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Transcript: The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, 10/20/21

Guests: Norm Ornstein, Jeff Merkley, Norma Torres, Michael Wolff

Summary

David Corn reported the most important scoop of the day in Washington under the stunning headline "Scoop: Manchin tells associates he`s considering leaving the Democratic Party and has an exit plan." I Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon is interviewed. Democrats consider next steps to pass voting rights bill. Senate GOP block debate on voting rights bill again. Manchin fails to get senate gop to back voting rights. House will vote Thursday on Steve Bannon contempt referral.

Transcript

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel.

I was listening to your discussion with Senator Angus King, and by the way, his speech on the Senate floor today was one of the greats of this year certainly, and -- but one of the things I really liked about what he had to say was that everyone on the Democratic side who -- of the Senate who is now in favor of changing the 60-vote threshold rule came to that position reluctantly.

He came to it, has been coming in that direction more reluctantly than most of the rest, but everyone`s thinking about this move slowly, and there was that moment where he mentioned Norm Ornstein, he mentioned me in our history with this subject, and I can remember the first time it came up somewhere, you know, in the 2005 or `6, I remember the first time I heard a discussion of it publicly and I immediately just -- of course not. Of course you don`t change that rule because like Angus King and people who worked in the senate, I lived on the winning side of votes where the side I was on had, you know, 43 votes in the Senate of 100 senators, and did it repeatedly.

And so, that`s what he was talking about tonight is that concept of, you know, remember, if you do this it won`t be there when you might want it a few years down the road. And so -- and I get that concept. I personally am past it, and I just think get rid of the entire thing. There`s no point to the 60 vote threshold under any circumstances at all.

But it took me, I don`t know, maybe three years of thinking about it over ten years ago to get into that space and working through all of those things that to some extent Senator King is still working through some of it, but he`s worked through most of it. It does take time for creatures of the Senate who have lived with that rule and benefitted from the kind of minority power side of it.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, "TRMS": Well, and it was interesting. tonight, he was explaining all of that about not wanting to be on the other side of it and how Mitch McConnell is chomping at the bit to get rid of the filibuster actually because he`s excited to do what he can without it when he`s majority leader again. He`s definitely making all that argument.

And he`s saying I don`t want to get rid of the filibuster full stop. I don`t even want a carve out for voting rights because McConnell will have a carve out for abortion rights or some other thing. All he wants to do is change the rule to force debate, to make the filibuster cost something so that it gets used less frequently for only the stuff that is really important, that it doesn`t become run-of-the-mill thing.

He wants the filibuster to go back to being a rarely used thing that still affords the minorities the protections it has in the past for good or ill but that would make it a pain. That shows you his reluctance and he`s sort of small C conservatism on it. But still, he`s -- that gives him a good footing I think to be making the case to, for example, Senator Manchin, and who`s fate the country`s hand -- in whose hands the country`s fate sort of rests right now.

O`DONNELL: Yeah, and, by the way, as luck would have it, Norm Ornstein going to be joining us in this first segment tonight.

MADDOW: Very good.

O`DONNELL: Picking up where Senator King left off.

That concept that Norm originated and senator gave him credit for it, is a bigger change than it sounds like and it would -- but I don`t think it`s enough. I don`t think it`s enough of a change. I`m absolutely in the Adam Jentleson school of get rid of it all, and there`s nothing like working through your own personal Senate experience to see in the end why we should just get rid of it all and just get to what is thought of as democracy, which is the side with the most votes wins. That works in the House of Representatives, has always worked in the House of Representatives.

MADDOW: Well, as a person who is not a creature of the Senate the way that you are and Senator King is and there`s people who are very involved in this process, it is interesting for all the rest of us to watch you creatures evolve, but that`s what creatures do.

O`DONNELL: Very, very --

[22:05:01]

MADDOW: That`s evolution.

O`DONNEL: We are wicked slow at evolving, Rachel.

MADDOW: It`s Jurassic time, we know. But we`ll all watch while you all get it together.

O`DONNELL: It is. Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW: Thank you, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

Well, David Corn is our lead guest tonight on a day when he reported the most important scoop of the day in Washington under the stunning headline "Scoop: Manchin tells associates he`s considering leaving the Democratic Party and has an exit plan."

This is the story that experienced Democrats in Washington have been fearing and Republicans have been eager to hear for months now after it became clear how far from the rest of his party Joe Manchin is on the social policy part of the two-track Biden infrastructure bills. Joe Manchin is in favor of a package that is about half the size of what most Democrats want and Joe Manchin so far opposes any suggested changes in the Senate`s 60-vote threshold that would allow Democrats to pass voting rights legislation and possibly other legislation with a simple majority vote.

Joe Manchin has been the subject of protests by Democratic activists who have traveled to West Virginia to try to put pressure on the senators. Senator Bernie Sanders wrote an op-ed piece in a local West Virginia newspaper trying to put pressure on Joe Manchin, and senators tweeted the majority of the American people support the $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill, 48 out of 50 Democrats in the Senate support the bill, 96 percent of Democrats in the house support the bill. No, two people cannot sabotage what the overwhelming majority of this country want.

Now, it is rare for individual senators to be publicly isolated from their party the way Joe Manchin has been. And it is reminiscent of the first time a senator switched parties at a time when each party had 50 senators, Vermont`s Republican Senator Jim Jeffords switched to the Democratic party after years of whispered encouragement from his Democratic neighbors like New York`s Daniel Patrick Moynihan.

And the moment, the instant Senator Jeffords switched party, control of the Senate switched from Republicans to Democrats. There had never been a more dramatic moment in the Senate. Most of the party switching, though, in the Senate in our lifetimes, almost all of it, has been Democrats switching to the Republican Party. That`s the most common switch. That phenomenon began in earnest when South Carolina`s Strom Thurmond switched to the Republican Party in 1964 over civil rights. Many Southern Democrats who did not switch were either defeated by Republicans or replaced by Republicans when they retired.

Alabama`s current senior Senator Richard Shelby was elected to the Senate as a Democrat and switched parties at a low point in President Clinton`s popularity in the 1990s, harsh treatment from the Clinton White House was one of the reasons. Richard Shelby felt isolated as a Democrat and switched parties.

Senator Shelby has lived a tension-free life since then on the Republican side of the aisle in the Senate, but Joe Manchin`s policy positions are still much more in line with the Democratic Party than the Republican Party. There is not a single Republican senator who is in favor of spending one penny on the social infrastructure track of the Biden bills. Joe Manchin is in favor of spending $1.75 trillion, and Joe Manchin is in favor of raising taxes including income taxes on the rich to pay for that package and no Republican currently serving in the United States Senate has ever voted for a tax increase on anything.

There are reports today that congressional Democrats are now rushing to reach an agreement on the Biden social infrastructure bill.

Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said this today on the Senate floor.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): Everyone is going to have to compromise if we`re going to find that legislative sweet spot we can all get behind. Nobody will get everything they want, but no matter what, our final proposal will deliver the core promise we made to the American people. We`re getting closer to an agreement. We want to finalize a deal by the end of this week, but we all must keep moving together.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Chuck Schumer knows that in a 50/50 Senate, the most important vote Joe Manchin has cast this year in the Senate was the vote to make Chuck Schumer the majority leader and put Democrats in charge of every committee of the Senate. Chuck Schumer knows the history of Democratic senators in Republican states switching parties.

[22:10:06]

And so since he became the majority leader of the 50/50 Senate, he has to have devoted some thought every day to keeping Joe Manchin in the Democratic Party. Publicly, Joe Manchin has always said that he hasn`t given a thought to leaving the Democratic Party, but David Corn reports today in "Mother Jones," quote, in recent days, Senator Joe Manchin has told associates that he is considering leaving the Democratic Party if President Biden and Democrats on Capitol Hill do not agree to his demand to cut the size of the social infrastructure bill from $3.5 trillion to $1.75 trillion.

According to people who have heard Manchin discuss this, Manchin has said that if this were to happen, he would declare himself an American independent, and he has devised a detailed exit strategy for his departure. Manchin has discussed bolting from the Democratic Party, perhaps to place pressure on Biden and Democrats in these negotiations.

He told associates that he has a two-step plan for exiting the party. First, he would send a letter to Senator Chuck Schumer, the top Senate Democrat removing himself from the Democratic leadership of the Senate. He is vice chair of the Senate Democrats` policy and communications committee.

Manchin hopes that would send a signal. He would then wait and see if that move had any impact on the negotiations. After about a week, he said, he would change his voter registration from Democrat to independent. Manchin told associates he was prepared to initiate his exit plan earlier this week and had mentioned the possibility to Biden.

Leading off our discussion tonight, David Corn, Washington bureau chief of "Mother Jones" and an MSNBC political analyst. Also joining us, Norm Ornstein, a congressional historian and emeritus scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, and Zerlina Maxwell, the host of the program, "Zerlina" that is on the Choice on MSNBC exclusively on Peacock.

David Corn, Senator Manchin has responded to your reporting today. Let`s begin by listening to Senator Manchin`s colorful response to your report.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): I can`t control rumors and it`s bull (EXPLETIVE DELETED), bull spelled with a b-u-l-l, capital B.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: I`m just writing that down, he said capital B.

Okay, David, your official response to the senator`s response to your report?

DAVID CORN, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, MOTHER JONES: Well, he`s not right. He knows he`s not right. Apparently I would assume he knows what he`s been saying to people over the past couple of days, and our sourcing on this is impeccable. I have full confidence, 100 percent reliability.

You know, he chose to say what he said. He is wrong, and as I said a moment ago, he knows he`s wrong.

O`DONNELL: So, David, as I read your sourcing, it refers to people who have heard him say these things in your sourcing. So you have multiple sources and it seemed very clear.

The other thing that`s interesting about it is he would be moving to independent. He would not be doing -- and we don`t -- or do we know what is your reporting tell you about, okay, he moves to independent, and then does he instantly vote for Mitch McConnell to become majority leader?

CORN: In the discussions that were heard, he didn`t talk about that. He didn`t talk about caucusing with the Democrats or the Republicans after becoming an independent. He clearly believes -- and he`s said this publicly -- that he still has a foothold or some sin synchronicity with Democrats on at least $1.75 trillion, and as you noted, you know, the Republicans are at zero or even a negative number on this front.

So I don`t know to what degree Chuck Schumer has to worry about losing his job, but clearly that if he did this, the symbolic value and just sort of the leverage that he might have, the greater leverage that he might have in that role, and of course we`d see a lot of stories about Democrats being in disarray, and it would cause -- I don`t think it would cause chaos. I don`t think he wants to blow up the Democratic Party, but I do think he feels he is drifting away from it and feels very isolated.

O`DONNELL: Well, he also has the model of Angus King who just joined Rachel in the last hour who is quite outraged about the outcome today in the Senate on the voting rights -- the vote that wouldn`t even allow for a vote on voting rights, but Angus King himself refuses to carry the word Democrat beside his name when he runs in the state of Maine.

[22:15:08]

He is listed as an independent and an independent in the Senate as has Bernie Sanders.

CORN: Yeah, so there is a model for him to do this on the other side of Bernie Sanders, if he wants to be an independent, and still caucus for the Democrats because he feels closer than the Republicans, and you know, he`s not talking about this, the full extent of his thinking on this is unclear whether this was just a strategic issue he was talking about to gain leverage in these particular talks or if there was something more long range in his thinking here. Or even something psychological that he doesn`t feel at home in the Democratic Party as much as he might have once felt.

So I think there are a lot of motivations here, a lot of factors, and we`re not going to, you know, get to the bottom of it until he talks more frankly about it.

O`DONNELL: And, Zerlina, today is also the day, David`s reporting is out there, and at the same time you see a kind of increased momentum toward let`s get a deal and certainly for Chuck Schumer holding onto Joe Manchin as a member of the Democratic Party has to be part of that urgency.

ZERLINA MAXWELL, PEACOCK, HOST, "ZERLINA": Absolutely, Lawrence, and I think that, you know, the leadership of the Democratic party needs to keep their eye on the policy ball that the American people voted for, and we don`t -- I don`t know that it`s even been mentioned in the segment yet, but we`re in the pandemic so many of these policies that, yes, cost money but are paid for the way the bill is set up are for a particular reason. It`s to allow women to get back to work so that they have affordable child care to be table to do that, to invest and to home care and elder care and paid family leave. That`s things people need in this moment, but they needed it before the pandemic.

So, now, the Democrats, it`s not just the urgency of the timetable of the midterm elections, but the fact that the American people need this stuff and they voted for it.

So I think that Joe Manchin, every night he goes to bed, he needs to think about that mom that`s at home that`s not able to go back to work because they can`t afford child care or that`s worried about their elderly parent catching COVID, and I think that those are the issues that I think all Democrats should care about, but Joe Manchin should remember every single time he tries to operate and try to create leverage. I mean, how much more leverage does he need?

O`DONNELL: Zerlina, I`m so glad you mentioned the pandemic in relation to child care. I don`t think I`ve ever mentioned it as we`ve discussed the child care provision this year, but it`s worth noting that, yes, the paid for child care system in this country broke down completely under the weight of COVID-19 and the shutdowns and the way people had to isolate.

Norm Ornstein, angus king invoked you in the last hour talking about what needs to be done in the senate, but I want to first of all in terms of the 60-vote threshold, which I want to get to in a moment, but I want to begin with David`s reporting on Joe Manchin. You`ve seen all of these party switches, and you`ve seen that momentum over decades now, and it`s been basically a one-way street except for Jim Jeffords from a northern Canadian state, but all the rest of those switches that happened in the southern states.

It remains something of a political miracle that Joe Manchin can be elected in the state of West Virginia with the word Democrat beside his name and Angus King is afraid to have that word beside his name in the state of Maine.

NORM ORNSTEIN, CONGRESSIONAL HISTORIAN: And Bernie Sanders was offered the Democratic party`s endorsement the last time he ran, and he said I don`t want it. You know, I`m not going to lose any sleep over this I think for some of the reasons that David suggested. Joe Manchin is negotiating right now. I don`t think we`ll end up with a it better be 1.75 trillion or if it`s 1.8, I`m out of here. I think it`s a negotiation, and they`re probably going to end up as we`ve been hearing around 1.9. It`s the details, as Zerlina said that matters the most.

You know, I`ll return the favor with Angus King. If you have not any of these viewers who have not seen his speech today, in 50 years being around the Senate, I can count on the fingers of one hand speeches that are as significant, eloquent and important. And when Angus King talks about the dangers to democracy and the need to change the rules and thank you, Angus for mentioning the idea that it`s mine and Al Franken`s that others are going to take it seriously.

But if he switched to become independent, yeah, there would be a lot of stories as David said, but it`s not going to change anything. He is not going to go to the Republicans. I actually would like to see Lisa Murkowski think about becoming an American independent.

[22:20:01]

If there`s one senator in the Senate who has been dissed and treated badly by the party of which he or she is a part, it would be Lisa Murkowski, but she`s not moving, and I doubt very much that Angus King will move. He`s getting some leverage here, and he`ll use it to his advantage, and he`s sending a signal to the progressives in the house and senate. Don`t mess with me too much.

I don`t worry about where we`re going to end up. I think we`re in a reasonably good place, and I think Manchin is so invested in the democracy reforms that I think we`re likely to see some movement on the filibuster, too.

O`DONNELL: David, a quick last word on this. So at the end of the day that begins with your reporting, ends with Joe Manchin`s most colorful sidewalk interview yet, what is your assessment of where this story stands, where this situation let me call it, stands tonight with Joe Manchin and the Democratic Party?

CORN: You know, there`s a great line from Graham Green that a hanging concentrates the mind. I have to believe that the Democrats realize they have no chance in 2022 in the midterms if they don`t deliver here, if they don`t get a package that addresses most of their base`s concerns and looks like they know how to govern.

So, you know, as an optimist, I think that pressure should overwhelm everything else, whatever Joe Manchin does, some of the concerns of the progressives in the House, you know, who I tend to agree with. I think at the end of the day, they really have to all stand together or, you know, the House will fall down.

So I`m hoping that Norm is right and that there will be something that people can live with and that we can go on to fight another day to get a lot of those programs that Zerlina talks about as well that may not be included this time around.

O`DONNELL: David Corn, thank you very much for joining us with your exclusive reporting today. Norm Ornstein, thank you for your wisdom as always. Zerlina, thank you very much for reminding me how the pandemic interacts with the need for this legislation. Appreciate that.

Thank you all for starting us off.

ORNSTEIN: Thank you, Lawrence.

MAXWELL: Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: And coming up, today, every Republican senator voted to block Democratic senators` right to vote in the Senate. That`s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[22:25:30]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCHUMER: Senate Republicans blocking debate today is an implicit endorsement of the horrid new voter suppression and election subversion laws pushed in conservative states across the country. What we saw from Republicans today is not how the Senate is supposed to work.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Senator Republicans denied senators the right to vote today. Senator Republicans denied senators the right to vote on a bill called the Freedom to Vote Act, which was co-written by Senator Joe Manchin in the hope of attracting Republican support for a voting rights bill. The bill would establish federal standards for early voting and vote by mail, automatic and online voter registration, require voter ID, ban partisan gerrymandering, mandate disclosure of dark money group and make Election Day a federal holiday.

All 50 senators on the Democratic side of the aisle voted for simply beginning debate on the bill and then allowing a vote on the bill and all Republicans voted against even talking about the bill. They voted against allowing a vote on the bill. It would have taken 60 votes to clear the 60 vote threshold imposed by Mitch McConnell on this bill to simply begin debate on the bill.

Vice President Kamala Harris said this immediately after the Senate vote.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I`d like to think that we have evolved as a nation and that we would not have to return to a moment where the United States Senate would have to debate. Yet in this situation fail as a body to even move forward protections as it relates to the right to vote. We`re not going to give up. We`re not deterred, but there`s still a lot of work to do, and I think it`s really a sad day.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Joining us now is Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon. He is part of the group of Democratic senators who worked with Senator Manchin on the Freedom to Vote Act.

Senator, your reaction to the vote in the Senate today, and what you now need to do in order to even get the right to vote? You do not have the right to vote in the Senate on this bill.

SEN. JEFF MERKLEY (D-OR): Yes, it`s very troubling for our democracy. You think about that ancient saying about the senate`s the world`s greatest deliberative body, yet we have evolved through a change of culture where the minority set on obstruction has veto power over whether a topic can even be debated.

So this is paralysis, and this is really driving the Senate to a point it can`t respond to the issues facing Americans, whether it`s health care, housing or education or jobs or equality or climate, the Senate`s in big trouble, and that puts our republic in a desperate position.

O`DONNELL: Senator Angus King told Rachel Maddow in the previous hour that he would be willing to change at least the procedure for the threshold and switch the pressure onto the objecting minority and force them to deliver 41 votes to basically continue debate and avoiding a vote on the bill that the so-called culture rule. That would change the dynamic, it would make it something that would require the physical presence of Republican senators in order to do this kind of thing.

What is your reaction to that or any other possible change in the 60-vote threshold to allow an actual vote, allow senators the right to vote on the right to vote?

MERKLEY: Well, the point here is we have to restore the Senate, and when we say that, it means restore it as a body that`s able to debate an issue and hold votes on an issue. And the particular idea that Angus is referring to is that it`s a response to an accidental mistake from 1975. When the rule was changed and it said, well, to close debate instead of a higher number, we`ll do a lower number, instead of two-thirds, we`ll do three- fifths, so, 67, we`ll do 60.

Instead of it being a percent of those who show up, it will be a percent of the body, which meant -- and people did not understand what they were doing, that those who want to obstruct don`t have to show up. And therefore, it became so easy to obstruct because -- [22:00:41]

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel.

I was listening to your discussion with Senator Angus King, and by the way, his speech on the Senate floor today was one of the greats of this year certainly, and -- but one of the things I really liked about what he had to say was that everyone on the Democratic side who -- of the Senate who is now in favor of changing the 60-vote threshold rule came to that position reluctantly.

He came to it, has been coming in that direction more reluctantly than most of the rest, but everyone`s thinking about this move slowly, and there was that moment where he mentioned Norm Ornstein, he mentioned me in our history with this subject, and I can remember the first time it came up somewhere, you know, in the 2005 or `6, I remember the first time I heard a discussion of it publicly and I immediately just -- of course not. Of course you don`t change that rule because like Angus King and people who worked in the senate, I lived on the winning side of votes where the side I was on had, you know, 43 votes in the Senate of 100 senators, and did it repeatedly.

And so, that`s what he was talking about tonight is that concept of, you know, remember, if you do this it won`t be there when you might want it a few years down the road. And so -- and I get that concept. I personally am past it, and I just think get rid of the entire thing. There`s no point to the 60 vote threshold under any circumstances at all.

But it took me, I don`t know, maybe three years of thinking about it over ten years ago to get into that space and working through all of those things that to some extent Senator King is still working through some of it, but he`s worked through most of it. It does take time for creatures of the Senate who have lived with that rule and benefitted from the kind of minority power side of it.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, "TRMS": Well, and it was interesting. tonight, he was explaining all of that about not wanting to be on the other side of it and how Mitch McConnell is chomping at the bit to get rid of the filibuster actually because he`s excited to do what he can without it when he`s majority leader again. He`s definitely making all that argument.

And he`s saying I don`t want to get rid of the filibuster full stop. I don`t even want a carve out for voting rights because McConnell will have a carve out for abortion rights or some other thing. All he wants to do is change the rule to force debate, to make the filibuster cost something so that it gets used less frequently for only the stuff that is really important, that it doesn`t become run-of-the-mill thing.

He wants the filibuster to go back to being a rarely used thing that still affords the minorities the protections it has in the past for good or ill but that would make it a pain. That shows you his reluctance and he`s sort of small C conservatism on it. But still, he`s -- that gives him a good footing I think to be making the case to, for example, Senator Manchin, and who`s fate the country`s hand -- in whose hands the country`s fate sort of rests right now.

O`DONNELL: Yeah, and, by the way, as luck would have it, Norm Ornstein going to be joining us in this first segment tonight.

MADDOW: Very good.

O`DONNELL: Picking up where Senator King left off.

That concept that Norm originated and senator gave him credit for it, is a bigger change than it sounds like and it would -- but I don`t think it`s enough. I don`t think it`s enough of a change. I`m absolutely in the Adam Jentleson school of get rid of it all, and there`s nothing like working through your own personal Senate experience to see in the end why we should just get rid of it all and just get to what is thought of as democracy, which is the side with the most votes wins. That works in the House of Representatives, has always worked in the House of Representatives.

MADDOW: Well, as a person who is not a creature of the Senate the way that you are and Senator King is and there`s people who are very involved in this process, it is interesting for all the rest of us to watch you creatures evolve, but that`s what creatures do.

O`DONNELL: Very, very --

[22:05:01]

MADDOW: That`s evolution.

O`DONNEL: We are wicked slow at evolving, Rachel.

MADDOW: It`s Jurassic time, we know. But we`ll all watch while you all get it together.

O`DONNELL: It is. Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW: Thank you, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

Well, David Corn is our lead guest tonight on a day when he reported the most important scoop of the day in Washington under the stunning headline "Scoop: Manchin tells associates he`s considering leaving the Democratic Party and has an exit plan."

This is the story that experienced Democrats in Washington have been fearing and Republicans have been eager to hear for months now after it became clear how far from the rest of his party Joe Manchin is on the social policy part of the two-track Biden infrastructure bills. Joe Manchin is in favor of a package that is about half the size of what most Democrats want and Joe Manchin so far opposes any suggested changes in the Senate`s 60-vote threshold that would allow Democrats to pass voting rights legislation and possibly other legislation with a simple majority vote.

Joe Manchin has been the subject of protests by Democratic activists who have traveled to West Virginia to try to put pressure on the senators. Senator Bernie Sanders wrote an op-ed piece in a local West Virginia newspaper trying to put pressure on Joe Manchin, and senators tweeted the majority of the American people support the $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill, 48 out of 50 Democrats in the Senate support the bill, 96 percent of Democrats in the house support the bill. No, two people cannot sabotage what the overwhelming majority of this country want.

Now, it is rare for individual senators to be publicly isolated from their party the way Joe Manchin has been. And it is reminiscent of the first time a senator switched parties at a time when each party had 50 senators, Vermont`s Republican Senator Jim Jeffords switched to the Democratic party after years of whispered encouragement from his Democratic neighbors like New York`s Daniel Patrick Moynihan.

And the moment, the instant Senator Jeffords switched party, control of the Senate switched from Republicans to Democrats. There had never been a more dramatic moment in the Senate. Most of the party switching, though, in the Senate in our lifetimes, almost all of it, has been Democrats switching to the Republican Party. That`s the most common switch. That phenomenon began in earnest when South Carolina`s Strom Thurmond switched to the Republican Party in 1964 over civil rights. Many Southern Democrats who did not switch were either defeated by Republicans or replaced by Republicans when they retired.

Alabama`s current senior Senator Richard Shelby was elected to the Senate as a Democrat and switched parties at a low point in President Clinton`s popularity in the 1990s, harsh treatment from the Clinton White House was one of the reasons. Richard Shelby felt isolated as a Democrat and switched parties.

Senator Shelby has lived a tension-free life since then on the Republican side of the aisle in the Senate, but Joe Manchin`s policy positions are still much more in line with the Democratic Party than the Republican Party. There is not a single Republican senator who is in favor of spending one penny on the social infrastructure track of the Biden bills. Joe Manchin is in favor of spending $1.75 trillion, and Joe Manchin is in favor of raising taxes including income taxes on the rich to pay for that package and no Republican currently serving in the United States Senate has ever voted for a tax increase on anything.

There are reports today that congressional Democrats are now rushing to reach an agreement on the Biden social infrastructure bill.

Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said this today on the Senate floor.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): Everyone is going to have to compromise if we`re going to find that legislative sweet spot we can all get behind. Nobody will get everything they want, but no matter what, our final proposal will deliver the core promise we made to the American people. We`re getting closer to an agreement. We want to finalize a deal by the end of this week, but we all must keep moving together.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Chuck Schumer knows that in a 50/50 Senate, the most important vote Joe Manchin has cast this year in the Senate was the vote to make Chuck Schumer the majority leader and put Democrats in charge of every committee of the Senate. Chuck Schumer knows the history of Democratic senators in Republican states switching parties.

[22:10:06]

And so since he became the majority leader of the 50/50 Senate, he has to have devoted some thought every day to keeping Joe Manchin in the Democratic Party. Publicly, Joe Manchin has always said that he hasn`t given a thought to leaving the Democratic Party, but David Corn reports today in "Mother Jones," quote, in recent days, Senator Joe Manchin has told associates that he is considering leaving the Democratic Party if President Biden and Democrats on Capitol Hill do not agree to his demand to cut the size of the social infrastructure bill from $3.5 trillion to $1.75 trillion.

According to people who have heard Manchin discuss this, Manchin has said that if this were to happen, he would declare himself an American independent, and he has devised a detailed exit strategy for his departure. Manchin has discussed bolting from the Democratic Party, perhaps to place pressure on Biden and Democrats in these negotiations.

He told associates that he has a two-step plan for exiting the party. First, he would send a letter to Senator Chuck Schumer, the top Senate Democrat removing himself from the Democratic leadership of the Senate. He is vice chair of the Senate Democrats` policy and communications committee.

Manchin hopes that would send a signal. He would then wait and see if that move had any impact on the negotiations. After about a week, he said, he would change his voter registration from Democrat to independent. Manchin told associates he was prepared to initiate his exit plan earlier this week and had mentioned the possibility to Biden.

Leading off our discussion tonight, David Corn, Washington bureau chief of "Mother Jones" and an MSNBC political analyst. Also joining us, Norm Ornstein, a congressional historian and emeritus scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, and Zerlina Maxwell, the host of the program, "Zerlina" that is on the Choice on MSNBC exclusively on Peacock.

David Corn, Senator Manchin has responded to your reporting today. Let`s begin by listening to Senator Manchin`s colorful response to your report.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): I can`t control rumors and it`s bull (EXPLETIVE DELETED), bull spelled with a b-u-l-l, capital B.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: I`m just writing that down, he said capital B.

Okay, David, your official response to the senator`s response to your report?

DAVID CORN, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, MOTHER JONES: Well, he`s not right. He knows he`s not right. Apparently I would assume he knows what he`s been saying to people over the past couple of days, and our sourcing on this is impeccable. I have full confidence, 100 percent reliability.

You know, he chose to say what he said. He is wrong, and as I said a moment ago, he knows he`s wrong.

O`DONNELL: So, David, as I read your sourcing, it refers to people who have heard him say these things in your sourcing. So you have multiple sources and it seemed very clear.

The other thing that`s interesting about it is he would be moving to independent. He would not be doing -- and we don`t -- or do we know what is your reporting tell you about, okay, he moves to independent, and then does he instantly vote for Mitch McConnell to become majority leader?

CORN: In the discussions that were heard, he didn`t talk about that. He didn`t talk about caucusing with the Democrats or the Republicans after becoming an independent. He clearly believes -- and he`s said this publicly -- that he still has a foothold or some sin synchronicity with Democrats on at least $1.75 trillion, and as you noted, you know, the Republicans are at zero or even a negative number on this front.

So I don`t know to what degree Chuck Schumer has to worry about losing his job, but clearly that if he did this, the symbolic value and just sort of the leverage that he might have, the greater leverage that he might have in that role, and of course we`d see a lot of stories about Democrats being in disarray, and it would cause -- I don`t think it would cause chaos. I don`t think he wants to blow up the Democratic Party, but I do think he feels he is drifting away from it and feels very isolated.

O`DONNELL: Well, he also has the model of Angus King who just joined Rachel in the last hour who is quite outraged about the outcome today in the Senate on the voting rights -- the vote that wouldn`t even allow for a vote on voting rights, but Angus King himself refuses to carry the word Democrat beside his name when he runs in the state of Maine.

[22:15:08]

He is listed as an independent and an independent in the Senate as has Bernie Sanders.

CORN: Yeah, so there is a model for him to do this on the other side of Bernie Sanders, if he wants to be an independent, and still caucus for the Democrats because he feels closer than the Republicans, and you know, he`s not talking about this, the full extent of his thinking on this is unclear whether this was just a strategic issue he was talking about to gain leverage in these particular talks or if there was something more long range in his thinking here. Or even something psychological that he doesn`t feel at home in the Democratic Party as much as he might have once felt.

So I think there are a lot of motivations here, a lot of factors, and we`re not going to, you know, get to the bottom of it until he talks more frankly about it.

O`DONNELL: And, Zerlina, today is also the day, David`s reporting is out there, and at the same time you see a kind of increased momentum toward let`s get a deal and certainly for Chuck Schumer holding onto Joe Manchin as a member of the Democratic Party has to be part of that urgency.

ZERLINA MAXWELL, PEACOCK, HOST, "ZERLINA": Absolutely, Lawrence, and I think that, you know, the leadership of the Democratic party needs to keep their eye on the policy ball that the American people voted for, and we don`t -- I don`t know that it`s even been mentioned in the segment yet, but we`re in the pandemic so many of these policies that, yes, cost money but are paid for the way the bill is set up are for a particular reason. It`s to allow women to get back to work so that they have affordable child care to be table to do that, to invest and to home care and elder care and paid family leave. That`s things people need in this moment, but they needed it before the pandemic.

So, now, the Democrats, it`s not just the urgency of the timetable of the midterm elections, but the fact that the American people need this stuff and they voted for it.

So I think that Joe Manchin, every night he goes to bed, he needs to think about that mom that`s at home that`s not able to go back to work because they can`t afford child care or that`s worried about their elderly parent catching COVID, and I think that those are the issues that I think all Democrats should care about, but Joe Manchin should remember every single time he tries to operate and try to create leverage. I mean, how much more leverage does he need?

O`DONNELL: Zerlina, I`m so glad you mentioned the pandemic in relation to child care. I don`t think I`ve ever mentioned it as we`ve discussed the child care provision this year, but it`s worth noting that, yes, the paid for child care system in this country broke down completely under the weight of COVID-19 and the shutdowns and the way people had to isolate.

Norm Ornstein, angus king invoked you in the last hour talking about what needs to be done in the senate, but I want to first of all in terms of the 60-vote threshold, which I want to get to in a moment, but I want to begin with David`s reporting on Joe Manchin. You`ve seen all of these party switches, and you`ve seen that momentum over decades now, and it`s been basically a one-way street except for Jim Jeffords from a northern Canadian state, but all the rest of those switches that happened in the southern states.

It remains something of a political miracle that Joe Manchin can be elected in the state of West Virginia with the word Democrat beside his name and Angus King is afraid to have that word beside his name in the state of Maine.

NORM ORNSTEIN, CONGRESSIONAL HISTORIAN: And Bernie Sanders was offered the Democratic party`s endorsement the last time he ran, and he said I don`t want it. You know, I`m not going to lose any sleep over this I think for some of the reasons that David suggested. Joe Manchin is negotiating right now. I don`t think we`ll end up with a it better be 1.75 trillion or if it`s 1.8, I`m out of here. I think it`s a negotiation, and they`re probably going to end up as we`ve been hearing around 1.9. It`s the details, as Zerlina said that matters the most.

You know, I`ll return the favor with Angus King. If you have not any of these viewers who have not seen his speech today, in 50 years being around the Senate, I can count on the fingers of one hand speeches that are as significant, eloquent and important. And when Angus King talks about the dangers to democracy and the need to change the rules and thank you, Angus for mentioning the idea that it`s mine and Al Franken`s that others are going to take it seriously.

But if he switched to become independent, yeah, there would be a lot of stories as David said, but it`s not going to change anything. He is not going to go to the Republicans. I actually would like to see Lisa Murkowski think about becoming an American independent.

[22:20:01]

If there`s one senator in the Senate who has been dissed and treated badly by the party of which he or she is a part, it would be Lisa Murkowski, but she`s not moving, and I doubt very much that Angus King will move. He`s getting some leverage here, and he`ll use it to his advantage, and he`s sending a signal to the progressives in the house and senate. Don`t mess with me too much.

I don`t worry about where we`re going to end up. I think we`re in a reasonably good place, and I think Manchin is so invested in the democracy reforms that I think we`re likely to see some movement on the filibuster, too.

O`DONNELL: David, a quick last word on this. So at the end of the day that begins with your reporting, ends with Joe Manchin`s most colorful sidewalk interview yet, what is your assessment of where this story stands, where this situation let me call it, stands tonight with Joe Manchin and the Democratic Party?

CORN: You know, there`s a great line from Graham Green that a hanging concentrates the mind. I have to believe that the Democrats realize they have no chance in 2022 in the midterms if they don`t deliver here, if they don`t get a package that addresses most of their base`s concerns and looks like they know how to govern.

So, you know, as an optimist, I think that pressure should overwhelm everything else, whatever Joe Manchin does, some of the concerns of the progressives in the House, you know, who I tend to agree with. I think at the end of the day, they really have to all stand together or, you know, the House will fall down.

So I`m hoping that Norm is right and that there will be something that people can live with and that we can go on to fight another day to get a lot of those programs that Zerlina talks about as well that may not be included this time around.

O`DONNELL: David Corn, thank you very much for joining us with your exclusive reporting today. Norm Ornstein, thank you for your wisdom as always. Zerlina, thank you very much for reminding me how the pandemic interacts with the need for this legislation. Appreciate that.

Thank you all for starting us off.

ORNSTEIN: Thank you, Lawrence.

MAXWELL: Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: And coming up, today, every Republican senator voted to block Democratic senators` right to vote in the Senate. That`s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[22:25:30]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCHUMER: Senate Republicans blocking debate today is an implicit endorsement of the horrid new voter suppression and election subversion laws pushed in conservative states across the country. What we saw from Republicans today is not how the Senate is supposed to work.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Senator Republicans denied senators the right to vote today. Senator Republicans denied senators the right to vote on a bill called the Freedom to Vote Act, which was co-written by Senator Joe Manchin in the hope of attracting Republican support for a voting rights bill. The bill would establish federal standards for early voting and vote by mail, automatic and online voter registration, require voter ID, ban partisan gerrymandering, mandate disclosure of dark money group and make Election Day a federal holiday.

All 50 senators on the Democratic side of the aisle voted for simply beginning debate on the bill and then allowing a vote on the bill and all Republicans voted against even talking about the bill. They voted against allowing a vote on the bill. It would have taken 60 votes to clear the 60 vote threshold imposed by Mitch McConnell on this bill to simply begin debate on the bill.

Vice President Kamala Harris said this immediately after the Senate vote.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I`d like to think that we have evolved as a nation and that we would not have to return to a moment where the United States Senate would have to debate. Yet in this situation fail as a body to even move forward protections as it relates to the right to vote. We`re not going to give up. We`re not deterred, but there`s still a lot of work to do, and I think it`s really a sad day.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Joining us now is Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon. He is part of the group of Democratic senators who worked with Senator Manchin on the Freedom to Vote Act.

Senator, your reaction to the vote in the Senate today, and what you now need to do in order to even get the right to vote? You do not have the right to vote in the Senate on this bill.

SEN. JEFF MERKLEY (D-OR): Yes, it`s very troubling for our democracy. You think about that ancient saying about the senate`s the world`s greatest deliberative body, yet we have evolved through a change of culture where the minority set on obstruction has veto power over whether a topic can even be debated.

So this is paralysis, and this is really driving the Senate to a point it can`t respond to the issues facing Americans, whether it`s health care, housing or education or jobs or equality or climate, the Senate`s in big trouble, and that puts our republic in a desperate position.

O`DONNELL: Senator Angus King told Rachel Maddow in the previous hour that he would be willing to change at least the procedure for the threshold and switch the pressure onto the objecting minority and force them to deliver 41 votes to basically continue debate and avoiding a vote on the bill that the so-called culture rule. That would change the dynamic, it would make it something that would require the physical presence of Republican senators in order to do this kind of thing.

What is your reaction to that or any other possible change in the 60-vote threshold to allow an actual vote, allow senators the right to vote on the right to vote?

MERKLEY: Well, the point here is we have to restore the Senate, and when we say that, it means restore it as a body that`s able to debate an issue and hold votes on an issue. And the particular idea that Angus is referring to is that it`s a response to an accidental mistake from 1975. When the rule was changed and it said, well, to close debate instead of a higher number, we`ll do a lower number, instead of two-thirds, we`ll do three- fifths, so, 67, we`ll do 60.

Instead of it being a percent of those who show up, it will be a percent of the body, which meant -- and people did not understand what they were doing, that those who want to obstruct don`t have to show up.

[22:30:12]

And therefore, it became so easy to obstruct, because the burden is all on the majority, you can go on vacation and obstruct, the vote could be 59 to zero and the 59 lose and can`t hold a debate. So, what I am suggesting is, shouldn`t the responsibility beyond those who want more debate to actually be there to debate? How logical is that? Very logic.

O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to what Angus King said tonight about the math of the Senate now, and how 41 senators in the Senate could be representing a tiny population blocking what the majority wants.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. ANGUS KING (I-ME): You can get 41 votes out of the current Senate, which was enough to block any legislation. And if you take the states that those 41 senators represent, add all the population together, you get 24 percent of the American people. So, the situation we`re in now is the 24 percent of the American people have an effective veto over anything that 76 percent of the American people think it`s important public policy? I don`t think that squares with Democratic theory.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Senator Merkley, I no longer really understand the reluctance of Democratic senators who, I guess there`s not too many of them, who are wanting to hold on to the current version of the 60 vote threshold?

MERKLEY: Well, the best light I can shine on it is a Senate has been a place where the minority was guaranteed the opportunity to be heard and to participate. And that is something we should retain. So, imagine that by having to show up and actually debate to continue to debate, the minority console things down by giving long speeches in order to seek amendments, to seek compromise, to make sure the public has seen the bill, make sure that processing the bill, make sure the members have been able to backfill, that`s all positive.

And you know, it`s a real chance to participate, persuade, regardless of which party you`re in. That`s a stronger Senate. But when that right to participate, becomes a right to block the Senate from acting to veto the opportunity to act, then we`ve gone over the cliff. And we`re crashing.

And you think Lawrence about right now, we are noting that in the world, there is a huge resurgence of authoritarianism. And the President of China is saying, look how much more effective my model of authoritarianism is, rather than the Republic, rather than the Democracy. And here we are, really in the position to be the shining light to the world, to show how power flows up from the people, rather than down from the few above. And what`s happening, we are destroying the ability to be that light to the world because we can`t even hold a debate and a vote. And the world looks at that and goes that`s dysfunctional. That won`t work.

O`DONNELL: Quickly, Senator, before you go, with the reporting today that Joe Manchin is considering leaving the Democratic Party. Did you all go into a group hug with Joe Manchin to try to hold on to him today?

MERKLEY: I didn`t hear that report today. But I can tell you we`ve had a number of conversations recently with Joe and he`s been very earnest about his philosophies and his wanting to find a path to meet the caucus halfway and is responding to the urgency of moving on build back better. So, my only sense is, he feels very connected to our team.

O`DONNELL: Senator Jeff Merkley, thank you very much for joining us tonight.

MERKLEY: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: And coming up today, Congressman Jim Jordan went to a house hearing to defend Steve Bannon and ended up showing exactly why people like Jim Jordan and Steve Bannon, who communicated with Donald Trump about January 6th, never want to answer questions about any of that. That`s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[22:35:00]

O`DONNELL: Everything in the House of Representative votes on must first pass through the Rules Committee chaired by Jim McGovern. The Rules Committee holds a hearing in which they usually hear from the top Democrat and top Republican on whatever House Committee has passed a bill for their consideration, because the January 6th committee unanimously voted to recommend criminal prosecution of Steve Bannon for defying the subpoena.

There was no one from the January 6th committee to represent the opposition at the Rules Committee hearing today. And so, House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy and what appears to be yet another attempt to set up Congressman Jim Jordan for public humiliation, extreme public humiliation, allowed Jim Jordan to present the Republican opposition to the criminal prosecution of Steve Bannon.

Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern used Jim Jordan to show why Steve Bannon and other Trump allies are afraid of having to testify under oath to the January 6th committee.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JIM MCGOVERN (D-MA): He said, and I quote, I`ve talked to the president so many, I can`t remember all the days I`ve talked to him. But I`ve certainly talked to the president. The next day on July 28th, you confirm to Spectrum News that you spoke with the former president on January 6th, when asked by a Spectrum News reporter, Taylor Popielarz whether you spoke to the president before, during or after the Capitol was attacked, you said and I quote, I spoke with him that day after I think - after I don`t know if I spoke with him in the morning or not. I just so know I have to get back to you. I don`t know when those conversations happened.

[22:40:00]

So, my question is, you`ve had 84 days since that interview to go back and check the record. So, when did you speak with former president on January 6th, did you talk to the former president before, during, or after the attack on the Capitol, or was it all three?

REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): Of course, I`ve talked to the President. I`ve been clear about that. I talked to him all the time. This is not about me, Mr. Chairman. I know you want to make it about me. Of course, I talked to the president. I talked to him that day. I`ve been clear about that. I don`t recall the number of times, but it`s not about me, I know. You want to make it about that and I gave you the answer.

MCGOVERN: Did you talk to the president, former president before, during or after the attack on the Capitol? Or was it all three? The reason why I ask is, you had 84 days since you said you could remember and you will check. So, if you can just clarify the record, was it before, during or after the attack on the--

JORDAN: I`ve talked to the president after the attack?

MCGOVERN: So, not before during?

JORDAN: Right.

MCGOVERN: OK.

JORDAN: And I have been clear about that. Let me ask you a question, you brought January 6th.

MCGOVERN: But my understanding is that you said to a reporter from Politico that you spoke to him during, so it`s always now after the attack, are you?

JORDAN: During? No, I didn`t speak to the president during the attack.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Joining us now is Democratic Congresswoman Norma Torres of California. She`s a member of the House Rules Committee. She was involved today. So, it was a straight party line vote in the committee. That seems to indicate what will happen in the House tomorrow, with the House, the Republican leadership now recommending that all Republicans vote against the criminal prosecution of Steve Bannon.

REP. NORMA TORRES (D-CA): Yes, it`s good to be with you, Lawrence. It is unfortunate that Republicans continue to play out this political theater. If these two people, these two representatives are the best that they could send to the Rules Committee to try to continue to stop this investigation from moving forward, I think that it really truly shows their colors that they have so much to hide, because their own personal involvement, unfortunately.

O`DONNELL: And so, what do you expect to happen tomorrow, this vote will presumably pass the House with Democratic votes. And then the speaker immediately refers this to the Justice Department.

TORRES: The vote will go out tomorrow, out of the House, it will be a partisan vote, once again, because Republicans refuse to uphold the rule of law or to stand up for democracy. It will go to the Senate where you know, I believe that they will continue to do the same thing. And that`s obstruct justice. They don`t want American voters to cast a vote on any election. That doesn`t please them. It doesn`t result in getting their people elected to office and by their people. I`m talking about Republicans.

And when the people, the voters actually vote for their president and choose their president, I think that the GOP has been very clear about not certifying those results, and to the tune of trying to kill Vice President Pence, threatening all of our lives, and a major violent assault on our U.S. Capitol, something that we have not seen in recent years.

O`DONNELL: Congresswoman Norma Torres, thank you very much for joining us tonight. Really appreciate it.

TORRES: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: And coming up, Steve Bannon doesn`t want to say a word to the January 6th committee, but he has spoken for endless hours with our next guest, Michael Wolff.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[22:45:00]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. BENNIE THOMPSON (D-MS): I`m here this morning urging that the House quickly consider the resolution holding Mr. Bannon in contempt. It`s credible that the Select Committee and the House have been put in this position. But instead of complying with our pro, Mr. Bannon has chosen a path of total defiance.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Steve Bannon doesn`t just hold the House of Representatives in contempt, he seemed to hold Donald Trump in contempt at times and Michael Wolff`s first book about the Trump presidency, titled Fire and Fury. It may be that Michael Wolff has spent more time speaking with Steve Bannon than Donald Trump has, and Michael Wolff`s new book, Too Famous. He writes, Bannon is a man who can`t stop talking and we logged hundreds of hours of conversation together in Trump Tower, the White House, the frat style accommodations he occupied on Capitol Hill. The luxury suites he favored when he was in New York.

Michael Wolff tells the story of how Steve Bannon joined the Trump team , when he was running Breitbart website, which was then funded by the Mercer`s, a rich Republican family. In August 2016, he read an article in The New York Times about the collapsing Trump campaign, he called the Mercer`s worried that a landslide Trump defeat might damage Breitbart, the Mercer`s political innocence, but with a vast checkbook immediately flew out to the Hamptons to meet Trump at a fundraiser to be held at the home of Woody Johnson, the Johnson & Johnson heir and New York Jets owner whom Trump would subsequently appoint his ambassador to the court of St. James.

Virtually no one showed up for the fundraiser, a humiliating moment for Trump who, with the promise of a new influx of cash from the Mercer`s and desperate not to spend his own money promptly agreed to make Bannon the head of his campaign, and that is why Steve Bannon is now one day away from being the target of his second federal prosecution.

[22:50:00]

O`DONNELL: Donald Trump ended the first federal prosecution of Steve Bannon, while it was underway, when he pardoned Steve Bannon Joining us now is Michael Wolff. He is the author of Too Famous, the Rich, the Powerful, the Wishful, the Notorious, the Down. That is his new book. Michael, you have more insight into Steve Bannon than anyone on the January 6th committee. And we see what Steve Bannon is doing now. He`s going to fight this legally as far as he can. Presumably, this is good for Steve Bannon`s business isn`t it to be seen as the great resistor of this investigation.

MICHAEL WOLFF, AUTHOR, TOO FAMOUS: This is exactly where Steve Bannon wants to be. The Democrats could not have played more into Steve Bannon`s hands. He is the happiest man in America tonight. I mean, it`s Steve`s frustration. Remember, Steve has been kind of in the wilderness for the last three years since Trump forced him out of the White House. But his - the real pain in Steve`s heart is that the attention has been on Donald Trump, who Steve regards as stupid, crazy and a crook, rather than the attention being on Steve Bannon. So yes, it`s a good day for Steve.

O`DONNELL: So, the maximum penalty, if he`s convicted of this is 12 months. It`s a federal sentence. Maybe he serves eight, nine, something like that. You think--

WOLFF: He would be in heaven; He would literally be in heaven. This would make his career and his life.

O`DONNELL: He would do the time and cash in on the time, presumably.

WOLFF: Oh. Absolutely. I mean, it would be, I mean, I really can`t - I have been watching this and I`ve been thinking, Steve is just the luckiest man on earth.

O`DONNELL: Now, if - let`s go to the theoretical, where the committee does end up questioning him. We just saw Jim Jordan today trying to answer questions about how many conversations he had with Donald Trump around January 6th. What would testimony from Steve Bannon be like if he was under oath trying to avoid perjury, possibly using Fifth Amendment here and there?

WOLFF: Yes. I mean, that`s one of the interesting things about this is that I don`t think that Steve Bannon has much to testify to. He really was not in - and certainly he was not in close contact with Donald Trump. I mean, he made efforts to be in contact, but Trump doesn`t like to speak to Bannon. I don`t think Jim Jordan was really in touch with the president, either and I think what Jim Jordan is trying to not to say is that or what he is trying to imply is that he was in touch with the president. But the reality is that he wasn`t.

So, everybody is kind of using this at a weird counter purpose. They want to be here. They want to be Trump defenders; they want to be seen as somehow being an important player in January 6th. When in fact, it was I think what will ultimately unfold here, this was chaos, mayhem, disorganized, and that nobody was really representing Donald Trump, except, as always, Donald Trump.

O`DONNELL: Michael Wolff, the new book is Too Famous. The insights to Steve Bannon are available nowhere else. Michael Wolff has them all. Thank you very much for joining us tonight. Michael, I really appreciate it.

WOLFF: Lawrence, thank you.

O`DONNELL: We`ll be right back with tonight`s last word.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[22:55:00]

O`DONNELL: Joe Biden spent Election Day last year in his hometown of Scranton, Pennsylvania. And today, he returned to Scranton for the first time as president selling his infrastructure agenda, which even if it were to pass at the smallest top-line number being publicly discussed right now, it would be the largest legislative investment of its kind.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No matter how long you live here in Scranton, it`s a place that climbs into your heart, and it never really leaves you and that`s the God`s truth. It`s like that old saying goes, you can take the boy out of Scranton, but you can`t take Scranton out of the boy. There`s some special about it. The truth is, Scranton isn`t my home because of the memories you gave me. It`s my home because of the values you gave me.

So, I`m here today to talk about what`s fundamentally at stake right now for the families and for our country. For most of the 20th century, we lead the world by a significant margin. Because we invest it in our people, we invested in ourselves, not only in our roads and our highways and our bridges, but on our people and our families.

If we make the investments, there`s going to be no stopping America in the remainder of the 21st century. It`s never ever, ever been a good bet to bet against America. Never, never, never.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: President Joe Biden gets tonight`s last word. The 11th Hour with Brian Williams starts now.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Well, good evening once again. Day 274 of the Biden administration.