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

Transcript: The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, 2/16/2021

Guest: Symone Sanders, Jennifer Palmieri, Malcolm Kenyatta, George Takei�

Summary:

President Joe Biden pushed COVID relief package and talked about a federal vaccine delivery in Milwaukee town hall. Donald Trump didn`t just lose Pennsylvania, he lost all of his legal challenges of the election results in Pennsylvania courts. Pennsylvania Republicans want to change that. Across the country, there were more than 2,500 reports of anti-Asian hate incidents related to COVID-19 between March and September 2020. And this number understates the actual number of anti-Asian hate incidents because most incidents are not reported.

Transcript:

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel.

We`re going to have full coverage of the Biden town hall tonight, starting off with Symone Sanders, the spokesperson for the vice president, joining us. So, people who didn`t catch it, you haven`t missed a thing. We`ve got it all for you.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Excellent. Well done, my friend. Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW: The first political trip of the Biden presidency was to a state that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris won by six-tenths of a percent of a vote. Joe Biden won Wisconsin by only 20,000 votes out of 3.3 million votes cast, but he is only more popular there now if Wisconsin is following the national polling trend that is showing a surge in support for Joe Biden, 62 percent of Americans now approve of the job Joe Biden is doing as president. That number is so high that it has to include some Trump voters who have been converted to approval of the job Joe Biden is now doing as president.

President Biden went to Wisconsin to convince voters that they`re to support his $1.9 trillion COVID relief package and he used a CNN town hall to deliver that message to the country.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It`s estimated that by most economists including Wall Street firms as well as, you know, think tanks of -- and political think tanks left, right and center, it is estimated that if we pass this bill alone, we`ll create seven million jobs this year, seven million jobs this year.

(APPLAUSE)

And so --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Leading off our discussion tonight is Symone Sanders, senior advisor and chief spokesperson for Vice President Kamala Harris.

Symone, thank you very much for joining us tonight. We really appreciate it.

SYMONE SANDERS, CHIEF SPOKESPERSON OF VP KAMALA HARRIS: Good to be here, Lawrence. Good to be here.

O`DONNELL: The first 15-20 minutes of this discussion tonight with voters in Wisconsin was all about COVID-19. It was all about the vaccine. It was how do we get teachers safely back into schools. That was about the vaccine.

Really every turn of that opening conversation about COVID seemed to be all about vaccine delivery. What can you tell us about the speed of the vaccine delivery coupled with the ease of actually getting it? Right now, there`s such a complex maze of computer hurdles to get through to even get an appointment, to find where you can get an appointment, and the president did not get into a lot of detail about what might change in the ability to actually obtain the appointment if the vaccine exists.

SANDERS: So this is a really important question, Lawrence. I want to take a step back, because tonight the president went to Wisconsin. He was in Milwaukee not to speak to just Democrats or Republicans about the issues of COVID and vaccine and passing the American Rescue Plan and to answer their questions. He spoke to Americans.

And as the president and vice president have said repeatedly over the last couple of weeks since and before they`ve taken office, it is going to take Americans coming together to get this done, to provide relief to the American people, which the president believes and the vice president believes will happen via the American Rescue Plan and has broad support across the board. That`s what they were there to talk about, the folks in Wisconsin and the president tonight.

On the question of vaccine distribution, I think it`s really important to talk about the progress we have made over the last four weeks. I know it seems like a very long time, but Joe Biden has only be president and Kamala Harris has only been vice president for four weeks. In that four weeks, vaccine distribution doses to states and territories across the country have increased by more than 50 percent than when they first came into office.

In four weeks, we have made progress on a pharmacy program to get vaccines into pharmacies, like the Walgreens and your CVS`s. There have been federally funded mass vaccination sites, if you will, in places like Texas and Los Angeles and Oakland and New York and more opening up across the country.

Just last week, the administration has partnered for CHC program, which are community health centers, and sending 1 million doses to 250 community health centers across the country so folks can have access to the vaccine in their community.

It`s a long way of answering your question, but I think it`s important to note this is a big mess that the president and vice president walked into and it is going to take a lot of work, a big solution, if you will, to clean this up. And the administration is well on its way to doing just that.

O`DONNELL: The discussion about schools and reopening schools turns around the adults mostly, it turns around the teachers, the custodial staff, administrative staff working in schools, school bus drivers. The president talked about all of those people tonight and how he wants to protect them in going back to schools.

There was a little girl there who expressed fear about children actually getting infected in a way that could then cause real harm, health harm within their families. Let`s listen to how the president dealt with that question from that child.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When will kids be able to get the vaccine?

BIDEN: First of all, honey, what`s your first name?

KID: Laila.

BIDEN: Laila, beautiful name.

First of all, kids don`t get the vaccine -- get COVID very often. It`s unusual for that to happen. They don`t -- the evidence so far is children aren`t the people most likely to get COVID, number one.

Number two, we haven`t even done tests yet on children as to whether or not the certain vaccines would work or not work or what is needed. So, that`s - - so you`re the safest group of people in the whole world.

Used to be you could go outside and play with your friends and get in the school bus and go to school and everything was normal. And now when things change, people get really worried and scared.

But don`t be scared, honey. Don`t be scared. You`re going to be fine and we`re going to make sure mommy is fine too.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Symone, the president has a message for everyone out there about what is vaccine is going to mean in their lives and that point that we haven`t even tested it yet on children, does the administration have an estimate of when would vaccine would actually be able to be moved out to children`s use once the adult population is vaccinated?

REID: It`s an important question, Lawrence. I don`t have a timeline update on that for you here. But I think it`s important to really dig in on what the president said to that little girl tonight, because like so many children across the country, they`re wondering, you know, am I going to be safe. They`re wondering when are we going to get back to school, when are we going to see my friends?

I think about the children in my life who a year ago were in school and all of a sudden were told one day they`re going home and they`re not coming back for a while. I`m thinking about the parents, I`m thinking about the teachers.

So, when we talk about reopening schools, when we talk about vaccines being available to folks across the country, especially to teachers, you heard the president say tonight he believes that teachers should be prioritized for vaccination. It`s so complicated and touches a lot of folks.

Again, the reason why the president thought it was important to go to Wisconsin tonight was to speak directly to the American people and Americans not as partisans to answer their questions. The vice president will be doing the same tomorrow morning on the "Today" show.

O`DONNELL: Rachel Maddow just spent the last hour considering the possible future life of Donald Trump as a defendant, both in civil lawsuits and potentially in criminal cases. President Biden was asked tonight about the Justice Department investigating Donald Trump in criminal investigations.

Let`s listen to what he said about the way he expected the Biden Justice Department to operate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIDEN: One of the most serious pieces of damage done by the last administration was the politicizing of the Justice Department. Any of you who are lawyers know, whether you`re a Democrat, Republican, conservative or liberal, it has been more politicized than any justice department in American history. I made a commitment, I will not ever tell my Justice Department and it`s not mine, it`s the people`s justice department -- who they should and should not prosecute. They prosecutorial decisions will be left to the Justice Department, not me.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Symone, is there any political consideration begin to the implications of that in the White House? Meaning, if there is a Biden Justice Department criminal investigation of Donald Trump and possible prosecution of Donald Trump, is there any concern about how that could be interpreted politically in the country?

SANDERS: So let`s be really clear, Lawrence. The president said tonight, he is now going to politicize the Justice Department. Frankly, he is going to allow them to do their job and the Justice Department will make prosecutorial decisions. And that`s that.

There are no other considerations to go into that. It might be a hard concept for folks across the country to accept, that the president of the United States isn`t going to tell the Justice Department what to do. The reality is, as president Biden said tonight and Vice President Harris as reiterated over the last couple of months, the Justice Department is not the president`s personal Justice Department. It is the department for the people of the United States of America.

O`DONNELL: There`s another point that the president got into that you could see his reluctance to get into it and it almost sounded like he`d been advised not to. It was that question that everybody has, when are we going to get back to normal under this pandemic? And basically he aimed toward September of the academic year. Having said, though, that he`s been advised by people involved in the science that you can`t really make these protections, so he didn`t make it as a scientific certainty, but he suggested that the way he sees things, this is the way it will probably work out.

Let`s listen to the way he said it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIDEN: We don`t know for certain, but it is highly unlikely that by the beginning of next year`s school, traditional school year in September, we are not significantly better off than we are today. But it matters, it matters whether you continue to wear that mask, it matters whether you continue to socially distance, it matters whether you wash your hands with hot water. Those things matter. They matter.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Symone, is the September, in many school districts late august, opening of schools, the target for the Biden administration on the first stage of success of getting back to normal?

SANDERS: Well, as the president said, that was not a scientific assertion. It is what we would hope to happen and that we are working towards. But this is what folks should know, Lawrence. The reality is that we all want to get back to normal. I know folks want to be able to see their loved ones, they want to take their masks off, we want businesses back open, schools reopening and operating safely.

And the way that we do that is by banding together, by wearing our masks, as the president said, by social distancing. And from the administration`s perspective, the president has been extremely clear that we have to make progress, and that is what has happened in just four weeks since President Biden and Vice President Harris have taken office.

We have made progress on vaccine distribution. We have made progress on mask wearing. We have made progress on schools reopening. More schools are open right now than any other time in the previous administration during the pandemic.

So while there is still much work to do, as the president often says, we can do this if we come together. We are the United States of America. There is nothing we cannot do. This will be hard, this will be tough, but we can get through this if we do our part.

O`DONNELL: Thank you very much for joining us tonight. We appreciate it.

SANDERS: My pleasure, Lawrence. Have a good night.

O`DONNELL: Thank you very much.

When we come back, we`ll have more on the Biden town hall tonight with Claire McCaskill and Jennifer Palmieri. You`ll here much more of what the president had to say tonight.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CLAIRE MCCASKILL, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: He has made a decision that he is not going to get into the mano-a-mano combat around what Donald Trump did do on January 6th and the death and destruction that resulted, that he is going to stay above and away from all of that.

He once again led with incredible empathy toward the people he was visiting with. You sensed his humanity. I think we can go into some of the details about what he covered in the town hall, but he gave a nod to the progressive wing of the party a number of times, but he also held his ground as someone who is firmly committed to not calling Republicans names.

O`DONNELL: Yeah. To that point, Jennifer, he got questions from Trump voters, that they were identified as voters who voted for Trump in 2020, one a business operator talking about the minimum wage and his concerns about an increase in the minimum wage. What struck me about that was you could not tell anything in Joe Biden`s answer being different tonally or in any way when he was talking to a Trump voter than when he was talking to someone who was identified as a Democrat.

JENNIFER PALMIERI, CO-HOST, SHOWTIME`S "THE CIRCUS": Right, because the next question came from a small business owner who identified himself as a Democrat. I had that same reaction too in that he was empathetic with the problems that small business owners face, but he did not back down on the $15 minimum wage. He said people are going to argue about the details, I think in the end this is the right thing to do and nobody who works 40 hours a week should live in poverty.

I had the same reaction as Senator McCaskill did, that when you look at the composite picture of what emerges tonight, it wasn`t necessarily one moment that you see a president acting with empathy. That`s a welcome change.

And then I feel that in the four weeks they`ve been in office have used their time well while, I think, people thought that impeachment might be a distraction for the Democrats. It was a distraction for the Republicans, right? They spent a week on impeachment. They spent a week fighting about Marjorie Taylor Greene. They spent a week with their circular firing squad dealing with the impeachment trial.

And meanwhile, Biden has been laying down with the American public we really need a big COVID relief package, there`s going to be a lot of pieces to it. You see the support. And I think, you know, when he talks about they`re not that divided, I think part of the political divisions are work dysfunctional government. You may see some of the political divides fall away. That`s what he`s demonstrating is his hope that`s stage tonight.

O`DONNELL: The president was asked about racial disparities in the distribution of the COVID vaccine. He was asked about white supremacists and the problems with that and how the government should be dealing with that. He was very forceful on that.

Then, Senator McCaskill, he reached for an example of why he has hope for our future, and he found that example in television advertising.

Let`s listen to the way he said this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIDEN: Think about it -- if you want to know where the American public is, look at the money being spent on advertising. Did you ever five years ago think every second or third ad out of five or six you`d turn on would be biracial couples?

Well, no, I`m not -- see, the reason I`m so hopeful is this new generation, they`re not like us. They`re thinking differently. They`re more open. And we`ve got to take advantage of it

(APPLAUSE)

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: I want you to --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Senator McCaskill, that`s a Joe Biden vision of our future.

MCCASKILL: Well, you know, even when Joe Biden is above the fray and being very presidential, he still exposes who he is, he still owns the fact that, I mean, I think a couple different times he owned the fact that he`s older or old, but he does it in a way that makes you kind of like him.

I think his approval rating -- I mean, think about his approval rating, Lawrence. It is at a place that Donald Trump dreamt of. Donald Trump never got above 50, much less scratching 60 as the president is now consistently.

I thought the other question that was really telling about Joe Biden was the way he was able to thread the needle on the defunding the police, in a place where there was a lot of conflict around police violence and the heavy hand of the police in communities and a lot of angst about it. He basically said we can`t defund the police.

On the other hand, we must decriminalize the use of drugs and we`ve got to do this a different way. Well, that is absolutely pitch perfect, because a whole bunch of people in this country want to hear about decriminalizing the use of drugs, and a whole bunch of other people want to hear him reassure them that he`s not going to defund the police. Listen, I thought he did a really good job tonight. His approval rating is not going to suffer from his performance tonight.

O`DONNELL: Yeah. Jennifer, when he was asked about defunding the police, that was from a Trump voter who was concerned about that term. Joe Biden began his answer by saying, fall, don`t defund the police. Then he went onto an extended critique of police recruitment, who we`re getting in police departments, why we have to be more careful about that and how we police the police and, of course, getting in there that his son was a prosecutor and he has strong sympathies for the law enforcement side of these discussions.

So when he does it, it doesn`t even seem like he`s carefully threading a needle. It seems like he`s just presenting to you everything that he sees when he looks at this subject.

PALMIERI: Yeah. This is the benefit of having somebody with a lot of experience and a very experienced team behind them. And I really think -- I`m sure there will be times where they will have tough times dealing with Congress. They have extraordinary problems they are facing. But I think both from the way that Biden has performed these last four weeks and the way that the White House staff has handled showing the American public how they`re trying to tackle each of the many crises we have before us from COVID to race to climate to the economy.

They`ve just been really smart about understanding what the public really actually needs, needs to hear from the president and communicating that effectively, whether it`s cabinet secretaries or Jennifer Psaki being out talking to the press every day or the president himself tonight.

But I think if there`s a moment that people remember from tonight, it`s probably president Biden comforting the young girl who was worried about whether or not she needed to be vaccinated and whether or not her mommy was going to be able to get vaccinated and him telling both of them that he was going to take care of them and they did not have to worry.

And, you know, that`s the kind of leadership, I think, is a real relief for people to see from him and what we`re likely to remember from tonight.

O`DONNELL: Jennifer Palmieri and Senator Claire McCaskill, thank you both for joining us tonight. Really appreciate it.

PALMIERI: You bet.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

When we come back after this break, Pennsylvania Republican Senator Pat Toomey said his vote of guilty at Donald Trump`s impeachment trial was the right thing to do, but it turns out the Republican Party in Pennsylvania does not want a senator who does the right thing and they actually say that out loud.

That`s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: Here`s Republican Senator Patrick Toomey of Pennsylvania on a conference call with reporters on Saturday right after he voted "guilty" in the Senate trial of Donald Trump.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SENATOR PATRICK TOOMEY (R-PA): I approached this based on the evidence that was in front of us, some of which I witnessed personally, all of which was discussed in the trial. I did what I thought was right. and I would certainly like to think that regardless of my political circumstances or whether I was running for office again or not, I would do the same thing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Now, you might want your senator to do the right thing, but Pennsylvania Republican Party officials certainly do not.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVE BALL, CHAIRMAN, WASHINGTON COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA REPUBLICAN PARTY: We did not send him there to vote his conscience. We did not send him there to do the right thing or whatever he said he was doing. We sent him there to represent us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: "Philadelphia Enquirer" reports that the Pennsylvania Republican Party chairman intends to schedule a meeting to, quote, address and consider actions related to the impeachment vote.

One Pennsylvania Republican committee voted to condemn Senator Toomey on Saturday before the Senate even voted on the case against Donald Trump. Senator Toomey announced last year that he will not be running for reelection in 2022.

Donald Trump didn`t just lose Pennsylvania. He lost all of his legal challenges of the election results in Pennsylvania courts. Pennsylvania Republicans want to change that.

"The New York Times" reports that GOP legislators, dozens of whom supported overturning the state`s election results to aid former President Donald J. Trump are moving to change the entire way that judges are selected in Pennsylvania in a gambit that could tip the scales of the judiciary to favor their party or at least elect judges more inclined to embrace Republican election challenges.

And joining us now is Pennsylvania State Representative Malcolm Kenyatta. Thank you very much for joining us again tonight.

What are the Republicans in the legislature up to with the Pennsylvania courts now?

STATE REP. MALCOLM KENYATTA (D-PA): You know, it`s the same tactics different day. As many people remember, you know, I and grassroots activists on the ground and many of my colleagues fought back against their attempts to try to mess with the election prior to it with their so-called integrity committee.

And then we had to fight dozens of frivolous lawsuits after they lost. And now they`re doing what all sore losers do. Instead of getting better, instead of trying to convince Pennsylvanians that they`re actually going to stand up for them and center working people, which they will not do, they want to make it more difficult for people to vote and they want to make sure that our courts are gerrymandered in the same way that they`ve gerrymandered our legislative maps.

What this bill would do, Lawrence, is take away the ability for all Pennsylvanians to have a say in who sits on the highest court in the commonwealth and replace it with gerrymandered districts.

And we`re not going to stand for it. And I just want to, you know, say the Why Courts Matter, which is a coalition of grassroots activists here in Pennsylvania, I did a town hall with them and many others and my colleagues are educating Pennsylvanians about this latest assault on our democracy.

O`DONNELL: So right now all of those judges are elected statewide on the Supreme Court, and this would change it to basically giving them like congressional districts.

But the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled unanimously against Donald Trump. Would changing this to district elections change that kind of vote, that you wouldn`t get a unanimous decision by the Supreme Court?

KENYATTA: You know, I don`t think so and here`s why. You know, there`s no Lancaster way to interpret the law. There`s no Erie way to interpret the law or a Scranton way or a Philadelphia way or Berks County way to read the law.

What the justices did was look at the laws written by the legislature and interpret the law and they did so fairly, ensuring that every single vote was counted.

The problem here is that Republicans don`t want every vote to count. And we know and people understand how bad it`s been having gerrymandered maps, maps that I used to say these maps could have been drawn by a kid, but I don`t want to be disrespectful to young kids who have a lot of artistic talent, none of which we see in these goofy-looking maps that they`ve drawn.

And so the same people who we can`t trust -- you know, trust to draw these legislative maps, now they expect us to trust them as it relates to drawing maps for the highest courts in the commonwealth.

You know, our appellate level courts are the final jurisdiction for disputes that arise in the commonwealth. And every single Pennsylvanian ought to have a say and ought to have a vote on who sits on that highest court.

Right now if your look at where our justices are from, we have justices that reflect the regional diversity of the commonwealth. And so this is really a solution in search of a problem. And the only problem Republicans seem to have is they have a problem with democracy. They have a problem with every vote counting and they have a problem when judges do what they`re supposed to do and justices do what they`re supposed to do and uphold the rule of law.

O`DONNELL: What was your reaction to your Republican senator from Pennsylvania voting "guilty" in the trial of Donald Trump?

KENYATTA: You know, my reaction is for the first time in a very long time, Pat Toomey has voted in the right way. But, you know, I don`t have a lot of tears for Pat Toomey, because what he has done for years is what the Republican elected have been doing as well. They have been feeding their supporters lies, disinformation, grievance, and now they`ve created a monster that they can no longer control.

And so, all of what Pat Toomey is dealing with, this is of his own creation. And I know that the chairman of the Washington County Republicans said that he doesn`t want a senator that`s going to do the right thing, but I`ll tell you if I have anything to say about it, we will have a senator in a couple of years here that`s going to do the right thing and not just when he`s on the way out the door, but somebody who`s going to do the right thing for working people every single day that they`re in office.

And unfortunately that`s not something that Pat Toomey has done. But he`s doing what a lot of people are doing in the Republican Party. They are on a rehabilitation tour for their -- for their, you know, legacies. He wants to make sure that he`s invited back into polite society by taking a couple of votes and standing up to a man that he should have been standing up to for many, many years while he was in office.

You know, I wish Pat Toomey had shown this same level of spine when Donald Trump was impeached the first time. I guess he got it out of storage and I guess, it`s, you know, better late than never, but I am looking forward to us having a different senator who doesn`t just vote correctly when he`s trying to get a consulting gig or whatever he`s going to do next. But somebody that centers working Pennsylvanians every single day and centers the rule of law.

O`DONNELL: Is that senator going to be Senator Kenyatta? He`s not -- Toomey is not running for reelection in two years. There will probably be a wide open field on the Republican primary, probably be a Democratic few candidates in the Democratic primary. Are you thinking about it?

KENYATTA: You know, certainly -- you know, Lawrence, listen I`m always thinking. The wheels here in my head are always -- are always churning.

You know, Lawrence, you know, My first gig was 12 years old washing dishes to help my mom pay the bills. And so I know exactly what it`s like to be a working person and not have government work. And you know, listen we need somebody in office who`s going to make government work for working people. So it`s certainly something I`m thinking about.

O`DONNELL: State Representative Malcolm Kenyatta, who maybe be changing titles in a couple of years. Thank you very much for joining us tonight. Really appreciate it.

KENYATTA: Always a pleasure, Lawrence. Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

All right. Coming up, Donald Trump is now a defendant in the first lawsuit filed against him for inciting the insurrection at the Capitol.

Neal Katyal joins us for tonight`s episode of "Defendant Trump" next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: For four years all that`s been in the news is Trump. In the next four years I want to make sure all the news is the American people. I`m tired of talking about him. It`s done.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: President Biden doesn`t have to talk about Donald Trump anymore, but we will be covering the legal developments for "Defendant Trump".

Today it became even more clear that Donald Trump will probably spend the rest of his life as a defendant.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SENATOR MITCH MCCONNEL (R-KY): President Trump is still liable for everything he did while he was in office as an ordinary citizen. Unless the statute of limitations has run, he`s still liable for everything he did while he`s in office. Didn`t get away with anything, yet. Yet.

We have a criminal justice system in this country. We have civil litigation. And former presidents are not immune from being accountable by either one.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Donald Trump`s title is now defendant in a new case filed in federal court in Washington, D.C. "Defendant Trump acting solely in his personal capacity, conspired with others with the purpose of preventing by force, intimidation and threats the plaintiff and other members of Congress from discharging their duty to approve the results of the electoral college vote and certify the results of the presidential election held in November 2020. Defendant Trump is sued in his personal capacity."

Rudolph Giuliani is also named as a defendant in this lawsuit filed by Congressman Benny Thompson. Congressman Thompson is represented in the case by NAACP lawyers.

Donald Trump could be facing hundreds of civil lawsuits from the insurrection at the Capitol, including a possible wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of the Capitol police officer who was killed in the rioting.

And Donald Trump could be weeks or months away from becoming a criminal defendant in Fulton County, Georgia where the district attorney is actively investigating Donald Trump`s interference with the Georgia election result. He also faces possible criminal prosecutions in New York City on federal and state charges.

And joining us now is Neal Katyal, former acting solicitor general.

Neal, the life of Defendant Trump through this lawsuit today just became even wider ranging than I thought because this was not a lawsuit that I anticipated. This wasn`t on my list of possibilities. I think there are, as I`ve said, possibly hundreds of lawsuits coming out of the capitol insurrection, but this one shows me a whole new range of what`s possible for Donald Trump to be facing in court.

NEAL KATYAL, MSNBC LEGAL CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, Lawrence. Don`t ever underestimate Donald Trump`s range when it comes to being a criminal defendant or target. He`s Individual Number One in the southern district of New York. He`s the subject of a Georgia criminal investigation. And now today in this lawsuit he`s a conspirator defendant.

And this lawsuit`s very powerful. It follows the model of something Congress passed in 1871 to prevent groups of people from conspiring to deprive others of their civil rights or to prevent officials from doing their jobs.

Actually my very first "Law Review" article was about the statute. It`s called the Ku Klux Klan Act. And it is really telling Lawrence, that Donald Trump now is not only the only president to be impeached twice, he`s also the only president to have been sued twice under the Ku Klux Klan Act and sued by, of course, the NAACP. Those are the folks who brought the lawsuit today.

And you know, I think it`s good because this is now going to now teach Donald Trump what the NAACP actually is. And you know, I think these lawsuits do a lot to really paint a picture of what Donald Trump`s ultimate legacy will be.

I mean, if we were to describe Trump using only the laws that have been invoked against him, you have the Klan Act here, you have state statutes about intimidating witnesses, you have other statutes about incitement of violence.

If you just said had those statues applied to somebody, you`d think that`s like about David Duke or something. You wouldn`t think that`s about the president of the United States.

The most important point of the lawsuit today is it will allow discovery and witnesses being deposed, possibly including Donald Trump himself.

O`DONNELL: Yes. I mean every lawsuit against Donald Trump involves the right of the plaintiff to subpoena Donald Trump for a deposition. But Neal, I think we know that Donald Trump is going to fight every single subpoena that the plaintiff makes in this case or any other lawsuits against him.

And these are, of course, routine matters that in normal litigation people don`t fight because they know they can`t win. But Donald Trump`s game has always been to delay as long as possible. If he can spend a year fighting a subpoena, he`ll do that and then he`ll spend another year fighting your next subpoena.

KATYAL: Totally. I mean, he is so scared of testifying under oath, he`ll do anything possible. But he`s not president anymore, Lawrence. So a lot of those tools that he had available to him to fight in the courts and say, you know, I`m president, you can`t subpoena this or that -- they`re not going to work here.

Here, you know, all that the plaintiff, the people bringing the suit need to prove is that there is a material issue of genuine fact. I think just the Senate trial alone last week and the fact that an overwhelming majority of senators, including even those who voted to acquit him like Mitch McConnell, said you`re factually guilty, makes it really hard to not go to discovery.

So I think this is going to go to discovery and we`re going to get access to maybe not Trump`s deposition right away, but access to all sorts of records and text messages, e-mails and the like.

O`DONNELL: Yes. I mean for him, Neal, discovery is what he wants to avoid. He wants to knock these things out with motions to dismiss at a very early stage so he doesn`t have to get into subpoena fights. But you believe this case will cross that threshold?

KATYAL: Yes. I do think this one and many others as well as you were saying at the outset. I mean this is just the first of a wave of things. I mean Donald Trump was an unconstitutional monster and did tremendous harm. And in some of that harm he did, he`s not going to be immunized from because he`ll claim he was acting as president or something like that. It`s not going to happen.

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

Thank you.

And coming up, George Takei will join us. He`s here to discuss an alarming increase in violence against Asian-Americans since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.

George Takei is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: A report from the Asian-American Bar Association of New York details the rise of violence against Asian-Americans in New York during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Across the country there were more than 2,500 reports of anti-Asian hate incidents related to COVID-19 between March and September 2020. And this number understates the actual number of anti-Asian hate incidents because most incidents are not reported.

Last month, President Biden signed an executive order aimed at fighting xenophobia against Asian-Americans in response to recent violent attacks on Asian-Americans in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Vice President Kamala Harris said, "Hate crimes and violence against Asian- Americans and Asian immigrants have skyrocketed during the pandemic. That`s why our administration has taken actions to address these xenophobic attacks. We must continue to commit ourselves to combatting racism and discrimination."

And joining us now is George Takei, actor and civil rights activist. He and his family were held in a Japanese-American internment camp during World War II. He is the author of "They Called Us Enemy".

George, thank you very much for joining us tonight. I`m very sorry that this is the subject that we`re discussing, this shocking increase in violence.

When did you know something was happening like this that we`re now seeing in the statistics?

GEORGE TAKEI, CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST: Well, throughout American history, there has been a steady undercurrent of Asian hate crimes throughout. But when there are reports of xenophobic hysteria, then it swells up. And we are going through that right now.

Particularly because former President Trump, or as Defendant Trump, as you referred to him, started using the words China virus or Wuhan virus or Kung flu. That just galvanized xenophobes.

And there was a swelling up of violence against particularly elderly Asian- Americans. There is that case that has been quite well publicized now of an 84-year-old Thai man who was pushed down, who was pushed down by a young man and he died from those injuries.

So this is just becoming a problem throughout the country particularly where there are large Asian-American populations like here in California on the West Coast generally, and on the East Coast, Boston, New York, thereabouts.

O`DONNELL: And of course, Vice President Harris being -- having been San Francisco district attorney, knows this phenomenon well. She certainly prosecuted cases involving this horrible problem.

"The New York Times" is reporting a community leader in Oakland saying, quote, "Our seniors are afraid to walk their own streets. And I imagine when you were hearing Donald Trump say China virus and you were seeing him especially eager to throw that term at Asian reporters in the White House briefings, that of course, there was an incitement in his use of that term.

TAKEI: Yes, there was a mean, nefarious intent behind Donald Trump. But you referred to President Biden`s executive order during the first week of his administration. And in Congress, Congresswoman Grace Ming has introduced an Asian hate bill. And in the state assemblies in California Assemblyman David Shu and (INAUDIBLE) have introduced bills.

But most importantly, on the community level, community organizations have been putting together young volunteers to walk, to accompany elderly Asian- Americans on their walks. They go on walks for their exercise, and so that they are protected.

And these volunteers are not just Asian-Americans. It is multiracial -- whites, blacks, Latinos, as well as Asian-Americans joining in on this program.

So the community is reacting to that. And the law enforcement against hate crimes is becoming particularly vigorously enforced.

O`DONNELL: George, what is it like for you having been in one of our disgraceful internment camps during World War II as a child, and now coming this far in this country? Surely at some point you had to think that we were going to leave these kinds of things behind.

TAKEI: Well, I grew up. I was five years old when I was incarcerated with my family. And I remember the anxiety, the weeping, and the fear that I felt. I remember the barbed wire fence, the sentry towers but I didn`t really understand it.

But after we were released, after the war, I started to understand that there is something about that that was wrong about me and I felt guilty being Japanese, and when the school teacher took roll --

O`DONNELL: I beg your pardon?

TAKEI: I`m hearing things.

O`DONNELL: Oh.

TAKEI: I mispronounced my name, rather than correcting the pronunciation of my name, I assumed that mispronunciation hoping that that makes me less Japanese. And so I`ve been always conscious of post -- and so I`ve been active of the cases when there was a surge of anti-Asian hate.

So it`s been a part of my life and that`s why I published book. I`m working on another one right now. and we put together Broadway musical on the subject of the imprisonment of Japanese-Americans. So that`s been my mission in life.

(CROSSTALK)

O`DONNELL: George, thank you very much for joining us tonight. Your perspective on this is invaluable.

George Takei, thank you very much.

"THE 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS" starts right now.

END