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Transcript: The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, 10/7/21

Guests: Hakeem Jeffries, Dahlia Lithwick, Christy Baxter


A Senate Judiciary report reveals former President Trump`s pressure on Justice Department to overturn election. Democratic Congressman Hakeem Jeffries of New York is interviewed. A federal judge in Texas blocks the new Texas abortion law. Texas abortion law halted but providers could face retroactive legal action. Texas has become the Republican Party`s working laboratory for their attacks on voting rights, election integrity, reproductive rights and immigration and it is not polling very well. COVID deniers and vaccine opponents are now overwhelming hospitals.


LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Stop trying to confuse me with that, Rachel. It gets me every time.

I`ve got my huge subverting justice report by the Democratic staff of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Yeah, I saw -- you have a color printer. I don`t.


O`DONNELL: I`m wicked impressed by that.

There`s another report that came out -- another report came out today from the Senate judiciary committee, and it is from the Republican staff. It is five pages, the Republican staff.

I will be concentrating on this report tonight, Rachel. You have done a masterful and thorough job on the big fat one that`s really important. This one is of its own importance for different reasons. It is stunning.

It really is a stunning document, and it`s the report -- I guess maybe no one else will pay attention to, but it does have something work noting in it. So, we`re going to get to that. Neal Katyal is going to join us. He`s going to decode it for us.

MADDOW: I`m looking off to the side because I`m looking at my notes today. They say Trump was trying to make sure stuff got investigated, quote, in a thorough and unbiased manner. I wrote in my notes, LOL, LOL, LOL, LOL, LOL, LOL.

So I just amused myself with that report today, but you actually tearing it apart is going to be fantastic.

O`DONNELL: It reads as though as if it was written by a staff full of Jeff Clarks.

MADDOW: Wow. Go, Lawrence. Go get it. Go get it!

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

MADDOW: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: The staff from the Senate Judiciary Committee issued two reports today, and both of them are deeply disturbing. And for me the report that is actually most disturbing is the one you really haven`t heard much about or haven`t heard anything about at all until a moment ago. I was discussing with Rachel.

The Democratic staff of the Senate judiciary committee issued a report titled "Subverting Justice," giving us more detail about the coup Donald Trump was attempting from the Oval Office and the role he wanted the Justice Department and the attorney general to play in that coup. Much of what is the in the Democratic staff report has already been reported in newspapers and books covering the final days of the Trump presidency. There is much more specificity on all of that in this report.

The committee had the full cooperation of Donald Trump`s last acting attorney general, Jeffrey Rosen and the Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue.

So we now know Donald Trump began an Oval Office meeting January 3rd by saying one thing we know you, Rosen, aren`t going to do anything to overturn the election. The committee obtained the White House photographs of that meeting. And there is Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen sitting across from the president.

Not all coups have an official photographer, but the failed coup run by Donald Trump in the Oval Office was photographed.

One witness who refused to cooperate with the committee is Jeffrey Clark, with who Donald Trump wanted to install as the acting attorney general because Clark had written a letter to be sent to government officials in certain swing states like Georgia, Michigan and others saying that the Justice Department believed that there were problems in the special election in those states and that Republican office holders in those states should appoint a different set of electors to vote in the Electoral College for Donald Trump and Joe Biden who won those states.

And in January 3rd meeting in the oval office where this was discussed for three hours Donald Trump learned he`d face mass resignations if he fired Jeff Rosen and made Jeff Clark the acting attorney general. The Senate Judiciary Committee`s Democratic staff report says at some point during the meeting deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue and Assistant Attorney General Steven Engel made clear that all the assistant attorneys general would resign if Trump replaced Rosen with Clark. Donoghue added that the mass resignations likely would not end there and that U.S. attorneys and other DOJ officials might also resign en masse.

Donoghue and Rosen also recalled White House counsel Pat Cipollone and deputy council Patrick Philbin, pushing back against the proposal to replace Rosen with Clark, with Cipollone calling Clark`s letter a murder- suicide pact, and the two White House lawyers indicating that they would also resign. Despite being informed early on that the Clark course of action would prompt mass resignations, and even though every participant in the meeting except Clark advocated strongly against that course of action, Trump continued for some time to entertain the idea of installing Clark in Rosen`s place.


And so, Donald Trump who throughout his life has been a cowardly man, got scared. He was afraid of many or most of the 90 U.S. attorneys and hundreds of assistant U.S. attorneys and dozens of Justice Department lawyers as well as White House lawyers and possibly people all over his administration quitting because Donald Trump fired the acting attorney general and installed a new acting attorney general to corrupt the election process. Donald Trump was no doubt afraid that that action could lead to him being impeached and removed from office at a very high-speed. Donald Trump was no doubt afraid that that action could lead to him being criminally prosecuted for committing election crimes in the states where he was going to steal the election.

So, in the end, Donald Trump didn`t carry out the plot that he and Jeff Clark had been working on for a few weeks. That is the nightmare described by the Senate Judiciary Committee`s Democratic staff. There is another nightmare in the report by the Republican staff of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and it is a nightmare that will be with us for decades to come, long, long after Donald Trump is gone and long after the Republican Judiciary Committee`s staff -- their boss, 88-year-old Chuck Grassley, is gone.

Senate committee staff who work on reports like this are people in their 20s and 30s. Usually the oldest among them are in their 40s. They are all much younger than the people we saw in the photographs of the coup attempt in the Oval Office on January 3rd. And those young lawyers working on the Republican staff of the Senate judiciary committee actually wrote a report based on the same evidence saying Donald Trump did nothing wrong. They say that because Donald Trump did not actually fire the acting attorney general and install Jeff Clark as acting attorney general, that Donald Trump did nothing wrong.

The Republican staff report says the available evidence shows that President Trump did not use the Justice Department to overturn the election. And what they really mean is that the available evidence shows that President Trump did not succeed in using the Justice Department to overturn the election. It is completely okay with the Republican senators of the Judiciary Committee that Donald Trump used the Justice Department to stage a coup. And it is completely okay with the Republican committee staff.

The Republican staff report says "President Trump did not exert improper influence on the Justice Department, had no impact on the Justice Department`s election activities." Republican staff is saying because Jeffrey Rosen and the leadership of the Justice Department refused to carry out Donald Trump`s plan for a coup, then obviously Donald Trump, quote, did not exert improper influence on the Justice Department. The truth is that he exerted improper influence on the Justice Department, but the key people working there resisted that influence.

The tragedy of the Republican staff report is that it shows you how deep the cancer is in the Republican Party. It has not just spread to men in their 70s and 80s like Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell and Chuck Grassley. It is now completely consuming Republicans in Washington who are half the age of those men and younger. There could be future senators working on that Republican committee staff, future members of the House, future White House chiefs of staff. Ron Klain worked on the staff of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

There could be a future Republican president on that staff, future Republican attorney general. And we now know tonight that the Republican staff of that committee has contempt for government, contempt for the Constitution, contempt for the Justice Department`s ethical standards that were established after Republican President Richard Nixon corrupted the Justice Department.

Senate staff take the same oath that senators do, that I will support and defend the constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same.

Republican staff on the Senate Judiciary Committee found an enemy of the Constitution in the Oval Office, Donald Trump.


And they found an enemy of the Constitution working in the Justice Department who was egging on Trump in the Justice Department, Jeff Clark. And the Republican staff of the Senate Judiciary Committee refuses to defend the Constitution against those two enemies who they found in this investigation. I know what it feels like to take that oath. I cannot imagine what it feels like to violate that oath.

No committee staff in the Senate has ever produced a more disgraceful piece of work than the Republican committee staff in the Senate Judiciary Committee, and we have every reason to fear that that staff will be doing work like that in Washington for decades to come.

Leading off our discussion tonight is Democratic Congressman Hakeem Jeffries of New York. He`s the chairman of the House Democratic Caucus and a member of the House Judiciary Committee.

Thank you very much for joining us tonight. We really appreciate it.

And as a member of the Judiciary Committee in the House and now seeing what the Senate Judiciary Committee has revealed you, too, have oversight jurisdiction of what goes on at the Justice Department. What are your first thoughts about what can be done about this?

REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES (D-NY): Well, good evening, Lawrence. Great to be on as always.

You know, Donald Trump`s behavior continues to make Richard Nixon look like a choir boy. And there is no bottom. There never will be. That is how corrupt this particular individual who used to occupy 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is and how much he has corrupted the Republican Party, which is no longer a functional governing party. It`s a cult.

I think we came very close to losing our democracy, and the more information that is revealed the clearer that becomes. And so I expect on the House Judiciary Committee side we`ll continue to explore this information, probe it, present it to the American people. Of course, leading that effort in the House is going to continue to be the select committee. And then we`re going to have to try to figure out how we can hold some of these individuals accountable for their behavior whenever and wherever possible so as to hopefully deter it from ever happening again.

O`DONNELL: Well, you know, on the deter it part when I was reading this what I kept seeing, and this is something that the Trump era really revealed for us so vividly, is that everything the committee staff, the Democratic committee staff finds to be a violation, it is almost entirely a violation of norms and a violation of ethical standards setup after Richard Nixon. And it`s all based on this old-fashioned Washington notion of a gentleman`s agreement that gentlemen simply wouldn`t simply make phone calls like this and gentlemen simply wouldn`t make requests like this.

And there`s no structure to police this kind of activity. And there`s no -- going forward there`s no structure to police this kind of activity.

JEFFRIES: Well, certainly, we`ve learned as a result of what took place during the Trump administration as you indicated that norms are no longer enough in terms of the preservation and continuity of our democracy. Chairman Adam Schiff is leading that effort to try to address this issue and put into place laws and statutes to govern what is appropriate conduct so that hopefully we never have to confront an out of control corrupt administration like the one that existed when Donald Trump was in office.

Now, of course, we`ll have to confront the dynamics in the Senate with a Republican Party that refuses to govern in a credible fashion. But the first step we`ll have to take is to move this legislation in the House and then make our case to the American people as to why it`s important to their well-being.

We can`t really have a functional economy. We can`t really have a functional society that takes care of the needs, the hopes, the dreams, the aspirations of the American people if democracy breaks down. And that`s why this issue should be important to every single American.

O`DONNELL: The report clearly shows that there isn`t currently a way to control this kind of behavior. You know, and there`s always discussion about -- well, you know, there`s a process and, you know, there`s a limit to who can have contact with the White House and the Justice Department. But those things are just there to be trampled on by someone like Donald Trump.


And going forward, unless you can actually legislate the internals of how the Justice Department operates, which, by the way, is no easy thing. I have no suggestion about how you write that law. It`ll be very complex to write that law in a sensible way. But it`s hard to see how this would be stopped in the future.

JEFFRIES: Well, certainly I think there has to be consequences to behavior that goes beyond a policy violation that becomes a statutory violation and a violation of law, and perhaps imposing criminal consequences where appropriate. We should explore all of that because, again, our democracy is fragile. And we`ve seen that. And we`ve seen that in so many ways including the January 6th violent insurrection, and we`re going to have to do things differently and not simply wish it away.

And I believe that Democrats in the House, the Senate and certainly President Biden are all prepared to lead us forward both in terms of getting things done for every day Americans as it relates to improving their quality of life and improving access to opportunity in every single zip code and protecting our institutions, our values, our norms and the heart and soul of our democracy, and that`s the job that is in front of us.

O`DONNELL: The Senate did vote tonight to extent the debt ceiling in effect to December. Eleven Republican votes for the cloture motion, which is not the same thing as voting to raise the debt ceiling. Mitch McConnell was one of those 11 votes, but it looks like we`re on track for a similar kind of drama in December.

In the meantime, will you be able to put the infrastructure package together in a reconciliation package that could also include a debt ceiling extension or expansion so that you wouldn`t have to go through this again?

JEFFRIES: Well, we`ll have to have that discussion in terms of whether that`s the appropriate way to go or whether we can deal with it in conjunction with the effort to make sure we enact the full spending bill to keep the government open on December 3rd and moving forward. In the interim, we`ve got to get the infrastructure agreement over the finish line, fix our crumbling roads, bridges and create millions of good paying jobs and at the same time make the investments in child care and home care and health care, expanding access to Medicaid, making sure we deal with the climate crisis and green our economy with the fierce urgency of now.

That`s what`s in front of us over the next few weeks. I suspect we`re going to get these two transformative pieces of legislation over the finish line. And then we`ll have to deal with the debt ceiling that now will expire on December 3rd in tandem and I expect that`s what we`re going to do.

O`DONNELL: Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, thank you very much for starting off our discussion tonight. Really appreciate it.

JEFFRIES: Thank you, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Thank you. And joining us now is Neal Katyal, former acting U.S. solicitor general and an MSNBC legal contributor.

And, Neal, as a veteran of the Justice Department, I just want to give you an open forum to react to what you read in this report today.

NEAL KATYAL, MSNBC LEGAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, Lawrence, reading about Donald Trump, he can`t even coup competently. You know, reading that report, the cover stations between the Attorney General Rosen, and Clark, and Trump, it played out kind of like an episode of "The Apprentice" except in this case no one got fired, and Trump`s incoherent decisions can`t really be rescued by the edits.

And I`m so glad your lead up started with the Republican report because I think that was truly a disgrace. I mean as a lawyer I`ve seen a lot of bad arguments in my lifetime. But here`s the actual argument in the report. Grassley argues that Donald Trump couldn`t do that bad because he didn`t go through with firing Attorney General Rosen and installing Jeff Clark. But the only reason that happened was because there was a, quote, murder- suicide pact of everyone at the Justice Department to mass resign if Trump tried to pull that stunt.

And you don`t get credit for kind of, you know, doing the right thing under duress. You don`t give Nixon credit because he resigned as opposed to being impeached or thrown out of office. I think the most important thing is can you imagine, Lawrence, just how bad you got to be -- just how evil if you`re the president and your entire hand picked Justice Department, your entire hand picked White House counsel`s office, they`re all threatening to mass resign because of a decision you want to make?

I mean this is not the deep state. These are Donald Trump people. And let`s be clear Donald Trump didn`t exactly pick people who were sticklers for the rule of law. And so even by that bottom feeder standard, Trump couldn`t keep them onboard. That is all you need to know.

O`DONNELL: The reason Jeff Clark didn`t testify -- hadn`t testified yet to the Senate judiciary committee is that they in effect cannot issue subpoenas because they need a majority vote for subpoenas on that committee, and the committee is now split 10-10 Democrat and Republicans. So they couldn`t pull him in.

The January 6th Special Committee can. They can subpoena him. Obviously he should be high on their subpoena list.

KATYAL: Yeah. I mean if someone`s trying to demonstrate the banality of evil, I`d say career environmental lawyer Jeff Clark trying to facilitate a coup is pretty much on the nose. And, Lawrence, you`re absolutely right the January 6th House Committee can do it and subpoena, but I think there`s another actor that I really want to see get involved. And that is the Justice Department.

You know, the report today isolates a case for a violation of 18 USC 610 which is the coercion of political activity, that it`s a crime to coerce government officials to engage in political acts. And I`m not saying that necessarily happened. I am saying that the evidence in the report calls for -- is a deep cry for an investigation by law enforcement with law enforcement tools behind them.

O`DONNELL: Neal Katyal, thank you very much for joining us tonight. Always appreciate it. Thank you.

And coming up, abortion services resume today in Texas for many patients after a federal judge blocked the new Texas abortion law last night. That`s next.



O`DONNELL: Last night at this hour, after we just got our hands on the 113-page order by federal court judge in Texas blocking the new Texas abortion law, a Supreme Court reporter Dahlia Lithwick called it an extraordinary piece of judicial writing and judicial fact finding.

Included in Judge Robert Pitman`s analysis of the law are footnotes about the impact of the new Texas law, the impact on real people. One of those footnotes quotes a health care provider in Oklahoma. Quote: one of the most heart wrenching cases I have seen recently was of a Texas minor who had been raped by a family member and traveled accompanied by her guardian. All the way from Galveston, Texas, a 7 to 8-hour drive one way to get an abortion in Oklahoma because she was more than six weeks pregnant and could not get an abortion in Texas. And this patient is not the only sexual assault survivor in Texas I have treated recently.

Whole Woman`s Health, an abortion provider in Texas tweeted today we were able to provide abortions today to people who had already complied with Texas 24-hour waiting period. We`ve reached out to people on the waiting list. We had to turn away in September.

As Neal Katyal explained to us last night, there`s a provision in the Texas law that says anyone who provides abortion services during -- cannot later defend themselves in Texas by saying it was done while a temporary injunction like this one was in place.

Here`s what Amy Hagstrom Miller, president and CEO of Whole Woman`s Health had to say about that today on MSNBC.


AMY HAGSTROM MILLER, PRESIDENT & CEO, WHOLE WOMAN`S HEALTH: There is this possibility of a retroactive -- retroactive legal action that gives a lot of us pause. It`s meant to be something that scares us, that it`s meant to give people fear and be afraid to provide abortions. And we have to weigh a lot of those risks as well as the needs of our patients.


O`DONNELL: Joining us now, Dahlia Lithwick, senior editor and legal correspondent for and host of the podcast "Amicus", and Maria Teresa Kumar, president and CEO of Voto Latino and MSNBC contributor.

And, Dahlia, you`ve had 24 hours, and I want to give you that opportunity that in Washington they call a chance to revise and extend your remarks about last night. You`ve speed read your way through this last night. What does it say to you -- what this order say to you when you have 24 hours to reflect on it?

DAHLIA LITHWICK, SENIOR EDITOR & LEGAL CORRESPONDENT, SLATE.COM: I think I`m so struck, Lawrence, by the ways in which judge pitman very deftly in the body of the opinion, you know, it was 113 pages. And above those footnotes he does all the work that was too hard for the Supreme Court to do about standing and injunctive relief and whether the states can sue under parents (INAUDIBLE). It`s the most chargedly (ph) jargon lawyer speak and it`s very, very deft and it`s very meticulous.

And then the footnotes that you just read like footnote 9 that just gutted me is essentially a slide show of all the suffering that has happened that was completely tossed aside by the lower court, by the Fifth Circuit, by the U.S. Supreme Court. And to give a sense of the acute catastrophic effect for millions of Texans, and all of that is happening in these war pictures and the footnotes.


And I want to say I was frustrated at the hearing last week at Judge Pitman`s hearing because it appeared to be only white men talking to white judges about pregnant people`s bodies who are very, very disproportionately affected if they are of color.

To see Judge Pitman stand up and say this is a slide show of the actual experienced lives on the ground of people implicated here -- it was the most fundamentally great act of real vision and real I think compassion that I`ve seen in this entire lawsuit.

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Yes. Maria Theresa, it was not ivory tower justice. It was not someone sitting up in a posture removed from the reality of what the judge was ruling on, but as dahlia refers to it the stuff above the footnotes, which is to say the essential jurisprudence of it is so full and touches every base of what is currently a constitutional right and that is clearly being violated in Texas. And it seems to leave it now a posture for the Supreme Court to decide to either preserve that constitutional right or take it away.

MARIA THERESA KUMAR, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: That`s exactly right. And that`s why the Department of Justice sued because under the law they cannot -- a state law cannot supersede a federal law. And that is what basically Judge Pitman said, and he punted it back to the Supreme Court. As you recall, Lawrence, the Supreme Court said they didn`t want to touch it.

But now it`s going to be very exposed for all the world to see. And part of the reason they didn`t want to touch it is sadly that the Supreme Court is now perceived to be so politicized. And the Republicans themselves know that the American people -- the vast majority of the American people really believe that American women and women everywhere should have agency over their body.

This is not a popular issue. And so what Pitman did was expose this hypocrisy and say we`re going to take it back to the highest courts of the land hopefully so that you can decide in a very clear way.

The fact that we just had a woman`s march here in Washington, D.C. phis past weekend and over 100,000 women and allies came out and marched, it`s not this issue that people want to go away. They want to say, no, we`re in the 21st century, and we`re going to make sure that it`s airtight.

We`re going to make sure that women have agency over their bodies. We`re going to make sure that we`re going to lay it at the feet of the Supreme Court so they`re exposed as well as the world watches.

O`DONNELL: Dahlia, the other thing I found so unusual in this order in a good way is that the judge did not -- was not afraid of going right into the medical details. He took on, for example, the term fetal heartbeat, and said that`s not an accurate medical term about what we`re talking -- when you`re talking about cardiac activity in an embryo. Fetal heartbeat shouldn`t be used here.

And in a lot of these -- a lot of judges in these cases and certainly in the Supreme Court stay very far away from anything like that. They stay far away from any of the actual medical and physiological realities of what we`re talking about.

LITHWICK: It was amazing. Not only was he really scrupulous about saying, look, this is flickering (ph) cells that you`re seeing. It is not a heartbeat. But time and time again he was giving statistics about the likelihood of dying because you carried a pregnancy to term as opposed to terminate it.

The statistics about women in Texas who live in poverty. The statistics about how many people terminate pregnancies who already have children.

All of this data that is a part of the picture, and he just pops it in the footnotes in order to say we`re not going to exceed to this framing that we have been force-fed that this is a heartbeat and this is a life and that`s the beginning and that`s the end of the discussion.

And I agree there`s so much richness there because he`s willing to just lean-in and do that analysis. And it`s the kind of stuff that a lot of judges are like, it`s (INAUDIBLE)

O`DONNELL: Dahlia Lithwick and Maria Theresa Kumar --


O`DONNELL: Go ahead, Maria Theresa.

KUMAR: When he did that he basically turned on its head the Republican talking points and clarified for the American people that it is a ruse. Language is so important and for a long time the way the left and the right has been able to win is by sensationalized terms. And he basically stopped it in its tracks and explained it succinctly and that was the brilliance of his decision.

O`DONNELL: Dahlia Lithwick and Maria Theresa Kumar, thank you both very much for joining us tonight.

KUMAR: Thank you, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

And coming up from the constitutional right to abortion services to the constitutional right to vote, Texas has become a laboratory for Republican extremism. John Heilemann is in Texas this week reporting for his Showtime show "The Circus". And he will join us next.



O`DONNELL: Texas has become the Republican Party`s working laboratory for their attacks on voting rights, election integrity, reproductive rights and immigration and it is not polling very well.

Professor Steven Pedigo at the Lyndon Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas writes "Governor Greg Abbott and the Republican Party has embraced a top down policy agenda that is backward looking, excludes huge swaths of Texas citizenry and runs against the grain of many of its new stakeholder`s values. They`re looking to shore it up by a combination of gerrymandering, voter suppression and relentless cultural warfare."

That agenda is not supported by the public. The latest University of Texas poll finds 52 percent of Texans believe their state is headed in the wrong direction, the highest since that poll started in 2008.


O`DONNELL: That same poll finds the approval rating of Texas Governor Greg Abbott is at 41 percent, the lowest since February 2016.

Here is what Matthew Dowd, a former Republican who is running as a Democrat for Texas lieutenant governor told John Heilemann for "THE CIRCUS".




HEILEMANN: 38 years, right.

Do you sense that there`s a palpable awareness within Texas how bad (EXPLETIVE DELETED) has been for the last year here? Outside we all look at Texas and go it`s a (EXPLETIVE DELETED) nightmare. But do Texans feel that?

DOWD: I have talked to a lot of people including disaffected Republicans who think they can fix the party but don`t like what`s happening. And I`ve talked to Independents, I`ve talked to them all over.

I would say the most consistent way they say it is, you know, I`m proud of my state and I love my state, but what they`re doing is embarrassing.


DOWD: Republicans, Independents and Democrats. Democrats might state it in a more vociferous way. Independent might say it in a slightly different way but Republicans who are disaffected they all say basically the same thing. This is embarrassing.


O`DONNELL: Joining us now John Heilemann, NBC News and MSNBC national affairs analyst, host and executive producer of Showtime`s "THE CIRCUS", which will run the fully profane version of that clip. And he`s the host of the "Hell and High-Water" podcast from The Recount.

John we`re going to wait for the profanity for Sunday night. You got to keep it clean here as we always do.

HEILEMANN: I`ll try.

O`DONNELL: You`re in Texas for -- at a crucial time, at the moment where the federal judge`s order comes out in the middle of this incredibly intense and important story down there on abortion rights. And all of the other things that the Republicans are trying to do in that laboratory they call Texas.

HEILEMANN: It`s an extraordinary moment here, Lawrence. I mean you think about, you know, the Texas Republican Party was -- really only became the dominant party in Texas, you know, back in 2004.

And in the 16 years since then, 17 years since then, you know, the party has been taken out of monopoly status here. And yet it seems to see that that status is imperiled by the rise of increasingly non-white population here, that demographic change. The way the suburbs have grown in Texas.

And if you look at the way that the Beto O`Rourke race came very close to beating Ted Cruz in 2018. You look at the way that a lot of Democrats ran better in 2020 than they had in a long time, and there was a period at least when people thought there was some slim hope that Joe Biden might carry the state.

And you see Texas Republicans saying we can see the end of the road here, and so they`re trying to ram through as much extreme legislation as possible in as quick a period of time as possible. And the effect of that as Matthew Dowd`s entry into this race suggests is that this race in 2022 for lieutenant governor is going to be nationalized in a way that I think no statewide races have ever been before in terms of money and media attention.

This is the place that is really the sharp end of the spear of the Trump revolution. And that has made this a place where the intensity on the ground is unprecedented in my experience doing this for I guess 30 years or so.

O`DONNELL: So John, there`s another approach that is possible. And actually it`s the approach we used to see way back in the 20th century, is that when an electorate started moving in a certain direction that was toward say, the other party.

The party that it was moving away from would start to make a few accommodations and find ways to reach out to that electorate to try to basically move in their direction.

Texas Republican Party sees a new population coming in and says we`re going to do everything that they don`t want.

Right. It`s a quaint notion you have, Lawrence. This thing -- the notion of this -- the notion of the swing voter and kind of how you moderate rather than go more extreme.

I think it`s two factors are driving that I think here. One is that this monopoly status of the party for the last 16, 17 years has created a dynamic on the right which we`ve seen in a lot of other places but it`s very pronounced here where the action -- the political action is on the primary side.

And so, you know, even Greg Abbott right now is going to have a more conservative challenger. He`s going to get primaried from the right in 2022. A lot of people think that that`s part of the reason why Abbott is doing what he`s doing because he`s worried that he could actually get beaten at primary by someone who`s more conservative than him.

And that is a kind of metaphor and probably won`t happen, but it`s the thing that drives and animates this impulse. All these Republicans are terrified. And the reason they`re terrified in particular is what drives that primary dynamic, which is the second factor.

And that is Donald Trump. Trump is the thing that kind of pushed -- the Republican Party was going further and further right in this state all the way from the early 90s up until the late 2000s. But then in 2016, 2017, it went that one step further, over the cliff.


HEILEMANN: And the fact that Trump still hovers so large in our political conversation and that all of these Texas Republicans are terrified that if they were to do what you just suggested, which we used to do back in the 20th century which was to moderate their policies, Trump will come after them and they will then get primaried and then lose their jobs and their power and their perks and all that stuff.

It really is the perfect microcosm of the dynamics that had been polarizing our politics and in particular the dynamics that in that polarization have driven the Republican Party into this place of extremism that risks the kind of electoral backlash that you were citing before that I think a lot of people now see coming. That this could be -- they`ve gone one step too far now and they`re going to pay a price fairly soon.

O`DONNELL: John Heilemann, thank you for joining us from Texas tonight. And anyone who wants to hear the profane version, it`s Sunday night on Showtime, "The Circus".

John Heilemann thank you very much, John.

HEILEMANN: Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

And coming up, Republicans have become the first political party in American history that believes its success depends on endangering the lives of its voters. That`s next.




SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): You have to have the vaccine or think about getting it because if you --


GRAHAM: I didn`t tell you to get it. Just think about it.


GRAHAM: No? I`m glad I got it. 92 percent of the people in hospitals in South Carolina are unvaccinated.


GRAHAM: It is true.

CROWD: It`s not true.

GRAHAM: Well, I`m with you on let`s not mandate it. I`m with you that it`s probably unconstitutional.


O`DONNELL: That was Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina getting booed and heckled just for telling Republicans that they should think about getting the coronavirus vaccine. Even Donald Trump himself cannot tell them to get the vaccines.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I recommend, take the vaccines. I did it. It`s good. Take the vaccines.

But you got -- no. That`s ok. That`s all right You got your freedoms. But I happened to take the vaccine.


O`DONNELL: COVID deniers and vaccine opponents are now overwhelming hospitals. Here`s how Montana nurse Christie Baxter describes the situation.


CHRISTY BAXTER, MONTANA NURSE: It`s exhausting. I`ve had days where I thought I don`t know that I can get up and continue to do this job. And I`ve been a nurse for 30 years. I believe passionately in what we do.

I want to make a difference for patients. But I never thought I would be there but I`ve had days that I thought I don`t know that I can continue to do this.


O`DONNELL: Joining us now is Nurse Christy Baxter. She`s the director of critical care at Billings Clinic in Montana. Thank you very much for joining us tonight. Really appreciate it.

When you say you`ve had those days where you thought I don`t know that I can continue to do this, what do you say to yourself that makes you continue to do this?

BAXTER: Well, I`ve been a nurse for 30 years and I believe passionately in what we do in critical care. That we have that opportunity to work with people when they`re at their sickest and their most vulnerable and to help people heal.

And so that is really what inspires me to come back and do this. It has been an unrelenting and exhausting 18 months dealing with the initial surge of patients, then we dealt with a lot of the patients who didn`t seek healthcare during that initial surge who had many serious health conditions coming in. And now we`re still dealing with that.

We`re dealing with sequela of the first surge and now we`re dealing with a second surge of patients so it`s been overwhelming.

It`s the hope that I can make a difference for somebody and help someone get home to their families that helps me come and do this job every day.

O`DONNELL: What about your co-workers and teammates? There must be times when some of them are having low days thinking maybe they can`t continue. And it is your turn to kind of coach them into hanging in there.

BAXTER: Yes. So I am the director of critical care so I`m the one who oversees our resource allocation. I`ve had to force nurses in my cardiac unit to take care of patients that are ICU level patients that they normally wouldn`t care for.

And these are nurses who didn`t -- they didn`t choose to become an ICU nurse, they chose to work in a step down unit with cardiac patients and so they`ve had to change the type of work they do where normally they heal people.

Currently we have a lot of people who are dying in that unit and that`s been incredibly traumatic. I`ve had to be there to just hold people`s hands, to talk them through it. To try to give them a break to take a minute.

I think this younger group of patients has been particularly challenging for us. There are many weeks that we have people who have families at home and so the COVID patients that are dying are leaving children that are still living in their homes and we`re dealing with the impacts of that and the sadness of watching these families grieve from windows. And it`s a heartbreaking situation.

O`DONNELL: Are you also dealing with some people who are simply shocked that their relative has COVID? That they didn`t think it was going to happen to them?

BAXTER: Absolute. People -- and even patients that are admitted who`ve had a positive COVID test who have at that times has denied to us, well this can`t be COVID. You must be lying to me. I wouldn`t be admitted with that.

So yes, many families who are here who are -- they just didn`t realize the ramifications of how serious COVID could be and how significant it could be and how quickly it could take the life of a loved one. So every day we`re dealing with families.


BAXTER: Families are angry because of the entire stress that COVID has placed on all of our lives. And so they are oftentimes -- they can`t visit. If they can visit, they visit at a window.

O`DONNELL: Nurse Christy Baxter, I can thank you for joining us tonight. But I can never thank you enough for the work that you do. Thank you very much for joining us.

BAXTER: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Tonight`s LAST WORD is next.


O`DONNELL: Today in Elk Grove Village, Illinois President Biden urged more companies to require their employees to get vaccinated.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Today I`m calling on more employers to act. My message is require your employees to get vaccinated. With vaccinations we`re going to beat this pandemic finally. Without them we face endless months of chaos in our he hospitals, damage to our economy and anxiety in our schools and empty restaurants, much less commerce.


BIDEN: Look, I know the vaccination requirements are a tough medicine. Unpopular with some. Politics for others. But they`re life saving. They`re game changing for our country.


O`DONNELL: President Biden gets tonight`s LAST WORD.