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Transcript: The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, 1/11/22

Guests: James Clyburn, Nikema Williams, David Thomas


"Politico" reported that Senator Sinema meeting with a small group of Senate Democrats on rules changes this evening in the LBJ room in the Capitol. President Joe Biden delivered remarks on voting rights in Atlanta. Interview with Democratic Congressman James Clyburn of South Carolina. Interview with Georgia Congresswoman Nikema Williams.



And news breaking during your hour includes in from "Politico" about Senator Sinema meeting with a small group of Senate Democrats on rules changes this evening --


O`DONNELL: -- in the LBJ room in the Capitol. This is possible indication that the public pressure that both Joe Biden and Chuck Schumer put on Senators Manchin and Sinema today might be nudging them a bit.

The report says the senators in this meeting, in addition to Sinema, were Tim Kaine, Angus King, Jon Tester, Brian Schatz, Elizabeth Warren, Ben Cardin, Chris Coons and Maggie Hassan.

Rachel, you were talking about how some moderates in the Senate have been onboard for a rules change, and maybe among the most effective people lobbying these two hold-outs. And to see that Jon Tester is in that room, Tim Kaine, Angus King, that`s a very important part of that dynamic, along with Elizabeth Warren and others.

MADDOW: Oh, yeah. Even just look at Maggie Hassan. Maggie Hassan is sort of the prototypical moderate Senate Democrat and she is up for re-election. She is incredibly practical. She is a low-profile workhorse, not show horse senator who concentrates on getting things done in New Hampshire. She has been in the past totally opposed to any change in the Senate rules for anything.

Within just the last couple of months, she came on this show and explained why she believed on voting rights and election protections specifically, particularly around the risks of election subversion that President Biden was talking around today, she now sees it as no question that the rules have to be changed so this can pass by majority rule.

I mean, Maggie Hassan embodies the change that so many of these moderates, including Tester and Warner and Kaine and the others. That`s who you would want talking to a senator who might be thinking seriously about where she wants to stand up in history on this.

O`DONNELL: And, Rachel, there is a certain amount of talk today about why didn`t they do this a year ago, why didn`t Joe Biden give this speech, say, ten months ago that he gave today? And one reason is -- two reasons. One is the big Biden legislative agenda they believed had to go first because this is, in fact, alienating to those two Democrats, and you could end up losing their votes on everything else.

But you didn`t have the rest of these Democrats onboard a year ago.

MADDOW: Good point, yes.

O`DONNELL: There was no indication that a year ago you didn`t have Jon Tester a year ago. You didn`t necessarily have -- you didn`t have Angus King for sure a year ago. You didn`t have Tim Kaine.

And so, you`re now -- it took a year to get to this point where it really is these two.

MADDOW: Yes, and that`s an excellent point. And all of those senators that you are describing, Angus King gave that unbelievable speech where he explained his movement on this issue and why he now supports the rules change. That was a phenomenal speech. Maggie Hassan, those were relatively recent, as you point out.

These moderate senators among the Democrats had to get there. But also, Joe Manchin had to go through his motions, right? Manchin said, no, no, you Democrats are doing the wrong bill, I swear, you know, if we do this bill the way I know how to do the bill, all the Republicans vote for it. Okay, Joe, you write the bill.

So, he got to rewrite all the voting rights legislation, thus proving to himself in front of all of us that actually the Republicans weren`t going to vote for any of it. He had to go through that process, too, and Senator Sinema, I mean, as Ben Jealous said on the show, had to get to a point perhaps where it was lacking like she was going to be Arizona standing in the way of the Martin Luther King holiday redux in the say way her state was the last state to ratify the Martin Luther King federal holiday or to act on it.


She now faces having that kind of a role in history on national voting rights in a way that maybe didn`t feel right to her until it does now. That`s where she stands as we`re less than a week out from the MLK day and the deadline by which Democrats want to get this done.

O`DONNELL: Yeah, you made that point about Senator Sinema in our discussions recently. Today`s speech by Joe Biden named Donald Trump, specified him and all of the problems that he represents and what has happened to voting rights and his lying and what he is doing and what he is trying to force and Republicans state legislatures are doing.

But without naming them, President Biden repeatedly put all of the pressure of history, repeatedly, on these two Democratic senators, and they have not had that moment before. And so, tonight, Senator Sinema in the discussion about how can the rules possibly be change inside the Senate to do this.

MADDOW: I am looking at the transcript of the president`s speech while you are saying that. Do you want to be on the side of Dr. King or George Wallace? Do you want to be on the side of John Lewis or Bull Connor? Do you want to be on the side of Abraham Lincoln or Jefferson Davis?

O`DONNELL: Uh-huh.

MADDOW: Those are not open questions in modern American life. They cannot be for anyone who is in public service. And to have put it that starkly and laid it out in those terms, that has to ring.

If you are sentient and you are an elected official, that has to ring for you, and I imagine that`s what Senator Klobuchar said was some of the drama tonight on Capitol Hill, those U.S. senators meeting right now.

O`DONNELL: Well, it`s going to --move fairly quick toy the Senate floor, possibly Monday of next week. Could be -- it`s definitely going to happen. There is going to be action there before Martin Luther King Day.

MADDOW: Yeah, before Monday of next week. It could happen as soon as tomorrow. So sort of don`t sleep.

O`DONNELL: Yeah, exactly. That`s the message. Okay. Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW: Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Well, Joe Biden went to Georgia today because, as he said, he is tired of being quiet.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Look, it`s also time to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. You`ve been having these quiet conversations with members of Congress for the last two months. I`m tired of being quiet!


O`DONNELL: No more quiet conversations. From the start, the Biden legislative agenda has had a multistage strategy that included voting rights as the final stage. The first stage was to pass all of the domestic economic and social policy agenda in year one.

The president and the Democrats in Congress got most of that passed. Not all. And now with time running out on voting rights legislation, the president has decided to put the Build Back Better bill aside, so that Senate Leader Chuck Schumer can bring up voting rights in the Senate.

Senator Schumer and President Biden have now run out of things to say to Democratic Senator Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema in trying to privately persuade them to change the rules in the Senate to allow a vote on voting rights.

So Chuck Schumer took his argument to the audience of "The View" this morning where he said, quote, we`re working very hard to try to persuade Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema. Now, saying that publicly, naming those two names publicly, means that Chuck Schumer has given up on private persuasion.

And that is what it means when Joe Biden said today, I`m tired of being quiet. President Biden and Senator Schumer are now asking for public pressure on Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema.


BIDEN: So I ask every elected official in America, how do you want to be remembered? Consequential moments in history, they present a choice. Do you want to be the side of Dr. King or George Wallace? Do you want to be on the said of John side of John Lewis or Bull Connor? Do you want to be on the side of Abraham Lincoln or Jefferson Davis? This is the moment to decide, to defend our elections, to defend our democracy.


O`DONNELL: Joe Biden has always known that putting enormous pressure on two Democratic senators could lose him their votes, not just on voting rights, but on everything else Joe Biden wants to do. And that`s why he waited until now.


Joe Biden wasn`t going to take the chance of having Joe Manchin quit the Democratic Party, which is a possibility, until Joe Biden got most of his legislative agenda passed and there was then precious little time left on the Senate clock for voting rights legislation.

And now, Joe Biden and Chuck Schumer are going to bring voting rights legislation to a vote in the Senate knowing that they might lose. They both know that at least having a vote in the Senate is better than having no vote at all.

It`s only in the 21st century virtually all suspense has disappeared from the Senate now that they almost never bring anything to the floor without having the votes to win.

Chuck Schumer is now going old school. He is going to the Senate floor knowing that he has now only 48 of the 50 votes that he needs and he and Joe Biden are hoping that the pressure, the public pressure on raising your hand to say yay or nay on the Senate floor might just might be the only way to, in the end, get those two votes for voting rights.

I have seen this play work in the Senate and I have seen this play not work. But what the vote will do is clearly identify the problem. If the bill doesn`t pass, you will know exactly who blocked voting rights legislation.

We already know that all 50 Republicans will block it, and now Joe Biden and Chuck Schumer plan to give the United States senators nowhere to hide on voting rights.


BIDEN: Every senator, Democratic, Republican, and independent will have to declare where they stand, not just for the moment, but for the ages. Will you stand against voter suppression? Yes or no? That`s the question it will answer.

Will you stand against election subversion? Yes or no? Will you stand for democracy? Yes or no?

Here`s one thing every senator, every American should remember. History has never been kind to those who have sided with voter suppression over voters` rights. And it will be less kind for those who side with election subversion.


O`DONNELL: And, finally, today, President Biden, the 36-year veteran of the United States senate, said this.


BIDEN: I believe the threat to our democracy is so grave that we must find a way to pass these voting rights bills. Debate them. Vote. Let the majority prevail. And if that bare minimum is blocked, we have no option but to change the Senate rules, including get rid of the filibuster for this.


O`DONNELL: Leading off our discussion is Democratic Congressman James Clyburn of South Carolina. He is the third ranking Democrat in the House of Representatives.

Congressman Clyburn, thank you very much for joining us on this important night.

Joe Biden today, as president, finally said what you have been wanting him to say procedurally, which is he is willing very much to support a change in the Senate rules, get rid of the filibuster, whatever it takes to pass voting rights.

REP. JAMES CLYBURN (D-SC): Yes, he did. Thank you very much for having me. I listened to that speech today very intently, and I think that the president said exactly what he needed to say and the tone was exactly what it needed to be. I think we are now poised to tackle this issue in a way that gives us a possibility of bringing along those two senators that have been a bit reticent about this issue.

I want to remind your listeners and those looking in, the bill that the president endorsed today, the Freedom to Vote Act, is not the House passed bill. That is Joe Manchin`s bill. He asked for time to put something together that he thought made sense and thought he could get Republicans to support. He was given that time and he did it, and now he is supporting the filibuster that`s a filibuster of his bill.

So, the freedom to vote act is Joe Manchin`s legislation that Stacey Abrams endorsed when he first proposed it. I followed her and supported -- in support of the bill, and today, the president of the United States came out with his full-throated endorsement of Joe Manchin`s bill.


So, it would seem to me that Joe Manchin will be in support of his own legislation if he were to support changing the rules and removing the filibuster from this bill.

O`DONNELL: It`s such an important point that this is a Joe Manchin`s compromised version of the legislation that he did, in pursuit of Republican votes, and today when asked about the possibility of changing the rules, he still seems to think he should pursue Republican votes on that, too. Let`s listen to what he said today.


SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): We need some good rules changes. We can do that together. But you change the rules with two-thirds of the people that are present. So it`s Democrats and Republicans changing the rules to make the place work better. Getting rid of the filibuster does not make it work better.


O`DONNELL: What was your reaction to that?

CLYBURN: Well, you know, Senator Manchin has on occasion said that in order for the thing to work right it needs to be bipartisan. I will remind him that the 15th Amendment to the United States Constitution, the amendment that gives the former slaves the right to vote, my forbearers, that was a straight party line vote. It was not bipartisan.

So this notion that it has to be bipartisan in order to be good or, let`s just say, put into law, that is poppycock.

And so we need to move forward with this legislation, and I would hope that Joe Manchin will take a look at history and be guided by that history. The history of the 15th amendment as well as the history of what`s now the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act which passed by a unanimous Senate vote the last time, different version, before the Senate.

O`DONNELL: The president actually made the point today that at the end of his career Strom Thurmond in the Senate was better on voting rights than all of the current Republican members of the Senate.

CLYBURN: That is absolutely correct. I knew Storm Thurmond very well, knew his family. His wife, his sister Gertrude and I had desks next to each other when we both worked in state government together. And Strom Thurmond and I talked about the Voting Rights Act. He supported it, but he did, after a while, come out against it.

But he filibustered in 1957 a civil rights act that he told me on more than one occasion that he was a bit embarrassed about having done so.

O`DONNELL: Yeah, and there seems to be no trace of embarrassment in those 50 Republicans.

CLYBURN: Yeah, that`s the way it seems. But, you know, at least one Republican came out for the John R. Lewis, senator from Alaska came out in favor of it.

O`DONNELL: Murkowski, yes.

CLYBURN: I think she`s still there. I do believe there are others who would come out in favor. If we get some movement from the leadership, the fact of the matter is, I don`t know why Senator Mitch McConnell is making statements to these making (ph), for him to say there is some kind of power grab.

Is it a power grab to want the right to have your vote counted? That`s not a power grab. You are trying to be a part of this great experiment that we call a democracy. And I would hope that Senator Mitch McConnell would recognize that as such.

He supported this kind of legislation in the past. He has made some calculations recently. But I would remind him that this could very well be a miscalculation on his part.

O`DONNELL: What would you say to Senator Manchin and Senator Sinema tonight if you could be in these private discussions with them?

CLYBURN: I would say to both of them, remember the history of the country. Remember what`s gotten this country to be what it is today. We are not the same country that we were in 1776, nor 1976.

We are in a mature environment around the world. This country, this democracy, cannot continue to flourish if we do not continue to show other countries the way we should go as a nation.


And that is the threat that we have before us today. So I would say to them, look at how far we`ve come. You know, West Virginia is West Virginia because to broke off from Virginia over the issue of slavery.

I will remind Senator Manchin that West Virginia has a tremendous history. It`s a good history on this subject. And I think that he ought to reflect that history as he goes out into the future.

Now, Arizona is a bit different. It`s a little newer state than West Virginia. But I would say to Senator Sinema, just remember the 18th Amendment was required for women to get the right to vote. Just remember that history and remember that there is a requirement of you today as we march off in your future together because this is a different country than it was back during the 18th Amendment and the 15th Amendment.

O`DONNELL: The honorable James Clyburn, always an honor to have you join us. Really appreciate it.

CLYBURN: Thank you very much for having me.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

And coming up, Georgia Congresswoman Nikema Williams, who now holds the House seat that John Lewis held for 34 years, flew home to her district with the president and vice president on air force one today. She just arrived back in Washington and will join us next.



BIDEN: Today, we come to Atlanta, the cradle of civil rights, to make clear what must come after that dreadful day on a dagger was literally held at the throat of American democracy.


We stand on the grounds that connect Clark, Atlanta, Atlanta university, Morehouse College, near Spelman College, home of generations of advocates, activists, educators and preachers. Young people, just like the students here, who have done so much to build a better America.


We visited the sacred Ebenezer Baptist Church to pause, to pray at the crypt of Dr. and Mrs. King and spent time with their family. And here in the district as was pointed out, represented and reflected the life of beloved friend John Lewis.


O`DONNELL: Joining us is Georgia Congresswoman Nikema Williams. She`s also the chair of the Georgia Democratic Party and she holds the congressional seat once held by John Lewis.

Thank you very much for joining us tonight. You have to ride down to Atlanta on Air Force One with the president and the vice president. Why do you believe it was important for Atlanta to be the site of today`s speech?

REP. NIKEMA WILLIAMS (D-GA): Well, thank you for having this conversation, Lawrence.

I think it`s clear to point out that while Georgia was also the cradle of the civil rights movement, Georgia has also been ground zero for voter suppression and if we look at what happened with all of the legislation that we`ve seen across the country introduced to suppress the vote, it was all in response to Georgians showing up in force and electing not one, but two U.S. Democratic senators and also delivering our Electoral College votes for Joe Biden.

So Georgia was the epicenter of everything that has happened and that continues to happen for the good and the bad when it comes to democracy in this country. And so, it grounded us. And why we are continuing to fight, especially in the district that was once held by John Lewis, and we all have an obligation to stand up for his legacy and continue to do this work to see voting rights for everyone, regardless of their zip code, get across the finish line in the Senate.

O`DONNELL: The president localized a significant amount of this speech. He outlined in very specific detail what the Georgia legislature has been up to since the presidential election and he talked about what happened in the last presidential election and the drama in Georgia, including possible crimes by Donald Trump.

Let`s listen to that part of the speech.


BIDEN: What happened the last election? The former president and allies pursued, threatened, and intimidated state and local election officials, election workers. Ordinary citizens were subject to death threats. Many received phone calls. People stalking them in their homes.

Remember what the defeated former president said to the highest ranking election official, a Republican, in this state? He said, quote, I just want to find 11,780 votes.


O`DONNELL: And the defeated former president is, of course, under criminal investigation for that request to the secretary of state. The situation in Georgia could even worsen, apparently. The Georgia legislature has not stopped in their new attempts to change even more election law.

WILLIAMS: So, Lawrence, the Georgia legislature just reconvened yesterday in Atlanta, and so, we are already gearing up for more attempts to suppress the vote. Getting rid of drop boxes all together. And when I think about this, I think what they want us to think is this is a Democratic or a Republican issue.

But, Lawrence, this isn`t a partisan issue. When you suppress the vote, you are suppressing it for everyone. It has a greater impact on communities of color, new voters and younger voters, but this is not a partisan issue.

When you look at the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, which is the Voting Rights Act that has been reauthorized president after president after president, even Republican presidents, the last time that it was reauthorized was under President George W. Bush, a Republican president, and it passed the Senate 98-0.

So this is not a partisan fight. Donald Trump and his team want you to think that it is, but we have to stand up for our country. We have to stand up for democracy and we need people to decide which side they are going to be on. This is our civil rights movement and we have to do to get this bill across the finish line.

O`DONNELL: Congresswoman Nikema Williams, thank you for joining us on this important day. Really appreciate it.

WILLIAMS: Thank you, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: And joining us is David Thomas. He`s president of Morehouse College.


And joining us is David Thomas. He`s president of Morehouse College. President Thomas, what did it mean to you to have the president on campus today delivering this speech?

DAVID THOMAS PRESIDENT, MOREHOUSE COLLEGE: It meant a lot to us here at Morehouse College, as well as the other schools that make up the Atlanta University Center Consortium.

As the congresswoman was saying, Atlanta was the cradle of our civil rights movement right here at Morehouse College. Martin Luther King is our most well known graduate, and learned much of the philosophy that he brought to the civil rights movement right here on this campus from the likes of Benjamin Mays, former president of Morehouse College.

And it was also an important moment. We had many of our students from all of the schools that make up the Atlanta university center here to really understand the message that this fight to preserve our democracy is a mantle that they have to pick up just as in the 1950s our students picked that mantle up and brought much of the change that we saw that became known as the modern civil rights movement here in the country.

And I think it was important as well for them to understand the importance of Georgia in terms of being on the front line in this fight to make sure that we don`t compromise the basic right that defines citizenship in our country, and that is the right to vote and participate in our democracy.

O`DONNELL: Vice President Harris told the students that future generations are counting on them. Let`s listen to that.


KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Do not succumb to those who would dismiss this assault on voting rights as an unfounded threat Who would wave this off as a partisan game.

The assault on our freedom to vote will be felt by every American in every community in every political party. And if we stand idly by, our entire nation will pay the price for generations to come.


O`DONNELL: How did the students respond to the vice president`s appearance on campus?

THOMAS: Enthusiastic. They were excited and they applauded her comments. And I think those comments sunk in and many of the students I talked to as I was departing the campus were echoing her words, and also talking about organizing for the next election that`s going to happen here in Georgia where we will also be voting on continuing the senatorship of Raphael Warnock, who is also a Morehouse graduate.

So our students were motivated and they are already talking about organizing around the vote and around this issue of voting rights.

O`DONNELL: What do you see as the future of Georgia given the organizational enthusiasm there is on the Democratic side of politics there to try to maintain voting rights in Georgia?

I think that those who are working to suppress the vote here are going to be sadly awakened because what I see is a lot of grassroots energy in our communities to have people come out and show that you can`t suppress the right that so many people died for here in this community and throughout our nation in the time that I have lived. And I was born in 1956.

And if you go back to then and you think about where we are now, there is a commitment not to go backwards. So I think this is actually helping to galvanize and mobilize, in particular communities of color, but also those who see this not as a partisan battle, but as a battle for democracy.

O`DONNELL: Morehouse College president David Thomas, thank you very much for joining us on this very important day for Morehouse. We really appreciate it.

THOMAS: Thank you for the invitation.


O`DONNELL: And coming up, even racist South Carolina Senator Strom Thurmond was at the end of his senate career a better supporter of voting rights than any Republican serving in the Senate today.

Professors Jelani Cobb and Eddie Glaude will join us next.



JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When I headed up the Judiciary Committee I helped reauthorize the Voting Act three times. We held hearings. We debated. We voted. Was able to extend the Voting Rights Act for 25 years. In 2006, the Voting Rights Act passed 390-33 in the House of Representatives and 98-0 in the Senate with votes from 16 current sitting Republicans in this United States Senate. 16 of them voted to extend it.


BIDEN: The last year I was chairman, as some of my friends sitting down here will tell you, Strom Thurmond voted to extend the Voting Rights Act. Strom Thurmond. Even Strom Thurmond came to support voting rights. But Republicans of can`t and won`t.


O`DONNELL: Joining us now Jelani Cobb, staff writer for the "New Yorker" and professor of journalism at Columbia University. He`s an MSNBC political analyst. And Eddie Glaude, chairman of the African-American studies department at Princeton University and an MSNBC contributor.

And Professor Glaude, let me begin with you. President Biden offered a few different historical frames of where we stand tonight on voting rights, including that point we just heard. That even Strom Thurmond eventually got there and got to a place where no Republican senator stands tonight.

EDDIE GLAUDE, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Right. So, first of all, I`m really excited. I am a graduate of Morehouse. So I am so delighted that you had the president of Morehouse College on, Lawrence, and Happy New Year and the like.

So, yes, so I think President Biden made a great point with regards to the historical commitment on the part of Republicans to pass voting rights.

But I think we need to add a little historical nuance. Even though Strom Thurmond supported the Voting Rights Act and you know even though Ronald Reagan signed, supported the Voting Rights Act as well, Ronald Reagan in 1981 supported the Voting Rights Act with the stipulation that he wanted to ease some of the requirements.

So Reagan, although he signed, although he embraced the kind of Voting Rights Act, he actually, shall we say, foreshadowed the Shelby decision which opened the door for where we are now.

So I want us to be more nuanced in how we think about previous Republican support for the Voting Rights Act. In some ways, what we see right now, Lawrence, is the foundation has been laid for the crisis we have in terms of the policies that Republicans have embraced over the last few decades.

O`DONNELL: Professor Cobb, you recently wrote in the "New Yorker", Martin Luther King Jr. Spoke of the intransigent optimism that had led activists to fight for change in the face of skepticism about what could actually be achieved. And that is where we stand tonight.

Skepticism that you can get those votes in the United States Senate to change that rule that will have to be changed in order to pass anything.

JELANI COBB, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, I want to start by saying that I am a graduate of Howard for the purposes of this conversation. I decided to not hold it against Professor Glaude that he is a Morehouse man. So we can have a detente for the purpose of this conversation.

But significantly, you know, Martin Luther King Jr. himself a Morehouse graduate did, when he talked about the voting rights speech he gave in 1965 in Selma, you know, he placed this in terms that would be strikingly familiar to us right now where he said that the removal of the ballot from the hands of black voters was necessary before southern elites could erect an infrastructure, socioeconomic infrastructure, that disadvantaged all poor people. And that is exactly what we`re looking at.

When we look at what is happening with Build Back Better, when we look at what`s happening with the whole array of things around COVID and health care and all of these things that the African-American vote and the denial of African-American vote will only make it easier for the forces that want to make the situation even worse for poor and vulnerable people. And so Dr. King was summoning optimism in the face of that. I think Joe Biden was trying to do the same today.

O`DONNELL: Professor Glaude, Joe Biden could have given this speech at the White House today. What did he add to it by going to Atlanta, by visiting with Dr. King`s family?

GLAUDE: Well, he brings the gravitas of history, right. And also, the gravitas of the president. Atlanta is of course, the cradle of the civil rights movement and to bring the weight of the symbolic weight and significance of recent history to bear on this issue, I think it was very important for us to understand that our democracy, as a multiracial democracy, we are very young.

We haven`t been a multiracial democracy, I would argue, Lawrence, since 1965. And that was barely then because you remember we -- it took us a while to implement the Voting Rights Act in 1965. And by the time Reagan was elected in the 80, elected in some ways to undo in some ways the gains of the civil rights movement.

So to go to Atlanta is to give us a sense of the importance, the significance of the moment. And this is why I think the president insisted that you have to choose a side. Either you are going to be for democracy or you`re not. Either you`re You are going to be for voter suppression or you`re not. Either you`re going to be for voter subversion or you`re not.


GLAUDE: I think making that choice, right, lets us know the stakes of the game.

O`DONNELL: Professor Cobb, what did you make of the president`s use of history to frame this speech today?

COBB: Well, I mean I think it was a great deployment of this, you know. And this has been on his mind, you know, if we could even make a link between this and the speech that he gave on January 6th when he was referencing the ways in which the worst parts of American history are resurrecting themselves before our very eyes.

And so, you know, he has been harkening back to this on the same token at the same time as you well know that lots of people who don`t really want to talk about history, they want to talk about the here and now.

And there`s a loud contingent of people who were very dissatisfied with what they think the administration has done thus far. And so that was also a sub theme of what was happening today in Atlanta.

O`DONNELL: Professor Jelani Cobb and Professor Eddie Glaude, who bring the Howard/Morehouse rivalry to the screen for us tonight and their wisdom, thank you very much for joining us. Always appreciate it.

COBB: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

And coming up, why are the Republican senators from the Dakotas willing to say what most elected Republicans are afraid to say about Donald Trump? That`s next.



O`DONNELL: There`s trouble in the Dakotas for Donald Trump. Donald Trump in the last election won North Dakota by 33 points, he won South Dakota by 26 points. But Donald Trump has lost the Republican senators representing the Dakotas because they are in effect calling Donald Trump a liar about the 2020 election.

On Sunday South Dakota`s Republican Senator Mike Rounds said that Joe Biden won the presidency in a fair election which, of course, provoked Donald Trump to issue a written statement saying, "I will never endorse this jerk again."

South Dakota`s Republican Senator John Thune recently announced he`s running for re-election and Donald Trump has threatened to support a primary challenger against John Thune.

Today, North Dakota`s Republican Senator Kevin Cramer said "I have always said I agree that the election was not stolen."

We`re still awaiting Donald Trump`s attack on Senator Cramer, who won his Senate seat in 2018 with Donald Trump`s full endorsement.

And today Mitch McConnell said "I agree with him," when he was asked about Senator Mike rounds saying that Joe Biden won a fair election. Senator McConnell said "I think Senator Rounds told the truth about what happened in the 2020 election, and I agree with him."

And in our constant search for any loosening of Donald Trump`s grip on the Republican, we turn now to our next guest, Stuart Stevens. He`s a veteran of five Republican presidential campaigns, and the author of "It Was All A Lie: how the Republican Party became Donald Trump".

Stuart, what do you make of what we`re seeing in the Dakotas?

STUART STEVENS, AUTHOR: Well, you know, I worked a lot in South Dakota, worked for a guy who got elected governor there three -- four times, Bill Janklow. And I remember Mike Rounds, he`s not somebody that like -- unlike John McCain doesn`t go across the street to get in a fight. He`s the most quiet, nice guy.

What just strikes me as extraordinary, here it is 2022 and we`re having a controversy over who won an election inside the Republican Party that wasn`t very close? I mean I just think it shows where the Republican Party is.

There`s nothing about this that makes anybody`s life better in America. They`re not out there fighting for anything that matters. I mean this would be like a debate inside the National Science Foundation whether or not gravity was a regional phenomena. I mean it`s just extraordinary.

O`DONNELL: You have made the point that Donald Trump didn`t convert the Republican Party to Trumpism but Donald Trump revealed what the Republicans really are.

STEVENS: I don`t see how you can -- anyone can really disagree with that. Nobody made people vote for Donald Trump. And nobody made people like Donald Trump. 16 people ran against him, they all lost.

I think the way in which the party has embraced the dark core of Trumpism is very telling. It`s as if he gave everyone permission to be their worst self. I mean it used to be politics -- you certainly came out of this school, Lawrence -- the politics was about appealing to the best in us. And Donald Trump appeals to the worst in us. And Republican Party, which don`t forget, didn`t even pass a platform. The platform was what Donald Trump wanted.

So it`s like an official stamp on an autocratic leader. And that`s what the Republican Party for the most part has become.

O`DONNELL: If Donald Trump is messing in the Senate elections and pitting one Republican against another in primaries, possibly endorsing challengers to incumbents, who does that help in the end?

STEVENS: I think it`s state by state. You know, I`ve come to the conclusion, which a strange place for me to be, because I spent 40 years pointing out flaws in the Democratic Party, that there really are two parties in America -- one is autocratic and one is democratic. And the Democratic Party is -- the pro-democracy party is the Democratic Party.

So I want the Democrats to win these races. I think having these food fights inside the Republican Party probably on the whole helps Democrats wins. Certainly anytime you have internal dissension in a party it`s not productive for winning a general election.


STEVENS: So I think `22 and `24 are the most consequential elections since 1860. So I want Democrats to win these. And that`s the only way you`re going to help the Republican Party redeem itself. You`re going to have to burn the current Republican Party to the ground and rebuild. There`s no fixing what we have now.

Stuart, when you see Donald Trump saying I`m never going to endorse that jerk again, when voters see him endorse a candidate this year in these congressional races, they can be sitting there wondering when is he going to call him a jerk and retract the endorsement?

STEVENS: Yes. And look, what is going to happen here is Rounds is going to win and Thune -- they`re going to win. You`re not going to beat an incumbent. How many incumbent senators have lost primaries? You can count them on one hand.

I think -- you know, Donald Trump is -- this is just all sort of who he is. No one is advising Donald Trump, there`s no strategy here. It`s the same as when he was president, it`s just all emotion.

O`DONNELL: Stuart Stevens, thank you very much for joining us once again tonight. Always appreciate it.

STEVENS: Thank you, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Thank you. Tonight`s LAST WORD is next.



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


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: The president bears responsibility for Wednesday`s attack on Congress by mob rioters.


O`DONNELL: Kevin McCarthy, friend of Donald Trump, gets tonight`s LAST WORD.

"THE 11TH HOUR" starts now.