LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: I`m so glad that you did, Rachel, because
I was going to read it if you didn`t. The good news in it is the FBI knows
everything these people are up to at the moment and seems to have a good
eye on them. I think their possible success at their schemes is probably
close to zero at this point with the amount of attention they already have
from the FBI.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, "TRMS": Yeah, I was also interested to see, and
this is a rare thing that you don`t see papers don`t say very often, that
"The Post" says, withholding details outlined in the intelligence report at
the request of the FBI to avoid revealing intelligence-gathering methods or
specific security vulnerabilities.
So, the FBI is going to "The Post" and saying, don`t report this stuff,
it`s going to let them know how we`re surveilling them. And how they know -
- how they might be able to figure out what we`re doing. How we know what
they`re doing. That`s a sign of active investigations.
O`DONNELL: Yeah, it reminds me of the arrests of the gang in Michigan
whose scheme was to kidnap the governor. About half of the people involved
were either FBI informers or FBI agents, themselves. There was just a
stunning amount of them so that at any given moment, when you were talking
to someone in that plot, you were talking directly to the FBI. And that may
very well be the case with all these people tonight.
MADDOW: Yeah, it may be. Man, this next two days, I`m both looking forward
to it and really excited about it being over.
O`DONNELL: It will be over very soon, Rachel.
MADDOW: Yeah. Thanks, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel.
Well, Mary Trump is going to join us with at this point about 38 hours left
in her uncle`s presidency. She is the person who I think can give us some
idea about what to expect in those 38 hours and what Donald Trump`s life is
going to be when he becomes a private citizen on the golf course. And this
is this country`s 35th Martin Luther King Day.
Professor Eddie Glaude will join us at the end of this hour to consider
what Dr. King`s final speech should mean to Americans today.
And so Donald Trump leaves the presidency the same way he entered it, with
the overwhelming disapproval of a majority of the American people. A
substantial majority of Americans disapproved of Donald Trump on the very
first day of his presidency and every single day of his presidency and now
in the final days of his presidency, 61 percent disapprove of Donald Trump
and that`s before America has had a chance to see all of the pardons that
Donald Trump will grant and what are now his final 38 hours in office.
A Quinnipiac poll today shows that 59 percent say Donald Trump should not
be allowed to hold elected office in the future. 55 percent approve of the
vote to impeach Donald Trump in the House last week. 54 percent say that
Donald Trump should be convicted in his trial in the United States Senate.
59 percent say that Donald Trump is, indeed, responsible for inciting the
violence that occurred in the invasion of the Capitol on January 6th.
That same poll also shows that Donald Trump and the Fox Channel`s
relentless bombardment of propaganda lies has done grave damage to
Republicans` ability to distinguish fact from fiction and 67 percent of
Republicans think that the Biden/Harris election victory is not legitimate
but always remember when you see a poll of Republicans, you must remember
that only 25 percent of American voters are Republicans and so 67 percent
of Republicans is only 16 percent of us, the American people.
Even if Donald Trump pardons himself, he is going to spend the next few
days and possibly many more years as a defendant. First, he will be in
effect the defendant in the Senate impeachment trial where the evidence
continues to mount against him in the form of statements made by people who
have been arrested for invading the Capitol, and they say that they did it
because Donald Trump told them to. That is proof of incitement of
insurrection, proof beyond a reasonable doubt.
The statements of many of those people who are now criminal defendants,
themselves, will surely be used in the impeachment trial against Donald
Trump. And so, the people who might turn out to be the most effective
witnesses against Donald Trump in his impeachment trial in the Senate are
the very people who love him so much that they invaded the Capitol for him.
They love him so much that they committed federal crimes for him. And they
love Donald Trump so much that they murdered a police officer for him.
Donald Trump is already a defendant in civil lawsuits that will progress
much more quickly now that he`s not president starting on Wednesday
afternoon. E. Jean Carroll is suing Donald Trump, saying Donald Trump raped
her in New York City in the 1990s. Donald Trump`s niece, Mary Trump, is
suing her uncle and will be testifying in legal proceedings against him.
Mary Trump will join us later this hour.
Donald Trump and his children who are involved in this business could
become criminal defendants in an investigation currently under way by the
Manhattan district attorney. Donald Trump might become a criminal defendant
in Georgia accused of violating state election law by asking the Republican
secretary of state to find votes for him.
"The New York Times" is reporting that Donald Trump is contemplating more
than 100 possible pardons, along with the White House counsel Pat A.
Cipollone and advisers including Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, his
daughter and son-in-law. Mr. Trump has spent days sifting through names and
recommendations, assembling a list that officials say he intends to
disclose on Tuesday. His last full day in office.
Don`t trust the list. Do not believe the list when it comes out because
Donald Trump can grant pardons secretly that would never be revealed
publicly until that person is charged with a federal crime. And only then
would that pardon -- would that pardon reveal what Donald Trump had granted
it, and that pardon would then be presented so that the charges would be
dismissed against that person.
That could be how Donald Trump pardons himself. He might pardon himself and
not reveal it publicly so that he doesn`t provoke a negative reaction to
the pardon, to his self-pardon, in his Senate impeachment trial. "The New
York Times" reports, White House officials also believe that any
consideration he is giving to granting himself a pardon could also turn
more Republicans against him in his coming Senate impeachment trial.
Not if he keeps his self-pardon a secret. He might keep pardons to his
children a secret unless and until they are charged with a federal crime.
Do not trust the Trump pardon list when it is publicly revealed. There is
no reason to believe that Donald Trump will make every pardon he grants in
his final hours of his presidency public.
It seemed like every hour today there was a new report from another news
organization about who is on and who is slipping off the Trump pardon list,
but none of those reports included the fact that Donald Trump can keep some
of his pardons secret and his Senate impeachment trial gives him a huge
incentive to that.
A lawyer for at least one of the people who invaded the Capitol is already
asking for a pardon from Donald Trump. The lawyer for this guy wants a
pardon for him saying that he only entered the Capitol because Donald Trump
told him to.
Donald Trump will spend all of his waking hours -- the waking hours
remaining in his presidency trying to figure out how best to protect
himself with pardons. And when he does that, his poll numbers will not be
going up. Donald Trump`s life beginning Wednesday afternoon will, in his
mind, be the life of a loser. The only thing that might remain constant in
his life is the number of hours he spends trying to play golf. Many
national security experts are hoping he doesn`t have any new intelligence
information with him on the golf course.
Sue Gordon was Donald Trump`s principal deputy director of national
intelligence for the first three years of his presidency and she says that
Donald Trump, the president she served, cannot be trusted with any more
intelligence briefings as is traditional for presidents after they leave
office. Sue Gordon writes in the "Washington Post," my recommendation as a
30-plus-year veteran of the intelligence community is not to provide him
any briefings after January 20th with this simple act which is solely the
new president`s prerogative, Joe Biden can mitigate one aspect of the
potential national security risk posed by Donald Trump, private citizen.
Donald Trump, private citizen, doesn`t have a single good day in his
Leading off our discussion tonight, Nicholas Kristof, Pulitzer Prize
winning columnist for "The New York Times", and Yamiche Alcindor, White
House correspondent for "PBS NewsHour" and an MSNBC political analyst.
Yamiche, your friends in the White House press corps have been issuing new
reports every hour at different news organizations about who`s on the
pardon list, who`s slipping off the pardon list. Is Steve Bannon going to
get one? Is Rudy Giuliani going to get a pardon? How much money -- how big
are the bags of money being dragged into this process to pay the people
like Giuliani and others who might be trying to secure pardons for others?
And it seems at this point tomorrow might be the day when we learn of at
least some of these pardons.
YAMICHE ALCINDOR, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: That`s right. The reports are
that President Trump who has finally turned a tornado corner, and realizes
that he`s going to have to leave the White House has now turned his
attention to pardons.
The understanding is and reporting shows that he might issue as many as 100
pardons all at once. At one point, there was supposed to be two batches of
pardons. He was obsessed with the idea he was going to try to win back the
election, the Electoral College count, they couldn`t get him focused no on
the pandemic, but even -- not on the pardons, as a result, we`re seeing
What it says about the Trump presidency, at the very end of this
presidency, he`s wrestling with a marred and tarnished legacy that could
get even more controversial and, frankly, more stained tomorrow given who
he ends up wanting to pardon. This is now a president who may, as you said,
secretly pardon himself because the legal problems are mounting, if you
watch closely Michael Cohen who, of course, was -- was convicted of a crime
that he committed with President Trump, he said that he`s been in contact
with federal authorities, with state authorities, who`ve been reaching out
So what we see here is president Trump weighing all of the different legal
challenges of other people but also weighing his own personal legal
challenge which, of course, are many.
O`DONNELL: And, Nick Kristof, there are reports indicating that there have
been discussions about possibly pardoning the invaders of the Capitol, but
Donald Trump has been advised against doing that. And with the impeachment
trial looming, these pardons could create a more dynamic problem for him
than otherwise because he does have that Republican Senate jury that he has
to hold on to.
NICHOLAS KRISTOF, COLUMNIST, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Yeah. He`s finally
running into a measure of accountability. I mean, when he said way back
when he could shoot somebody on 5th Avenue and nobody would pay attention,
well, today it does seem finally that has caught up with him and see his
poll ratings going down after there had been this floor, nothing seemed to
Now those floorboards are wearing out as you noted. A Pew Poll found him
even lower at 29 percent. Then, of course, that`s going to affect the
I would say aside from the question of who`s on all those lists that are
coming out and how reliably we should view those, there`s also the question
about the process and even if the names end up being names that, you know,
that don`t send our eyebrows soaring, the process should. This has not gone
through Justice Department with a scrutiny, the review, that is customary
and is traditional.
And I think, you know, we should find that offensive even if the particular
names in the end do not offend us.
O`DONNELL: Yeah. Yamiche, the pardon office in the Justice Department was
set up so that to depoliticize the pardon process. Donald Trump has jumped
that and made all of his pardons political including ones that he may
include tomorrow of worthy cases that are deserving of pardon, of people he
doesn`t know so that he can put some things in there that look like
reasonable choices that another president could have made.
ALCINDOR: That`s right.
KRISTOF: Go ahead, Yamiche.
O`DONNELL: Sorry, let`s go to Yamiche. Go ahead, Yamiche.
ALCINDOR: Well, one, Nick Kristof, I love your point so much, I`m going to
make this brief. I think for me when you look at that, the list could
include people that are criminal justice cases that are cases that
advocates are pushing for, but we know just by what we can see in the past
that some of these names are likely to raise eyebrows. Let`s remember that
this was a president who pardoned people that were involved in killing
civilians in Iraq, little children in Iraq. He has pardoned Scooter Libby,
he`s pardoned Roger Stone. He`s pardoned people that were close to him as
well as people that he didn`t know.
And the feeling is, yes, maybe he`ll have some people who maybe are
deserving of pardons who are people who maybe have been wrongfully
convicted in all sorts of things or maybe have seen a sort of change. There
are probably going to also be people that are politically motivated, that
are about sending a message. He`s wanted to kind of argue that he was a
target of a hoax, the target of an unfair prosecution in all sorts of ways,
So, I can just imagine based on my conversation there are also going to be
people especially in the Republicans` conservative cause celebre that are
going to make eyebrows definitely raised.
O`DONNELL: Nick Kristof, you look down to 2021, Donald Trump may have been
living the life of the weekend golfer who spends the weekday in courtrooms
or answering interrogatories or depositions in civil cases. How do you
think Donald Trump is going to look in our politics, say, at the end of the
first year of the Biden administration?
KRISTOF: So, I think it`s encouraging that those floorboards are beginning
to drop out on his public support. I think it`s also encouraging that we`re
seeing some signs that the Republican Party is willing to try to -- some
people within the Republican Party are going to try to move beyond him. But
I -- you know, I think it`s really too early to tell whether we`re going to
see what happened, you know, with Nixon, for example, where Nixon had job
approval ratings only a hair below where they are for Trump right now,
about 25 percent, and then he became, you know, stigmatized by everybody
across the country, or whether Trump is going to continue to maintain this
hold over the Republican Party partly because of a fear that people have of
being primaried, partly because his base remains much more loyal so far to
him than they do to any other Republican officials.
O`DONNELL: Yamiche, the year after Richard Nixon left office was very hard
to find anyone who could remember voting for him. It just became something
that people weren`t willing to admit. There may be some erosion like that
with Donald Trump, but his supporters seem to be more strongly attached to
him than Richard Nixon`s were.
ALCINDOR: That`s the case right now. There are a lot of Trump supporters
who are wanting to talk about how proud they are that they stood up for the
president, stood by him as he lied about election fraud and lied about the
election being stolen from him.
But I think that this -- the racial reckoning that we`re going through,
this idea that people are starting to finally realize the threat of white
supremacy, that white supremacy literally crashed and attacked our U.S.
Capitol, that that might give some people some cause when you ask them
whether or not they supported the president. I will say this is Martin
Luther King Day. There are a lot of people who are sharing quotes from
Martin Luther King who are talking about his ideals, but who don`t actually
really talk about the radical change that he wanted, doing away with
And I think those people are going to have to really contend with their
support of president Trump and they may start to not want to associate with
O`DONNELL: Yamiche Alcindor, Nick Kristof, thank you very much for
starting off our discussion here in the final hours of the worst presidency
of American history. Really appreciate you joining us tonight.
KRISTOF: Good to be with you.
O`DONNELL: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: Up next, Chuck Rosenberg will join us to consider the legal
technicalities of the Trump pardon spree and the strategic difficulty
Donald Trump is going to have in trying to protect himself through pardons
of himself and other people. Some pardons could hurt Donald Trump more than
they help him legally. That`s next.
O`DONNELL: To pardon or not to pardon. That is the question facing Donald
Trump every minute of his remaining time in the presidency. That`s what`s
keeping him awake tonight. There are political implications to some of his
pardon choices that could make him even less politically popular than he is
But there are also some very important legal strategic issues that matter
to Donald Trump because protecting himself is the really central matter in
the pardons for him. That`s what he cares about. Protecting himself.
Consider the example of Allen Weisselberg, the longtime accountant of the
Trump company. Donald Trump might want to relieve Allen Weisselberg of any
federal criminal risk involving the Trump company tax returns and Donald
Trump`s personal tax returns, but "The New York Times" reports that Allen
Weisselberg might not receive a preemptive pardon. Quote, in part, out of
fear that Mr. Weisselberg may forfeit his Fifth Amendment rights against
So some of the choices Donald Trump could make in pardoning people to try
to protect himself could actually create more legal danger for Donald
To discuss more of the legal complexities of the looming Trump pardon
spree, we are joined now by Chuck Rosenberg, former U.S. attorney. Chuck is
now an MSNBC legal contributor and host of the podcast, "The Oath."
So, Chuck, let`s just begin on a pardon checklist of questions. Does this
question of can you grant a preemptive pardon to someone who has not been
accused of a crime, as happened with Richard Nixon? But the Richard Nixon
pardon was never tested in court so we never got an opinion on the validity
of that pardon.
Do we have in our history some other Supreme Court opinion on the validity
of a pardon, a blanket pardon, for someone who has not actually yet been
accused of a federal crime?
CHUCK ROSENBERG, MSNBC LEGAL CONTRIBUTOR: No, but we have other
precedents, Lawrence. It`s a great question. Washington issued a preemptive
pardon for those who partook in the Whiskey Rebellion. As you pointed,
President Ford issued preemptive pardon to Richard Nixon. President Carter
issued preemptive pardons to individuals who evaded the draft. So while it
hasn`t been tested, we do have precedent.
O`DONNELL: And what about pardoning a business? Can the Trump company get
a federal pardon?
ROSENBERG: That is such an interesting question. So let me answer it with
about a 90 percent confidence integral, Lawrence. My surmise is, yes, you
can issue a pardon to a business organization.
There are only two restrictions in the constitution on the president`s
pardon power. It has to be for a federal offense and it cannot be in a case
of impeachment. Corporations can commit federal offenses. They can`t be put
in prison, of course, but they can be fined, they can forfeit property,
they can be put on probation, they can be ordered to pay restitution to
So corporations can more or less be treated as individuals. So my surmise,
my 90 percent confidence integral answer is yes, you can issue a pardon to
a business organization.
O`DONNELL: It sounds to me, Chuck, like that is worth it for Donald Trump,
to issue a pardon to the company, let them spend -- if they get accused of
federal offenses, let them send a year in the appeals cycle with it and buy
a year of time. And the same thing with the Donald Trump self-pardon.
Professor Tribe has convinced me the Supreme Court would rule against him.
But Donald Trump would say in that a minimum of a year delay of self-
pardoning himself so that that would have to be litigated to the Supreme
ROSENBERG: Sure. It would have to be litigated at the federal level, but,
again, remember, you cannot pardon, or at least the president cannot
pardon, for a state offense. So while a business organization that received
a pardon or president that granted himself a self-pardon could litigate in
federal court, it would have no value and no effect in a state prosecution.
And we know that the Manhattan district attorney, a state prosecutor, has
an open investigation of the Trump organization and many people affiliated
O`DONNELL: Well, you see the -- that challenge of if you pardon Donald
Trump Jr., he loses his Fifth Amendment rights. If you pardon your
accountant, he loses his Fifth Amendment rights. Does Donald Trump if he
pardons himself lose his Fifth Amendment rights?
ROSENBERG: Not entirely, at least not in my view because, again, you have
state criminal jeopardy. So when you talk about the Fifth Amendment, think
about it in two different buckets. There`s the federal bucket and the state
And as long as he is still at least theoretically exposed in the state
criminal system, he still has some vestiges of his Fifth Amendment
privilege remaining. So I think you`re quite right. You may lose it, it may
be stripped in the federal context, but you could still assert it.
And to your earlier point, Lawrence, and it`s such an important one, by
merely asserting it, you can get to litigate it. Even if you lose in the
end, you still get to litigate it which means you`re running the clock.
O`DONNELL: Yeah, Donald Trump as a litigant has always been a believer in
running the clock as long as you possibly could to avoid the day of
But, Chuck, if he doesn`t have a federal pardon, on day one, he becomes
criminally liable in the southern district of New York where he was
identified in court as directing Michael Cohen to commit the federal crimes
that sent Michael Cohen to prison. That exposure is so clear to Donald
Trump as he sits there tonight, it`s hard to imagine him leaving office
without writing that little note to himself with that pardon.
ROSENBERG: Yeah, I think that`s also exactly right. You know, he not only
has exposure there, but he has exposure in the District of Columbia for
inciting an insurrection. Also a federal offense.
And so -- and, by the way, the phrase you just used is so interesting.
Writing a little note to himself. There`s absolutely no requirement in the
constitution that a pardon be made public. Or that it even be in writing.
It could be oral, I guess, or it could be stuck away in his drawer to be
pulled out if he needs it down the road.
Again, the Constitution only places two limitations. Cannot be for a
federal offense and cannot be for cases of impeachment. Otherwise, the
power is broad and the Constitution is silent.
O`DONNELL: We will know a lot more about this tomorrow night.
Chuck Rosenberg, thank you very much for joining us tonight. Always
ROSENBERG: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: Thank you.
Coming up, Mary Trump`s last word here on THE LAST WORD during the last
hours of her uncle`s presidency. Mary Trump joins us next.
O`DONNELL: With less than 38 hours left in her uncle`s presidency, we turn
now to Mary Trump for her expert guidance on what to expect in those
remaining hours and what Donald Trump will be feeling the next time he goes
to play golf as a private citizen.
Joining us now is Mary Trump, author of "Too Much and Never Enough: How My
Family Created the World`s Most Dangerous Man". Mary Trump, thank you very
much for joining us tonight.
And I want to just clarify something because as we -- before the commercial
when we were jumping over to here, I said something like, Mary Trump`s last
word on THE LAST WORD. It doesn`t mean you will not be begged to come back
in the future on some Trump madness day or for other reasons. It`s just
this is your last word during the Trump presidency here on THE LAST WORD.
And it feels like a significant moment to us because you have helped so
many of us guide us through this final year of the Trump presidency, and I
think reduced properly the level of surprise at some of the things we`ve
seen happen because I don`t get the sense that you`ve been surprised at
anything that you`ve seen happen.
MARY TRUMP, AUTHOR: Yes, unfortunately, I wish I had been wrong or my
assessments had been considered melodramatic in retrospect. But
unfortunately, Donald has been true to form all along which is why,
unfortunately, we can`t let our guard down yet. 38 hours is a really long
O`DONNELL: I want to get -- you can tell us, what`s been going through your
mind, as I know, I`m sure you have been reading these press accounts of
your cousin, Ivanka Trump in the Oval Office with Donald Trump, with Jared
Kushner, going over the pardon list. Discussing Trump family members,
should we pardon, should we not pardon. This apparently had been going on
for days. This no doubt will keep Donald, as you call him, up late tonight.
When you`re imagining those scenes of the Trumps discussing the pardon
list, what goes through your mind?
M. TRUMP: They`re going to do as much damage as they can on the way out.
And when I heard how many people were on that list, it gave me a sinking
feeling because we`ve already seen some horrific pardons. And if he`s
giving out another 100 or 200, there`s a lot of room for him to do things
that are even more horrific.
But we need to remember a couple things. First of all, part of their motive
here is to demoralize and enrage the rest of us. So we need to just -- it`s
going to happen no matter what. What hopefully will happen, though, is he`s
going to overstep because as you and I have talked about before, he`s
increasingly desperate. I mean. there may only be a day and a half left.
That doesn`t mean that it`s all going to be over for him and he`ll just,
you know, take his toys and go home.
He`s freaking out and these pardons are also designed to get him out of any
future trouble as you and Chuck Rosenberg just discussed.
Now, what they`re trying to do is figure out how far they can go without
complicating things for them in the future. But if his only representation
is the Pillow guy and Rudy Giuliani, I don`t think he`s going to be making
very good decisions.
O`DONNELL: Tell us about what you think will be going through your Uncle
Donald`s mind the next time he`s sitting on that golf cart as a private
M. TRUMP: The first thing he`s probably thinking is how awful it is that he
has to pay for it out of his own pocket, I suppose. But more than that, I
don`t think there`s anything that can distract him, even his really quite
awful golf game, from what is coming right at him. The lawsuits, the
criminal investigations, you know, not just the insurrection, which he
incited which is bad enough, but the New York state charges, the potential
charges in Georgia of election interference.
So I don`t know that, you know, he`s pretty good sometimes at putting up a
good front, but I don`t think there`s anything that Donald is going to be
able to do in the near future to distract himself from the very, very
serious trouble he`s in.
O`DONNELL: It sounds like he`s going to be spending some significant time
under oath. You`re suing him. You will eventually get him under oath in
written interrogatories and in a deposition.
E. Jean Carroll is suing him and is closer to most of the other lawsuits to
getting him forced to testify under oath about what she says was the rape
that he committed against her.
This is all looming, his life under oath on the civil side, alone, for what
looks like a long time.
M. TRUMP: Yes. And that`s really good news for all of us. And I actually
think E. Jean Carroll`s lawsuit is more significant in some ways than mine.
So I`m happy -- I`ll be very happy if that moves forward quickly.
But what`s incredibly important, though, is that Congress invokes the third
section of the 14th Amendment as soon as possible. They need to make it
clear that Donald is not eligible ever to run for office in this country
I hope that also extends to his adult children who were involved in the
debacle of January 6th. But at the very least, Donald needs to be barred so
that he does not have a platform. I mean, I never thought he was going to
run in 2024, but I definitely thought he was going to pretend to run. And
if they do the right thing and bar him from that, he won`t have that
platform and that will do all of us a lot of good.
O`DONNELL: Mary Trump, thank you very much for joining us tonight and thank
you for the guidance that you`ve given me and our viewers so frequently.
It`s been so helpful. Really appreciate it.
M. TRUMP: Thank you so much, Lawrence. It`s great to be here.
O`DONNELL: Thank you.
Coming up, this is our 35th Martin Luther King Day and the militarization
of Washington, D.C. tonight is an echo of what happened in Washington, D.C.
after Martin Luther King was assassinated. That`s next.
O`DONNELL: In 1967, exactly 50 years before Donald Trump was sworn in as
president the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. described Trumpism
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARTIN LUTHER KING JR., CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST: Many Americans would like to
have a nation which is a democracy for white Americans but simultaneously a
dictatorship over black Americans.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: And that`s exactly what the Trump mob invading the Capitol was
Martin Luther King Jr. was the bright light leading this country through
very dark times. When that light went out when he was assassinated, the
nation was plunged into what seemed like hopeless darkness.
I described those days this way in my book, "Playing with Fire". "The
rioting lasted a week. Tens of thousands of people were arrested. Thousands
were injured. Dozens were killed. America has never seen anything like that
scale of nationwide rioting before or since.
The day after the King assassination, Washington was a war zone. Smoke from
burning buildings hid the dome of the U.S. Capitol. Vehicles packed with
soldiers and marines patrolled debris-strewn streets. Broken glass was
everywhere. More than 6,000 people were arrested in Washington in the days
following King`s murder. Ten killed.
A convoy of military trucks crossing into the district on Memorial Bridge
the second night had to fight an opposing tide of tens of thousands of
people in cars and buses and on foot fleeing the devastation.
Then came the 3rd Infantry, the 6th Armored Cavalry Regiment, the 91st
Engineering Battalion, the 82nd Airborne. These and other units converged
on the capital. Some rode straight up Pennsylvania Avenue to seal the White
House gates, bivouac in defensive posture on the lawn and pile up sandbags
in the spooky glow of klieg lights.
Others bounced their jeeps all the way up the Capitol steps and settled
there establishing radio communications turning machine guns toward the
Lincoln Memorial to command the mall."
The night before he was assassinated Martin Luther King Jr. gave his final
speech in Memphis. It was a classic Martin Luther King, Jr. speech. More
than 40 minutes long with no notes. A blend of political argument and
strategy accompanied by prayers and predictions.
Here`s some of what he had to say that night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KING, JR.: The world is all messed up. The nation is sick. Trouble is in
the land. Confusion all around. We have been forced to a point where we are
going to have to grapple with the problems that men have been trying to
grapple with through history but the demands didn`t force them to do it.
Survival demands that we grapple with them. All we say to America is be
true to what you said on paper.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Professor Eddie Glaude will join us after this break with his
reflections on Martin Luther King Jr.
05: Near the end of his final speech in Memphis the night before he was
assassinated, Martin Luther King Jr. told his audience that the airline
pilot on his flight from Atlanta that morning told him that because they
knew Dr. King was reserved on that flight, the plane had been searched for
bombs and the plane was guard all night.
And then, the final words Dr. King ever spoke publicly, he said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KING, JR.: Well I don`t know what will happen now. We have got some
difficult days ahead. But it really doesn`t matter with me now, because
I`ve been to the mountain top.
I don`t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life, longevity has
its place. But I`m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God`s
will and he has allowed me to go up to the mountain.
And I looked over and I`ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with
you. But I want you to know tonight that we as a people will get to the
So I`m happy tonight. I`m not worried about anything. I`m not fearing any
man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining us now is Professor Eddie Glaude. He`s the chair of the
Department of African-American Studies at Princeton University.
Professor Glaude, I will not presume to guide you in this discussion. Let
us know what is going through your mind tonight on this 35th Martin Luther
PROFESSOR EDDIE GLAUDE, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY: Well, thank you so much,
Lawrence to for the lead, for the framing of this conversation in so many
You know, I`m always struck by that, those last words. And you know, we
tend to focus on King`s witness, his vision of the promised land and run
past that formulation that frames it. That is, we`ve got some difficult
King had already witnessed and experienced the country`s betrayal of his
ministry, of his effort in some ways to urge the country to live up to the
principals of democracy. And he also understood that he was at death`s
And so what we -- I think that we are living with, Lawrence, and this is
really important, what we saw in the Capitol on January 6th is the logical
extension of the conservative backlash to Dr. King`s witness, to the civil
Because remember, after he is murdered on April 4th in Lorraine Motel,
right, what do we get? We already have Richard Nixon in `68, Richard Nixon
in `72, Ronald Reagan in 1980.
And what do we get? A series of policies really aimed at dismantling the
great society and dismantling the New Deal. We get the evisceration of a
robust conception of the public good. A shredding of the social safety net,
And all of this in some ways is the world that we have inherited. And so
what we saw on January 6th was the so-called Forgotten American. Those
people who have been kind of fed a diet of grievance and resentment and
hatred who believe that the country belongs to them.
They were actually cleaving to a world that King gave his life to destroy.
And so it matters for us this year to celebrate his life and witness.
Because we have to finally break loose from the stranglehold of that
reaction to King`s -- to King`s ministry and witness, Lawrence, in my view
O`DONNELL: We are in the final hours of the most cowardly person ever to
occupy the presidency. And one of the things that always strikes me about
Dr. King is his stunning bravery.
He knew every minute how much danger he was in. He couldn`t get on an
airplane without the pilot telling him, by the way, don`t worry we have
checked for bombs and we had the plane watched all night. This was around
him constantly. And the bravery it took for him to just get through his
GLAUDE: Right and you can -- we see this from as early as "Stride Toward
Freedom", his first book when he`s at the kitchen table as he`s receiving
these phone calls and he`s at his wits` end because people are threatening
not only his life but the life of his family and his children.
We see this in the end when he is suffering deep depression. When he knows
that his life is in jeopardy. He knows that any minute now a bullet will
strike him down. Yet, he still bears witness.
And this is the really key point. When we celebrate him, we often pull him
out of the specifics of his history so that we can avoid looking at the
ugliness of who we are squarely in the face.
We make him the happy nonviolent saint and we don`t deal with what he was
calling us to be in his last days, what he was confronting in his last
days, what he was talking about in terms of labor, what he was talking
about in terms of militarism, what he was talking about in terms of an
economy that presupposed the disposability of whole a group of people.
King was pushing us to imagine ourselves in much more expansive terms. And
he risked his life daily to do so, right. But you know, today we often make
him a Santa Claus as opposed to understanding what he convicted us, how he
convicted us from what he called us to do and what he called to be.
O`DONNELL: And he did it with example. He did it with personal example. He
was out there at the front -- on the front line, everywhere there was a
front line in the movement.
GLAUDE: Indeed, indeed. He called us to be the democracy that we aspire to
be. And it seems to me, Lawrence, in this moment of all the years that we
have celebrated the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, this year -- this year,
maybe, just maybe we will leave behind the ideas that in some ways have
choked the life out of American democracy over the last 40 years.
Perhaps we can step into a different way of being to actually step into the
promised land or begin to make strides towards that. But first, it will
require of us, to confront our ghastly failures, to tell the truth about
who we are.
O`DONNELL: Professor Eddie Glaude, thank you very much for joining us on
this important night. Really appreciate it.
GLAUDE: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: Professor Eddie Glaude gets tonight`s LAST WORD.
"THE 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS" starts now.
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