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.
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel.
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.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MERRICK GARLAND, ATTORNEY GENERAL NOMINEE: My first priority will be to
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
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Senator Dianne Feinstein reminded the forgetful Republicans on
if committee of how Donald Trump corrupted the Justice Department.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
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.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
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
(END VIDEO CLIP)
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.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
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
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.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOHN YARMUTH (D), KENTUCKY, CHAIR, BUDGET COMMITTEE: We have been
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
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining us now is Democratic Congresswoman Katie Porter
representing the 45th district of California. She`s a member of the House
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
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
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
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.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
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
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
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.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL COHEN, DONALD TRUMP FORMER ATTORNEY: Cy Vance, who is politically
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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
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
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
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.
BETO O`ROURKE, FORMER TEXAS DEMOCRATIC CONGRESSMAN: And even more strange
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
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
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.
"THE 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS" starts now.
BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Well, good evening once again.
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