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Transcript: The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, 1/19/22

Guests: Norm Ornstein, E.J. Dionne, Tim O`Brien


Senate vote to change filibuster rule fails. 48 Senate Democrats voted to change the rules of the Senate tonight in this one instance for this one piece of legislation on voting rights. There were 52 votes in favor of preserving the rules. President Biden today delivered the longest televised presidential press conference on record. He answered every question fully and directly.


LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel. And you know --


O`DONNELL: -- rumor. You didn`t have to deny the rumor that wasn`t there - -

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, "TRMS": It`s just weird to have two people who look like they`re in the same weird place in split screen. Like it looked like it was a fake thing. It`s not a fake thing. It`s a real thing.

O`DONNELL: I believe you. We`ve got a live situation on the Senate floor now, Rachel, that we might be cutting to during our hour.

You know, I have one ear on the Senate floor during your hour, and you missed because you were working and I recommend it to you, the speech of Jeff Merkley`s lifetime. And he`s not, you know, stylistically the most compelling speaker on the Senate floor. But he delivered the single most thorough, historical analysis the 60-vote threshold rule, the cloture vote so-called, in the Senate that has ever been delivered on that floor.

And there were some great speeches today with a lot of important historical references including from Angus King pointing out that Hamilton and Madison warned us against any kind of supermajority voting. But, boy, Jeff Merkley, who is the authority on this, the Democrats have deferred to him on it all the way through, he was really -- it`s a masterful, I don`t know, 15 minutes or so that takes you through everything you`d ever want to know about it, and really compelling style.

MADDOW: You should just do late-night coverage. You can have my re-air hour and you should just play it. I hereby give you the baton. Go on.

O`DONNELL: So let me get this straight. So then I would have to come back to work at midnight to -- yeah.

Okay. I`m going to think about that. And I don`t want anyone to worry. The re-air`s going to be there. Don`t worry. The Rachel re-air --

MADDOW: When you address the rumors it`s just like you`re confirming them.

O`DONNELL: Yeah, yeah. Okay. Good point. Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW: Thanks, Lawrence. Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

Denied. That is the last word in the first sentence of today`s Supreme Court decision, and it is the last word on Donald Trump`s unprecedented -- the court called it unprecedented attempt to overrule the current president of the United States, Joe Biden, and block the national archives from handing over all of the records and documents of the Trump presidency that the January 6th committee has demanded.

Donald Trump and his lawyers did not have to read beyond the first sentence of the Supreme Court`s very short decision today to know that the Trump dream of a total cover-up has died. The unsigned order by the court notes that only Justice Clarence Thomas disagrees with the court`s decision. All three of the judges appointed to the court by Donald Trump joined in crushing the Trump cover-up dream today.

The first sentence says, quote: The application for stay of mandate and injunction pending review presented to the chief justice and by him referred to the court is denied. The Supreme Court said that Donald Trump`s assertion of executive privilege was unprecedented coming from a former president in a case like this, but the court said that Trump`s request would have been denied even if he were still president.

Quote: Because the court of appeals concluded that president Trump`s claims would have failed even if he were the incumbent, his status as a former president necessarily made no difference to the court`s decision.


Harvard`s constitutional law professor Laurence Tribe offered his scholarly opinion of the court`s decision today saying, "This is huge."

Tonight, the January 6th committee released this statement. Quote: the Supreme Court`s action tonight is a victory for the rule of law and American democracy. The Select Committee has already begun to receive records that the former president had hoped to keep hidden, and we look forward to additional productions regarding this important information. Our work goes forward to uncover all the facts about the violence of January 6th and its causes. We will not be deterred in our effort to get answers for the American people, make legislative recommendations to strengthen our democracy, and help ensure nothing like that day ever happens again.

And leading off our discussion tonight is Neal Katyal, law professor at Georgetown University and most importantly a former acting U.S. solicitor general who has practiced before the United States Supreme Court repeatedly. He is an MSNBC legal analyst.

Neal, I give you the floor in your reaction to the court.

NEAL KATYAL, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: Well, Lawrence, I don`t think I`ve seen this much excitement about a late-night literary release since the final "Harry Potter" book came out.

And why is everyone so excited? Because it`s a dark time in our country. People are worried about voting being under assault and rules and laws more generally, and here we`ve got at least for this moment, the rule of law coming back and in a really profound way.

You know, I was on your show last night. I told you to predict this result, that the Supreme Court wasn`t going to hear this executive privilege case. And lo and behold, that`s exactly what happened. They denied Donald Trump`s claim 8-1.

So what`s the case about? Executive privilege is this idea -- it`s a good idea. It`s the idea that presidents need a zone of secrecy around their decision-making like foreign affairs or things like that. You don`t want treaty negotiations to spill out into open court.

What it`s not about is plotting a coup and overthrow of American democracy. Trump tried to invoke it for that reason, and his claim was a loser from the start. The trial court rejected it right away. The circuit court, our nation`s second highest court, took nine days to write a 68-page opinion blowing it out of the water.

And now, today, the U.S. Supreme Court, which is a quite conservative Supreme Court to put it mildly, but totally threw out Trump`s claims.

O`DONNELL: Certainly, the judiciary at the Supreme Court level has become overpoliticized in many people`s minds, but one thing worth noting here is that the Appeals Court opinion that the Supreme Court accepted today in full was written by three judges who were appointed by Democratic presidents. Two were appointed by President Obama, one was appointed by President Biden.

And this Supreme Court with three Trump appointees on it, six appointees from Republican presidents, they accepted with only the exception of Clarence Thomas, they accepted all of the reasoning of those three judges appointed by Democratic presidents.

KATYAL: Exactly, Lawrence. And that`s the rule of law. It`s not supposed to be the way Donald Trump thought about it, Trump judges and Obama judges. They`re just federal judges. And I want to commend here judges but also the lawyers involved in this for the January 6th committee because everyone in this case understood that Donald Trump has one signature move, which is delay.

And they litigated this thing and decided this thing in the opposite of the way all the other Trump stuff has been done. I mean, this case was actually filed on my mom`s birthday, October 18th, three months and one day ago. And they went through all three layers of our court system. And the judges all ruled really quickly because they understand there`s a need to finally get at the truth and Trump`s been evading that for so, so long.

O`DONNELL: What does it mean for Steve Bannon, Mark Meadows, and everyone else in the Trump team who are trying to evade the committee`s subpoenas?

KATYAL: I think the technical legal term is deep doo-doo, Lawrence. It`s a real problem for them.

So, remember that Steve Bannon has been indicted already for contempt for not giving these answers to Congress. So he`s facing criminal charges. Mark Meadows is on his way for the same thing. Both of their defenses to contempt is executive privilege. And the Supreme Court today blew that out of the water.

So that means that these two individuals really do have to talk to the investigators in Congress. But also it more significantly means that Trump`s signature move, which is not just to hide these documents but all these people from testifying on live televised hearings in Congress, he was going to invoke executive privilege for all that. That`s now decimated by the Supreme Court`s ruling.


So it`s going to be very hard for all these folks, not just Bannon and Meadows but Giuliani and Eastman and the whole cast of characters to avoid having to testify. They can try other arguments like Fifth Amendment and so on. But today is a real nail in the coffin for that.

O`DONNELL: And so we also now know for a fact with the committee staff already tonight in possession of some of these documents, more of them coming tomorrow, and they will be coming by the barrelful constantly now from the archives, that when these hearings do go public on television, when the committee goes public on television with hearings, we will be hearing readings from these documents, from memos, from e-mails, from possible texts from government phones, all sorts of information that that committee does not yet know but will be discovering over the next several days and weeks.

KATYAL: Yes, Lawrence. I agree with you. But there`s one asterisk.

So remember, Trump`s move is delay. And what I think he and his minions will do is file further lawsuits invoking executive privilege once again saying, well, these documents are different, this testimony is different and the like. All of that`s going to fail because the Supreme Court today was resounding.

And just to give our viewers some sense of this -- I mean, if you`re a former president, to have your case not heard by the Supreme Court on an executive power issue, it`s virtually unthinkable. It`s almost automatic the Supreme Court`s going to hear your case and likely rule for you.

So it`s kind of like you`ve got to try really hard. It`s kind of like if you`re a Democratic candidate in Chicago running for mayor and you lose to a Republican. It`s possible to lose, but you`ve really got to work at it.

Here Donald Trump worked at it. He made such bogus claims about executive privilege it led the Supreme Court to do what it did. And that`s going to make it virtually impossible for Donald Trump and his team of insurrectionists to try and block the testimony and documents from coming out in live televised hearings.

O`DONNELL: Neal Katyal, thank you very much for joining us on this historic night in this case. Thank you very much.

And coming up, more defendant Trump news. The New York attorney general in a court filing says that Donald Trump has engaged in fraudulent or misleading practices.

Tim O`Brien and Daniel Goldman will be joining us next, and we`re keeping an eye on the Senate floor for you on what`s happening there tonight on voting rights.

We`ll be right back.



SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): The most fundamental wellspring of this democracy, more important than a rule in this chamber. Let me --

O`DONNELL: That is a live shot of the Senate floor. Majority leader Chuck Schumer is going to move any moment now for a vote on changing the rules in the Senate to eliminate the 60-vote threshold for holding a vote on voting rights legislation. This would be a one-time change of the Senate rules just for this one piece of legislation. We`re going to monitor that situation on the Senate floor as it develops, especially when it gets to that dramatic moment of calling for that vote. We will be keeping an eye on the Senate floor.

Also today, in a 115-page legal brief filed in court in response to Donald Trump`s attempt to evade a subpoena, a civil subpoena for his testimony in a civil fraud investigation, New York State Attorney General Letitia James said that the Trump company has engaged in "fraudulent or misleading," those were her words, practices in their business.

The attorney general`s filing says, quote, "in light of the pervasive and repeated nature of the misstatements and omissions, it appears that the valuations in the statements were generally inflated as part of a pattern to suggest that Mr. Trump`s net worth was higher than it would otherwise -- would have appeared." The attorney general is seeking to enforce subpoenas against Donald Trump, Donald Trump Jr. And Ivanka Trump for their testimony. Eric Trump has already given an under oath deposition in the case in which he refused to answer questions, citing his fifth amendment rights, over 500 times.

In the filing released close to midnight last night the attorney general says, quote: Since 2017, Donald Trump Jr. has had authority over numerous financial statements containing misleading asset valuations. Donald Trump Jr. should be compelled to testify before the office of the attorney general.

Until January 2017, Ms. Ivanka Trump was a primary contact for the Trump Organization`s largest lender, Deutsche Bank. In connection with this work, Ms. Trump caused misleading financial statements to be submitted to Deutsche Bank and the federal government. Ivanka Trump should be compelled to testify before the Office of the Attorney General.

In a press release, the attorney general`s office noted that they have, quote, not yet reached a final decision regarding whether this evidence merits legal action. The Trump organization, which is currently under indictment in New York City because of its practices, released a statement in response to the attorney general`s filing saying, in part, her allegations are baseless and will be vigorously defended.

Joining us now, Daniel Goldman, former House majority counsel during the first impeachment trial of Donald Trump. He`s also a former assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern district of New York and an MSNBC legal contributor.

Also with us, Tim O`Brien, senior columnist for "Bloomberg Opinion". He is the author of the book "Trump Nation."

Daniel Goldman, let me begin with you and what you read in this -- the attorney general`s filing.


DANIEL GOLDMAN, MSNBC LEGAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, it`s quite a filing, Lawrence. Somewhat unexpected I think at this stage of the civil investigation in particular because of the parallel criminal investigation that is going on. Incredible details about all the various ways that the attorney investigation that is going on. Incredible details about all the various ways that the attorney general`s office has uncovered that Donald Trump, the Trump Organization and then his children after he took over as president misstated, overinflated values of their properties in order to get financial benefits in the way of loans, insurance and tax deductions.

It is quite an extraordinary recitation of those facts, some of which are pretty alarming, some of which are somewhat humorous, including the fact that Donald Trump represented that his apartment in New York is worth $327 million, which I believe would be the most expensive residence in the world. Allen Weisselberg of course said that is an overstatement by about $200 million.

But putting aside some of the humor in some of these overstatements, it`s serious allegations of misstatements. There are a number of questions here, and, you know, they run the gamut, including whether this was wise to do in light of a criminal investigation that is ongoing. Whether it actually responds to Donald Trump`s allegations of sort of political motivations by the attorney general. Whether these depositions should go forward in light of the ongoing criminal investigation.

And then also, what impact that will have on the criminal investigation when they are in front of an active grand jury for much of the same conduct and whether this will allow witnesses to sort of -- to better prepare themselves because they know a lot of the facts.

So, there`s some inside baseball here, Lawrence, but I think the top line is that Donald Trump and the Trump Organization grossly misstated the valuations of numerous properties for their financial benefit.

O`DONNELL: And, Tim O`Brien, you have been studying and writing about Trump businesses for years. You wrote the book that Donald Trump sued you for, where you basically said a version of what the attorney general is now saying, that Donald Trump was wildly overstating his wealth. You, of course, won that lawsuit against Donald Trump.

This reading for you of the attorney general`s 115 pages today had to be quite an experience after the book pages you`ve produced on the same subject.

TIM O`BRIEN, SENIOR COLUMNIST, BLOOMBERG OPINION: It was Groundhog Day, Lawrence, as it always is with Donald Trump. It`s just a new version of the same old grift.

His children are doing what he did. He was doing what his father did. This kind of behavior is almost in the Trump family genes.

The issue is whether or not the New York attorney general can prove intent to commit a fraud here and that they knew what they were doing was wrong and they went ahead and did it anyway. That`s a high bar.

There`s no doubt I think that there was a grift going on here. There is no doubt that the Trumps routinely inflated and deflated the value of their assets to court the media, to appease Trump`s own ego, to get bank loans and to run circles around tax collectors. I think there`s ample basis in the evidence they`ve already collected in the New York attorney general`s office to proceed with this.

I think as Dan has pointed out I think there`s a number of strategic issues that get raised by why they`ve handled it this way. Undoubtedly, I think Letitia James, the New York state attorney general, is frustrated with the Trumps thumbing their nose at her subpoenas and requests for depositions. There`s a lot of bad blood among all the parties in here.

But the fact is she has started to line her ducks up. I think some of the things in this case or in this filing that were overlooked or got less scrutiny was the fact that Trump himself, there`s evidence in that filing of Trump himself signing off on some of the paperwork that involved assets with inflated valuations.

In other words, Trump was a participant. And he signed off on some of the things they`re investigating. So he has direct -- he`s got a direct connection here. In theory, this can go directly to Donald Trump.

But they`ve got a lot more evidence to collect and a lot more proof they have to put on the table. Another thing that`s in this document that I think are important is they seem to believe the Trump Organization has not been forthcoming with all the evidentiary requests they`ve made about records pertaining to Trump himself and they want more.


So I think it`s a robust, damning document, but we still have to see whether or not it rises to the level of fraud charges that they can prosecute successfully in a courtroom.

O`DONNELL: Tim O`Brien and Daniel Goldman, thank you for joining us on these important developments tonight. Really appreciate it.

GOLDMAN: Thank you.

O`BRIEN: Thank you, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: And when we come back, we`ll be covering the breaking news on the Senate floor tonight in the voting rights crusade there and the upcoming vote on changing the Senate rule. That vote might occur within this hour.

We`ll be right back.




SENATOR CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: -- that for this message from the House with respect to HR 5746, the only debate in order during consideration of the message beyond the question of adoption of the motion to concur in the amendment of the House. Further, that no amendments, motions or points of order be in order and that any appeals be determined without debate.

SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D-VT), U.S. SENATE PRESIDENT PRO TEMPORE: Following the rules of the Senate, the point of order is not sustained as it is a compound motion that would require consent.

SCHUMER: Mr. President, I appeal the ruling of the chair.

LEAHY: The question is, so the ruling on the chair stands, is the decision of the Senate.

SCHUMER: I ask for the yeas and nays.

LEAHY: Is there a sufficient second? There appears to be. And there is. Clerk will call the roll.











LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: That was moments ago on the Senate floor when Majority Leader Chuck Schumer asked for a vote to overrule the parliamentary ruling that was -- that did not allow him to impose a special rule for voting rights on the Senate.

And so what they are now voting for is the question of overruling the chair in such a way that will allow the Democrats to have finally a vote on voting rights on the Senate floor.

Technically, a yes vote affirms the ruling of the chair. And a no vote is a vote for Senator Schumer`s proposition to move on in a different direction from the way the parliamentary rules normally require, which would require a 60-vote threshold.

They are calling the vote now. There it is.


SCHUMER: There will be no further roll call votes tonight --


O`DONNELL: As expected, 52-48, which is to say 48 Democrats voted to change the rules of the Senate tonight in this one instance for this one piece of legislation on voting rights. Only 48 Democrats voted to do that; 52 votes in favor of preserving the rules. Those two Democratic votes in favor of preserving the rules came from Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema.

Joining us now, E.J. Dionne, columnist for the "Washington Post" and a senior fellow with the Brookings Institution, and congressional historian Norm Ornstein. He`s an emeritus scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.

Norm Ornstein, Chuck Schumer brought up a version of a Senate rule that you have been arguing for now for years.

NORM ORNSTEIN, CONGRESSIONAL HISTORY: You know, they`ve gone through multiple iterations here in an attempt to get Manchin and Sinema on board. This was in many ways a stripped-down and simplified one.

Only for this package of voting rights bills and it would have -- basically, if it had been enacted, been implemented, every senator could have spoken twice. That`s actually in the Senate rules -- rule 19 and at length. And then there would have been an up or down vote.

That, which was a pretty simple way of doing this, and really would have allowed ample time for the minority to make its case, still was a bridge too far for both Manchin and Sinema. So once again voting rights has died basically on the sword of the filibuster.

As the long history, something that Jeff Merkley talked about eloquently at length as you had mentioned at the beginning of the show. And maybe that will come back. But this is a dark day I think for the Senate and for our democracy.


O`DONNELL: Yes. And E.J., what Chuck Schumer was proposing would, as Norm just said, would have allowed each of the 100 senators two unlimited speaking slots. You could speak for 24 hours if you wanted to. Or you could speak for two hours.

Just on the assumption that each senator spoke for one hour twice, that would be 200 hours of debate on this bill. And 52 senators stood up tonight and said no, 200 hours of debate on voting rights legislation would not be enough time.

E.J. DIONNE, OPINION COLUMNIST, "WASHINGTON POST": You know, first of all, it is a tragic night for democracy, although I don`t think it`s the final chapter. I think this fight`s going to continue. I think they`re going to try to break the bill up in sections.

I certainly hope that by then the Democrats including Chuck Schumer don`t stop here. And I don`t think they will. I think my favorite line in the debate in the course of the day was from Senator Tester of Montana, who said that the Senate had been -- gotten lazy. You could just stop legislation by doing nothing because you didn`t have to produce anybody on the Senate floor. If the other side couldn`t produce 60 votes, that was it.

And so I like to think of it as work requirements for obstructionists. If you were really going to try to stop a bill, you were going to have to work at it.

I think it`s a really sad night because Democrats did everything they could to try to construct a way in which Senators Manchin and Sinema could support something that wasn`t getting rid of the filibuster altogether, that would allow, as Norm said, ample debate, and they came pretty close, it sounded like with Manchin.

People like Senators Kaine and King and Tester, really moderate middle of the road senators, almost got him there and it`s very sad.

But let`s not forget that there were 16 Republicans who had in the past voted for voting rights. Not one of those Republicans was willing to stand up for voting rights in 2022. So yes, it`s on Manchin and Sinema, but it`s also on all of those Republicans.

O`DONNELL: And Norm, Angus King spoke tonight, Independent senator from Maine, for the senators who have changed their minds about this just in the last year. Joe Manchin frequently points out that in the years past many of these Democratic senators have said we shouldn`t change this rule in any way. They`ve all changed their minds.

That`s kind of the point, is that they changed their minds. That they once thought this was a reasonable way for the Senate to proceed but through the day-to-day experience of the Senate dysfunction they have changed their minds.

And what`s very clear is you wouldn`t have had 48 votes for Chuck Schumer`s position on this a year ago or even possibly six months ago.

ORNSTEIN: And you know, we`ve seen a lot of people, mostly Republicans and conservatives, who have been saying, you know, there were a lot of other senators who liked the cover that Manchin and Sinema were giving them, they didn`t really want this. And once it was clear it was going to go down others would vote no to protect themselves is. None of them did.

I thought Angus King`s speech, which was not as eloquent quite as the one he gave a few weeks ago on voting rights but was the best speech today along with Merkley, was extraordinarily powerful.

And I think your point is a really important one, Lawrence. This is not a change that people made easily or made just because hey, now we`ve got the power, we want to roll over the Senate.

It was a long and painful change based on experience, based on the reality that this is not the Senate the way it used to operate. It is the filibuster used as a weapon of mass obstruction. And it`s time to bring about a change.

And for Senator King especially it was because he believes, as so many other of his colleagues do, that we face an existential threat to our democracy.

To hear Mitch McConnell basically say there`s nothing going on out there, the states aren`t doing anything unusual, was another part of the disingenuousness that we`ve come to expect from the minority leader.

O`DONNELL: Joe Manchin today did make a speech. It was not a careful speech. He was using a lot of the material he`s used before. It`s as if it was a speech that had nothing to do with the vote that was going to happen tonight on this rule.


O`DONNELL: He said we`re debating a fundamental change to the Senate rules that will forever after -- forever alter the way this body functions. It was going to alter the way the body functions for exactly one vote. And the minute after that the body would return to all previous practices.

Joe Manchin also said today the Senate will be a body without rules, there won`t be no rules. Again, it was a one-time change that the Senate was voting on tonight, E.J.

And Senator Manchin has also expressed what Norm was just talking about that Mitch McConnell expressed. Senator Manchin has said there really isn`t a problem out there and that Marc Elias and the lawyers who are fighting these things in court, these Republican -- actions by Republican legislatures they can just fight it in court and of course they will win and there won`t be any problems.

Manchin is insisting that no voters, no voters are going to be harmed in any way by what`s happening out there now.

ORNSTEIN: Well, the most inconvenient thing about that is that Marc Elias, who is fighting all these cases, does not agree with that. Marc Elias was one of the strongest supporters of this bill because he knew all this work couldn`t be done in court.

Merrick garland, the attorney general, got up before the country a few days ago and said that Congress needed to act to give the Justice Department the power it needed to go to court to fight some of these voter suppression measures.

And what`s really disturbing about these arguments is that the filibuster, as Amy Klobuchar pointed out, has been changed again and again and again. Mitch McConnell changed the filibuster to help put three Republican appointees on the Supreme Court with just 51 votes. So it`s absolute nonsense to treat the filibuster rules as some sacred writ, especially sacred writ that came from the founders because the filibuster didn`t even exist for the first 17 years of the Congress and arguably came into effect kind of by accident in rules rewrite by Aaron Burr of all people. So it`s really such a shame that history has been so distorted in this debate.

O`DONNELL: We`re going to squeeze in a commercial break here in our live coverage of this situation.

And when we come back, we`re going to come back to that point that President Biden made today in his press conference that this is not over. In the president`s televised press conference today he said they will come back at the voting rights issue after this vote tonight.

We`ll be right back.



O`DONNELL: Here`s what President Biden said today about Republican senators and voting rights legislation.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There`s 16 members of the present United States Senate who voted to extend the Voting Rights Act. It`s not an accusation, I`m just stating a fact. What has changed? What happened? What happened?


O`DONNELL: President Biden today delivered the longest televised presidential press conference on record. He answered every question fully and directly.

There were repeated questions on the situation in Ukraine. And after the president made the distinction between a major and minor possible Russian incursion in Ukraine reporters pressed the president on what would be minor.

The president then said that cyberattacks by Russia, for example, which have been under way for some time, would not be considered a major change in the situation whereas invasion of Ukraine by Russian troops would be.

Throughout the press conference the president was trying to achieve something that the White House press corps has never been good at understanding.


BIDEN: Let`s put it in perspective.


O`DONNELL: That was the president talking about school closings as a result of the pandemic to a press corps that seems to believe that the president of the United States has some control over school closings.

Of course, the president of the United States has no control over any school closings in America. The president pointed out that 95 percent of American schools are not closed.

Much of the instant analysis of the press conference criticized the president`s use of the word "minor" in relation to possible Russian involvement in Ukraine without acknowledging that he then clarified in a completely rational way what that meant in this context.

The president said that he doesn`t think Vladimir Putin has made up his mind about what to do in Ukraine and that Putin has to ask himself how long he wants to suffer the economic consequences of new Biden sanctions that Russia would face including that Russian banks would not be allowed to deal in dollars.


BIDEN: How long? You can go in and over time at great loss and economic loss, go in and occupy Ukraine. But how many years? One? Three? Five? Ten?


O`DONNELL: And to put presidential Ukraine policy into perspective, there is this.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The people of Crimea, from what I`ve heard, would rather be with Russia than where they were.


O`DONNELL: In prepared remarks at the beginning of the press conference the president concentrated on the successes of the Biden administration in passing a massive infrastructure bill, for example, that the previous administration never even proposed.

The president also described inflation as a supply chain issue, pointing out that one third of our cost of living increase this year -- one third of it comes from car prices, which have increased because of a dramatic shortage of computer chips during the pandemic.

As usual, some White House reporters framed their questions using talking points from the opposition party, to which the president said this.



BIDEN: Think about this. What are Republicans for? What are they for? Name me one thing they`re for.


O`DONNELL: Back with us: E.J. Dionne and Norm Ornstein. The president also said in this press conference that the Build Back Better legislation could be broken up into bits that might be managed through the Senate so they can get some of that legislation.

Same thing with voting rights. He indicated there are ways to pass some elements of what`s in the various voting rights piece of legislation with some Republican cooperation. So in both of those instances but especially on voting rights today the president was clear it`s not over.

Norm, what are the prospects as you see it going forward legislatively for Joe Biden and the Democrats?

ORNSTEIN: You know, I`m glad that they`ve taken this tack, and I think it`s really important. And E.J. had a great column out now about where we go going forward. If you break this out into component parts, almost all of which in voting rights and in Build Back Better, are highly popular in a bipartisan way.

Maybe you can reframe this in terms of the substance because the way the press has covered this we saw this again in the press conference today, Lawrence, is not about what`s in these bills. It`s all about whether you`re going to have a certain dollar amount, who`s going to come along, in effect the same kind of horse race elements that we see in election campaigns.

Reframing it may give you an opportunity to get something done. I don`t think Build Back Better is dead at all. And with voting rights, if you can move this back to component parts, there`s a chance that we may get somewhere before the year is out.

Of course the problem with voting rights is that the longer we wait, the less impact it`ll have on the 2022 elections which are absolutely crucial for the future of the Biden presidency and the country.

O`DONNELL: E.J., I`ve never seen a presidential press conference like this. No one has because Joe Biden was willing to stay there in front of the camera longer than any other president who`s had TV cameras on him.

And because he did that, it opened up questioning to people who would not normally be called on including a reporter from Newsmax who, deep into this very long press conference, asked a very personal question about Joe Biden. Let`s watch the way he handled this.


JAMES ROSEN, NEWSMAX: Why do you suppose such large segments of the American electorate have come to harbor such profound concerns about your cognitive fitness? Thank you.

BIDEN: I have no idea. Yes, sir?


O`DONNELL: And E.J., I show it because two things. One, it is an absolutely disgraceful question. But the proof of the answer was in the longest press conference ever given on television by a president in which the president demonstrated cognitive abilities that were superior to most of the questions.

DIONNE: You know, I had exactly the same thought that anybody who can stand up there for that period of time and answer that many questions was disproving that premise. The question, by the way and I love the deep seriousness with which the questioner asked that question.

And I think the president did some important work today. It was really good to hear him ask that question "what are they for"? I think that`s a line you`re going to hear again and again, you can imagine as a campaign rallying cry.

And it really marked Joe Biden crossing the Rubicon in a way because for too long in my point of view he really had so much faith that somehow this Republican Party in the Trump era could somehow behave like the Republican Party of old that had real progressives in it like old Jacob Javits and Matt Matthias (ph). This isn`t that Republican party.

And Joe Biden basically got up there and said that he was disappointed. And now he`s ready to draw some lines. And I hope he draws some lines very aggressively about democracy, which is why the voting rights fight cannot be given up.

These problems in state after state limiting the capacity of people to vote cannot be brushed aside.

And to go back to your earlier question, I think breaking up Build Back Better creates the opportunity to raise that "what are you for" question. Yes or no on child care. Yes or no on health care expansions. Yes or no on the voting rights bill, on election day as a national holiday.


DIONNE: There were a lot of good arguments to be had that can be forced by breaking up both of these bills.

O`DONNELL: I wish we had more time to show more of this press conference because there were some really great moments on it all the way through.

E.J. Dionne, Norm Ornstein -- thank you both very much for joining us tonight. Really appreciate it.

ORNSTEIN: Thank you, Lawrence.

DIONNE: Nice to be with you, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Thank you. We`ll be right back.


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


KRISTEN WELKER, NBC NEWS CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: You put Vice President Harris in charge of voting rights. Are you satisfied with her work on this issue. And can you guarantee -- do you commit that she will be your running mate in 2024 provided that you run again?

BIDEN: Yes and yes.



O`DONNELL: Nothing throws off that room more than a one-word answer. Tonight`s LAST WORD is "yes".

"THE 11TH HOUR" starts now.