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Transcript: The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, 12/21/21

Guests: Steve Schmidt, Jill Wine-Banks, Norm Ornstein, Steven Levitsky, Reginald Bolding

Summary

Tonight Senate Democrats most of whom have left Washington for the Christmas recess, held a virtual meeting to discuss changing the rules of the Senate to allow the Senate to vote on voting rights legislation. And they discussed how to move forward now that Senator Joe Manchin has made it clear what he cannot accept in the Build Back Better bill. "The New York Times" is reporting that the January 6 committee is weighing possibility of criminal referrals against former President Donald Trump and his allies. Senate Democrats meet on President Joe Biden`s agenda and Senate rule change.

Transcript

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Rachel, as I was saying about Pramila Jayapal, this is just a continuation of last night`s discussion.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Okay.

O`DONNELL: As you know, at exactly this moment last night. She was on your show. Full of optimism in the face of your pessimism, which is my favorite -- my favorite segment on "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW", and you just reported where the optimism stands tonight.

But the point that I didn`t get to last night that I really want to get to is I think she is the -- she should lecture the rest of the house about how to speak publicly about pending legislation. Sure, you might be angry at another Democrat or another person who might or might not vote for the bill, but expressing that anger publicly at those people is the most unproductive thing you can do as long as the legislation is still pending.

The diplomatic way that she talks about Joe Manchin publicly is what allows her to talk to him privately, which none of the Democrats who kind of popped out angrily about Joe Manchin Sunday and Monday are able to do. They never have private conversations with him. And --

MADDOW: The problem is that if he`s lying in his private conversations then all of the niceness that you put out to the world to get you the private conversation with him just sort of drags you along the path, along the garden path a little further because she`s also saying listen, in his private conversations he`s lying. He`s not operating in good faith. He`s saying stuff he`s going to do and doesn`t do it.

So, yes, I mean, I think she`s modeling good behavior in theory there but Joe Manchin is proving everybody with good intentions wrong.

O`DONNELL: Okay. Okay. So she doesn`t get to indulge those feelings that you just and pressed if she is going to be a professional legislator who is actually going to try to get the bill passed. She can say for her memoirs, all of her private feelings about that but to go public with that is never productive.

She was very stern about Joe Manchin on your show last night saying that she believed that what he was saying was at odds with what he had been saying before but she didn`t use the words lie. She was careful about the language she chooses and, you know, it`s an ongoing gaining of yards one day, losing yards another day.

And the way to present it publicly is without all that ranker, no matter how much you`re feeling because the message that people get out there in the world is oh, they`re just fighting. They fight. That`s all they do. They just fight. They literally use the word fight, which I by the way believe is a mistake in politics. It`s a word that creates all sorts of problems. Chuck Schumer uses the word fight in his official written communications about what he`s doing on the Senate floor.

Pramila Jayapal is really the person in this whole story so far whose words are just flawlessly chosen all the way through given --

MADDOW: Constructive.

O`DONNELL: -- given what she`s trying to achieve.

MADDOW: Yes, because she`s not out there trying to vanquish a faux of any kind. She`s out there trying to get stuff done.

O`DONNELL: Right. Yeah.

MADDOW: Her relentless constructiveness makes -- maybe I shouldn`t call her the chief optimist of "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW", maybe most constructive award or something because I think you`re putting a finer point on it than I have been, because she`s not Pollyanna about this stuff. She is just about trying to get it done and prioritizing that above any petty impersonality driven thing like I want to do because here I am in the peanut gallery just throwing spit wads.

[22:05:00]

O`DONNELL: Yeah, that`s it. Relentless constructivism. That`s -- keep that one. That`s really good.

MADDOW: All right. Excellent. Bumper sticker. I now have to go figure out how to spell it.

O`DONNELL: There you go.

OK, thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW: Thank you, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Well, January 6th is just over two weeks away and yesterday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that on January 6th, the House of Representatives will commemorate that tragic day one year ago when the Capitol and members of the House of Representatives were under attack with their lives being threatened by a mob who Donald Trump told to go to the Capitol and in his words fight like hell.

Speaker Pelosi announced that the commemoration at the Capitol on January 6th will include, quote, a prayerful vigil in the evening fearing the imagery of the prayerful vigil and focus on the Capitol that all of the American news media will deliver on that tragic anniversary of January 6th.

Donald Trump issued a press release today one day after Nancy Pelosi issued a press release saying I will be having a news conference on January 6th at Mar-a-Lago. This is obviously Donald Trump`s attempt to divert attention from what Nancy Pelosi is planning for January 6th. No one should watch whatever Donald Trump does on January 6th. Enough reporters will be watching it to let us know if Donald Trump said anything that might actually be true or if he said anything that inadvertently implicates him more deeply in criminal conduct.

Donald Trump`s press release is filled with lies including the phrase news conference. It will not be a news conference. It will be the rantings of a madman spewing incoherent pathological lies.

Here`s what of the points that Donald Trump`s press release promises he will discuss on January 6th. In many ways, a RINO is worse than a radical left Democrat because you don`t know where they are coming from and you have no idea how bad they really are for our country. All the incorrect capitalized letters that you see in that sentence are the work of Donald Trump. Not us.

The rest is filled with lies about the presidential elections in Pennsylvania, Arizona, Georgia, Wisconsin and Michigan because those same lies were used in email solicitations for money in fact, hundreds of millions of dollars that Donald Trump sent all over the country including to me. I got those emails. The House Select Committee investigating the attack on the Capitol is considering evidence that Donald Trump committed the federal crime of interstate wire fraud with those emails.

"The New York Times" reports that the committee is considering the possibility of sending a criminal referral to the Justice Department involving Donald Trump and others. The times reports the committee believes they might develop quote evidence of criminal conduct by President Donald J. Trump or others that they could send to the Justice Department urging an investigation. The times says quote investigators for the committee are looking into a range of crimes were committed including two in particular, whether there was wire fraud by Republicans who raised millions of dollars off assertions that the election was stolen despite knowing the climbs claims were not true and whether Mr. Trump and his allies obstructed Congress by trying to stop the certification of electoral votes.

In a committee meeting, Republican Vice Chair Liz Cheney suggested that Donald Trump violated federal law by obstructing an official proceeding of Congress on January 6th.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): Hours passed without necessary action by the president. Did Donald Trump through action or inaction corruptly seek to obstruct or impede Congress` official proceedings to count electoral votes?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Today, Republican Congressman Scott Perry publicly refused to cooperate after the committee asked him to submit to an interview. The committee said it will consider, quote, using other tools to obtain testimony from Congressman Perry. But the committee did not specifically mention the possibility of a subpoena. The committee says that it has evidence already that Congressman Perry participated in an attempt to have Jeffrey Clark installed as the acting attorney general of the United States so that Jeffrey Clark could use that position to corruptly attempt to overturn election results in some states including Georgia.

[22:10:03]

Jeffrey Clark has not yet testified to the committee because of reported illness but he`s indicated he believes his criminal culpability is such he`ll invoke the Fifth Amendment so he does not implicate himself in crimes in his testimony.

While people like Jeffrey Clark and Donald Trump who held positions at the very top of the conspiracy to overthrow the election have not yet been charged with any crimes, today, 81-year-old Gary Wickersham was sentenced to 90 days of home detention and 36 months probation and a $2,000 fine for the 22 minutes he spent in the Capitol on January 6th. He did not engage in violence.

Gary Wickersham never needed a lawyer in his life until he followed what he thought was Donald Trump`s order to go down to the Capitol and fight like hell. President Ronald Reagan appointed the judge who sentenced Gary Wickersham today. Judge Lambert is 78 years old. He said it`s the first -- he said, quote, it`s the first defendant I`ve had that is older than me in quite sometime. Those are the judge`s words.

Gary Wickersham`s lawyer said he`s a man that spent a life valuing the ideas of America. It is particularly sad in his 80th year, Mr. Wickersham took part in such a dark day in our nation`s history. Gary Wickersham told the judge it`s not like me to do that. He said what he did on January 6th is what he called a dark blot on his life. He said I`m remorseful for it.

Gary Wickersham has a dark blot on his life now. He committed crimes for Donald Trump but unlike Donald Trump and the people who violated their oaths and committed crimes for Donald Trump, today, Gary Wickersham did something Donald Trump has never done and will never do. Gary Wickersham admitted what he did on that dark day in our nation`s history. Donald Trump will never admit what he did on that day.

Gary Wickersham admitted what he did was a crime and he agreed to pay the price for that crime. We know now that Donald Trump will never admit what he did but we don`t yet know if Donald Trump will ever have to pay the price of being as Gary Wickersham now is, a convicted criminal.

Leading off our discussion tonight is Steve Schmidt, a former Republican strategist and co-founder of the Lincoln Project.

Steve, we have an 81-year-old defendant sentenced today, the oldest person known to be charged among the close to 700 charged, while Donald Trump and Jeffrey Clark and Congressman Perry and Mark Meadows and others continue to try to evade any answers to any questions about what they did.

STEVE SCHMIDT, FORMER REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, I was struck by the picture, Lawrence, of Gary Wickersham. He`s wearing a red hat with airborne paratrooper wings. Maybe he was an American paratrooper, a veteran of the armed forces. It is a dark blot on his life, on his record and he`s going to pay a price for it.

But the accountability it seems to me thus far in this entire tragedy has been bottom down. It`s the Gary Wickershams of the world who are paying a price, not the people who have incited. Not the senior leaders of the executive branch, not senior leaders of the legislative branch, and we have a problem with that in this country. That is destabilized our politics.

You can go back and you can look at the economic collapse of 2009, 15 million families lose their homes. Not a single Wall Street banker goes to jail. How many black kids in this country do we have locked up for marijuana offenses when you have the Sackler family not only running free but still worth many billions of dollars in how to plan to immunize them from lawsuits that thank God was rejected by a federal judge.

So, this is endemic in 21st century American and this is one of the things that is driving so much anger. What we see in this case is the most vital issue of our time, the defense of American democracy, the people that have instigated and continue to plot to take it down by perpetuating the big lie at the most senior levels of America`s government, Kevin McCarthy, Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley and the reality that Donald Trump is the front runner for the Republican nomination in `24 is a precarious moment.

And if we`re going to be safe and make it through the hour of crisis, there must be accountability for the people who planned this, who orchestrated it, and incited it at the top of the ladder, not bottom rung of the ladder.

[21:15:14]

O`DONNELL: Steve, you are right about Gary Wickersham. His lawyer said he`s a military veteran and that was part of his pleading to the judge about how this man has never done anything wrong in his life until January 6th.

So, on January 6th, the one year anniversary, Nancy Pelosi is planning a prayer vigil among other things at the Capitol. Donald Trump is planning to step up to a microphone in Florida.

SCHMIDT: Donald Trump is the front runner for the Republican nomination in 2024. He controls the National Republican Party in the state parties and the apparatus of the party and hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars, lock, stock and barrel. You have the entirety of the leadership of the Republican Party with a couple of exceptions, Mitch McConnell among them, that are completely terrified of the man.

So this hour, this moment that we`re in is part of an unfolding event that started in 2015 when this man came down the escalator in Trump Tower and launched this era of profound racial animus, of division stoking this cold civil war, this tragic presidency. But this issue we`re dealing with today, what Donald Trump is pushed a boulder down the hill and it`s still rolling.

What we see happening in this country is a consequence of the unraveling that Donald Trump began. And so, this next election is going to be different than the last election regardless of whether Trump was on the ballot or not.

In 2020, I believe Donald Trump was the 25 million issues in it if he`s on the ballot in 2024, he`s what type of society do we want to live in? Do we want this?

There is nothing new to learn about Donald Trump. There is no new lie, no new piece of demagoguery and racial incitement and act of cruelty, degradation, sick attack that is going to illuminate, provide any new information to any level about this guy. There is nothing new to learn.

And so, everything is on the table in front of us in plain and clear view about the threats to American democracy, and unless and until we start to see a societal consensus around demanding accountability on these issues and it will stand and say no more with the assaults on American democracy, this threat will grow and the more you look at it, you know, from this perspective, I don`t think the question anymore is about whether American democracy is under attack, whether it`s under a threat.

I think the question is going to become how high is the cost going to be ultimately to stop this movement which is contrary to every idea, every idea that every American patriot who has ever sacrificed for this country is believed in.

O`DONNELL: Steve Schmidt, thank you for starting us off tonight. Really appreciate it.

SCHMIDT: You bet.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: And joining us now is Jill Wine-Banks, who served as assistant Watergate prosecutor and former general counsel in the Army.

Jill, I wanted to get your view of what we`re hearing about the possibilities of criminal findings in these investigations beginning with wire fraud in soliciting money, what`s turned out to be a few hundred million dollars after the election lying about the election.

JILL WINE-BANKS, FORMER ASST. WATERGATE SPECIAL PROSECUTOR: It makes total sense to me. I don`t think Congress had any idea this is where it would end up. They started out looking for what kind of laws do we need to pass to prevent ever again being confronted with the horror of January 6th. But in that investigation, they have come up with obvious crimes by the president, by his top aids and they can`t ignore it. They cannot prosecute it. Only the department of justice can. So it makes complete sense for them to send the evidence to the Department of Justice and say we think there is crimes here that you should investigate.

During Watergate, there was a two-way street. We had the senator Irvin hearings and we learned a lot of evidence from the public witnesses that appeared before that committee. But we also had a grand jury and we had evidence that we then put together in what was known as a road map to impeachment.

[22:20:08]

We got the court`s permission to reach grand jury secrecy by turning it over to the Congress and Congress used it as exactly what it was intended, as the road map for articles of impeachment and in this case, the reverse is happening where Congress is sending criminal information to the department that the department is going to have no choice but to investigate.

I`d be happy to debate the attorney general about the wisdom of doing nothing versus the wisdom of doing something and I think doing nothing is much more partisan than doing something. Anyone who commits a crime must be investigated whether it`s the president, whether it`s Mark Meadows, whoever it is, the investigation must go forward.

O`DONNELL: Jill, expand on your point that you just made that doing nothing is actually more partisan than prosecuting crimes that you find in this situation.

WINE-BANKS: It`s not only more partisan, although I think it is, but I think it`s very dangerous because, you know, I was one of the prosecutors that thought that a sitting president could be indicted pack during the Watergate era and I still think the same today. But we were advised that we could not do that and so we took this other method of using the road map.

But I think that had Richard Nixon criminally indicted rather than just being an unindicted co-conspirator, maybe Donald Trump would have learned a lesson. Maybe Donald Trump wouldn`t do what he`s doing. And so, to say you cannot go after any person is to say someone is above the law and I think whether it`s subpoenaing a member of Congress for their testimony or whether it`s indicting a member of Congress or the president, it has to be done otherwise it looks partisan to me.

O`DONNELL: Jill Wine-Banks, thank you very much for joining our discussion. Appreciate it. Thank you.

And coming up, the Senate is finally doing it. Senate Democrats tonight held a meeting to discuss changing the Senate rules to pass voting rights.

Norm Ornstein who has been urging Democrats to make such rule changes will join us next. He has spoken to senators about this many times. He`ll speak to us, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[21:26:40]

O`DONNELL: Tonight, Senate Democrats, most of whom left for Christmas recess held a virtual meeting to allow the Senate to vote on voting rights legislation and they discussed how to move forward now that Senator Joe Manchin has made it clear what he cannot accept in the Build Back Better bill. Senator Manchin did participate in that meeting tonight.

Today, President Biden said this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Some people think maybe I`m not Irish because I don`t hold a grudge. Look, I want to get things done. I still think there is a possibility of getting Build Back Better done.

Imagine being a parent looking at a child and you can`t afford, you have no house to borrow against, you have no savings, it`s wrong. But all the things in that bill are going to reduce prices and costs for middle class and working class people. Senator Manchin and I are going to get something done.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: "The Washington Post`s" Greg Sargent is reporting that Congressman Pramila Jayapal reached out to Manchin today and asked him to return to the frame work of the Build Back Better act and say what specifically in the house bill doesn`t matchup with what Manchin did commit to in the frame work and to say what specifically in the frame work he did not commit to and does not support.

Manchin, of course, would reject this conception of the situation arguing he didn`t commit to the frame work.

The United Mine Workers of America which named Joe Manchin an honorary member last year has issued a written urging Senator Manchin to support the Biden`s social policy bill. The Coal Miners Union cites their support for the bill`s benefits including very important extension of the fee paid by coal companies to coal miners suffering from black lung. That expires at the end of this year and also, tax incentives to encourage manufacturers to build facilities in coal country. The union writes: We urge Senator Manchin to revisit his opposition of the legislation and work with his colleagues to pass something that will help keep coal miners working.

NBC News is reporting in the Senate discussion tonight, Chuck Schumer said the Senate would proceed to the Build Back Better bill in January, bring it to the Senate floor. The Senate will bring it to the Senate floor and if Republicans block it, then the Democrats will consider and vote on rules reform.

Joining us now is congressional historian, Norm Ornstein. He`s an emeritus scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.

Norm, your idea was in the discussion tonight about rules reform in the Senate that will allow them to vote on voting rights without having to clear a 60-vote threshold. This is going -- we`re going to see something play out on the Senate floor on this in January.

[22:29:47]

NORM ORNSTEIN, CONGRESSIONAL HISTORIAN: And I`m very encouraged. You know, there are a couple points made tonight. One is that we really do face an existential threat. If we don`t get these two bills and more, the Freedom to Vote Act, the John Lewis Voting Act and Help Protect Democracy Act and something that revises the Electoral Count Act, we`re in for something worse even than what we saw last January or this past January 6th. That`s important.

The other part of it is that we still have an obstacle. And the obstacle is the reluctance of the two Senators Manchin and Sinema to go along with a reform that we have argued would restore the filibuster. Senator Sinema thinks that the filibuster was in place or a super majority requirement from the beginning of the Republic is just a misconception of the reality.

And I think we have a chance now of convincing both of them the kind of reform that Jeff Merkley and others in the Senate Democratic Caucus have put together which includes the idea that I and Al Franken have had for a long time of moving from 60 required to end debate to 41 required to continue it, combined with a version of the talking filibuster but giving a lot of role for the minority both to speak and to offer amendments actually is something that Senator Manchin`s predecessor Robert Byrd would support.

And that given the gravity of the situation, our democracy moves to code blue if we don`t get this done really requires something substantial.

The other thing they talked about, Lawrence, is having this apply once a year so it doesn`t become the regular format. You`re doing a very careful balancing act here. And I can`t for the for the life of me see why given what we know about the situation in the country as the next January 6th approaches that they won`t think that there is a way to get to yes on this.

O`DONNELL: Norm, in the Manchin interview this weekend where he said no to the current version of the Build Back Better bill, he also made the point that Senate rules have changed many times over the centuries. He didn`t say exactly what he`d be willing to do but he more than once talked about how Senate rules have changed when they`ve needed to change.

ORNSTEIN: And Senator Manchin has spoken several times in public favorably about the idea of switching from 60 to 41. I think there is every reason to believe even though he`s also said that he wants it to be bipartisan and we`re not going to get a single Republican just as none of them will support any of the provisions in the Build Back Better Act that are so good for their own voters, none of them is going to support any kind of reform of the rules. But, you know, he`s got reasons to think this through and to support it.

I think Senator Sinema is a little harder one to get to but again, if we can convince her that her idea about the history of the filibuster and where we are today and where we need to go, given her strong support for voting rights, I think we have every reason to believe we can get there. But you know, we`re not there yet.

O`DONNELL: Norm Ornstein, thank you very much for joining us again tonight. Always appreciate it.

ORNSTEIN: Always, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

Coming up, what do you call a democracy where candidates who get the most votes do not necessarily win? You call it the United States of America. That`s next.

[22:33:22]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: The Democrats have been amazingly successful in national elections over the last 20 years. That`s what our next guest told the "New York Times". Harvard professor Steven Levitsky pointed out that the Democrats have won the last seven out of eight presidential elections with the voters of this country but the Electoral College gave two of those victories to the Republican candidate. First George W. Bush in 2000, and second Donald Trump in 2016 who both got fewer votes than the Democratic candidate.

Many democracies around the world established after the United States government was established have borrowed some elements of American democracy but none have made the mistake of creating an Electoral College.

Professor Levitsky also highlights another not so minor flaw in American democracy: the United States Senate. The 50 Democratic senators currently serving represent 56.5 percent of the country`s population and the 50 Republicans represent just 43.5 percent of the country`s population.

Professor Levitsky told the "New York Times", "You cannot look at a party in a democracy that has won the popular vote almost without fail for two decades and say gee, that party really has to get it together and address its liabilities."

Joining us now is Steven Levitsky, Harvard University professor of government and co-author with Daniel Ziblatt of the book "How Democracies Die". Professor Levitsky, thank you very much for joining us. Really appreciate it.

Your point about the last eight presidential elections put that way is really quite stunning. How far from idealized democracy is the United States?

STEVEN LEVITSKY, PROFESSOR OF GOVERNMENT, HARVARD UNIVERSITY: Well, I`m not sure anybody has achieved idealized democracy but if you compare the United States to other established democracies in the world -- Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Japan, all of Europe -- we are far and away the most counter majoritarian democracy.

[22:39:48]

LEVITSKY: We are the only democracy that allows parties that lose the popular vote to govern and that allows a permanent veto -- that allows partisan minorities to permanently veto regular laws that are backed by a majority.

So there are elements of -- there are anti democratic elements in our constitution, in our institutional system that exist in very few other established democracies.

O`DONNELL: What would you say are the main antidemocratic elements in our constitution?

LEVITZKY: Well, I would start as you mentioned the Senate the fact that each state no matter what the population has equal representation in the Senate. It`s extraordinarily undemocratic. We have the least democratic Senate in the democratic world outside of Argentina and Brazil.

The Electoral College is obviously profoundly undemocratic. There are countries that bar the U.S. model of an electoral college. Argentina did it for example but all other presidential democracies had subsequently got rid of the electoral college. We`re the last one.

O`DONNELL: The Senate because it has the two per state already has a sort of filibuster built into it structurally before you ever get to the Senate rules. Joe Manchin`s concern about protecting minority rights in the Senate was actually done, I personally would argue, over done by the founders when they said two per state.

LEVITSKY: Absolutely. And again, we`re the only country that I know of, only democracy I know of that has a filibuster like rule that allows for permanent veto by a minority of legislation backed by a majority. This is a -- these are profoundly undemocratic institutions.

O`DONNELL: The -- so when you look at today`s discussion about the war on democracy because Republicans in certain states are changing certain things, access to voting, changing the way votes will be counted, people are awakening now to what they consider this new war on democracy having lived most of their lives never questioning what the United States Senate and the Electoral College mean to democracy.

LEVITSKY: Right. I mean, obviously, both the Electoral College and the Senate have been the way they have been since -- where they are since the foundation. But it never had the same partisan effect that it has in the 21st century.

Historically for most of our history, we had two major parties and the two major parties each had urban and rural wings. So they rural bias of the Senate in the Electoral College didn`t have a partisan impact. It was always undemocratic but never allowed one party, a minority party to govern majority party, that`s a 21st century phenomenon.

That`s only in the era in which the Democrats have been the party almost exclusively of big cities and the Republicans are the party of sparsely populated territories.

O`DONNELL: Unfortunately, the two issues we`re talking about here, the Electoral College and the Senate are -- the Senate structure are in the constitution so there is in effect nothing we can do about it.

LEVITSKY: No, in the short term it`s much more important for small d democratic forces to unite and forge a really broad collision to defeat what has become an authoritarian political force and that is Trumpism. Trumpism has taken over the Republican Party.

So the critical thing -- we`re in a two-party system in which we have -- there`s a great temptation to treat our elections these days as sort of normal routine blue versus red, donkey versus elephant competition but it`s not.

There is an antidemocratic party competing against a democratic party and so we`re in a position where in democracies, parties win and parties lose, right. Every party loses once in awhile. And we`re in a position where our democracy cannot afford for the Democratic Party to lose. And that`s a really, really precarious place to be.

O`DONNELL: Professor Steven Levitsky, thank you very much for joining us tonight.

LEVITSKY: Thanks for having me.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

Coming up, the Republican war on democracy is underway in Arizona. The Democratic state representative who is running against a Trump backed Republican for secretary of state will join us next.

[22:44:31]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: In tonight`s coverage of the Republican war on democracy, we turn to Arizona. Joe Biden became only the second Democratic presidential candidate to win Arizona in more than 70 years. Since then the Republican- controlled legislature has made a sustained effort to attack the elections results even though experts in the Arizona attorney general`s election integrity unit have testified there was no fraud in the 2020 presidential election.

And while there have been several so-called audits or fraud-its as secretary of state Katie Hobbs calls them, no irregularities have been discovered and the audit of Maricopa County found 99 additional votes for Biden and 261 fewer votes for Donald Trump. Despite that the Trump-endorsed Republican candidate for secretary of state, state representative Mark Finchem, who attended the January 6th Trump rally in Washington held a hearing earlier this month on the 2020 election.

Our next guest Reginald Bolding Democratic leader of the Arizona House of Representatives is running for Arizona secretary of state to replace Katie Hobbs who is now running for governor.

[22:49:53]

O`DONNELL: And joining us now is Reginald Bolding. Thank you very much for joining us tonight. Really appreciate it.

I want to begin with the current redistricting situation in Arizona. The redistricting based on the last census has not -- census has not yet been complete. What is at stake in that?

STATE REP. REGINALD BOLDING (D-AZ): You know, everything is at stake. You know, the reality is Arizona is a very much purple state. You have two U.S. Senators who are Democratic. You have the governor who is Republican and secretary of state who is a Democrat. And we have the closest margins in the state legislature in the last 60 years.

But there is this Republican instinct to gerrymander the lines even though we have an independent redistricting committee. As early as this morning we saw them try to create maps with the congressional delegation to be 6-3 in favor of Republicans when currently right now that majority is held by Democrats 5-4.

O`DONNELL: And what about in the state legislature, the redistricting maps for the state legislature?

BOLDING: You know, right now, in the state legislature, the Senate -- there is a one-vote margin for the Republicans and also in the house there is a one-vote margin. You know, we`ve seen a little better progress. I recently testified in front of the independent redistricting committee and there we saw literally a state senator decide to create a map to create himself a state district and gave that to a mayor. The mayor gave that to a commissioner and that somehow became the maps and drawing line.

So you know, there is a lot at stake primarily because we know the stakes of the 2020 election and so forth.

O`DONNELL: If you were to become the next secretary of state of Arizona following Katie Hobbs, what would be your primary mission under all this election challenges that are being -- that will continue to develop in Arizona?

BOLDING: Look, the reality is here in Arizona, democracy is under attack. You know, the "Daily Beast" came out with an article yesterday in which Steve Bannon vowed to try to take over the entire elections apparatus. And that essentially means that he`s going to try to install far right wing extremists like my opponent in this race, Mark Finchem in the secretary of state`s office and quite frankly, if Mark Finchem is the secretary of state, that means Steve Bannon and QAnon are controlling elections.

So, you know, I`m fighting because democracy is on the line. I`m running in this race and I encourage folks to get involved and join democracy and join our campaign at ReginaldBolding.com.

O`DONNELL: As you go forward in the campaign, will there be any point where you will actually be in a debate with this Trump candidate?

BOLDING: You know, I hope so. You know, the great thing is I serve as the House Democratic leader so I`m on the floor every single day and coincidentally Mark Finchem sits right behind me.

So we know that the audit was about three things. One to raise money for extremists. Two was to really rally up that Trump base. And three was to introduce legislation to further suppress the vote.

So I`m expecting that this upcoming legislative session in 2022, that we`ll be debating on the House floor and then when it comes to the secretary of state race we`ll continue that debate to make sure that we`re protecting democracy because that`s what is at stake here.

O`DONNELL: When Katie Hobbs leaves that job, if she`s lucky enough to go on to the governorship, what changes would you make in the way the secretary of state`s office functions, if any? And what changes have been forced on it by the legislature?

BOLDING: You know, one thing that`s extremely important is that secretary of state offices can no longer simply just be about registering individuals to vote. It has to be a full fledged focus on civic engagement. We have to show people how to not only just register to vote and vote but how to get involved how to actually advocate what their state legislators, their congressional delegation.

So you know, this office will make sure that people are (INAUDIBLE) in so they see when you have bills that literally would take away individual`s rights to vote by mail, that they can get involved.

So you know, we`re going to have a full aggressive approach to make sure people are engaged.

O`DONNELL: Reginald Bolding, candidate for secretary of state in Arizona, thank you very much for joining us for the first time. And please come back as the campaign progresses.

BOLDING: Absolutely. Thanks for having me.

O`DONNELL: Thank you. Thank you.

Tonight`s LAST WORD is next.

[22:54:42]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: We`re down to three. As of midnight tonight, we`ll have only three shopping days left until stores close on Christmas Eve. And if like me, you`re a last-minute shopper I`ve got a gift tip that can work for anyone on your holiday gift list.

You can give a desk for some classrooms in Malawi where the students have never seen desks. Or you can give a scholarship for a girl to attend high school in Malawi where public high school is not free and the girls` high school graduation rate is less than half the boys` graduation rate.

You can go to LastWordDesk.msnbc.com and contribute any amount as a gift to anyone on your gift list. And UNICEF will send them an acknowledgment of your gift. The only support that Kids in Need of Desks receives.

This from the audience of this program. And over the years, your generosity has enabled one million children to get off the floor of their classrooms and sit at a desk for the very first time.

And your kindness has supported 20,000 girls who have been given the chance to complete high school thanks to your contributions.

[22:59:52]

O`DONNELL: I thank you. And the children you have helped in Malawi thank you.

The kids get tonight`s LAST WORD.

"THE 11TH HOUR" starts now.