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Transcript: The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, 1/4/22

Guests: Amy Klobuchar, Osita Nwanevu, Cher


Most of the coverage of the current Republican attack on democracy ignores the fact that some of the most effective weapons against democracy were embedded in the constitution by the founders like two senators per state and the electoral college. Donald Trump cancelled his TV stunt scheduled for January 6th that he was calling a press conference after we told Donald Trump right here last night that his event would not be televised. Interview with Cher.




That really was an extraordinary interview with Jamie Raskin tonight. There is so much in the book. And you presented both the book and his story just so well. And, of course, the threat to democracy the book is all about.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Yeah. I got to say, the -- I know Congressman Raskin a little bit and, you know, there are some members of Congress are universally beloved and respected by their colleagues and held close, you know, because of who they are, as people -- Jamie Raskin is one of those people and a wonderful human being an example of a public servant.

And for him to have both contributed so much to the country, in particular over these last year, but to have done so from the position of grief he was in with losing his son. It is unthinkable. I mean, that's the title of his book, it's unthinkable. For him to be able to write about it with such eloquence and still sort of be teaching through that, I cannot fathom the strength and depth of character that he has to do it. It's just -- I don't know anything like it in public life.

O'DONNELL: Yeah. It really is.

And, Rachel, I for one, you can put me down as having extremely low expectations for learning anything important about what's going on in the Justice Department tomorrow.


O'DONNELL: When the attorney general speaks. I've got -- I've got really low expectations.

MADDOW: Why, though, did they say days in advance that he was going to give the speech? Because he very easily could have got in -- they could put it out in his morning notice. He's going to give a speech to the Justice Department personnel, you know, that day of and nobody would make -- but they put it out days in advance, raising expectations that he was going to say things other than platitudes.

If he just gets up and says platitudes, again, which he has done in the past not answering any of these questions about the fate of the republic, I -- I have to fault the Justice Department for at least structurally raising expectations by the advance notice.

O'DONNELL: Yeah, yeah, and not to the play the raising expectations game.

You know, Rachel, millions of us think of you as the Cher of cable news.


O'DONNELL: But tonight, Rachel, tonight, Cher is going to be the Cher of cable news when she joins us and gets the last word in this hour. So, you want to be, you know, comfortably in your pajamas watching the end of the show tonight.

MADDOW: I heard that you're going to have Cher on your show tonight. And I swear for the first like moments that I heard that, I thought it was a metaphor. I thought you were having like the Cher story, as something like the Cher example of a news story. I didn't realize you were having the Cher.

Like, you're amazing. How did you do these things?

O'DONNELL: It's her return to THE LAST WORD. She was here before. And it fees like it was yesterday. It was actually four years ago.

But, you know, so -- tonight, the part of archer in cable news will be played by Cher.

MADDOW: Please tell her I said hello and I love you.

O'DONNELL: That's exactly how I'm going to begin. Rachel says hello and hello. OK.

MADDOW: Thanks, Lawrence.

O'DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel. Thank you.

Well, today in a letter to Sean Hannity, the House Select Committee investigating the January 6 attack on the Capitol revealed more of Sean Hannity's texts to the Trump White House chief of staff and Congressman Jim Jordan and others. The committee is asking Sean Hannity to do the right thing. They're asking Sean Hannity to voluntarily testify about his, quote, communications with President Trump, White House, and President Trump's legal team between December 31, 2020 and January 20, 2021.

Everything that we know, everything that we now know -- and this could change -- but everything that we now know about Sean Hannity's texts during the period demonstrates one thing, Sean Hannity was right.


In every one of Sean Hannity's texts that have been released by the committee, Sean Hannity is right, including the first text the committee today. On New Year's Eve 2020, from Sean Hannity to Donald Trump's final White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, quote: We can't lose the entire White House counsel's office. I do not see January 6 happening the way he is being told. After the January 6, he should announce he will lead the nationwide effort to reform voting integrity, go to Florida and watch Joe mess up daily. Stay engaged. When he speaks, people will listen.

Reporting by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa in their book "Peril" and by others indicates that around the time of that texts, the White House counsel, along with most of the top officials in the Justice Department were threatening to quit if Donald Trump fired his acting attorney general and replaced him with Jeffrey Clark who has been subpoenaed to testify to the committee about Jeffrey Clark's own ideas about how to illegally overturn the results of the election.

Sean Hannity says, quote: I do not see January 6th happening the way that he is being told.

We know at that time Donald Trump was being told the lie that Vice President Mike Pence could simply reject electoral votes submitted to Congress by any state. On New Year's Eve, Sean Hannity was telling Donald Trump, go to FL. We know that in Donald Trump's tormented psyche, that was the same as telling him to go to hell, the hell of living in Florida as a loser.

On January 5th, the night before the Trump mob violently attacked the Capitol and screamed their hope of killing Mike Pence, Sean Hannity texted I am very worried about the next 48 hours. It turns out Sean Hannity was right to be worried about the next 48 hours.

The committee's letter said they want to ask him, quote, why were you concerned about the next 48 hours? In another text, on the evening of January 5th, the night before the attack on the Capitol, Sean Hannity said to Mark Meadows, quote, Pence pressure. White House counsel will leave.

In its letter, the committee asked Sean Hannity a very simple question about that text. What precisely did you know at that time?

The committee has interpreted some of the dozens, dozens of text message that they have not released from Sean Hannity or to Sean Hannity to indicate that Sean Hannity, quote, may have had a conversation directly with President Trump on the evening of January 5th and perhaps at other times regarding his planning for January 6th.

During the attack on the Capitol in a text already released by the committee, Sean Hannity told Mark Meadows that Donald Trump should ask people to peacefully leave the Capitol. Sean Hannity was right about that.

After the attack on the Capitol, Sean Hannity was still worried about what Donald Trump might be thinking or planning, and Sean Hannity was worried Donald Trump couldn't understand or could not comprehend the advice that Sean Hannity was giving him. Sean Hannity does not give complicated advice. Sean Hannity is not difficult to understand.

On January 10th, with inauguration day approaching, on January 20th, Sean Hannity on January 10th wrote to Mark Meadows and Congressman Jim Jordan, guys, we have a clear path to land the plane in nine days. He can't mention the election again. Ever. I did not have a good call with him today. And worse, I am not sure what is left to do or say and I don't like not knowing if it's truly understood. Ideas?

Sean Hannity was right. Donald Trump should never have mentioned the election again. Sean Hannity was right to worry that Donald Trump could not comprehend any of that advice. Sean Hannity's text, as released so far, show Sean Hannity repeatedly trying to get Donald Trump to do the right thing in that moment.


The committee is now asking Sean Hannity to do the right thing. The committee's letter to Sean Hannity ends with this line, now is the time to step forward and serve the interests of your country.

Leading off our discussion now is Daniel Goldman, who served as the House impeachment inquiry majority counsel to the impeachment trial of Donald Trump. He's a former federal prosecutor and an MSNBC legal contributor.

And Claire McCaskill is with us. She's a former Democratic senator from Missouri and an MSNBC political analyst and a former prosecutor.

Senator McCaskill, let me begin with you and the reading of Sean Hannity's texts as we have them so far indicate to me based on publicly available evidence that Sean Hannity is as far as we know Donald Trump's single wisest advisor in his presidency. Everybody else working in the White House was working at some intelligence level below Sean Hannity.

CLAIRE MCCASKILL, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think what the committee is doing is that they are strategically releasing the quiet part out loud. I think that Liz Cheney particularly has been focused on showing what the people around Donald Trump knew leading up to January 6th.

I mean, I like to reference Josh Hawley. A year ago today, he told Bret Baier on Fox News when he was asked point blank if Donald Trump would still be president on January 20th before the (INAUDIBLE), Josh Hawley said depends what happens Wednesday.

So, Sean Hannity was in the inner circle. He knew what was going on and who was threatening to quit. He knew what Donald Trump had on his mind. And that was overthrowing the will of the American people to try to stay in power.

And Sean Hannity knew that it was a big problem. And so did others around the president. But it did not make any difference. Donald Trump was going to Donald Trump, and that meant holding on to power. The Constitution be dammed.

O'DONNELL: Daniel Goldman, as you read this information today with prosecutor's eye, what do you see in the flow of those texts?

DANIEL GOLDMAN, MSNBC LEGAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I see a couple of things. I think what they are starting to do now they obtained the documents is starting to slowly drip, drip them out so that the public can get a sense of what the documentary evidence is. I don't think they expect a ton of cooperation from Sean Hannity which is why they want to lay it out in the letter, because it puts a lot more pressure on him now that we all know that he was in the inner circle, as Claire so rightly said, talking to Mark Meadows, clearly having a good understanding of what was planned for January 6, what the discussions were, what the resistance was from the White House counsel's office.

So, I think we should expect to continue to see more of the documentary evidence. What we don't know is what the testimony from the witnesses has been. That will likely come out in public hearings that my former boss, Adam Schiff, said would begin in as little as weeks but no more than a month or two from now.

So, the committee is now starting to ratchet up the pressure both on the witnesses and also on some of those that were integrally involved, including members of Congress and senators, and they are starting to show they have information. They have documentary information that puts way lot of the elected officials right in the center of this it is showing us the public, and the Department of Justice that the Department of Justice is not aware of the evidence.

O'DONNELL: Senator McCaskill, I think it also shows how much that the committee can accomplish without getting direct testimony from certain individuals. I am sure that this committee was never going to think about sending any type of subpoena to Sean Hannity. But because Sean Hannity's texts end up getting turned over in a pile of stuff from Mark Meadows, we now know what Sean Hannity was saying.

We have Sean Hannity's testimony to some extent already without Sean Hannity cooperating in any way.

MCCASKILL: Yeah. I think people have been really frustrated. I have been one of them frankly at how slowly it has gone, particularly at DOJ. But they have been busy. They have been busy getting the goods from a whole lot of people that many of us have never heard of, people who were afraid to not cooperate or fancy this idea, they cooperated because they knew it was the right thing to do.


And they now they have a lot of evidence, which as Daniel understands clearly and anybody that has been in the courtroom, once you have a lot of documentary evidence, that makes those hearings a lot more powerful because you have testimony to tie them to. You have texts you can tie them to. You have emails you can tie them to. It will be a much more compelling case.

Right now, Lawrence, 725 people have been charged but most Americans never heard of any of them. And that's what got people frustrated.

O'DONNELL: To that point, Dan Goldman, the attorney general is going to make a speech tomorrow, giving some type of assessment where the justice department is, and its investigation of what happened at the Capitol. What should we expect from that and what might we actually hear in that?

GOLDMAN: Well, I think this is very clearly a targeted speech by the attorney general meant to address what's going on with the investigation, not just of January 6, but of all the lead up to January 6.

There are three separate and overlapping investigations here. There is the ongoing reference about 725 people being charged for invading the Capitol on January 6. The vast, vast majority of those charges are really misdemeanor charges that are related to, you know, essentially walking into the Capitol without authority.

Then there is an investigation about obstructing the official proceeding in Congress of counting of electoral votes. That is a higher charge and that could arise out of the initial January 6 investigation. It might have an overlap to the coup that was unquestionably at this point from what we know attempted. And that is a whole separate investigation, which is an investigation into efforts to overturn the election.

So, you really have three different threads of an overlapping investigation and I think what we all want to know is what is the Department of Justice looking at. We know they're looking at January 6th investigation. Are they investigating whether anyone be charged for obstructing the official proceeding in Congress and perhaps most importantly, are they investigating anyone, including and up to and the president of the United States for trying to overturn the election. And there are a couple of different ways that can be charged. And I frankly think that's less important than whether this investigation is going on.

We have heard anything that it is going on. Of course, it's possible that it's kept quite. But I think as Claire and I have experienced as prosecutors of the DOJ, and also have experienced on the Hill, it's very unlikely that a witness would not leak to the press that he or she has been asked for information or subpoenaed. It doesn't have to be a leak from the Department of Justice, but the point is that we would likely know about it and I think we all want to know whether or not the attorney general is investigating that in tomorrow's speech.

O'DONNELL: Claire McCaskill, what should we hear tomorrow?

MCCASKILL: Well, you know, I heard you and Rachel talking. I find it bizarre they previewed the speech two days ahead of time. They're trying to tell everybody this is a big deal.

If it was just an internal speech to the troops and it got some coverage, which it would even if we found out about it the same day, everybody would cover it to some extent. So, the fact they are billing it as a big speech, it better be. That's all I can say, Merrick Garland, it better be.

O'DONNELL: It better be. Claire McCaskill gets the last word on this one. It better be.

Claire McCaskill, Daniel Goldman, thank you both for starting us off tonight. I really appreciate it. Thank you.

Coming up, Joe Manchin met with Chuck Schumer and a small group of Democratic senators working on voting rights legislation today. Senator Amy Klobuchar was in the room and she will join us next and we'll explain what Senator Schumer's new promise on voting rights today will mean in the Senate.




SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN): Over 400 bills introduced across the country. We have bayonets (ph) replaced by legislation that basically says you can't vote on weekends in the last month, as Senator Warnock will tell you, in Georgia.


O'DONNELL: That was the chair of the Senate rules committee in a press conference with Senate Majority Leader Schumer, Senator Raphael Warnock, Senator Alex Padilla and Senator Jeff Merkley today.

Senator Schumer announced that he will try to change the rules of the Senate if necessary to allow the Senate to then have a vote on preserving voting rights in this country.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): If Republicans continue to hijack the rules of the chamber to prevent action on something as critical as protecting our democracy, then the Senate will debate and consider changes to the rules on or before January 17th, Martin Luther King Day.


O'DONNELL: Later, that same group of Senate Democrats including Leader Schumer and Senator Amy Klobuchar met with Joe Manchin, among others, to discuss voting rights and potential reforms to Senate rules that all Democrats, all Senate Democrats can support.


And joining us now is Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota. She's the chair of the Senate Rules Committee and she was in the room today with Joe Manchin, among others, discussing the subject.

Senator, just word for word, what did Joe Manchin have to say?

KLOBUCHAR: No, Lawrence.

O'DONNELL: But I tried.

KLOBUCHARR: One of the things about getting things done in the Senate is that I'm probably not going to report to you what happened in the room.

But I will make to your viewers the case that I made to Senator Manchin and I made to Senator Sinema as well, and I will note that Tim Kaine drove 27 hours straight on that freeway in Virginia to get to that meeting directly from his car to that meeting. And there are a lot of people that want to get this done.

What I said is this. We have a situation where we saw what happened on January 6 but it didn't end there. Since then, we've seen a coordinated assault on our democracy, whether it is taking away weekend voting during the runoffs in Georgia, or taking away registration during that last month, whether it is one drop off box for the entire city of Milwaukee, that bill passed the Wisconsin legislature and it was only because of Governor Evers that it was vetoed.

Or in Montana, you see Jon Tester as part of our group, where they took away same day registration which has been in place for 15 years. This is a concerted effort and the answer is, which is allowed for clearly in the Constitution when it says Congress can make or alter the laws for federal elections, is to put in minimum standards for federal elections to ensure that everyone can vote regardless of their zip code and that we get dark money out of our politics.

That is exactly what this bill does. And the case we're making, it is not radical to change the Senate rules. If it was, there would not be 160 exceptions, Lawrence, to the filibuster, 160 exceptions, carve-outs, all kinds of stuff people have done.

Robert Byrd himself said once said that you change the rules to meet the circumstance of the times, when you have reached a point where things can't get done. That's where we are right now. And I just get rid of the filibuster. But there are other alternatives in allowing for a standing filibuster or carve-outs to the existing filibuster.

O'DONNELL: Let's listen to what Senator Manchin said about this today when he spoke to reporters.


SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): Let me just say, to being open to a rules change that would create a nuclear option, that's -- it's very, very difficult. It's a heavy lift. And I think that for us to go in it alone, no matter what side does it, ends up coming back at you pretty hard.

REPORTER: You've said, and it seems like you're saying this again, you would not be open to changing the rule without Republican buy-in in some way, shape, or form?

MANCHIN: That's -- that's my absolute preference.


O'DONNELL: Well, he said it's a preference.

Senator, you -- you heard him speaking privately today. Were you encouraged about the possibility of getting Senator Manchin's vote on a rules -- on a rule change for voting rights if necessary?

KLOBUCHAR: Again, I am not going to talk about our private discussions and what's going on there. But I will simply make the case that a lot of us like to work across the aisle. I do. You know that, Lawrence. I passed a lot of bills with Republicans. That's important to me to bring people together.

But in this case, in the case of voting rights, Mitch McConnell has blocked time and time again, even my bipartisan bill to require backup paper ballots because of Russian interference in our elections that I had with Senator Langford. It was supported by Senator Burr and Lindsey Graham. Or the simple bill that said you got to put disclaimers and disclosures on political ads that are on social media.

Again, those things have been shut down. He will not budge. There's a red line when it comes to voting.

And I believe that no matter if you are a Democrat or a Republican watching your show right now, that there is something larger than our differences. And that is our democracy itself.

We are not a dictatorship. We are a democracy. And we must support that.

And as we come up on the anniversary of January 6th, I will never forget walking through that hallway with Senator Blunt and Vice President Pence, with spray-painted columns and glass broken all over us, at 3:30 in the morning, with those two young women with the mahogany box filled with those last ballots just to finish the job and to uphold our democracy.

But it wasn't over then. And that's what we have learned in the last year, a concerted effort.

And just as we are holding people accountable by investigating what happened on January 6 with the investigation in the House, and we've improved security, we also have to make sure that we carry on the torch of democracy that so many generations have done and be good stewards by making sure people can vote and that their votes are counted. And that's what the Freedom to Vote Act is about.

O'DONNELL: Well, Senator Schumer promised a vote in the next two weeks today. So, we will see soon enough where all the senators --


KLOBUCHAR: Exactly. That is very important. It is important because you just can't keep waiting. At some point, they've got to make a decision.

O'DONNELL: Yeah. Senator Amy Klobuchar, thank you very much for joining us tonight, and Senator Manchin will be very glad that you didn't leak a word of what he had to say, unfortunately. Thank you very much, Senator.

KLOBUCHAR: He will have time to do that himself when the vote comes. All right? Thank you.

O'DONNELL: Thank you Senator.

And coming up, what should be the new most-read piece in the "New York Times" tells us that some of the ammunition for attacking democracy in this country is actually embedded in the Constitution itself. That is next.



O'DONNELL: Most of the coverage of the current Republican attack on democracy ignores the fact that some of the most effective weapons against democracy were embedded in the constitution by the founders like two senators per state and the electoral college.

This article in the "New York Times" today does not make that mistake. Quote, "The notion that the 18th century American constitutional order is suited to governance in the 21st is as preposterous and dangerous as anything Mr. Trump has ever uttered."

The article goes on to say "Twice already this young century the Republican Party has won the electoral college and thus the presidency while losing the popular vote. Republicans in the Senate haven't represented a majority of Americans since the 1990s yet they've controlled the chamber for roughly half of the past 20 years.

In 2012 the party kept control of the House even though Democrats won more votes. The federal system is neither fair nor balanced."

Joining us now is Osita Nwanevu a contributing editor at "The New Republic" and the author of this new important piece. Thank you very much for joining us tonight. Laurence Tribe has tweeted your article today with his great praise joined to it.

Tell us what you think people are missing when they approach this discussion about the challenges to democracy as if it is purely a present tense phenomena.


So I think A lot of people have said of the past year that we can understand January 6th primarily as an attack on our institutions. I think there are substantive ways in which that's true, obviously, with the rejection of a legitimate election. The citadel of the American political system, the Capito was physically attacked.

What my piece is really about is the sense in which our institutions are really -- there are obvious senses in which that's true.

Donald Trump was the president in the first place because of 2016, the electoral college system put him into the White House over the will of the American electorate. He stayed in office because Democrats had a very high vote threshold in the Senate for his removal.

But the only thing I get at in this piece is that there's a sense in which our institutions have really fostered a sense within America's conservative minority of political entitlement.

I think if you don't really pay attention to the design of the system, if you don't really think critically about why it is the way it is, you look at outcomes we've experienced over the last 20 -- 25 years. The Bush and Trump administrations, the fact that Republicans have such a grip on the Senate, conservative control on the judiciary, same person evaluates all of that and said I guess this is because America is really at it heart a conservative country. And the bulk of the American electorate is really conservative.

And when you have outcomes like Biden winning or before him, Obama winning some of the people then say well this must be because there is something underhanded going on. Something must have been fraudulent about this election that would have led to the usurpation of the rightful American majority.

And I think that is partially what causes January 6th. The sense that any outcomes that are aberrations from conservative power are suspect in some kind of way and that's an impression that's fostered by the fact we don't really have a healthy balanced political system, where you have really even give and take between two parties that both share the burdens of trying to reach the other side of the electorate.

What we have instead is one party that's favored by institution and another party, the Democratic Party that faces increasingly long odds to win power. And when it does win power it is then, you know, threatened and attacked with these accusations of fraud and skullduggery by propagandists on the right with an assist from the mythologizing we do about our institutions being fair.

O'DONNELL: You make the point that the United States Senate begins as a stacked deck with voters in the Dakotas having much stronger representation say than voters in New York City do and New York state in the Senate.

And then you make the point that the super majority requirement imposed by the Senate filibuster can stall even wildly popular legislation. And so the two per state constitutional point stacks the deck in the Senate and then the Senate itself decides to stack the deck in an even more extreme way.

NWANEVU: Yes. It is a really, really bizarre situation. The founders, as skeptical as they were about democracy, they obviously created it in the first place, even they didn't really think a super majority requirement for passing ordinary legislation made a whole lot of sense.

So the system is really out of whack. And it's out of whack for reasons that I think again, we tell ourselves myths to justify.


So the reason why the Senate is the way that it is and the reason why we have two senators per state isn't because the founders wanted to preserve this kind of rural-urban balance that we always talked about. Most of the United States in 1787 was heavily rural. That wasn't relevant (INAUDIBLE).

It was really because the small states threatened it as a condition of their participation in the convention. They were going to walk out if they were not afforded this power.

And the founders, the framers, many of them who opposed this idea kind of acquiesced it, out of political necessity. This isn't the high-minded, you know, principled compromise we tell ourselves happens in Civics class.

But it's historical reality. And I think there is a sense in which in our conservation of these institutions in our heads (INAUDIBLE) we have in frank discussions about where this antiquated systems and procedures are leading us and the power that they're giving to a radicalized right, right now.

O'DONNELL: Osita Nwanevu, thank you very much for joining us. Really appreciate. You can find his piece at the "New York Times". It's the most important one you will read today or tonight. Thank you very much.

NWANEVU: Thank you for having me.

O'DONNELL: Thank you.

Coming up, Donald Trump cancelled his TV stunt scheduled for January 6th that he was calling a press conference after we told Donald Trump right here last night that his event would not be televised. Maybe that had something to do with it.

John Heilemann joins us next.



O'DONNELL: Last night I made it very clear that MSNBC would not be carrying the January 6th Trump appearance live. And then I actually told Donald Trump if he was watching what he would have to say for me to give any coverage at all to his planned event on January 6th.


O'DONNELL: Donald, if you are watching, I don't want you to get the impression that all you have to do is say something you haven't said before. It actually has to be important and something you haven't said before. I don't think he's going to meet that challenge.


O'DONNELL: This afternoon Donald Trump issued a written announcement filled with lies in the middle of which he said I am canceling the January 6th press conference at Mar-A-Lago on Thursday.

Joining us now is John Heilemann, MSNBC and NBC News national affairs analyst, executive editor of The Recount, and host of the "Hell and High Water" podcast who has never canceled anything.

John, it was becoming clear not just from what I said that he probably was not going to get any live TV coverage of what he was planning to do on Thursday.

JOHN HEILEMANN, MSNBC NATIONAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Lawrence, first of all, I want to say thank you for giving me the opportunity of a lifetime, that is opening for Cher. I'm excited about that. Never thought I'd have that chance but here we go.

And secondly, I think, you know, he left the biggest lie in the statement today was the lie of omission where he did not mention your influence on him. He always watches the shows, you know, at 10:00 Eastern time. And always takes what you say to heart.

I do actually think that you are right though in the implicit analysis which is that, you know, Donald Trump is a lot of things and many of them are pernicious and many of them evil and some of them are really stupid. But he's a pretty savvy reader of the national media scene. And there's no doubt that the guy has an open mic on right wing media. He has an open mic on Fox News. He has an open mic on the stations to the right of that and he can always do his rallies to tell his lies, right.

So what's the point of doing this there in Mar-A-Lago. The thing -- the point of doing this is to be able to get mainstream coverage. And I think you were not alone in laying down a pretty strong marker that this press conference is not going to be covered live on MSNBC, not on CNN, not on the places that he wanted to be shown and that there was a pretty good chance that he was going to face a roadblock that made it not in his interest to go ahead and do this thing tomorrow.

O'DONNELL: Yes. (INAUDIBLE) is reporting on twitter that he was being advised that -- two things -- it is a bad idea and it looks like you are not going to get live coverage.

Donald Trump's lawyers have to be the happiest people in his group that he's not going to be out there saying something that the various grand juries thinking about him might want to hear.

HEILEMANN: Well, right. And Lawrence, I mean the other thing is those -- all those places that I mentioned, the other places where he has an open mic, he also doesn't have anybody asking him any questions. And we know that Trump is good at not answering direct questions. He can always prevaricate. He can always flip-flop around and stall and do other things to try to keep off the point.

But it is a little bit of risk for him at the moment given some of his legal exposure from him being in a situation where serious reporters are able to ask him questions on either live or taped television and suddenly there's a chance that he will make a mistake that will come back to haunt him.

And I think you're right. The happiest people in America right now apart from a lot of elected Republicans who do not want to see any mention of Trump cheerleading the insurrection on January 6. The other happy people are Trump's legal team. It's his bedraggled, underpaid and always beleaguered lawyers.

O'DONNELL: John Heilemann, every remaining second of the show belongs to Cher. So thank you very much for joining us. Really appreciate it.

HEILEMANN: Do you believe in love? Do you believe in love, Lawrence? I do. I do.

O'DONNELL: Thank you John.

And coming up, Cher will join us and get tonight's LAST WORD.



O'DONNELL: I read your tweets, every night after the show I read as many of your tweets as I can. And last night, since we talked about the KIND Fund, some of your tweets were about that.

You can see how the KIND Fund delivers desks to schools in Malawi and provide scholarships for girls to attend high school in Malawi at any time at And you can make a contribution at any time at

And last night Jose tweeted, "The music of Malawi never fails to bring tears of joy in each of the last three years I have donated two desks in the names of my grandchildren who agree that it is a great substitute for any other gifts they might receive from me".

Kathy tweeted, "Made a scholarship donation and desk donation on 12/30/21. Do every year in honor of my father.

And then I found this all caps tweet from Cher who said "Got to give it up for Lawrence O'Donnell and his KIND Fund." Of course, I tweeted my thanks back to Cher. But why thank Cher once when you can thank Cher twice.

And so joining us now by phone is Cher, who was watching last night. And Cher, thank you once again for your kind words about what the audience of this show does for those kids in Malawi.

CHERY, PERFORMER (via telephone): Hey Lawrence. Oh babe, I am so proud of you and your audience. I couldn't believe last night all the money that you've raised.


I mean I have been watching for a long, long time. And I just did not realize it was in the millions and millions and millions. It's just -- I mean you took on a herculean task and you rocked it.

O'DONNELL: Well Cher, you know, you're the closer coming in for us tonight on this because we are really close to $33 million.

And I think you are going to push us over the top. And we still have a very, very long way to go, you know. Most of the schools in Malawi still don't have desks and most girls in Malawi still don't get a chance to go to high school and so all of that money is pumped right into their needs right away.

And so thank you for taking notice of it. And thank you for bringing it to the attention of your billions of fans out there. One of whom, I think you know, is the 9:00p.m. host here at MSNBC, Rachel Maddow, who I normally think of as the Cher of cable news. And she left a message for you at the beginning of this hour. She told me, she gave me this order to tell you, please tell you and these are her exact words, "Hello and I love you". That is from Rachel Maddow.

CHER: Well, you know, what. I don't drink but I would have a cocktail with her. You know what --

O'DONNELL: Go ahead.

CHER: She is unbelievable. I just tell you something. I just feel kind of like a geek because I am such an avid MSNBC. Sometimes I am yelling at you guys. Other times I'm just being like they're so sweet. And like rubbing your heads.

But you know, also if you ever read any of my tweets you know, I am so insanely political and get myself in so much trouble, but I don't care.

O'DONNELL: So how are you feeling about the New Year having been through one year of a sane presidency?

CHER: Well, you know, I wish -- I would like to get in there and kind of scramble it up. I really wish the Democrats would just go on full tilt. And you know, just run around with their hair on fire. I know it is not, you know, it's not the nice thing to do.

It's not the (INAUDIBLE) thing to do but you know, time is a-wasting guys and somebody has got to light a fire.

O'DONNELL: You know, with all of your experience in show business, I am sure you have encountered more people like Donald Trump than senators have encountered people like Donald Trump.

CHER: Well, babe, I've encountered some tough people and some people that you know -- just the worst things, you know, just think of a whole bunch of adjectives. But I have never encountered anyone. They pale in comparison.

You know, the people I know, they couldn't even I mean he is like a horse of a different color.

O'DONNELL: Yes. He is something like we have never seen before.

Cher, I know you do a lot of charitable work yourself. And you have got a great organization that is worldwide about protecting wild animals in their habitats and in other ways. And that is, I know very dear to your heart. And I wanted to make sure you got a chance to say something about that.

CHER: Free the wild. You know, we are working on so many things. I mean we rescued Kivan (ph) and that was a big commitment. It took five years. And it was a big splash, you know. He is fabulous. And I'm so happy he was -- from all of his 30-something years, he was in a cage like a shed that you couldn't even turn around when he was chained to the shed and never could move around.

And so now he's running and he's got a girlfriend and like I said. And I'm so happy.

But we're doing other things too. You know, we have gotten eight lions and a tiger. And we've had them spayed. And DHL is going to help us fly them to South Africa.

As a matter fact, I'm sorry I'm talking so fast. I want to get it in. They would have already been there except for COVID. And one of the lionesses' name is Cher. I just going to put that in.

But anyway so we are going to get them there. And we're doing an awful lot of things. You know, we're doing an awful lot of things. It is hard work.

And working with the governments that you are trying to take the animals from sometimes is messy, you know. Not as messy as democracy I've heard, but messy.

O'DONNELL: Well Cher, I know with everything that you have to do I really greatly appreciate you joining us tonight.


And before you go I want you to know that when I leave here, our friend Jimmy is going to be giving me a ride home tonight. And so you know who is going to get the LAST WORD in that car tonight on the way home.

CHER: Ok. I just want to tell you how much I appreciate you. And I just am really proud of you.

O'DONNELL: Cher, thank you very much. We really appreciate you watching. We really appreciate you joining us tonight.


O'DONNELL: Thank you very much.

Cher gets tonight's LAST WORD. Let that happen again, please.

"THE 11TH HOUR" starts now.