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Transcript: The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, 12/23/21

Guests: Ankush Khardori, Marty Walsh, Eugene Robinson, Jonathan Alter, David Rothkopf


The January 6th committee is asking the Supreme Court to make a quick decision on an appeal to the Supreme Court filed by Donald Trump today seeking to overturn a unanimous opinion of the federal court of appeals that denied Donald Trump`s attempt to prevent the National Archives from handing over documents from the Trump White House to the House Select Committee investigating the January 6th attack on the Capitol. Interview with Labor Secretary Marty Walsh. Biden backs changing Senate rules to pass voting rights. Senate to consider voting rights legislation next month.




And all I can say is have a wonderful Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and all days that follow that.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Thank you, Lawrence. God bless you.

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

Well, the progress of the January 6th committee`s investigation is now all up to the Supreme Court. The committee is asking the Supreme Court to make a quick decision on an appeal to the Supreme Court filed by Donald Trump today seeking to overturn a unanimous opinion of the federal court of appeals that denied Donald Trump`s attempt to prevent the National Archives from handing over documents from the Trump White House to the House Select Committee investigating the January 6th attack on the Capitol.

The first decision the Supreme Court has to make and possibly the only decision is whether to hear the case at all. Most appeals filed with the United States Supreme Court are rejected without a word of explanation, from the court. The Supreme Court only hears appeals cases in which at least four justices decide that the case is worthy of a hearing in the Supreme Court.

The committee is asking the Supreme Court to reject the Trump request for a hearing and is asking the Supreme Court to act as quickly as the lower courts in this case have already acted. In a filing with the Supreme Court today, the committee asked the Supreme Court to make a decision rejecting the Trump petition for an appeal at the Supreme Court`s closed-door conference meeting on January 14th.

The committee told the Supreme Court, quote, the select committee is investigating a deadly assault on the United States Capitol, the speaker of the House, the vice president, and both chambers of Congress, and a dangerous interruption of congress`s constitutional duty and the peaceful transfer of power. Delay would inflict a serious injury on the select committee and the public by interfering with this mandate.

Today, "The New York Times" published a guest essay coauthored by Harvard Law professor Laurence Tribe with the title "Will Donald Trump get away with inciting on insurrection?"

Professor Tribe and his co-authors write, quote: In his nine months in office, Attorney General Merrick Garland has done a great deal to restore integrity to an agency that was badly misused for political reasons under his predecessor. But his place in history will be assessed against the challenges that confronted him. And the overriding test that he and the rest of the government face is the threat to our democracy from people bent on destroying it.

Mr. Garland`s success depends on ensuring that the rule of law endures. That means dissuading future coup plotters by holding the leaders of the insurrection fully accountable for their attempt to overthrow the government. But he cannot do so without a robust criminal investigation of those at the top, from the people who planned, assisted, or funded the attempt to overturn the Electoral College vote to those who organized or encouraged the mob attack on the Capitol. To decline from the outset to investigate would be appeasement, pure and simple, and appeasing bullies and wrongdoers only encouraging more of the same.

And leading off our discussion tonight is Neal Katyal, former acting U.S. solicitor general and MSNBC legal contributor.

Neal, when it`s a Supreme Court case, we turn to you. This is a Trump legal filing that was filed today. I didn`t quote any of it because it`s like all Trump legal filings, such a peculiar document. What the committee filed with the court made enough sense to me to present to the audience.

But I leave it to you to tell us what we need to know about the Trump filing and what the Supreme Court might choose to do.

NEAL KATYAL, MSNBC LEGAL CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, Lawrence, I think you`re right. Congress`s filing today was in ordinary plain English, and Trump`s was garbled Russian as far as I can tell.


It`s a really lousy filing, and that`s putting it charitably, and I don`t think the Supreme Court is going to hear the case. I think as you were saying a moment ago, the Supreme Court gets 8,000 or 10,000 requests to hear cases a year. It hears about 65.

The Supreme Court is the big leagues, so you can`t afford a false move when you`re making a filing to the Supreme Court. But the document that Trump filed today is written, frankly, by lawyers who appear not ready for this kind of filing. It`s riddled with loose language and absurd claims.

It`s kind of surprising to me that Trump couldn`t get a Supreme Court lawyer to file this document for him. He is a former president and all that, but then it`s not that surprising when you look at his actual claims.

And so what this filing is all about for our viewers, basically Congress is trying to get information about what Trump was doing on January 6th, the whole set of documents and testimony about that. And Trump has invoked executive privilege, the idea that he has a zone of secrecy around him as president and doesn`t have to tell the truth under oath to congress.

And he faces two big problems in that claim. One is that two different federal courts have resoundedly rejected his claims on multiple grounds, including a very important decision by our nation`s second highest court, the D.C. circuit. And the second problem is the current incumbent president, President Biden, has rejected his executive privilege claims, and the Supreme Court has said when you`re deciding this presidential secrecy thing, it`s really the incumbent president that has the lion`s share of the decision-making power, not the former president.

O`DONNELL: And so, when you look at the Trump filing, did they add anything to their case, to their argument that hasn`t already been rejected by the district court that heard it first and then the appeals court?

KATYAL: No, not a single new thing. Now, there is new rhetoric, rhetoric in which they say Trump is, quote, more than an ordinary citizen. The document portends that he`s still the president, which maybe these folks who filed this belief. But, you know, he`s not the president.

And the thing about living in a democracy is once you`re out of office, you`re an ordinary person. Yes, you were the president at one point and you did have a special zone of privacy around you for all sorts of good reasons, but afterwards you`re not.

And there`s one other thing that`s really striking, Lawrence. Like, as a Supreme Court lawyer, if I were representing Trump, the first thing I`d do is think, God, you know, the thing is people perceive my client as all about delay. What do these lawyers do? They wait until the last minute to file their document, the very last day the court gave them to file, instead of filing earlier to signal, look, we`re on the ball, we want this, we think these are strong legal claims. This isn`t about delay, that`s why we`re filing quickly.

Uh-uh, not these folks, not Donald Trump. And that delay tells you all you need to know about what this document they filed today at the Supreme Court is about. It`s just about trying to stall this thing out as long as they can.

O`DONNELL: So in a normal case that doesn`t involve a former president of the United States, instead of normal, let me just say a case that doesn`t involve a former president of the United States. I think we could easily predict that a faulty filing like this coming after very solidly reasoned written opinion in the lower courts would be summarily rejected by the Supreme Court, and the only thing that would come out is simply one sentence that would emerge from the court just saying denied, meaning the application to be heard at the Supreme Court is denied.

Can the Supreme Court do that in that case that is this prominent with a former president? Or do they -- would they be concerned that the 75 million or so Trump voters, 70 million Trump voters would feel as though Donald Trump was somehow slighted by the Supreme Court and not given his full rights?

KATYAL: Yes, they can do it, Lawrence, and I suspect that they will. And of course they face ad the same decision in December when he brought lawsuits to the election to the Supreme Court and it was that one-sentence denial you`re referring to. One of the greatest legal scholars, Alexander Bickel wrote in the 1960s that the Supreme Court maintains its legitimacy by often denying cases and saying we`re not going to hear them, that otherwise it puts themselves in a political thicket. Here, this would be a political thicket, but just legally, this is not a strong claim by Donald Trump in any way, shape, or form.

There`s an overwhelming need for this evidence because it goes to what the president was doing on January 6th, and there`s very little need for secrecy here as opposed to legitimate claims of executive privilege like foreign affairs discussions and the like.


So I really don`t think that this thing should go anywhere and I suspect that it will not.

O`DONNELL: And what the Trump petition is asking the Supreme Court to do is write a new law out of thin air that takes a power away from the president of the United States, Joe Biden, and gives it to a man living in Florida.

KATYAL: In a way, you could say that. I mean, it is the case that the Supreme Court said in an earlier case involving President Nixon that largely executive privilege, the zone of secrecy, is decided by the incumbent president, not by some former one for all sorts of good reasons.

You know, the whole claim Donald Trump is making or supposedly making in his filing is that he`s trying to protect the office of the presidency. And that`s why he`s doing it. It`s not about self-interest or because Trump is scared of telling the truth, but that`s what he`s at least claiming with something of a straight face before the Supreme Court.

And, you know, I think the real problem with that is when it comes to protecting the institution of the presidency, the Supreme Court has said, well, we look to what the current president says about that, not what some former one says.

O`DONNELL: Neal Katyal, thank you very much for starting our discussion tonight. Really appreciate it.

KATYAL: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: And joining us now, Ankush Khardori, contributing writer at "New York" magazine, and a contributing editor at "Politico" magazine. He`s also a former federal prosecutor. Thank you very much for joining us tonight.

You had written a piece for "New York" magazine that proceeded the large Tribe coauthored piece we see today saying that it is very important for Attorney General Merrick Garland to do a serious criminal investigation of Donald Trump himself along with the others he was engaged in, apparently trying to overturn the election.

What is the case you would make to the attorney general?

ANKUSH KHARDORI, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Look, I think this attorney general has talked a lot about the rule of law as being sort of central to our legal system and central to Americans` confidence in our legal system and our democracy. He`s invoked that phrase and that principle over and over and over again from his -- the speech in which he accepted his nomination, confirmation, and ever since then.

And I think in terms of his legacy and the legitimacy of the rule of law in this country, this is the most important case. How he handles Trump`s misconduct and many shenanigans leading up to January 6th and the wake of the election is going to define Merrick Garland`s legacy whether he likes it or not. And I think unfortunately right now, we have no indication of any sort of criminal investigation concerning Trump regarding January 6th or some of the weeks leading up to January 6th.

And if that is correct, and if that holds, I think it`s going to be a very bad precedent for our country and it`s going to reflect very, very poorly on Garland`s legacy, whatever else he might do while in office.

O`DONNELL: If you`re still working with the justice department and the attorney general said to you, well, what we will do is wait for the January 6th committee, the house select committee, to complete their investigation. We will read their report and decide what to do then. What would you say to the attorney general?

KHARDORI: You know, that would be a great idea except we have midterm elections coming up in which the Democrats are going to probably lose the House and they also lose the Senate, at which point any investigation is going to get substantially complicated and interfered with by Republicans in Congress. In addition, Trump may run for re-election in 2024. He could announce any day at this point, and that would also vastly complicate any ongoing criminal investigation, and I find it very hard to believe and envision this attorney general and this administration conducting any sort of criminal investigation surrounding Trump, much less seriously considering charging him if he is actively running for 2024.

O`DONNELL: Now, I can imagine Merrick Garland responding to that in this private, you know, command-level discussion at the Justice Department by saying, everything you`ve just said is a political consideration, which includes possible outcomes of elections, and the attorney general should not take such political considerations into account when deciding how to proceed with a criminal investigation.


KHARDORI: Well, I think, unfortunately, politics is unavoidable. We`re talking about the former president, someone who may also be a candidate for 2024. And, you know, the relationship between an investigation and the political landscape is going to exist whether or not Merrick Garland likes it or not.

And the question is whether he`s going to do the right thing or whether he`s going to abstain, because whatever he does, he`s going to have an effect on the 2024 election. If he does nothing, it`s going to have an effect if Trump runs, and he conducts an investigation -- even if Trump does not run for 2024 for the presidency, this is going to have a lasting effect or sort of the structural stability of our democracy because someone else can do some of the very say things that Trump did, maybe not the violence, but things like the call to Brad Raffensperger and intimidate him into changing the outcome of the election.

We have a long, long, long history in this country of an elite political impunity. Even if it`s not about Trump, we`re going to pay the cost for forbearance on this issue, whether it`s in the next couple years or ten years from now.

O`DONNELL: Ankush Khardori, thank you very much for joining our discussion tonight. Thank you.

KHARDORI: Thanks for having me.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

And coming up, `twas the night before Christmas Eve and Americans` packages have mostly been received on time, except for one I`m still waiting for. The supply chain disaster that the news media was telling you about a month ago and telling you it was going to leave a lot of empty space under Christmas trees did not happen. Demand for goods is higher than it has ever been, but the supply chain has held up reasonably well under that pressure.

Labor Secretary Marty Walsh will explain why when he joins us next.




JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Packages are moving. Gifts are going delivered. Shelves are not empty.


O`DONNELL: That was President Biden yesterday on the day "The New York Times" published this report. The warnings started to stream in early this fall: shop early or you may not get your gifts on time. Global supply chain problems that have led to long delays in manufacturing and shipping could ripple outward, slowing package deliveries to millions of Americans in the weeks and days before Christmas, experts warned. The prospect even became a talking point in conservative attacks on President Biden`s policies. Despite early fears, however, holiday shoppers have received their gifts mostly on time.

Here`s more from President Biden.


BIDEN: I see Marty Walsh, my labor secretary. Marty, you`ve done a hell of a job, pal, cutting the red tape so that companies can set up, registered apprenticeships for truck drivers in two days instead of two months, which it was before you took over. These apprenticeships are going to help new drivers get trained better and faster and help companies retain drivers in a field that has a lot of turnover.


O`DONNELL: Joining us now is President Biden`s labor secretary, Marty Walsh.

Thank you very much for joining us tonight, Mr. Secretary. Really appreciate it.

MARTY WALSH, U.S. LABOR SECRETARY: Thanks for having me. It`s great to be on the night before our Christmas Eve.

O`DONNELL: So, a month ago and beyond that, there were a tremendous amount of fear-based reports about Christmas gifts not arriving on time, shelves being empty in stores because of the supply chain. You responded to those fears in the administration.

But what did you found to be the reality of the supply chain and what you needed to do to make sure that the Christmas deliveries were working well?

WALSH: Certainly, you know, we still have work to do with the supply chain. There`s no question about it, myself and Secretary Buttigieg and other folks have toured ports all across this country both on the East Coast and the West Coast.

But the president was very clear back at the end of summer, early fall, that he wanted to make sure that we weren`t going to have a problem here during the holiday season, working to open the ports 24/7, allow them the opportunity to do that, started working on trucking issues. We`ve gotten a little more fine-tuned on those over the last couple of weeks.

We met at the White House last week with trucking industry experts as well as the Teamsters and some of the trucking industry companies, and we set up a program, a 90-day challenge basically to start apprenticeships across the country to get more people into trucking.

I mean, the issues are still going to -- we`re living in a pandemic, so we still have work to do, but the president was clear that the holiday season -- he talked to the big stores, he talked to the local stores and he said we want to make sure those shelves are stocked so that they won`t have problems at Christmastime.

If you look at that, retail is up. They`re doing great sales inside stores. And also, if you look at UPS, FedEx, and the Postal Service, I believe all three of them, their numbers of service is higher than this time last year. So everyone`s been laser-focused on making sure that this holiday season, success all over the place.

O`DONNELL: As the administration looked into it, what did you find were the kind of COVID-driven problems with the supply chain as opposed to pre- existing problems with the supply chain that needed to be modernized?

WALSH: Well, I would say the pre-existing stuff is really trucking. We`re losing about 80,000 truckers a year in this country. People have looked at it as a job that might not be long term when, in fact, it really is.


You can raise a family.

I think some of the COVID concerns are warehouses around the world that had to shut down because of COVID-19 and we`re behind on semiconductors and batteries and other supplies out there.

So, I think we can`t lose sight of the fact that we`re still living in a pandemic time. I think a lot of those factories now are open. We still have ships off the coast out in California, Los Angeles, and Long Beach. We will get those ships in.

We`re working now to clear up a problem with trucker, to make sure we address the problem, not just during the supply chain, but also in this country of issues with bus drivers and other types of drivers. So, we`re going to be working on that.

And the president and his task force is very focused on staying on top of those issues and we`re working on literally weekly. We`re having not just meetings, but action, and that makes a big difference.

Generally, with the task force, you hope the task force produces some success and what the president`s done in a short period of time is not only shown success, but show that we`re going to fix a problem long-term and the tope of the problem right now is trucking in our country.

O`DONNELL: One of the challenges is trucking is retention -- is retaining drivers. We have enough trained drivers in the United States, but they don`t want the job. And one of the things that`s been made very clear when you look at the retention numbers is unionized truck drivers have a much higher job satisfaction level and a much higher rate of retention in the job than the non-unionized independents.

WALSH: Yeah. You know, when you talk about a unionized truck drive, oftentimes, you`re talking about a living wage, you`re talking about the ability to earn a pension, you`re talking about in some cases health care.

We had a meeting at the White House last week with truck drivers. We met with some unionized and nonunionized companies and we also met with independent drivers. The Association for Independent Drivers says that over the last several years their salaries are gone the wrong direction. They`ve gone -- they`ve gone away in some cases and we need to do a better job of making sure that people are getting paid in these jobs.

And, you know, 20 years ago, truck driving was a job, ten years ago -- today in some cases, it was a job where you could put food on the table and make a good leaving. It was hard work, don`t get me wrong, really hard work, but lots of people in that industry.

I don`t think people have lost interest in the industry. I think quite honestly, the industry needs to compensate these drivers better and to be able to create opportunities that these are careers (ph). Truck driving is not going away. Delivering a product is not going away.

As we said many times, when a ship hits the shore, the product on that ship needs to go somewhere, and the only way that`s going to happen is in some cases rail, but, eventually, you`re going to need a truck for that last mile.

O`DONNELL: Labor Secretary Marty Walsh, thank you very much for joining us tonight. We really appreciate it. And have a merry Christmas.

WALSH: Thank you. Same to you, Lawrence, and to everyone watching. Hope everyone has a safe holiday and take care of yourself.

O`DONNELL: Thank you, Mr. Secretary. Thank you.

Coming up, President Biden says it`s time to change Senate rules to pass voting rights legislation. That`s next.




JOE BIDEN, (D) U.S. PRESIDENT: The only thing standing between getting votes right legislation passed and not getting passed is the filibuster. I support making the exception of voting rights for the filibuster.


LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced on Tuesday during a conference call with Senate Democrats that if Republicans block a vote on voting rights legislation, then he would ask for a vote on changing the rules of the Senate, which would require only a simple majority to pass in the Senate. Certainly, Schumer says he will bring a voting rights bill to the Senate floor in early January.

Joining us now, Jonathan Alter, an MSNBC Political Analyst, he just wrote an essay on Joe Manchin, which is posted on his Substack page, and Eugene Robinson, Associate Editor and Pulitzer Prize Winning Opinion Columnist for the Washington Post. He`s an MSNBC Political Analyst.

And Eugene, we have arrived at the voting rights moment in the United States Senate possibly, obviously in early January, according to Chuck Schumer. And here`s the president the United States publicly lining up with, yes, change the Senate rule in whatever way you have to, to get voting rights passed. This is -- it`s been a long road for Joe Biden, initially very reluctant to talk about changing Senate rules. Now, he`s ready. He`s out there using all of his years of experience of the Senate to urge on the Democrats in the Senate to just do it.

EUGENE ROBINSON, THE WASHINGTON POST COLUMNIST: Yeah, Lawrence, first of all, let me say Merry Christmas and happy holidays to everybody.

O`DONNELL: Merry Christmas.

ROBINSON: -- saying peaceful and joyous holiday season. Yeah, this is a big deal, actually. Because Joe Biden is, as you know, a creature of the Senate, have almost literally spent the, you know, the bulk of his adult life in the Senate. And he is a great respecter of Senate tradition and Senate customs and more, and for him to say no if, you know, this is important enough to change the filibuster rule is a big deal. And he struck that same sort of tone. I was with him in Orangeburg, South Carolina in my hometown, last week. And where he went to speak at South Carolina State University graduation, he`s it`s very, very strong on voting rights. And all that said, that look this is more important, this is more fundamental Build Back Better after all is a matter of arithmetic. This is more fundamental to democracy. And I think he`s serious about it. And I hope other senators are serious as well.


O`DONNELL: Jonathan Alter, we three, have watched this, debate about the Senate Rule, evolve over what is now many years, I can remember the first time it started to come up as a serious discussion point was during the George W. Bush presidency. And I immediately said no to it, no, no, you have to preserve the 60-vote threshold, because having worked in the Senate, I knew how it worked when you needed it, when you were in the minority. And every senator I know was opposed to the idea, the first time the idea was proposed to them. But over time, I mean, it seemed to me that it took the average Senate mind, a number of years to change on this, each individual took, you know, two, three, sometimes five years.

Joe Biden was among the slowest in terms of changing his thinking about it. But it`s not stylistically unusual from the rest of us. We were all very, very slow to come around to opposition to the 60-vote threshold. And I now, I`m just completely opposed to it in any form in the Senate. But it surely -- it isn`t where my thinking began. And I think you`ve witnessed this change of mind, that has now gotten up to just about every Democrat in the Senate.

JONATHAN ALTER, THE DAILY BEAST COLUMNIST: Right, I think it was really important when you saw senators like Mark Warner, you know, have been there for a while when they started to come around in recent weeks, you can see real movement. The question is why, I think the answer is that democracy is in crisis. And saving our democracy is now a bedrock issue in the Democratic Party. And so, all bets are off on, you know, the old way of doing things.

And so, it`s sort of like all hands-on deck to protect our democracy. This voting rights bill, which by the way, was not just co-sponsored by Joe Manchin, but written by Joe Manchin, it`s his bill is actually a very good start on protecting our democracy, it doesn`t do enough, they`re going to have to do some other things. But it really gets the ball rolling. So, they`re now -- the president is teed it up in such a way that if you`re against changing the rules for just for -- just voting rights, they`re not going to get rid of the filibuster altogether. But to change the rules for voting rights, maybe if they won`t accept a carve out, as they call it, maybe go to what`s called a talking filibuster on this issue. Whatever the reform measure is, if you`re not for it, now, inside the Democratic Party, you`re on the wrong side of history, as most other Democrats see it.

O`DONNELL: Yeah, and Gene, the president getting on board is an important development in so many ways, including the sequencing that the White House and the President have been working with. People who were -- have been pushing voting rights exclusively for the last year have been very upset that the White House wasn`t doing more, and the president wasn`t doing more. He actually got to a point of frustration in response to a question about that. It seems like about a month and a half ago, where he actually said out loud, I have to get Build Back Better done first. Because if I say, you know, voting rights now, I will lose two votes on Build Back Better. He was referring without naming them, Senator Sinema, Senator Manchin. He was afraid of what he has said this week, would mean to Senator Manchin and Senator Sinema when he was trying to get their votes on Build Back Better. It seems now that Build Back Better has slipped off to the side of the road. And voting rights is passing it down the middle lane of the United States Senate as far as President Biden and Chuck Schumer are concerned.

ROBINSON: Well, I think that`s absolutely true. First of all, Build Back Better, you know, ran into a brick wall called Joe Manchin. And so, you know, I`m sure they would have loved to have -- to be done with Build Back Better, but they`re not and then not anywhere near done with it. It may have to be broken up into pieces and begun and this is just the reality, it`s not something I`d like to see but it`s the reality that if they don`t have Manchin vote for it, it`s not going to pass, you`re not going to get it, not going to get a Republican vote for that. So that`s one reason.


The other reason I think is that the President and many senators have thought about the issue, have thought about the issue of voting rights, have watch what`s been happening in the -- in this Republican controlled state legislatures and these laws about not just how, who gets to vote voting access, but how the vote is counted, who counts the vote, what -- you know, whether state legislatures get to play some sort of, perhaps nefarious role in counting or miscounting the vote. I mean, this is third world stuff. This is stuff that we would see, if we sent an election- observers to watch it in Belarus or something like that they`d write a scathing report. And so, I think people are just taking it much more seriously. And yeah, I think it has a middle lane right now.

O`DONNELL: And Jonathan, back when the Senate was a more functional body, the Republican side would notice this tension building on the Democratic side, and they would have adjusted in some way to help relieve that tensions, because they would fear that the Democrats would change the rule. But these Republicans have done everything every single day to increase the incentive among Democrats to change the rule.

ALTER: Right, because Democrats realize that the Republicans are so ruthless, so contemptuous of democracy, that they would abolish the filibuster in a heartbeat. You know, when they get power, if it`s in their interest, and by the way, if they get control the Senate, they will prevent any more judgeships from, you know, from going through, they`ve changed the rules to make it harder to do that. They`ll do anything. So, since there are no restraints on them, that means fewer restraints, not no restraints, because Democrats have been, you know, more ethical about this, but fewer restraints on Democrat.

So, to Gene`s point, Manchin is indicating that Build Back Better is maybe a March or April issue. And there`s some real indications that they can`t put Humpty Dumpty back together again. But that leaves room even for a long talking filibuster with the cots, Mr. Smith goes to Washington kind of event that would bring a lot of attention to voting rights if they don`t do the carve out and do a talking filibuster rule change instead.

O`DONNELL: Jonathan Alter and Eugene Robinson, thank you both for joining us tonight and happy holidays to both of you.

ROBINSON: Same to you, Lawrence.

ALTER: Thanks Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Thank you. Thank you.

Coming up, one thing you might have noticed about most of the articles written about Vice President Kamala Harris these days is that they rely on unnamed whispers instead of observable facts. Our next guest, David Rothkopf took a close look at the Vice President`s first year in office and in the headline of his article for The Daily Beast. He says she`s doing a great job, but her story`s not getting up. David Rothkopf joins us next.




KAMALA HARRIS, U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: Six months ago, we launched a call to action for businesses to invest in Central America. Six months ago, 12 People were around this table. Today we have 77 partners who are here and virtually here, with 1300 more businesses, civil society leaders who are watching this conversation and this convening. Six months ago, we had a commitment of $750 million. Today, we have a commitment of over 1.2 billion. We`ve seen great progress with a commitment to do much more.


O`DONNELL: That was Vice President Kamala Harris announcing private sector investments in Central America as part of a program she is leading aimed at reducing migration from that region to the United States.

Our next guest Daily Beast Foreign Affairs Analyst David Rothkopf writes, well, Vice President Harris has not received credit for much of what she has done in this area. She has been undaunted working with a methodical intensity that has won admirers around the world and among her closest colleagues. Vice President Harris has played a central role in reestablishing a working dialogue with leaders in Central America and Mexico. And last month at the Paris Peace Forum, Vice President Harris made major steps in mending the U.S.-France relationship after a submarine deal strained relations between the countries.

For two hours, the Vice President met one on one with French President Emmanuel Macron, who reportedly went to great lengths to show other foreign leaders his respect for her. Vice President Harris is also making the case for President Biden`s domestic agenda, attending dozens of events across the country.

President Biden`s Chief of Staff Ron Klain, who previously worked in the Clinton White House, and the Obama White House, said Vice President Harris is off to the fastest and strongest start of any vice president I have seen.

Joining us now David Rothkopf Foreign Affairs Analyst and an Opinion Columnist for USA Today and The Daily Beast. He is the host of the Deep State Radio podcast.

David, thank you very much for joining. I really appreciate it. I want to begin with the point that Vice President Harris was talking about, at the beginning of this segment. She`s there trying to deal with the problems that we face at the southern border, not at the southern border, but where the people come from, who are trying to cross our southern border and the Washington news media believes they have you in a got you question when they ask, when are you going to the southern border? Why aren`t you at the southern border. Why don`t you go to the southern border? That`s not where the problem is. The problem is in the places where the people live, that has been sent them to the southern border. And that`s where this Vice President is concentrating is on the places where they live, and what can be done to change the situation there.


DAVID ROTHKOPF, THE DAILY BEAST OPINION COLUMNIST: Well, that`s exactly right. I think the media may be used to four years of Donald Trump where there was all about photo ops, and he thought he could wave a magic wand or insert his personality into anything, and overnight produce change, obviously, immigrations, an extremely complicated problem. It was made more complicated by the fact that Donald Trump shut down the programs that we had in Central America to stop immigration at its source.

In the course of less than a year, this administration led by the Vice President has gone to Mexico, gone to Central America, restarted those programs, created a whole list of new efforts, including this $1.2 billion from nearly 80 companies to invest in Central America, try to create jobs there. They`ve created new programs to fight corruption. They`ve created new programs to deal with human trafficking at the border. And that`s the work of 10 months. I think what the Vice President realizes, the president realizes, his foreign policy is not done in front of the camera very often, it`s blocking and tackling. And she has been a detail-oriented workhorse.

And I have to say, when I spoke to Mexican officials, that really impressed him -- the impressed them. The president of Mexico himself said, you know, he wished his staff would follow up in the same way that she had been doing and that her staff had been doing.

O`DONNELL: I have to say, none of the articles I`ve read about the Vice President recently have included anything like the scope of reporting that is in your article. Most of those are articles are unnamed people who apparently have some perspective on this. And it`s full of adjectives about attitudes, but reaching out across borders, as you did with your reporting to find out what her work actually is in these other countries and how it`s perceived as something that`s only available in your piece. And you also have real quotes from real people in Washington with their names on it. People who`ve worked in more than one Democratic administration, like for example, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, he told you this, one similarity between the Obama-Biden relationship and the Biden-Harris relationship is that he insists she be in every core decision making meeting. She weighs in during those meetings, often providing unique perspectives. And when everyone else leaves the room, he will often ask that she stays, and they talk. While their experiences are different, he values her willingness to ask tough questions.

What else can you tell us about that you`re reporting find about the Biden- Harris relationship, the relationship between the two?

ROTHKOPF: I think it`s very strong. I think it started out strong because she was friends with Biden`s son, Beau. I think that`s one of the reasons she was selected. I think he respects her. She ran the biggest Justice Department in a state in the United States. She was on the Intelligence Committee in the Senate, and she has been willing to take on the tough test. Some people have taken her to task for doing things that are tougher, will take a long time. I think he appreciates the fact that she`s doing that. She`s gone to Latin America, she`s gone to Southeast Asia, she`s gone to Europe. She`s dealt with the France issue when it was tough. She`s been on the cutting edge of new issues.

Jake Sullivan told me this as well, like cyber, dealing with A.I., dealing with ransomware, dealing with a number of these other issues. She`s made that a focus. Her staff has told me that she`s extremely detail-oriented, that she reads immensely. She gets up to speed and the people in the state departments told me, this is somebody who has had a great relationship with foreign leaders around the world.

O`DONNELL: David Rothkopf, thank you very much for joining us tonight. David`s must-read piece about the Vice President is in The Daily Beast. Happy holidays to you, David, thank you for joining us.

ROTHKOPF: Happy holidays to you, Lawrence.

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



O`DONNELL: The hours are ticking down to the end of the Christmas shopping season tomorrow on Christmas Eve. And there is a last-minute gift you can always get online at any time by going to LAST WORD desks on where you can donate a desk for schools in Malawi that need desks or scholarship for a girl to attend high school in Malawi, where public high school is not free, and the girls graduation rate is less than half the boys graduation rate.

You can make a donation to anyone on your holiday gift list and UNICEF will send them an acknowledgement of your gift. Thanks to your kindness and generosity. We have delivered almost 300,000 desks to schools in Malawi and over 20,000 girls have been given the chance to graduate from high school. One of those girls is 14-year-old Rachel Mtambo. Rachel lives with her grandmother and two brothers because her grandmother could not afford high school tuition, Rachel received a kind fund scholarship. In November Rachel told us what that scholarship means to her.


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O`DONNELL: Rachel is thankful and the kids who are no longer sitting on the floor of their classrooms are also thankful.


The kids you`ve been helping in Malawi get tonight`s LAST WORD. "THE 11TH HOUR" starts now.