IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Transcript: The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, 11/10/21

Guests: Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, Brenda Lawrence, Anat Shenker-Osorio, Charles Nesson


A group of House Democrats announced that they will introduce a resolution to censure Congressman Paul Gosar after he posted an animated video of him assassinating Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and attacking President Biden. President Biden's infrastructure bill is very popular, but voters don't seem to be giving Joe Biden the credit for it. Charles Nesson is defending Steven Donziger whose many years of litigation against the oil giant Chevron have led to Steven Donziger serving a prison sentence that he began last month.



Once again I am trying to read an opinion by an -- an order by Judge Chutkan about Donald Trump's attempts to block release of documents to the January 6th committee. I got to do it on my phone because we don't quite have it on paper yet, and she says she has this kind of great line at the end where she says -- of course, she denies -- she wants -- Trump wants her to delay her own order while he's appealing, right, and at the end, she says the court will not effectively ignore its own reasoning in denying injunctive relief in the first place to grant injunctive relief now.

And she's -- and so it is a pretty -- her opinion, as we know, was so solid that it left no room for this kind of thing, but, of course, that's -- it is a motion that the Trump lawyers have to go through. They will now try to rush an emergency request to the circuit court of appeals and try to stop this before Friday.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, "TRMS": Yeah. I mean what this means is -- what's important about it is the timing, is that right now unless something else happens, those documents will move from the national archives and records administration over to the January 6th investigation on Friday. This court is going to be no help to Trump in terms of trying to stop that from happening. He will go to the next court up. He will go to the D.C. Circuit Court to try to get their help in having it happen.

But it is already Wednesday. They will have to act with alacrity and nobody knows either how fast they will move or ultimately whether they will side with him, but this is the process now. It -- by definition it has to go fast.

O'DONNELL: Yeah, and she says, you know, that she is aware that they will go to the Circuit Court of Appeals and that she expects that the Circuit Court of Appeals will certainly expedite the case, but she sees no reason why they would grant some kind of injunction against releasing the material now because she just, as she keeps repeating, the chances of success in the Trump argument she sees as basically zero.

MADDOW: Yeah. I mean and that will be for the next court to decide, and we don't know what panel -- I think -- I don't think we know yet what panel of judges from that court is going to hear it. It is pretty diverse court in terms of the sort of proclivities and ideological location of all of those judges.

But it is -- I mean Trump hasn't won anything yet in his effort to enlist the courts to protect him from this investigation. He has lost everything that he has asked, and there's no indication that that's going to change because he does seem sort of plainly wrong on the law, but anything is possible, you know. That's why it is called the news, it is new every day.

O'DONNELL: And thanks to Judge Chutkan we're now seeing that, yes, the federal courts in Washington can actually move with real speed when this kind of urgency is involved.

MADDOW: Yes, and when they want to.

O'DONNELL: Yes, when they want to. Exactly.

MADDOW: Thanks, Lawrence.

O'DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel.

Well, that is our breaking news at the beginning of this hour tonight, and that is federal Judge Tanya Chutkan has denied, denied a second motion from Donald Trump to block the release of White House records sought by the House Select Committee investigating the January 6th attack on the Capitol.

Judge Tanya Chutkan wrote in her order, the court will not effectively ignore its own reasoning in denying injunctive relief in the first place to grant injunctive relief now. I have just been handed her six-page opinion and order here, which I will be reading during the next commercial break. Paul Butler and I are going to discuss this. We'll get his reading of this. He will have time to read this.

And we are also covering what is happening in the prosecution of the people who attacked the capitol. Earlier today, a federal judge gave the longest sentence, the longest sentence yet to a defendant pleading guilty to attacking the Capitol on January 6th.

The prosecutors are now asking for an even longer sentence for the person who they are calling in their legal memos, quote, the public face of the capitol riot.


That's Jacob Chansley, who is one of 120 defendants who have already pleaded guilty, a total of approximately 675 defendants have been charged in the attack on the Capitol. Jacob Chansley's lawyer in a sentencing memo told the judge that Jacob Chansley has, quote, mental health vulnerabilities and the lawyer asked the judge to, quote, impose a sentence significantly below the range of sentencing recommended under the federal sentencing guidelines.

Jacob Chansley's lawyer might share some of his client's inability to distinguish fact from fiction. In his sentencing memo to the judge, the lawyer actually quoted a line from Eric Roth's screenplay "Forrest Gump" in which the title character says, "My mama always said, you've got to put the past behind you before you can move on."

The words of Hollywood screenwriters are not likely to be effective in a real courtroom. Prosecutors are asking for the maximum sentence of four years and three months for Jacob Chansley. That is ten months more than the sentence Scott Fairlamb received today. He is the first defendant to plead guilty to assaulting a police officer. The judge sentenced him to 41 months in prison, followed by three years of probation. Scott Fairlamb climbed the scaffolding on the Capitol grounds, used a police baton, broke through police lines to enter the capitol building and punched a police officer.

Scott Fairlamb, whose brother is a Secret Service agent, told the judge that he has brought shame upon his family with his, quote, completely irresponsible, reckless behavior. He said, quote, I take full responsibility, and he asked the judge to, quote, show some mercy.

Judge Royce Lamberth, who was appointed by President Ronald Reagan in 1987 responded to the request for mercy this way: You were part of the overall circumstances that led to the obstruction and inability of Congress to function, the inability of the electoral college to go forward that day. The offense itself that you committed is so at the heart of our democracy that I cannot in good conscience go below the sentence guidelines.

The judge then issued the longest sentence yet recorded against any of the Capitol attack defendants at 41 months in prison followed by three years of probation.

In the prosecutor's sentencing memo on Jacob Chansley, they say, quote, defendant Chansley is now famous criminal acts have made him the public face of the capitol riot. The government argues that a sentence of less than 51 months of incarceration would be insufficient to impress upon the defendant the seriousness of his actions and ensure the safety of the nation.

The Justice Department issued a statement today saying, quote, the FBI continues to seek the public's health in identifying more than 350 individuals believed to have committed violent acts on the capitol grounds, including over 250 who assaulted police officers.

Leading off the discussion tonight are Ryan J. Riley, senior justice reporter for "HuffPost" who attended today's sentencing hear, and Paul Butler, law professor at Georgetown University and a former federal prosecutor. He's an MSNBC legal analyst.

And, Paul, let's begin with what Judge Chutkan wrote tonight in her six- page order, not surprising given what she already found in the case, but refusing to suspend her order that the archives should absolutely hand overall the White House records to the January 6th committee. She refused to suspend that order while Trump is appealing that order.

PAUL BUTLER, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: Because time is of the essence and stakes are high. Lawrence, this is an historic and epic decision by Judge Chutkan. She shut down Trump's claims of executive privilege, saying that for the incumbent president, not former presidents like Trump.

Trump is trying to hide records that the public has a right to see like who visited the White House and White House call logs.


The January 6th investigators also want the notes from White House officials about their involvement with the big lie and how Trump's top officials reacted to January 6th. Judge Chutkan acknowledged that the information covers a lot of ground, but it is relevant, she said, to preventing another insurrection. Presidents are not kings and Trump is not president. That's a classic line that will be remembered if we survive this crisis in our democracy.

O'DONNELL: So the Trump lawyers will immediately appeal this to the circuit court of appeals. They will ask to get some kind of injunctive relief by Friday when these documents are supposed to be turned over.

BUTLER: Lawrence, that's how Trump usually operates. He typically in court cases loses on the merits, but he wins by trying to run out the clock with endless appeals.

But knowing this, the entire court should expedite the appeals, and what the judge says is while they're trying to decide they should release the documents because Trump's arguments are so weak he stands little chance of prevailing.

O'DONNELL: Ryan Riley, I want to go to what you saw in the sentencing hearing today and your coverage of this has been invaluable. You have stayed on this beat and I for one would know very little about what was going on with these guilty pleas and these sentencing without your reporting. This was the longest sentence yet given, was what you saw today.

RYAN J. RILEY, SENIOR JUSTICE REPORTER, HUFFPOST: Yes. It was quite something because it seemed like for a moment that Judge Lambert was sort of going to depart from the sentencing guidelines. He was sort of talking about, you know, the other actions that had taken place that day. Said, you know, that earlier that this defendant, Scott Fairlamb, actually assisted Capitol Police Officers, or this was Capitol Police officers when they give him water before he assaulted the Metropolitan Police officer.

Apparently this was collaborated by those officers earlier in the day. This was apparently after he came out and assisted officers with water. Later on, you saw the violent event where he strikes the officer, when he chases the officer down, yells at him and strikes him in the head.

So, this was the most serious consequence we have seen to date. I think it will be interesting because the public has sort of been frustrated by some of the shorter sentences we have seen in a lot of the cases, but now we have a case that involves actual violence. That's going to give you an indication of where the cases are going to go.

And remember, just like you said earlier, there are over 250 people still out there that the FBI is still looking for who assaulted law enforcement that day and a total of 350 people who committed violence.

So this is going to go on for a very long time and it is going to give you a sense of what the consequences are going to be for these people if they're caught and charged for their crime.

O'DONNELL: Paul Butler, something has been happening in some of the sentencing hearings which is some of the judges have been complaining a bit or sounding notes of complaint about the prosecutor's sentencing recommend recommendations being too light. That's a strange thing to see in a federal court.

BUTLER: So, Lawrence, literally half of the people who are in federal prison are there for nonviolent drug crimes. That's most of the sentencing that federal judges do. So now we have people looking at this defendant who Justice Department lawyers called the public face of the insurrection, they want the judge to hand down a tough sentence to send a message that nobody is above the law.

They're going hard on Chansley because he spent months on social media perpetrating the big lie about the election. He refused to follow police commands once he breached the Capitol, and he brandished a six-foot spear in the capitol of the United States congress. He left a message on Vice President Pence's desk. It is only a matter of time. Justice is coming.

Compared to many of the defendants in federal court, this is an exceptionally bad dude.

O'DONNELL: Ryan, the sentencing so far, these are obviously all guilty pleas and they're going to work their way through all of the guilty pleas before presumably they get to any trials.

How long do you think it will take to work through the guilty pleas?

RILEY: It is going to take a while. I think there's going to be a mix as it goes on because, remember, you still have cases rolling in. Even today we saw at least three new defendants who were charged or had cases against them unsealed, so these cases continue to roll in. I think it is going to sort of be a mix.


We're going to continue to see these guilty pleas. We will continue to see trials as they're scheduled into next year now that we're sort of getting a little bit out of COVID. The trials are going to come on the books.

But, remember, there's such a backlog of these cases that have nothing to do with January 6th that are on the books that need to happen and need to be scheduled for trial before we get to some of these January 6th cases.

But one thing that I thought was interesting that the judge said today was essentially he was talking about how it made sense for this defendant to take a guilty plea because he said if he had gone to trial he couldn't imagine any jury would have acquitted him because the evidence was just overwhelming. That's the case with a lot of this.

This is a really unique crime in that every -- basically every second of the defendants' presence on the Capitol has been captured in some capacity. There are a few blind spots but you can basically map out what each defendant did throughout the entire day, you know what door they entered, you know what confrontations they had.

Because of the work of online sleuths they've been able to turn up this information that can upgrade some of the charges, and these more minor charges are made more serious and bring felony charges against a lot of the defendants who might have otherwise have been facing misdemeanors.

O'DONNELL: Ryan Riley and Paul Butler, thank you both for starting us off tonight. Really appreciate it. Thank you.

And joining us now is Democratic congressman Tim Ryan of Ohio where he is running now for United States Senate. He is the chair of the subcommittee that oversees the Capitol Police.

I want to begin, Congressman Ryan, with your reaction to Judge Chutkan's ruling tonight that, no, there will be no delay in handing over the Trump documents to the January 6th Committee, to your house committees in this investigation, no delay in that while Donald Trump appeals that ruling.

REP. TIM RYAN (D-OH): I love it. I mean I think it meets the moment. I mean what we saw on January 6th, everything you guys just talked about, this meets the moment. This means the judicial branch is actually acknowledging how important this is to move this thing along. We've got the commission going on. We have hearings going on.

We need this information. I think it meets the moment. I think it is a powerful statement as to, you know, why we need to deal with this so we can put it behind us and move on, but also you can't move on until there's justice. I think this is a step in that direction.

O'DONNELL: And we're also seeing now this increase in the sentencing. This is the first sentencing today of someone who actually hit a police officer, and it is the longest sentence so far, 41 months.

RYAN: Again, a very, very powerful statement. I don't think you can sentence them for enough years for what they've done. I have been working now with others, with the cops, the capitol police, Lawrence, who have dealt with so much.

You got to remember you also have veterans who are carrying some trauma from the wars that they served in who then become police officers and then experience what happened on January 6th. There is a lot of trauma. We are talking about officers who have been, you know, working six, seven days a week, 12 hours a day. They don't get to see their families. You know, we are working on reforming this so they can make more money and have better benefits.

But as of this moment they're not where they need to be and they put their lives on the line for us, and these guys are hitting them upside the head with lead pipes. There's so much trauma that still needs to be dealt with, so I'm glad that these sentences are firm. I don't think they can be firm enough because of everything that was at stake.

But this is going to have a ripple effect and has had a ripple effect with the rank and file of the capitol police, that it is going to take a long time to fix. So I'm glad that the sentence is what it is.

O'DONNELL: We heard a request for mercy today and we heard the judge say, given what this crime was it was impossible for him to go below the guidelines, and going below the guidelines is a judge's form of mercy in these cases.

RYAN: Yeah. I just, you know, I don't see it. I was there on the 6th. My buddies were, you know, members of Congress were up in chambers, we saw what the cops went through.

This is not a time for mercy. This is a time for justice and justice is being served. You know, we have to set a standard here of how unacceptable this behavior is.

The problem too now, Lawrence, is we have candidates that are now running for political office in support of what happened on January 6th. I mean I'm running here for the Senate in Ohio and we've got, you know, Republicans running out here that are saying that that was okay, that people were exercising their First Amendment rights to go hang Mike Pence or to threaten Nancy Pelosi.

I mean, that's a long way from what I learned about, you know, constitutional law and people's rights in college and in law school.


So we've got some work to do, but we've got to remember there's a lot of people running for office out here that are going to continue that. That's why this next election is going to be a big deal.

O'DONNELL: So the infrastructure bill is now passed. Republicans in the House thinking about somehow penalizing the Republicans who voted for it, even though Mitch McConnell voted for it in the United States Senate and there's no talk of anybody penalizing him.

The challenge you have, of course, in that is communicating to voters in Ohio who's actually responsible for delivering this infrastructure package.

RYAN: Well, we got to be firm and, you know, I mean Democrats are never accused of being always on message or having a concise message many so we have got message. So we have to get our act together about who has done this. We find these Republicans are pro- pro-insurrection and anti- infrastructure.

So, we got to get the message out about that kind of clarity. I'm in Cincinnati not far from a Brent Spence Bridge that is going to be rebuilt because of this infrastructure bill. Obama talked about it, Trump talked about it, but it is going to get done now, and so are thousands of other bridges.

If we want to compete with China, we have to make sure that we have the infrastructure, the broadband so our businesses can grow, our kids can learn. This is so important for us to be able to out-compete China for these jobs of the future, put money in people's pockets, and it is clear that we were the ones that pushed this.

I love to hear some of these Republicans, Lawrence, oh, it took so long for us to do it, it took so long for us to do it. They never did it. You know, four years of infrastructure week. They never did it.

You know, I'm running for the Senate, Lawrence, people can go to Tim for Ohio,, and send a contribution because we need to do more.

We are only taking care of about 3,000 bridges and we have about 40,000 in the country that aren't even close to being where they need to be. China is spending 7 percent to 9 percent of their GDP on their infrastructure. We just had a big fight about maybe spending 1 percent.

So we have a long way to go. But you are right, it is important that we let people know that it was the Democrats and President Biden and Democrats in the Senate and only 13 Republicans in the House voted for this. We got it done and the American people are going to be better off for it.

O'DONNELL: Congressman Tim Ryan, thank you very much for joining us tonight.

RYAN: Thanks, Lawrence.

O'DONNELL: Thank you.

And coming up, two of the co-sponsors of a new House resolution to censure Congressman Paul Gosar will join us next.




REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): Well, he has no business being in Congress. He should have never been elected. He doesn't belong there. And, you know, sadly the Republican conference is now characterized by numerous kooks and dangerous cranks of which he is one.


O'DONNELL: He is talking, of course, about Republican Congressman Paul Gosar.

Tonight. a group of House Democrats announced they will introduce a resolution to censure Paul Gosar after he posted an animated video of him assassinating Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and attacking President Biden.

The co-sponsors of the censure resolution against Paul Gosar said in a statement tonight: For a member of Congress to post a manipulated video on his social media accounts depicting himself killing Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and attacking President Biden is a clear-cut case for censure. For that member to post such a video on his official Instagram account and use his official congressional resources in the House of Representatives to further violence against elected officials goes beyond the pale.

Joining us now are two of the house Democrats co-sponsoring that censure of Paul Gosar, Democratic Congresswoman Brenda Lawrence of Michigan and Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz of Florida.

Representative Lawrence, let me begin with you. What brought you to the point of demanding censure?

REP. BRENDA LAWREWNCE (D-MI): It was clear that this rhetoric and this push for violence, this is not having an opposition or opposing view. This is about inflicting harm on human beings.

I was one of those members on the floor January 6th where it was the most bipartisan day in Congress because Republicans were running side by side with Democrats for safety, for their lives. And here we are in continuation of that, a member inciting violence, and in the most immature way, a cartoon.

And to say that the resources that taxpayers paid for, for us to do our work in Congress, is being used to incite violence is unacceptable. It crosses the line. And the fact that women are being depicted as the victims of violence -- I'm the co-chair of the women's caucus. We must stand up against that.

Violence against women is real in America, and here we are again confronted with the fact. It is not funny. It wasn't humorous. It was an insult, and we need to address it in congress.

O'DONNELL: Congressman Gosar's sister Jennifer appeared on this program Monday night. She called for censure then. Let's listen to what she said.


JENNIFER GOSAR, REP. PAUL GOSAR'S SISTER: He has not been held accountable in any way shape or form. He's not been censured. He's not been expelled. And he's not had his seat forfeited by any of the leadership.

I am absolutely beyond aghast at how much this man has gotten away with. I don't know what he would need to do for any one of those people in a, quote, "leadership position" to hold him accountable.


LAWRENCE O'DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: And Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, two days later you are doing what Jennifer Gosar has been hoping for, for a very long time.

REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN-SCHULTZ (D-FL): Lawrence, I will take you back to when my dear friend Gabby Giffords was shot at a constituent meeting. Her staffer was killed.

We had Steve Scalise, the Republican whip, who was shot at a baseball game down the street from the Capitol. I had a pipe bomb delivered to my district office that had to be blown up in the stairwell next to my office front door.

What Gosar is doing, his spokesperson said that we have no joy, those of us that are making a big deal out of this, but he is dropping a lighted match on a tinderbox of extremism that can get real people hurt or even actually killed.

And so if there isn't an example of what should -- of what kind of conduct should be censured, then I don't know what is.

Let me also just take you back to Gosar speaking at the rally that whipped that crowd into a frenzy on January 6th. And then they charged the Capitol and attacked our Capitol police officers, tried to overturn a legitimate election.

This is dangerous stuff. While Democrats are trying to make sure that we can improve people's lives, Republicans have become led by guys like Gosar, a morally-bankrupt group of extremists. And they need to be held accountable.

Representative Lawrence, your resolution does include the fact that he used government resources for this. He publicly congratulated his staff, his congressional staff, paid for by taxpayer money, for being so creative in helping him put this video together.

REP. BRENDA LAWRENCE, (D-MI): Lawrence, one of the things I want to bring up a clear point. We just passed the most transformational transportation investment in infrastructure that we've had since the new deal.

And guess what? The response of the Republican Party was to censure or to punish the members of the Republican party that voted to invest in infrastructure in America. But silence on this issue when we know clearly that the sense of permission for violence to be compelled upon those who serve in elected office, whether you are Democrat or Republican, is unacceptable.

O'DONNELL: Congresswoman Brenda Lawrence and Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, thank you very much for joining us tonight. We really appreciate it.

LAWRENCE: Thank you.

WASSERMAN-SCHULTZ: Thank you, Lawrence. Be well.

O'DONNELL: Thank you.

And coming up, President Biden's infrastructure bill is very popular, but voters don't seem to be giving Joe Biden the credit for it. That's next.




JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Infrastructure week has finally arrived. How many times you hear over the last five years, infrastructure week is coming? Yes, uh-huh.

Anyway. But last week we -- we took a monumental step forward as a nation. And we did something long overdue and long talked about in Washington but almost never actually done.

The House of Representatives passed my bipartisan infrastructure bill. Along with other plans that I'm advancing, this bill is going to reduce the cost of goods to consumers, businesses and get people back to work. Helping us build an economy from the bottom up and the middle out where everybody is better off.


O'DONNELL: The president was at the port of Baltimore today when he was giving that speech. President Biden will sign the bipartisan infrastructure bill on Monday at the White House. He has invited Democrats and Republicans who voted for the bill to the signing ceremony.

According to a new Monmouth poll, 65 percent of Americans support the bipartisan infrastructure bill. In that same poll Joe Biden's approval rating is 20 points below that at 42 percent.

For an explanation of that polling gap, we turn now to two experts on political communication and polling. Joining us now, Anat Shenker-Osorio founder of ASO Communications, and Cornell Belcher a Democratic pollster and an MSNBC political analyst.

And Cornell, let me begin with your polling expertise. What do you see in those two numbers 20 points apart?

CORNELL BELCHER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well actually, I see what is historically what happens here. And it is -- hey look, I'm not surprised by this.

Look, the legislation is awfully popular, but it doesn't turn into necessarily votes. You know, this is a pattern I saw in 2010. You know, Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi also back then passed an awful lot of legislation that, quite frankly, saved this country from disaster and certainly from going off the economic cliff. And then we turn around and got drubbed in those midterms as well.

I think Democrats have to do a much better job of connecting their legislation to the real world and real lives and aspirations and concerns of Americans. They've been very good at passing legislation.

Democrats historically have not been very good at selling that legislation, right. They've not been very good at the politics of the legislation. Although I will say, Lawrence, and I know Biden has taken a lots of hits about this and Democrats have taken a lot of hits about this.


BELCHER: But even if they had passed Build Back Better and the infrastructure bill, I don't think it would have made much difference quite frankly in the election results you just saw in Virginia, and history says that.

It probably wouldn't make that much of a difference because the base of the party just isn't energized as well as the base of the Republican Party is.

O'DONNELL: Anat, it seems infrastructure is especially challenging for getting credit for it because you pass the bill in, you know, October of 2021. There's no pavement. There's no building. There's no bridge repair anywhere near you for another year or two. That's how long it takes to execute infrastructure plans and infrastructure spending.

And so there's a particular challenge in saying to people, look, we did this for you. You're not going to see it for quite a while but we did this for you.

ANAT SHENKER-OSORIO, FOUNDER, OSO COMMUNICATIONS: Yes, no. Even the word itself, infrastructure, not so cuddly. It doesn't feel like infrastructure bought anybody dinner. It doesn't feel like it got you new shoes or a nice purse.

And so I think that at the very least as a messaging consideration because what you are talking about is the unfortunate reality of law making and how long things take.

Again, as ever, speaking about it in imageable terms so instead of talking about things like infrastructure, talking about you drive down the road and you don't have to worry about your tires.

You get to the port and the stuff is unloaded quickly and efficiently. This is about bringing America forward. This is about taking us into the future confidently together.

And really emphasizing, at least what we're seeing in the message testing research we've been conducting, this thematic of people wanting to move forward, people wanting to move on, people wanting to get out of what has been a horrendous year, 18 months plus with the pandemic and other issues.

And so really embracing that narrative of moving ahead, moving on, moving forward as opposed to, of course, the Republicans whose symbol handily is R -- wanting ever and always to take us into reverse.

That doesn't solve the problem of the lived experience that you have described, but at least that is a messaging point that we could emphasize.

O'DONNELL: And Cornell, when I saw President Biden today referring to Donald Trump's use of the phrase "infrastructure week", that does seem like just a startlingly sharp contrast with the previous administration.

The phrase "infrastructure week" became a joke because they never did anything about it. They never had a hearing on it in the Congress. They never did a thing, never wrote one word of a bill, not a sentence, nothing.

And so is it still advantageous to Joe Biden to very specifically draw that contrast the way he did today?

BELCHER: You know, Lawrence, it is interesting because you draw -- you have just drawn the contrast out, and yet here we are and all of the pundits and prognosticators are arguing that Republicans are well-positioned to take back the House and the Senate, right. And we've seen them, we've seen their governing.

I'm going to say something that is rather controversial and to a certain extent how much does governing matter? You know, Donald Trump under any -- almost any measure was an absolute disaster as a president, and yet he still won a large share of the electorate.

And when you look at what Republicans are doing right now, right, Lawrence, you can't name me five or six big policy prescriptions that Republicans are putting out right now, right? Because they're not running on anything.

The only thing that we know that they're running on right now is to ban critical race theory, which as everyone knows on this panel does not exist. It is certainly not taught in Virginia schools.

So it is that dog whistle and it becomes about energizing. If you look at what -- there's a constant pattern, there's a consistent pattern here. If you look at what happened in Virginia this time around, you know, suburbs made about 8 percent less of the share of the electorate, rural areas made about 3 percent or 4 percent larger share of the electorate. College voters were about 8 or 9 points larger, non-college white voters made up a larger share of the electorate. Young voters made up a smaller share of the electorate this time around.

You know, (INAUDIBLE) have this about persuasion, but how much of it is persuasion to mobilization, right? And the big lie and these people are taking your country and they're teaching your kids to hate being white, all of that is about energizing their base which they then go about mobilizing.

My argument is that I don't know how energizing it is for all those young people who march -- who took to the streets marching and marched to the polls and gave Democrats the Senate, House and White House.


BELCHER: How energized are they and were they marching for bridges and broadband? Bridges and broadband are really, really important and we really want that. But is it something that they were energized by, you know, and is it something that we can say to them, you know, let's show that same energy for the bridge that we might have eight or nine years from now. I think we have to think bigger about mobilization.

O'DONNELL: Cornell Belcher and Anat Shenker-Osorio, to be continued. Thank you both for joining our discussion tonight.

And coming up, Harvard Law professor Charles Nesson, in the 1970s defended someone called then the most dangerous man in America. That was Daniel Ellsberg who leaked the Pentagon Papers and told America the truth about the Vietnam War.

Now Charles Nesson is defending Steven Donziger whose many years of litigation against the oil giant Chevron have led to Steven Donziger serving a prison sentence that he began last month. This is a legal story like no other.

Professor Charles Nesson will join us next.



O'DONNELL: Steven Donziger is an environmental and human rights lawyer. In 2011 Donziger won a $9.5 billion court judgement in Ecuador against Chevron over toxic waste dumped in the Amazon rainforest in Ecuador, poisoning thousands of indigenous people who were his clients in that lawsuit.

Chevron accused Steven Donziger of manufacturing evidence in that case. Chevron then sued Steven Donziger and accused him of withholding evidence in that lawsuit.

The federal judge in the Southern District of New York in that case tried to charge Steven Donziger with criminal contempt of court, but the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York refused to prosecute the case.

The judge then in a rare, rarely used procedure appointed a private corporate law firm that has also represented Chevron as special prosecutors to prosecute Steven Donziger for that criminal contempt of court.

Stevens Donziger was denied a jury trial in that case, lost his law license and was found guilty in that case by a different judge and sentenced to six months in prison. Last month Steven Donziger began his six months in federal prison in Connecticut.

Joining us is Harvard Law professor Charles Nesson. He filed an amicus brief in support of Steven Donziger.

Professor Nesson, thank you very much for joining us tonight. It really is an honor to have you here.

Tell us what the essence of this case is because I have to tell you just trying to describe it the way I just did was very hard to do. It took me a long time to kind of sculpt it into that shape. It is a very complex story.

CHARLES NESSON, PROFESSOR, HARVARD LAW: Complex hardly begins to describe it. This case has been going on for close to 25 years. It probably has the largest docket of I think any case that I know of.

It is just immensely complicated. But it all hangs on one thin thread which is that the civil judge, Judge Kaplan, sitting in New York as a civil judge, sitting without a jury found that Steven Donziger had bribed Judge Zimbrono (ph) to win that verdict. And that finding by the judge was based crucially by the judge's own description on the testimony of a corrupted witness who was hired by Chevron, brought to the United States with his family, prepared for his testimony for over 50 sessions, and then testified that Donziger had been part of offering the judge $500,000 from the proceeds if the judge were to give him the verdict.

This testimony was fabricated by Chevron. It was promoted through this one witness, and then this is the most subtle part of the whole story. Judge Kaplan structured his opinion so that he said that finding of bribery is not necessary to my judgment. Even if that finding doesn't stand up, my judgment still stands.

And as a result of that, Donziger couldn't appeal the finding. What you appeal is a judgment. This was a preliminary finding, subsidiary to the judgment, on the basis of which the judgment is made and structured in a way that it was actually unnecessary to judge Kaplan's opinion.


NESSON: It couldn't be reviewed and it has never been reviewed on the merits by any single judge. So it is on this basis that the world believed and has this judge and other judges affirming him, saying (AUDIO GAP)bribery without a jury ever at any point along this way.

And this contempt proceeding that you are referring to is just a follow on from that bribery finding, which still stands as the thing that damns Donziger.

If you recognize that that finding is not supported on the record of the case, I think the whole case looks different. The whole case does look different.

O'DONNELL: That is really clarifying. It is now -- I see what is happening here, but it still remains just the strangest legal story I have ever seen.

Harvard Law professor Charles Nesson, thank you very much for joining us tonight and illuminating that for us.

Tonight's LAST WORD is next.



O'DONNELL: The United States began administering COVID-19 vaccine doses to children ages 5 to 11 just one week ago on November 3rd and more than 900,000 children have now received their first shot.

White House COVID-19 coordinator Jeff Zients gets tonight's LAST WORD.

He is not going to get it because we had a little piece of video for him here that we do not have time for because you know it is time now for "THE 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS". That starts right now.