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Transcript: The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, 3/19/21

Guests: Marvin Lim, Grace Meng, Praise Magombo


The names of the victims of the recent Atlanta shooting has been released as vigils were held to honor them. President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris went to Atlanta to meet with Asian-American community leaders. Rep. Grace Meng (D-NY) is interviewed about the deadly Atlanta shooting and the president and vice president reaching out to the Asian-American communities. Vladimir Putin challenged President Joe Biden to a debate after President Biden called Putin a "killer" in an interview with George Stephanopoulos this week. The collision that is coming over voting rights and the senate filibuster rules. On March 5th, COVAX, the United Nations partnership which includes the World Health Organization and UNICEF, delivered the first shipment of vaccine to Malawi. 360,000 doses of vaccine arrived on a flight from India in Malawi`s capital city of Lilongwe.



ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST: Those stories and more on "Velshi" tomorrow morning from 8:00 to 10:00 a.m. eastern. Now it is time for the "Last Word" with Lawrence O`Donnell. Good evening my friend.

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Ali. And I will be watching at 8:00 a.m. tomorrow. And I`m actually going to go to work at 2:00 p.m. on MSNBC with Alex Witt tomorrow.

VELSHI: There`s a special that you`ve got on tomorrow afternoon.

O`DONNELL: No, I`m just going to join Alex as a guest tomorrow afternoon because, Ali, that`s a more reasonable hour for me on a Saturday than the 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. duty that you give us every Saturday.

VELSHI: You`re a good friend Lawrence, but -- you`re a good friend but I agree with you. I`m with you. You`re welcome to sleep-in through my show. I know that our friendship remains strong regardless. Have a good evening, sir.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

Well, Congresswoman Grace Meng will join us tonight. Many of you heard her frustration and pain as she fought back tears in a house hearing yesterday about violence against Asian-Americans. President Obama`s deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes will join us later in the hour to discuss the Republican cheering, cheering for Vladimir Putin instead of the president of the United States.

And Jonathan Capehart is here to discuss voting rights legislations coming in collision with the Senate filibuster. And at the end of the hour, we will be joined by Praise Magombo, a nurse in Malawi, an east African country of 18 million people that just received its first shipment of coronavirus vaccine.

Today, the medical examiner in Fulton County, Georgia finally released the names of the four people murdered in two Asian-owned businesses in Atlanta on Tuesday night. The names of the four people murdered in suburban Cherokee County by the same mass murderer had already been released.

The two words that appear in each entry in today`s list of the four victims released by the Fulton County medical examiner are Asian and female. The first name in the list of four names released today is soon Chung Park. She was 74 years old. She is now case number 0703, and her cause of death is listed as gunshot wound of head.

That is the same cause of death listed in case numbers 0704, Hyun Jung Grant who was 51 years old. And that is the same cause of death listed in case number 0706, Yung Yue who was 63 years old. Case number 0705 is Suncha Kim who was 69 years old. Her cause of death is listed as gunshot wounds of chest.

A medical examiner`s report is the coldest document you will ever read. Every word is chilling. It is the document that reduces a life of 74 years to a case number. It describes causes of death with a chilling clinical precision. The coldness of a medical examiners report is the documentary mirror of a mass murderer`s coldness.

The old phrase cold-blooded murder has always meant murders committed not in rage or passion but with no feeling at all, not a trace of human feeling for the people the murderer aimed his gun at, a gun he was able to buy in Georgia that day just hours before as he confessed. He walked into that spa in Cherokee County and committed his first four murders of the day.

We saw the surveillance video last night of the murderer calmly walking into that business. And after murdering four people calmly walking out of that business. Apparently not feeling a thing for the people he just murdered.

The only thing we know that he must have felt each time he walked into one of those businesses was the urgent desire to murder Asian women. And we know that because that is what he did. The words Asian and female appear in six of the eight medical examiner reports that this 21-year-old white male mass murderer, self-confessed mass murderer created.

The racism in this mass murder is right there in the cold wording of the medical examiner`s reports. We know how they died and we are beginning to learn a bit about how they lived. 51-year-old Hyun Jung Grant worked at the business where she was murdered. Her 22-year-old son, Randy Park, told NBC News today that his mother worked long hours to support her family.

He said, "She spent her whole life just existing for my brother and I. 49- year-old Xiaojie Tan was born in China. She owned the business where she was murdered in Cherokee County, a northern suburb of Atlanta. Her daughter, Jami Webb, told "USA Today" she did everything for me and for the family. She provided everything. She worked every day, 12 hours a day so that me and our family would have a better life.

33-year-old Delaina Ashley Yaun was a customer at the spa in Cherokee County where she was murdered. She leaves a 13-year-old son and an 8-month old daughter. Her husband was in another room at the spa at the time of the shooting and was not injured. Her sister describes her as the rock of the family.

54-year-old Paul Andre Michels was a handy man who worked at the spa. He was a U.S. Army veteran. His brother John Michels told "The New York Times" that Paul was a very hardworking, loving man.

Today the president and vice president of the United States went to Atlanta and met privately with government officials and leaders of the Asian- American Pacific Islander community. And after that private meeting, Vice President Harris who is of south Asian descent said this.


KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Racism is real in America and it has always been. Xenophobia is real in America and always has been. Sexism, too. In the 1860s, as Chinese workers built the transcontinental railroad there were laws on the books in America forbidding them from owning property.

In the 1940s as Japanese American soldiers defended our nation, more than 120,000 Japanese Americans were forced to live in internment camps in obvious and absolute abuse of their civil and human rights.


O`DONNELL: And President Biden said this.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My heart goes out to all -- all the family members who lost someone in those horrific shootings on Tuesday. I know they feel that like theirs a black hole in their chest they`re being sucked into and things will never get better, but our prayers are with you.

And I assure you the one you lost will always be with you -- always be with you. And a day will come when their memory brings a smile to your lips before it brings a tear to your eye as unbelievable as that is now. It will take a while, but I promise you it will come. And when it does, that`s the day you know you`re going to make it.


O`DONNELL: We begin our coverage tonight once again with NBC News correspondent Cathy Park in Georgia. Cathy, what is the latest in Georgia tonight?

KATHY PARK, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Well, good evening, Lawrence. I think the wound just got a little more deeper in fact with the release of the four remaining names that you just mentioned a few moments ago and all of them women who emigrated from Korea. I had an opportunity to speak one-on- one with one of the victim`s sons, Randy Park.

His mom was Hyun Jung Grant, 51 years old. He told me that his mom worked tirelessly, in fact, she worked weeks on end sometimes without any sort of break. She always put her sons, her two sons first. And now Randy has the impossible task of trying to move forward while taking care of his younger brother. He posted a GoFundMe account less than 24 hours ago.

And Lawrence, the number continues to climb. At last check, it has raised more than $1.7 million. And that number continues to climb. This tragedy is just resonating all across the country, in fact, around the world. I know people that I spoke with here in the Asian-American community, they have shared the GoFundMe page in Korea.

I want you to listen a little bit closer to our interview, though, with Randy Park. And here`s what he told me. Take a listen.


RANDY PARK, SON OF SHOOTING VICTIM: I have my own time to myself at night when I have to go try and get some sleep. That`s when I essentially just break down, but any other time I need to focus on getting past this as fast as possible so I can at least basically try and live happy as soon as possible. Otherwise, she won`t be able to rest as easily.


PARK: And Lawrence, I was really struck by Randy Park`s grace and strength in the wake of this tragedy. He was gracious to share a little bit of his time with us. You know, I had a lot of time to talk to a lot of folks in this community and I have to say, especially the Korean American community here in Duluth, it`s all intertwined.

And while they don`t know necessarily all of the victims, they feel like it is one of their family members who was impacted by this tragedy. So, this community is in a lot of pain and they`re trying to move forward as the healing begins. Lawrence?

O`DONNELL: Kathy, before we go, I just want to check in on how you`re doing. You`ve been covering this for us all week around the clock, and as you come to the end of this week of coverage, what does it feel like for you tonight?

PARK: Lawrence, to be quite honest with you it`s been a very emotional day and thank you for asking. It`s been tough. I`ve had moments where I had to hold back tears talking to these folks. It seems like when I talk to them it`s my mom, my grandmother, my father.

It`s just, you know, as I mentioned this is a family. The Asian-American community is very tight-knit, and it has been extremely emotional. And it`s hard not to take it personally especially when one of the victims shares a last name, another Park. Obviously, no relation. Park is a very common name.

But when you look at these faces and you finally have the names connected to these women, it`s hard not to look away and to be affected by all of this.

O`DONNELL: Kathy Park, thank you very much for joining us tonight and all the work you`ve been doing all week, really appreciate it.

PARK: Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Thank you. And joining our discussion now, Georgia State Representative Marvin Lim who met with President Biden, Vice President Harris today. And Democratic Congresswoman Grace Meng from New York`s sixth congressional district. She`s the vice chair of the Congressional Asian- Pacific American Caucus.

Congresswoman Meng, I just want to start with you tonight because we saw your frustration and your pain yesterday in that hearing. What did it mean for you to see the president and the vice president in Atlanta today?

REP. GRACE MENG (D-NY): Well, thank you, Lawrence, for having me again. And first, I want to say how much I appreciate State Representative Martin Lim and all your colleagues for speaking up and advocating for our community today with President Biden and Vice President Harris.

I was overwhelmed -- I`m sorry. I was overwhelmed to see President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris both in Georgia acknowledging what happened, acknowledging the human lives, six of whom were Asian women who were lost in Atlanta.

And to hear them acknowledge the pain and the hurt and to actively reach out to our community, actively work together to think of solutions has been a world of a difference from the former president who pretty much directly empowered so many of the people who were committing these hate incidents today and throughout the last year.

O`DONNELL: And Representative Lim, what was your meeting like today with the president and the vice president?

MARVIN LIM, STATE REPRESENTATIVE, GEORGIA: Our meeting was very sobering, but it was very also hopeful. As you heard from Vice President Kamala Harris, this sentiment towards the API community, my community, it is not new. American history is rife with it. And as President Biden said in our meeting, it is his belief that hate doesn`t go away, it just hides.

So, we are seeing the most tragic manifestations of that right now. It will take a long time to uproot, but the very first step was listening to those who have been most impacted. And I was proud along with my colleagues and advocates to be able to represent the voices of those that couldn`t be at the table including of course the voices of those whose lives were lost.

O`DONNELL: Grace Meng, I want to refer to what Kathy Park just told us about how it has felt for her to be covering this this week and what a strong connection she feels and familial connections in ways to the people she`s been talking to. Is that the way it has felt for you this week?

MENG: I have. You know, it really is very personal. I think of some of the victims like Randy Park`s mom who she talked to, who she spoke with Randy. And I think about the victims like Randy`s mom. It is that first generation of immigrants many who are women who basically gave up their adulthood.

They gave up their freedom and happiness to come to a new country oftentimes with very little money, with no friends, no real support and all to seek a better life and better opportunities for their next generation.

And so to hear about stories like hers makes me think about how grateful I am to that first generation of immigrants regardless of, you know, where you come from to this country.

O`DONNELL: Representative Lim, what we`re hearing from some of the comments we have so far from some of the children of these women who were murdered is how hardworking their mothers were and how much their mothers devoted their work lives to trying to make their children`s lives better. That seems to be something that is the story of your community.

LIM: It`s absolutely the story of my community. It`s the story of my own mother. We emigrated from the Philippines and my parents and especially my mom after my father passed away, did everything she could for me and my brother.

Our particular story might be unique to us, but elements of it are felt throughout the AAPI community. And mine is -- I`m very happy that that is the story we are focusing on, that we are telling the stories of how these Asian women lived and how they lived and supported their families. That is the most important stories.

It is not as important to focus on perpetrator or his motives or law enforcement. As important as those are, it is very important to humanize how these Asian people, how these Asian women lived not only to honor them but to ensure that we as all of us Americans look at every human being and humanize them so that other people don`t commit these kinds of heinous acts upon our communities.

O`DONNELL: Grace Meng, let me give you a last word on how these women lived and what their children are telling us about how they lived.

MENG: Well, even though I didn`t know them personally I want to say thank you to them because they literally represent an entire generation of Asian- American immigrants who came to this country who worked their tails off to be able to provide for their families for their next generation.

They didn`t always have the luxury to enjoy what it meant to be an American, but they sacrificed that. They sacrificed so much. And we have so much to gain in this country by recognizing their contributions and remembering their legacies.

O`DONNELL: Congresswoman Grace Meng, thank you very much for joining us again tonight. And Representative Marvin Lim, thank you for joining our discussion. We really appreciate it.

MENG: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: We`ll be right back.


O`DONNELL: According to account by "The Washington Post" Donald Trump is currently the subject of at least six ongoing investigations and is named as a defendant in at least 29 lawsuits. "The Washington Post" reports the sheer volume of these legal problems indicates that after a moment of maximum invincibility in the White House, Trump has fallen to a point of historic vulnerability before the law.

One of those investigations appears to be proceeding rapidly i, Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance s conducting a wide-ranging criminal investigation involving Donald Trump, his family, the Trump organization businesses.

Today, Donald Trump`s former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, met with the prosecutors for the eighth time. And then because it`s Michael Cohen and it`s kind of weird, he immediately went on TV and talked about it tonight with Ali Velshi.


MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER PERSONAL ATTORNEY FOR DONALD TRUMP: Remember, they just obtained more than a million pages of documents, 8 years` worth of Mr. Trump`s and the Trump Organization`s tax returns. That`s the -- that`s the real road map there. And many people including the companies that they brought in are able to decipher it, myself included. You don`t need to charge him on 20 issues. All you need is one and believe me they have more than one.


O`DONNELL: Joining us now is for tonight`s episode of "Defendant Trump," Glenn Kirschner, former career federal prosecutor and an MSNBC legal analyst. And Glenn, I cannot get over the weirdness of a witness going and talking to the prosecutors and then immediately going on TV and talking about it, but this is Trump world, and this is Michael Cohen.

And let`s never forget that there`s this pending criminal investigation of Donald Trump in Georgia where the evidence is overwhelming against Donald Trump. And we don`t hear anything from any witnesses coming out of that investigation. What do you make of where we stand in New York tonight?

GLENN KIRSCHNER, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: Yes. So, first of all, if Michael Cohen were my witness and I intended to call him at trial, I would ask him not to run to the media after every meeting I had with him. So, you`re right. This is strange set of facts and circumstances, Lawrence. In New York, though, I will tell you every single data point is pointing toward indictment, right?

From D.A. Vance taking not one but two trips to the Supreme Court to get eight years` worth of Donald Trump`s tax returns and financial documents to D.A. Vance hiring an expert forensic accounting firm to help him unravel what he`s seeing in those financial records, to him also hiring an expert former mob prosecutor who used to be the chief of the criminal division at the Southern District of New York, at U.S. Attorney`s Office, Mark Pomerantz.

And now eight meetings with Michael Cohen to kind of help Michael Cohen put some meat on the financial crimes bones, help them decipher all of these financial records they`re going through. And then the last little piece that we learned about today, Lawrence, was the interview with Jennifer Weisselberg, which is a really interesting piece.

Because, of course, Allen Weisselberg, longtime chief financial officer and bookkeeper for Trump in the Trump Organization, Jennifer Weisselberg is the ex-wife of one of Allen Weisselberg`s son, Barry Weisselberg. And here`s where it gets really interesting for Allen Weisselberg. She said a couple of important things. One, she said, you know, Allen defines himself by what Donald Trump thinks of him.

But I`ll tell you, Lawrence, it sure looks to me like they may be interviewing Jennifer Weisselberg to see if they can get at potential crimes if there`s evidence of potential crimes by Barry Weisselberg, the son, and then leverage that to try to convince Allen Weisselberg, the father to flip on Donald Trump. So, Allen Weisselberg may find himself having to choose between Donald Trump and his own sons.

O`DONNELL: That looks like where it`s going. Glenn Kirschner, thank you very much for joining us tonight.

KIRSCHNER: Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

Well, Republicans are now publicly siding with Vladimir Putin against the president of the United States. Proof that for some Republicans, loyalty to the United States depends entirely on who is the president of the United States.


O`DONNELL: Vladimir Putin challenged President Joe Biden to a debate after President Biden called Putin a "killer" in an interview with George Stephanopoulos this week. Fox and Republicans are now cheering for the Russian president over the president of the United States.


REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL): Putin and Biden, it would not end like Rocky IV. I don`t think the American would prevail.


O`DONNELL: The way you win a debate, of course, is by being right. So Fox and Republicans believe Putin would win a debate with Joe Biden because they agree with Putin`s governing ideas which include murder, a whole lot more socialism than they`ve ever seen and a cancel culture that includes long sentences in Siberian prisons.

Joining our discussion now is Ben Rhodes, former deputy national security adviser President Obama and now an MSNBC political analyst.

Ben, your reaction to the reaction to Vladimir Putin challenging Joe Biden to a debate.

BEN RHODES, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well Lawrence, it reminds me in 2015. Barack Obama was getting ready to write his speech on the 50th anniversary of Selma. And Rudy Giuliani and some other Republicans were doing television appearances and comparing Putin favorably to Obama and saying Well, Putin is a strong leader.

And the thing Obama told me is it wasn`t just the authoritarianism, if they were mine, if you look at Putin`s rule, you know, he has demonized the LGBT community in Russia. He`s demonized Muslim minorities there. He`s obviously made good use of disinformation and conspiracy theories.

And it was already back then a blending of what was happening in Republican politics and kind of the play book that Putin ran.

And you fast forward five years to today and what you realize is it wasn`t just Donald Trump who was kind of compromised by his affinity for Vladimir Putin, this is core to some of the Republican Party, not all of them. But some of them clearly look at Vladimir Putin and see more to admire and more in common than they have with Joe Biden. And that is a very unhealthy place I think for the Republican Party to be.

O`DONNELL: What does it mean to Vladimir Putin when he sees Republicans saying that stuff on Fox?

RHODES: Well, he loves it, Lawrence. I mean he loves to meddle in our politic. He basically has the attitude almost of a troll, but he`s invested in these relationships. There`s been relationships between Vladimir Putin`s associates and the NRA. He clearly loves to shoot disinformation in the kind of the right wing media (INAUDIBLE) in the U.S. A lot of the conspiracy theories including about Hunter Biden, some of those have the fingerprints of Vladimir Putin all over them.

So he clearly delights in the reaction that you just saw, you just played from Matt Gaetz. He wants Americans -- right wing Americans, in particular to be comparing him favorably to Joe Biden. It makes him look strong at home he believes and it makes America look weak and divided on the world stage. And all of that serves his interest, not ours.

O`DONNELL: And now with our intelligence community staffed by professionals once again and free to report the truth about what they`re finding we discover that Andrii Derkach, a Ukrainian is as a Russian agent who Rudy Giuliani was meeting with and trying to get information from. That`s all now been exposed and Republicans aren`t concerned about it at all.

RHODES: Not a (INAUDIBLE) and you remember all this stuff about was there collusion in 2016. I mean Look in this latest report from the DNI, this wasn`t subtle. They were making Rudy Giuliani a mark. They were funneling this disinformation efforts not just to people like Rudy Giuliani but people like Ron Johnson who was then using them to launch Senate investigations of bogus conspiracy theories that originated with Russian intelligence here.

So the Republican Party that used to, Lawrence, for most of your and my lifetime had as a pillar opposition to Russia, opposition the Soviet Union, Ronald Reagan, the Evil Empire.

Look what has happened to that Republican Party. I mean they`ve just completely flipped and now it`s a Democratic president who is speaking the truth about Vladimir Putin, who`s calling him a killer, who`s not mincing words, who`s defending human rights.

And it`s Republicans who are apologists for Vladimir Putin. This is again, a sea change in our politics even if it feels like we`ve been living this for some years now.

O`DONNELL: Ben Rhodes, thank you very much for joining us tonight.

RHODES: Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: And up next Jonathan Capehart will join us on the collision that is coming over voting rights and the senate filibuster rules.



SENATOR RAPHAEL WARNOCK (D-GA): For every young person who`s ever wondered whether or not your vote counts, you should have no doubt in your mind now. If your vote didn`t matter they wouldn`t be working so hard to try to stop it. So don`t let anybody take your voice or your vote.


O`DONNELL: That was Senator Raphael Warnock with Senator Jon Ossoff in Georgia today.

Here is South Carolina Congressman Jim Clyburn today on the House floor.


REP. JIM CLYBURN (D-SC): I didn`t march in the streets and spent nights in jail as a young man to find myself fighting the same battles generations later. But it appears the minority leader and his Republican colleagues are prepared to retread old ground. And I am prepared to stand my ground.


O`DONNELL: Joining our discussion now is Jonathan Capehart, an opinion writer for "The Washington Post" and host of "THE SUNDAY SHOW WITH JONATHAN CAPEHART" which is on MSNBC on Sunday. Jonathan, thank you very much for joining us.

You know, I -- I was absolutely convinced Joe Biden was going to move on the filibuster rule and open the possibility of changing it when I saw how adamant Jim Clyburn is about this because there would not be a Biden presidency without a Jim Clyburn endorsement in that South Carolina primary.

JONATHAN CAPEHART, MSNBC HOST: Well, I think what`s interesting about Congressman Clyburn is that he has been -- he has not been shy about pushing Joe Biden to do things that he wants him to do.

Remember the president most recently said he wasn`t in favor of doing away with the filibuster. Then more recently he has said well, maybe we should think about going back to talking filibusters make it more difficult for people to just stop bills.

But what Leader Clyburn is talking about, what Clyburn is talking about is just doing away with it in order to get voting rights passed. And I think what we`re seeing in terms of H.R.-1 going over to the Senate, hearings are starting. They`re talking about it. They`re laying the groundwork. They, meaning Democrats in the House and the Senate side laying the groundwork for something to happen that would allow the voting rights bills, H.R.-1 and H.R.-4 which is the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, allowing them to pass on a simple majority vote.

Yes. And every previous defender of the filibuster rules in the Senate including from say Joe Manchin to Dianne Feinstein. They`re all saying we can`t allow this bill to be stopped. And so if you say that you are saying you`re going to change something in those rules.

CAPEHART: Right. You`re going to change something. So let`s be clear. It doesn`t mean that the filibuster could possibly be blown up completely. Other parts of the discussions have been, well, maybe you make a carve out for voting rights bills or certain bills so that they can get through in a majority vote along the lines of what they`ve been doing for say Supreme Court justices.

The filibuster is still there but it was eliminated by the now Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. That rule was eliminated in order for, you know, three Trump judges to get on the Supreme Court. And Harry Reid did away with it when President Obama was in office because they got tired of President Obama`s nominees not getting anywhere.

So that is a possibility there, that there`s a carve out for voting rights legislation. But, Lawrence, come on you`re a creature of the senate. You know what`s going to end up happening. Voting rights is one thing, but you also have infrastructure coming down the line, immigration coming down the line. There are a lot of bills that are going to need to hit that 60-vote threshold.

And a certain point rank and file Democrats want it done away with. And I think what we`re seeing now as time goes along congressional -- I`m sorry, congressional Democrats, senate Democrats -- the more there`s resistance from Republicans, the more likely you`re going to see Democrats fall in line and say hey you know what, if we`re going to get anything done we`re going to have do away with the filibuster.

O`DONNELL: Yes. And strategically what I think I`m hearing from Chuck Schumer is that we`re going to go out on the Senate floor presuming goodwill in this fake, naive way and let the Republicans block it. And then we`re going to go back into the conference room and we`re going to come back out on the senate floor with the rule change.

CAPEHART: Right. And so think about it. Going to the senate floor with voting rights, infrastructure, immigration, background checks for gun purchases -- all of these bills that we know have popular American support -- minimum wage increase popular American support -- put them on the floor, have them rejected by Republicans and then blow up the filibuster so that they can all be passed -- simple majority.

O`DONNELL: Jonathan Capehart, have a great one day weekend. We will see you back at work Sunday morning at 10:00 a.m. Thank you, Jonathan.

CAPEHART: Thank you, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

Well, regular viewers of this program are familiar with our partnership with UNICEF to provide desks to schools in Malawi and top provide scholarships for girls to attend high school in Malawi. You can always check on our progress or make a contribution at

And you`ve heard many of the high school girls whose education we are supporting say that their dream is to become a nurse. The work of nurses and doctors and other health care workers in Malawi has become a bit safer now that UNICEF, which is the largest purchaser of COVID vaccine in the world, has helped deliver the vaccine to Malawi. Health care workers are among the first to get the vaccine in Malawi.

And today a registered nurse in Malawi, Praise Magombo (ph) told us what the vaccine means to her and to Malawi.


O`DONNELL: It`s great to hear that the vaccine has arrived in Malawi. I`m very excited about that.

PRAISE MAGAMBO, NURSE: Thank you for having me. And this is my vaccine card, vaccination card that I got my first dose of the vaccine. And yes, it`s pretty exciting.

And this vaccine is giving us hope to say that we can go through this pandemic and we can win this one step at a time. So that this vaccine has empowered us.


O`DONNELL: Praise Magombo will join us next and get tonight`s LAST WORD.


O`DONNELL: A couple of weeks ago on March 4th, about 10,000 people were vaccinated at Dodger Stadium, one of the largest vaccination centers in the world. As of March 1st, at least 30 million people were vaccinated in the United States for COVID 19. And as of March 4th, at least one million people were vaccinated in New York State which has a population of 19 million.

And as of March 4th, the east African country of Malawi with a population of 18.5 million people had not received any coronavirus vaccine -- zero. The problem in the United States then and now has been the difficulty of trying to obtain an appointment to get the vaccine. But still we were vaccinating well over two million people a day when countries like Malawi still didn`t have a single dose of vaccine.

And on March 5th, COVAX, the United Nations partnership which includes the World Health Organization and UNICEF, delivered the first shipment of vaccine to Malawi. 360,000 doses of vaccine arrived on a flight from India in Malawi`s capital city of Lilongwe.

Health care workers who have been fighting a second wave of the coronavirus this year that was worse than the first wave last year were among the first to be vaccinated.

And joining us now from Malawi is Praise Magombo. She is a registered nurse at Kamuzu Central Hospital in the capital city of Lilongwe.

Thank you very much for joining us tonight. Tell us what it has meant for Malawi and for you personally now that the vaccine has arrived.

MAGOMBO: Thank you for having me. About the vaccine, I think it`s an exciting moment. After the second wave hit Malawi, it was so bad. We lost a lot of people -- colleagues, family, friends, and it was such a tough time to go through all of that especially in January.

And then now that the numbers are declining and then with the coming of the vaccine, we are hopeful that we have the right tools in fighting the COVID- 19 pandemic.

O`DONNELL: And have you received the vaccine?

MAGOMBO: Yes, I got mine on Wednesday -- Wednesday morning.

O`DONNELL: Health care workers are among the first people in Malawi to get the vaccine. Do you all now feel more protected now that you have the vaccine?

MAGOMBO: Yes, definitely. Getting the vaccine, we now feel more protected. We can go out there and serve the nation better because without the vaccine, we`re kind of worried, like, (INAUDIBLE) to say, am I going to get it, am I going to pass it to my family?

So now that we`re getting the vaccine, we`re very confident that our work is going to be a bit easier, and we know that if we get the vaccine we`re going to be protected.

O`DONNELL: What was it like in Malawi when you were waiting for a vaccine? Because we were not getting any news reports here indicating anything about progress in getting the vaccine to African countries. So I was worried, I had no idea when Malawi was going to get the vaccine. When did you know that it was coming?

MAGOMBO: I think a month ago, if I`m not mistaken, that`s when the president addressed the nation and he said that the vaccine are coming. And then they just came, I think, this month. And the president and the vice president and other ministers, government officials, were the first to get the vaccine. And that was exciting to hear that it`s now finally in the country. And to know that we can get it and get access to the vaccine, and we can protect ourselves. Not only ourselves, but Malawi at large.

O`DONNELL: What was it like working in the hospitals when the pandemic really hit Malawi hard?

MAGOMBO: It was so tough. It was emotionally draining. Because the numbers kept on increasing each and every day. So many people lost their lives. And even though health care workers tried their best to provide care, but it just didn`t look like it is enough, like they`re doing enough.

People kept on hearing bad news. And seeing all of this happening in a short period of time, it was so draining. And I remember that you just wish that you can just be home and not go to the hospital. Because it was so scary at that time.

But we kept the faith knowing that we can defeat the pandemic slowly, yes? But we can defeat it. One day it will all pass -- this will all pass.

O`DONNELL: Viewers of this program know that it is very difficult for girls in Malawi to get to college and become nurses. But they`ve heard a lot of girls from Malawi appear on this program saying that that is their hope, that that is their ambition is that they dream about getting to the position that you`re in now.

What do you tell young girls in Malawi about how to get to the point that you`ve achieved as a nurse?

MAGOMBO: I`m happy that I can be a role model to girls who want to be nurses or who want to work in the health field or who want to be doctors. I`m very happy that I can show them that it`s possible. It`s possible to reach your dreams, if you work hard on it.

And when they see me, I`m happy that they can see a role model, and THEN they can see it`s indeed possible. It`s just not words that it`s possible to achieve and to get to their dream. And every girl`s dream is valid.

So I`m happy that I`m in a position where I can be a role model to the girls in the communities in Malawi.

O`DONNELL: Just quickly before we go, I know you have a master`s degree in reproductive health, but you`ve been accepted at a PhD program. Where is that PhD program?

MAGOMBO: I have been accepted at a PhD program at the University of Memphis in Tennessee.

O`DONNELL: Well, we hope to see you when you get to this country and you`re pursuing your PhD in Tennessee. Registered Nurse Praise Magombo --

MAGOMBO: Hopefully.

O`DONNELL: -- in Malawi. Thank you very, very much for joining us tonight.

MAGOMBO: Thank you so much for having me.

O`DONNELL: Praise Magombo gets tonight`s and this week`s LAST WORD.


BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: And as we come to the end of another week, good evening once again. Day 59 of the Biden administration.