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Transcript: The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, 1/28/2021

Guest: Jennifer Palmieri, Jason Crow, Peter Hotez, Dahlia Lithwick, Nadya Tolokonnikova


Republicans are silent over Rep. Marjorie Taylor Green`s incendiary remarks. Interview with Democratic Congressman Jason Crow of Colorado, a member of the House Armed Services Committee.



The weekend is in sight. And the Jen Psaki interview was really a pleasure

to watch. She is, as they should say, if this were a TV series, the

breakout star so far of week one of the Biden administration. And it`s not

unusual because the press secretary is the one who`s out there in front of

the camera more than anyone other than the president.

So, she has instantly taken command of that room, and it has been, as you

said, you know, a kind of shocking gear change for us and welcomed gear

change for us to deal with. And I love the way you two talked about what`s

happening and what`s going to happen.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, "TRMS": Well, I mean, she`s setting the tone for

the administration. We have actually heard a lot from the new president in

the past eight days. He has spoken publicly a lot.

But we are hearing even more from Jen Psaki in the briefing room, and she`s

setting this tone of normalcy, accountability, expository work that tells

us what the administration thinks the problem is, what they are doing to

work on it, who is in charge of that work.

And that person will be answering questions about it, as will Jen Psaki on

behalf of the entire administration. It`s just basic accountability, which

is basic small deed democracy, which is just something we were used to

before. We lost it for four years, and now it just feels so radical to get

back to it. I hope it never -- I hope we never take it for granted again.

O`DONNELL: I think we have, for this year, a series of Rachel and jen

conversations coming up at 9:00 p.m. intermittently --

MADDOW: I hope so.

O`DONNELL: -- from time to time that we will all be looking forward to.

MADDOW: I hope very much. Thank you for saying that, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Well, Nadia was thrown in prison by Vladimir Putin because she

sang a song in a cathedral in Moscow. She had a little baby at the time.

She got out of prison because of pressure put on Vladimir Putin by the

United States and other countries around the world. She will join us at the

end of this hour to talk about what Joe Biden`s new pressure on Vladimir

Putin means to the current enormous wave of protests in the Russia.

And in our continued concentration on the year of the Senate, we will turn

to the Senate`s unique and very important function of confirming federal

judges. Mitch McConnell turned the Senate into a high speed confirmation

factory for federal judges during the Trump years. And now, it`s Joe Biden

and Chuck Schumer`s team to catch up. Dahlia Lithwick will join us to say

what will be the non-stop concentration on federal judges and what to

expect from the presidential commission Joe Biden is appointing to study

the possible expansion of the United States Supreme Court.

A federal judge appointed by President Obama refused to let this guy out of

jail this week. Judge Beryl Howell said he would have to remain in jail

awaiting trial because, quote, what happened on that day in the U.S.

Capitol was criminal activity that is destined to go down in history books.

The FBI and the federal prosecutions and federal courts are closing in on

hundred of invaders of the Capitol.

But Speaker Nancy Pelosi said today the real problem now is the enemy

within the House of Representatives. This enemy of the House, this enemy of

the Constitution is a member of the House of Representatives, and she

believes all of the worst things that the invaders of the Capitol believe,

all of the stupidest things, the racist things, the anti-Semitic things.

Marjorie Taylor Greene`s public record prior to becoming a member of the

House of Representatives was so poisonous that even House Republican

leaders, Kevin McCarthy, and Steve Scalise actively opposed her candidacy

in a Republican primary. She publicly supported assassinating Nancy Pelosi,

and now she is fully embraced by the Republicans in the House and the


When a poison like that enters your political system and you say and do

nothing about it, then you are more than complicit. That means you actually

want that poison in your politics because you believe it will help you.

Congressman Jason Crow will join us later in this hour to discuss what it

means to be going to work every day with a member of the House of

Representatives who has advocated for the assassination of the House


It is into that poisoned system on the Republican side of Congress that Joe

Biden will be sending the legislation he needs to pass to do what he

promised America he will do. But before Biden legislation begins to move in

the Congress, the president is already doing job one by executive order,

which is undo the damage that Trump has done.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It`s been a busy week, and I`ve

signed executive orders tackling COVID-19, the economic crises as well as

advanced racial equity. But today, I`m about to sign two executive orders

to undo the damage Trump has done. There`s nothing new that we`re doing

here other than restoring the Affordable Care Act and restoring the

Medicaid to the way it was before Trump became president, which by fiat he

made more inaccessible, more expensive and more difficult for people to

qualify for either of those two items, the Affordable Care Act or Medicaid.

And the second order I`m signing relates to protecting women`s health at

home and abroad. And it reinstates the changes that were made in Title 10,

making it harder for women to have access to affordable health care as it

relates to their reproductive rights.


O`DONNELL: NBC News reports that President Biden is already in direct

communication with some Republican senators. Jen Psaki confirmed that the

Rachel in the last hour. Those senators include Rob Portman and Senator

Susan Collins who President Biden worked with when he was a member of the



SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R-ME): The relationship that I have with Joe Biden is

closer than the relationship that I had with President Obama or with

President Trump. And I`m very happy to have a good relationship with him.

The fact that he called me -- he`s called me twice since the election -- I

think is a very good sign. And we had an extremely friendly conversation as

well as a substantive one. And he encouraged me to call him any time.


O`DONNELL: House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy has promised to have a

word with Marjorie Taylor Greene about the racist, anti-Semitic, homicidal

thoughts she has publicly expressed. But more importantly for Kevin

McCarthy, he had to go to Florida today to talk to the man who is facing

trial for incitement of insurrection at the United States Capitol.

Here`s what Kevin McCarthy said about Donald Trump`s involvement in that



REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): The president bears responsibility for

Wednesday`s attack on Congress by mob rioters. He should have immediately

denounced the mob when he saw what was unfolding. These facts require

immediate action by President Trump. Accept his share of responsibility,

quell the brewing unrest and ensure President-elect Biden is able to

successfully begin his term.


O`DONNELL: The cowardly Kevin did not say a word of that to Donald Trump

today. Kevin McCarthy released a statement saying, today, President Trump

committed to helping elect Republicans in the house and Senate in 2022.

That commitment is of course worth absolutely nothing because it`s from

Donald Trump.

Kevin McCarthy still hasn`t released a statement saying that Marjorie

Taylor Greene has promised not to encourage the assassination of the

speaker of the house anymore or the assassination of anyone else in the

House of Representatives or anywhere else.

Democratic congressman of Los Angeles, Jimmy Gomez, has introduced a

resolution to expel Marjorie Taylor Greene from the House of

Representatives. Here is what Congressman Gomez told Chris Hayes tonight.


REP. JIMMY GOMEZ (D-CA): Marjorie Taylor Greene, a conspiracy theorist and

believes in all sorts of crazy things. The worst thing is she`s incited

crowds in the past to storm the capitol, to go after Nancy Pelosi. They

were even chanting hang Mike Pence. And now she`s still a member of

Congress. So, I believe she is a clear and present danger to the members of

the House of Representatives just simply for the fact she also is able to

bring a gun to the House office buildings, and she`s walked around the

metal detectors going to the floor.

There`s a strong sense that something worse than January 6th could happen

if she continues in office.


O`DONNELL: Today, Nancy Pelosi said there is no difference between Marjorie

Taylor Greene and Kevin McCarthy and the rest of the Republican leadership

in Congress.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: What I`m concerned about is

the Republican leadership in the House of Representatives who is willing to

overlook, ignore those statements, assigning her to the education committee

when she has mocked the killing of little children at Sandy Hook Elementary

School, when she has mocked the killing of teenagers in high school at the

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

What could they be thinking? Or is thinking too generous a word for what

they might be doing? It`s absolutely appalling, and I think that the focus

has to be on the Republican leadership of this House of Representatives for

the disregard they have for the death of those children.

As someone who would mock, call it a fake -- those fake events -- is just

beyond -- it`s just beyond any understanding of any regard that the House

Republicans would have for the House of Representatives, for the Congress

of the United States and for the heartbreak of the families in Sandy Hook

and at Marjory Stoneman High School.


O`DONNELL: Leading off our discussion tonight, former Congressman David

Jolly. He left the Republican Party in 2018. He`s an MSNBC political


Also with us, Jennifer Palmieri, former White House communications director

for President Obama, Hillary Clinton`s presidential campaign. She hosts

podcast "Just Something About Her" from "The Recount".

David Jolly, let me begin with you tonight because those are your former

colleagues on the Republican side of the aisle and the House that Nancy

Pelosi is talking about tonight. What is the difference between Kevin

McCarthy and the new members who -- some of whom, one of whom, has

advocated the assassination of Nancy Pelosi?

DAVID JOLLY, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Apparently nothing. Kevin McCarthy

and Republican leaders should publicly condemn Marjorie Taylor Greene. They

should eject her from the House Republican conference, refuse to seat her

on any committees and isolate her from any support of the party apparatus

or the friendly donors that typically support Republican members.

Lawrence, here`s why Marjorie Taylor Greene is dangerous. The FBI, for the

first time in may of 2019, warned that it was not just the white

nationalists, not just the white supremacists that were creating a domestic

terrorism danger. It was the conspiracy theory groups that were fuelling

that constituency. When Christopher Wray, the FBI director testified last

September before the homeland security committee, he said it is the

conspiracy theory groups that are fueling the anger of the white

nationalist groups. It`s the conspiracy groups that are creating the threat

to our government.

And Marjorie Taylor Greene, one of the members of these conspiracy theory

groups has now been elevated to the United States Congress. What fed the

lies of the January 6th event was not just the president of the United

States but this dangerous conspiracy ridden online community of which

Marjorie Taylor Greene has shown herself to be a champion.

Kevin McCarthy may not listen to me and my advice to eject Marjorie Taylor

Greene from the House Republican Congress, but he should listen to the FBI

director. She is a danger not just to the Congress but to the country.

O`DONNELL: Jennifer Palmieri, I want to get your read of this first week of

the Biden administration and specifically Jen Psaki. I was thinking of you

in the last hour when Rachel was interviewing Jen Psaki. You have a similar

experience working in the White House. You know how to judge these things

and how well it`s going.

She`s going to be the face, in many ways, of the Biden agenda on a daily

basis with the news media. That Biden agenda is going up to a Congress that

is equally divided almost in the Senate, slight advantage to the Democrats.

Democrats have advantage in the House. But with this very strong Republican

opposition that includes this wild edge, this wild and dangerous edge of

the Republican Party that is present both in the House and the Senate.

When you`re at that White House podium and you`re trying to get the kind of

attention that she`s trying to get on the Biden agenda, how do you do that

when you know what is happening right outside -- basically outside of that

room and Capitol Hill and the way it`s being received up there?


done a great job. It`s only been a week and I`m sure they have a lot of

tough days ahead of them. But you can tell Jennifer Psaki works -- this is

her second White House. People like Ron Klain, it`s their third White

House. People like Ryan Deese, national economic adviser, it`s his third

White House.

Joe Biden has decades and decades of experience. These are people who know

what they`re doing. They know that Jen has had a remarkable first week at

the podium. But you also know they`re not going to be the show that the

Trump White House was, right?

So, they need to be constantly on air. They need to be -- they need to have

lots of voices at the podium that are speaking on different issues to make

-- to try to have as much reach as possible to show the breadth of the work

they`re doing. I thought it was very smart that they are working with


With Psaki started her press briefing yesterday, I noted she went out of

the way to talk about the meetings they`re having on the hill but also with

mayors to show their outreach isn`t just retained to Republicans on the

Hill or even just to Washington, D.C. that they`re talking to lot of people

to show when push comes to shove. They got caught trying. They`re showing

they`re putting the work in.

While they`re working with congress, they`re doing executive actions and

show they`re making progress for the American people day after day after

day. We`re on day 7. Each day it`s something new. It`s a shock and awe

response and it comes from a response that knows what they`re doing.

They`ll have tough days, but I think they are off to a great start. And it

shows how much experience that they have on the policy and communications


O`DONNELL: Jennifer, I have to say your Showtime`s "The Circus", you get

video we don`t see anywhere else. You have a shot of Jen Psaki before her

first White House briefing. She`s backstage. She`s about to open the door

to go out there.

It was as it would have been done in the movie, and I hope everyone can go

find it. It`s a wonderful moment. Before that door opens, we`re all as

excited as she is as what`s going to happen when she steps out there. Just

beautifully done.

David Jolly, Jennifer Palmieri, thank you both for starting us off tonight.

Really appreciate it. Thank you.

Coming up, Jason Crow is dealing with the enemy within in the House of

Representatives every day. Congressman Crow joins us next.


O`DONNELL: Congresswoman Susan Wild was terrified during the invasion of

the capitol, but it would have been much worse if Jason Crow wasn`t holding

her hand.


REP. SUSAN WILD (D), PENNSYLVANIA: What was going through my head was

frankly terror. Unlike Jason, I don`t have combat experience. I`m very

grateful to have been in the foxhole with Jason. It`s the closest I have

ever come to something like that.

And I will tell you that what`s going -- it was a scene of total confusion

and chaos, at least for somebody who had never been in that kind of



O`DONNELL: But our next guest, Jason Crow, can`t protect every member of

congress, especially now that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says the enemy is

within the House.


PELOSI: We want to have a scientific approach to how we protect members. I

do believe and I have said this all along, that we will probably need a

supplemental for more security for members when the enemy is within the

House of Representatives, a threat that members are concerned about in

addition to what is happening outside.


O`DONNELL: Currently, there is no budget and there has never been a budget

for providing individual security to members of the House of

Representatives or to senators. They don`t get body guards in Washington or

back in their home districts. And the one place they always thought they

never had to be worried was inside the House of Representatives. Nancy

Pelosi left no doubt about what she meant when she said the enemy is



REPORTER: What exactly did you mean when you said, the enemy is within.

What did you mean by that?

PELOSI: It means we have members of Congress that want to bring guns on the

floor and have threatened violence on other members of Congress.


O`DONNELL: She is, of course, talking about Marjorie Taylor Greene and

other Republican members of Congress who have tried to bring guns on to the

House floor. "Politico" is reporting the Republican House staffer who works

for one of the extremist member who is voted to overturn the election

results has received multiple calls from constituent who is say the rioters

didn`t inflict enough damage and there should have been more people

storming the Capitol.

Joining us now is Democratic Congressman Jason Crow of Colorado. He`s a

member of the House Armed Services Committee.

Congressman Crow, thank you very much for joining us again tonight. What is

the feeling in the House of Representatives, and what do you think is

needed in the House of Representatives now about security in the aftermath

of the capitol invasion?

REP. JASON CROW (D-CO): Hi, Lawrence. Yeah, things are very tense. There`s

obviously still a lot of security here on Capitol Hill. We want to see

change. We have to see change. You know, what happened on January 6th was

obviously a catastrophic security failure. There`s no doubt about that.

But I think the challenge that we face right now is we have to address that

security situation. We have to address this threat of domestic homegrown

terrorism that we see, but we have to do it in a way that doesn`t change

who we are. That`s what I want to see.

I don`t think we should let this violent mob, this group of terrorists

change who we are as a Congress and as a people. So, we have to make sure

we`re taking that into account. There`s a lot of things we can do to change

security and make Capitol Hill to provide security for members. There`s a

comprehensive security assessment underway right now, so we`ll have to see

what comes out of that assessment and what we have to do. Also remember

this is the people`s house and that accessibility and transparency is

essential to who we are.

O`DONNELL: What about security for members of Congress when they`re outside

of Washington, when they`re in their home states, their home districts or

traveling anywhere in the United States?

CROW: Yeah, I think we`re going to have to settle into a new normal here at

least in the next couple of months. The bottom line is this that President

Trump has radicalized an entire wing of the far right. You know, we have an

extremist right wing movement that has been radicalized, that is armed,

that is extremely dangerous. We saw that on January 6th, and it`s not new.

It`s been around for decades, the foundations and beginnings of it around

for many decades.

But President Trump brought it out in the open and has romanticized it and

given them license and permission to sow their violence throughout the

country. So, we`re going to have to make sure we are being extra diligent,

that we have resources available to members to make sure they and their

families are safe. That`s the new normal. That`s the unfortunate reality of

what we`re in.

We have to do that while we also understand that accessibility to our

constituents is essential to our democracy and our job. So, we`re going to

have to do both of those and we`re going to have to figure out how to do

them both.

O`DONNELL: All 50 governors have securities because they`re commanders of

their own state police. Some of them have bigger security entourages than

others. Hundred of mayors have security because they have their own police

departments, their local police departments that are with them at their

side all the time. And it always shocks people when I tell them, I have

this conversation privately all the time, that no, there`s absolutely zero

security for the United States senator, zero security for Jason Crow and

the members of the house of representatives.

And after what we saw on January 6th, is there anything resembling a plan

to do anything about that?

CROW: Well, the planning is underway right now. There is a comprehensive

assessment that has been commissioned by the House leadership. General

Honore is leading that. It`s my understanding that`s going to be done by

March 5th, and based on that conference and assessment, not just in Capitol

Hill, but of members` security, then we`re going to determine what we need

to do.

So it has to be fact-based. It has to look at things holistically. But, you

know, I am still a little bit -- I`m grieving a little bit for this new

environment because, you know, I used to carry a gun. I used to carry a gun

for work in Iraq and Afghanistan for you our country, to defend our country

and our freedoms.

Then I left the service. I took my uniform off and left that life behind me

and started a family, became a veterans` advocate, became a member of

Congress. And I never thought that I would be in an environment where I

would have to have armed security and guards and have, you know, guns to

protect me and my family. That`s never the way I wanted to live and that`s

never the way I envisioned American democracy and elected officials acting

or having to act and have available to them.

So, I`m still frankly kind of personally grieving about the environment

that we`re in right now. So, we have to figure this out. I don`t have the

answer to it right now. The bottom line is there has to be some change. We

have to make sure we`re protecting ourselves, our families, our

communities, our constituents in the Capitol.

At the same time, how do we reconcile that against our need for

accountability and accessibility and transparency and to not become, you

know, a fortified government. Because that`s not the way we want to be.

That`s not the way we want to live.

I think we have to figure that out. That is a leadership challenge and I

don`t think anyone has the answer to it right now.

O`DONNELL: Let me just say I certainly don`t have the answer to it. When I

was working in the Congress and the Senate, it was a much calmer time than

now. And I grieve with you about the loss of just what it used to feel like

to work there before January 6th.

Congressman Jason Crow, thank you very much for joining us tonight.

CROW: Yeah, thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

Coming up, most people who qualify for the COVID vaccine are having

trouble, to put it mildly, getting an appointment to get that vaccine. Dr.

Fauci says it might be time to create a new vaccine to deal with the new

variants. Dr. Peter Hotez joins us next.




DISEASES: We are already planning and implementing making a modified

version of the vaccine that would ultimately be able to be directed

specifically against the South African isolate, which is the most

problematic of them all.

So, on the one hand, things looking a bit better about plateauing, but on

the other hand we can have some difficult times that we have to be prepared



O`DONNELL: Joining us now is Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of the National School

of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine and director of the

center for vaccine development at Texas Children`s Hospital in Houston.

Dr. Hotez, thank you very much for joining us tonight. What did we just

hear Dr. Fauci suggesting that we need a new vaccine to deal with the South

African variant? What does that mean for people who already have the

vaccine that doesn`t deal with that variant?


of. So, the -- so we`re also developing a recombinant protein vaccine

that`s being scaled to a billion doses in India right now with Biological E

in Hyderabad being tested across India.

So, it`s clear that the existing vaccine in the long run won`t be adequate

for the South African variant. It`ll give partial protection, some

protection to varying degrees. But we`re going to have to make two


And so how do you handle that? What it means like -- there`s two options.

One, you now administer a combination vaccine, what some people call a bi-

valent vaccine. Or you move out the existing vaccine you have knowing that

you still have some time and down the line you`re going to give a boost

corresponding to new South African variant. And I think that`s probably

going to be the more common option.

So it`s not terrible news. We still have time. But this is going to be

something to watch very closely. But we`re going to have new variants and

the South African one looks different enough from the existing one that

we`re seeing lower levels of protection.

We saw this with the Novavax report today that it gave 90 percent

protection against the one it was designed for and only about 50 percent to

60 percent for the new one. Still ok but in the long run if you know this

is going to become the dominant variant down the line, we`re going to have

to make an additional one.

O`DONNELL: So, the consumer end of the getting the vaccine is a wildly

differing experience around the country. Some people getting emails from

their local hospitals saying, hey, come on and set up on appointment. It`s

really easy. Others struggling, staying up until 3:00 in the morning hoping

the Internet traffic is down so they can find an appointment.

I`ve heard from people who are really thrilled and excited that they

finally managed to get an appointment for next week. And now they`re

learning tonight the vaccine they`re going to be get next week will not be

good enough to deal with the South African variant.

And I think what you just said, and let`s make sure we leave this clear for

the audience. If you get that first shot next week, when you go in for your

second shot or somewhere down the road there`s going to have to be another

shot that will deal with the South African variant.

DR. HOTEZ: So, the take home message, Lawrence, is nothing changes in the

immediate future. You want to go ahead, get your vaccine, get those two

doses. But down the line, there may be a need for a third immunization, a

boost. And if that boost is done, it may be against the South African


And just to keep everybody calm, remember that we thought there was a

pretty high likelihood we might have to give a third immunization down the

line, anyway at some point because we had no idea about the durability of

any protection of any of these vaccines, especially the new technology


Do they last for three months, three years or 30 years? So everyone was

pretty confident we were going to need a third immunization down the line

anyway. And all we`re really saying is that third immunization is going to

have to be with -- probably specifically directed against the South African


That`s the scenario that`s looking the most plausible. Right now the one

we`re mostly in discussions with our vaccine and the other vaccine

developers are as well.

O`DONNELL: That is an invaluable update to vaccine news.

Dr. Peter Hotez, thank you very much for joining us with that tonight.

Really appreciate it.

DR. HOTEZ: My pleasure, Lawrence. Thanks.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

Coming up, Joe Biden got an invaluable gift on inauguration day -- the

resignations of some federal judges. Dahlia Lithwick joins us next.


O`DONNELL: On inauguration day, President Biden got the most precious gift

he is legally allowed to accept from Victoria Roberts, it was a resignation

letter. Victoria Roberts is a federal judge in Michigan who wrote her

resignation letter on January 20th and ended it with this line, "With

respect, I congratulate you on your election as the 46th president of the

United States, and Kamala Harris on her election as vice president."

Victoria Roberts is one of the several federal judges who was waiting for

Donald Trump to be out of the White House before retiring and allowing the

president to choose a replacement. Some other federal judges sent their

resignation letters directly to Biden on or about inauguration day.

The United States Senate has never had a more important first year agenda

of a president since 1933 when Franklin Roosevelt took office in the depths

of the depression. Yes, the Senate will have an impeachment trial of Donald

Trump. Yes the Senate will be trying to pass another COVID relief package.

Yes, the Senate will be trying to deal with climate change. Yes, the Senate

will be passing a massive budget deal that will repeal the Trump tax cuts

for rich people which they haven`t even started talking about yet. And the

Senate will have many more less visible legislative fights going on every


But through it all every day, the Democratic Senate and the Senate

Judiciary Committee on the Senate floor will be trying to deliver

confirmations of the most important appointments Joe Biden can make --

federal judges.

Joining us now is Dahlia Lithwick, senior editor and legal correspondent

for and host of the podcast "Amicus".

Dahlia, thank you very much for joining us tonight.

When I read Victoria Roberts` resignation letter and a few of the others,

they`re kind of playful. I mean they`re almost, you know, putting little

hearts on them. It`s like they`re so thrilled that they can deliver this

resignation to Joe Biden and give him this opportunity to make these


And some of them, you know, are at an age where they might have liked

resigning a few years ago but they waited. And the moment came on January




I think the only caveat to your greatest gift Biden could have gotten is

the other gift he got which was the Senate, which was those two Georgia

seats. Because I think no matter how many judges retired, if he didn`t have

the Senate this was going to be a massive fight.

And so, I think you`re quite right. As soon as the ink was signed that

those Georgia seats were his and that the Senate was his, I think you`re

going to see an immense number of judges step aside. And I wouldn`t be

surprised if you saw some Bush judges, some moderate conservative

Republicans who have been just horrified -- as horrified as the Democrat

appointees at what`s happened to the court.

O`DONNELL: Well, yes, some of the recent resignations do include Bush

judges and some of them are Clinton judges. But they clearly were waiting

and they clearly wanted to see a president who they could trust make a

responsible appointment.

Chuck Schumer and the Democrats in the Senate Judiciary Committee, I have

to believe, have learned the lesson of Mitch McConnell, which is run this

like a high speed factory, get as many of these done as possible as fast as


LITHWICK: I think so, Lawrence. And I think you started with this really

essential point which is that Obama didn`t do this. We know that Obama

decided in his first year not to expend capital on judges.

He decided to do the economy. He decided to do the Affordable Care Act. And

boy are we living with the consequences of that? And so I think that

understanding that it was a juggernaut and that a third of the bench -- I

mean it`s extraordinary how successful Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell

were at these lifetime appointees, how many circuits they completely

flipped. I think that if Schumer and the Dems haven`t learned the lesson

now that this is really essential number one, put it with all the other

number ones, then I think we`re going to be in trouble.

O`DONNELL: When Rachel talked to Chuck Schumer the other night, she brought

up the Presidential Commission on the Judiciary. Joe Biden has -- Bob Bauer

is going to be the chair of that, some other law professors have already

been named. He`ll be on it.

But it`ll probably be a group, they don`t even know how many yet -- a

dozen, maybe 15 -- who will consider a lot of things about the judiciary,

including expanding the United States Supreme Court.

Chuck Schumer wasn`t eager to talk about that and was able to say to

Rachel, quite honestly, he will wait the six months or so it takes for that

group to issue a report. What do you expect -- what do you expect to be in

a report like that -- can we tell at this stage -- on the question of

expanding the size of the Supreme Court?

LITHWICK: We don`t know, as you said, even really who`s on the commission.

I think we know that at least one person, Caroline Frederickson, who`s on

the commission, has spoken positively about court expansion.

We also know that Bob Bauer himself has talked about maybe term limits or

other forms of serious court reform.

So, I don`t know. We may just get a kind of huge wish list of the 52 things

you can do -- jurisdiction stripping and term limits and all the other

things you can do -- without a laser focus on court expansion which is so


I think we`ll probably get a very, very comprehensive report. And then

really the question is going to be, does Biden -- given that he may not

have the filibuster behind him -- does he kind of go big or go small on

this? And the hope is that he goes big.

O`DONNELL: Well, yes and at minimum there will be this scholarly document

that will take us through the history of how we got to nine and why we`ve

been stuck at nine for so long on the Supreme Court.

And then that number didn`t come from heaven. It was arbitrary and remains


We`re out of time on this for tonight but we`ll have you back -- and a

minimum when they issue that report and several times before.

Dahlia Lithwick, thank you very much for joining. Really appreciate it.

LITHWICK: Take care, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

Coming up, thousands were arrested in Russia for protesting the jailing of

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny. Among those arrested were three

members of the group, Pussy Riot. The group`s cofounder, Nadya

Tolokonnikova will join us next.


O`DONNELL: Here is Secretary of State Tony Blinken in his first State

Department press briefing today.


ANTONY BLINKEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: It remains striking to me how

concerned and maybe even scared the Russian government seems to be of one

man, Mr. Navalny. His voice is the voice of many, many, many Russians and

it should be heard, not muzzled.


O`DONNELL: Alexei Navalny was immediately jailed by Vladimir Putin when he

returned to Russia on January 17th after five months of recovery in Germany

from a deadly poisoning that he says was ordered by Vladimir Putin.

Protests erupted in Russia last weekend in support of Alexei Navalny. It

was one of the largest anti-Putin protest in his 21 years in power. Mr.

Navalny`s brother, Oleg was arrested and detained for 48 hours.

Russian police raided the homes of several of Mr. Navalny`s allies.

Anastasia Vasiliyeva (ph) did not stop playing the piano when the police

raided her home.

Russian protests had a theatrical element to it since 2012 when the women

of Pussy Riot received international recognition and prison sentences after

they performed an anti-Putin protest song at a Moscow cathedral.

Pussy Riot`s latest protest video, music video is called "Rage". It was

filmed in St. Petersburg where some of the people in the video were

arrested for participating in it. The video will be released on Monday.

Here is some of the video.


O`DONNELL: Joining us now is Nadya Tolokonnikova, founding member of Pussy


Nadya, thank you very much for joining us tonight. I want to get your

reaction to what it means to Vladimir Putin when President Biden talks to

him about the poisoning of Alexei Navalny. The White House notes on the

phone call said that President Biden talked to Vladimir Putin about the

poisoning of Alexei Navalny.

What affect does that have on Vladimir Putin and in Russia?


And from the point of the protesters, I must say it`s really important work

for the international leaders to be involved in what is happening currently

in Russia. It really helps us because we are fighting for democracy and

international involvement helps us.

Putin is deeply scared of the international pressure. He might try to put

stone face on himself and may try to appear as a person who does not care.

But in fact, he deeply cares about what other leaders think of him.

So if it`s Joe Biden or Angela Merkel, it`s really effective when

international leaders put pressure on him about political prisoners in


O`DONNELL: You told me yesterday that it`s been a very emotional time for

you this week especially one of your partners, Masha, was arrested and

detained. I think she is still detained. We have video of her being

arrested right there. Do you know what her situation is now?

TOLOKONNIKOVA: It`s deeply emotional to me because Masha is arrested

seriously for the first time since 2012. In 2012 we were arrested and put

in isolator, in the same isolator where Masha is detained currently.

And it`s not one of the normal arrests that is happening with us every day

in Russia. It`s a serious arrest right now. It`s a serious arrest with

criminal charges and she is facing two years in jail which is ultimately my

deepest nightmare. And I still up to this date, years after my release from

prison, I have this nightmares of me coming back to jail and this is a

nightmare where Masha lives right now.

We don`t know what`s going to happen later, in a day we will hear more

news. But it is likely unfortunately that Masha will end up in jail again.

O`DONNELL: You told me the first time we talked that one of the reasons why

you didn`t have to serve your full prison sentence, you did more than a

year in a very difficult Russian prison which is a forced labor prison by

the way.

I mean, that is something we could talk about at length, is what you have

to go through when you are in one of these prisons. But the reason you got

out was because of pressure put on Russia and put on Putin directly by

foreign leaders.

TOLOKONNIKOVA: It incredibly helps. I cannot stress it enough. Right before

our release, there was Olympic Games coming. So, the reason why Putin had

to release us because he did not want to have bad picture in the

international media.

So, the more reaction we have in European and American media, the more

chances that Alexei Navalny and everyone else who was arrested in the last

ten days, they will be released.

O`DONNELL: I know you are very friendly with Alexei Navalny and his wife

who was -- her home was also raided by the Russian police. You visited him,

I know, when he was in the hospital.

Talk about the bravery it takes for him and for you to repeatedly confront

Vladimir Putin, knowing that prison is the very likely outcome of

confronting him?

TOLOKONNIKOVA: On the 17th of January when Navalny sat on the airplane and

went from Berlin to Russia, he committed a radical act of political

bravery. It was one of the most important political actions lately, because

he is showing us that all it takes to be effective in opposing the corrupt

government is just refuse the fear.

And he and his team, because it`s not just Navalny, it`s the whole

constellation of amazing talented (ph) people who are standing behind his

back and the whole Russia crew who doesn`t want to take this corruption


It just takes a little thing. You need to control your fear and then later,

the government will not be able to do anything with you. And you have seen

in the last couple of months how Alexei Navalny out-maneuvered Putin at

every turn.

And even after he was jailed, he released this amazing movie about putting

Putin`s giant palace on the Black Sea, which right now has 100 million

views on YouTube.

O`DONNELL: Nadya, thank you very much for joining us again tonight. It is

invaluable for Americans for our audience to hear your voice on this.

Really appreciate it.

TOLOKONNIKOVA: Thank you, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: That is tonight`s LAST WORD.



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