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Transcript: The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, 10/5/21

Guests: Daniel Goldman; Rep. Debbie Dingell; State Senator Steven Bradford (D-CA); Adam Jentleson

Summary

Senate GOP obstructs Biden`s agenda, threatening the economy. January 6 committee chair says more subpoenas will be issued. January 6 committee to issue criminal contempt referrals for witnesses who defy subpoenas. President Biden went to Michigan this afternoon to maintain public support for his two-track infrastructure bill. According to a new poll, the bipartisan infrastructure bill and the accompanying social policy bill are still very popular. Racist government officials drove the Bruce family out of business and out of town 100 years ago. And now the state of California has given the Bruce family property back to its rightful heirs.

Transcript

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Yeah, me and every American who lived never seen it happen. Prior to now, we didn`t have reason to believe we might see it happen. There would always be stunts and brinksmanship but always knew it could happen and it couldn`t happen because neither one of the parties were crazy.

Trouble is tonight, one Democratic senator is actually quoted in "The New York Times" saying the problem with American politics is one of the parties is crazy, and that is provably true. And so, when you`re dealing with crazy, you don`t know what`s going to happen. You never know what`s going to happen.

ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST, "VELSHI": The consequences are real and serious and it will affect people at homes and in their pocketbooks so I appreciate you`re covering this tonight. Have yourself a good show, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Thank you, Ali. Thank you.

Well, back in the day I was running the staff process for the Senate Finance Committee, I had to deal with an impatient nominee for secretary of treasury. The process was moving quickly but I kept getting messages from him asking what was taking so long and finally, someone close to the nominee has whispered an explanation to me, he wants to sign the money. Treasury secretaries get to sign their names to every piece of American paper currency and that is quite a super power unlike any power that anyone else in the government has including the president. Secretaries of the treasury also have the unique and hugely important power to invoke what the treasury calls extraordinary measures. And that is where the United States of America is tonight.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen is already taking extraordinary measures to try to delay the day and the hour when the government of the United States will default on its debt. Those extraordinary measures include suspending investments in certain federal worker pension funds among other things. The exact day on which we will hit the debt limit is unknown because it literally depends among other things on exactly how much money the federal government collects each day. The daily cash flow into the United States treasury, which is mostly tax revenue fluctuates between $50 billion a day and over $300 billion a day.

So, if Janet Yellen has a string of $300 billion days at treasury, then we might hit the debt limit on October 25th instead of October 18th. If Janet Yellen has a string of $50 billion days, the treasury then we could hit the debt ceiling sooner than October 18th, which is currently the treasury secretary`s target date for when she expects the United States of America to for the first time in history default on its debt. October 18th is the date that Secretary Yellen estimates the treasury will run out of moves. That`s the day Janet Yellen expects the treasury to exhaust all of the treasury`s extraordinary measures.

So far, Janet Yellen is the only one in Washington who has taken extraordinary measures to avoid the first default on America`s debt in history. Mitch McConnell has taken the distressingly ordinary measure of imposing an increase in the debt limit and at the same time he has taken the measure of a 60-vote threshold to raise the debt ceiling. Mitch McConnell has given no reason why he`s asking every Republican senator to vote against allowing the Democrats to have a simple majority vote on increasing the debt limit.

"The New York Times" reports today Senator Blunt said 40 or 45 Republicans would be willing to agree to allow a debt ceiling increase to come to a vote as long as they did not have to cast a public ballot. In other words, 45 Republican senators would be happy to allow the debt ceiling increase to come to a vote if they weren`t senators.

[22:05:04]

Senators have to vote publicly. That`s the job. That is the thing that Senator Roy Blunt is saying Republican senators do not want to do. They don`t want to vote publicly.

Democratic Senator Brian Schatz of Hawaii is quoted by "The New York Times" in that same article saying American politics has gone crazy because one party has gone crazy. No Republican senators tonight are complaining about Senator Schatz calling them crazy. Not that long ago, if a senator said the other party has gone crazy, the other party would be publicly expressing outrage at that senator but crazy is the Republican senate`s brand now.

And so, Democrats are now realizing that they may have to take extraordinary measures to prevent the country from going into default, which would send the American economy into a depression and throw the world economy into at least a recession.

Senator Angus King has never been in favor of changing the 60-vote threshold rule in the Senate but in that same "New York Times" article the senator said this, I`ve been very reluctant for nine years about modifying the filibuster rule with policy but this has nothing to do with policy. This is about keeping the United States on the world that could be a severe recession.

And so, Mitch McConnell`s measure of requiring a 60-vote threshold to allow the Democrats to have an actual vote to have a debt limit itself could be the thing that provokes the Democrats in the Senate to all realize dealing with a party that has gone crazy means the 60-vote threshold rule has to be eliminated for something as important as the debt ceiling.

And if Democrats agree to change that rule because the debt ceiling is so important, then the conversation will continue among Democrats about what else might be as important as preserving the full faith and credit of the United States of America, is preserving democracy itself as important or even more important than preserving the full faith and credit of the United States? If it is, Democrats will have to eliminate the 60-vote threshold for voting rights legislation by imposing the 60-vote threshold on the debt ceiling votes, Mitch McConnell is vividly demonstrating the absurdity of the threshold for anything in the United States Senate.

Senate Democrats are still struggling to meet the 50-vote threshold necessary to pass the tax and social policy portion of the Biden infrastructure package through the reconciliation package in the Senate.

And once again today, Senator Kyrsten Sinema mocked the very concept of public accountability.

(BEGIN VIDO CLIP)

REPORTER: Senator, where are you on the reconciliation? Senator, I`m wondering why you feel you don`t have to say literally anything about this publicly to the people that voted for you and didn`t vote for you. Everybody needs to be engaging in a public conversation. I appreciate this but she`s -- I appreciate that. Senator.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You have a phone and email.

REPORTER: I do. It`s a great email account. Senator, do you have any --

REPORTER: They monitor it all the time.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Garrett, you haven`t reached our office.

REPORTER: Senator, do the people who have been protesting you have any effect on the way you`re looking at this issue?

All right. Thank you, Senator.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thanks, Garrett.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: That was intrepid Garrett Haake trying to get Senator Sinema to recognize the concept of accountability.

Leading our conversation is Adam Jentleson, former deputy chief of staff for Senator Harry Reid. He`s the author of "Kill Switch: The Rise of the Modern Senate and the Crippling of American Democracy." Michelle Goldberg is with us. She`s opinion columnist for "The New York Times". And Jelani Cobb, staff writer for "The New Yorker and professor of journalism at Columbia University. He is co-author of the book "The Matter of Black Lives."

And, Michelle Goldberg, I`d like to begin with you tonight and your reaction to that video of Senator Sinema, you wrote one your op-ed pieces about her current posture in the Senate.

[22:10:03]

And there she is continuing a complete, I don`t know what to call it, is it a defiance of public accountability and inability to comprehend -- go ahead. Sorry. Go ahead.

MICHELLE GOLDBERG, OPINION COLUMNIST, THE NEW YORK TIMES: I mean, it looks to me like contempt for public accountability and what`s significant is that you can sort of make -- you can make an argument that you`re not accountable to the national press corps if you`re talking to your constituents, if you`re talking to the people who put you in office. But what progressives, the progressives to mobilize to elect Sinema to the Senate in 2018 say is that, you know, she won`t meet with them. She won`t talk to them. She doesn`t do any sort of public events in Arizona.

And so I disapprove of the stunt people pulled the other day when they followed her into the bathroom, but nobody has been able to communicate with her as far as I know in any way whatsoever and she holds at this point the fate of the Biden presidency and the fate of the republic in her hands. And what`s so maddening is not just that she has objections to the social spending package, not just that she`s trying to leverage her kind of power as a swing voter but that she won`t even articulate what concessions she would accept from progressives.

O`DONNELL: And Jelani Cobb, the job Garrett Haake is trying to do there is a job that the been done in the halls of the Senate office building as soon as they finished building that building and every senator is subject to that. Most of them have an easy time including when they don`t want to say anything and there used to be 100 senators and now maybe there are only 99 who know how to speak and say nothing important at the same time, in those situations with reporters. There are a lot of options in that moment other than completely denying that there is any reason to ever say anything public to the press.

JELANI COBB, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Sure. I mean, it`s an art form. We were all there. I mean, I teach journalism at Columbia, we have conversations about this. People are able to give you and fill up -- give you absolutely no information and, you know, we all as journalists know when they`re doing it and they know we know they`re doing it as part of the process to get people to give you something of substance.

The stone walling is bizarre in addition to the fact that it`s very difficult to discern what the end game is here. You know, her approval ratings back home plummeted. She has essentially held the Senate in a more legislatively constipated situation than it typically is, and we don`t know what`s going to change it, which is kind of bizarre.

O`DONNELL: Adam Jentleson, as we`re careening once again through debt ceiling drama, which always, always in the past for me, always contained the lack of suspense about what the final outcome was because of course, the Congress was going to move the debt ceiling or suspend the debt ceiling ordeal with it in a way that would avoid default but when you have one party in the Senate that -- as far as I can tell accepts the label crazy and seems to think that`s the way to profit politically with Trump voters is to appear to be crazy and reckless and dangerous like Donald Trump -- it`s just a little tricky to try to figure out what happens next.

ADAM JENTLESON, AUTHOR: Yeah, it sure is and, you know, I was there in the Senate in 2011. Ten years ago when he had our last major debt ceiling crisis where we came within a few days of defaulting and we reached a deal at the last minute but, you know, what`s different about now versus then is that we were engaged in, you know, active, you know, open negotiations in 2011, you know, in the weeks leading up to the default.

Right now, there is nothing going on. Mitch McConnell is not making any demands as he was back then. He just is basically playing this game of chicken and staring down the prospect of default and frankly, what he`s doing is he is daring Democrats to reform the filibuster as you laid out in your opening. And I think that, you know, he`s not necessarily operating from a position of strength here in large part I think his stance is determined by the fact he doesn`t control his conference in the way he would want to and can`t prevent his fellow Republicans from obstructing Democrats if they choose to use the reconciliation pass.

Really, Democrats know that they`re closing in on a very narrow range of options and probably the best option available to them is to pass some kind of narrow filibuster reform because the other option simply might not get them to where they need to get to to raise the debt ceiling by the time the extraordinary measures run out.

[22:15:23]

So I think, you know, we think a lot about McConnell but he may not be operating from position of strength. That`s important for Democrats to factor into their thinking.

O`DONNELL: Michelle, one of the reasons why I`ve never really previously worried about the debt ceiling is people like Mitch McConnell, Mitch McConnell is very, very rich. And he got rich in an old fashioned way. He married around the money. He has somewhere around $30 million, maybe more. Mitt Romney very, very, very rich man. These are the kinds of people who are hurt very, very badly by the kind of market crash you would have if we were to crash into the debt ceiling.

And so my confidence in Republican senators especially own personal interest in their own personal wealth has always guided me through the panic stages of debt ceiling brinksmanship with that expectation. But this time, it does include this other element, which Mitch McConnell is teaching the Democrats, the Joe Manchin, the Angus King, the people holding back of adjusting the 60-vote threshold. He`s teaching them the best lesson yet this year that`s actually happening on the Senate floor at the moment about why that 60-vote threshold needs to go.

GOLDBERG: I mean, everything that`s terrifying, everything that is dysfunctional in our politics can in some ways be attributed at this point to the filibuster, right? It`s not only -- it`s the debt ceiling, it`s although Joe Biden is still working to put together 50 votes for this reconciliation package, the way -- the only reason he has to legislate in this ridiculous way that he has to kind of cram his entire legislative agenda to be put in one bill that can only be passed through this procedural trick because the Republicans refuse to allow sort of regular order.

And so you could imagine a, you know, if they sort of broke this up and passed each piece individually some Republicans would have some incentive to at least negotiate on things like paid leave, you know, instead, we have to -- instead, the only way to do anything is through this kind of absurd procedural trickery like-wise with voting rights. There is a proposal that Manchin himself has put together that cannot pass under the current configuration and the current configuration is meant to even further entrench minority rule that will make it harder and harder for Democrats to win elections, let alone govern no matter even if they get substantial electoral majorities.

O`DONNELL: And, Professor Cobb, when, if you were to open up the 60-vote threshold for let`s say debt ceiling votes, well now you`ve done it. Now these senators, many of them for the first times in their lives have participated in a rule change and maybe it won`t be quite so hard when you apply that same focus to, say, preserving democracy.

COBB: That`s the hope. One of the things that`s -- this discussion is the defense of the filibuster in the idea a 60-vote threshold will force a majority party and a minority party to do the horse trading that`s supposed to integral to the actual legislative process. But the opposite is happening.

When the people holding out and defending the filibuster can`t get that process to happen, you know, on their own, then it means that this system is fatally flawed, you know, and when Kyrsten Sinema and the op-ed she wrote in June said this was her reasoning for defending the filibuster, what also would happen is that, now, people don`t have to be on the record for anything (INAUDIBLE). And so there is really no incentive for them to change this system in which they`re benefitting at the same time obstructing the opposition parties, president`s agenda. So that really has to happen.

O`DONNELL: Professor Jelani Cobb, Michelle Goldberg, Adam Jentleson, thank you all very much for starting us off tonight, appreciate it.

GOLDBERG: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

[22:20:00]

Coming up, Mike Pence is now trying to win the votes of the people who said they want to kill Mike Pence on January 6th. That`s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CROWD: Hang Mike Pence! Hang Mike Pence! Hang Mike Pence!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Mike Pence now calls that one day in January, like calling Pearl Harbor one day in December or 9/11 one day in September. Last night on Fox propaganda channel, Mike Pence trying to win back the hearts and minds and future presidential votes from the people who said they wanted to kill him on January 6th.

Mike Pence said, quote, I know the media wants to distract from the Biden administration`s failed agenda by focusing on one day in January. They want to use that one day to demean the character and intentions of 74 million Americans.

[22:25:06]

Now, I have repeatedly said on this program that 74 million people who voted for Donald Trump had nothing to do with January 6th and have repeatedly demonstrated that nothing can make them leave their sofa to protest the election. January 6th was not about the 74 million people that voted for Donald Trump. January 6 was about a few thousand criminals who voted for Donald Trump and wanted Mike Pence to join the ranks of criminals that day by violating the law.

Recent reporting by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa in their new book "Peril" shows that Mike Pence wanted to reverse the outcome of the presidential election but couldn`t find a legal way to do it. And unlike the criminals that attacked the Capitol, Mike Pence was not willing to break the law that day but has firsthand information and testimony to offer about Donald Trump and others who were trying to break the law that day.

The House Select Committee investigating the January 6th attack on the Capitol might be adding Mike Pence to the list of subpoenaed witnesses at some point. The first round of subpoenas that from four high level Trump officials ripen this week on Thursday the committee has subpoenaed documents from Steve Bannon, Mark Meadows, Dan Scavino and Kash Patel and those documents must delivered by Thursday, so we will have the first sign of compliance or defiance with the committee`s subpoenas this week.

Last week, the committee`s chairman, Bennie Thompson, said this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. BENNIE THOMPSON (D-MS): We started questioning something of the voluntary witnesses today and we`ll continue that process. We`ll have other subpoenas that scheduled to come out. For those who don`t agree to come in voluntarily, we`ll do criminal referrals and let that process work out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Joining us now, Daniel Goldman, the former counsel for the first impeachment trial of Donald Trump. He`s also former assistant U.S. attorney for the southern district of New York. He`s an MSNBC legal analyst.

Daniel, thank you very much for joining us tonight.

There is a lot in what Bennie Thompson just said, including the reference to they already started questioning volunteer witnesses who didn`t need to be subpoenaed but let`s go to the subpoenas that that in this week it`s document subpoenas that, Thursday is the due date.

If we do not see compliance on Thursday, what happens?

DANIEL GOLDMAN, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: Well, there are options the house can go to court to enforce the subpoenas that that we saw in Congress and it takes long perhaps longer than we have left in this Congress to find it`s way through the courts. They can discuss with the witnesses, lawyers, some accommodation to get some documents if not all. But I think it`s all going to be academic because I would expect Donald Trump to file a lawsuit to intervene to prevent the witnesses from providing the documents that are asked based on executive privilege.

Now, that is going to be legally baseless. It`s not his decision to make in the first place. It`s Joe Biden`s decision to make and Joe Biden indicated he`s not going to assert executive privilege but that doesn`t stop Donald Trump from litigating it. So the next big date will be next week when all four of those witnesses have been subpoenaed to testify.

That to me is the more vital subpoena and it`s the subpoena that if I were in the House I would be focused on because the recent McGahn opinion that found its way during the last Congress through the D.C. circuit ultimately nullified Donald Trump`s assertion of something he called absolute immunity, which just prevents top executives or top senior officials to the president from testifying all together. That does not exist.

So if you are subpoenaed by Congress, you must show up at a very minimum. You can assert executive privilege, or there could be a representative from the executive branch who can assert executive privilege, to particular questions. But you still must show up.

[22:29:52]

So when Bennie Thompson talks about criminal referrals, I would suspect that what he`s talking about is referring the defiance of the testimonial subpoenas to the Department of Justice for them to investigate and consider charging the witnesses with criminal contempt, which is a felony crime.

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: And how long is that process?

GOLDMAN: Well, it depends on what happens and it depends on how much the testimony gets wrapped up in the litigation that many believe is forthcoming.

The reason why you would go after the testimony is it`s much cleaner than documents. Documents, some of them may give rise to punitive executive privilege and claims that Donald Trump would assert and then Biden would have to respond to.

It gets very mushy and that`s not a good case to bring for a criminal contempt but the DOJ would have to investigate it. It doesn`t take that long to investigate in theory. And then they would prepare to potentially bring charges.

This is rarely done but if there is ever a time to do it, it would be in relation to the insurrection on January 6th when our Democratic republic was put in peril.

O`DONNELL: Donald Trump did say something uncharacteristic in a podcast about this, asked about challenging the subpoenas, defying the subpoenas. He said well, I`m mixed because we did nothing wrong so I`m sort of saying why are we hiring lawyers to do this? I`d like to just have everybody go in and just say what you have to say.

Now, I`m quoting a pathological liar here so the fact that he says this today has of course, no meaning like everything else he says. But for him to strike that note at all is a bit surprising.

GOLDMAN: It`s Donald Trump`s M.O. He will say that what he would love to do is the right thing but his lawyers won`t let him or he`s being instructed that he can`t. I would love to go speak to Bob Mueller but I can`t go speak to Bob Mueller for some unknown reason. And then he delays and doesn`t do it.

I would love to turnover my tax returns but we still have not seen them. So it is at this point almost a tick by Donald Trump to do that. And he`s foreshadowing exactly what he`s going to do, which is that he`s hired lawyers to file a lawsuit to prevent these witnesses from turning over the documents.

So Thursday will probably be the day that they file the lawsuit and there will be no documents that will be turned over.

O`DONNELL: We will see. Thursday.

Dan Goldman, thank you very much for joining us. Really appreciate it.

GOLDMAN: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

Coming up, one of Speaker Pelosi`s vote counters who was with President Biden today in Michigan will join us. We`ll get her take on where the Biden agenda stands in the House of Representatives tonight.

[22:32:56]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: These bills are not about left versus right or moderate versus progressive or anything that pits Americans against one another. These bills are about competitiveness versus complacency. They`re about opportunity versus decay. They`re about leading the world or continue to let the world pass us by, which is literally happening.

To support these investments is to create a rising America. America is moving. To oppose these investments is to be complicit in America`s decline.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: President Biden went to Michigan this afternoon to maintain public support for his two-track infrastructure bill.

According to a new poll, the bipartisan infrastructure bill and the accompanying social policy bill are still very popular. 62 percent of Americans say they support the bipartisan infrastructure bill, and 57 percent of Americans say they support the $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation bill.

In separate meetings yesterday and today, the president told moderate Democrats and progressive Democrats that the $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation bill will probably have to be retargeted to a lower number around $2 trillion.

Joining us now is Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Dingell of Michigan. She`s a senior Democratic Whip in the house, a voter counter for Nancy Pelosi.

Thank you very much for joining us tonight. How many votes do you have tonight?

REP. DEBBIE DINGELL (D-MI): Lawrence, we`re not vote counting right now because we`re figuring out where we`re getting it. And we`re not doing numbers in public, we`re talking substance.

What we`re talking about, figuring out how we`re going to get back and what we`re going to do -- building back better.

O`DONNELL: You were with the president again today in Michigan. He`s gone to Michigan more than once on this same subject. Why Michigan? Why is that one of his favorite places to go for this subject?

DINGELL: Well, Michigan is reflective of the country. We -- it was a state that Donald Trump won five years ago now, four years ago, which I predicted and everybody thought I was crazy. But it was a state that he won in 2020.

We have people that look at issues, think about them thoughtfully. We have people dug in on both sides. And where he went today Howell, Michigan is not the heartland of Democratic territory. As a matter of act, it`s got a lot of people who supported Donald Trump. But that`s where he`s got to go. He`s got to go and talk to the American people about what he is trying to do, layout out that vision and that`s how we`re going to get this done.

[22:39:48]

O`DONNELL: What is the right mix for the president now between these meetings he`s having with sometimes individual senators, sometimes with groups of house members and going out there in speeches like the speech today?

DINGELL: So he gets a combination. First of all, I think -- you heard me and I said this for a number of weeks that they were only having conversations with few people, three (ph) senators from the Senate and most of the House members didn`t know what people were talking about, what the programs were.

We all know what the Build Back Better vision is and we need it. And by the way, the American people were on it. They want our roads and bridges fixed. They`re worried about child care. I could go through the whole list again and we need to be doing more of that.

But the president is didn`t -- people now understood after you came to the Democratic caucus on Friday, what is it that he wants us to do? Laid it out very clearly. Laid it out. Said I don`t want to talk about numbers right now. I want to know what your constituents what, what are the programs? He`s starting to have those conversations. It`s not only he -- the speaker and the others are talking to the caucus as a whole.

We have to quit this pity (ph). I`m totally with them. Everybody loves it. Ok. What can we realistically get done? This is the vision that he laid out when he ran for president and now we`ve got to deliver it to the American people.

O`DONNELL: One reason why the numbers in these bills are so big is that this legislative arena has been ignored for so long if you don`t do infrastructure repairs and building for many years then you have many years worth of expenses building up under you.

And there is a future benefit to this kind of expenditure so it`s always big when you finally get around to doing it. The president made that point today about how this is not spending for one year. This is spending for the future.

Let listen to what he had to say about that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIDEN: The only thing we`ve been missing is the will from Washington to finally build an economy around you, an economy that gives you and your family a fighting chance to get ahead, gives our country a fighting chance to compete with the rest of the world. We need to prepare for ten years down the line. That`s what these bills do. Both these bills spend out over ten years, not in the first year.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: What is your sense of the way swing voters in Michigan hear a speech like that?

DINGELL: I think by coming to Howell, Michigan, being covered by the Michigan media, they`re hearing it. You know what they heard him say today? And they know it.

Those voters that voted for Donald Trump five years ago didn`t think Washington cared about them. Didn`t care about their jobs. He talked about how 75 percent of the batteries right now for electric vehicles are being built in China. And we can`t let that stand. We`ve got to build those batteries here in this country.

He talked about what happened (INAUDIBLE). We know. We are -- my district is one of those districts that has close steel plants across the riverfront. Those steel workers have been out of jobs for ten or 20, 30 years. They want their jobs here in America.

And that`s what he`s laying out. How we`re going to get there. How we`re going to keep those jobs. And by the way, how are we going to bring that supply chain back to this country? What is in build back America is part of getting that done.

O`DONNELL: Congresswoman Debbie Dingell, thank you very much for joining us. Always appreciate it.

DINGELL: Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

And coming up, racist government officials drove the Bruce family out of business and out of town 100 years ago. And now the state of California has given the Bruce family property back to its rightful heirs. That story is next.

[22:43:41]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: 100 years ago, black people were driven out of Manhattan Beach, a beach town just south of Los Angeles. A black couple Willa and Charles Bruce owned a stretch of land on the beach where they were running a successful beach resort for black people who called it Bruce`s Beach.

In 1924 the city of Manhattan Beach seized the property through eminent domain saying it was urgently needed for a public park and then the property stood vacant and untouched for 30 years.

This year the California legislature said quote "As a result of these intentional racially-discriminatory acts, the Bruces lost their land and their business. The Bruce family moved out of the city of Manhattan Beach and the city immediately demolished the Bruce`s beach resort.

Anthony Bruce is the great, great grandson of Willa and Charles Bruce.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANTHONY BRUCE, GREAT, GREAT GRANDSON OF WILLA AND CHARLES BRUCE: When you`re robbed of your dignity, when you`re robbed of your integrity, when you`re robbed of your decent basic rights as a human being and mistreated like that, I mean, it sticks with you for a long time.

The person that was hurt the most from this was my grandfather Bernard Bruce because he was actually there. He knew Charles and Willa as his grandparents. And for him, I think it was extreme. He felt the prejudice.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Anthony Bruce will now be in effect inheriting Bruce`s Beach along with other descendants of Willa and Charles Bruce. The California state legislature unanimously passed a bill restoring the Bruce family`s ownership of that property. Governor Gavin Newsom signed the bill into law at Bruce`s Beach.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOVERNOR GAVIN NEWSOM (D-CA): Well, as governor of California, let me do what apparently Manhattan Beach is unwilling to do and I want to apologize to the Bruce family for the injustice that was done to them a century ago.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[22:49:49]

O`DONNELL: Joining us now is California state senator Steven Bradford. He is the author of the bill that enabled the land known as Bruce`s Beach to be returned to the Bruce family. He`s also the chair of the California legislative black caucus.

Senator, thank you very much for joining us tonight. Really appreciate it.

What was it like to finally get this work done? I know it is going on for a few years recently in California. But also, the unanimous support of the legislature.

STATE SENATOR STEVEN BRADFORD (D-CA): I think it was overwhelming. And I think it was telling by the unanimous vote that people saw this as a horrible injustice to the Bruce family and an injustice that has lasted almost 100 years. And my colleagues totally agreed but more importantly the community and surrounding community who`s been following this issue now for a number of years and just was truly the wind under our wings to let us know that we were doing the right thing and moving forward with this legislation.

So I`m excited about the fact that the governor saw enough importance in this issue to show up in Manhattan Beach on that piece of property that this family owned and signed the measure with Anthony Bruce -- the great, great grandson of Charles and Willa, and do what`s right and correct a wrong that the city of Manhattan Beach committed on a couple who did no more than want the American dream just like any of us here in this country.

So I`m excited and I appreciate again, the support of my colleagues but more importantly the surrounding communities and also the leadership by L.A. County supervisor Janice Hahn and holly Mitchell because it couldn`t happen without them.

O`DONNELL: Yes at a certain point the property came under the control of Janice Hahn and she immediately took action to get this going. I remember reading the first articles about this that I read in the "L.A. Times" a few years ago and just being so sickened by being brought right back to the 1920s in that reporting of when this was happening and knowing as anyone in L.A. would know how hugely valuable that land became.

They bought it for about $1,200 -- $1,500 at the time but it became worth millions upon millions of dollars. In fact Anthony Bruce, I just want to read for the audience this passage from the "L.A. Times` that -- an op-ed piece that Anthony Bruce wrote.

He said "The bill will allow my family to do what countless other American families have done since our country`s founding. Inherit property and build family wealth over generations. I`ll never know whether my family`s business would have grown to rival that of Hilton or Marriott both of which were founded around the same time as Bruce`s Beach and grew from equally humble beginnings."

And Senator Bradford, when you know how the value of that land skyrocketed over time, there was an enormous fortune coming to the Bruce family if that land remained in the family.

BRADFORD: Without a doubt. And it just showed how hard the city of Manhattan Beach worked to make sure that this family was denied what clearly as stated would have been generational wealth.

And I was -- as we moved through the process we were constantly confronted with people that said who know if they family would not have lost this land. And who`s to say that, you know, they would have sold it or anything like that. And then says well, what would generational wealth look like?

And as you just stated, it would look like the Hiltons. It would like the Gettys, the Rockefellers, the Vandenbergs. But they were denied that.

And not only were the Bruces denied that, hundreds if not thousands of other African-Americans across the state and across this nation have been denied the opportunity to build generational wealth through the ownership of land.

So yes, who would have known? This could have very well been a Bruce Beach chain up and down the West Coast all down California or all across this nation. But they were denied that opportunity simply because of racism.

O`DONNELL: I`m glad you mentioned possible other cases because when you read the articles about this, you know you`re dealing with the tip of an iceberg. You know you`re dealing with the one exposed story in a now enlightened community of Los Angeles with senators like you and Janice Hahn and others who were working on this.

But all over the country you can imagine things like this happening 100 years ago in places that have not come close to coming to terms with it.

BRADFORD: Without a doubt. And I want to also recognize a book by Allison Jefferson, an individual who I happened to grow up in the same neighborhood, living a California dream, African-American leisure. And she first started exposing all the other African-American leisure spots in the early 1900s like the Inkwell in Santa Monica, Valverde up toward Palmdale.

These were African-American recreational spots adhering to the Jim Crow laws but let`s look out as you say, outside the state of California.

Let`s go to South Carolina. We all know about Hilton Head Island, a magnificent gold resort. I`m a golfer. It`s one of the most pristine resorts in this country for golfers.

[22:54:59]

BRADFORD: That was once inhabited by slaves after the civil war. South Carolina slaves were forced off the mainland and had to live on that island. And not until the whites realized what a piece of land it was, they cut off the water to the island and forced them back to mainland. So that`s another example of land that was stolen from African-Americans.

It`s now a multimillion dollar if not billion dollar resort in South Carolina. So it`s plenty of examples as we stated that -- that mirrors what the Bruces went through.

O`DONNELL: California State Senator Steven Bradford, thank you very much for joining us tonight on this important story. Senator, we really appreciate it.

BRADFORD: Thank you for your interest in this critical issue.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

Tonight`s LAST WORD is next.

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[22:59:50]

O`DONNELL: There will be a televised sanity check tomorrow in the United States Senate when they have a procedural vote in the afternoon on raising the debt ceiling. Every Republican senator is expected to fail that public sanity test.

That is tonight`s LAST WORD.

"THE 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS" starts now.