you travel around the state and campaign for the Senate?

BEASLEY: Well, the majority of North Carolinians do support this fundamental freedom for people to make their own decisions about abortion. And we have certainly seen the risk to women's health where medical professionals are afraid to render treatment. And people here in North Carolina are incensed. They are angry. They are fearful.

I spoke with a grandfather just this evening who is very fearful for his granddaughters and their health. And so, it is important as so many people here in North Carolina talk about this dire sense of urgency around this election because they know that the next senator from North Carolina must absolutely fight to protect this fundamental freedom.

I am prepared to do that and I am fully committed to doing so. I have always, as a part of my service as a judge, upheld the constitution and fought hard to protect the rule of law. And my opponent, unfortunately, has done the converse.

MAXWELL: Who are you hearing from? One of the things that I think a lot about is, you know, what kind of message the Democrats can take to voter -- all voters, in a moment like this one? And when we started the show talking about the economy. Do you think that -- and economic message -- that's related to choice, could be effective in talking to Independents, Republicans, anybody along the political spectrum in North Carolina?

BEASLEY: You know, as I traveled across this big state, and it is a large state. We're the ninth largest in the nation with 100 counties. And while people certainly want to know that we're going to work hard to lower costs, people are certainly feeling the pain at the pump, and want to know that the next senator is going to fight hard to lower prescription drug costs.

They also want to know that the next senator is going to fight hard to protect our fundamental freedom.


And my opponent, Congressman Ted Budd, has been in Congress for three terms and he has done the absolute opposite. Every single time he's had an opportunity to have it in the interest of the people here in North Carolina, he has not done so. He has voted against lowering prescription drug costs. He voted against the legislation that would protect women's right to contraception. He has voted against the CHIPS Act.

He turned his back on our veterans. And he absolutely has not supported people here in the state. And by the way, if people want to know more about why my candidacy and the great work that we're doing here in the state to fight for the people of North Carolina, please go to for more information.

MAXWELL: Cheri Beasley, thank you so much for being here tonight. Please stay safe.

Coming up, why was this MAGA hat wearing man sitting inside of a fake prison cell today at CPAC? The answer is actually even weirder than you think. We'll explain what the heck is going on here, next.



MAXWELL: Conservatives, I hope you don't mind me asking but are you all ok? Seriously. I'm really, really asking. I'm an empathetic individual.

If having Hungarian dictator Viktor Orban and disgraced pizza man Papa John speak yesterday at CPAC in Dallas wasn't embarrassing enough, attendees today were treated to something that can only really be described as January 6th performance art.

No I'm serious. A man dressed in an orange prison style jumpsuit and a MAGA hat pretended to be a January 6th rioter locked up in a prison cell the quote, "prisoner in the cell" kept track of time served on a chalkboard and punctuated his performance by fake crying, weeping and wailing as viewers looked on.

Now to be fair to the quote-unquote "actor" in that cell, he probably gave a pretty convincing performance in the role of January 6 defendant. You know all about that life and about how it feels to be arrested for January 6 because he actually was. Back in January, he was convicted of disorderly and disruptive conduct for his actions at the Capitol insurrection.

Joining us now to give us some context on what the heck we just saw, Laura Jedeed. She's a freelance journalist who shot the video of the January 6 cosplay enthusiast we just saw. She's also an army veteran who served two tours in Afghanistan.

So, what -- what's happening here? Tell us, explain this video and image of fake jail with fake cosplay of insurrection?

LAURA JEDEED, FREELANCE JOURNALIST: Yes. So the way this worked was essentially you approach the exhibit, which was by the WalkAway Foundation. And people were ready to give you the silent disco headset, if you've ever seen them, they kind of glow. Usually used for dance parties. In this case, they were used to switch between three tracks of different descriptions of being arrested on January 6. It's all very harrowing stuff.

And everyone basically stood around in these silent disco headset to watch the scene being acted out in front of them by Brandon Straka. Definitely performance art is the right word for it.

MAXWELL: Ok. It's really weird and I don't just mean that like in a, ok, this is a little strange kind of way. I started by saying like, are they ok? Did you glean what the purpose of this was? Is it just performance art like for -- art for art's sake? Or was there a political message?

I mean I mentioned this man really was a defendant. Is he trying to perform out oppression or victimhood? What do you think?

JEDEED: I mean definitely a lot of that. The truth is, I mean it's this CPAC and at a lot of CPACs. a big theme is being very afraid of what the Libs will do to you as a conservative. So I mean it's a big -- it's a big topic in most of the speeches as well.

This idea that, you know, they are going after Trump now. They're going after the January 6th rioters now but they'll come after you next. They're going to silence you. They're going to cancel you. They're going to get you fired from your job. You could even go to jail.

So when these people are listening to this testimony and looking at what to us seems rather absurd, it does come from a place of real fear. I don't think they are ok. And fear is something that is really going to keep the people in line and getting them to accept all sorts of things. So, it's not great.

MAXWELL: I should just reiterate that that person really did participate in the insurrection, but he got probation. So I don't know why he's pretending jail because he didn't actually receive a sentence of getting jail.

Laura Jedeed, thank you so much for being here. Please stay safe.

So these images of January 6th and the prisoner performance art at CPAC in Dallas stopped me in my tracks today. I have to say, I was confused for several minutes. I mean, look at it again. Just marinate on it. Sit with it. What is that?

I think it is further evidence of how untethered from reality some of the folks on the extreme right have truly become. The rewriting of history to recast themselves as the true victims of what happened on January 6th is truly a sight to see.


And yet somehow, despite eight incredibly compelling public hearings, chock full of new incriminating information about everything that led up to that tragic day, they can't help but think that they are the real martyrs acting out their fake oppression in some sort of weird incarceration cosplay.

No matter how much performative persecution happens at CPAC or on social media, they are not the victims of the January 6th attack on the Capitol. And they are not being oppressed when they are being held accountable for violently attacking the Capitol.

It is really that simple. The real victims are the more than 150 police officers who were injured and the five police officers who were killed in the riot, or died by suicide in the aftermath of the attack. Also the members of Congress, the vice president and their staff that had to run for their literal lives.

Joining us now, Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell of California. He was at the Capitol on January 6 and is suing President Trump for his role inciting the January 6 attack on the Capitol.

So Congressman, as someone who was in the Capitol during the attack, what is your reaction when you see January 6th rioters who never even got real jail time referred to as political prisoners? Or pretending that they're the real victims? Is the message that these insurrectionists didn't do anything wrong? That they're being victimized for no reason?

REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA): Zerlina, MAGA Republicans are trying to completely erase the violence that occurred that day. And the heroism of the Capitol police and the Metropolitan police. You just showed an image of Metropolitan Police Officer Danny Hodges being crushed by the mob.

And I just wanted to be clear because we are starting to see over the last couple of weeks now that everything the Republicans have said over the last decade is just projection, right. These are the law and order supporters. But they voted against community policing and the American Rescue Plan. They vote against congressional gold medals for the heroes of January 6. And if they are ever in the majority, anywhere close to the majority, they're going to make the rioters the ones who receive the congressional gold medals. That's who they are.

They're veterans, they stand with the veterans, right. They stand with the flag and they denounce Colin Kaepernick. We saw last week, they are not with the veterans. They voted against the funding that would help those exposed to toxic burn pits.

So this is a crowd that knows how to project but when the rubber meets the road, when it comes down to standing up for law enforcement, when it comes down to standing up for our veterans, Republicans are just projecting and pandering the grievances, and Democrats are getting things done.

MAXWELL: As we mentioned at the top, you're suing the president. Earlier this week, the U.S. district court judge refused to grant the former President Donald Trump immunity in several lawsuits brought against him by four Capitol police officers. How does this impact your pending civil lawsuit against Trump and are you optimistic about your own case?

SWALWELL: I'm very optimistic. And I'm seeking accountability for the president assembling, inciting and aiming the mob at the Capitol to stop us from conducting the count of your vote and every one of your viewers' votes for the 2020 election and for the, you know, violence that ensued. And so we have advanced beyond the federal district court as far as the motion to dismiss the president's claim that he had absolute immunity.

Judge Meta (ph) put a 93-page opinion out there saying that there are bounds to a president's immunity. It's the first time ever that a sitting president was found not to have immunity while they were president and that's because you can't incite a mob.

And so we are moving up the chain of courts to the Circuit Court of Appeals, eventually probably the Supreme Court. But this case is entirely about whether we are a country that has a rule of law or whether we're going to be ruled by a mob.

MAXWELL: So that's the civil side of things, I want you to take a listen to committee vice chair Liz Cheney on the criminal side of things and on what a decision to not prosecute Trump criminally might mean.


REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): The question for us is are we a nation of laws. Are we a country where no one is above the law? And what do the facts and the evidence show?

So, you know, I think that we're going to continue to follow the facts. I think the Department of Justice will do that, but they have to make decisions about prosecution, understanding what it means if the facts and the evidence are there and they decide not to prosecute, how do we then call ourselves a nation of laws?


MAXWELL: Congressman, in a week with no hearings, there was a lot of movement in the criminal investigation. Do you think that we're closer getting further along down the path of the criminal prosecution of Trump?

SWALWELL: I think the investigation is approaching a crescendo. I mean how could they not after what we've learned from the January 6th Committee, after what the impeachment managers put on just weeks after the riot. It's clear.


And this is how I look at it, Zerlina. If Donald Trump, after the election, after the media called the race, after the states elected, you know, their own electors, after Mitch McConnell himself conceded the election, if Donald Trump had just said, you know what, Joe Biden's next president, I'm going to begin the transition. If he had done that, would the mob still have violently attacked the Capitol?

If the answer to that is yes they would've, then Donald Trump is innocent. If the answer is that only Donald Trump could've incited and aimed them, then I think he's guilty and I think that he needs to be held accountable. And I hope that reckoning is coming very soon.

MAXWELL: Congressman Eric Swalwell of California, thank you so much for being here tonight. And please stay safe.

Coming up, we now know exactly how much Alex Jones' Sandy Hook lies are going to cost him. We will talk to the "New York Times" reporter who has been covering this case all along. That is next.



M7: Tonight, a Texas jury decided what conspiracy theorist Alex Jones deserved to pay one of the Sandy Hook families as punishment for repeatedly telling the horrible lie that their child was murdered didn't really exist and his brutal murder really didn't happen.

And, now they will get $45 million from the man who told that lie, Alex Jones. Jesse Lewis was only six years old when he was shot to death in his classroom with 19 other first graders who were massacred in school two weeks before Christmas Day in 2012.

It might have been more if Jesse hadn't shouted run to warn the other kids when the killers gun jammed. His father told the court about holding his dead child with a bullet hole in his head. His parents told jurors how because of Alex Jones's lies, people have shot at their house and threatened to kill them in addition to the other harassment they endured while grieving for their dead child.

Today's judgment was unanimous. And after the verdict, Jesse's mother addressed the other Sandy Hook families saying, I hope I did well for you.

Joining us now to discuss, Elizabeth Williamson from the "New York Times". she's the author of "Sandy Hook: An American Tragedy and the Battle for Truth."

So Elizabeth, you followed this nightmare inflicted on these families after the nightmare of having their children murdered. How did it feel today in the courtroom to see Alex Jones finally being punished and held accountable for lying for it?

ELIZABETH WILLIAMSON, "NEW YORK TIMES": Thanks for having me, Zerlina. I only wish that he was actually physically there for that. This trial has gone forward almost in his total absence.

But Scarlett Lewis, who you just spoke about, definitely had her moment. She was able to confront Alex Jones, to speak with him, it was through an accident of scheduling. He was really trying to avoid the families in this trial. But he turned up after lunch and she was still testifying.

So that gave her a moment to address him from the witness stand, actually more than a moment, for 90 minutes, she addressed her comments to him saying, why have you done this? You know this is wrong. Do you realize that every day of my life, since my son's murder, you have made life a little bit worse?

It was some of the most powerful testimony people in the room had ever seen. And it was really, I think, made a big impact on the jury.

MAXWELL: $45 million, about $50 million is a big -- that's a big number. Put this judgment into context for us. Is he going to be forced to pay for all of it? How much is he actually worth?

WILLIAMSON: So there was a hearing today before the jury deliberated on punitive damages that shed light on his net worth. And they put that -- there was a financial experts speaking, and he put Alex Jones's net worth at between $130 and $270 million.

So this, although large, is a symbolic still judgment especially because the state of Texas caps awards to plaintiffs at $750,000. Now the lawyers for the Sandy Hook families say that they're going to challenge that, and there have been some constitutional questions raised about those award caps. So they think that this might be a really good test case on that front.

But regardless, the Sandy Hook families have always said, this is less about the money than about sending a warning to Americans that from Sandy Hook over the decade leading to the January 6th insurrection, Alex Jones has been emblematic of the spread of false narratives and disinformation in society.

He's got his fingerprints on every one of the major events that have been called into question. Pizza-gate, coronavirus myths, Charlottesville, and the January 6th insurrection.

MAXWELL: In the last minute here, you know, you did get to see him in court, although you said he wasn't in there for a portion of this trial today. Any sense that he feels any remorse, any hint of remorse you could glean?


WILLIAMSON: No. As one of the lawyers for the Sandy Hook family said in closing arguments today, Alex Jones will never change. And as if to underscore that statement, he was on his show tonight along with Roger Stone making excuses for himself, blaming everyone but himself for what happened and vowing to fight back, spreading more lies about this being a so-called show trial and trying to raise money for his legal defense by claiming falsely that he is bankrupt.

MAXWELL: Well, the saga will continue on. Elizabeth Williamson, thank you so much for being here and helping us understand the latest. Please stay safe.

Still ahead, as cases of monkeypox continue to be reported all across America, what is it actually like to have the virus? Well, someone who can tell us because he has actually had it will join us next.



MAXWELL: In late June, our next guest, Kyle Planck started to feel a little bit under the weather. He had a fever, he had a headache, he had some chills.

At first, he thought it might be COVID, but in the back of Kyle's mind, he wondered if it was actually something else. And that's because Kyle is a PhD candidate in pharmacology who studies infectious diseases.

He was following the news of monkeypox outbreaks happening all across Europe. And pretty soon, after the onset of his first symptoms, his suspicions were realized. Once his fever broke, spots began to appear on his hands and fingers before spreading all over his body.

And then came the pain. Pain was so intense, he would spend the entire day in the bathtub just for a little bit of relief. And more relief finally came when Kyle was prescribed the drug TPOXX.

But as Kyle's about to share, his path to getting TPOXX was anything but simple. And even as a researcher working in the field of infectious diseases with all of the right connections and resources, he still struggled to get the treatment he needed.

Joining us now is Kyle Planck, a pharmacology PhD candidate, who has, thankfully, recovered from monkeypox. So Kyle, first off, thank you so much for being here.

KYLE PLANCK, RECOVERED FROM MONKEYPOX: Thanks for having me, Zerlina, I appreciate it.

MAXWELL: Thank you again. Tell us about your experience. Do you know how you got monkeypox? Tell us more about how you think you contracted it.

PLANCK: So, you know, I took pride -- I took part in a lot of Pride festivities in New York City at the end of June. Celebrating LGBTQ+ Pride. And there were a lot of, you know, close quarters and parties and things like that, so I'm pretty sure that that's where I picked it up.

MAXWELL: Do you think that someone without your background would be able to figure out what was going on? I mean when your symptoms first started, without your background, do you think you would even have thought of monkeypox as a possibility?

PLANCK: Honestly not really, because at that point, it wasn't really being covered in the news a ton. It was there a little bit. But I think it was kind of the furthest thing from most people's minds.

And so I was really grateful that I was able to reason through that. But I think now it's a little bit more common and it's in the news, people know to think about it. But back then at the end of June it was still pretty rare.

MAXWELL: As we mentioned, you have all the connections you could possibly have in sort of first understanding what is going on but also knowing who to ask to get treatment.

But you still had trouble getting the TPOXX. What were the obstacles in your way in order to get the treatment you needed?

PLANCK: Yes. So part of it is, you know, with monkeypox, you're supposed to be isolating because you're contagious. You're not supposed to be going out in public.

So back at the very beginning of July when I was getting tested for monkeypox, I actually had to go into the hospital in order to get tested. And so that required me to go out in public, and I had to cover myself up, even though it was really hot and things like that.

And then once I got there, even though my doctors were able to advocate for me to get tested, they still had to do a ton of paperwork, hours worth of paperwork, to fill out the IND protocol for me to get access to TPOXX because my case qualified for it.

So even though I have all the connections and I was really lucky to get the care that I did, I still was in pain for about a week before I was able to start on the drug.

MAXWELL: Wow. Last question on our last-minute here is how do you recommend other folks stay vigilant and keep themselves safe, knowing what you know?

PLANCK: Yes. So I think there is a lot of really great information out there, including the CDC Web site which has been recently updated. And not only has information about symptoms, but also how to get TPOXX.

So if you are experiencing any of the symptoms of monkeypox that you can see on the list, it's good to stay at home and isolate yourself until you're feeling better or until you're able to get into a doctor to get tested. Testing is a lot more widespread now, thankfully.

And if you do end up having a suspected case of monkeypox, there are steps that you can go through to get TPOXX. And those are outlined from the CDC.

MAXWELL: Kyle Planck, thank you so much for being here and sharing your story. Please stay safe.

That does it for -- that's tonight's LAST WORD. I'm Zerlina Maxwell. Lawrence will be back on Monday.



STEPHANIE RUHLE, MSNBC HOST: Tonight, just hours after those eye-opening jobs numbers, the first votes on that big inflation fighting package are expected to begin.