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

Transcript: The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, 2/22/2021

Guest: Richard Blumenthal, Katie Porter; Beto O`Rourke�


Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut is interviewed.

Democratic Congresswoman Katie Porter representing the 45th district of

California is interviewed. The president`s and vice president`s solemn

commemoration of the 500,000 lives lost to COVID-19 included a moment of

silence. The Supreme Court ordered Donald Trump to hand over his tax

returns to the Manhattan district attorney. Beto O`Rourke has been working

nonstop to help the people of Texas survive the disastrous power failure

that has left them without heat and without water.



As you know, Beto O`Rourke is one of the Texans who did not go to Cancun

when the crisis hit, and he`s going to join us at the end of this hour and

tell us what he`s been doing, including with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez who

showed what a little New York energy could do for Texas over the weekend.

Katie Porter is also going to join us as the COVID relief bill speeds, I

mean, speeds toward passage in the House this week. Nine committees, nine

committees have almost invisibly, although they did it publicly, had

markups of this bill and voted on it.

But, you know, because there was Senate impeachment trial going on, we

didn`t really pay much attention to that. And now it`s pretty much ready to

go through the full house at the end of the week. So that will be where we

end up at the end of the week.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, "TRMS": It is on the move, and the Biden

administration has successfully marketed it to the American people so that

there is massive super majority support for it among Democrats,

independents and Republicans. So, all this drama in the sort of beltway of

what Republicans will do in terms of their vote here, the only implication

is how much of a price they will pay for defying their own voters in voting

against it when Democrats are able to pass it even without their support.

O`DONNELL: So, Rachel, three consecutive Democratic presidents in a row

start off with their first thing being a form of stimulus of some kind.

Bill Clinton, his first move was a stimulus package. It was defeated. It

didn`t even pass. Then, you know, president Obama comes along. He`s faced

with a similar challenge, and he has to do on. We saw what a struggle it

was, what a kind of incredible struggle it was to get any version of it


This thing, this thing is moving through in full. No one in Congress is

pulling anything out of it. It`s just moving -- I have never seen a bill

like this, of this complexity, certainly of this size move through as

flawlessly as this has gone so far.

MADDOW: In part because the Biden folks learned the lessons of those

previous Democratic administrations.

O`DONNELL: Yeah, yeah.

MADDOW: And what the other side and even the lily-livered parts of their

own side were able to do so slow it down, stop it and strip it of

everything effective by delay and delay and other tactics, and they have

learned just not to let that happen.

And I don`t know -- they won`t be able to do that with every bill, but for

COVID relief in this stimulus up front, they learned the lesson and are

doing it without letting it get watered down. I mean, credit to them for

learning the lessons in the past few years.

O`DONNELL: And they also have a new discipline that I have not seen among

Democrats legislatively in the House and Senate before. It is really

something to watch. I`m learning lessons from this, Rachel.

MADDOW: Yeah. We`re all learning lessons from you on this stuff all the

time, Lawrence. Don`t sell yourself short.

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

Well, Merrick Garland today ordered Donald Trump to hand over his tax

returns to the Manhattan district attorney, but because Republicans refused

to even grant Merrick Garland a Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing

five years ago when President Obama nominated him for the Supreme Court,

Merrick Garland appeared before the Judiciary Committee today for a

confirmation hearing today to become the person who will decide whether to

prosecute Donald Trump for any federal tax crimes that might be found in

Donald Trump`s tax returns.

Merrick Garland brings 23 years of experience as a federal appeals court

judge to the job of attorney general, to which he will surely be confirmed.

And he brings prior experience as a federal prosecutor. In 1995 he was sent

from the Justice Department in Washington to Oklahoma City to oversee the

prosecution of white supremacist terrorist Timothy McVeigh who murdered 168

people when he bombed the federal building in Oklahoma City, hoping to

begin an overthrow of the government. Timothy McVeigh murdered 19 children

that day who were in the day care center in the federal buildings.

Merrick Garland carried the names of those 19 children and everyone else

who was murdered that day in his briefcase every day that he was

prosecuting Timothy McVeigh. Merrick Garland recognizes the straight line

link between Timothy McVeigh`s hope to overthrow the government through

murder and the people who attacked the capitol on January 6th and murdered

a police officer. Merrick Garland said that that investigation is his top

priority as attorney general.



have a briefing on where we are, if I`m confirmed, with the investigations,

which from the outside appear quite vigorous and nationwide and to find out

what additional resources we need. But that is just a focus on what

happened in the Capitol. We also have to have a focus on what is happening

all over the country and on where this could spread and where this came



O`DONNELL: Senator Dianne Feinstein reminded the forgetful Republicans on

if committee of how Donald Trump corrupted the Justice Department.


SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D-CA): Over the last four years, the independence

of the attorney general has been repeatedly attacked. For example,

President Trump once told "The New York Times," quote, I have the absolute

right to do what I want to do with the Justice Department, end quote. Do

you believe that, in fact, the president does have the absolute right to do

what he wants with the Justice Department?

GARLAND: The president is constrained by the Constitution, as are all

government officials. The issue here for us are the set of norms and

standards to which this president, President Biden, has agreed that he will

not interfere with the Justice Department with respect to its prosecutions

and investigations, that those decisions will be made by the department

itself and by -- led by the attorney general and that they will be without

respect to partisanship, without respect to the power of the perpetrator or

the lack of power, without respect to the influence of the perpetrator or

the lack of influence.


O`DONNELL: Every Republican senator on the Judiciary Committee came to

today`s hearing cloaked in the disgrace of their full support of Donald

Trump`s corruption of the Justice Department and endless attempts to

continue corrupting the Justice Department. But some of them, even while

cloaked in that disgrace, asked for assurances from Merrick Garland that he

would not operate like a Trump attorney general.


GARLAND: I can assure you, I do not regard myself as anything other than

the lawyer for the people of the United States. And I am not the

president`s lawyer. I am the United States lawyer. And I will do everything

in my power, which I believe is considerable, to fend off any effort by

anyone to make prosecutions or investigations partisan or political in any


My job is to protect the department of justice and its employees in going

about their job and doing the right thing according to the facts and the



O`DONNELL: Merrick Garland`s Jewish grandparents fled Russia during a wave

of vicious and violent anti-Semitism.

When Senator Cory Booker closed his questioning by asking why he decided to

give up a lifetime appointment to the prestigious District of Columbia

Circuit Court of Appeals to take on the relentlessly demanding job of

attorney general of the United States, Merrick Garland said this.


GARLAND: So, you know, I come from a family where my grandparents fled

anti-Semitism and persecution. This country took us in, and protected us.

And I feel an obligation to the country to pay back. This is the highest

best use of my own set of skills to pay back.

So I want very much to be the kind of attorney general that you`re saying I

could become. I`ll do my best to try to be that kind of attorney general.


O`DONNELL: Leading off our discussion tonight is Democratic Senator

Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut. He is a member of the Senate Judiciary


Senator Blumenthal, thank you very much for joining us tonight.

You were one of the few senators who got into technical questions with the

nominee, including the flash of Latin here and there. But for the most

part, it was a more general discussion.

Were you surprised at how -- I guess the word is, how easy it was for

Merrick Garland to face the Republican side of the committee today?

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT): Knowing Merrick Garland as I have for

about three decades, he and I met as young prosecutors when I was U.S.

attorney, the chief federal prosecutor in Connecticut and he was in the

main Justice Department, I was really unsurprised because he is such a

thoughtful and even-handed, very reflective but strong, really determined

person. And I think what came across in that answer that he gave about his

grandparents and the profoundly moving moment that it evoked was his

authenticity. That was Merrick Garland speaking from his heart, and it was

a very remarkable moment in a congressional hearing.

But his experience was in some ways very typical. Many of us in that room

share an immigrant`s story. My own dad came to this country in 1935, spoke

no English, had not much more than the shirt on his back, knew no one, and

this great country gave him a chance to succeed and it`s the reason why I

feel the same way Merrick Garland does.

So I was really unsurprised by how adroitly he handled the Republicans

because that authenticity, I think, completely disarmed them.

O`DONNELL: What was it like, Senator, to sit in that room today five years

late, five years late for that committee to be hearing from Merrick Garland

who was nominated by President Obama for the Supreme Court and never even

allowed to enter that room?

BLUMENTHAL: Great question, Lawrence. A lot of thoughts went through my


First of all, as I said to him, he`s been tested by adversity, living

through that experience was one tough time in his life. Second, how great a

Supreme Court justice he would have been. And, third, what a great attorney

general he`s going to be and how he is going to truly meet this moment.

When the United States Department of Justice needs to be restored, its

moral internality and its trust and its credibility in faith to Americans

and the outside world and what went through his testimony, very

compellingly, is his fierce determination to protect the independence and

the rule of law. The independence of the Department of Justice, the respect

to the rule of law and to listen to those line prosecutors, the career

guys, the professionals who are going to call these cases as they see them

following the facts.

And the United States of America deserves to be represented by that kind of

attorney general.

O`DONNELL: In Oklahoma City in 1995, it did not take an invasion of the

building. All you had to do, as Timothy McVeigh did, was park a truck on

the street in front of the building because there was no restricted access

in those days to federal buildings in a situation like that. That truck

blew up with 7,000 pounds of explosives in it.

And here we are today in dealing with what happened on January 6th, the

inheritors, many of them, in invading the Capitol, inheritors of Timothy

McVeigh`s belief that this government could be overthrown by force.

BLUMENTHAL: And those violent extremists are more dangerous today, much

more so than they were then, as Merrick Garland said today in his

testimony. And the resources and the powers to cause havoc are not only the

bats and firearms and flag posts that they brought to the Capitol but also

the cyber attacks that they could launch. They could paralyze the United

States of America, our water, our electricity, our utilities as much as

Texas was paralyzed by that storm.

So, the threats are even more alarming, and, of course, terrorism from

outside the United States. But you`re absolutely right, Lawrence. Today, we

face white supremacists, domestic extremists, the mob that Donald Trump

brought to the Capitol is still out there and more dangerous than ever, and

it could be mobilized and harnessed by another would be tyrant like Donald


O`DONNELL: And, Senator, quickly before you go, Merrick Garland could find

himself in a position of having to decide whether to initiate a federal

prosecution of Donald Trump based on what is revealed in his tax returns

being handed over to prosecutors in the city of New York. If those

prosecutors in New York find federal crimes in those tax returns, would you

expect them to refer that to the Justice Department, and in effect refer it

to Merrick Garland?

BLUMENTHAL: I would expect Cyrus Vance, the D.A. in New York, to make them

available and make a referral to the Department of Justice if he finds

violations, federal tax violations right now. Reportedly, he`s looking into

possible financial fraud and misstatements of the values of Trump

properties and more, potential other kinds of financial wrongs.

But if there are federal violations, absolutely, the grand jury material

can be referred by court order that Cyrus Vance could seek. And one point

that is absolutely clear from today`s testimony, Donald Trump should be

afraid, very afraid, of a determined, fierce, thoughtful and resourceful

prosecutor like Merrick Garland.

And he will follow the facts. He will follow the money. He will follow the


O`DONNELL: Senator Richard Blumenthal, thank you very much for starting us

off tonight. Really appreciate it.

BLUMENTHAL: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

And coming up, with 500,000 deaths from coronavirus in this country as of

tonight, House Democrats are speeding the Biden COVID relief bill to a vote

by the end of this week. Congresswoman Katie Porter will join us next.


O`DONNELL: As Congresswoman Katie Porter will tell us when she joins us in

a moment, the old story of how a bill becomes a law is little more

complicated when it is a budget reconciliation bill. Although, it is a

public process, most of the work on the Biden COVID relief bill in the

House of Representatives has been ignored by the news media because a

bigger story got in the way. While Donald Trump was on trial for incitement

of insurrection in the Senate, nine legislative committees in the House of

Representatives were busily at work writing and voting on President Biden`s

COVID relief bill.

The House Ways and Means Committee as usual did most of the work since it

has jurisdiction over half of the bill. Each of the nine committees on a

party line vote passed their parts of the bill by February 12th and sent

that work to the House Budget Committee, which then simply assembled the

work of the other committees, the nine committees into a single 591 page

stack of pain their the House Budget Committee passed today on a party line

vote. That bill will now go to the House Rules Committee, which usually

just sends the bills to the House floor on a party line vote without

changing anything in them.

The bill is likely to pass the House at the end of this week. And here is

what Chairman John Yarmuth of the Budget Committee had to say when he

brought the bill to a vote in the Budget Committee today.



thorough, but this has been by no means a normal reconciliation process.

Yes, we have followed all the house rules and proper procedures, but we

have done so knowing the devastation that is happening in and to our

communities every day.

This February an American has died of COVID every 32 seconds. We are in a

race against time. Aggressive, bold action is needed before our nation is

more deeply and permanently scarred by the human and economic costs of



O`DONNELL: Joining us now is Democratic Congresswoman Katie Porter

representing the 45th district of California. She`s a member of the House

Oversight Committee.

Congresswoman Porter, thank you very much for joining us tonight.

So, now you have done in your committee your first budget reconciliation

bill. I believe this is the first one that you new Democrats have had a

chance to have a hand in because now that you have Democrats in the Senate

you can actually do a bill like this.

REP. KATIE PORTER (D-CA): Absolutely. It`s a new experience and a chance -



PORTER: -- to learn some new rules and some new procedures.

But, you know, at the same time, it`s very familiar, which is that we`re

trying to address the needs of the American people and the harms caused by

this pandemic.

So the kinds of things we`re trying to do, many of them are very familiar,

help make sure that the very smallest businesses can get relief. Help

people who have children. Make sure providing for public health.

So the process is different, but the goal to help the American people

through this pandemic remains the same and the urgency, of course, has only


O`DONNELL: Yeah, it is a huge piece of team work. I mean, I think -- I

know people think they know a lot about reconciliation because we throw the

term around a lot. But, I mean, as you have discovered on this first trip

through it, it`s kind of in the House a nine-layer sandwich of stuff, of

sandwich made from nine different sources.

Your committee had about $350 billion of input into this bill. But there`s

plenty of times, I`m sure, when you want to reach over into House Ways and

Means and say, hey, what about this piece? But you`re kind of stuck within

your own jurisdiction.

PORTER: Well, there is an element of that, certainly, that they would like

us all to, you know, keep making the sandwich and not have interruptions.

But we also want to make sure we get this right.

So, in addition to the nine-hour markup that we had in the Oversight

Committee to get relief to state and local governments, I have been talking

with the Ways and Means Committee and the staff trying to change an aspect

of the proposed expanded child tax credits.

The proposal that they made would give less tax credit and less money to

kids who are living in single parent households. I think of that as a

single parent penalty, and I don`t think it should exist.

So I`m trying to get parity so that any child, no matter whether their

parents or married or single, whether cared by a grandparent or another

guardian, that child gets the same additional benefit, so they can help out

nutritious food, high quality child care, and good housing.

O`DONNELL: It helps to have single mothers in the House of Representatives

to actually offer some guidance on this because so often, these kinds of

distinctions within -- especially within tax pieces, and this is

technically, even though it`s an expenditure, it`s a tax expenditure. So

that side of the law is filled with things that have different definitions

for married couples than for single people.

PORTER: Absolutely. When I first raised this, actually, was several months

ago when we were working on stimulus checks on student disaster checks.

They said you get this much if you`re single. And you get this much if

you`re married. I thought what about me?

My tax filings status as head of household, and that`s there`s a lot of

people who take that tax filing status. And I began to ask questions, and

the committee staff was just wonderful in helping me dig into this and

understand this, and I said, why is it this way? They said, you know,

nobody ever really asks about it.

So, here I am. I`m asking about it and we`re having a debate about it and

really proud to be leading this effort with my colleague Ayanna Pressley

who herself was raised by a single mom. So, Ayanna really knows what it`s

like to be a kid and not have some of the things you need to succeed.

O`DONNELL: The bill now is headed to the House floor. It looks like it is

going to pass on a party line vote. All of the votes in the committees have

been party line votes leading up to this. And you`ll be sending it into a


By the way, constitutionally, this bill must pass the House before it is

taken up by the Senate because it does have tax provisions in it and, so,

that is actually a constitutional rule about that. And, so, the sequence

here seems to be working smoothly. The Senate doesn`t seem to have really

fallen behind because of the Senate trial.

PORTER: No. They`re absolutely up to speed. The fact that the House is

going first, as you said, reflects the fact that we`re honoring the

constitutional process, which gives those decisions about spending to the

House first and foremost.

But as we`re trying to wrap this process up, people like me are reaching

out to folks in the Senate, trying to identify any place that we think we

can strengthen this bill.

We want to make sure the bill is as good as it can be. The American people

have already waited too long.

O`DONNELL: Congresswoman Porter, can you stay with us across this break

because today was the day where Joe Biden with a moment of silence marked

the 500,000 milestone in deaths due to COVID-19 in this country, and I know

you lost your grandmother to COVID-19. And if you just stay with us, we`re

going to see what Joe Biden had to say about that after this break.

PORTER: Of course.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.


O`DONNELL: As the sun set today in the Capitol of a country that has now

lost 500,000 lives to COVID-19, the president of the United States said



JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: To those who have lost loved

ones, this is what I know. They`re never truly gone. They will always be

part of your heart. I know this as well.

And it seems unbelievable. But I promise you the day will come when the

memory of the loved one you lost will bring a smile to your lips before a

tear to your eye.


O`DONNELL: The president`s and vice president`s solemn commemoration of the

500,000 lives lost to COVID-19 included a moment of silence.

President Biden spoke directly to the millions of people in this country

who are grieving a loved one lost to COVID-19.


BIDEN: For some of you, it`s been a year, a month, a week, a day, even an

hour. And I know that when you stare at that empty chair around the kitchen

table, it brings it all back no matter how long ago it happened as if it

just happened that moment when you look at that empty chair.

The birthdays, the anniversaries, the holidays without them -- the every

day things, the small things, the tiny things that you miss the most. That

scent when you open the closet, that park you go by that you used to stroll

in, that movie theater where you met, the morning coffee you shared

together, the bend in his smile, the perfect pitch to her laugh.


O`DONNELL: As of tonight, the United States has suffered 502,268 deaths

from COVID-19. One of the lives lost to COVID-19 is the 94-year-old

grandmother of Congresswoman Katie Porter. Doris Kathleen Porter died on

December 13th.

With us is Congresswoman Katie Porter. Congresswoman Porter, your

reflections today when Joe Biden offered that commemoration to the lives

lost, including your grandmother.

REP. KATIE PORTER (D-CA):It is really meaningful to have a president who is

sympathetic, who speaks to the pain of the moment, doesn`t try to deflect

or pretend that we aren`t going through this, but instead acknowledges it.

And really offers from a place of deep personal experience his thoughts

that the pain will pass, that the memory of the person you have lost will

comfort you.

And I think it`s really powerful that he`s taking this time to mark this

moment even as we are a full court ahead working hard trying to stop

further deaths and trying to deal with this pandemic.

If we could talk to your grandmother tonight, what would she tell us about

her granddaughter, Katie?

PORTER: Oh, I think she would say that I got this somewhat ill-behaved

curly hair from her. I think she would share a lot of memories of how we

used to cook together.

You know, Joe Biden -- President Biden mentioned kind of some of us being

reminded of the person and some of these things that remind you. and for my

grandmother, you know, it`s some of the items from her kitchen that she

passed along to me.

The other day I made cookies and put them in her -- even her Tupperware and

it just reminded me so much of her and those times we had together.

O`DONNELL: It is not that long ago, just in the month of December, that you

lost your grandmother. Joe Biden talks about that moment when you will

smile first -- you will smile before the tear comes. Do you feel yourself

getting close to that moment?

PORTER: Yes. To some extent. I think it`s very helpful that I know that she

was taken care of and loved in her final moments. that the hospital staff,

the nurses, everybody there was providing her comfort even as we weren`t

able to be with her.

I really do -- I`m so grateful to those people and I really do feel blessed

that they were there with her, being angels to her as she passed on. And so

I just want to acknowledge and thank all of those people who`s doing that

work each and every day of helping people in their final moments.

O`DONNELL: Congresswoman Katie Porter, thank you very much for joining us


PORTER: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

Up next, time is up for Donald Trump`s tax returns. The Supreme Court

ordered Donald Trump to hand over his tax returns to the Manhattan district

attorney. This could be the final piece of the puzzle that prosecutors need

before bringing criminal charges against Donald Trump and possibly members

of his family. Former federal prosecutor Andrew Weismann joins us next.


O`DONNELL: The reason I always thought that Donald Trump would never run

for president is that presidential candidates have to release their tax


Well, Donald Trump managed to run for president without releasing his tax

returns, but today the inevitable caught up with him and the Supreme Court

ordered the Trump tax returns handed over to the Manhattan district

attorney Cyrus Vance. In response to the Supreme Court decision, Cy Vance

released a three word statement, "The work continues".

That work is an investigation into hush money payments to Stormy Daniels,

falsifying business records, insurance fraud and tax fraud.

Donald Trump`s former lawyer Michael Cohen has been interviewed by Cy

Vance`s office five times and one more time recently. Michael Cohen said

this tonight to Joy Reid.



astute did not bring in the likes of an individual like Mark Pomeranz, an

incredibly well known and prolific attorney when it comes to this area of

significant financial crimes as well as complex financial crimes.

They didn`t bring him in. Not for -- not to bring an indictment. And I

suspect the indictment will probably be sooner than later.


O`DONNELL: Joining us now, Andrew Weismann, former federal prosecutor who

investigated Donald Trump in the Mueller investigation. He`s an NBC News --

an MSNBC legal analyst.

And Andrew, you and I have been wondering what was the delay with the

Supreme Court on the tax returns. They could have issued this basically

denial of hearing the case, refusal to hear the case. They could have done

it a while ago.

Do you have any theory as to why it took so long?

ANDREW WEISSMANN, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: So it was fully briefed and ready to

go by middle of October. And you could understand why the court might have

delayed until after the election, but you really get the sense that this

fell behind the radiator because it wasn`t done, you know, between, you

know, the election and January 20th. And then you think it would at least

would have happened very shortly after January 20th.

In other words, you know, I don`t know if it was -- they were responding to

the increasing media drumbeat about what on God`s green earth is keeping

them, but, you know, it clearly wasn`t sort of contested deliberations

because the Supreme Court ruled today in a summary order.

In other words, this wasn`t a long drawn out opinion. It basically just had

one word, denied. So this means that Donald Trump will now have to turn

over and cannot object to his accountants turning over all of the

accounting records that the Manhattan district attorney`s office is


And technically the subpoena is not to Donald Trump. It is to this

accounting company and they`re professionals. Their lawyers are

professionals. They`re not obstreperous, Trump-crazy lawyers. They`re just

going to hand this stuff over, right?

WEISSMANN: Absolutely. They`re third parties. I mean they just were waiting

for the go ahead from the court. This reminds me very much of the situation

we were in when we got the accounting records from Paul Manafort`s


And just so your viewers understand, the reason this is so important is

that the government is going to need to show not only that tax returns or

bank loan applications were wrong, in other words, that the amounts were

erroneous but they then need to show that Donald Trump or whoever they`re

focusing on knew that they were wrong and filed them nevertheless


And accounting records can be a gold mine in terms of proving all of that,

that not only are they wrong but that it was knowingly so. And they can

really put the lie to a particular person so they can end up either showing

that, you know, Donald Trump himself knew and did this intentionally or

they can use it to flip people who were used to prepare these documents.

So this is really going to be a wealth of information for the Manhattan

district attorney`s office.

O`DONNELL: Andrew, I have never seen tax returns of this size. Few people

have. In your experience as a prosecutor, being dumped this massive amount

of information, how long will it take a team of prosecutors to figure out

what they have here?

WEISSMANN: So, you know, people keep saying that, but if you look at the --

let`s just take the Mueller investigation in the Manafort case. We started

really looking at that in June or July of 2017. And Manafort was under

indictment in October of that year.

Now, we had an incredible group of FBI agents and analysts, but it is not a

long process. The hardest part is not reviewing the documents, it is

interviewing people about those documents and scheduling those interviews.

But again, that gives you a sense of the time frame.

And Paul Manafort had, you know, dozens and dozens of corporations all

across the globe and, that again, only took a few months to go through.

O`DONNELL: And what`s the procedure for a local district attorney who is

holding evidence that they feel might include federal crimes?

WEISSMANN: Great question. So what a local attorney can do is refer that to

federal prosecutors to look into. Obviously, the federal prosecutors don`t

have to.

By the same token, you have seen examples of federal prosecutors when they

see state matters, they can refer that to the state and then again, it is

up to the state to decide what to do. So this could work as a two-way

street as your question suggests.

O`DONNELL: Andrew Weismann, we could have no better guide for what feels

like the year of "Defendant Trump". Thank you very much for joining us

again tonight. We really appreciate it.


O`DONNELL: And coming up, Beto O`Rourke has been working nonstop to help

the people of Texas survive the disastrous power failure that has left them

without heat and without water.

Beto O`Rourke joins us next.


O`DONNELL: While Texas` junior senator was jetting off to Cancun to flee

the devastation in Texas, our next guest, Beto O`Rourke, was working hard

to help people who Senator Cruz left behind. Beto O`Rourke was quickly

jointed by New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez who helped raise

over $5 million in relief funds for Texas organizations like the Houston

Food Bank where Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez helped Texas Congresswomen Sheila

Jackson Lee and Sylvia Garcia distribute food on Saturday.

Now that Texans know where their junior senator is they are left to wonder

where is Greg Abbott. Greg Abbott is the Republican governor of Texas who

tried to blame the Green New Deal which has not even come to a vote in the

Congress for the failure of the Texas electrical power system which is run

by something that calls itself the Electric Reliability Council of Texas.

Beto O`Rourke will explain to us how the word "reliability" got into the

title of that entity.

The Texas electrical power system designed by Republicans has created the

possibility of Texans being bankrupted by their utility bills with people

being charged thousands of dollars a day to heat their homes that normally

cost a few hundred to heat for the entire winter. 63-year-old army veteran

Scott Willoughby from outside of Dallas spent his savings paying for a bill

totaling $16,847.35.

Also missing in action is Texas attorney general Ken Paxton who escaped to

Utah during the crisis instead of staying in Texas and protecting people

from price gouging on their utility bills.

Joining us now is former Democratic congressman Beto O`Rourke of Texas.

He`s a founder of Powered by People, a grassroots organization designed to

elect Democrats across Texas.

Beto O`Rourke, thank you very much for joining us tonight. I have right

here on my notepad, it`s been here for days, these words Electric

Reliability Council of Texas because all of our Texas guests keep saying

ERCOT, ERCOT and it took me a long time to learn it.

It is kind of weird to see the word "reliability" in their title.


that here we are in the energy capital of North America and yet we couldn`t

power the homes and lives of millions of our fellow Texans.

Millions more unable to get reliable, clean drinking water, and as you

unfortunately know far too many have lost their lives to a very unnecessary

disaster. Meaning that if we had not deregulated, if we had instead

connected to the rest of the national electricity grid, if we had required

weatherization, investing more in people instead of profits, and if we

allowed for some excess capacity for moments of need like these we would

not be in this position.

Furthermore if we had people in positions of public trust who believed in

science and understand climate change, then we`d know that we`re going to

have more weather events like one just as severe or worse, just as deadly

or worse.

So this moment calls for leadership that we don`t have it on a state wide

level. You do see it in people, in neighborhoods, knocking on each others

doors, making wellness check-in phone calls or just being there for one

another at this critical moment of need. I think that is the one positive

thing I can say for what we are seeing in Texas right now.

O`DONNELL: I want to get to these electrical bills for a moment because

they are stunning to all of us who live outside of Texas and live in

regulated markets.

There is an article in the "Texas Tribune" today about someone who`s got a

$10,000 bill on the utilities and it`s a public school teacher and it`s a

direct withdrawal from her checking account. That public -- that particular

utility is connected directly to your checking account and just takes the

money straight out before you even know the bill is there. And people are

being devastated. You`re going to have it seems massive bankruptcies

because of this.

O`ROURKE: You are seeing bills for $10,000 or $17,000 on variable rate

programs where all of the detail is in the fine print. And I don`t know

about you but when I am paying my electric bill I do not read the pages of

fine print to know that I could be charged $17,000 for something that is

not my fault.

To add insult to injury, and that schoolteacher, if she`s like half of

school teachers in Texas is working a second or even third job to make ends

meet because we don`t pay our public school educators half enough for the

work that they do in order to put food on the table and in this case to pay

their electricity bill.

So desperately need some change in our electricity grid, in our leadership

and where we place our priorities in Texas. Thankfully there are volunteers

who are going out there and doing the job the government should do. There

are great public leaders like Congresswoman Ocasio Cortez and Julian

Castro, Veronica Escobar, Sylvia Garcia, Sheila Jackson Lee who at the

local level along with these great county judges and mayors are trying to

fill in for the gaps of leadership that were missing from others who

literally are not in the state that they purport to represent right now.

So that`s where we have turn right now. We`ve been to San Antonio. We`ve

been to Rains County (ph). We were in Rosebud, Texas today meeting with the

mayor there. These folks are working their hearts out right now to serve

their constituents and make sure that they (INAUDIBLE) at this moment of


But let`s learn from this, let`s improve the electricity grid we have here

and let`s put people in positions of power who actually care for those that

they represent and swear that they serve. That`s what we need going


O`DONNELL: You have been through an experience that you haven`t been before

in dealing with this. What have you learned? What are the lessons you take

away from this that you`ve learned from some of the victims of it who don`t

have heat, don`t have water, can`t pay their bills or some of the public

officials or some of the people involved in delivering electricity who have

revealed to you things that you did not know about this crisis.

O`ROURK: Not unlike COVID, this crisis reveals some of the underlying

systemic problems that were there all along. Problems of poverty or failure

to invest in infrastructure, inequality or failure to address equity in our


I mentioned we were in Rains County. There is a small community called

Point there. Folks on 3rd street and Point have not had water for seven

days. And visiting with, talking to and listening to the folks there, they

have long-standing issues and challenges there for service, resources and

just, you know, having the rest of the state know that they exist. That is

part of the reason that we went up there today.

The same reason that we are going down to the Rio Grande Valley, a part of

our country that does not get the attention and focus that it deserves and

that it needs. We want to be there and help rally other volunteers to do

these wellness checks and make sure that folks are ok.

So these inequities and inequalities laid bare at the same time that you

see extraordinary everyday people stepping up, checking in on one another

and taking care of their neighbors.

That is the lead that we have to follow. When our public servants are not

getting it done, then the people are the lead. And we`ve got to make sure

that we follow that example.

So we are trying to do our best as we travel the state of Texas to pick up

on that and help those who are in need and get the care that they deserve.

O`DONNELL: Beto O`Rourke, thank you very much for joining us. And thank you

very much for your service to the people of Texas.

O`ROURKE: Grateful to you. Thank you so much.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

Beto O`Rourke gets tonight`s LAST WORD.


BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Well, good evening once again.


Copyright 2021 ASC Services II Media, LLC. All materials herein are

protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced,

distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the

prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter

or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the