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

Transcript: The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, 12/29/21

Guests: Debbie Dingell, Angelo Carusone, Christina Greer, Colin Allred, Saira Draper, Nse Ufot, David Cay Johnston

Summary

Interview with Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Dingell of Michigan. Oprah declines to endorse Dr. Mehmet Oz in a Pennsylvania Senate race. Texas Republicans have pulled out all the stops this year to restrict access to the ballot box. But maybe in a show of defiance, that hasn`t stopped Texans from registering to vote.

Transcript

[22:00:36]

JONATHAN CAPEHART, MSNBC HOST: Hey, good evening, Ayman.

I know you started your show with an interview with Dr. Fauci. Did he bring any clarity or break any news with you in your interview?

AYMAN MOHYELDIN, MSNBC HOST: Yeah, I think he addressed some of the criticism and concern people have about the CDC guidelines that reduce those quarantine or isolation periods from ten days to five days. Why are there different standards for health care workers and not for the general public? Why do they have to test out? The rest of us can simply, if we`re asymptomatic, return to life normal?

So, he did clarify some of those and he did address the controversy surrounding the discrepancies there. And acknowledged there is a messaging issue and a messaging component to this as well, Jon.

CAPEHART: Yeah. Part of the messaging, I don`t know if you`ve seen some of the memes going out there. One that I saw that was funny that said, CDC now says the five-second rule is now down to two seconds which is my favorite of them all.

Ayman, thank you very much.

MOHYELDIN: Thank you. Take care.

CAPEHART: When Donald Trump decided to run for president, he made a bet about the Republican base.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn`t lose any voters. Okay? It`s like incredible.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAPEHART: It`s like incredible. He told us right from the start what his code was. And it set the stage for his lying, lawlessness and disdain for the very government he was elected to lead. As president, Donald Trump was a serial liar from his crowd size to the severity of coronavirus. Trump`s D.C. hotel was corruption in plain sight, taking in millions of dollars from foreign governments.

The Mueller report laid out how Trump obstructed justice, which he is still doing today as he tries to thwart the investigation into his role in the January 6th attack on the Capitol. And now we see Republicans following in Donald Trump`s footsteps. While the majority of the country rejected his lack of ethics, the Republican base didn`t care.

Today, Republican Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene supported calls for an added tax for Americans, get this, moving red states from blue states like California and New York. She tweeted that these brainwashed people really need a cooling off period, and suggested the country undergo a, quote, national divorce.

So now, a Trump Republican can advocate for succession and it`s no problem, make America great again by divorcing it? Obviously, Mean Taylor Greene says crazy things because she`s an attention troll. But this disdain against American democracy is becoming mainstream Republican thinking.

One of the foundations of our democracy is the collected belief in the institutions of government, in the rule of law itself, like how athletes agree to the rules of the game. But in the House, more Republican lawmakers are refusing to abide by the rules. A resolution approved by the House in January finds lawmakers for failing to wear masks on the House floor. Congresswoman Greene and Republican Congressman Andrew Clyde, they don`t care about the rules. To date, the two Republicans combined have racked up $100,000 in fines for not wearing masks.

And a record number of lawmakers are refusing to comply with ethics committee investigations. This year, 43 percent of lawmakers under investigation refuse to come play. Compare that to 2009 when the Cooperation, the noncooperation rate was 4 percent. Not complying with House rules, not cooperating with the ethics investigations, these are tactics used by Republicans to weaken the institution of government which undermines democracy itself as evidenced in the chilling anecdote about January 6th we reported on last night, a plan known as the Green Bay Sweep. That a Trump adviser was coordinating with 100 Republican members of the house and the Senate to sell out democracy by overturning the election results on January 6th.

There were allegedly 100 Republicans who supported a abandoning a basic principle of democracy since the founding of the country, the peaceful transfer of power.

[22:05:07]

All of this behavior by Trumpified Republicans is demoralizing. It has already demoralized so-called mainstream Republicans from fighting against the dark forces in their party. And they`re hoping the demoralize you.

Leading off our discussion today is Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Dingell of Michigan. She serves as senior whip.

Congresswoman Dingell, great to see you again.

This issue of demoralizing Republicans, you know, from their party, and the hope of demoralizing the American citizenry as a whole. I`m wondering, given the nature of the party and the followers in that party, whether you are being demoralized. I`m asking that question because on MSNBC`s air, and I`ve seen you being interviewed about the horrible voicemail message that was left for you.

And I`m wondering. Are you being demoralized? Do you feel demoralized with voicemails like that? I`m sure that`s not the first you`ve received.

REP. DEBBIE DINGELL (D-MI): Good evening, Jonathan. It`s good to be with you and I hope you had a good holiday.

You know, what I do when I hear what Marjorie Taylor Greene has done again today is just to get angry. I love my country. This is a democracy where we follow the rule of law. It gives us the guidelines. It keeps someone, a dictator from coming in and taking over.

When we start barring somebody from moving to another state and being able to vote. That`s not what we`re about. We`re about freedom of speech, freedom of religion, due process and a thousand other things. And I`m going to let her demoralize me. I`m not going to let others demoralize me.

I`m going to fight for the country that I love and that has survived for more than 200 years because we are a democracy.

CAPEHART: Congresswoman Dingell, what is your reaction to hearing that 100 Republicans, 100 of your colleagues were lined up to overturn the election?

DINGELL: I`m going to fight it. First, we don`t know for sure that it was 100 of our colleagues, but certainly, there`s evidence that there were a number of people. People need to have confidence that their elections, that`s the most fundamental principle of our democracy, is that when you go to the voting poll, the results will be honorable and full of integrity. That people can count on how they turn out.

And one of the things that -- there are people that are trying to attack the fundamental pillars of our democracy, is to undermine people`s confidence in those elections. I won`t let them demoralize me. It makes me angry and it makes me want to fight even harder for this country that I love. There are historians saying we are more divided now than we were during the civil war.

I want everybody to worry about what we love about this country. What we want it to be. And that we`ve got to fight. We can`t take it for granted. We can take none of the freedoms that we have for granted.

CAPEHART: You know, I`m just wondering how you feel and Democratic leaders feel about Republicans violating the rules, violating the mask mandate.

DINGELL: So -- well, first of all, I`m just going to take it from the very personal standpoint. I worry about COVID like everybody else does. There are many Republicans, I don`t know the number, but it`s enough that they haven`t been vaccinated.

And therefore, when I`m in a confined space with them there is the danger that we could be infected. I wear my mask when I`m indoors because I don`t want to get COVID. There are laws and I follow them. We have a transparent process that people are aware of those that are not following the rules. And I`m hoping enough people are paying attention to what is happening and what is not happening that maybe when the next election comes around, they`re going to think about what they want this country to be and do they want people representing them that don`t believe in the rule of law.

CAPEHART: You know, Congresswoman Dingell, in your own encounters with voter, have conservative voters changed to not caring at all about good behavior or even ethics anymore?

DINGELL: No. You know what I`m going to say, we cannot let people take a toothbrush and paint this country as not caring. The kind of phone call that you heard, I get a number of those quite frankly every week, every day. So do you. So do millions of Americans across the country, be it from the waitress at my Coney Island who talked about the way she was being treated now to the person in total tears at metro airport, to the frontline workers.

[22:10:05]

We`re being rude to each other and we need to think about that. We need to think about what is happening. We`re all frustrated. We`re all angry. It has been a hard two years.

But civil society is a society that I want to work. I do think that most people, you know, I was in Bellville, Michigan, this summer, talking to some union workers. When we have a discussion, they didn`t like the tone of the dialogue that were happening, agreed with some of the policies but did want to fight for that civility, that respect, of treating with each with dignity.

CAPEHART: Congresswoman Debbie Dingell from the great state of Michigan -- thank you very much. Happy New Year.

DINGELL: Thank you, Jonathan. Happy, healthy 2022.

CAPEHART: Joining us now, Angelo Carusone, president of Media Matters.

Angelo, great to see you.

Here`s what I want to know. We know conservative media is extreme. But how big is its reach?

ANGELO CARUSONE, MEDIA MATTERS PRESIDENT: I mean, bigger than anything I think most people realize. Talk radio, for example, take Sean Hannity. He has 15 million listeners and that`s one show. And that`s just talk radio.

I mean, people focused on television and FOX News and Facebook, but the reality is, talk radio remains the get out the vote engine, the engine of disinformation, and in many ways, it has this effect, because there is a local component to it. It can really influence and distort local politics which ultimately then translates both up and nationally.

CAPEHART: You know, Fox has become more Trumpy, if you can believe it, since Trump. Think of Tucker now versus Bill O`Reilly in 2016. But that is still mainstream conservative media. What`s happening outside of our view?

CARUSONE: I think the simplest way to think about it. The fever swamps have been the focal point, the pivot point here and the rest of the Republican Party and the right wing at large. What they`ve decided to do in the last couple years that help explain that phenomenon with Tucker Carlson and Fox, is that they`re organizing power on what used to be considered the fringes.

So it is not that it is brand new that we have fringes, right? Alex Jones has been around 20-plus years. But a lot of things that Alex Jones says now are actually reflect in people in Congress. They`re actually reflected in mainstream politics.

And that is a consequence of the right very deliberately and intentionally, organizing power on the fringes. What took place January 6th was one externality of that. So that ranges from everything from Jewish space lasers as a threat, like we saw with Marjorie Taylor Greene, to actively combating, not just vaccines but any public health measures. I mean, what we`ve seen pushing back against public health measures, including masks, like you`re talking about with Marjorie Taylor Greene, is something Fox News has been advocating for.

That`s not how it started. But that ended up becoming part of the Fox News narrative because they were reflecting back what the rest of the right wing was getting in the fever swamps.

CAPEHART: You know, Angelo, I would love to get your thoughts on Trump being eviscerated for his vaccine support approach from the radio host recently said, he needs an intervention from a friend.

CARUSONE: Yeah. This is an example where a lot of the right wing media is. Trump is a focal point for it, right? What made Trump so powerful and influential was the fact that he was channeling and harnessing a bunch of different components of the fever swamps and the right wing media. And they were amplifying it and there was feedback.

But we shouldn`t make any mistake that the power behind Trump was the actual media and right wing echo chamber that we`re talking about here. Not Trump himself. So, when you point out this vaccine example, it`s a runaway, right? He lost his Twitter account, he lost his Facebook account, his social media influence to control the narrative, influence in a real way.

And they continue to run with that story that vaccines were part of a plot and a conspiracy by Dr. Fauci and Bill Gates in order to put microchips in people. There is a very, very prominent conspiracy theory that the vaccine designed to open up an inter-dimensional portal.

I point that out because there are millions of people in this country that are consuming right wing media and Republican politicians are appealing to that believe this and warning about this as a reason for not getting vaccine.

So, that partly explains why when Trump gets up there and says get your booster. It`s okay. Not a big deal. And they respond in this harsh way. They`re actually simmering in this cauldron of deceit.

[22:15:01]

CAPEHART: Wow! I didn`t even know about the intergalactic portal. Wow.

Angelo Carusone, thank you for joining me tonight.

Coming up, it`s still December. We already have a contender for the most bonkers expose of 2022 Republican candidate described as an elite, pro- choice, anti-gun, transgender, child supporting, Michelle Obama hugging, Muslim carpet bugger and Turkish army veteran who is described his private parts in detail on national television. What I just read to you. That description came from a Republican operative. Told you it was bonkers. That`s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CAPEHART: Right now, Donald Trump`s chosen Republican Senate candidate in Pennsylvania was supposed to be preparing for a big fund-raiser at Trump`s Florida hotel.

[22:20:01]

But Sean Parnell dropped out after his wife accused him in court under oath of abuse.

And into the void of a Trump approved candidate stepped long time northern New Jersey resident Dr. Oz. The Democratic lawmaker who represents north Philadelphia, Brendan Boyle, had never heard even a rumor about Dr. Oz visiting the area, never mind living in it. Literally, I learned this for the first time two days ago, reading the local paper.

Not only that but the home Dr. Oz now claims as his house is 10 minutes from Boyles` house. He said I laughed out loud and then I texted my wife and said, you will not believe where Dr. Oz says he lives.

That anecdote comes from what is so far the best part of the Oz for Senate campaign. The new profile in "New York Magazine" by Olivia Nuzzi, the reporter best known for recording for posterity the definitive account of America`s greatest failed presidential campaign event, the fullest possible story of Rudy Giuliani`s four seasons total landscaping press conference which coincidentally or not, also took place in Philadelphia.

The Dr. Oz profile tracks his rightward shift from providing medical advice from Oprah`s couch in the early 2000s, to want a be MAGA candidate from being eviscerated by Congress for promoting, quote-unquote, miracle diet cures on TV, to befriending COVID down player Sean Hannity during the pandemic.

Olivia Nuzzi didn`t get an interview with Oz herself. But she got an insider glimpse of him when after finding aides for the Oz campaign elusive, she called Mrs. Oz, much to her annoyance, by her publicly available phone number. When Mrs. Oz tried to hang up on her, Nuzzi reports, she mistakenly connected her device to what sounded like the sound system of a vehicle, meaning that as they engaged in paranoid conversation and argument for more than four minutes, I remained on the line hearing every word of it.

And we say all of that because it shows the distance between daytime celebrity and professional politician able to run a statewide Senate campaign in a swing state. And there`s also this. Oz had thus far staged no rally, held to press conference, planned no public events, and offered no public schedule.

Joining us now, Christina Greer, associate professor of political science at Fordham university, and Eugene Daniels, White House correspondent for "Politico" and an MSNBC political analyst.

We haven`t even started and I`m already -- okay, so, look. What`s up with Republicans and their phones? They seem unclear how they work. We had Rudolph Giuliani butt dialing to reporters, being put on speaker phone, Christina, what`s up with them?

CHRISTINA GREER, FORDHAM UNIVERSITY: You know, Jonathan, it would be laughable -- if Oz didn`t have a possibility of becoming a senator, and shifting the power of the Senate to the Republican party. I mean, he`s wholly just completely not capable of this job. And we see more and more each election cycle, wealthy people who wake up one morning, brush their teeth and say I should be a senator, a governor. Because they have money and they can do it. They don`t understand policy and fundamentally they don`t understand politics.

It will be interesting to see, though, if Dr. Oz really does run to the right and become this MAGA sweetheart. In the past, he said that he`s pro- choice. When Sean Hannity asked him about it, he couldn`t really give an answer. He says now he`s pro-life. That`s pretty common for Republican candidates to flip-flop but he still does not understand the nuances of politics and policy.

And I think Olivia`s great piece really shows that he`s been ready for prime time just yet. So he`s doing the argument, which is, I will essentially go into hiding until it is closer to the primary so I don`t fully embarrass myself against a candidate who has quite a few Trump folks working for him and will possibly take the Republican nomination.

CAPEHART: Eugene, we tease some of what Republican operatives are saying about Oz. Here`s another quote. I hate to say this but if you`re not willing to go full idiot in the Republican primary right now, it`s hard. The expectations are what they are, said a MAGA operative involved in the Pennsylvania race.

You covered the White House. You also covered Washington. You know what it is like here on Capitol Hill. How far off is that assessment from that Republican operative about the Republican Party right now?

[22:25:02]

EUGENE DANIELS, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I mean, the Republican Party right now, we can see them as -- you can see them as the party of obstructionism. They`re a party that doesn`t focus so much on policy and actual bills and legislation, working across the aisle like it used to be.

They are focused on the politics of contempt. Then president Trump espoused and he continues to be the leader of the party so that`s what the party is on Capitol Hill. The thing about Olivia`s really great piece, excluding the great lesson for all of us to remember, to make sure you hang up on people before you start talking about somebody. That`s lesson number one.

But also about Republicans who are still working to figure out who can be the next Trump. Can Trumpism, can the brand of politics that he represents, contempt personality, a celebrity actually win without him?

Dr. Oz is trying the most obvious route. He`s a TV star with a day job. And he was changed in his positions over and over. And any story, any negative thing seen about him in the media he is trying to say the s fake news and more importantly, it`s an attack on kind of the regular Trump voter, the regular Republican. So that`s something that is working on doing.

The problem it doesn`t seem to be working. That quote you said from that Republican is something that a lot of them are saying. They`re not so sure about Dr. Oz, especially when you have David McCormick, who was likely to be seen as a MAGA darling, who`s more likely to have some of the old Trump acolytes on his team, folks like Hope Hicks who worked in the White House on his team.

That is going to be the struggle for Dr. Oz, because you can`t just be a celebrity and then all of a sudden become the next Donald Trump. There are other things that have to happen. Him going on Hannity doesn`t seem to be enough, because you have lots of other aspects of the Republican Party and the ecosystem that she pointed out the block before.

CAPEHART: OK, so Christina -- Dr. Oz actually thought Oprah was going to endorse him. And Olivia was able to get a statement from Oprah.

Here`s what it said: One of the great things about our democracy is that every citizen can decide to run for public office. Mehmet Oz has made that decision and now it is up to the residents of Pennsylvania to decide who will represent them.

Christina, come on now. Oprah really had helped the Republican win a primary, come on.

GREER: No, because Oprah is very clear about her brand. I mean, that`s a very measured statement. Oprah has to also remember, we know about Dr. Oz because of her. We know about Dr. Phil because of her. We know about these snake oil salesmen because of her very popular show.

I think it`s also interesting, there`s been discussion, she doesn`t call him Dr. Oz. She calls him Mehmet Oz, because he`s so far from being a credible doctor, even Congress really bringing him to task for these miracle drugs and miracle cures.

It is a measured response. But I think Oprah Winfrey has been very clear that the decades she`s been in our homes, she`s only been involved in politics with Barack Obama. She never really dipped her toe into local or state national elections shelf did help Stacey Abrams toward the tail end of the campaign in 2018, but those are two instances that we really had with Oprah, sort of putting her thumb on the scale.

So, I definitely do not think that she would wade in the water with Dr. Oz. Especially because he`s a weak candidate and highly problematic as well.

CAPEHART: Yeah, yeah, when I read that, it`s like, wait, you really thought Oprah was going to lend her name to you? Come on.

Christina Greer, Eugene Daniels, thank you both very much for joining us tonight.

Coming up, the Texas voting update that Republicans don`t want you to hear. Congressman Colin Allred joins us next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[22:33:02]

CAPEHART: Texas Republicans have pulled out all the stops this year to restrict access to the ballot box. But maybe in a show of defiance, that hasn`t stopped Texans from registering to vote.

The "Houston Chronicle" reports, since the federal judge forced Texas nearly a year and a half ago to offer limited online voter registration, 1.5 million Texans have used the option, according to new state data.

And lest we forget, Texas Republicans justified their voter restrictions by using Trump`s big lie. Now we`re finding out just how big that lie really was.

In 2021, the Texas attorney general`s voter fraud unit got a larger staff and an oversized budget of $2.2 million. But according to the "Houston Chronicle", the unit closed just three cases this year, down from 17 last year and opened seven new ones. That includes the newly-created unit focused on the 2021 local elections, which has yet to file a single case.

I guess everything really is bigger in Texas. Even the lies.

Joining us now, Democratic Congressman Colin Allred from Texas. He is a voting rights attorney. Congressman Allred, great to see you again.

In 2020, Ken Paxton said his office didn`t find more voter fraud because he didn`t have the resources. This area, he had a bigger staff, bigger budget, but found fewer cases of voter fraud. Explain that.

REP. COLIN ALLRED (D-TX): Well, it`s just not happening, Jonathan. This is something that -- that we`ve been talking about for some time. That we all know that this is just a mask to try and restrict the right to vote using the threat of voter fraud or the idea that it is happening. And it`s just not happening.

[22:34:50]

ALLRED: And you know, we`ve seen this in Texas for years now. Millions of dollars have been wasted on it. Thousands of Texans have been, you know, unable to vote because of the things that they`ve done. They`ve harassed a lot of people as well including right now when they were going through our voter rolls and taking people off the voter rolls and also auditing some of the results in some of our biggest Democratic counties.

CAPEHART: What does it tell you that so many Texans are going online to register to vote?

ALLRED: Yes. Well, people want to vote. It`s amazing. You know, you make it easier to register, they will. And they`ll be involved.

You know, in Texas, I really feel like across the country, you know, Republicans shouldn`t fear people coming out to vote. We should just have our elections. Let, you know, the chips fall where they may.

Let`s see who wins it. Because we have 11 million Texans vote in our last election. That was a lot. We still have a lot of room to grow and Republicans still won here. And so I think they should be confident in that instead of trying to restrict the right to vote. Instead of not believing in our democracy.

It`s the most important aspect of our government that we believe in elections, that we believe that, you know, we`re going to have a contest of ideas. Have people vote and we`re going to see who gets in office and we`re going to respect the results of that election.

CAPEHART: But there are some people who are afraid of that actually happening. One of them being Senator Rand Paul. Let me show you what he tweeted -- what he`s tweeted. "How to steal an election. Seeding an area heavy with potential Democratic votes with as many absentee ballots as possible, targeting and convincing potential voters to complete them in a legally valid way and then harvesting and counting the results."

Congressman, that`s obviously a lie. And the article is about Democrats legally persuading people to vote for them. Your reaction to Senator Paul.

ALLRED: I mean the mask is off really since the big lie and even before that. The mask is off. Whether it is Rand Paul saying that we basically shouldn`t help people who can vote, vote. Or Marjorie Taylor Greene saying today that Americans who move from a blue state to a red state should have a cooling off period before they can vote.

It`s all the same point that there is a significant segment of the Republican Party right now that`s given up on democracy unless they win the elections. And they`re not winning the popular vote. And so they are trying to restrict that right.

And all of this is about some votes, Jonathan and we know what that mean, being more legitimate than others. And this has been a problem for us dating back to the passage of the 15th Amendment. Certainly the Voting Rights Act, we tried to address some this. But we`ve gone backwards in these recent years and I`m extremely worried that if we don`t pass federal legislation this year, that we`re going to see the elections of this decade impacted by all of this.

CAPEHART: Well then, given what you just said, let me get your reaction to what "New York Magazine" is reporting. And that is, redistricting is looking more favorable for Democrats than most analysts anticipated. And one reason for that is Democrats are taking a more aggressive approach.

Illinois, Oregon and New York have all pursued aggressive partisan gerrymanders that have subordinated the job security of some incumbents to maximizing the overall number of Democratic leaning seats.

By contrast, Texas Republicans took the opposite approach, opting to fortify their incumbents` hold on power, at the cost of leaving 13 Democratic-leaning seats on the mat.

So Congressman do you think more Democrats should adopt this fight fire with fire approach?

ALLRED: Yes. You`re talking to a voting rights lawyer. So I`m always going to say that I`m opposed to gerrymandering. And that I think that voters should pick their representatives, not the other way around.

Now, that should be the same around the country. It shouldn`t be that one state is doing one thing and another state is doing something else.

The Supreme Court should have stepped in years ago on this, Jonathan, and tried to restrict the use of gerrymandering. We know what it has been doing to our democracy. We know what it`s done to the House of Representatives. That`s supposed to be the most representative body because it`s up every two years for election.

And so that`s why I`m in favor of having a national standard of the way districts are drawn so that you don`t have a dramatically different system from state to state. And we don`t have to have this conversation about whether or not in order to save democracy. We need to do some things that are maybe under the table or that I as a voting rights lawyer would tell you, I can`t say that I support it.

CAPEHART: Congressman Colin Allred of Texas, thanks for joining us tonight.

ALLRED: Thanks so much.

CAPEHART: Coming up, Georgia 2022 will be the test case. Can Democrats overcome Republican voter suppression? Two people on the front lines of the voter protection movement will join us next.

[22:39:15]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CAPEHART: 2021 was an historic year for Georgia Democrats. The state not only sent two Democratic senators to Washington but their victories also gave Democrats control of the U.S. Senate.

Of course, Georgia Republicans responded by trying to make sure that history making turn never happens again, pushing into law a wide ranging voter suppression bill that gives the Republican controlled legislature more control over the state election board and the power to suspend county election officials.

It is all part of the anti-democratic GOP playbook to win elections in 2022. And it`s what our next guest, the director of voter protection for the Georgia Democratic Party calls quote, "a normalization of Republican takeovers of local functions".

Joining us now Saira Draper, director of Voter Protection for the Democratic Party of Georgia and Nse Ufot CEO of the New Georgia Project, a nonpartisan voter registration group which works on education and outreach for minority voters.

Thank you both very much for coming to THE LAST WORD.

Saira, I`ll start with you. How are Georgia activists working to overcome the, as you call it, Republican takeover of local functions?

SAIRA DRAPER, DIRECTOR, VOTER PROTECTION FOR GEORGIA DEMOCRATIC PARTY: Hi, Jonathan. Thank you so much for having me.

Yes. I mean there`s a lot that we can do here on the ground to work against this. You know, part of it starts with the federal voting rights legislation. I`m very excited that that is getting legs and moving forward and we want everyone to advocate for that, certainly.

[22:44:54]

DRAPER: But, you know, elections happen on the local level, right? So here in Georgia we have 159 counties which means there are 159 different election offices where people can go and be involved with the elections process.

So we`re really encouraging people to do just that. Get involved locally. Attend local Board of Elections meetings. I mean this is where the big decisions are being made about how many voting locations are available, where they will be.

Be a poll worker. I mean poll workers are honestly, you know they`re our democracy modern-day heroes. They`re absolutely integral to the functioning of elections.

And we want people to volunteer as well. There are so many opportunities. You know there`s so many organizations to get involved, helping voters vote, helping those votes get counted, helping election wins get certified. So those are all the different ways people can get involved now.

CAPEHART: Nse, the "Atlanta Journal Constitution" reports lieutenant governor candidate and state senate president pro tempore Butch Miller filed legislation to eliminate election drop boxes. Miller called the banning of drop boxes the next step in our fight to restore Georgians` faith in our election system.

I mean, Nse, this is the second most powerful Republican in the Georgia senate. Your reaction to that.

NSE UFOT, CEO, NEW GEORGIA PROJECT: That, you know -- tell us that you`re ideologically bankrupt without saying we`re ideologically bankrupt. Tell us that you`re afraid of ever winning an election ever again on the merits without actually saying so.

We are still in the middle of a pandemic. COVID cases are on the rise. Atlanta is shutting down New Year`s activities. Our newly elected mayor contracted COVID after, you know, campaigning hard on the trail.

Drop boxes is a common sense way to have as many Americans participate in our elections as possible to protect the integrity of our elections, and to have again, a protected way to participate in our elections.

And also, it is an opportunity to use paper ballots which provides a paper trail, which is incredibly important as we are watching our elections be attacked by this current version of the Republican Party.

And so Butch Miller has zero credibility in this conversation. And again, they are desperate. They say a drowning man kicks hard. Or a dying donkey kicks hard, right?

And if you ever had a colleague or a co-worker that was about to get fired, and they knew it. And they started showing up to work late and stealing office supplies and behaving badly -- that is what we are watching. That`s what we are witnessing with this version of the Republican Party. And we should treat it as such.

CAPEHART: That is a great visual, Nse.

Saira, talk about your get out the vote efforts.

DRAPER: Yes. So, you know, our get out the vote efforts are really complimented by our voter protection efforts. I mean there is a lot of effort to get people to want to vote. But, you know, what good does that do if when they get to the polls, the lines are 11 hours long or if their ballots don`t count. So our voter protection effort is really central here in Georgia.

And a lot of that is because the voting field has fundamental -- the rules around voting have fundamentally changed now that SB-202 is the law, right. So people are having to relearn the very basics about voting in Georgia -- who, where and when.

So you know, our campaign is about going to, again, you know, statewide to 159 counties, working with our partners and helping voters understand how to vote again.

There have been significant changes to voting by mail. We want people to understand the condensed time lines that now are around voting by mail. We want to help people get those voter IDs that they will now need in order to vote by mail.

We want them to understand that they have to go to the right precinct on Election Day or their votes won`t count. So these are very big changes from what we`ve done before. And so we`re going to continue to reeducate our populations and we`re going to continue to give them the support that they need to get to the polls like offering our voter protection hot line which helped over 130,000 people last year.

CAPEHART: Nse, same question to you. Your get out the vote efforts.

UFOT: Yes. I mean up to date we`ve helped nearly 600,000 young people and people of color register to vote in all of 159 of Georgia`s counties. And so there`s a clarity that we have at the New Georgia Project that it is a part of the history of American sort of democracy and the democratic participation that every attempt to expand the electorate, to expand the definition of citizen, to expand who can participate in our elections is routinely met with a backlash or a white lash, if you will.

And so that`s what we`re watching. That is what we`re witnessing. And so what we`re doing is incredible voter education, right? Massive voter registration efforts, combatting misinformation and disinformation.

[22:49:57]

UFOT: And doing the work to connect the dots to the change that people tell us that they want to see and the power of their vote.

The 17 and a half-year-olds and the 18-year-olds who were born in 2002 who voted for the first time in the 2020 elections then voted nine weeks later in 2021 sent the first African-American to the United States Senate, they are now -- they`re clear about the power of their vote. And they want more.

We no longer are talking about, you know, who we want to have a beer with. The act of voting is connected to the things that people actually want. And there is a maturity that we`re seeing in the electorate and it is happening.

CAPEHART: Right. And just to be clear the first African-American to the Senate from Georgia.

UFOT: From Georgia.

CAPEHART: From Georgia. Nse Ufot, Saira Draper, thank you both for joining us tonight.

Coming up, several recent headlines show that we need to still be following the money on Donald Trump and his family. That`s next.

[22:50:53]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CAPEHART: Donald Trump was good at reality television because to succeed in that world it helps to be good at the grift. His larger than life TV character just like Trump`s business empire was built up with smoke and mirrors, and frankly a lot of bald-faced lies.

Trump managed to keep the grift going turning his character of TV businessman into TV political candidate. When he won the White House Trump pretended to divorce himself from his family business with his son Eric taking over the day to day.

But the evidence is clear. During the four long, weird, dark, inexplicable years of Donald Trump`s presidency his business grift was merely relocated from a gaudy high-rise on Fifth Avenue to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

And we are still learning about who gave Trump money when he was president. Recently published filings show that Trump`s two Scottish golf courses lost nearly $9 million in 2020, the loss comes despite the fact that the Trump organization claimed almost $4.5 million in U.K. government aid for the Scottish golf clubs during the coronavirus pandemic.

And the financial aid to those Trump-owned businesses well, that could be a violation of the foreign emoluments clause, a provision found in a little document called The Constitution meant to keep federal employees like say the president of the United States from being influenced or corrupted by foreign states.

And this accounting of who is paying Donald Trump and his family is even more important now since he is currently the front-runner for the Republican nomination for president in 2024.

Joining us now David Cay Johnston Pulitzer Prize winning investigative reporter who has done extensive reporting on Trump`s finances. His new book is called "The Big Cheat: How Donald Trump Fleeced America and Enriched Himself and his Family."

David, the aid was designed to prevent job losses during the pandemic. Trump International still cut several jobs, right?

DAVID CAY JOHNSTON, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER: Right. Yes they did. And the receipt of that money is I think a very clear violation of the foreign emoluments clause which says you can`t get any money, gift, etcetera, unless Congress explicitly gives you permission to do so. Congress clearly never did that.

Do I think the courts will do anything about it? No. We saw every federal judge presented with an emoluments case run and find other work to focus on rather than address this assault on our Constitution.

CAPEHART: Also in the filings, Eric Trump claimed that losses at Turnberry (ph) were due to Brexit which Trump supported. The pandemic aid came from the British government. So, David, do you think the emoluments argument is valid there?

JOHNSTON: That is a more complicated question. But I do think we should never be surprised that the Trumps say one thing and say the exact opposite later as with Brexit. Whatever is convenient at the moment is what they`re going to tell you.

CAPEHART: Yes. Right.

Let`s move to the shadiness in Trump`s new media venture, that`s almost redundant. He`s partnering with a Chinese firm that`s been investigated by the Securities and Exchange Commission. Is that normal

JOHNSTON: The investigation of something like that is perfectly normal but having a former and would-be president of the future engage in this kind of behavior, no. It is consistent with how the Chinese, the Russians, the Saudis and others, have played Donald Trump like a $2 ukulele.

CAPEHART: All right. In the 90 seconds we have left, I want you to -- well, I don`t know if we have time to play this Ben Rhodes sound and something that he told Lawrence earlier this month about Jared Kushner`s business dealings with Saudi Arabia over what could be a sizable investment in Jared`s new firm.

But how concerned should we be looking at 2024 about Trump in Saudi Arabia?

JOHNSTON: That should be the biggest concern of the things we`ve talked about because Jared Kushner while in the White House attacked Qatar where we have our most important military base in the Middle East and got Donald Trump to line up the Saudis and the Emiratis against their hostile enemy Qatar, undermining national security. And that is the important issue here.

The Trump family has no problem undermining the national security interests of the United States if there is money in it for them.

CAPEHART: That is so true. We watched that happen for four years.

David Cay Johnston, Pulitzer prize winning investigative reporter, author of the new book, I`m finding it here, "The Big Cheat: How Donald Trump Fleeced America and Enriched His Family".

[22:59:56]

CAPEHART: Thank you once again for coming to THE LAST WORD.

And that is tonight`s LAST WORD.

I`m Jonathan Capehart. I`ll see you here again tomorrow night.

"THE 11TH HOUR" starts right now.