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Transcript: The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, 3/18/21

Guests: Jason Crow, Jared Bernstein, Grace Meng

Summary

Today, the FBI released new videos of what officials called ten of the most violent but still unidentified suspects in the January 6th attack on the Capitol. Today, President Joe Biden announced he will meet his goal of administering 100 million COVID-19 vaccinations in his first 100 days, and he will do that 42 days ahead of schedule. People gathered in vigils across the country to honor the victims of this week`s mass murder in Georgia; six of the victims were women of Asian descent. In a House hearing today about violence against Asian-Americans, a Republican congressman from Texas actually came out in favor of lynching.

Transcript

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel.

It`s only 33 seconds. And there`s no fence here. There`s no -- this is -- I don`t patrol this fence. You know that. Take as much time as you want.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, "TRMS": I`m done. I`m done. I`m done.

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

Well, we are going to be joined tonight by Congresswoman Grace Meng, who had a moment today in a House Judiciary Committee hearing that gave powerful voice to the thoughts and emotions that many Asian-Americans have experienced this week in particular. You could see in that moment a frustration that had been building for much longer than just this week. Congresswoman Grace Meng took on a Republican congressman from Texas who tried to change the subject of the hearing, when the subject of the hearing was supposed to be about violence against Asian-Americans.

We`ll show you what happened in that hearing and Grace Meng joins us later in this hour.

Today, the FBI released new videos of what officials called ten of the most violent but still unidentified suspects in the January 6th attack on the Capitol. Quote: The FBI is asking for the public`s help in identifying ten individuals suspected of being involved in some of the most violent attacks on officer who`s were protecting the U.S. Capitol and our Democratic process on January 6th. These individuals are seen on video committing egregious crimes against those who have devoted their lives to protecting the American people.

Now, I want to warn you that some of the video that the FBI released today shows graphic attacks on police officers. In one video, a suspect is seen using what appears to be a tree branch to strike at officers who are trying to prevent the crowd from entering the Capitol. In another video, a suspect wearing a blue mask is seen hitting the face mask of an officer at one of the entrances of the Capitol and trying to remove the officer`s gas mask.

Another video shows a suspect wearing a dark blue jacket with a hood, walking up the stairs that overlook an area occupied by police officers at that time. The suspect is seen spraying something onto the officers and then walking away.

In another video, a suspect wearing a gray and white striped shirt repeatedly thrusts some kind of long stick at police officers.

And another video shows a suspect wearing a black hoodie punching a Capitol police officer in the face.

The FBI has arrested more than 300 people who took part in the riot at the Capitol. Of those, more than 65 were arrested for assaulting law enforcement officers. But the FBI`s work is far from over in bringing the Trump mob to justice.

Yesterday, the FBI arrested four prominent members of the so-called, self- described Proud Boys. No one`s ever known what they`re proud of -- for their involvement in the attack on the Capitol.

According to "The New York Times," quote, in the indictment, prosecutors accused Charles paschal Donohoe, a proud boys leader from forecast, and Zach Rehl, the president of the group`s chapter in Philadelphia, of conspiring to interfere with law enforcement officers at the Capitol and obstruct the certification of President Biden`s electoral victory.

Two other high-ranking Proud Boys, who were already facing similar charges, Ethan Nordean of Washington, and Joseph Biggs of Florida, were also implicated as part of the conspiracy.

With this new conspiracy indictment, prosecutors have now brought charges against a total of 13 people identified in court papers as members of the so-called Proud Boys. In a new U.S. intelligence report shows that domestic terrorism continues to pose a major threat to the United States.

According to a joint assessment from the office of the director of national intelligence, the Department of Justice, and the Department of Homeland Security, quote, newer sociopolitical developments, such as narratives of fraud in the recent general election, the emboldening impact of the violent breach of the U.S. Capitol, conditions related to the COVID-19 pandemic, and conspiracy theories promoting violence -- will almost certainly spur some domestic violent extremists to try to engage in violence this year.

A new Pew poll finds that 69 percent of Americans believe it is very important for federal law enforcement agencies to find and prosecute people who attacked the Capitol. 18 percent believe it is somewhat important, and only 8 percent believe it is not too important, and 4 percent, 4 percent believe it is not important.

Among those 4 percent who think it`s not important are, no doubt, the 12 House Republicans who voted against the resolution to award congressional gold medals to the Capitol police and the D.C. police in recognition of their service during the attack on the Capitol. Those 12 Republicans now in a fierce competition for most deranged and irresponsible member of the House of Representatives are, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Matt Gaetz, Louie Gohmert, Tomas Massey, Andy Biggs, Andy Harris, Lance Gooden, Michael Cloud, Andrew S. Clyde, Greg Steube. Bob Good, and John Rose.

Leading off our discussion tonight, Democratic Congressman Jason Crow of Colorado. He`s a member of the House Armed Services Committee.

Also with us, Andrew Weissmann, a former FBI general counsel, former federal prosecutor. He was one of the prosecutors working on the Mueller investigation. He is an NBC news and MSNBC legal analyst.

And, Congressman Crow, let me begin with you and the FBI`s continued search for suspects and this release of video to us on social media that we all see and now millions of people can see. They have been identifying an awful lot of people that way.

REP. JASON CROW (D-CO): Yeah. Good evening, Lawrence. Thanks for having me on.

Yeah, we have to just continue to remember that this is a brutal attack that we are dealing with on January 6th. It was an insurrection. It was an assault not just on our democracy but on police officers and members of Congress, on staff.

Several police officers are dead. Over 140 were brutally beaten. People that were part of the mob were killed as well.

You know, we can`t sweep this under the rug. Even though we have a handful of folk who`s are kind of depraved and, as you said, deranged, who want to try to recast this as something else, it`s very clear what happened here.

There`s video that people saw in real time on January 6th. We saw it again during the impeachment trial. We`re seeing it again with the newly released video.

These people have to be brought to justice, and the FBI and DOJ is doing just that.

O`DONNELL: When you look across the aisle, Congressman, and you see 12 Republicans vote against medals to the Capitol police and the D.C. police for their defense of the Capitol on January 6th, what goes through your mind?

CROW: Well, Lawrence, you know, it`s really easy to find yourself being pulled into this abyss of negativity right now. It`s very hard not to be pulled into that. But I choose to focus more on the folks who aren`t doing that, who actually are standing up, who are exercising courage, who are doing the right thing, trying to move us forward.

If you just focus on those handful of depraved folks, it can kind of overwhelm you. So what I`m trying to do is not allowing that behavior to be normalized. I`m standing up to serve as a voice against it. I push back on immoral behavior, behavior that I think is contrary to our democracy, to our democratic norms, to our values as a society because we can`t be silent in the face of that. We have to push back.

But we also have to spend most of our time focusing on the people that are doing the right thing, who are trying to build and move forward. So, you know, we really have to do both.

O`DONNELL: Andrew Weissmann, I want to get your view of the FBI`s investigative technique in sharing all that information with the public and asking for help.

ANDREW WEISSMANN, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: Well, that`s something that is really a time-honored tradition. Just think of, you know, in the 19th century, putting up wanted posters and trying to get public help. You know, it happened in the Boston marathon bombing that was sort of a very successful instance of that.

Here, you know, the thing that`s somewhat ironic here is that it`s fine that they`re doing that now, but of course the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security had a lot of advance notice that this was going to happen. So why they weren`t at the scene at the time and they`re only doing this now is, I think, a real question for Congress and for Merrick Garland to be focusing on. But, you know, it`s good that they`re doing it now.

O`DONNELL: And also, Andrew, what are we take to make of the conspiracy charges, and what will that mean legally?

WEISSMANN: Well, I think there`s something that I think is important to focus on here, is there`s some very interesting tidbits in the DNI assessment that came out. And focusing on what the congressman said, which is the positive, Avril Haines, who is the new DNI, put out a really terrific report saying that domestic terrorism is a big threat for the United States. And within that threat, domestic terrorists who are racially and ethnically motivated are particularly lethal. That`s her term as the head of the intelligence community.

And one of the things she noted about groups that believe in white supremacy is that they are also linked to overseas groups. So you can see that they are really laser focused on this problem and really thinking about this in terms of groups, and are they sometimes, of course, lone wolves that can be particularly hard to deter and detect and prevent what`s going on. But also linkages in this country and overseas. And I think, you know, Avril Haines is really to be commended that, you know, her first reports are focusing on domestic terrorism, and it`s a real signal that she and Merrick Garland are really going to be taking this very seriously. And I have to say, you know, it`s something that is great to see since we have not seen that in the last four years.

O`DONNELL: Congressman Crow, will there be more oversight hearings in the House to get at what Andrew Weissmann was just talking about, how this could have happened and the lack of anticipation of it happening in other federal agencies?

CROW: Yes, Lawrence, there will. It`s important that we get to the truth and get the information because, you know, the negative thing is that under Donald Trump and because of Donald Trump in part, we have seen the normalization of some of this extremist movement, which has allowed it to come to the surface and to come out in the public. But there`s actually an opportunity there too because a lot of this stuff was lying under the surface for a very long time. A lot of this is not new.

So the opportunity for us is we now see this in plain sight for us to say, you know, we have a problem. We have a chance. So let`s now deal with that problem and that challenge in a vigorous way.

So I`m actually leading in the House, the government accountability office investigation on the Senate side, Senator Michael Bennet. So between Michael Bennet and I, there`s going to be a GAO investigation that`s going to be comprehensive and look at all of the intelligence failures, the interagency failures and everything that did not happen and should have happened, and actually compare that to the black lives matter protests from last year and see the very obvious differences between how those two were treated. So we`re going to do an analysis.

But as Andrew said, there`s also a nefarious foreign element here as well. Our adversaries who want to actually take what have been some of our strengths, and that is our open, transparent, accessible society, and they want to turn that against us, and they want to leverage social media and technology to do so, to fan the flames of this extremism, and they`re already doing that. So we`re going to be doing investigation review and making sure that we understand the nature of that threat and we`re prepared to deal with it.

O`DONNELL: Congressman Jason Crow and Andrew Weissmann, thank you both for joining us again tonight and for starting off our discussion. We really appreciate it.

WEISSMANN: You`re welcome.

CROW: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

Coming up, President Biden`s economic adviser Jared Bernstein joins us next as the president meets his goal for his first 100 days 42 days early.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: Today, President Joe Biden announced he will meet his goal of administering 100 million COVID-19 vaccinations in his first 100 days, and he will do that 42 days ahead of schedule.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOSEPH R. BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I`m proud to announce that tomorrow, 58 days into our administration, we will have met my goal of administering 100 million shots to our fellow Americans. That`s weeks ahead of schedule, but we have much more to do, much more to do.

And the American Rescue Plan will help us do it. In addition to the cash payments it provides to you and your families, it also provides the funds to add vaccinators, to supply more community vaccination -- support more community vaccination centers and increase testing.

It will help us accelerate nationwide efforts to reopen our schools safely. Next week, I will announce our next goal to put shots in arms.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Americans` bank accounts are also getting shots in arms, so to speak. The Internal Revenue Service says it has already sent 90 million Biden COVID relief payments to tax filers. Those 90 million payments amount to over $242 billion in the accounts of Americans trying to survive financially during the pandemic.

Joining us now, Jared Bernstein, a member of President Biden`s Council of Economic Advisers. Thank you very much for joining us tonight, Jared. Really appreciate it.

So 42 days ahead on the vaccination program, and how important is the vaccination program to the Biden economic recovery plan?

JARED BERNSTEIN, PRESIDENT BIDENT`S COUNCIL OF ECONOMIC ADVISERS: It is absolutely essential. First of all, great to be with you, Lawrence, and thank you for raising these important achievements because the president has always said, but so has the chair of the Federal Reserve. This is as much a health necessity as it is an economic one. There will be no reliable, robust, lasting economic recovery until we finally control the virus, produce and distribute the vaccine, and get shots in arms and checks in pockets.

This is the recipe that is not only built into the rescue plan, but that`s a plan that`s calibrated to do something that hasn`t happened yet, which is to finally get us to the other side of this crisis so we can reliably launch the next economic expansion. So, critically important to be overachieving at this point.

O`DONNELL: As you read the business pages of the major newspapers for the last several months, it`s very common to see statements that were, in effect, we will reopen our offices when everyone has the vaccine, and they started to target it. Very commonly you hear September of 2021, September of this year, and that builds in everyone being vaccinated and having a month or two of a buffer after that.

And so it`s been implicit in business planning that there is no return to anything like normal in business planning without full vaccination.

BERNSTEIN: Absolutely, and that`s precisely the point that the president has continually made, and it`s one of the reasons -- it`s not the only reason. Obviously making sure that folk who`s have been disproportionately hurt by this, many of whom, black and brown people and essential workers, folks in communities of color, addressing their health needs, but, yes, very much the economic story is much as you described it.

And it`s definitely businesses reopening, but it`s also schools safely reopening. You know, one of the things we`ve seen is a significant decline in the labor force participation of women even more so than men, and particularly moms. So many of these folks are care takers of their kids.

If you can -- once we safely open the schools, to the extent that those moms and some dads want to get back into the job market, they`ll have a clearer path to do so. Finally, remember, our economy is almost 70 percent consumer spending. So until people are ready to safely reengage, confidently reengage with commerce -- again, can`t launch the reliable recovery that`s waiting on the other side of the crisis. So a lot of what the rescue plan does is pull that extension forward.

O`DONNELL: I want to get your view as a congressman to something Congresswoman Katie Porter said about how this relief money is going to be spend?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. KATIE PORTER (D-CA): The research is crystal clear. When you give low- income or struggling families additional money, what they spend it on is food, more food and more nutritious food. That is the first thing they put it toward.

This bill is literally going to keep kids from going to school hungry. Additional money to low-income families helps them meet their basic needs, and that benefits our entire workforce and our entire economy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Jared, what`s your reaction to that?

BERNSTEIN: Yeah. I`m so glad you played that clip because as I was just completing what I was saying, I was thinking, wait a second. It`s true. I`m talking about these aggregate statistics, you know. We have a 70 percent consumer spending economy. That`s the macro economy.

What Congresswoman Porter was talking about there is the fact that not everybody in this economy, of course, has experienced this pandemic and its associated recessionary conditions the same way. That`s why we`ve talked about it as K-shaped. What she was just referring to, completely accurately, was those on the bottom leg of the K who have borne the brunt of both the economic and the health part of this crisis.

And the American Rescue Plan targets those folks. She mentioned food support, nutritional support. We`ve seen tremendous food insecurity up to this point, and the rescue plan will help that. The direct checks disproportionately go to families with kids in the bottom half of the income scale, and that`s one reason why the child tax credit, the checks, the unemployment coverage, you put it all together, we`re looking at a reduction of child poverty by over 50 percent.

So this kind of targeting is precisely what the congresswoman was just referencing.

O`DONNELL: Jared Bernstein, economic adviser to President Biden, thank you very much for joining us tonight. Really appreciate it.

BERNSTEIN: My pleasure, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

And coming up, we have breaking news. NBC News has just obtained surveillance video of the suspect in the mass murder in Georgia this week. NBC`s Kathy Park will join us next with the latest and this new video.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: Breaking news tonight. We have new surveillance video obtained by NBC News that appears to capture the mass murderer in Georgia when he enters the first business where he killed four people. That`s what you`re seeing right there.

That same surveillance video camera appears right there to capture the man moments after he killed four people at that scene. The video -- that video goes on, that surveillance video from that position to capture a point when law enforcement -- there`s the killer driving away -- and now law enforcement has arrived. There`s a person you see sitting there on the pavement. That is not someone who is wounded. That is actually someone who is grieving and in shock over what has happened.

All of that captured from the surveillance video of the business next door to the business where the attack occurred.

People gathered in vigils across the country to honor the victims of this week`s mass murder in Georgia. Six of the victims were women of Asian descent.

The White House lowered flags to half-staff today to honor the victims. Tomorrow President Biden and Vice President Harris will travel to Atlanta to meet with Asian-American leaders to discuss the ongoing attacks and threats against the community.

Captain Jay Baker of the Cherokee County Sheriff`s Office, has been removed from his position in this investigation. He is the officer at yesterday`s press conference who made a comment about what the confessed murderer said was his motivation. Captain Baker said, quote, "Yesterday was a really bad day for him, and this is what he did."

Many observers, including guests on this program last night, were outraged by that comment and felt that it was racist. And late last night -- actually during this program last night -- "The New York Times confirmed that Captain Jay Baker was selling anti-Asian T-shirts online echoing the language of Donald Trump.

The T-shirts appeared in Facebook posts from a year ago. Those T-shirts say COVID-19, imported virus from China with China spelled C-H-Y-hyphen-N-A. Captain Baker said, "Place your order while they last." We do not know if Captain Baker was actually wearing one of those T-shirts under his uniform yesterday.

Today "The Washington Post" reports that Cherokee County Sheriff`s Office removed Jay Baker as spokesperson on this case shortly after the Cherokee County Sheriff released a letter apologizing for Baker`s comments, saying, "We regret any heartache Captain Baker`s words may have caused."

Joining us now is NBC News correspondent Kathy Park, who has been covering the latest on the ground in Atlanta. Kathy, thank you very much for joining us once again tonight. I know you`ve been working virtually 24 hours on this.

The new video that NBC News has obtained seems to show someone very casually -- not concerned, not tense -- walking into that business, and even worse, in the same state walking out of that business after killing four people.

KATHY PARK, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Lawrence, that`s right. I mean I saw the video just moments ago, and it is just chilling to know that he went on to commit even more heinous acts here in the Atlanta area. Four more victims shortly after that video that you saw there.

So eight people were killed in just a matter of -- a span of one hour, and investigators today, Atlanta police say that they are still moving forward with the investigation. Reporters asked authorities whether or not hate is still a motivating factor. They said everything is on the table right now.

They also added that the suspect visited some of these establishments in the past. And we were anticipating the names of the remaining four victims to be released today, but they are working with the South Korean consulate to verify the identification of these women.

And I had the opportunity to speak to some of the Korean American AAPI leaders in this area and they told me, you know, these family members are in Korea. They`re overseas. So sometimes they have to figure out exactly where they are located, so it takes some time. That is why there is this lag time with releasing these names, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: NBC`s Kathy Park, thank you very much for joining us tonight. We really appreciate your work on this, Kathy.

PARK: Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

And coming up, a Republican congressman used today`s House hearing about crimes against Asian-Americans to speak favorable -- favorably about Texas` history of lynching.

And in response to that, Republican (SIC) Congresswoman Grace Meng delivered the hearing`s most powerful moment. We will show you that moment, and you will hear more from Congresswoman Grace Meng when she joins us next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: In a House hearing today about violence against Asian-Americans, a Republican congressman from Texas actually came out in favor of lynching.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. CHIP ROY (R-TX): We believe in justice, all right? There`s old sayings in Texas about, you know, find all the rope in Texas and get a tall oak tree. You know, we take justice very seriously.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: And he meant that very seriously. That`s Congressman Chip Roy getting all nostalgic about Texas` grand tradition of lynching. More than 700 lynchings in Texas have been documented. Texas should be ashamed of every one of those lynchings.

But not Congressman Roy. Congressman Roy came to the hearing to defend something that was not an issue in the hearing -- free speech.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROY: My concern about this hearing is that it seems to want to venture into the policing of rhetoric in a free society, free speech. Who decides what is hate?

REP. STEVE COHEN (D-TN): I`d just like to reiterate that while speech is important and has meaning, the incidents I mentioned in my opening statement were being spat at, slapped in the face, lit on fire, slashed with a box cutter, and shoved violently to the ground as the video showed. That`s not speech.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Later in the hearing, our next guest, Congresswoman Grace Meng, said this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. GRACE MENG (D-NY): I want to go back to something that Mr. Roy said earlier. Your president and your party and your colleagues can talk about issues with any other country that you want. But you don`t have to do it by putting a bull`s eye on the back of Asian-Americans across this country, on our grandparents, on our kids.

This hearing was to address the hurt and pain of our community and to find solutions. And we will not let you take our voice away from us.

Thank you. I yield back.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Joining us now is Congresswoman Grace Meng of New York. Congresswoman Meng, thank you very much for joining us on this important night. We really appreciate it.

And as I watched you in the hearing today, I could see that frustration building, and we could see it build just as you began and ended your statement there. How long had that frustration been building?

MENG: Well, thank you, Lawrence, for having me and thanks for covering this important topic.

Look, the Asian-American community has really been feeling this hurt for over a year now. The number of incidents has skyrocketed over the year. We`ve been screaming for help for over the past year. Two-thirds of the victims have been Asian women.

And so we were thrilled that we could have this hearing today to finally acknowledge the hurt that the community is going through and to work together to find solutions.

We had a formal witness panel of both Republican and Democratic congress members. And Mr. Roy just was completely insensitive and focused on issues that were not at hand.

O`DONNELL: You`re the first vice chair of the Congressional Asian-Pacific Americans caucus. Have you been tracking over the last year, as a group, before you got to this hearing, this increase in violence?

MENG: Well, there is a group, StopAAPIHate.org that has actually been tracking this for over a year. They`ve logged about 3,800 or more reports, and we know that there are many more incidents that people have been reluctant to even report.

And so we are thankful that people are finally starting to pay attention even though it really comes after the tragedy that happened in Atlanta.

O`DONNELL: Not only did Congressman Roy of Texas not apologize for what he said at the hearing. After the hearing when this became controversial, what he said about lynching, for example, and supporting it, he issued a written statement where he said very clearly, "I meant it." In his statement, he said, "Apparently some folks are freaking out that I used an old expression about finding all the rope in Texas and a tall oak tree, about carrying out justice against bad guys. I meant it."

So he left no doubt about that and it leaves me wondering what is it like for you to go to work with people like this, to encounter people like this in your workplace?

MENG: Well, first of all, I did hear that he wouldn`t apologize, and I`m fine. I don`t need his apology. But to go to work, to represent an entire congressional district and to be so insensitive, not be productive, and to have that kind of rhetoric, I would just -- am so not proud of that type of representation that he`s providing for his constituents. I feel bad for his district.

O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to what Congresswoman Doris Matsui had to say today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. DORIS MATSUI (D-CA): Last year when I heard at the highest levels of government, those people used racist slurs like China virus to spread xenophobia and cast blame on innocent communities. It was all too familiar. Comments like these only build upon the legacy of racism, anti-Asian sentiment, and insensitivity that seeks to divide our nation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: What was it like for you the first time you heard Donald Trump calling COVID-19 the China virus?

MENG: I was shocked. We had already been hearing about these incidents across country and how they had been increasing. And then to hear the leader of our country use phrases like "kung flu" and "Chinese virus" during a time when there was a global pandemic and people were scared, people were losing their loved ones, their homes, their jobs, and that`s how he chooses to use his platform?

And so when he and when our GOP leader in the House, Kevin McCarthy, used those phrases and continued to use those phrases and then 164 Republican colleagues couldn`t even vote for a symbolic resolution to condemn bigotry against Asian-Americans, I was so disappointed.

O`DONNELL: Congresswoman Grace Meng, thank you very much for joining us on this important night. We really appreciate it.

MENG: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: The Honorable Grace Meng.

Coming up, Lindsey Graham is promising to honor the grand segregationist tradition of filibustering to stop people from voting just like his racist predecessor in the senate, Strom Thurmond did when he occupied the same senate seat Lindsey Graham now occupies.

Zerlina Maxwell will join us next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: In 1939 Frank Capra made a classic film about the United States Senate, "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" starring Jimmy Stewart, and it glorified the filibuster.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMES STEWART, ACTOR: UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You think I`m licked. You all think I`m licked. Well, I`m not licked. And I`m going to stay right here and fight for this lost cause even if this room gets filled with lies like these. And the tailors and all of their armies come marching into this place, somebody will listen to me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Yesterday South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham promised to do exactly what Jimmy Stewart did in "Mr. Smith". He said, I would talk until I fell over" and he would do that to block the right to vote in this country. Lindsey Graham says that he`ll talk until he falls over fighting the Voting Rights Bill passed in the House as H.R.1 which will be taken up in the senate as S-1.

That puts Lindsey Graham in the grand South Carolina tradition of filibustering. Jimmy Stewart`s movie filibustered and Mr. Smith lasted 23 hours. And 18 years later South Carolina segregationist Senator Strom Thurmond set the record for a senate filibuster when he held the floor for 24 hours and 18 minutes. And Strom Thurmond didn`t fall over.

He walked off the senate floor and two hours later the Civil Rights Act of 1957 passed the Senate and was signed into law by Republican President Dwight Eisenhower.

Strom Thurmond was 55 years old when he set the filibuster record. Lindsey Graham is now 65 years old, so the Strom Thurmond record might not be in danger.

Strom Thurmond served in the Senate until he was 100 years old. He chose not to run for re-election in 2002 at age 100. And that is how Lindsey Graham got his Senate seat in South Carolina

It is a segregationist senate seat. In 2003, after Strom Thurmond`s death, his family publicly acknowledged that he was the father of a daughter who he never publicly acknowledged.

46 years after Strom Thurmond filibustered the Civil Rights Act of 1957, his family admitted that he was the father of Essie May Washington Williams, a black woman who was born in 1925 and whose mother worked in Strom Thurmond`s home.

Essie May Washington Williams was 32 years old when her father was on the Senate floor filibustering the Civil Rights Act. She knew Strom Thurmond was her father, and she knew her father was standing on the Senate floor trying to deny her the constitutional rights that the rest of Strom Thurmond`s family took for granted.

Surely Strom Thurmond would be so proud to know that his seat in the senate is being held by someone who shares his passion for denying black people their constitutional rights.

Joining us now is Zerlina Maxwell, host of the program, "Zerlina" that airs on Peacock. Zerlina, the filibuster is under more pressure, the filibuster rule so-called, more pressure in the Senate than ever before, and that`s when Lindsey Graham shows the Democrats why they should get rid of it by his promise -- promise -- to filibuster anything -- anything -- that guarantees voting rights.

ZERLINA MAXWELL, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think in the tradition, Lawrence, and that history is important to understand because John Calhoun before Strom Thurmond, also from South Carolina, linked to filibustering anti-lynching and other civil rights legislation.

So again, I think Lindsey Graham is harkening back to a really ugly period of American history. And if you were going to stand in the way of the American people, then what democracy are we -- do we have here?

I think that the filibuster essentially right now is standing in the way of what a multiracial coalition of voters want. H.R.1 is supported by 68 percent of the American people, Lawrence. 60 percent of Republicans support H.R.1.

And so, Lindsey Graham, essentially, I guess, would be standing up and defending not expanding voting access and not making it easier for Americans to vote. I don`t know what argument he would make. Maybe he would read the rules of cards like Stackhouse did in that "West Wing" episode.

O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to what Senator Warnock said about this in his first Senate speech.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SENATOR RAPHAEL WARNOCK (D-GA): I stand before you saying that this issue, access to voting, and pre-empting politician`s efforts to restrict voting is so fundamental to our democracy that it is too important to be held hostage by a senate rule, especially one historically used to restrict expansion of voting rights.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Zerlina, we`re stuck translating some of the things that Democrats are saying about this. Chuck Schumer, he said it to me in an interview. Then he said it to Rachel in an interview. Now he says it in every interview, that they absolutely will not be blocked by Senate rules on this, that failure is not an option.

Joe Biden says you have to do something now. You have to change the rules in whatever way is necessary to get this passed. It`s not clear exactly what Joe Manchin will agree to in a rule change, but he`s definitely said he`s open to some kind of change in this threshold that Republicans currently use to block progress.

So, we`re going to see this unfold. It`s hard to say exactly what they have in mind, but they definitely have something in mind.

MAXWELL: Oh, I think they have something in mind. And Lawrence, until they commit to changing it or not they can always use the threat as leverage to get Republicans to compromise or at least not filibuster every single piece of legislation.

Additionally, if they try to filibuster H.R. and I think that gives Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema a second to reconsider their positions, politically I think Democrats would love to see Lindsey Graham stand up there and try to defend filibustering expansion of voting rights for the American people so that Joe Biden can get policies done that the American people want, Lawrence.

Essentially what you have now is the filibuster blocking popular policies that the American people want. And that`s not a democracy.

O`DONNELL: Yes, it seems pretty clear the way they`re talking about this is that they intend to go out on the senate floor without any adjustment to the rules at all and see what happens and then possibly use what happens as their case for making a rule change.

MAXWELL: I think that`s the smart strategy because Republican -- at least you have to come to the table assuming Republicans are operating in good faith, which I think the recent years show us that they probably are not.

But as with the COVID relief package, you saw that even with the vast majority of the American public supporting the bill, Republican senators and congress people trying to take credit for aspects of the bill they did not vote for, you saw they were not even going to vote for that, Lawrence, not even in a pandemic, not even in this emergency to make sure that vaccine distribution money helps to end the pandemic. They didn`t even vote for that.

So, I think that Chuck Schumer already has pretty much plenty of evidence to support the idea Republicans aren`t going to go along with anything. And why would they? I think what they`ve decided is they`re going to restrict voting access to people who are not white who are not likely to vote for Republicans.

And they are going to roll the dice and hope that they can remain in power by restricting those who are able to participate. And again, that is not democracy.

And so, what the American people need to insist is that our institutions function. And if they can`t do that, then Democrats should adjust the rules in order to facilitate passage of legislation that the American people want to see happen.

O`DONNELL: The dysfunction, of course, is on Mitch McConnell`s doorstep. He brought the senate to this point.

Zerlina Maxwell, thank you very much for joining us tonight. Really appreciate it.

MAXWELL: Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Zerlina Maxwell gets tonight`s LAST WORD.

"THE 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS" starts now.

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