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Transcript: The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, 2/26/2021

Guest: Jared Bernstein, Lizzie Fletcher, Katie Hobbs�


House of Representative debating and voting on President Biden`s

COVID Relief Bill which includes an increase of $15 an hour of minimum wage

for the working American citizens. FBI has now singled out a person as a

suspect of the death of Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick. Sis member

of the Proud Boys have been charged in connection to the Capitol Riot.

President Biden was welcomed politely and professionally today in Texas by

Republican Governor Greg Abbott and the state`s Republican senior senator,

John Cornyn, both of whom were vigorous opponents of Joe Biden`s

presidential campaign. The Central Intelligence Agency has concluded that

Saudi Arabia`s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman approved an operation in

Istanbul, Turkey to capture or kill Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.



ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST: I`ll be bracing for what`s to come with perhaps the

world`s top most expert on what Donald Trump is capable of. His former

personal fixer and confidant, Michael Cohen. That`s tomorrow morning on my

show "Velshi" from 8:00 to 10:00 a.m. eastern. Time now for "The Last Word"

with Lawrence O`Donnell. Lawrence, good evening my friend.

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Ali. You have a busy weekend

of coverage this weekend.

VELSHI: I do, but I`m looking forward to it as always.

O`DONNELL: I`ll be watching. Thank you, Ali.

VELSHI: Thanks friend.

O`DONNELL: Thank you. We are covering two breaking news stories at this

hour, and at the end of the hour we will cover the most important ongoing

political story of our time, the Republican Party`s nationwide attempt in

state legislatures to restrict voting in this country. We will be joined by

Arizona`s secretary of state and she will get tonight`s last word.

The breaking news in Congress tonight is the voting on the Biden COVID

relief bill. The other breaking news of the night is that the FBI has

singled out a suspect in the killing of Capitol Police Officer Brian

Sicknick in the attack on the Capitol on January 6th.

The FBI has found someone on video of the attack who appears to be

responsible for the death of Officer Sicknick. We will have more details on

this big break in the FBI`s investigation of the killing of Officer

Sicknick after we begin with coverage of the breaking news in the House of

Representatives of tonight.

The House Rules Committee is voting right now on the $1.9 trillion Biden

COVID relief bill that includes an increase in the minimum wage to $15 an

hour. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was disappointed in last night`s ruling by

the Senate parliamentarian, Elizabeth MacDonough that an increase in the

minimum wage could not be included in the Biden COVID relief bill as part

of a budget reconciliation package because of the unique parliamentary

budget rules of the United States Senate, rules that do not apply in the

House of Representatives.

It wasn`t the first time in her career that Speaker Pelosi was disappointed

by a ruling by the Senate parliamentarian, and she could not have been

surprised this time. Democrats and Republicans have always believed,

unanimously believed, that it was impossible to include a minimum wage

increase in a budget reconciliation bill in the Senate, which is why they

have never tried to do it before. Never.

And Nancy Pelosi`s entire career in Congress, the Democrats have never

attempted to increase the minimum wage in a reconciliation bill. Senator

Ted Kennedy was the chairman of the Senate Labor Committee in three

different decades, and he never once attempted to raise the minimum wage in

a reconciliation bill because he believed it was against the rules of the


And Ted Kennedy always wanted to raise the minimum wage. So, with decades

of precedent stacked against them, the Senate staff of Chairman Bernie

Sanders` budget committee still made a very powerful case to the Senate

parliamentarian to include the minimum wage in the budget reconciliation

bill that was so powerful an argument, that it took the Senate

parliamentarian several days to decide the issue.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi today correctly did not blame the Senate

parliamentarian. She blamed the rules of the Senate. And by implication,

the senators who support those rules.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): As a matter of practice, I don`t get involved in

the rules of the United States Senate. But as a matter of values, I can

just say we will not rest until we pass the $15 minimum wage.

We have been engaged in the fight for $15 for a long time. This is

legislation that affects overwhelm -- a majority of women. So over 60

percent of the people making minimum wage are women. Many are moms. And it

is so essential for us to do this.

And whether it happens when we send this over there, we are sending it as a

symbol of a difference it will make in the lives of the American people,

but not just a symbol, but as a solid proposal. If it doesn`t prevail

because of Senate rules, we will persist. But we will not stop until we

very soon pass the $15 minimum wage.


O`DONNELL: Here`s what Speaker Pelosi said about the importance of the

Biden COVID relief bill even without the minimum wage increase.


PELOSI: This is a spectacular piece of legislation. While the Senate has

prevented us temporarily from passing one aspect of it, let us not be

distracted from what is in here because it is a great bill.


O`DONNELL: The House Majority Whip James Clyburn said that House Democrats

decided to keep the minimum wage in their version of the bill even though

they know it will not pass the Senate because they want to emphasize to the

American people just how urgent it is to raise the minimum wage.


REP. JAMES CLYBURN (D-SC): We are going to do this. I think that the

Speaker is correct. That`s why we`re keeping it in our bill. If we were

going to be political about it, I think we would all just take it out of

the bill. We are doing this because we are responding to the American

people. We are that body here in the Congress that`s closest to the

American people. We think $15 an hour ought to be the law of the land.


O`DONNELL: Leading off our discussion tonight is Jared Bernstein. He`s a

member of the president`s council of economic advisers. Thank you very much

for joining us tonight on this important night. I want to get your

reaction, first of all. Let`s deal with the parliamentarian`s ruling

because I think you and I both would have bet that this is the way it would

come out just because of literally decades of precedent.

But Bill Dauster, the chief counsel of the Senate Budget Committee, made

obviously a very, very impressive argument to keep the parliamentarian

thinking about it for several days. And we know Elizabeth MacDonough was

not -- she was not looking for the pressure she got from this, but this is

what I think most of us who`ve worked in this arena have always assumed the

rule would be interpreted this way.


Correct. And I also heard that Bill Dauster did a tremendous job. And as

you said, that must have been the case because it took her a while to make

the call that she did even though it was expected. I think the most

important thing here is what we just heard Nancy Pelosi and Congressman

Clyburn say.

The people`s House is doing the people`s business, especially the Democrats

over there. And the people`s business is working on not just getting the

American rescue plan over the legislative goal line, that`s so important

because there`s so much more in here than the minimum wage.

But making sure that the president and the Congress find a way forward on

the minimum wage as well. Given the parliamentarian`s decision, you know,

it looks like it`s going to come out of the bill, as she said. That doesn`t

mean this fight is over.

President Biden is committed to making sure that essential workers who have

kept this country going through this pandemic crisis, this joint health

care and economic crisis, get paid a fair wage. And that fair wage in his

view is $15 an hour, and he has never wavered from that point.

O`DONNELL: Ron Klain was on with Joy Reid the other night and he said

before the parliamentarian ruled that Vice President Harris would not

attempt to overrule the parliamentarian`s call on this one, especially

because the Democrats do not, plainly do not have the votes on the floor of

the senate to sustain what would be the vice president`s overruling of the

parliamentarian because you would only have, at most, 48 votes to support


BERNSTEIN: Right. But I think what the Democrats do have on the floor of

the Senate -- and I want to be very clear, this is a historic night for the

House, but that doesn`t mean we can relax because we have to now move very

quickly through the Senate so we can get this relief into the businesses

and the families out there in America.

Not to mention the production and the distribution of the vaccine, the safe

opening of schools, $2,000 of checks to hard-hit families, unemployment

assistance, extension of the unemployment program that by the way, will

expire mid-March. So that`s critical to get that out. Families facing a

nutritional shortfall, eviction.

All these are components of the plan which Democrats in the Senate very

broadly support. And just to be clear, we`re getting some poll numbers now.

It`s not -- it`s only in Washington that this becomes a very partisan


I saw a poll number today, I believe it was a morning console poll from

this morning or yesterday, 76% of the American people support the American

Rescue Plan and 60 percent of Republicans, okay. Those are stratospheric

numbers. Now, ask yourself why that`s the case?

It`s just because it`s not a "D" or an "R" preference to safely reopen

schools, to support families and businesses to get through this crisis, to

distribute the vaccine, to get shots in people`s arms, to make the kind of

we`re in this together effort that the Biden administration has been doing

in terms of getting the vaccine out there with the states relative to the

Trump administration, which is very much you`re on your own, good luck. So,

all of that is in the American Rescue Plan, not just the minimum wage.

O`DONNELL: We have Chairman Sanders of the Budget Committee and now, you

know, in fact, more importantly in this instance Chairman Wyden of the

Senate Finance Committee where this provision would have to be written.

They are both advocating a provision to be added to the Senate bill which

would in effect require very big companies to raise their minimum wage to

at least the $15.

They put in a tax penalty if they don`t. They also have a tax encouragement

for smaller businesses to raise their minimum wage up to the $15 level. Do

you in the administration have a view that provision yet? Are you for that

at this stage?

BERNSTEIN: The key word there is yet. Not yet because we just got that

today and it`s a complicated piece of work. So we`re going to have to look

at that very carefully. As you suggested, this is a tax penalty for large

firms who don`t pay the minimum wage like they avoid the penalty by paying

the higher wage.

I think where the president is coming from as we speak right now is that he

is going to work with Congress to find a way forward on a $15 minimum wage

that goes to everybody regardless of what size firm you work for because

his value in this case is that essential workers doing the nation`s

business should not live on a poverty -- should not be paid a poverty-level


As we know, as I`m sure our viewers know, the federal minimum wage is $7.25

an hour. Full-time full year work, that comes to $14,500 a year. Nobody can

sustain a family on that amount. Double that, you get to $15, and you`re

talking about $30,000 a year. Certainly closer to the kind of living wage

that this president is fighting for.

O`DONNELL: Jared Bernstein, thank you very much for joining us on this

important night. We really appreciate it.

BERNSTEIN: My pleasure.

O`DONNELL: Thank you. And joining us now, Democratic Congressman Jamaal

Bowman of New York. He is a member of the Committee on Education and Labor.

Congressman Bowman, thank you very much for joining us tonight and welcome

to your first reconciliation bill where you`re discovering the Senate

parliamentary rules actually end up controlling the final outcome as much

as you would like to do it in the House.

Nancy Pelosi`s been through this kind of situation many times before. Let`s

talk about what is in the bill other than the minimum wage at this stage

and what it is that you consider the most important elements of this bill

if the minimum wage doesn`t survive.

We have a sound issue with the congressman. Go ahead, congressman, we can

hear you now, I think.

REP. JAMAAL BOWMAN (D-NY): The entire bill is important, obviously, but for

me as an educator, I`m looking at the $130 billion that`s going to our K-12

schools. My wife is a teacher. I have two young children in schools. Our

schools need that money to open safely.

We need it for testing and contact tracing. We need it for ventilation. We

need it for vaccination and PPE. We need it for additional teachers. So,

I`m really excited about the education component to the bill. But the

minimum wage, we got to continue to fight for the minimum wage. I mean,

we`re talking $7.25 an hour. Even $15 an hour is a struggle for so many

people across this country prior to the pandemic and since the pandemic has

hit --

O`DONNELL: We`ve lost the congressman`s connection. And I want to -- as we

struggle to get Congressman Bowman`s connection back, I want to show you

what Paul Krugman said last night with Rachel Maddow. And this was when

Rachel discussed the issue to the point of considering how good is this

legislation even if they lose the minimum wage out of the bill. Let`s

listen to what Nobel prize-winning economist Paul Krugman said about that.


PAUL KRUGMAN, NOBEL LAUREATE ECONOMICS: This is a -- I`m kind of almost

pinching myself. I can`t believe that we`re about to get a bill that is as

good. It`s not perfect, especially -- I miss that minimum wage, but they

we`re about to get a bill that`s as good as it appears we`re going to get.


O`DONNELL: There is no more distinguished liberal economist than Paul

Krugman, and he is right that in his time in watching this kind of

legislation we have never seen anything this big, this good, even without

the minimum wage.

And of course, the loss of the minimum wage is a disappointment to everyone

except the senators, a couple of senators who are opposed to it -- that

level of increase in the United States Senate. And so going forward now,

the Democrats face the challenge of how do you pass the minimum wage?

And the lesson is you put it in a must-pass bill that even Republicans have

to vote for, and the way they did it last time, the way they raised the

wage last time is they put it in a defense spending bill. They stuck it in

the defense spending bill. Ted Kennedy managed to get it jammed in there at

the last minute and that bill got 80 votes in the United States Senate

because Republicans had to vote for the defense spending bill.

And oddly enough, most of the votes against that bill were from Democrats

who were opposed to the defense spending that was in that bill. And so,

most of the no votes, the last time the minimum wage increase went through

the United States Senate was, in the oddity of it, from Democrats.

And so, this story is not over. There will be a defense spending bill.

There will be bills and legislative vehicles moving through the Senate that

you can attach anything to, including a minimum wage. That`s the next

chapter of this story.

We`re going to take a break here. When we come back, former federal

prosecutor Paul Butler will join us the breaking news that the FBI has

singled out a suspect in the investigation of the killing of Capitol Police

Officer Brian Sicknick in the attack on the Capitol. That breaking news is



O`DONNELL: That is a live shot of the House floor where they are debating

when to end the debate on the COVID relief bill. The vote on ending that

debate should be soon. Then there should be a vote on the bill itself after


Tonight`s breaking news in "The New York Times" is that "The New York

Times" is reporting that the FBI has singled out a suspect in its

investigation of the killing of Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick

during the January 6th attack on the Capitol.

Katie Benner and Adam Goldman in "The Times" report the FBI has pinpointed

an assailant in its investigation into the death of Brian D. Sicknick, the

Capitol Police officer who was injured while fending off the pro-Trump mob

that stormed the Capitol last month and later died.

According to two law enforcement officials briefed on the inquiry,

investigators have now pinpointed a person seen on video of the riot who

attacked several officers with bear spray, including Officer Sicknick,

according to the officials.

And video evidence shows that the assailant discussed attacking officers

with the bear spray beforehand, one of the officials said. "The Times"

reports that the FBI suspects that Officer Sicknick`s death was "related to

an irritant like mace or bear spray that he had inhaled during the riot."

Also, today, the Justice Department indicted six members of the so-called

Proud Boys on conspiracy charges. The six suspects had already been charged

in the attack on the Capitol, but they are now charged with conspiracy to

obstruct the certification of President Biden`s electoral victory and to

attack law enforcement.

"The New York Times" reports, "The department said that the group

coordinated their travel to Washington and stayed together in an Airbnb

rental near the city. They brought and wore matching uniforms and carried

paramilitary gear and supplies including camouflage, combat uniforms,

tactical vests with plates, helmets, eye protection and radio equipment

into the Capitol, according to the indictment. Once inside, they traveled

as a group through the building, the department said.

Joining us now by phone is Paul Butler, a former federal prosecutor and law

professor at Georgetown University. He is an MSNBC contributor. And Paul,

let me begin with the breaking news that the FBI has narrowed it down to

someone they see on video and "The Times" reporting seems to indicate they

do not yet have the specific identity of the person, but they have images

of the person.

PAUL BUTLER, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR (via telephone): This is very

significant. The investigation is focused on a person who attacked several

officers with bear spray, a chemical, lethal or non-lethal agent. There is

evidence of both advanced planning and a criminal conspiracy because

reportedly there is video of the person discussing attacking officers with

bear spray before the actual attack.

So, murder charges would require evidence of intent to kill, and chemical

irritants like bear spray are not usually considered deadly force. So, the

mental state of purpose to kill would be difficult to prove, but certainly

very serious charges like assault on a law enforcement officer are entirely

warranted based on this reported evidence.

O`DONNELL: Paul, talk about in investigation terms, what does it take to go

from that image of a person that they apparently have to getting an

identity and a name and an arrest.

BUTLER: So, the stakes are high. We know that 138 police officers were

injured as a result of the insurrection. Injuries like concussions, burns

or a heart attack and two suicides. Lawrence, this is probably the worst

day for U.S. law enforcement officers since September 11th. So, this is a

major priority.

What do we know? Six members of this hate group, the Proud Boys have

already been charged with conspiracy both to obstruct the certification of

the election and to attack law enforcement. The leader of the Proud Boys,

this guy, Enrique Tarrio, whose name in the indictment as person number

one, told these white supremacists that they should turn out in record

numbers, pan across D.C. in small teams.

So, there is coordination. They wore matching uniforms. They carried

paramilitary gear like helmets and eye protection. And so, they came hell

bent on destruction. They successfully incited the crowd and they acted in

coordination with these tragic results.

And so, Enrique Tarrio, who`s a known snitch, he`s reportedly cooperated

with law enforcement agents in other investigations to get himself out of

trouble. That is certainly one person who the FBI will turn to, to try to

get information on who actually carried out the attack, who are the people

who sprayed Officer Sicknick with this chemical poison that tragically

resulted in his death.

O`DONNELL: And what are the effects of upgrading the charges against these

six so-called Proud Boys to conspiracy? Presumably, that would add to any

sentence. What else might it mean?

BUTLER: Yes, you`re absolutely right. It enhances the sentence. But it also

creates more incentive for these persons to turn states evidence, to

cooperate with law enforcement to try to figure out who the leaders are and

who are the people who actually carried out this act.

And this is welcome transparency from the Capitol Police who aren`t (ph)

known for being all that transparent and haven`t been during this

investigation. So, we didn`t actually know before this indictment how this

officer was actually killed.

And there`s still other important information that the public hasn`t had

access to from the Capitol Police. For example, we know that a number of

Capitol Police officers are on leave. They`re being investigated for their

conduct. What did that investigation reveal?

And we also don`t know about contacts between the rioters and Republican

Congress people, including whether rioters were offered tours of the

Capitol prior to January 6th. So these new charges are a welcome advance in

terms of the public having more understanding of the dire stakes of what

happened on January 6th, but it`s really just the beginning.

O`DONNELL: Paul Butler, thank you very much for joining us tonight. We

really appreciate it.

BUTLER: Always a pleasure, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: And just to be clear on this breaking news from "The New York

Times" tonight, there are no arrests on this part of the investigation yet,

but the FBI has singled out a potential assailant as "The Times" is

reporting, of Officer Brian Sicknick. They have zeroed in on someone.

Apparently, they do not yet have the full identity of that person.

Coming up, we will be joined by Texas Congresswoman Lizzie Fletcher who

accompanied President Biden on his visit to Texas today as the state

recovers from the deadly failure of its power grid while the state`s junior

senator was in Orlando screaming his way through an anti-Democracy rally.

That`s next.


O`DONNELL: Joe Biden demonstrated that we once again have a president who

believes he is president of all 50 states, including the states that he did

not win in the presidential election.

President Biden was welcomed politely and professionally today in Texas by

Republican Governor Greg Abbott and the state`s Republican senior senator,

John Cornyn, both of whom were vigorous opponents of Joe Biden`s

presidential campaign.

The state`s junior senator once again decided there was no point to

pretending that he cares about the aftermath of the man-made power failure

in Texas that cost at least 40 lives. He was found on a stage in Florida

today screaming at an anti-democracy rally.

President Biden`s first stop was to the Harris County emergency operations

center where state and local officials briefed him about the recovery

efforts and the challenges they still face.

The president and first lady met with volunteers at the Houston Food Bank,

the largest food bank in the country that feeds over one million Texans.

Their final stop was to one of the federal community vaccination centers

that the Biden administration has created.


Joe Biden, President of the United States: I know millions of Texans have

been impacted by the destruction of community water systems as a result of

the power outages. The Environmental Protection Agency has deployed mobile

drinking water labs in Houston, San Antonio and Fort Worth to test water so

we can get boil-water advisories lifted and get safe drinking water flowing

through those faucets again.


Joining us now is Democratic Congresswoman Lizzie Fletcher of Texas who

represents the Houston area. She is a member of the House Energy and

Commerce Committee. She met with President Biden today in Texas. And she

has the honor of representing the congressional district where the junior

senator from Texas resides.

Congresswoman Fletcher, thank you very much for joining us tonight. Tell us

what you were able to tell Joe Biden today about what Texas needs in the

aftermath and their recovery from this power failure system.

REP. LIZZIE FLETCHER (D-TX): Well, thanks so much, Lawrence, for having me

on tonight and for your focus on what`s happening here in Texas still.

I was really glad to be able to visit with President Biden here on the

ground in Houston today. He is the leader that we need at this moment. He

showed his commitment and his compassion for the people who live here. And

I was able to talk to him about how meaningful it is for us to see that

leadership, to see him here, and also that he moved so quickly to approve

the disaster declaration before the disaster, before the storm hit, and to

approve the major disaster declaration immediately after.

And he got to see today on the ground the incredible work of the public

servants at every level of government who are committed to working on and

helping the people who lived through that crisis and working on the ways

that we can make sure it never happens again.

So I was just so grateful that he came and saw for himself the incredible

community that`s working here in Houston to help people get back on their

feet after last week.

O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to more of what the president said today knowing

that he was surrounded by Texas governing officials who did not vote for



BIDEN: We`re not here today as Democrats or Republicans. We`re here today

as Americans. The American leaders with responsibility, all of us here in

this parking lot, responsibility to all the people we serve.

When a crisis hits our states like the one that hit Texas, it`s not a

Republican or Democrat who`s hurting, it`s our fellow Americans who are

hurting. And it`s our job to help everyone in need. Look out for one

another. Leave nobody behind.


O`DONNELL: I want to make clear to our viewers that you`re voting by proxy

tonight in the House of Representatives even though you are in Houston

because we`re covering the action on the house floor live during this hour.

And I want to get your -- what you can tell us about what this COVID relief

bill will mean in Texas where many apparently of those $1,400 checks that

will arrive for Texans will immediately have to go pay their power bills.

FLETCHER: That`s right, Lawrence. This COVID relief package is absolutely

vital. And that`s another thing that I was able to talk about a little bit

with President Biden today because, of course, he came here not only to see

the relief efforts, but also the vaccination center, the new FEMA mass

vaccination center at NRG Stadium.

And it`s important for us to get more vaccinations, to get those shots in

people`s arms, to continue testing, and to have a robust program to ensure

the health of people across the country and to combat the virus, as well as

having direct checks for people who are hurting.

And I know that people are looking for additional unemployment and those

economic impact payments. They call my office every day and we`ve been

helping people get help with our Texas Workforce Commissioner, unemployment

agency. We know small businesses are taking advantage of these PPP loans,

but that their challenges are great. And after last week`s storm, they`re


People across our community have pipes that froze and are now broken. We

were out of power then we were out of water. For many people who have

busted pipes, even when you can get a plumber, there aren`t parts here.

And so, people are struggling in their homes and their businesses and it`s

so important for us to help them as well as that critical funding for state

and local governments.

And last week was a reminder that when we are in a crisis, we look to our

government to help us. And what we saw today in the emergency operations

center, what President Biden saw -- and he said he thought it was the best

in the country -- were public servants who were spending the night both

last week during this freeze, but also in relation to COVID.

They`re spending days and nights making sure that our community is safe and

healthy. And we need to make sure that we have that aid to state and local

governments who have struggled so much because of the -- all of the

difficulties that the COVID pandemic has brought.

And so, there`s this vital relief in this bill and I will be voting in

favor of it as soon as we have the opportunity to vote on final passage.

Were you surprised that the state`s junior senator decided it was more

important for him to be on a stage in Orlando today instead of in Texas

with you, telling the president what the kind of help Texas needs?

FLETCHER: Well, I certainly think that the opportunity to show the extent

of the devastation as well as the efforts here on the ground is an

important opportunity to be able to have that time with the president.

And I was disappointed in what the senator said, what was relayed to me

that the senator said at that convention, kind of making light of not being


This is a time where we need our leaders. And that`s why it was so

important for our community to see President Biden here and that`s an

opportunity that I was very glad to be a part of as were all of our leaders

here in Houston.

O`DONNELL: Texas congresswoman Lizzie Fletcher, thank you very much for

joining us tonight.

FLETCHER: Thanks for having me.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

And coming up, the director of National Intelligence has finally issued a

report holding the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia responsible for the murder

of Jamal Khashoggi. Former ambassador Michael McFaul will join us next.


O`DONNELL: That is a live shot of the House floor where they are voting on

the rule that will determine how the bill proceeds through the House. The

vote on the rule will succeed, of course. Then they will proceed on the

vote on the bill. All of this is going to take a few hours.

Today the office of the director of National Intelligence released an

assessment by the Central Intelligence Agency concluding that Saudi

Arabia`s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman approved an operation in

Istanbul, Turkey to capture or kill Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Today President Biden said this.


BIDEN: I spoke yesterday with the king, not the prince and made it clear to

him that rules are changing. We`re going to hold them accountable for human

rights abuses. And we`re going to make sure that they, in fact, if they

want to deal with us, they have to deal with it in a way where the human

rights abuses are dealt with.


O`DONNELL: Today President Biden said this about the first air strike that

he ordered yesterday which targeted buildings in Syria they said used by

Iranian-backed forces that launched certain strikes against American

contractors and possibly American personnel in Iraq.


PETER ALEXANDER, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Mr. President, what message were

you sending to Iran with your first military action?

BIDEN: You can`t get -- you can`t act with impunity. Be careful.


O`DONNELL: Today Pentagon press secretary John Kirby told Andrea Mitchell

that this was all legally authorized.


JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: The president acted well within his

constitutional authorities under Article 2 as commander in chief of the

United States to protect American service members involved in operations.

Clearly there`s a constitutional authority here.


O`DONNELL: Joining us now, Michael McFaul. He`s the U.S. ambassador to

Russia during the Obama administration. He is an MSNBC international

affairs analyst.

And Ambassador McFaul, a lot of pushback -- significant pushback from

Democrats about the legality of that strike by President Biden. Democratic

Senator Tim Kaine saying the American people deserve an explanation of the

legal authority. He doesn`t see legal authority for this.

We go through this discussion every time and nothing seems to get resolved

on the legal authority.


seems to get resolved and for decades, by the way, Lawrence. this isn`t

just something new. The Congress wants the authority, but oftentimes they

don`t want to take the responsibility.

I remember this very bitterly back in 2013 when President Obama was seeking

their authority to do airstrikes in Syria and then it didn`t happen.

In my opinion this was the right decision to take. The Iranians need to

know that we will protect our troops. They were in danger and I think it

was the right strike at the right time and proportionate to the threat that

was at hand.

O`DONNELL: So, on the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, what does the president

accomplish in these conversations with Saudi Arabia? What does Saudi Arabia

have to fear now, if anything, from the Biden administration?

MCFAUL: Well, first, I think it`s a real improvement over the Trump era.

Let`s be clear about that. We never talked about democracy and human rights

at all during the Trump era with respect to Saudi Arabia, so I applaud

that. I applaud the publication of the ODNI report, and I applaud the new

list that Secretary Blinken list -- about 75 or so officials that will be

on a visa ban list from Saudi Arabia because of this heinous murder that


But I hope it`s not the last step because let`s be clear MBS, Crown Prince

Mohammed bin Salman is not being punished here. They didn`t even say his

name. He was not sanctioned, and I think it sends a very weak signal that

this is the last step that we see in this drama.

They promised us recalibration. That`s the word they`re using. We are

looking to recalibrate our bilateral relationship with Saudi Arabia. I

think that`s good. I just hope it`s comprehensive and not just this one off

that we had today.

O`DONNELL: It certainly is unlike any other public document that the United

States has issued about Saudi Arabia. This is an indictment. It`s in effect

a criminal indictment. It says the Crown Prince has had absolute control

over the kingdom`s security.

It`s a very specific indictment of the Crown Prince. But there`s that

problem of -- they have the ability to indict but what do they have the

ability to do beyond leveling the charge?

MCFAUL: Well, they could do more, you know. They chose to do less. And

you`re right. They have indicted them of a crime. And I really want to

underscore, a heinous, a horrible crime.

Mr. Khashoggi was not trying to overthrow the regime. He wasn`t storming

palaces. He was a rather moderate critic. I knew him. We had conferences

together with him when I`m here out at Stanford.

And so it`s clear as day what crime was committed. It`s clear as day who

ordered it; I would say directed it. I would use a stronger verb.

And they could do more. They could put MBS -- they could put him on the

visa ban list. That`s a step they could take. They could move the people

that they put on this new visa ban list onto the Magnitsky list and then

they could name them.

And by the way, that would go a lot farther in terms of punishing them. By

just doing it in this private way, that`s a much smaller bar than putting

him on the Magnitsky list.

And then they could go farther. They could recalibrate the entire

relationship. My own view is that we think we need Saudi Arabia. Saudi

Arabia needs us. And I think we need to change fundamentally the balance of

power in this relationship.

And I`m willing to wait. I`m willing to hope that the Biden administration

will fundamentally recalibrate everything.

O`DONNELL: Former ambassador Michael McFaul, thank you very much for

joining us tonight. Really appreciate it.

And coming up, Arizona secretary of state Katie Hobbs will join us on the

single most important ongoing political story of our time: the Republican

attempts to restrict voting in this country with Arizona Republicans taking

it to a whole new level.

That`s next.


O`DONNELL: Our LAST WORD tonight is nothing less than the most important

political story of our time. The national effort by the Republican Party to

prevent people from voting because they believe that that`s the only way

they can win elections.

Already this year more than 250 bills have been introduced in state

legislatures around the country that would make it more difficult for

people to vote. Most of those bills focus on limiting mail-in voting,

increasing voter ID requirements, and the process of deleting names from

the voter rolls.

Arizona Republicans are so angry about Joe Biden winning their state that

they have introduced 19 bills in the legislature designed to help the next

Republican presidential candidate win Arizona and defy democracy in the

process if necessary.

One of those Arizona bills would establish a special session of the

legislature the Monday after election day to review or investigate the

results of the election and give legislators the power to pick the state`s

presidential electors for the electoral college.

Voting rights advocates say the bill would give the Republican legislature

the authority to decide the election results.

Republican state Senator David Gowen, the bill`s sponsor, says the

legislation isn`t meant to override the vote of the people but provides a

process for auditing the election.

Joining us now is Arizona secretary of state Katie Hobbs. I guess she`s not

joining us now. We have managed to lose more than one connection with our

guests tonight in this terribly challenging time for our control rooms.

The state legislature in Arizona is considering a bill that will provide

for a period of auditing and investigating the vote by the legislature

itself. Arizona already has a process for doing this.

And Katie Hobbs is joining us now to tell us what your process is now,

which you have used extensively in this election for reviewing votes,

recounting votes, and what the legislature wants to change it to.

KATIE HOBBS, ARIZONA SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, we have already built in a

logic and accuracy test in every county before each election and then after

each election. So they`re testing all the equipment prior -- both before

and after the election to make sure it is working properly. And there`s

also a hand count audit in every county.

So Maricopa County has gone above and beyond this year and done an

additional post-election logic and accuracy test and then just finished two

other deep-dive audits on all of the equipment, and the results came back

completely clean.

But the Senate has subpoenaed all of the equipment and all of the ballots

to do their own so-called independent audits. A judge today ruled that that

subpoena is valid, and the county has to turn those things over.

But they`re trying to put those things into statute into the future so that

they would have just unfettered access to all of the equipment and ballots,

and that`s concerning on many levels.

Number one, we already do all of those things.

But number two, there`s concerns about chain of custody and things like

that which, you know, most people should have a little bit of skepticism

about in terms of turning those things over to a third party.

O`DONNELL: Yes. I mean the more the ballots move around, the more

susceptible they become to manipulation.

HOBBS: Absolutely yes. We certainly don`t want that to happen.

O`DONNELL: And in the senate`s review, they`re going to now review all of

the votes cast in the last presidential election because they`ve managed

through a subpoena to get custody of those ballots. What do you expect to

happen in that review?

HOBBS: Well, I expect them to find nothing wrong. I expect the results to

match what the tabulator results came up with from the election. We know

that there was no widespread fraud or irregularity that changed votes. And

their audit is going to come up the same way that all the other audits have

come up. And the people that are hoping that something wrong is going to be

found are going to be very disappointed at the end of this additional


O`DONNELL: You have been doing mail-in voting since 1992 -- 28 years of

experience with it in Arizona, absolutely no complaints about it until now.

HOBBS: Well, you know, it has been a little bit more of a partisan issue in

the last couple of years, but we -- it was enacted in a bipartisan manner

and the permanent early voting list was put in place in a bipartisan

manner. And 75 percent of voters in Arizona are on the permanent early

voter list.

So, it is highly popular, and I think Republicans mess with that at their

peril because it is not just used by Democrats in our state.

O`DONNELL: Arizona secretary of state Katie Hobbs, thank you very much for

joining us tonight. I really appreciate it.

HOBBS: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Katie Hobbs gets tonight`s LAST WORD.


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

Day 38 of the Biden administration.


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