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

Guest: Chris Van Hollen, Sam Stein�


Fallen U.S. Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick lies in honor at U.S. Capitol Rotunda. Officer Brian Sicknick died at 9:30 p.m. on January 7th, the day after the Capitol invasion. At 9:30 p.m. tonight, Officer Sicknick`s remains were brought to the Capitol to lie in honor at the U.S. Capitol Rotunda.



Brian Sicknick`s family is there at the Capitol Rotunda tonight. We expect President Biden to appear in the rotunda shortly to honor Officer Brian Sicknick, who was murdered in the invasion of the Capitol. He died at 9:30 p.m. the night after the capitol was invaded. And at 9:30 p.m. tonight, his remains were returned to the capitol.


The honoring of Officer Brian Sicknick tonight has been reserved for members of the capitol police. Tomorrow morning members of Congress will have an opportunity to honor Officer Sicknick. Brian Sicknick is the third capitol police officer to be given this honor of lying in honor in the capitol rotunda after being killed in the line of duty.

In 1998, two capitol police officers were shot and killed by a lone gunman who rushed through the metal detector at the capitol, shot Officer Jacob Chestnut in the head. Officer John Gibson was in a free fire exchange with the shooter. Officer Gibson was killed and both of their caskets appeared in the capitol rotunda, where they were given this honor of lying in honor. And that`s the scene in 1998 when Officer Gibson and Officer Chestnut were lying in honor.

Officer Chestnut actually became the first black man in history whose casket was given a place of honor in the capitol rotunda.

In the hour before Brian Sicknick`s remains arrived at the Capitol tonight, the House of Representatives passed a new rule to protect the capitol police from, in this case, Republican members of the House, who have actually attempted to bring house into the House chamber after the invasion of the capitol. House members who do not comply with metal detectors now in the House will be fined $5,000 for the first offense and $10,000 from the second offense. Those fines will be deducted from their paychecks.

And passing that new rule tonight, Speaker Nancy Pelosi said: We all have a solemn responsibility to honor the service and sacrifice of the capitol police for the valor that they showed that harrowing day. Yet just days after the assault, many House Republicans began disrespecting our heroes by refusing to adhere to basic precautions keeping members of our congressional community safe, including by dodging metal detectors, physically pushing past police, and even attempting to bring firearms into the chamber.

It is sad we have been forced to move forward with a rule changes imposing fines on those who refuse to abide by these protections. But the People`s House must and will be safe so that we can honor our responsibility to do the people`s work.


O`DONNELL: We expect President Biden to be visiting the rotunda to pay his respects to Officer Brian Sicknick, presidential motorcade has made its way to the capitol. President Biden did not put this on his public schedule or announce beforehand that he was going to make this trip. But we did see the presidential motorcade arriving at the Capitol. Expect to see President Biden at some time probably within this hour.

As we watch this solemn moment from the capitol, the likes of which has only happened once before, as I said in 1998, when two officers were killed in the line of duty, we`re joined in our viewing of this by Professor Eddie Glaude. He`s the chairman of African-American studies at Princeton University. He`s an MSNBC contributor.

Also with us, Jonathan Alter, columnist for "The Daily Beast", author, and most recently the author of "His Very Best: Jimmy Carter, A Life".

Jonathan Alter, you have been covering events in Washington all of your life. This is the kind of event we never expect to be covering.

JONATHAN ALTER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: That`s right. This was an assault on our democracy. Officer Sicknick died in action a hero, defending his country, our democracy, our seat of government, our freedom, our values.

They were all on the line on January 6th. So I hope that this is just the beginning of the commemoration of this man who made the ultimate sacrifice. And we need to create what historians call a usable past. We need to sanctify his sacrifice so that future generations understand the stakes and what he died for.

O`DONNELL: Professor Glaude, I have to say, before 1998 when Officer Jacob Chestnut and Officer John Gibson were shot and killed in the line of duty right there in the capitol, we who used to work in the capitol thought of the capitol police work as relatively easy, as police work goes, more like a campus police that you would have at Princeton, for example.

We discovered the hard way in 1998 how dangerous it could be would a lone gunman rushing through the metal detector. On January 6th, we discovered how dangerous it could be if a thousand people or more -- few thousand people were sent up to the Capitol by the president of the United States to take it over.

EDDIE GLAUDE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yeah, it`s actually stunning on a certain level. We know that the United States hasn`t been, shall we say, Lawrence, that it hasn`t had this kind of political violence before, but for a period it seems that the people`s house, it`s always been sacred. We need to understand that Officer Sicknick has died, he`s a casualty in the battle for the soul of America. He`s the latest casualty in the battle for the soul of America.

And we need to understand that and we need to understand those who participated in setting the context and we need to commemorate his life and his sacrifice in light of the battle that is currently being waged for the soul of America. It is an historic and unprecedented day and we need to approach it with the solemnity that it requires.

O`DONNELL: Officer Sicknick`s family issued a statement on January 11th, four days after he died. They said: There really aren`t enough kind words in any language to describe how sweet Brian was.

He was a truly lovely humble soul. We are missing him terribly. He was sweet natured through and through. Everyone who met him adored him.

He also loved his daschunds dearly, spoiling them, ensuring they got the best care possible. He loved his job with the U.S. Capitol police and was very passionate about it. He also had an incredible work ethic. He was very serious by showing up to work on time and refused to call out sick unless absolutely necessary. Our loss of Brian will leave a large hole in our hearts.

And tonight, Brian Sicknick`s family is in the capitol rotunda, where they never expected to be, to be honoring the work of Brian Sicknick as his remains lie in honor in the capitol after being killed in the line of duty.

Jonathan Alter, this is a solemn night. I find myself pushing away political commentary about what we`re seeing, but responsibility for what we`re seeing will be on trial next week in the United States Senate, in the impeachment trial of the president of the United States. But tonight, Brian Sicknick`s family and the capitol police have assembled to honor this life, this life that ended at age 42, for no reason that make sense to any of us.

ALTER: Well, I think the only comparisons that come to mind are from the period of the 1860s when our country was driven by civil war. This is what the moment that Joe Biden called for in his address, a moment of unity. This is the Union.

These capitol police officers and the others in attendance, they don`t care about party, they don`t care about petty politics, they are here to defend the seat of government and protect the only real, tangible monument to our democracy. This is a temple of democracy they were defending.

And so, this goes to the core of who we are as a nation and in that sense, I think it is a moment of unity. The people who don`t understand the importance of this, who don`t understand Officer Sicknick`s sacrifice, really should be on the margins of our society. And it`s only because we had a particular president of the United States that this kind of idea of insurrection and assaulting democracy game to be encouraged from the highest level.

Normally, Lawrence, this is who we are. We come together this way to honor those who have fallen in battle defending our freedom. What`s abnormal about this is that it was -- the battle was inflicted from our midst. And that`s why, as you say, this will be remembered for generations.

This will not disappear into the e ether of American history. There are some folks who want to move on and want this to end. Yes, we will move on and deal with legislation and argue and debate as we always have.

But this is -- this episode in January is a major pearl harbor style moment in our history and this scene tonight is the beginning of us pulling together to process it in a way that does justice to our values.

O`DONNELL: The flag you see positioned beside the remains of Officer Brian Sicknick was flown over the capitol by Speaker Nancy Pelosi on January 7th, 2021, the day after the invasion of the capitol. That flag was flown over the capitol that day honoring the life and service of Officer Brian Sicknick.


O`DONNELL: And there is President Biden and First Lady Jill Biden.


O`DONNELL: President Biden, who himself served decades in those halls as a United States senator, he knew the names and the first names of probably all of the capitol police officers on the Senate side of the campus, at the Senators-only entrances.

There are entrances to some parts of the Senate office buildings that are just for senators and Senate staff, the same capitol police officers tend to be stationed at those entrances every day with regular shifts. You get to know them by name, they get to know you. It is in that sense a very personal police force.

It feels like your police force, your protectors. That`s the feeling that everyone who works in those buildings has for the capitol police.


O`DONNELL: There are no other elected officials likely to appear tonight because tonight`s ceremony and gathering is primarily for the family of Officer Ryan Sicknick and his colleagues, teammates, on the capitol police.

Tomorrow morning, there will be an opportunity for members of Congress to pay their respects to Officer Sicknick.


O`DONNELL: Professor Glaude, I know on the day the invasion was taking place there was a lot of comment on television that confused, in my mind, the role of the capitol police in Washington, D.C. They really have authority only around the capitol campus and the capitol complex. They are not a big city crime fighting police department. They are a protective service for a campus really. And the analogy to campus police forces at your university and others is much more apt than to big, urban police departments that deal with all sorts of criminal conduct.

And so they are also the only police force in America whose job takes place mostly indoors and takes place in the most valuable and sacred buildings in our history, where they are trained to not get into confrontation but to actually try to defuse whatever comes their way because everything around them is so precious that if anything gets out of hand and certainly if a gun had to be fired, there`s just no telling what it might hit, what it might ricochet off of.

So there was a lot of talk on the day of the invasion that what people thought they were seeing was a retreating police force, when in fact retreat in many ways is the only option they have. Their only crowd control device is a gun. They don`t have any crowd control device other than a gun.

And so, the choice is to shoot or not. And one shot was fired but no more, and Officer Goodman, who was seen retreating in a video, walking away from the protesters, was at first in some circles criticized for that, then we discovered later that it was a brilliant tactic because he was leading the protesters away from the Senate chamber and thereby living up to his oath of office to protect the people in that building as best he could.

And so the complexity of the police work for this relatively small police force that works almost entirely indoors is only now, I think, being fully appreciated. I think on the day of the invasion, there was a lot of rushing to judgment about the way they were doing their jobs.

GLAUDE: Yeah. I mean, we were -- we were confronted with images of some officers or one officer taking a selfie, others helping folk walk down the steps, but we didn`t get the images of officers being crushed, of officers being attacked by -- with the American flag, of officers being bludgeoned with crutches and bats and the like. So, I think, you`re right, the more complicated picture has emerged since January 6th.

But, you know, I`m sitting here, Lawrence, thinking about the remains of Officer Sicknick and I`m trying to come to terms with -- you know, what it means for the body in the grave, what it means for those remains. Death is always a grand corrector of our outside understandings of life. Death occasions the moment where we assess the choices we`ve made up to that moment.

It seems to me we have to ask ourselves the questions, what will the death of Officer Sicknick mean for us? We understand him to be a casualty in the battle of the soul of America, but how will that death, how will his body speak to us in life?

Will we address the partisanship? Will we address the choices made by politicians who are self-serving? Will we address this conflict that`s at the heart of the country? What will the body say to us?

You know, what will that body in the coffin as we would say in the African- American tradition, how will it speak back? What will his remains in the capitol say to the nation, right? Because we know that up until this moment, we have been -- some among us have been trying to run past this and know now we have to confront the dead right now.

What will that body say to us? What will his remains say to us now about who we aspire to be? That`s what I`m thinking about right now.

O`DONNELL: Officer Brian Sicknick`s family issued one public statement about four days after he died on January 11th. I read it in its entirety earlier. One line in that statement was "our loss of Brian will leave a large hole in our hearts."

I`m sure that is also true for so many people who worked there in the capitol and knew him, either knew him by recognizing his face or knowing his name as they passed through various security checkpoints.

One of the people who does that every day is Senator Chris Van Hollen of Maryland. Senator Van Hollen is joining our discussion now.

And Senator, I just wanted to get your feelings about what we`ve seen tonight in the Capitol Rotunda.

SEN. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D-MD): Well Lawrence, first, thank you for describing the mission of the Capitol police on this solemn occasion. And these are men and women that we see every day protecting the Capitol, for centuries for our democracy.

And here we see the families coming together, both Officer Sicknick`s family but the greater family of the Capitol police. They will be joined tomorrow, as you indicated, by many of us who will pay respects as he lies in honor.

This is a moment for reflection on the great work that the Capitol police do on a daily basis, and raising the larger questions for our democracy in the days ahead.

So I want to just say to Officer Sicknick`s family, thank you for the service. Thank you from the country and for the Capitol in giving his life to protect that Capitol and our democracy.

O`DONNELL: Senator, I don`t want to limit the range of discussion here with anyone, so please feel free to make any point you like. I do not find myself drawn to political commentary in this hour, as I look at that flag and look at the remains there in the Rotunda.

But I wonder if you could share with the audience a little bit more about what the Capitol police mean to every one working on that big campus on Capitol Hill, which actually is no that the big a campus.

It is not as big as the campus of Princeton University where Professor Glaude works and I always found the Capitol police to be very, very much a part of the team. They never gave off any kind of intimidating feeling the way you can get from big city police officers.

There`s always been a sensation that they are there to help, they are there to facilitate and they have always done it, in my experience, Senator, with utter selflessness and real generosity.

It`s just not the image that people associate with the kind of negative police work that we sometimes see in this country.

VAN HOLLEN: Well, right. You`re absolutely right, Lawrence.

These are men and women that we see every day. A lot of us take a moment on a regular basis to thank them for their service but also to ask them how they`re doing. I`m fortunate to represent the state of Maryland in the United States Senate and many Capitol Hill police officers hail from Maryland. They live in Maryland.

You know, we talk about how their kids did at the baseball game and how their family`s doing during this COVID-19 pandemic.

There was one officer who after the Ravens won the Super Bowl years ago, I invited to go with me to the White House for the celebration.

So they really are part of the family. I`m in the Senate Hart Building. I have one of the Capitol Hill posts right outside the front door of Hart. So I have a chance to talk, to say thanks and heads up with these officers on a regular basis.

As you say, they`re part of the family. And I am introducing a resolution, a bipartisan resolution, I hope it passes unanimously to commend and honor Officer Goodman for his quick thinking and courage where he first, you know, confronts the angry mob that broke into the Capitol. But then as you explained, diverted them away from the doors of the Senate Chamber, giving time to evacuate senators who were on the floor of the Senate, saving lives and preventing injury in the process.

So as we mourn the loss of Officer Sicknick, we also want to thank all those other officers, like Officer Goodman, for their courage there.

O`DONNELL: Senator Chris Van Hollen, Professor Eddie Glaude, Jonathan Alter -- thank you all for joining our discussion.

We`re going to take a quick break here. We will be right back.


O`DONNELL: Officer Brian Sicknick died at 9:30 p.m. on January 7th, the day after the Capitol invasion. He died from the injuries inflicted on him by the invaders of the Capitol.

At 9:30 p.m. tonight Officer Sicknick`s remains were brought to the Capitol. It was a return to the place that he loved working.

His family issued one written statement about his death and in it, among other things, they talked about how much he loved his job. They said he loved his job with the U.S. Capitol police and was very passionate about it. He also had an incredible work ethic. He was very serious about showing up to work on time and refused to call out sick unless absolutely necessary.

Watching this with us tonight is Daniel Goldman. He`s the former House impeachment inquiry majority counsel and director of investigations for the House Intelligence Committee. Daniel Goldman is a former federal prosecutor, MSNBC impeachment analyst now.

Daniel Goldman, you spent a good deal of time working in the Capitol in very stressful conditions with that impeachment inquiry, with a lot of pressure on you. You were, I`m sure very conscious of how the Capitol police were in their own semi-visible way protecting you.

DANIEL GOLDMAN, MSNBC IMPEACHMENT ANALYST: Absolutely. And not only during impeachment but as you know, Lawrence, in the (AUDIO GAP) skiff and that`s guarded every day by a member of the Capitol police who we got to know very well as we saw them go in and out.

And watching this, it brings back a lot of memories of late night sleeping at Capitol, freezing temperatures. And while most of the Capitol police work inside, they do line the perimeter at all hours of the days and night in all weather conditions and their dedication to the job was always so impressive.

And Brian Sicknick is representing all of them tonight. I`m sure they all view him as a brother and as a fallen hero, as someone who was doing his job to protect one of our nation`s greatest buildings and the emblem of democracy that he was so strongly and with great difficulty trying to protect from this invading anti-democratic mob.

And it`s -- it brings a lot of memories of -- for myself of just over a year ago, being in that Capitol, working there every day. But it also really calls to mind the notion of patriotism. And I think the notion of trying to heal as a country, as a patriotic citizenry. And someone who would defend the Capitol to his death is certainly someone who we can admire and look up to and praise his patriotism.

O`DONNELL: Talk about the effect that that building has on people. I find that you never get used to it.

There`s a shot earlier of President Biden and the first lady paying their respects. They came virtually unannounced. We knew that they were coming when we saw the presidential motorcade on the way to the Capitol.

No other elected officials will be making an appearance tonight because the elected officials will have an opportunity in the morning. Tonight is primarily for the family and friends of Officer Sicknick and the Capitol police themselves.

Some of the congressional leadership was present earlier when the remains arrived, but Joe Biden -- President Biden will not be followed tonight by any other elected officials.

GOLDMAN: Officer Sicknick is there lying in the Capitol Rotunda, the center of the Capitol building. And right next to the Capitol Rotunda is Statuary Hall, which we often see the Speaker, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi walking to and from her office because her office is right between the Rotunda and statuary hall.

When you walk through those rooms, you can`t help but think back to our founders to the origins of this nation. It is a powerful feeling that I had every time I would walk back and forth to the speaker`s office.

And there are always Capitol policemen and women lining the way, always friendly, always with a smile on their face doing their job as best they could. And it`s really -- it`s really difficult to imagine them being put in a position where they had to defend this building on their own. And I think that`s a frustrating aspect for many of us watching this.

O`DONNELL: I just want to ask you one federal prosecutor question, which is there has been no arrest made in the killing of Brian Sicknick, not yet. What is your -- what do you sense is going on in that investigation at this point?

GOLDMAN: Well, I don`t know any of the details of that investigation. I can speak from experience as to how these investigations might go forward. And I think one of the key elements of an investigation like this, if there is no video, which I don`t believe there is, is going to be other witness testimony.

And what the FBI will do is as part of all of these investigations, they will be interviewing as many people as they can, as many witnesses, as many other Capitol police officers, and as many defendants -- people who are charged, some of whom may be interested in cooperating with the authorities.

This will (AUDIO GAP) this base investigation. And I think eventually we will learn the identities of the people who attacked him and beat him to his death.

O`DONNELL: Daniel Goldman, thank you very much for joining us tonight. Really appreciate it.

GOLDMAN: Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: We are going to take a break here. We will be right back.


O`DONNELL: We`re back with live shot of the Capitol Rotunda, where the remains of Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick lie in honor tonight in the Rotunda. Brian Sicknick was killed in the line of duty. He died at 9:30 p.m. the night after the invasion of the Capitol, after being beaten by Capitol invaders.

At 9:30 p.m. tonight, his remains were brought to the Capitol for this rare honor. He is the third Capitol police officer to be killed in the line of duty, and given this honor of lying in honor in the Capitol.

Joining us now is Sam Stein, who has been watching this ceremony tonight, this funeral of sorts. President Biden appeared, virtually unannounced. We knew it when his motorcade was moving toward the Capitol. He paid his respects.

And what we`re now seeing is a shot we do not control. This is the official C-Span shot coming out of the Capitol and it may be turned off during our discussion. It`s scheduled to be turned off by the end of this hour.

Sam Stein, what we`re seeing tonight is something that we knew was coming, we knew that the Capitol police officer being killed in the line of duty like this would get this honor. But it brings us back to January 6th so powerfully. And I, for one, was not ready for what we`re feeling tonight.

SAM STEIN, WHITE HOUSE EDITOR, POLITICO: Yes, I feel exactly the same way. We had in essence a trauma inflicted on the nation`s capital, and the people who work in there. And we kind of forgot to mourn it.

Weeks have gone by, we have not really collectively dealt with this both as a political body but as a nation. And I think this night has been in a way our first moment to sort of step back and reflect on it all.

We`ve had dribs and drabs of it here and there. We`ve had testimonials from people who were in the Capitol. But a full picture, full recounting, full understanding and the chance to reflect, we have not had.

And I`m just sort of struck by how long it`s taken. Obviously a myriad of different, important events have interceded. We had a transition of power and inauguration. We had, you know, a new congress that had to get adjusted. A new president as well. And only now are we coming to grips with it. But we still will have, you know, to understand and deal with this more holistically too.

It was just last night that Representative Ocasio-Cortez gave an account of what seemed to me to be a near-death experience. And certainly something that was tremendous traumatic for her. That`s weeks after this took place.

So we`re still getting acquainted with the severity of the emotional duress and the stress that was put on our politics.

And I think tonight, you know, we`re dealing with it up front. And Joe Biden going to there and being part of this and memorializing it was his sort of approach and attempt to at least mourn with us collectively.

O`DONNELL: Yes and we can`t be surprised by Joe Biden deciding to go up there tonight. That is, of course, what he would do in a situation like this.

STEIN: Yes. In one sense it is, you know, sort of the ceremonial responsibilities of the head of government. But in another sense, to your point, it is so within his character.

grieves and has grieved with families and personally from loss. He`s anecdotally someone always making phone calls to people who have lost loved ones or are going through illness.

And so for him to show up like this is very much in character of the presidency that he had tried to craft and is crafting.

O`DONNELL: Sam Stein, thank you.

We`re going to take a break.

STEIN: Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: We`ll be right back.


O`DONNELL: That is the live shot of the Capitol Rotunda at this hour, where the remains of Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick lie in honor tonight. He is the third Capitol police officer in history to receive this honor after being killed in the line of duty. The first two were shot and killed in 1998.

And here we are again tonight in this very moving ceremony. President Joe Biden and the first lady visited and paid their respects within this hour. No other elected officials will visit tonight.

At 10:30 tomorrow morning, elected officials will have an opportunity to pay their respects to Officer Brian Sicknick. Tonight has been for the Capitol police themselves and the family of Officer Brian Sicknick.