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Transcript: The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, 2/19/2021

Guest: Lizzie Fletcher, Eric Cooper, Chris Turner, Renee Graham, Uche Blackstock, Ari Berman


Republican leaders in Texas getting much criticism for their

response to the deadly winter and the failed power grid affecting many

Texans. Rep. Lizzie Fletcher (D-TX) is interviewed regarding the current

state of Texas with many more still without power, heat, water and food and

the actions her team has done to help. Millions in Texas now in need of

clean drinking water as some food banks are scrambling to distribute foods

when the supply chain has been disrupted by the extreme weather.



ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST: You`re going to see my conversations with activists

and ordinary citizens from all walks of life, from a city that is steeped

in America`s struggle for racial justice and equality.


TAKAYA MADDOX, SMALL BUSINESS OWNER: All we want is for you to see we want

is for you to see us as humans. We`re humans. We want to be treated with

the same dignity and respect that you would give somebody white or anybody

else. All I did was came out of my mother`s womb just like you and trying

to make the best out of this life that God has given me.


VELSHI: More of that this weekend, 8:00 to 10:00 a.m. I am live from

Birmingham, Alabama. It`s time now for "The Last Word." My friend, Jonathan

Capehart in for Lawrence O`Donnell this evening, something I get used to do

doing on Saturday, but Sunday mornings I get to do now. Good evening,


JONATHAN CAPEHART, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Ali. And I can`t wait to see

your show from Birmingham having visited there many times. It`s a very

powerful place to visit. Thanks a lot, Ali.

VELSHI: Thanks, Jonathan.

CAPEHART: I`m Jonathan Capehart in for Lawrence O`Donnell. Tonight, day

five of the humanitarian crisis in Texas. The good news, power`s been

restored to most of the state. The number of households without electricity

is down from 4 million to around 100,000. But there`s a new danger putting

Texans at risk, millions are now confronting a water crisis.

Thirteen million Texans don`t have safe drinking water due to cracked

pipes, frozen wells and water treatment plants that have been knocked

offline. The people of Texas are suffering because of decades of Republican

intransigence. Republicans refuse to take action to weatherize water

systems from the cold.

And the "Texas Tribune" reports Texas officials knew winter storms could

leave the state`s power grid vulnerable, but they left the choice to

prepare for harsh weather up to the power companies, many of which opted

against the costly upgrades.

Now, Texas Republicans are to blame for these failures, let`s be clear, and

Democrats are now working to right these wrongs starting at the top. On

February 14th, the first day of the power outages in Texas, President Biden

signed an emergency declaration that authorized FEMA to provide the state

with critical equipment like generators and resources such as water and

diesel fuel.

President Biden spoke with the governor of Texas last night, and today at

the governor`s request, announced that he`ll be signing a major disaster

declaration that will provide even more relief to the state.



to be a president over all America, all red, blue -- there`s no red or

blue. It`s all about commitment to the American people made to one another.

And so, we`re going to sign that declaration once it`s in front of me, and

God willing, it will bring a lot of relief to a lot of Texans.


CAPEHART: On the local level, the White House has consulted with 17 mayors

and five county judges around the state to ensure their areas are getting

FEMA resources. You might have forgotten what it looks like, but that`s

leadership. Leadership isn`t tossing paper towels into a crowded church in

Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria.

Leadership is listening to people. It`s hearing people`s needs and then

helping address those needs. President Biden said that he`ll be making a

trip to Texas next week, but only when he hears from the people on the

ground that his visit won`t take away from relief efforts because he`s not

going for a photo op. He`s going because he`s a leader.

This week has lefts Texans angered and looking to their local officials for

answers, but many of those leaders refuse to step up or even to tell the

truth. Republican Governor Greg Abbott, who`s already been under fire for

his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, is blaming the crisis on

electrical grid operators, and get this, the green new deal, a proposal

that`s never passed Congress.

Republican Senator Ted Cruz had a frigid home without electricity this

week, like millions of his constituents, but instead of using his position

to help fellow Texans, Senator Cruz hopped a plane to Cancun, and then lied

about the trip when he was called out on it.

Even his fellow Republican senator, John Cornyn, isn`t that bad. Cornyn

isn`t usually at the top of the list of officials deserving praise, but he

worked with the Energy Department to allow federal rules to be set aside

during emergency conditions, giving Texans more leeway to recover.

Our first guest is leading where others won`t, Democratic Congresswoman

Lizzie Fletcher who represents parts of Houston, says Texas is facing an

all hands-on deck situation. Today, Congresswoman Fletcher along with four

other House Democrats wrote a letter to Governor Abbott demanding answers

for why the state didn`t take steps to prevent crises like this from

happening after a report in 2011, 10 years ago, raised alarms about the

ability of Texas infrastructure to handle winter weather.

The letter says, "The events of this week demonstrate that there are

significant shortcomings in preparations and more must be done to protect

communities disproportionately impacted by winter power outages. We`re

concerned that the underlying issues that contributed to the 2011 massive

power failure have not been fully addressed."

Texans deserve answers. They deserve leaders who lead, and they deserve

leaders who tell the truth. Some Texas leaders used to know that, like

former Governor Ann Richards.


ANN RICHARDS, FORMER GOVERRNOR OF TEXAS: We`re not going to have the

America that we want until we elect leaders who are going to tell the



Not most days, but every day.


Leaders who don`t forget what they don`t want to remember.


CAPEHART: And leading off our discussion tonight is Democratic

Congresswoman Lizzie Fletcher of Texas. She`s a member of the House Energy

and Commerce Committee. Congresswoman Fletcher, thank you very much for

coming on the show tonight.

You know, the letter that you sent to Governor Abbott asking for answers

about the 2011 power failures reminded me that the 2011 power failures,

that wasn`t the first time Texas was hit by a massive power failure. The

first time was in 1989. Now that you`re a member of Congress, and from

Texas, how surprised are you that your state has had two opportunities to

get it right and has failed both times?

REP. LIZZIE FLETCHER (D-TX): Well, Jonathan, first of all, I want to say

thank you so much for having me on to talk about these issues and I really

appreciated that you started this conversation with the wonderful clip of

our former governor, Ann Richards, who was the governor when I was growing

up here.

And I`m sorry to say that, you know, I`m sad but not surprised that we have

failed to respond to these challenges, clearly identified problems. I think

what we`re seeing now is a massive failure of our system and it`s both the

grid and ERCOT, the public utility commission, but also our elected leaders

and state government.

The governor, the legislature oversee the system and ultimately it`s a

complex system, but we`re not getting the oversight that we should and

we`re not having the leadership to make sure that Texans have what they

need, really, the bare minimum. Heat in their homes and the lights on, on

the coldest day in years across the state of Texas.

So, you know, I am hopeful because we have incredible leaders in our local

community here in Houston. Mayor Turner, Judge Hidalgo, the mayors of lots

of smaller towns and villages that I`ve been on the phone with this week,

we`ve got a lot of leaders here in Texas. But unfortunately, we`re not

seeing the leadership in Austin that we need.

CAPEHART: And to that point about the leadership that you want, if you were

-- if you were to get the leadership that you want, what are the three

things that you would ask a governor with his ears open to have that person

do to bring relief to the people of Texas right now?

FLETCHER: Well, right now, as you mentioned, we have an unfolding crisis. I

do hope that much of the power crisis is behind us, but we have a water

crisis right now, and there are cascading effects from that. I am one of

those 13 million Texans that has boil water notice, that can`t take a

shower or do, you know, the dishes without boiling the water.

And so, it`s really critical for us to address the water crisis as quickly

as possible. But that also means as we have frozen roads and other

challenges that people are going to the stores and there`s not enough food

on some of the shelves. People are hungry. People are thirsty. We need to

deal with that immediate humanitarian crisis that`s unfolding.

The next thing we`re going to see as things start to thaw here is broken

pipes everywhere. And I`m hearing from my constituents. My husband and I

helped our neighbor across the street who found a leak in her house

yesterday. We helped her cut off the water at the street. And that`s

happening all over Houston. It`s happening all over the state of Texas.

So, we`re going to need a lot of help dealing with those. The

infrastructure issues both in people`s homes and in our public

infrastructure that`s going to result from this freeze. And so those are

some of the immediate things we have to do, but we also have to look long

term at how we make sure this does not happen again.

And that was the purpose of my letter with my colleagues on the Energy and

Commerce Committee. We very much need to understand exactly what happened,

why it happened, and how we make sure it never happens again.

CAPEHART: Congresswoman, this has been happening since Sunday. You are an

elected official. Did you feel that it was your personal responsibility to

jump in and pitch in where you could be helpful without a second -- without

a moment`s second thought?

FLETCHER: Absolutely. And you know, unfortunately, our community is no

stranger to disasters. We`ve had several recent events. And I think that

the lesson that I have learned from that is that everybody just needs to

show up.

This was actually something I talked about a lot after Hurricane Harvey

because I think so many of us when that happened who were relatively lucky

who didn`t have flooded homes wanted to help and we kind of didn`t know

where to go sometimes, where were we the most needed.

And the lesson from Harvey that I took away was just show up. You know,

where there are people in need, things that need to be done, you don`t have

to be an expert or know exactly where there are things that need to be

done. You don`t have to be an expert. You don`t have to know exactly what

to do. You just show up. Show up and be there and be a helping hand.

And so certainly now that I am a member of Congress, I see that I have many

things that I can do. And I`ve been on the phone this week with the Speaker

of the House. My team`s been in touch with the White House. We`ve talked to

FEMA. We`ve talked to the division of emergency management here in Texas,

really trying to make sure that the needs of our community and the needs

statewide are being met.

So, there are certain things I can do but, you know, today I was passing

out water with volunteers because it is an all-hands-on-deck situation and

we need everybody to play a part. And there`s something everybody can do.

CAPEHART: And you know, there`s a reason why I asked what might have

sounded like a leading simple-minded question, and that is, I`m just

wondering, what did it mean to you and to Texans that one of its senators

instead of doing what you did, handing out water, being on the ground and

being helpful, left the state, left the country, left Texans to fend for


FLETCHER: Well, Jonathan, it`s certainly not the decision that I made or

would have made, and I don`t think it`s the decision that most of our local

leaders here in our community are making. I mean, when I`ve been on the

phone with mayors, one of the mayors who is in my congressional district

owns a brewery and he was boiling water and handing it out to the citizens

in his town.

I talked to another city council member today who was handing out water

bottles himself going from house to house for folks who had special needs.

So, that`s what we expect of our leaders here in Texas, certainly, here in

Houston where we pride ourselves on taking care of each other.

So, I think that, you know, the decision that we expect here and that we

deserve here is the one we`ve seen reflected in the vast majority of our

local leaders here in Houston.

CAPEHART: Congressman Lizzie Fletcher of Texas, thank you very much for

coming to "The Last Word."

FLETCHER: Thanks so much, Jonathan. So glad to be with you.

CAPEHART: And good luck down there.

Coming up, food banks in Texas have gone into disaster mode. They are

ramping up operations to tackle a surge in hunger after the unprecedented

freezing conditions disrupted almost every part of the food supply chain.

More on the crisis in Texas next.


CAPEHART: The human toll in Texas is beginning to come into focus. At least

30 people have died in the state, including a 60-year-old man who froze to

death in his living room. Authorities say it felt like the same temperature

as the air outside.

An 11-year-old boy was found dead by his mother in their unheated mobile

home. Authorities suspect hypothermia. Other Texans have died from carbon

monoxide poisoning just trying to keep warm, and many fear the worst is

still ahead.

Local officials don`t know when millions of Texans will regain access to

clean drinking water. Residents have waited hours in long lines at water

distribution sites.


UNKNOWN: We`ve been hunting. We`ve gone different places looking for it and

can`t find it.

UNKNOWN: It`s pretty tough to find bottled water. We are having to boil,

you know, to wash dishes or do anything.


CAPEHART: There`s also a food crisis in Texas. Many grocery stores have

closed due to lack of power and those that have remained open have little

food to spare. The food shortage is also impacting food banks. At least

eight food banks have asked the state for extra help feeding residents

according to the CEO of Feeding Texas. And the pain of this crisis, like

the pandemic, is disproportionately affecting black and Hispanic



UNKNOWN: I`m trying so hard not to cry because we have to pay for this

stuff to be able to survive. Pay light, pay rent, pay the car. I`m very

stressed too with everything going on. It`s hard, but I`m trying.


CAPEHART: Joining us now is Democratic State Representative Chris Turner

who represents Grand Prairie, Texas. He is the chair of the Texas House

Democratic Caucus. And also joining us, Eric Cooper, president and CEO of

the San Antonio Food Bank. Thank you both very much for being here. It is a

dire situation there in Texas. Mr. Cooper, let me start with you. From your

vantage point, please tell the audience exactly how dire the situation is

right now.


Jonathan. You know, at the onset of COVID-19 here in San Antonio, we went

from feeding 60,000 people a week to 120,000 people a week. And in this

storm, it`s been paralyzing and really the inability for us to move. Roads

were unsafe and so we knew there is this huge demand, but it was a struggle

to get the families the food that they desperately needed.

So, we really pivoted to meals. Many of these households lost power, so

they couldn`t prepare their groceries we were planning on delivering. They

lost water. And so as the temperature has risen yesterday, today we`ve been

able to put together the distributions.

Today alone, we fed 24,000 people all desperate for groceries because

they`ve tried to seek groceries at the grocery stores and as was mentioned,

you just -- they`re sold out. They just don`t have the inventory. Everybody

needs water. And so water has been a huge demand item and we`re just doing

the best we can to make sure families get this basic need taken care of.

CAPEHART: You know, Representative Turner, from your vantage point as a

member of the Texas state legislature, what are you hearing from your

constituents and what can you do to help them when it comes to getting

access to food and water?


you for having me and, you know, I`m so inspired listening to Mr. Cooper

talk about the incredible work that he and his team are doing in San

Antonio. And I`m seeing that play out across north Texas as well. There`s

good people working hard to help their fellow Texans who are in a dire

situation right now.

As for myself, my staff and I have spent all week working to help our

constituents with basic necessities of life, getting electric power turned

back on in their homes, getting natural gas service restored in their homes

because one of the things we discovered a couple of days ago is, yes, a lot

of people were without electricity, but the natural gas system had taken a

real hit.

So, some people got their power back on, but their heaters that are powered

by natural gas wouldn`t turn on. So their houses were still 40, 45 degrees

inside or colder. And so we`ve been working to solve those problems house

by house, constituent by constituent.

And yes, we have -- I also represent the city of Arlington, which is under

a boil order because the water pressure dropped to a dangerous level a

couple of days ago. They hope that by Sunday the water will be safe to

drink again. But my constituents in Arlington are facing the exact same

situation as 14 million other Texans are right now.

CAPEHART: You know, Representative Turner, the "Texas Tribune" had an

article yesterday with the headline "Texas was seconds and minutes away

from catastrophic months-long blackouts, officials say."

And it says, "Texas` power grid was seconds and minutes away from

catastrophic failure that could have left Texans in the dark for months if

operators had not acted in that moment, the state could have suffered

blackouts that could have occurred for months and left Texas in an

indeterminately long crisis."

That`s pretty startling, but I`m just wondering, is Texas out of the woods

yet just given the fact that we know that the last cold -- big cold snap in

2011 led to recommendations that weren`t followed?

TURNER: Well, you`re absolutely right. And so I would say we`re out of the

woods this week because the temperatures are warming up now and we`ll be

above freezing tomorrow and staying above freezing tomorrow, at least here

in north Texas. But we fully expect and know that we will have severe

weather again in the future. Maybe it`s not this year, but it could be next

year, it could be the year after.

That`s the nature of weather, particularly in this time of changing climate

where we have more and more extreme weather events. So Texas has to do a

better job of being prepared. And you`re right, in 2011 that was a

catastrophic storm, not as bad as this one, but we should have at that time

required power generators to weatherize their equipment so this type of

thing wouldn`t happen. And it was left to be completely voluntary and

that`s one of the reasons where in the mess that we`re in this week.

CAPEHART: You know, Mr. Cooper, there was a story in the "Texas Tribune" on

Wednesday about how the Texans running out of food as weather crisis

disrupt the supply chain, and as I was listening to you, I thought of this

article because, you know, once things get back up to the point where you

are able to get enough food again, and enough water again to Texans, the

fact that this -- the food supply chain has been disrupted where, you know,

livestock growers are running out of feed, how long do you think the food

disruptions in particular will last once the power is back on, once the

water is back on?

COOPER: You know, it`s going to be a very long-term recovery for Texas

agriculture. I mean, I talked to some dairy farmers that were dumping milk

because they couldn`t get trucks there to pick it up. Cattlemen couldn`t

feed their cattle because they couldn`t get feed in. And the Texas produce

across the winter garden, this freeze is going to damage so much of that

crop yield.

And so it`s going to increase costs, place a lot of produce items maybe out

of reach for the families we serve. It will mean less donations, less

support that we might typically get, but it will start to come back. It`s

just going to take time, and I think bridging the gap from today to that

time is what Texas food banks are trying to do.

And the disparity for families, I mean, many of the families that came

through the line today, a husband and wife, they had tested positive for

COVID. They were trying to stay quarantined, keep their kids from getting

the coronavirus, and their lights went out. Their water stopped.

Their house was freezing. Their kids were trying to get in bed with them to

stay warm. These are desperate circumstances for families and, you know,

we`re doing all we can and our community is trying to support us, but more

needs to be done.

CAPEHART: Wow. Texas state representative, Chris Turner and Eric Cooper,

thank you very much. You know America is with you and praying for you. Good


TURNER: Thank you, Jonathan.

COOPER: Thank you.

CAPEHART: Coming up, Republicans are trying desperately to stop President

Biden`s COVID relief legislation, but they`re facing one big problem, it`s

really, really popular, even with other Republicans. That`s next.


CAPEHART: Congressional Democrats are closer than ever to getting much-

needed relief into the hands of Americans.

Today House Democrats unveiled the 591-page text of President Biden`s

coronavirus aid package. The House Budget Committee is set to take up the

legislation on Monday, and the bill is expected to come to the House floor

for a vote late next week.

President Biden called out Republican critics of the package this



JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Let me ask them. What would they

have me cut? What would they have me leave out? Should we not invest $20

billion to vaccinate the nation? Should we not invest $290 million to

extend unemployment insurance for the 11 million Americans who are

unemployed so they can get by?

This is the United States of America for God`s sake. We invest in people

who are in need. Do we not invest $35 billion to help people keep a roof

over their heads? I could go on, but you get the point.


CAPEHART: For all the obvious GOP criticism, Republicans are actually

struggling to derail the president`s relief plan because it`s so popular.

"The New York Times" reports many of its core provisions hold strongly even

with Republicans. More than seven in 10 Americans now back Mr. Biden`s aid

package according to new polling for the online research firm Survey Monkey

for "The New York Times".

That includes support from three-quarters of independent voters, two in

five Republicans, and nearly all Democrats.

Joining us now are Renee Graham opinion columnist and associated editor at

the Boston Globe, and Yamiche Alcindor, White House correspondent for the

PBS News Hour and an MSNBC political analyst. Thank you both for being


Yamiche, I`ll start with you. In that clip that we saw of President Biden,

I mean, he was pretty forceful there in taking it to Republicans about, you

know, well, what would you have me cut. But that even still, even though

the bill is popular, how much support is President Biden`s plan getting up

there on the hill?


Biden getting angry and really using this forceful tone to fight for what

he believes is urgent need for the American people and the American people

that are dying at higher rates, that are getting evicted from their homes.

This is, of course -- this is really underscoring all of the things that

President Biden is saying he wants to do.

And when you look at the Hill, this is really still very much Democratic-

backed bill. From the very beginning, though of course, President Biden was

talking about unity, he also was backing this process for reconciliation

which allows Democrats to pass this bill with no Republican votes.

And the White House is really doing this thing where they`re trying to

redefine what bipartisanship is. Of course traditionally it`s about whether

or not Republicans in Capitol Hill -- whether or not they vote for the

bill. But they`re saying that because it has backing from Republican voters

as well as Republican local officials, mayors, and governors who are in

desperate need for help, they`re saying we still feel comfortable calling

this a bipartisan bill.

So we`re likely going to see a bill that has very little, if any,

Republican support. But that might have Republican support outside of

Washington, D.C.

CAPEHART: And you know, you know, Renee, that makes me wonder. Does it even

matter to voters -- or does it, yes -- does it even matter to voters if

this bill passes without any Republican votes? Will voters even care?

RENEE GRAHAM, BOSTON GLOBE: I don`t think they`re going to care at all,

Jonathan. I think what they`re concerned about is getting help.

You know, you`re talking about people who`ve been struggling in this

country for almost a solid year, and people aren`t going to care if, you

know, who crosses the aisle and who does what. They just want the bill to

pass. They just want to get the relief that they really need.

And I think what was good about what President Biden did today was he was

almost kind of shaming the Republicans and saying, well, are you going to

take away people`s homes? Are you going to keep them hungry? He`s laying

this on them.

You know, he`s saying, look, we have this bill to help the American people,

and the GOP is not interested in doing that. I think that`s a really

important point to make, so I think that not only do people not care if

it`s a bipartisan bill, they`ll be able to look at why it was a bipartisan

bill and who stood against getting aid to the American people.

CAPEHART: You know, the clip that we showed of President Biden there in

Michigan being real fiery about his COVID relief bill, that wasn`t the only

speech he gave today. He spoke to the Munich security conference, which he

went to all the time when he was a member of senate and chair of the Senate

Foreign Relations Committee.

Have a listen to what he had to say to our allies in Europe.


BIDEN: I`m sending a clear message to the world, America is back. The

transatlantic alliance is back. And we are not looking backward, we are

looking forward together.

Democracy doesn`t happen by accident. We have to defend it, fight for it,

strengthen it, renew it. We have to prove that our model isn`t a relic of

history. It`s the single best way to revitalize the promise of our future.


CAPEHART: And Yamiche, with that speech President Biden is sending a clear

message to the alliance that the last four years are done, the United

States is back wanting to assume its role as the leader of the free world,

a bulwark of the western alliance.

Do you think, though, that that message is being well received in Europe?

ALCINDOR: Well, it`s a welcome message. But it`s a message that is also

coming as President Biden is trying to really do away with some of the

damage that was caused over the last four years.

He`s trying to essentially say to our allies, the last four years are an

anomaly. They were not reflective of American values.

But let`s be very clear, for a very long, long time the United States will

be known around the world as a country that elected President Trump. And

that President Trump also former President Trump also had 75 million people

vote for him the second time around.

So our allies are also looking at this -- our country and saying, what

exactly is going on in America? So while President Biden, of course, is

signaling that America wants to again embrace our allies, there`s really a

lot of damage that needs to be had there.

And you know, our allies, including Europe and other places, they`ve

figured out how to function with an America that was weaker and that didn`t

want to be part of the multilateral deals and multilateral agreements.

So you also are entering back into the world stage with countries that are

saying we`ve figured out how to talk about climate change, how we talk

about the pandemic without America being part of a partner of that. And now

this is really President Biden wanting to go back into the fray (ph).

I think that there are -- based on my reporting, there`s a lot of people

who welcome that idea, leaders who welcome that idea. But I think that it`s

still very early because America has that stain, really, and that

reputation now because President Trump went to these conferences, went to

these gatherings and really did damage there, really did -- poked his

finger in the eye of a lot of our allies.

CAPEHART: And you know what, Renee? To Yamiche`s point, I`m just wondering,

is it too late now? Because the allies have figured out how to do things

without American leadership. Now that America wants to exert its leadership

again, I`m just wondering, is it too late for America to do that in the

eyes of the rest of the world, even though they`re our allies?

GRAHAM: Well, you know, I think the main point of the speech today was

supposed to be, you know, a warm glass of milk or, you know, the night cap

of your choice to help America`s allies sleep a little more soundly at


You know, it was "This time I`ll be sweeter" speech, right. But there is

this idea -- you know, Joe Biden`s job is to win back the trust of the

allies. These last four years have been very, very difficult. And I think

that`s what his task is to say not just to say ok, we`re back, you guys

stand over here, we`re taking over again because as Yamiche said they

figured out how to do this without America.

So Joe Biden has to kind of win them back over in a way that, you know,

hasn`t had to be done before because we haven`t had the last four years

that we`ve had.

But I also think what was interesting in the speech that he gave was also a

message to the American people that we`re not just citizens of one nation,

but we`re citizens of the world.

And that`s why I think he made a point of mentioning the solemn promise of

Article 5 of NATO, you know, an attack on one is an attack on all. He`s

trying to sort of bring America back into the fold and to convince

Americans that we`re better off within these alliances that were broken so

badly in the last four years.

CAPEHART: It`s amazing that the speech President Biden gave today had we

not been through the four years of President Trump would have been a

mundane speech, would have been a boring speech.

But the mere fact that he mentioned that, you know, America stands by

Article 5 after four years of a president who refused to do that, that

speech today by President Biden, as you said, is a warm glass of milk or

the after-dinner drink of your choice.

Renee Graham and Yamiche Alcindor, thank you very much.

Coming up, the wild winter weather has slowed vaccine distribution efforts

across the country, but the White House is already working to make up for

the loss.

More after the break.



BIDEN: The American people can take the truth. They can handle anything. I

can`t give you a date when this crisis will end, but I can tell you we`re

doing everything possible to have that day come sooner rather than later.


CAPEHART: That was President Biden today in Michigan touring a Pfizer

vaccine manufacturing plant. After weeks of ramping up COVID vaccination

rates, severe winter weather affecting key distribution facilities has now

delayed the delivery of six million doses. Thousands of Americans have had

their vaccination appointments canceled or delayed.

But the White House -- the White House says work is already under way to

make up for the loss.



million doses represents about three days of delayed shipping. And many

states have been able cover some of this delay with existing inventory.

1.4 million doses are already in transit today, and we anticipate that all

the backlogged doses will be delivered within the next week with most being

delivered within the next several days.


CAPEHART: Joining our discussion now is Dr. Uche Blackstock, an emergency

medical physician. She is the founder and CEO of Advancing Health Equity

and a Yahoo News medical contributor. Doctor Blackstock, thank you very

much for being here.

So from what we just heard there from Mr. Slavitt from the White House

COVID-19 task force, we shouldn`t be too worried about the weather delays

of the vaccine, should we? Do you buy that actually is the question?


having me on, Jonathan.

What I will say is that I am reassured by how organized and methodical this

administration is in responding to this mini crisis of the vaccine delays.

You know, to be honest with you, a few days will not truly make a

difference in terms of people receiving their first or second doses.

However, we need the site to be able to flex to these delays, to have

increased hours, open early, close later to increase the number of

vaccinators on site, and to quickly reschedule the appointments for people

who have missed their appointments. Hopefully that could be done in the

next three to five days.

CAPEHART: Dr. Blackstock, we`ve got two pieces of good news that we`ve

gotten this week when it comes to the vaccine. The first one has to do --

this was reported in "The New York Times -- studies find people who had

COVID only need one vaccine. What`s your reaction to that?

BLACKSTOCK: So these are -- you know, that`s certainly reassuring signs. We

actually -- we would probably need a very thorough randomized control trial

to actually make sure that one dose actually works. These are smaller

studies. It`s not going to change any of our practice.

But it`s good to know that in case we need to conserve doses or we run into

vaccine shortages, that one dose in someone who has previously been

infected is adequate enough.

However, we need to know how long that immunity will last for and how --

whether it`s a partial or full immunity coverage.

CAPEHART: And then. Dr. Blackstock, the second piece of good news, I think

it`s good news, but you tell me. This is reporting from CNBC, Pfizer

seeking FDA approval to ease vaccine storage regulations. So being able to

store the vaccine at not so frigid temperatures. Am I getting that right?

BLACKSTOCK: Yes. This is definitely good news and could be a game changer

for Pfizer. As you know, Pfizer requires ultra-cold storage and special

storage containers to be transported because the mRNA technology is very


However, Pfizer is now saying their vaccine does not require the ultra-cold

temperature. It just may require a regular freezer, so that will actually

enable delivery to rural sites, even urban areas that are under-resourced

and don`t have these ultra-cold storage containers which are incredibly


And not just in the U.S., but that could mean use of Pfizer vaccine in

parts of the world that don`t have ultra-cold freezers and may have regular

refrigerators or freezers. So definitely this is a game changer.

CAPEHART: And last question, Dr. Blackstock. In terms of access to the

vaccine by communities of color, we`ve been talking about this disparity

for weeks if not a few months now.

When are we going to stop having this conversation? When will communities

of color, which as you know, we all know, have been disproportionately

impacted by the pandemic? When will they be able to access the vaccine as

quickly as other people?

BLACKSTOCK: Well, this is definitely the conversation that we need to keep

having, we need to keep applying pressure for accountability. I would say

that there`s encouraging news that the Biden-Harris administration has a

health equity task force led by Dr. Marcella Nunez Smith (ph), who is

definitely paying attention to these issues.

But we also need accountability from the states in terms of reporting

racial and ethnic demographic data. We need to ensure that every state has

programs with outreach to black communities and other communities of color

to ensure that people understand what the vaccine does.

And that also we need to make sure that we have points of accessibility for

vaccines in black communities. It`s imperative. So outreach, plus

accessibility, will be key to ensuring that black communities are

vaccinated over the next few months.

CAPEHART: Dr. Uche Blackstock, thank you very much.

BLACKSTOCK: Thank you.

CAPEHART: Coming up. Georgia Republicans are doubling down on racist voter

suppression tactics. After black voters turned out in record numbers, the

GOP wants to make it harder to vote. Surprise, surprise.

Ari Berman of Mother Jones joins us next.


CAPEHART: It`s well known, by now, that after losing elections, Republicans

don`t try to appeal to a broader electorate. Instead, they try to stop

people, particularly people of color, from voting altogether.

And after their 2020 losses, the GOP kicked those efforts into overdrive.

This year, 165 new voting restrictions have been introduced in 33 states.

Some of those restrictions are coming out of Georgia, where state

Republicans introduced a bill that would tighten the timeline for

requesting and returning absentee ballots, and limit access to ballot drop


The GOP bill would also eliminate, get this, early voting on Sundays, when

black churches, traditionally, hold "Souls to the Polls" voter turnout


The NAACP Legal Defense Fund submitted testimony today opposing the

legislation. Saying, quote, "The legislature is considering a bill poised

to create unnecessary barriers and burdens on voters that

disproportionately impact racial minority, low income, elderly, rural,

disabled, and/or student voters."

Joining us now is Ari Berman, a writer at Mother Jones and the author of

"Give Us the Ballot: the Modern Struggle for Voting Rights in America".

Ari, thank you for being here.

You write in the latest Mother Jones. You quote Anna Dennis (ph), executive

director of Common Cause Georgia and this is a great quote. "This bill is

Jim Crow with a suit and tie".

ARI BERMAN, WRITER, MOTHER JONES: That`s absolutely right, Jonathan.

Because you look at just the provision eliminating Sunday voting. That, as

you mentioned, is when black churches do Soul to the Polls voter

mobilization drives. Black voters in Georgia are about 30 percent of the

electorate but they were 37 percent of those people that voted on Sunday.

And this is a real tell here because this has nothing to do with election

integrity. Giving people more time to vote on the weekends, simply makes it

more convenient. And the fact that Georgia Republicans are trying to get

rid of a method of voting that`s extremely convenient for all voters but

particularly, used by black voters shows this has nothing to do with

election integrity.

It has everything to do with voter suppression. And Georgia Republicans and

Republicans elsewhere are weaponizing Trump`s big lie now to try to make it

harder for Democratic constituencies to vote.

CAPEHART: So Ari -- I mean you write Georgia has become ground zero for GOP

voter suppression efforts following the 2020 election. So, the line is

clear. Not only did Joe Biden flip Georgia from red to blue. But both of

those senate seats flipped from red to blue. And so, Republicans in Georgia

want to make sure that that doesn`t happen again. That`s why this is


BERMAN: That`s absolutely right. Last year, the Republican secretary of

state bragged that Georgia had the gold standard of voting laws. They had

automatic-voter registration. They had early voting. They had no-excuse

absentee voting.

But what did they do after the 2020 election? Georgia Republicans have

introduced bills to get rid of all of those things. All of the voting

methods that worked so well and that black voters, in particular, took

advantage of. Georgia Republicans, are now trying to get rid of it.

And Georgia is passing (ph) test case. The Republican secretary of state

said, over and over, there was no fraud. The system worked. And instead of

applauding that system and trying to make it easier to vote and expand

voting access, they are trying to get rid of all the things that made the

system work so well simply because in this one election, it worked better

for the other party than their party even though Georgia Republicans wrote

every aspect of the state`s voting laws.

CAPEHART: And you know, Ari then, what are the prospects of this bill -- is

it going to pass?

BERMAN: Well, there is divides within the Republican Party in Georgia.

Obviously, these provisions are getting a lot of scrutiny. People are

wondering where did the elimination of Sunday voting come from? Nobody was

talking about that, as a problem in the last election.

And so, I think, the Republican Party is divided but I think this puts

additional pressure on Democrats in Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting

Rights Act and to pass the For The People Act. So that Democrats can use

the power they have in Washington to make sure that Republicans aren`t able

to undermine democracy for the next decade in states like Georgia and other

states around the country where they are introducing so many new

restrictions on voting.

CAPEHART: And since you brought up The John Lewis Act. What`s the

possibility of that actually passing in a Washington that, you know, the

majority -- the Democratic majority is like super thin in the senate, and

less than it was in the House.

BERMAN: More than likely the only way they are going to pass the John Lewis

Voting Rights Act and the For The People Act is if they get rid of the


And Democrats have a choice here. They can do nothing and keep the

filibuster and allow Republicans to undermine democracy for the next

decade. Or they can get rid of the filibuster, pass sweeping democracy

reforms and block anti-democratic effort.

So, the choice is really, really clear here in terms of the stakes for

democracy right now.

CAPEHART: Well, we have got a front-row seat to that, Ari. Ari Berman,

thank you very much for coming to the LAST WORD.

That is tonight`s LAST WORD.

I`m Jonathan Capehart. You can catch me Sundays at 10:00 a.m. Eastern on

"THE SUNDAY SHOW" right here on MSNBC.

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


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