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Transcript: The 11th Hour with Brian Williams, August 24, 2020

Guests: Michael Steele, Steve Schmidt, Claire McCaskill, David Jolly


Republicans hold first night of RNC as President Donald Trump is officially nominated as the party's candidate for president. Nikki Haley, former ambassador to the United Nations and former governor of South Carolina, speaks in the RNC in support of Donald Trump. Lawmaker stumps postmaster general with postcard question. DeJoy claims he doesn't know who ordered USPS changes that New York's Attorney General is investigating the Trump Organization for allegedly inflating the value of its assets to get loans.


JOY REID, MSNBC HOST, "THE REIDOUT": We just saw the -- people just pounding it that same podium. People seemed quite angry when they're in power. I didn't get it. I have to be honest. I'm just saying as television I didn't get it.

NICOLE WALLACE, MSBBC HOST, "DEADLINE: WHITE HOUSE": But the anger piece is interesting because there was a reason to be angry four years ago. They were running really against the elites in both sides. Donald Trump had vanquished 16 Republicans from -- most of them from the establishment.

REID: Yeah.

WALLACE: And then he was out to vanquish, you know, Hillary Clinton from a dynastic American political family. And so the anger four years ago, added up. There is no rationale for the anger. Now he's in charge.

REID: Right.

WILLIAMS: So whatever the indictment is of life in America today, this is America today. He's the boss. He's in charge. So the anger didn't have a threat. I think that if you can sort of pull away from that, which doesn't add up to us, and again, we were not the audience.


WALLACE: Let's just be frank. We're just trying to understand what it means about how they see the race. What it means about how they see the race is that they do not have their base locked up. That's why some of the speakers --

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW": Oh, that's an interesting point that they aren't -- This wasn't targeted toward people who aren't already Trump fans is just to please people who already like Trump.

WALLACE: I think this -- and this and that may evolve the week may, Brian, as we've grown accustomed to doing. We may -- there may be more --

MADDOW: Adjustments.

WALLACE: Mystery baskets.


WALLACE: But tonight was about -- I mean the charming older Cuban gentlemen. I mean, he's there and it's almost like a Republican convention 19 -- in the 80s, right? I mean, if you don't have that generation's Cuban vote in Florida locked up today, you're worried about Florida and the older Cuban vote.

I mean, just the -- your convention program reveals where you think the races today and where I saw them feeling like the races is that they don't have the Trump 2016 coalition locked up yet.

MADDOW: Can I Just say the one thing, Brian, that then that speech that Nicole, they're talking about that very emotional speech from the Cuban American man from Florida talking about his upbringing. When he said that he -- once heard Fidel Castro asked if he was a communist. And he said no, I'm a Roman Catholic.

It was a -- he was saying in effect, Joe Biden tells you he's a Roman Catholic. We all know what that means. Like, as a Catholic, I have to say like that, for me was a little bit of a kind of, like, I'm not sure I can take this kind of a moment. Actually, you could just say you're a Roman Catholic, and it could mean your Roman Catholic doesn't mean you're actually Fidel Castro and secretly trying to hide your communism.

REID: Yeah.

MADDOW: But that was --

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: I have thought we litigated this in 1960.


REID: Well, and Brian, can we talk for a second about the McCloskey too? Can we just have a moment about that?


REID: I mean, that was one of the strangest choices I've seen made in a political convention. They're facing charges for menacing for waving guns at peaceful protesters who were marching for Black Lives Matter against the killing of black bodies by police. And so they're sort of hailed and given this honorific, you know, to stand there and talk about the Biden campaign is to eliminate the suburbs. And that was strange. I'm really glad we had Trymaine Lee come on, and talk about. I mean, the suburb they live in, has a covenant, a restrictive covenant, and it's behind Iron Gate. They have a private road, that, you know, 30 years ago, I would have been able to walk in that street because it's a private road and black people, you know, it's very difficult to even be allowed to buy a home in that community.

So when they're saying Biden is going to eliminate the suburbs. What does that even mean? You know, it was a strange messaging. And on the live thing again, lie about little things. Why pretend that Ronna Romney McDaniel is that is a housewife. It's just an ordinary housewife.

WALLACE: She is the most powerful Republican woman not in office. And this gets into a whole sort of hornet's nest of complicated gender questions, but she chose -- and I think she's one of the first speakers to describe herself that way, not to plant a flag of pride around that. But to attack Eva Longoria again, a campaign that's on the attack and on the defensive and defensive around these issues is not a confident campaign. Brian.

REID: Yeah.

WILLIAMS: I was just going to raise, and I'm glad Rachel talked about the production elements. This was really a collection of speeches at a podium. And I guess, Mellon Auditorium, which is close to the Trump Hotel in Washington in an empty room.

I found particularly interesting the pre recorded bits from inside the White House with the President. Point I've always made to our co workers is to remind everybody, Donald Trump became a TV star in our building over 14 seasons. And in most of the rooms he's occupied in his life he was the quickest and the funniest guy he's never met, a line of script that wasn't made better by an ad lib. So you saw so many tales in that little sequence. He was told to call it COVID. He always stops himself reminds us how many names there are for it.

Later in the bit, he switched to calling it the China virus. He mentioned hydroxychloroquine and got laughs from his assembled guests, which remained inexplicably in the tape piece aired grievances about governors while his mystified guests looked on. And of course, because we're a blue and red America, people saw it differently in mask wearing communities. Nobody was wearing one in either of the White House pre recorded pieces.

REID: Yeah.

WALLACE: And as Joy noted, you know, that -- shooting that in the White House has, I mean, not to be a stickler for these things, but has ethics implications. I mean, that's -- the White House is not the president's house. The White House is the people's house. And it's federal property and using federal property, especially the White House for partisan purposes, for the purpose of advancing a political campaign is something that you can't prosecute the president for doing that under the Hatch Act. But no federal employee and no federal resources are supposed to be used to promote a campaign or a candidate. And maybe that's old fashioned. Apparently it's, you know, fashionable within the Trump administration, even at the highest levels to make a joke out of that. But that's an anti corruption law that we've had in this country for a long time. And this is not just breaking it, it was sort of gleefully stomping on it while talking about the nameless Democrats as being the ones who are about corruption and self serving policies.

REID: Well, did it did not strike you all is, this is my kind of theory that they are a bit monarchist, right? This idea that I think he thinks it is his house, like they treat it as their own house. You know, I've been obsessing about the Rose Garden. And I know it's not the most important thing in the world. But there's a sense of, I can rent all this. This is my place.

MADDOW: Well, we're all going to see -- we are going to see three, I think it's three speeches tonight that aren't going -- or three speeches over the course of the week that aren't going to be from the Mellon Auditorium. And they are the President, the First Lady and the President's eldest daughter, Ivanka. So they'll all be speaking from different White House settings while everybody else is in what is also federal property. The Mellon Auditorium also shouldn't be used for partisan purposes, because it is also a federal property. But this is what we're doing.

WILLIAMS: I have been told we have a guest hanging out with us who was in the news today, known to all of us, Michael Steele, former chairman of this party years ago and in a different time, who today has thrown his support and effort behind the Lincoln Project.

Michael, first of all, I'd love to hear you out on your decision. You know, you may be tweeted about now.

MICHAEL STEELE, FORMER RNC CHAIRMAN: Just a tiny there. Now, Brian, and for me, and look, it's a very hard, tough decision. But at the end of the day, I think it's a decision we all have to confront. It's about our country. It's about the communities we live in.

Look, I can do the party thing better than anyone. I'm still Republican. I call myself a motel six Republicans always got to keep the lights on, right? And I've said that to you. But the reality of it is we're at an inflection point, not just in a political cycle, but in the country's definition of itself.

Do we really think it's OK to put kids in cages? Do we really believe it's OK to look at 170,000 dead Americans died because of miscalculations and bad policy decisions and say, well, it is what it is?

At some point, we as a citizen, have to confront our own truth about ourselves and the kind of leaders who are sensibly, Brian, we put out there as an extension of ourselves.

Well, Donald Trump is that an extension of my value system. He is not an extension of who I see myself as an American citizen. And I want to stand with my country on that principle right through this November election. And while I'm at it, get you behind that folks, get your absentee ballot and start voting, because that's where this thing will come to its head.

WILLIAMS: Michael, there's a number of quotes they wanted to emerge from tonight. One of the speakers, thank the President for having sacrificed the life that he built. Another speaker as well documented already called him the guardian of Western civilization. Still another called him a patient advocate. On the medical side of the ledger, I want to play for you a bit of what the democratic state lawmaker from Georgia had to say tonight.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You may be wondering why as a lifelong Democrat speaking at the Republican National Convention? And that's a fair question. And here's your answer. The Democratic Party does not want black people to leave their mental plantation. We've been forced to be there for decades and generations. But I have news for Joe Biden, we are free. We are free people with free minds. And I'm part of a large and growing segment of the black community who are independent thinkers. And we believe that Donald Trump is the President that America needs to lead us forward.


WILLIAMS: Michael, please go first and then I imagine our colleagues may want to follow.

STEELE: Yeah, well, you know, OK, that's one view of the world. The reality of it is you then have to look at how that is played out in the black community. You have to look at how it's played out across America.

Donald Trump got 8% of the black vote in 2016. He's now significantly below that going into this cycle. I don't know what that means for every black person in the country. But it says to me that you haven't made the case well enough, over the last four years. And but there's also the point about that is true about our politics is that yeah, politics can put you in sort of a mindset where you only see one side of it or only see one thing. So I appreciate the brother coming out and standing on the Republican stage. And I'm sure a lot of Republicans are applauding him. So I think you should applaud me as I stand on the other side of the stage to say, I'm a free thinker as well. So and that's the raw pre-thinking only applies when you agree with me. Well, that's not free thinking and that's not American.

WALLACE: Michael Steele, I want to ask you a question about Nikki Haley's speech. Not enough time to unpack the whole what Nikki Haley there. But I want to ask you. She was talking about the mass shooting at Mother Emanuel Church. And she said this. After that horrific tragedy we didn't turn against each other we came together black and white, Democrat and Republican. Together, we made the hard choices needed to heal and removed a divisive symbol peacefully and respectfully.

Did I miss something? Isn't Donald Trump's -- one of his pillars of his candidacy? The preservation of our heritage, including the Confederate flag isn't the only attack against NASCAR for banning it?

STEELE: That's the irony, the confusion that you see on that stage. You have someone like Governor Haley, who did the stand up thing, rally the state around her, got the legislature to act to take down those symbols of hatred that were offensive to noxious her community but the communities across the country. And yet tonight she stands on the stage supporting a man who sees those very same individuals, as good people or those symbols don't touch them.

So I don't know how you traverse that logic. I don't know how you say in a sentence in a speech like that, that this is what I did. And Donald Trump stands with me. No, he doesn't. No, he doesn't, because his words and his actions are 180 degrees from the actions in the words that you made back then.

So that tonight and I think someone already mentioned this and maybe Rachel. So the way this is playing out is that you see these conflicting moments in your head is going to wait a minute, you're kind of playing tennis because one -- the speakers are saying one thing but reality is telling you something else or Donald Trump is doing something else. And that's going to be the difficulty of coming out of this convention, going to the American people, and having them already made up their mind that this is a referendum on the last four years, because I've got all this data now to choose from.

REID: Can I ask mine really quickly, Michael, because you know, you made a really concerted effort when you were RNC Chairman to try to bring more African Americans into the Republican Party. And it was an effort based on policy ideas and saying, here's some policy ideas that you should be open to. We know that a lot of black people are culturally conservative, on the religious and conservatives that you saw on opening there. What do you make of what I saw as an appeal? There are at least four African American speakers tonight, including Herschel Walker, Kim Klacik of Baltimore, Vernon Jones, who we just showed. What did you make of the substance of the pitch here? Because, you know, people would vote the bus know that are still looking, working in the campaign and working and near it know that Donald Trump is trying to go for 15% of African American black men. What did you hear tonight and what do you make of it?

STEELE: Yes. Well, to answer your first point in 2010, in fact, I was very, very happy and proud to say to the candidates that I supported and got elected in 2010, then Congressman Tim Scott and Governor, Nikki Haley. And they were representative of the field of candidates that we wanted to put out before the country. They talked about our values. They talked about the things that mattered, certainly to Republicans, but more importantly, and more broadly, to every citizen.

You didn't really hear that tonight. It was almost this sense of, you know, sort of talking about how bad it was and well, you know, it's that bad and therefore, you need to come over to us. But tell me what you're going to do to transform my community? How -- what policy are you looking to put on the table? You can talk about, you know, opportunity zones and things like that, but you should know also that the black community has other things in the economic piece in mind. They want to know seriously how you're going to approach policing. They want to know seriously how you're going to approach redlining. That would have been a nice topic to talk about, the gentrification of black neighborhoods, for example. What do you talk about? How do you help a family, a black family that's been in the neighborhood for 70 years? Stay there.

So then you begin to open up the avenues in which you can have that conversation, which is what we tried to do 10 years ago, which unfortunately, I think I given the politics of trying to segment the black folk give us black men because black men like the whole machismo thing that works until they talk to the black female in their household, reminds them exactly how they're going to vote.

MADDOW: That is deep truth.

STEELE: They're saying.

MADDOW: No, that's real.

WILLIAMS: With thanks to all of our friends especially to Michael for leaving us with some vivid imagery, playing tennis by gaslight. Rachel, Nicole, Joy Reid, Michael Steele, thank you. We get to do this again tomorrow night.

And as we now begin our special two hour edition of tonight's 11th Hour this brings us to day 1,313 of the Trump administration, 71 days to go until our Presidential Election.

Night one of the Republican National Convention the virtual version and as part of the backdrop to this day protests are erupting again tonight after another officer involved shooting this time in Kenosha, Wisconsin. 29 year old black man shot in the back point blank range multiple times by police on Sunday as his family looked on. He is in serious condition at the hospital in Wisconsin. Shooting was caught on video by a witness. We'll have much more on all of it in a moment.

Up next, a man who knows what it takes to put together a Republican convention, Steve Schmidt standing by to join us as the 11th Hour is just getting underway as we start a new week on this Monday night.



NIKKI HALEY, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO U.N.: This President has a record of strength and success. The former President has a record of weakness and failure. Joe Biden is good for Iran and ISIS, great for Communist China. And he's a godsend to everyone who wants America to apologize, abstain and abandon our values.


WILLIAMS: Tonight's RNC kicked off with no party platform other than a pledge to support one man. Four years ago the party's platform was 54-pages in length.

Back with us tonight, Steve Schmidt, Veteran Political Strategist, leader of the John McCain '08 campaign effort, who has since left the party he was among the founders in fact of the Lincoln Project dedicated to the defeat of one Donald Trump and Trumpism.

Steve, first of all, I just want to get your reaction to what you watched unfold tonight.

STEVE SCHMIDT, FORMER REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I just thought it was ludicrous, Brian it I'm completely detached from reality really at a fundamental level. We saw with the McClaskeys, the race baiting and the fear tactics, the absurd notion that Joe Biden is going to end suburban America. We saw the snake oil sales, pitches on hydroxychloroquine and other remedies that have no effect in fighting coronavirus.

And we heard about this America that existed in the Barack Obama administration that bears no resemblance to reality. I mean, the reality is, is that the country's in a profound crisis, 172,000 Americans are dead. We have more unemployed people on this day in August than we do on any day in August in America's long history. We have a president of the United States who's completely out of his depth, profoundly incompetent, who's wrecked the country. We've never had a moment where this country has been weaker in the post World War II era. The President of the United States as an international laughingstock, we actually have video of that, where we can see the leaders of the Western democracies literally laughing about Donald Trump behind his back. His foreign policy has been a profound failure. He has emboldened the Chinese. He has emboldened the Russians. He's given moral succor to the tyrants and dictators all over the world refused to defend American ideals and ideas across the world.

So again, it was just a convention today that was totally detached from the reality of what's going on in this country. The schools are opening and chaos. The ones that are opening will likely soon be closed. There's not going to be college football, no American wife and the rituals of American life as we get ready to enter the fall. They're all over. It's done. And it's done because of the incompetence of Donald Trump, who mishandled this crisis, more profoundly than any American has ever mishandled the crisis, who was charged with responsibility to its fellow citizens.

WILLIAMS: Why do you reckon then there was so much talk of the pandemic tonight? Is it rolling kind of mega gaslighting?

SCHMIDT: Yeah, sure, this is what propaganda looks like and we shouldn't discount its effectiveness. You know, the Republican Party has fully become a cult of personality. There's not even a pretense of a party platform. The party platform is veneration of complete devotion to and obedience to Donald Trump. That's what the party platform is.

And so in the alternate reality universe, and Nicole Wallace, was exactly right. When you heard what her observations on the last panel talking about, this is a president who's not secure with his base. And so they're trying to convince the base, I think, by repetition by the audaciousness of the lie, that he's handled this adroitly that he's been effective. You know, he talked about banning travel from China. In fact, 40,000 people came in from China after that ban was invoked by the President.

So, look, it's all gaslighting. It's all nonsense. None of it is true. There are people who will believe it. But thankfully we know there are a minority of the country.

WILLIAMS: Let's talk about the platform. And I'll start with some honesty. Party platforms are like terms of usage on an app. Very few people read them. Most people just approve them. But they are important to the party faithful. Some people work, the intervening four years on them. They are a roadmap for political parties. They are often where grievances get addressed or people pledged to try to address grievances to have no platform. I think it was Tim Alberta who said today that this reaches -- the party now reaches the definition of a cult of personality to have it all about one guy. What about accountability in the post Trump era? Will they all, all the elected Republicans as of tonight say, yeah, you know, you had to have been there it seemed like a good idea?

SCHMIDT: I have no idea other than to say all of these people a couple years from now will pretend to never have heard Donald Trump or will regale us with stories about how they heroically opposed them in the back corridors in the meetings that none of us have ever heard of.

You'll look at the end of the day, the submission of the Republican Party lock, stock and barrel starting with the two United States senators and its members of Congress, to Trump's authority has been startling to behold over these last three and a half years.

We've seen people abdicate every position, every principle that they previously how. We have many of them like Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz and Lindsey Graham who indicted Donald Trump for his many character defects, for his intellectual, mental and moral deficiencies, the whole tie office, let alone be President of the United States, who've become wonderfully adept bootlickers. And the reality is, is we have a crisis of cowardice in this country where the political class, the Republican political class, is terrified of receiving a mean tweet.

Nobody asked any of these people to storm Omaha Beach. What they were required to do was to be fidelity to their oath. They had a duty to preserve and protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. They had an obligation to stand up for the checks and balances. They had an obligation to stop the corruption, put a check on the incompetence.

We have a president of the United States who has taken no action when the Russian Federation has paid Afghan warlords to kill American soldiers. He's taken no action about it. He refuses to condemn it. So we live in an era where the country for the first time is undefended from hostile foreign attack by President of the United States. It's truly a despicable and rancid era that will forever be known by its cowardice. There's not a single Margaret Chase Smith, so to speak, with the exception of Mitt Romney, who stood up to call this out, as every Republican senator should have done at one point or another over the last three and a half years, but they're all going to go down with them. And it's one of the chief reasons why you're going to see a Senate Democratic majority in the fall most likely.

WILLIAMS: To your point about D-day, I think we can all be thankful that some of these guys were not in those Higgins boats on that dark June morning when courage was the only thing that got you out of the boat and onto the beach if you were lucky.

Steve Schmidt, thank you for having us in. It's always a pleasure to hear you out.

Coming up for us, the night first speaker called him the bodyguard of Western civilization. More on Donald Trump's complete takeover of an entire political party. Senator Claire McCaskill, Lawrence O'Donnell, David Jolly, all waiting for us. Next one, we'll come right back.



WILLIAMS: Republicans spent most of their convention evening one painting a dark picture of life if a Democrat specifically one named Joe Biden wins the White House. Back with us tonight to talk about what it is we have just went Claire McCaskill, former Democratic senator from the great state of Missouri, which might have been referenced once or twice during tonight's program, our own Lawrence O'Donnell, host of the 10:00 p.m. Eastern hour on this network, of course, and David Jolly, former Republican member of Congress from the state of Florida, who has since left the House and his political party, but he has not turned his back on the state of Florida.

Claire, I'd like to begin with you in terms of tone and substance and the kind of takeaway feeling you got after a night like tonight?

CLAIRE MCCASKILL (D-MO) FMR. U.S. SENATOR: Well, you know, this is a presidency of lies. And this was a couple of hours of lies mostly about who Joe Biden is and his policies, but also lies about COVID and lies about health care and lies and, you know, the thing that thing that really struck me, Brian, was the nerve they had of telling immigrants stories tonight. Nikki Haley talking about being her parents and immigration Maximo Alvarez from Cuba. Who came here in an asylum situation from Cuba, seeking freedom and then maybe the most unbelievable is all the two women from Guatemala selling honey.

And you know, you have to understand that children from Guatemala ripped from their families arms, and unpurpose. This is this is a presidency that has shut the door, slam the door on people like this. And so the idea, I mean, I can decide which was weirder. them having the McClaskeys villainize black people, or and then having Tim Scott doing the keynote or a presidency that has been so bad on immigration, trying to feature immigrants as part of his story.

WILLIAMS: David Jolly, what do you recognize from your former party? We heard Kimberly Guilfoyle shout out her speech in an empty room tonight saying that Joe Biden is out to destroy America. Her life partner, DJ/ TJ trotted out a new nickname Beijing/Biden tonight because apparently, nicknames are genetic. So what did you make of what you saw tonight?

DAVID JOLLY, FMR. REPUBLICAN CONGRESSMAN: Look, I bring a different set of ears to this perhaps then Senator McCaskill just give him my past partisan affiliation. And what I would say is, from a messaging standpoint, there were some very effective moments. And I think maximum Maximo Alvarez his speech was an effective one. I think the policy elements of Tim Scott's were effective. I thought Vernon Jones, that Democratic state rep from Georgia had a very effective message. And to certain states Herschel Walker.

But then there are two things that kind of trample on that. First, as you mentioned, is kind of the cult like narrative that is all things Trump for Matt gates saying, MS-13, moving in next door to Charlie Kirk's screed on terrorism that Kim Guilfoyle, American Carnage, Redux, if you will, all of those elements trampled on what would have otherwise been a fairly normal message to expect from an RNC.

But the other thing it requires is for you to suspend the past three years of reality to the senators point, the separating moms from children and the abandonment of NATO, a president who was impeached for trying to cheat the American people and the upcoming election. President who won't release his tax returns has been named as a-co conspirator in a federal crime in the Southern District of New York.

It requires the listener to suspend all of those moments that we know are actually the real Trump administration and the real Trump presidency. So unfortunately, look it there were many moments made for TV that were effective but they will be lost in the greater Trump -- Trumpism cult that will ultimately define this convention.

WILLIAMS: Lawrence O'Donnell, a good bit of darkness on the edge of town in the midst of a pandemic and unmistakable message that they're coming for you.

LAWRENCE O'DONNELL, MSNNC HOST, "THE LAST WORD": That's one of the messages. And Brian, when we try to evaluate the effectiveness of a night like this, or this week, we have to ask ourselves, how long or how much of this did the undecided voter watch and the undecided voter watches very little of these things. And usually they don't watch it at all.

So it has zero effect if all it's doing is reinforcing the votes you already have. And so if you think about what was said tonight that could appeal to someone who wasn't already voting for Donald Trump. You got some of Tim Scott's speech. I agree with David about that, but not the part, not the part where Tim Scott suddenly, as if almost to say, I don't really mean this started attacking Joe Biden saying that Joe Biden's ambition is, quote, a socialist utopia. He applied that to Joe Biden.

And so the speech starts to become nonsense when he does that. The only person I heard, actually mentioned something that Donald Trump would do in a second term was Donald Trump Jr. and the only thing he mentions Donald Trump would want to do in a second term is to end the payroll tax, end the funding for Social Security. And we learned today from the social security trust fund, that that means Social Security would be unable to pay benefits in 2023.

And I just want to alert the audience in the past you've heard people use the phrase Social Security is projected to go bankrupt at some date distant in the distant future. What that all was meant was Social Security will only be able to pay benefits based on the amount of money it takes in that week, which is to say I would have paid about 75 cents of each dollar that it owed.

This idea would leave Social Security paying zero, zero of each dollar that it owes. And that is the only Trump idea for the second term that was actually mentioned tonight that I heard.

WILLIAMS: We've asked our friends to stick around. We're going to take a quick break here. When we come back more of our special coverage of night one of the Republican National Convention when we continue.



REP. KATIE PORTER (D-CA): What is the starting rate for us post office USPS priority mail?


PORTER: Could you please tell me who did order these changes in US Postmaster General did not--

DEJOY: There are plans that existed prior to my arrival. I will continue that were implemented.

PORTER: Mr. DeJoy, if you did not order these actions to be taken, please tell the committee the name of who did.

DEJOY: I do not know.


WILLIAMS: Under questioning from California Democratic Congresswoman Katie Porter. The Postmaster General also revealed he doesn't know what it costs to mail a postcard. Back with us, Claire McCaskill, Lawrence O'Donnell, David jolly.

Lawrence, I'm coming to you for several reasons. Number one, you have featured Congresswoman Porter on your broadcast many, many times and told your viewers this is a woman to follow while she is in Congress. Number two is this -- was this today just another lesson in the depth of rigor and expertise?

O'DONNELL: It certainly was and Katie Porter is a great one to teach that lesson of the first time I saw her in a hearing I asked her to come on in the show that night because she's just so good at this. And one of the things that that she made very clear was that the Postmaster General throws out these statements, you know, that like someone else did it. And really, she's one of the last people to ask questions. No one had asked before she did.

OK, tell us who didn't order these changes that you're saying you didn't order? And then he says, I don't know, which was the single biggest reveal of the hearing. And I don't know whether that's a true answer or not. I don't think anyone knows whether that's a true answer or not. So it was very important hearing in at least the questions that got asked the answers were highly doubtful all the way through.

WILLIAMS: Claire McCaskill, most people aren't questioning the incompetence or the malfeasance. My question to you is, what's the recourse for us, the customers, the consumers of the constitutionally mandated U.S. Post Office, who do we see about this and what's the penalty?

MCCASKILL: Well, the members of Congress who have blocked the postal reform that many have put a lot of hours into are the ones to blame. Ron Johnson is primarily responsible in the Senate for blocking the postal reform which would take away the requirement that they pre-fund health care that no business has to do, that has really hurt their cash flow and put them in a 10 -- a very tenuous position financially.

But the other thing is, is that Donald Trump started this by calling into question the security of mail ballots, and when he did that, he began an attack against the post office, dumb move. The post office is very popular, even with people who support Donald Trump.

WILLIAMS: David Jolly, having been a member of Congress yourself. You know, I heard Jim Jordan today again refer to this along the lines of a democratic hoax. He's got a lot of constituents back home in Ohio, I imagine waiting for medication, hoping they don't get nicked with a late charge on a check they sent in on time. It turns out the post office affects every man, woman and child in our country by design.

JOLLY: Yes, and, Brian, to your point of your question of the depth of expertise and rigor when it comes to policymaking, the Postal Service policies, a classic example, Claire knows this. There's a mandate on them for universal service, they have to serve everywhere at the same first class rate. And yet Congress restricts them from engaging in any for profit activity, or actually generating revenue in a place a typical business would, so they're in a catch-22.

I think the broader question around all of this with the post office is whether or not Donald Trump is trying to steal this election in plain sight, and we won't know the answer to that. We know this is a president who has a pattern of trying to steal elections in 2016, with Russia in 2020, with the Joe Biden-Ukraine affair, and so it is reasonable to assume that there is malfeasance going on at the direction of Donald Trump at the U.S. Postal Service.

But to your point, the reach of oversight between now and November will likely be insufficient for the American people to get clarity on that.

WILLIAMS: As many others have pointed out, every time you hear complaints that the post office is losing money that was not part of its charter to make money. The Pentagon has never made money either. Come to think of it. Claire McCaskill, Lawrence O'Donnell. David Jolly, our thanks for hanging out with us on this Monday night. Thank you very much. Coming up for us, more legal trouble for the Trump family and team when we come back.


WILLIAMS: Day one of the RNC brought more tough legal news for the president and his family. A new court filing revealed that New York's Attorney General is investigating the Trump Organization for allegedly inflating the value of its assets to get loans. State AG Letitia James wants a judge to order the Trump Org. to provide documents and compel testimony from the president's son Eric, who serves as executive vice president.

Now according to this filing, the younger Trump abruptly canceled an interview with the AG's office last month. We should note this is a civil investigation, not a criminal case. In a statement today, their chief legal officer said the company has done quote, nothing wrong.

To that end, we welcome back to our broadcast Barbara McQuade, veteran federal prosecutor, former U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan. Counselor, it's good to see you. I'd love your read on how much legal jeopardy, how much real trouble the Trump team could be in on this front?

BARBARA MCQUADE, FMR. U.S. ATTORNEY: Well, it depends on the facts, Brian, but it could be very serious. We know that Michael Cohen testified before Congress about the Trump organization's propensity to deflate the value of assets and revenue when it came to filing tax returns, but inflating revenue and assets when it came time to seek loans, and so that is what Letitia James is exploring here.

And what's interesting about it, is it Eric Trump, canceling at the last minute and refusing to appear not wanting to invoke his Fifth Amendment rights, but actually doing so. And so it does appear that they're concerned and have something to hide and when someone has something to hide, it makes prosecutors all the more eager to find out what's inside.

WILLIAMS: What are the odds that we will see him go into testify? Can you just walk around and say now, I'm not going to come in there.

MCQUADE: No, you can't. I think the odds are really quite high that he will have to show up. I think this is a stall tactic. We see this time and again, I think it is the Trump way, the way that he has built the real estate empire is to play hardball and to assert frivolous legal claims. But everybody has a duty to show up and answer the questions.

Now, that doesn't mean he can't assert his Fifth Amendment rights when asked particular questions, but he can't do it in a blanket fashion. He can't just say I'm not coming at all. He has to show up. I mean, she might ask questions like, what's your name that's not protected by the Fifth Amendment privilege. But if there are particular questions, then at that moment, he has to assert his right then. But I think that is the visual the specter that he may be trying to avoid, because that's when it looks politically perhaps to some, like an assertion of the Fifth Amendment might be an admission of guilt.

WILLIAMS: And Barb, we mentioned civil versus criminal is this potential advantage to him and his dad that this is a civil, not criminal matter?

MCQUADE: Well, sometimes yes, I mean civil means that the penalties will be money damages and not sending someone to prison. So in that way, I suppose civil makes people a little less fearful. But in many ways when you are the prosecuting entity, thinking about whether you want to proceed civilly or criminally, can bring with it advantages and disadvantages, one of the great advantages of proceeding civilly is the burden of proof is much lower. It's only preponderance of the evidence, as opposed to the higher guilt beyond a reasonable doubt that's necessary in a criminal case.

And so, in some ways, it could be more dangerous for the Trump's to be facing a civil investigation because of that different legal standard.

WILLIAMS: Final question, because Americans love being able to peek at things they're not supposed to see, can you manage expectations? There is no expectation correct that at the end of this case, or during this case, people get to take a look at the President's tax returns.

MCQUADE: It depends, you're right. I mean, I don't know that we'll see the whole tax returns on display. But if the Attorney General is able to get her hands on the records, you may see allegations that come out of them in a complaint, a civil complaint that would be filed here. So we may see excerpts and if the case ever went to trial, those tax returns could end up being exhibits in court. And so in that way they could be used and the day may come when we actually get to see them.

WILLIAMS: Barbara McQuade, thank you as always, for coming on and explaining all of this for us. And coming up for us as we continue much more of our special coverage of night one of this virtual Republican National Convention when The 11th Hour continues.



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