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Transcript: The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, 3/11/2021

Guest: Jennifer Palmieri, Sheldon Whitehouse, Andy Slavitt, Latrice Walker


President Joe Biden announced that everyone in this country age 18 and above will be able to receive the coronavirus vaccine by May 1st. Interview with Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and chairman of the Subcommittee on Federal Courts, Oversight, Agency Action and Federal Rights. Democratic speaker Carl Heastie of the New York State Assembly has speaker issued a statement authorizing the judiciary committee to begin an impeachment investigation of Governor Andrew Cuomo. At the end of this triumphant day for a new president fighting the economic and health effects of the pandemic we are all also at the end of our first year of living and trying to survive the pandemic.



And Liam has definitely taken the lead away on the 10:00 p.m. hour on the baby boom. We were way ahead for a long time, but you have -- you guys, you`ve done it. You`re way out there. You got it.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: We really, it`s all from the coach really. I`ll take credit for almost all of it. Pep talk, you know.

O`DONNELL: Rachel, that is the first thing you`ve said to me that I do not believe.


MADDOW: You`re a wise, wise man, Lawrence O`Donnell.

O`DONNELL: And we will leave it there, Rachel.

MADDOW: Yes, we shall.

O`DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW: Well, tonight in his first primetime address to the nation, President Joe Biden announced that everyone in this country age 18 and above will be able to receive the coronavirus vaccine by May 1st. May 1st, that`s it. You will have your appointment by May 1st if not already have the vaccine in your arm.

President Biden said this goal is to allow people to be able -- his goal is to allow people to be able to gather in small groups on July 4th to celebrate our independence and to celebrate our independence from the coronavirus.

Today was the triumphant high point of the Biden presidency so far with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi delivering the Biden COVID relief bill to the White House for the president`s signature one day earlier than expected, signing the bill into law today means relief checks of $1,400 could be flowing into people`s accounts as early as this weekend.


JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: People can expect to start seeing direct deposits hit their bank accounts as early as this weekend.


O`DONNELL: President Biden stepped up to the microphone in the East Room of the White House tonight to tell Americans what they will be getting from the COVID relief bill and when they will be getting their vaccinations. But he began with what we have lost.


JOSEPH R. BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I`ve told you before I carry a card in my pocket with the number of Americans who have died from COVID to date. It`s on the back of my schedule. As of now total deaths in America, 527,726. That`s more deaths than in World War I, World War II, the Vietnam War, and 9/11 combined.


O`DONNELL: President Biden described the progress the Biden-Harris administration has made on vaccinations.


BIDEN: When I took office 50 days ago, only 8 percent of Americans after months, only 8 percent of those over the age of 65 had gotten their first vaccination. Today, that number is 65 percent. Just 14 percent of Americans over the age of 75 50 days ago had gotten their first shot. Today, that number is well over 70 percent.

I said I intended to get 100 million shots in people`s arms in my first 100 days in office. Tonight, I can say we`re not only going to meet that goal, we`re going to beat that goal because we`re actually on track to reach this goal of 100 million shots in arms on my 60th day in office. No other country in the world has done this.


O`DONNELL: Tonight, President Biden made a few promises on vaccinations.


BIDEN: Tonight, I`m announcing I`ll direct all states, tribes and territories to make all adults, people 18 and over, eligible to be vaccinated no later than May 1. Let me say that again: All adult Americans will be eligible to get a vaccine no later than May 1.


O`DONNELL: The president described the mobilization that he is organizing to get that vaccine into people`s arms.


BIDEN: We`re mobilizing thousands of vaccinators to put the vaccine in one`s arm, calling active duty military, FEMA, retired doctors and nurses, administrators and those to administer the shots. And we`ve been creating more places to get the shots. We`ve made it possible for you to get a vaccine in nearly anyone of 10,000 pharmacies across the country just like you get your flu shot.

We`re also working with governors and mayors in red states and blue states to setup and support nearly 600 federally supported vaccination centers that administers hundreds of thousands of shots per day. You can drive up to a stadium or a large parking lot, get your shot and never leave your car and drive home in less than an hour.

We`ve been sending vaccines to hundreds of community health centers all across America located in underserved areas. And we`ve been deploying and we will deploy more mobile vehicles and pop up clinics to meet you where you live so those who are least able to get the vaccine are able to get it.


O`DONELL: President Biden gave a specific date to look forward to when we are all fully vaccinated and ready to gather in small celebrations once again.


BIDEN: If we do all this, if we do our part, if we do this together, by July 4th, there`s a good chance you, your families and friends will be able to get together in your backyard or in your neighborhood and have a cookout or a barbecue and celebrate independence day. That doesn`t mean large events with lots of people together, but it does mean small groups will be able to get together.

After this long, hard year that will make this Independence Day something truly special, where we not only mark our independence as a nation, but we begin to mark our independence from this virus. But to get there we can`t let our guard down. This fight is far from over. As I told the woman from Pennsylvania, I`ll tell you the truth. On July 4th with your loved ones is the goal.


O`DONNELL: Joining us now John Heilemann, MSNBC national affairs analyst and host of the "Hell and High-Water Podcast" from "The Recount". Also, with us, Jennifer Palmieri, former communications director of the Obama White House. Both are co-hosts of Showtime`s "The Circus."

And, John, it`s a moment like I`ve never seen before. This was a victorious moment in this presidency 50 days in, giant legislative achievement. The president addresses the nation, but he begins with the sadness of what we`ve lost. He delivers optimism for where we can get to but cautions us about the fear, we have to maintain of how to hold our own personal health in a safe space as we move forward through this coronavirus plague.

It was an amazing range of notes that he was delivering there. All in this continued effort to keep his presidency on course, keep us on course in dealing with this virus.

JOHN HEILEMANN, MSNBC NATIONAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Yeah, that`s right, Lawrence. I think there`s -- people underestimate Joe Biden at their peril I think, and I think that is part of what this first 50 days of the administration has shown just as his campaign showed the same thing. He comes -- he has extraordinary -- he`s not like a politician who has -- like he`s not a five-tool player, right?

He doesn`t have all the skills, but the skills he has the temperament he has are just about perfect bill for this moment. And his mastery of the legislative process, his personal experience, everything people understand about his acquaintance, his deep, sad acquaintance with profound grief, the empathy that`s brought out in him, and the fact that I think he understood something that Donald Trump never understood which was that the country wants to be called to sacrifice, wants this notion of him striking that tone again even now as it seems like victory is maybe in sight with the coronavirus, saying again that I want to have the country on a war footing.

It was the one time in all of 2020 that Donald Trump did well on COVID for about three days when he said he wanted to be a wartime president. And I think Biden understands you cannot give up this fight too soon, victory has to be total, and that tempered, measured, cautious optimism and realism as he kept telling people tonight telling people the truth even if the truth is not happy talk, that that is the path which is an extraordinary position of political strength.

O`DONNELL: Jennifer, you`ve been in a White House approaching big days like this. It turns out the bill signing was a day sooner than they expected. And these bill signings as you know, and you participated in are highly choreographed and planned and yet this one was rushed by 24 hours so that that money could move quicker into people`s direct deposit accounts.

And then you`ve got this speech to prepare tonight and the notes to decide to hit in this speech tonight. What is it like for the West Wing going into this speech tonight?

JENNIFER PALMIERI, CO-HOST, SHOWTIME`S "THE CIRCUS": Yeah, they were planning on having a big ceremony tomorrow with leaders from the hill and everyone coming down. And that`s something you put a lot of time and effort into and you have to decide. I think the decision was we can`t have him give a speech about a bill he has received and has not signed. We`ve got to get relief going as quick leas possible, so made a decision to do that.

And you really have to nail this speech. And what I found -- what I love to look for in these presidential addressers is what is the story of America that the president is trying to tell us, right? That is something that speechwriters have, you know, at the forefront of their mind. There`s this sort of deliverables you have to tick through, but it eclipses the bigger story.

And I think Biden is -- he went through things the administration had done, but he said America is leading this, right? We are vaccinating more people than anywhere in the world. We`re no longer leading in deaths. We`re leading in vaccinations.

And only America could do this, and we did this together. It`s a very far cry from Donald Trump (INAUDIBLE). He`s making things like he`s restoring America`s pride, patriotism and having this victory, you know, not quite won yet but we`re on the path to defeating the virus -- America`s victory and trying to drain politics out of this.

I see him in so many ways in a usually relatively subtle try to take down the heat when it comes to partisanship, and I think this is something in terms of defeating the virus he wants America to think they did, we did it together. It`s not something Joe Biden did work.

O`DONNELL: John, one of the things in the speech I like the best and this is Biden note. This is note I think he among our politicians the best at delivering is the note of humility. And he`s rattling off statistics about how great his administration has done with vaccines and vaccinations and how much better it was than the first vaccinations run by the Trump administration.

And yet he says at the same time if we make mistakes in delivering the COVID relief bill, if there are aspects of this that don`t work, I will tell you. He`s anticipating the possibility that what he`s trying to do won`t work perfectly, that he can make mistakes at various stages of this there are things that won`t work.

And he`ll admit that, and he`s telling you up front humbly that this might not be perfect, everything I`m describing to you.

HEILEMANN: Yeah, Lawrence. That`s a guy who`s been around the block a few times, right? Someone who has seen their -- has their share of battle scars, someone who lived through eight years in the Obama administration where things like the Affordable Care Act, the Obamacare website was such a problem.

He`s learned I think Joe Biden over these many years in the Senate and White House, he`s learned to under promise and overdeliver. And he`s also learned to set those expectations in the way you`re talking about it.

And finally, the other thing Jennifer just said a second ago which I think is so true is this notion of trying to part and parcel of leaching the politics out of things, turning the temperature down is to focus on his competence and to try to focus on very readily achievable metrics and markers, things that the administration, it feels very confident they`ll be able to deliver so that step by step he grows the country`s confidence, that grows his political leverage. And it also without ever mentioning Donald Trump strikes the most vivid possible contrast with the most incompetent administration in history.

O`DONNELL: Jennifer, I`m going to read you some polling numbers that I have to read them out loud to believe them because I`ve never seen anything like this -- 75 percent, CBS polled 75 percent approve of the COVID relief package, 75 percent. Jennifer, this is a gigantically complex bill. It`s literally the biggest bill Democrats have ever passed any Democratic president has ever signed.

The public in arriving at that 75 percent approval number has to be basically extending some amount of trust to Joe Biden because they haven`t read all 600 pages of that bill.

PALMIERI: Right. They don`t know the details of what`s in it. They know that they were told repeatedly from economists, administration officials across the board the biggest mistake we can make is to go too small and the public put their faith in Joe Biden we needed to go big and they supported that. And they know there`s going to be actual checks in the mail soon that`s going to help relieve some of the pressures with their families. So, you know, that is the good news.

I lived through the Obama administration where we passed a stimulus bill, you know, part of the Recovery Act very early on in February of 2009. But the problem -- the political problem that developed was people didn`t -- the economy did not improve dramatically. It was like a constant battle of us telling the public if we had not passed that recovery bill things would be worse than they are. Not is not a message you can sell.

And so, I think what going forward with the administration is going to do is show the economy is getting better and the Recovery Act is -- the rescue plan is the reason why.

O`DONNELL: Jennifer Palmieri, John Heilemann, thank you very much for joining us tonight, starting us off. And thank you very much for observing the MSNBC rule of no profanity, which you do not observe on your "Showtime" show. It`s John Heilemann we`re really talking about here, the must-see "Circus" on Showtime.

Thank you very much for joining us. Really appreciate it.

And when we come back, Andy Slavitt, President Biden`s senior advisor on the coronavirus response will join us later in the hour.

But, first, what do you think should be next on the agenda for the Biden- Harris administration? The answer is one word, and it`s something Donald Trump did 231 times. That`s next.


O`DONNELL: Now that President Joe Biden has his first big legislative win, the West Wing and the Democrats are asking as they always do, what`s next?

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse has a one-word answer -- judges.


SEN. SHELDON WHITEHOUSE (D-RI): Courtrooms ought to be open places where you know who is present, not a place where powerful players can come masked behind front groups hiding both their own identity and their interconnections. The Supreme Court should not be a place that has a special interest controlled fast lane bringing certain special interest chosen cases before the court at high-speed without the trappings of a real case or controversy. The court itself should not tolerate this. But if it won`t respond, we must.


O`DONNELL: Mitch McConnell worked in nonstop coordination with the Trump White House counsel to appoint 231 federal judges at all levels including three United States Supreme Court justices. Many of those judges were unqualified, and all were the result of a right-wing screening process funded by dark money contributed by people in corporations who want the courts to serve them. Those judges now have lifetime appointments.

President Biden and the Senate Democrats have a long way to go to catch up, and it will take the same kind of relentless use of the confirmation process to get Biden judges into courtrooms.

Joining us now is Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island. He`s a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and chairman of the Subcommittee on Federal Courts, Oversight, Agency Action and Federal Rights.

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

The story of the Trump judges, which now Joe Biden has four years to try to counter with his own appointees, the story of the Trump judges as you tell it is not just who they are and how unqualified some of them are. It`s how they got there and who put them there.

WHITEHOUSE: Precisely. It`s a question of who`s behind this whole operation. And one of the things you see right now the same donors, the same entities, the same operatives, the same machinery that in the Trump administration was driving the court capture operation has now swiveled and turned its guns, the exact same guns, same money, same people, same organizations to voter suppression.

And if we don`t show the American people what this dark money operation is and try to dig at who`s behind it, then we`re doing a real disservice to the American people. And if we can show them, I think that`ll give us a whole new lease on life in terms of how the public appreciates what these three judges went through to get onto the court and what it means that they were ushered onto the court by secret special interests.

O`DONNELL: And now, the judges who were put on the court at all levels from the Supreme Court to the federal district courts by those special interests, those special interests will be in effect in the courtroom in voter suppression cases that they will be hearing over the next few years having been put into these positions by the people who are fighting those voter suppression cases.

WHITEHOUSE: With litigants in the courtroom, with bogus names like the Honest Elections Project, which is run right now by the same person who led the project that put these judges on the bench. So, they`ll be in the courtroom when these voter suppression cases are litigated to remind the judges, yes, I am the one who got you there. Now it`s payback time.

O`DONNELL: When you were watching especially on the Judiciary Committee where the confirmations were just, you know, speeding through the committee during the Trump year of federal judges. When you were watching that and out of the Senate floor watching Mitch McConnell just bring those judges up, bring those judges up constantly, Mitch McConnell, of course, was unburdened by any concern about trying to legislate. So, he was happy to just do confirmations all day.

Were you all sitting there thinking, wait until we get our chance, wait until we get our chance? Are you going to be able to run as high-speed a confirmation process as Mitch McConnell was running?

WHITEHOUSE: Gosh, I hope so. But the thing front of mind for me through all of that is, why don`t we tell the story better? Why don`t we tell the story better?

These are not things that are happening. These are things that are being done. And the force behind the all rule breaking, all the norm-breaking, all the hypocrisy and position reversals, all of the -- the whole thing just melds and people don`t behave that way if there`s not a reason. And the reason is that this machine was behind all of this. It gives money to the operation that funds Mitch McConnell`s independent so-called political operation that has now turned its guns on voter suppression.

And it was just so frustrating to me when people would treat these as events that just happened, it was somehow just a thing that occurred and wouldn`t look at what the driving force was that was making this happen. There`s an octopus behind all these tentacle tips and we`ve got to start paying attention to it. And I hope through my old subcommittee we can pay a lot of attention to it. It certainly drives them crazy when you go after them.

O`DONNELL: How much does H.R. 1 if passed solve these problems?

WHITEHOUSE: Enormously. Enormously.

It would do two things. First of all, it makes government money a thing of the past for contributions over $10,000. And second, it takes the money spent on judicial confirmations and treats them what they are, which is a political advertising expense that has to be disclosed also.

It would make an enormous difference. As soon as the American public as citizens sees who the players are on the stage, they get the plot right away. And that`s why these nasty big dark money players love to hide behind masks and try to fool the American public and deny them the knowledge of who`s on the political stage. And in this case who`s in the courtroom.

O`DONNELL: Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, thank you very much for joining us tonight. And I always appreciate having you here because I know you`re one of the people in the Senate who`s always doing the thinking about the issue that isn`t on the front page today that we do have to be thinking about. Thank you very much, Senator. Really appreciate it.


O`DONNELL: Thank you.

Coming up, tonight, Joe Biden told us we can gather together again in small groups in the backyard on the Fourth of July. Andy Slavitt, the president`s senior advisor on the coronavirus response, will give us more details on how we can expect our lives to change once we have all been vaccinated in May. That`s next.



JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I will not relent until we beat this virus. But I need you, the American people. I need you. I need every American to do their part, and that`s not hyperbole.

I need you. I need you to get vaccinated when it`s your turn and when you can find an opportunity. And to help your family, your friends, your neighbors get vaccinated as well.

Because here`s the point. If we do all this, if we do our part, if we do this together, by July 4th there`s a good chance you, your families and friends will be able to get together in your backyard or in your neighborhood and have a cookout or barbecue and celebrate Independence Day.


O`DONNELL: Joining us now is Andy Slavitt, White House senior advisor for COVID response. Thank you very much for joining us tonight, Mr. Slavitt. Really appreciate it.

You know, when Ron Klain did his first television appearance as White House chief of staff it was here. And you had put out at that point an outline -- what I`d call an outline of what the plan was, what the Biden plan for vaccination and COVID response was.

And I read through it, and I asked him where`s the phone number? Where`s the Web site? Where`s the thing in here that tells me where I can go to get the vaccine? And that was, of course, very early in the process.

It seems like you are now getting close to a national kind of landing point for exactly that sort of information. The president talked about that tonight in his speech without much detail that we`re going to be able to go to a particular Web site that would be centralized. It will tell us all anywhere in the country.

Is that what he was alluding to in his speech tonight?

ANDY SLAVITT, WHITE HOUSE SENIOR ADVISOR FOR COVID RESPONSE: Well, the first obligation we had when we got here was really to increase the supply of vaccines, to increase the number of vaccinators and places for people to get vaccinated because a Web site just doesn`t do any good in its shortage.

So we had -- we really have had to fix that and, you know, we`re still in a shortage and we will be for the next few weeks. But Americans also have to, in particularly as we get past a group of people who are so eager to find a vaccine that they`ll do anything for it. To the people that are a little bit more on the fence, we`re going to have to make it easier and reduce the friction in the process and make it easier for people to find vaccines.

So, yes, the president announced tonight that in addition to all the state Web sites people will be able to go online to a federal site and find places near them that have vaccines available.

O`DONNELL: And so when you look at that challenge of trying to deliver the interface -- because right now what I`m hearing from people who are eligible, who are of the right age or occupation is that getting the appointment itself is the biggest challenge even though they qualify with Web sites that are nonresponsive or there are just no appointments available. How do you conquer that?

SLAVITT: Well, the biggest problem is just a shortage. It`s not a very good feeling to get on a Web site whether it works well or it doesn`t work well, hope for a vaccine and all the appointments are taken. And that`s the folks just not having enough vaccines for the number of people we have in the country.

But that`s going to change, Lawrence. That`s going to change as we continue to increase the production of vaccines from our now three manufacturers -- Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer and Moderna. And as that changes people will get less frustrated.

But even with a perfect Web site today people are going to be frustrated because it`s still difficult for many Americans to get their vaccines. We`ve made a lot of progress. One in four adults has now been vaccinated, had their first vaccine shot which is great. Over 70 percent of people over 75, which is also great. It`s a great amount of progress but we`ve got a lot more to do.

O`DONNELL: What is the thing that you go into work every day this week saying we really need to fix this, we really need to fix this?

SLAVITT: I think the thing that I worry about the most is the equitable distribution of vaccines and making sure that we can get vaccines to the people who are hardest hit or in the hardest hit communities.

You know you setup a location like we did in Oakland and you setup a big stadium for lots of vaccines and what happens is the people from San Francisco come over and take all appointments and take all the vaccines.

It happens routinely that people who have access to technology, people who have access to means, that have a bit more privilege are the ones who are swooping in and taking the lion`s share of the vaccines. And racial minorities, ethnic minorities, people who live in rural locations, we`ve got to work extra hard to get those folks vaccines.

So I feel really good about the fact we`ve increased the demand. I feel great that the president was able to come out here tonight and give a vision for what the next period of time could look like if we all pull together.

That was based on his leadership and his guidance and his hard work. Yet community by community we have to make sure that the people who need these vaccines the most, the people who are working in essential occupations living in very crowded environments, that they`re getting the chance to get their vaccines.

O`DONNELL: Joe Biden gave us his view of the Fourth of July this summer. Give us more detail on what you`re telling us we should be able to do on the fourth of July?

I think the assumption and what the president was saying is we will all be vaccinated. And so when we gather in the backyard in that small group everyone will be vaccinated. Is that one of the principles of the gathering on the Fourth of July for you is that everyone is vaccinated?

SLAVITT: Well, I think everyone is going to have a chance to be vaccinated by the fourth of July. But the CDC said even today that a grandparent who`s vaccinated can go visit and, yes, even hug a grandchild who hasn`t been vaccinated without a mask so long as they`re low risk, which in most cases is going to be the case.

So we`re already able to take steps. And I think, you know, the president is not one to come out and be overly optimistic. He`s one to be very straight with the public. And I think what he said tonight was if we keep doing the things that we`re doing, if we stick together, if we don`t abandon the kind of safe practices that have got us here, if we`re able to hold it together for a couple more months, then by the time we get to summer, by the time we get to Independence Day we`re going to be in a situation where many of the things in our lives, not all of them but many of the things that we cherish so much, namely spending time with one another, we`re going to have that back.

O`DONNELL: Andy Slavitt, thank you for the important work you`re doing, saving lives in this country. We really appreciate it. And thank you for joining us tonight.

SLAVITT: Thank you, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, we have breaking news from Albany tonight where the Democratic speaker of the assembly has authorized an impeachment investigation of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. We will be joined by a member of the assembly who was in the meeting with the speaker when the Democratic speaker decided to launch the impeachment investigation of the Democratic governor.

That`s next.


O`DONNELL: Dramatic development today in the investigation of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo after a closed door meeting of Democrats only in the state assembly led by the Democratic speaker Carl Heastie. The speaker issued a statement authorizing the Judiciary Committee to begin an impeachment investigation of Governor Andrew Cuomo.

The speaker said the committee will have to authority to interview witnesses, subpoena documents and evaluate evidence as is allowed by the New York state constitution.

Last night the "Albany Times Union" published an account about another unnamed woman who currently works for governor Cuomo who reportedly told staffers about inappropriate conduct with her in the workplace.

That brings the total to six named and unnamed women who have accused the governor. Last night in response to the latest accusation, the governor issued a written statement saying "I have never done anything like this."

Today the Democratic Mayor of New York city said, "It is disgusting to me and he can no longer serve as governor. It`s as simple as that." That was Mayor Bill De Blasio.

New York state government is completely controlled by Democrats who have been strong supporters of their Democratic governor. But 43 Democrats in the State Assembly and 22 Democrats in the State Senate have already called on the governor to resign including the senate majority leader.

If the impeachment investigation launched today leads to the impeachment of the governor by the assembly then Democratic Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul will immediately become acting governor while Andrew Cuomo is awaiting trial in the State Senate.

If the senate convicts Andrew Cuomo then Kathy Hochul would continue to serve as governor and serve out the term as governor. She could then run for governor in the next election in 2022.

Joining us now is Democratic New York state assemblywoman Latrice Walker of Brooklyn. She serves on the Judiciary Committee.

Thank you very much for joining us tonight. Really appreciate. So the speaker assigned the Judiciary Committee today this investigation. What was that meeting like and were all the Democrats in the meeting in agreement with this step?

LATRICE WALKER (D), NEW YORK STATE ASSEMBLYWOMAN: Well, the Democratic party and the New York state assembly just like any other body is not monolithic. However, we support Speaker Heastie`s decision to have a trauma-informed process. And as a member of the New York state assembly Judiciary Committee I took an oath to uphold the state and the country`s constitution.

And the embodiment of due process is fundamental to that charge. It`s as fundamental and essential as air, food or water. It guarantees fundamental fairness and justice. And it provides a process so we`re not playing this out in political theater or the court of public opinion.

To do so -- to do otherwise or to avert this process that`s a dangerous precedent. And we must ensure that we have a sensitive balance and test where we are going to be gathering facts, looking at all of the circumstances to determine whether or not those facts warrant a further impeachment proceeding.

O`DONNELL: The impeachment proceedings are similar to what we have seen in now the two Trump impeachments in Washington with one very, very big difference. And that is if you in the assembly impeach the governor and send him to trial in the senate, Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul immediately takes over as acting governor while Andrew Cuomo is awaiting trial in the senate and while he`s on trial in the senate.

How will that dynamic affect the assembly`s deliberations?

WALKER: Well, we have a budget to get back to. And Kathy Hochul as the first female lieutenant governor of the state of New York will be the first governor of the state. And we will ensure that government will continue to function to ensure that we have a budget that addresses and continues to make New York state a great place to live and raise a family.

We have a number of issues to look at which includes food insecurities, access to quality education, small business stabilization and our fundamental rights to housing. And so we look forward to getting back to work.

O`DONNELL: So you sound tonight like you`re ready to go to work with Kathy Hochul as acting governor or as governor if Andrew Cuomo were to resign, for example.

WALKER: Well, we`ve enjoyed a great working relationship as colleagues with her in a position of lieutenant governor. She has ushered us through the centennial of women having the right to vote. And we`ll be looking forward to a proud moment in terms of having her as our next first female governor.

O`DONNELL: One more quick question about procedure. Will all of your investigation be public when you`re questioning witnesses? Will that be public?

WALKER: Well, it`s important for us to have a trauma-informed process. And we will be careful to not have the aggrieved have to come before the New York state attorney general throughout her investigation as well as to be put in a public forum for those stories to have to be told in a public forum twice. And so it will be a sensitive balancing test that we will address. And we look forward to securing and ensuring the privacy of all involved.

O`DONNELL: Assemblywoman Latrice Walker, thank you very much for joining us on this important night for your duties as a member of the Judiciary Committee. Really appreciate it.

WALKER: Thank you for having me.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

At the end of this triumphant day for a new president fighting the economic and health effects of the pandemic we are all also at the end of our first year of living and trying to survive the pandemic.

THE LAST WORD tonight will go to one of our favorite big thinkers who helps us put nights like this in perspective. Anand Giridharadas will join us next and will get tonight`s LAST WORD.



BIDEN: Here`s the deal, guys. You know, one of the things that I think is really, really important is that everybody`s going to tell you how much they value education.

Well, I got an expression I use. Don`t tell me what you value. Show me your budget and I will tell you what you value.


O`DONNELL: That was presidential candidate Joe Biden in May 2019 in Houston. And now President Biden has shown us his COVID relief budget, and shown us what he values.

"The New York Times" is now calling President Biden a crusader for the poor. Quote, "Aides said he has embraced his new role, Mr. Biden has done in part by following progressives in his party to the left, and accepting the encouragement of his inner circle to use democratic power to make sweeping rather than incremental change. He has also been moved by the inequities in pain and suffering that the pandemic has inflicted on the poorest Americans, aides say."

Joining us now is Anand Giridharadas, MSNBC political analyst and publisher of "The Ink" newsletter.

Anand, I`ve followed because it`s on these nights when there are so many big things flowing through our news cycle that seem related but I can`t quite put them together. That is when I need the big thinker.

What are your reflections as we come to this, the end of this night where we have this big legislative victory by Joe Biden, this promise of a fully- vaccinated country, and this delivery, this delivery, the signing of that bill today, of a massive surge of economic aid in real money to people who need it?

ANAND GIRIDHARADAS, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Hope and history really do rhyme sometimes, as that poem says. You know, today is also the one-year anniversary, as you know, of the declaration of the pandemic that launched this year for all of us.

And fittingly, it`s the eve of the 88th anniversary of FDR`s first fireside chat, which I thought was kind of interesting. And this year that Joe Biden spoke about tonight was a year not of one story but many, right.

It was a story obviously of illness and death and pain. But also a story of protest, extraordinary protest, of bravery, of mutual aid, of invention, of resilience.

It was a year marked by this pandemic but also by a lot of intersecting crises. Crises that intersect with it, health, economic, racial, and democratic crisis. Remember when we thought we might not still have the rule of law. As Texas and other places illustrate climate is still very much with us.

And coming out of this year, what I have been thinking about is if there is a gift of this cursed year, it is the end to any illusion that we had been living right. And the prompting to not just rebuild as we`ve heard the president talk about, which is important, but also to rethink. To rethink.

And so when I was, you know, processing the making of this sausage of legislation that was signed today, at first, probably like a lot of people watching this, I was dismayed by a lot of things I was hearing and reading, right.

Minimum wage was in and then it was out. Benefits were bigger and then they were smaller. And it all -- it seemed like this thing that, you know, Prime Minister Joe Manchin was, you know, prevailing.

And as I dug into the details of the final package, I actually began to revise my own sense of it and I think a lot of have and started to realize that this is a -- it`s not perfect, it`s not everything. A lot of it is not permanent which we need to deal with.

But a lot of this is quietly revolutionary. Starting with the child benefit that creates the rudiments of a basic income for families in this country. Direct cash to families. Changes in the tax code that, shock of all shocks, after 40 years of the reverse, actually most benefit the core.

And what a lot of these things, talking about tying things together. What they seem to have in common to me is that they reflect not just new policies but new thinking, rethinking. In particular, the new notion that has been gaining ground of giving people money directly. It`s been advocated by lots of people, this policy, this program reflects it.

The idea of centering the poor, not just the middle class. Joe Biden talks a lot about the middle class, Democrats often don`t like to talk about the poor because they are scared of losing the white working class voters who resent the poor. This bill centers the poor.

This bill and this administration, its economic policy, has actually shown a little bit of a cold shoulder to some of the Wall Streeters who shape these kinds of responses in the past. This is not a Larry Summers and Robert Ruben (ph) administration which makes it decisively different from the Obama and Clinton.

And finally, ignoring the deficit worrywarts. This is not a program that reflects their influence. So what I`m seeing is early days. But what I`m seeing is the hulking ship of American conventional wisdom on these matters turning, beginning to turn.

And I would say as reflected in the tone of the president tonight, who is not someone who I have always seen eye to eye with at all, but I see a president whose most singular capacity is his capacity to be influenced, a desire to be pushed, a desire to meet this moment potentially.

And I see him and a country potentially waking up to new truths.

O`DONNELL: I also think that you are seeing someone who went from representing one state, Delaware, to now 50 and was in training for that for eight years as vice president. And so he is a different person than the person who served as senator.

Anand Giridharadas, thank you very much for joining us tonight. Always appreciate it. Thank you.

GIRIDHARADAS: Thank you so much for having me.

O`DONNELL: Thank you. That is tonight`s LAST WORD.