"Politico" tonight is reporting that the first Trump aide, the first
Trump appointee has been arrested in connection with the invasion of the
Capitol. Senate Democrats unified today when they cast their first vote on
the bill, which was a simple motion to begin to debate the COVID relief
bill. Interview with Democratic Congressman Tim Ryan of Ohio, chair of the
House Appropriations Legislative Branch Subcommittee which oversees the
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel.
I am going to be joined later in the hour tonight, making his debut on the
show, by Sacha Baron Cohen.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, "TRMS": Wow.
O`DONNELL: Do I have to explain who that is, Rachel? He is kind of a movie
thing. It`s not a news person.
MADDOW: I know.
O`DONNELL: And he is going to be joined, actually, by Aaron Sorkin, who
might have, you know, written some words for Sacha to say tonight. Not that
he needs any help.
And I am not going to tell you why they are both here, okay?
O`DONNELL: Because it`s actually kind of a movie thing that crosses over
into our news. But, you know, that`s coming up.
MADDOW: You got Sacha Baron Cohen and Aaron Sorkin?
O`DONNELL: Yes. In my case, in my case, Aaron is the easier get, you know,
because he`s a friend of mine and I`ve worked with, and he`s on the show
before. But Sacha Baron Cohen, yeah, I`m wicked excited about that.
MADDOW: Wow. That`s incredible. I am going to go because I want to watch
O`DONNELL: You have a reason to watch this time. Thank you, Rachel.
O`DONNELL: Thank you.
We have a breaking news report which we will get to in a moment from
"Politico" tonight reporting that the first Trump aide, the first Trump
appointee has been arrested in connection with the invasion of the Capitol.
He was a former aide in Mike Pompeo`s state department. His name is
Federico Klein, a former marine.
He was arrested tonight for his participation in the attack on the Capitol.
We are going to get to that, the details in a moment.
And a new study shows that Black Lives Matter protests worked. Killings by
police declined after Black Lives Matter protests. The Civil Rights Act was
passed in 1964 after civil rights protests would not have been passed
without those protests. The Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965 because of
civil rights protests and would not have been passed without those
Protests can work. Anti-war protesters did something that had never been
done before when they stopped the Vietnam war by slowly changing the minds
of members of Congress who shut down congressional support for the Vietnam
War. Anti-war protesters had never stopped a war before.
Abbie Hoffman was one of the leaders of the anti-war protesters at the 1968
Democratic National Convention in Chicago. The protesters didn`t win in
1968, but they finally won when the last American soldier left Vietnam in
1973. President Nixon and his generals were forced to end that war years
before they would have thanks to millions of American anti-war protesters.
The protesters were right, and the president was wrong, and the generals
were wrong. Abbie Hoffman and the anti-war protesters saved lives by
forcing the end of that war, but Abbie Hoffman and other leaders of the
anti-war movement were put on trial for what they did in 1968 at the
Democratic Convention. Reports from the courtroom dominated the news for
months in what the news media then called the trial of the Chicago 7, which
is now the title of the powerful new film written and directed by Oscar
winner Aaron Sorkin with Sacha Baron Cohen in a mesmerizing performance as
Sacha Baron Cohen and Aaron Sorkin will join us later in this hour.
We now have peaceful relations with Vietnam. There are no more American
soldiers in Vietnam, but there are American soldiers in Washington, D.C.,
tonight. National Guard troops are guarding the Capitol and the government
from a threatened attack by the most deranged people who voted for Donald
Trump. Every person who attacked the Capitol on January 6th was a supporter
of Donald Trump and now every threat being picked up about possible new
attacks on the Capitol are by supporters of Donald Trump.
Now, most Trump voters know that the people who attacked the Capitol and
want to attack the Capitol again are insane and criminals. Seventy-four
million people voted for Donald Trump and just about 74 million of those
people did not once even consider lifting a finger or their voice to
protest Donald Trump`s loss to Joe Biden. Seventy-four million Trump voters
went about their business disappointed in the outcome of the election,
knowing that they would get a chance to vote for the president again in
four years. And that was good enough for them.
But a few thousand completely deranged people who desperately need help
followed what they believed were Donald Trump`s orders to attack the
Capitol and Donald Trump has once again proved that he wanted them to
attack the Capitol because he had a chance to tell them not to attack the
Capitol again, today. And he refused to do that.
When threats against the Capitol focusing on today, March 4th, emerged,
Donald Trump could have easily released a public statement saying don`t
attack the Capitol.
One Republican member of Congress, a former chairman of the Homeland
Security Committee, said this yesterday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MIKE MCCAUL (R-TX): I think President Trump has a responsibility to
tell them to stand down. This threat is credible and it`s real.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: We all know what happens when you put the word Trump and
responsibilities in same sentence. Nothing. Nothing happens when you ask
Donald Trump to be responsible and nothing happened at the Capitol today.
Possibly because the evidence of another plot to attack the Capitol was
exposed and even more National Guard troops were sent to the Capitol and to
the congressional office buildings today.
Republican Senator Ron Johnson didn`t know that nothing was going to happen
at the Capitol today. He didn`t know that the Senate wasn`t going to be
attacked again. Or did he?
Even though the Capitol was under a threat today, Ron Johnson decided to
use a power that every senator has and none use, to order Senate clerks to
read every page of the 628-page Biden COVID relief bill. With a credible
threat against the Capitol today, Ron Johnson decided to force Senate
clerks to remain on the Senate floors for hours on end reading 628 pages,
which is what they are doing right now.
There they are. They are on page 390 right now. Ron Johnson`s stunt and his
cruelty to those Senate clerks who you see on the screen will not delay by
even a day the delivery of $1,400 Biden COVID relief checks along with
$3,000 child tax credits.
Senate Democrats unified today when they cast their first vote on the bill,
which was a simple motion to begin to debate the COVID relief bill. All 50
senators were joined by Vice President Kamala Harris in a 51-50 vote to
simply proceed to consideration of the bill. Fifty Republicans voted
against even talking about the COVID relief bill.
Joining us Democratic Congressman Tim Ryan of Ohio. He is the chair of the
House Appropriations Legislative Branch Subcommittee which oversees the
Congressman Ryan, thank you very much for joining us tonight. And I`m very
glad that we are welcoming you on a night that was an uneventful day at the
REP. TIM RYAN (D-OH): Yeah, thank God, Lawrence. Appreciate that. But it`s,
you know, a sign of the times and we`re continuing to have to deal with
this threat. And, fortunately, nothing happened, and we can continue the
O`DONNELL: I want to get your reaction to this new reporting by "Politico"
just about -- just about a half hour old at this point from "Politico".
They report the FBI on Thursday arrested Federico Klein, a former State
Department aide, on charges related to the storming of the Capitol on
January 6th, making him the first known instance of an appointee of
President Donald Trump facing criminal prosecution in connection with the
attempts to block Congress from certifying President Joe Biden`s victory.
It will be fascinating, Congressman, to hear what his defense is in court.
Is he going to claim that the president ordered me to do it?
RYAN: Well, I`m sure he will. But again, this is a blockbuster. I mean,
there`s no question about it.
But, unfortunately, in this day and age, I don`t think anybody is really
surprised that people who worked for Donald Trump would be involved in
something like that. They have been complicit for the last four years, you
know, going back to Charlottesville and all of these other instances where
people who were around him, close to him, appointed by him, supporters of
him never said a word.
So it`s not really surprising, unfortunately, that somebody that was
appointed by him would have been there on January 6th or aiding and
abetting. It will be interesting to see what his role exactly was.
O`DONNELL: Well, it also becomes interesting, for example, how he got that
job because as we know that`s a political appointee job. Is he someone who
is a favorite of Mike Pompeo`s? There is going to be a very interesting
report on how this person ended up in the Trump administration before then
ending up in the invasion of the Capitol.
RYAN: Yeah, you got to be very close. I mean, a lot of us as Democrats now
are going through the appointment process or trying to help people get into
the administration. You`ve got to -- you`ve got to have some pull.
And so, this person probably did, and we`ll see who their connections were.
I mean, it`s hard to tell with this group where he came from. But we`re
going to find out.
That`s what I love. Nobody is above the law here, Lawrence. This is what is
really the bright spot of this entire thing is to watch the FBI continue to
do their work. Watch the U.S. attorney`s office continue to do their work,
including possibly members of Congress who are -- no one is looking the
other way for them as well.
And I think that`s -- that`s the sign that the rule of law is continuing to
take hold and justice is continuing to take hold. It wasn`t there for a
while, but I think we`re getting back on track.
O`DONNELL: In 2022, there is an open Senate seat in Ohio. There will be a
retiring Republican senator.
Are you considering running for that seat? And why would you want to do it
when you watched the madness that we are looking at on the Senate floor
RYAN: You sound like my wife, Lawrence.
I mean, you know, yeah, I`m very interested in it. We are looking at it
very, very closely, because it`s an opportunity to, you know, do good
things, to try to move the ball down the field.
I represent a working-class district that has been in many instances left
behind, globalization, automation, and there are opportunities to plug
these communities and these families into the new economy. But you need
people on the Senate floor that aren`t acting like Ron Johnson, but are
acting more like Sherrod Brown, you know, more like somebody who cares
about the workers and that`s, you know, a powerful place to be. Worked
there for a long time, and you can make a big difference.
And to have somebody from, you know, Niles, Ohio, on the Senate floor
making a difference, it`s intriguing. So we are looking very, very closely
at it. And it`s exciting for us in Ohio to have an opportunity. Democrats
haven`t held the seat for decades, and we may have a good shot at picking
it up. So, we`re super excited about that.
O`DONNELL: What do you hear from your constituents about this Biden COVID
relief bill and what they want from that bill?
RYAN: Well, you know, what don`t they want? You talk to teachers, they need
help. You talk to principals, superintendents, they need help. You know,
your phone blows up because people aren`t getting unemployment checks. So,
there`s a big extension there.
The waitresses and waiters that are working more hours or as many hours as
they used to work and making half as much as they used to make. They need
that $1,400 check. The utilities, the help with their rent and rent relief.
I mean, people are hanging on by a string, which is why it`s so maddening
when Ron Johnson is there doing what he is doing to just drag this out. It
may not be long, but it`s longer than it needs to be. And they need help
across the board, Lawrence.
And I just think that this is so straightforward for the economy, but also
this is a moral issue. I mean, make no mistake about it. This package is a
moral package that is supporting people who need help.
And this garbage that somehow the Republicans are going to be the class of
the -- the party of the working class when, in fact, this entire bill is a
shot right for the working class and they are all voting against it and
dragging their feet on it. So we got to call B.S. on that.
But let`s get it out the door and start helping people.
O`DONNELL: Congressman Tim Ryan, thank you very much for starting us off
RYAN: Thanks, Lawrence. You got a good show ahead, I see.
O`DONNELL: Thank you very much.
And coming up, how do you solve a problem like the filibuster? I probably
should have sung that lyric. Democratic Senator Joe Manchin promised he
wants to preserve the filibuster rule, but what there is a way for Senator
Manchin to keep his promise and enforce the rule differently so that
Democrats will actually have a real chance of passing the Biden agenda in
the Senate? Our next guest has solved that puzzle.
O`DONNELL: It should be obvious to everyone that nothing in the Biden
legislative agenda that requires 60 votes in the Senate is going to pass.
Technically, problem is not the filibuster, which is a dramatic show on the
Senate floor where one senator holds the floor non-stop until that senator
just can`t speak another word.
We see real filibusters on the Senate floor, less than once a decade now.
Most senators never even think of mounting a real filibuster. A much lazier
practice has taken its place.
And instead of one heroic or misguided senator blocking the progress on the
Senate floor, the cloture rule requires 60 votes for the Senate to close
debate and move forward. In today`s Senate, that means the Democrats would
need ten Republicans to join them to vote for cloture so the Senate could
vote on legislation. Ten Republicans will never cast that vote. Never.
Republicans don`t even have to show up for cloture votes now because it`s
impossible for the Democrats to get to 60. That is the rule that West
Virginia`s Democratic Senator Joe Manchin almost alone among Democrats
wants to preserve. Joe Manchin has promised his West Virginia voters that
he will reserve that rule, commonly referred to as the filibuster rule. So
as not to confuse anyone, I will surrender to that usage and call it the
Some House Democrats are complaining about the filibuster rule and Joe
Manchin more than they have complained about anything in the Senate because
the rule has never been more obviously absurd and profoundly anti-
democratic as in anti-democracy. You can try to crush Joe Manchin and make
him break his promise to his voters in a state that Donald Trump, that
voted for Donald Trump twice, or you can try pushing Joe Manchin towards
your view, but pushing Joe Manchin towards a Democratic view of Senate
rules, you might just push him all the way out of the Democratic Party and
send him walking across the aisle to join the Republicans.
And if that happens, Mitch McConnell instantly becomes the majority leader
of the United States Senate and that happened the last time we had a 50/50
Senate and luckily for the Democrats it was a Republican who walked across
the aisle under too much pressure to conform to his party and that gave the
Democrats control of the Senate. Such is life in a 50/50 Senate.
Our next guest has been listening to Joe Manchin and has come up with a way
for Joe Manchin to keep his promise about the filibuster rules, but shift
the burden of how the rules are enforced in a way that would allow the
Democrats much more opportunity to maneuver and proceed on the Senate
floor. It is an elegant solution and I would feel embarrassed for not
having thought of it myself were it not for the fact that Norm Ornstein has
been studying the workings of the United States Senate much longer than I
have and knows much more about it than I do.
Joining us is Norm Ornstein, congressional historian and scholar at the
American Enterprise Institute. His new article in "The Washington Post" is
entitled "Democrats cannot kill the filibuster, but they can gut it."
Norm, let`s get to your two biggest ideas. Let`s start with the present and
voting way of determining the threshold here and how that actually used to
NORM ORNSTEIN, CONGRESSIONAL HISTORIAN: So, Lawrence, the last time the
filibuster was changed for legislation in a fundamental way in 1975, the
lore is that they lowered the threshold from two-thirds to three-fifths.
But it didn`t work that way. It was before this, two-thirds of those
present and voting and now it`s three-fifths of the entire Senate. As you
said, the burden now is on the majority.
Now, if you have a present and voting standard and you go around the clock,
if the minority doesn`t show up, if, say, 20 members don`t show up, then
under the three-fifths standard, you only need 48 senators to invoke that
cloture, stop the debate. And if it`s a absolute standard, if you decided
to go around the clock, the minority doesn`t have to show up at all. A
couple of members could be there.
One to deny the absence of a quorum or to keep from getting a unanimous
consent agreement. It`s the majority that has to show up. So if you move
this pack to a present voting standard, make it three-fifths of those
present and voting, then Democrats can shine a spotlight on an important
issue like HR1, democracy reform, make them go around the clock for two
weeks. Make the 87-year-olds like Chuck Grassley and Dick Shelby and Jim
Inhofe have to sleep on the lumpy cots all night long. If they don`t show
up, then you have got the opportunity to break that filibuster.
O`DONNELL: Yeah, and this for Joe Manchin, this takes you back to an even
earlier precedent. You are still listening to what Joe Manchin says he
wants and trying to work within that and say, okay, here is a Senate
precedent that preexists the one they are using now.
Let`s go to the other idea, which is a new idea, which is switching the
burden. Now it requires 60 votes to proceed, and you`re saying what if we
switched that to 40 votes in order to basically continue debating the bill.
ORNSTEIN: And I`d like to push the envelope a little bit, make it 45 votes.
But the idea here is the burden is supposed to be on the minority. What Joe
Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema have talked about, both of them, is this idea
that you need to give the minority some skin in the game.
The old filibuster, the one that they have lionized, it was about a
minority feeling so intensely about an issue that they would take on a
great burden and go to great lengths. Now they don`t have to lift a little
Put the burden back on them. Every vote, the cloture comes if they can`t
muster the 41 or 45. They have to be there constantly. They all have to be
If you make them debate on the floor while all of this is going on, you add
to that burden. You are not eliminating the rule. You are restoring what it
was supposed to be, what they have lionized.
It`s not perfect. Nothing is. But it gives us a fighting chance of getting
things like democracy reform, the John Lewis Voting Rights Act and some
other things that are very important to us, and the fact is, as you said
earlier, we`re not going to eliminate the rule. We are not able to do it
with 50 senators with a couple who are dug in against it. We have to find a
different way to operate.
O`DONNELL: Well, you know, I am not opposed to continuing lobbying Senator
Manchin, but what you are saying is, okay, if that doesn`t work, don`t give
up. There is some other ways that you can soften what we currently have.
I know you talked to Al Franken about this idea. He told me what he is
telling you about it, which is he used to sit on the Senate floor during
these cloture situations and say to Republicans, well, I have to be here
this weekend and they would say, we don`t. We`re leaving because they don`t
have to be there to sustain their blocking maneuver and they get to go
often on the weekend and the Democrats are sitting there trying to muster
60 votes, which they simply can`t muster.
ORNSTEIN: And, of course, the way it works now, you can filibuster
everything. Little bills, big bills, take up a lot of time on the floor
because it costs you nothing.
If we change the burden back to the minority, they are only going to do it
in a handful of cases. And when they do, we are going to get a public
spotlight shined on them that`s going to make it very different. Imagine
if, for instance, you brought up the Voting Rights Act that would now apply
to everybody, not just the five states, to satisfy the Supreme Court. And
you made them go around the clock explaining why they are against voting
rights when most of them voted for the original Voting Rights Acts.
You can make a difference this way. And we have a chance, I think, to get
all of those senators and get the 50 to make a difference. If we don`t,
then we are not going to get that legislation. You push Joe Manchin and you
are going to end up with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
O`DONNELL: Norm Ornstein, thank you very much for your thinking on this.
Really appreciate it.
ORNSTEIN: Anytime, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: And as Senate clerks continue to read the COVID relief bill, we
will be joined by two members of the House, Rose DeLauro and Richard
Torres, to focus on an important provision in that bill. That`s next.
O`DONNELL: The Senate clerks are on 414 of the reading of the COVID Relief
Bill. There are so many important provisions in this 628-page bill that is
being read on the Senate floor right now. But most of them don`t even get
mentioned in many of the news summaries that tend to focus on only three or
four prominent provisions.
In our "What`s In The Bill Segments", we will be studying one provision at
a time. Tonight the Senate clerks read this provision on page 362. The
child tax credit. A tax credit is a check. It is real money just like the
now famous $1,400 checks that everyone knows people are going to be
receiving from this bill.
The bill will increase the child tax credit 50 percent. It will go from
$2,000 to $3,000 per child with an extra $600 added for every child under
six years old. That`s $3,600 in real money if you have a five-year-old
child at home. That provision of the bill will fit -- will lift more than
four million children out of poverty.
Joining us now is Democratic Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut,
she`s the chair of the House Appropriations Committee and has been
advocating the child tax credit since 2003. Also joining us Democratic
Congressman Ritchie Torres. He is a freshman who campaigned on expanding
the child tax credit.
Chairwoman DeLauro, let me begin with you, you have been a crusader on
this. This is the most significant increase in this tax credit that we have
REP. ROSA DELAURO (D-CT): First of all, thanks to you, Lawrence, for having
both Congressman Torres and myself on the program tonight. We also want to
tip our hat to Congresswoman Suzan Delbene who was the third author of the
American Family Act, the child tax credit.
And you know, this is a historic moment for our country, Lawrence. It
really is. We are about to create a child allowance that, as you have
pointed out, will lift four million children, one half of children in this
country out of poverty.
And in my own district, in the 3rd district of Connecticut, over 50 percent
of kids will be lifted out of poverty. And this is the scale. The scale of
this is what Franklin Roosevelt did when he passed the Social Security Act,
which lifted 90 percent of seniors out of poverty. Now we have the ability
to lift millions of children out of poverty.
And it is really an extraordinary moment. And I have, you know, 2003 is
when I first introduced the first amendment on the child tax credit so you
imagine how this has come full circle and how excited I am to hear you to
talk about page 362 of the bill. And this is the moment. We are on the
cusp. We`re on the cusp.
O`DONNELL: Right. You know, when I was working in the Senate for Senator
Moynihan, he was a leader on this kind of issue in the Senate. And whenever
welfare reform proposals came up he would always say, you know, the thing
that cures poverty is money. And money was the thing that the government
was most reluctant to give people who needed money.
And Congressman Torres, your constituents in the Bronx, it`s one of the
more economically-disadvantaged congressional districts, this is real money
to them, isn`t it?
REP. RITCHIE TORRES (D-NY): It is real money. The South Bronx is said to be
the poorest congressional district in America and there is no single policy
that would do more to lift the South Bronx out of poverty than the American
Family Act which would permanently expand the child tax credit.
You know, the subject of poverty is no abstraction to me. It`s deeply
personal. I spent most of my life in poverty in the South Bronx. I was
raised by a single mother who had to raise three children on minimum wage,
which in the 1990s was a mere $4.25.
And if we had access to the child tax credit, it would have been a game
changer for me and my family. So I have been on a personal mission to
ensure that no child in America faces the hardship that weighed heavily on
me as a child.
O`DONNELL: Congressman DeLauro, talk about what it takes to get these kinds
of provisions in bills like this, including one of the reasons it`s in this
bill tonight is that you have been pushing it for all of these years.
DELAURO: Well, I have spent a lot of time. Just every year, year in and
year out, advocating, building a coalition to really get it placed where it
But I would just say, the moment that we are at, Lawrence, is that we have
presidential leadership. President Biden is fourth square (ph) for this
piece of legislation. He spoke to our Democratic caucus not two nights ago
where he said he is committed to making this permanent.
And when I had the opportunity to be in the Oval Office with my colleagues
and he was sitting under that portrait of Franklin Roosevelt, and it just
clicked and I just said, you know, with that stroke of a pen, you are able
to do this the way Franklin Roosevelt lifted seniors out of poverty.
But it has been Congressman Torres, Congresswoman Delbene and building a
coalition. And you know, my mother, who passed away three years ago at age
103, said, "Rosa, you never give up and you never take no for an answer."
So we have never given up, we don`t take no for an answer, and we move on
and we are going to get the child tax credit passed. The president is for
it. The Congress is for it. And the pandemic makes the urgency of it all
the more poignant.
O`DONNELL: Congressman Torres, the $1,400 check has been well-publicized. I
think people know that`s coming, you know, whether or not there is going to
be an increase in the minimum wage, has gotten an awful lot of attention.
Do your constituents know that this money is coming in the child tax
TORRES: There is more awareness than ever before. And for me the most
important provision of the American Rescue Plan is the child tax credit,
which we need to make permanent. You know, permanent child tax credit would
do for children what Medicare and Social Security did for senior citizens.
It would end extreme poverty among the most vulnerable Americans.
So it represents a historic triumph of economic and social justice and
everyone should know about it.
O`DONNELL: Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro and congressman Ritchie Torres, thank
you both very much for joining us tonight. Really appreciate it.
DELAURO: Thank you. Thank you very, very much for having me.
O`DONNELL: Thank you.
Up next, Golden Globe`s best actor Sacha Baron Cohen will join us in his
debut on THE LAST WORD and Oscar winner Aaron Sorkin will make a return
appearance to THE LAST WORD. That`s next.
O`DONNELL: We are a nation of protesters. This nation was born in protest
with a birth certificate called A Declaration of Independence written by
By the end of the 1960s, two massive protest movements overlapped when
civil rights leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. began adding their voices
to the anti-war movement which was led mostly by young American men who
were subject to being drafted into the army and shipped off to die in
Vietnam in a war the United States was on its way to losing decisively with
55,000 Americans killed in action.
The protesters called it an immoral, illegal, unwinnable war. The president
and general insisted we would win the Vietnam War and they were all wrong.
The protesters who said we couldn`t win were all right. Including Abbie
Hoffman, played brilliantly by Sacha Baron Cohen in Aaron Sorkin`s
masterful film "The Trial of the Chicago 7".
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you have contempt for your government?
SACHA BARON COHEN, ACTOR: I`ll tell you, Mr. Shultz, it`s nothing compared
to the contempt my government has for me.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We`ve heard testimony from 27 witnesses under oath that
say you hoped for a confrontation with the police, that your plans for the
convention were designed specifically to draw the police into a
COHEN: Well, if I had known it was going to be the first wish of mine that
came true, I would have aimed a lot higher.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s a yes or no question. When you came to Chicago were
you hoping for a confrontation with the police?
I`m concerned you have to think about it.
COHEN: Give me a moment, would you, friend? I have never been on trial for
my thoughts before.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining us now, Sacha Baron Cohen, who won a Golden Globe on
Sunday night for best actor in a very different movie and came in second
for the Golden Globe for best supporting actor for his portrayal of Abbie
Hoffman in "The Trial Of Chicago 7 " and Aaron Sorkin, who won the Golden
Globe for best screenplay and apparently came in second for the Golden
Globe for best director. Thank you both for being here.
And Sacha, I know that show business protocol requires that the movie star
speaks first, but I beg your indulgence in this instance. With your
permission, as the movie star, may I violate show business protocol and
direct the first question to Aaron?
COHEN: Fine, but only because this is live. Normally my publicist would
intervene. But go ahead.
O`DONNELL: No, I know. That`s exactly what I`m taking advantage of,
Aaron, it`s so long ago, it feels several, many years ago when you first
said to me that Steven Spielberg brought you an idea about "The Trial Of
Chicago 7" and I thought that was in development for a while and then
nothing happened and then here we are.
AARON SORKIN, ACTOR: Yes. It`s been 15 years. It`s been 2006 on a Saturday
morning, Steven Spielberg asked me to come to his house. Just to be very
clear, that`s not common. I don`t hang out with Steven Spielberg on
He said he wanted to make a move about The Chicago 7 and I said count me
in. Chicago 7, that sounds great. It`s going to be a fantastic movie.
Left his house, called my father and asked him who the Chicago y were. I
was just saying yes to doing a movie with Spielberg. And I just kept
writing it and writing it and writing it. And for a whole host of reasons
it kept getting moved to next year and now it`s not going to happen at all.
Finally, Donald Trump started running for president and he got elected and
he had rallies and there would be a protester. And he`d start getting
nostalgic about the old days when we`d would carry that guy out of here on
a stretcher, punch him right in the face and let`s beat the crap out of
them, I`ll pay your legal bills.
And Steven decided the time to make this film was now. by then, I had
directed my first "Molly`s Game" and he said that I should direct Chicago
We thought the film was plenty relevant last winter when we were making it.
We didn`t need it to get more relevant but it did obviously in May with the
killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, protesters took to the streets
all over America. And in a number of those cities the protesters were met
again by riot clubs and tear gas.
then finally on January 6th Donald Trump stood at a microphone and did
exactly what the Chicago 7 were on trial for doing.
O`DONNELL: Sacha, you lived at a greatest distance from the story. Aaron
was just too young to have lived through it but there`s a whole ocean
between you and this story. What attracted you to this script?
COHEN: Well, I had first heard about Abbie Hoffman when I was a student in
Cambridge researching the Jewish black alliance in the 60s. And looking at
Jewish left-wing students who went down south to fight for -- against
Abbie was one of those. And that group of students became the epicenter of
the anti-Vietnam War movement. And so, yes, I knew about this from the age
of 20. Then I also heard that Spielberg was making this movie. Called him
up. And cheekily asked whether I could audition.
O`DONNELL: Well, that worked out. Let`s listen to what Jerry Rubin said
during the trial.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JERRY RUBIN, FORMER CHICAGO 7: As I say, you know, I say it`s in a way I
want to laugh because the story is kind of exciting. I think we ought to
make a movie and have Pearson (ph) be the director of the film. It`s a
great story, the ways, the whole thing, the diary. It`s really -- it`s
really right out of the Latin American revolutions and right out of James
Bond and everything and Pearson is a quite hero. I dig it, you know.
I sat there saying, if this were all a dream, it would be great.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Sacha, did you study a lot of video like that of the characters
in this movie?
Cohen: Oh, yes. I mean, I -- you know, this was an intimidating character
to try to portray. You`re portraying somebody who is real, somebody people
know about that many people alive now actually knew.
So I got hold of every bit of video that I could get from him. I read all
his books. I managed to track down radio of some of his stand-up tours. You
know, he was a huge fan of Lenny Bruce and kind of ate his comical style.
So, yes, I tried to get everything I could. And obviously, trying to master
the accent, being an Englishman was a challenge because he is born in
Boston, but was educated in Brandeis in Berkeley. So, yes, it was tough.
And I`m half a foot taller than him. I couldn`t do anything about that.
O`DONNELL: Yes, there`s that. Well, you had your director to fix that for
you, the whole height problem.
Aaron, I got a tweet sent to me before the show tonight. This is not
someone I know. And he said, Sorkin is the only writer that can make me
feel so patriotic that it brings tears to my eyes and I`m Canadian.
Aaron, do you think of yourself as a patriotic writer?
SORKIN: I do. First of all, I just want to thank whoever wrote that tweet
because I always wanted -- listen, I wrote this film over and over and over
again. It took a long time. But I always wanted people to feel good at the
end of the movie.
I just wanted people to feel taller. And I think that they do. And listen,
you know, from the time we spent together on "The West Wing" that I like
reclaiming the idea of patriotism from the silly idea of patriotism, you
know, just flag waving, that kind of nonsense.
You know, the Chicago 7, they were seven funny guys but they were terribly
serious guys. The Chicago 7 were called unAmerican, unpatriotic, anti-
American, overly educated -- it`s still an insult that I don`t understand -
- lame pansies. Ok?
Well, they were anything but lame. They risked their lives. They risked ten
years in federal prison. In order -- today it`s widely accepted that the
protests that they led, the thousands of others who protested with them
hastened the end of this disastrous war.
So I would just say, put them next to senators whoa re unwilling to risk
having a primary at home, tell me who the patriots are?
O`DONNELL: We`re going to squeeze in a break here. We will be right back
with Sacha Baron Cohen and Aaron Sorkin.
During the commercial break, they can fight over will get THE LAST WORD.
O`DONNELL: Here is Sacha Baron Cohen in November of 2019.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COHEN: Today around the world, demagogues appealed to our worst instincts,
conspiracy theories once confined to the fringe are going mainstream, hate
crimes are surging as murderous attacks on religious and ethnic minorities.
All this hate and violence is being facilitated by a handful of Internet
companies that amount to the greatest propaganda machine in history.
Zuckerberg speaks of welcoming a diversity of ideas. And last year he gave
us an example. He said that he found posts denying the Holocaust, equally
offensive, but he didn`t think Facebook should take them down because I
think there`re things that different people get wrong.
To quote, Edward R. Morrow, "one cannot accept that there on every story
two equal and logical sides to an argument. We have unfortunately millions
of pieces of evidence for the Holocaust. It is an historical fact and
denying it is not some random opinion. Those who deny the Holocaust aim to
encourage another one.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Back with us, Sacha Baron Cohen and Aaron Sorkin.
Sacha, the seriousness of purpose of that is not something that people are
used to, certainly they don`t have a lot of lat (ph) it in your work. And
so, you, what you brought to that is something that strikes me as very
similar to what we often hear in Aaron Sorkin`s speeches about the way he
wants the world to be.
Did you find yourselves to have that kind of kindred spirit about these
kinds of crusades?
COHEN: I think we did. In fact, one of the early conversations we had was
about the danger of social media and it`s responsibility in spreading
conspiracies, hate and lies. And actually, Aaron, if you look back wrote a
fantastic op-ed in the New York times critiquing Mark Zuckerberg.
O`DONNELL: And Aaron --
O`DONNELL: Go ahead Aaron, you are (INAUDIBLE) is for the social media, so
I think it might have something to say about this.
SORKIN: Well, I did. The speech you just showed that`s just one of the
reasons I admire Sacha so much.
COHEN: Thank you.
SORKIN: That was all I have to say about that.
O`DONNELL: I`m having a little trouble with audio right here, but Sacha,
the commitment that these young people, you were all young people. I mean I
was a kid at the time of the Chicago 7 trial, so they seemed like, you
know, real old guys to me.
But the commitment you saw in these young people that you were portraying
in the Chicago 7 seems very similar to the commitment we have seen on
American streets with Black Lives Matter protests over the last year.
COHEN: Definitely. When we made this, there was not that mass movement and
that mass sense of communal courage, and it took immense courage to risk go
out during COVID to protest against systemic racism.
And actually if you look at the last 12 months, we have seen it --
incredible courage from protest movements around the world who are out
there peacefully protesting dictatorships and autocratic rulers everywhere
from Moscow to Myanmar. In Belarus, we had a largely led female movement
where they risked extreme violence.
So, it really has been a year, where young people in most part, have gone
out and actively made democracy happen or fought for democracy.
O`DONNELL: Aaron, when you were alone in the room writing the script for
the Chicago 7, did you then later find yourself out there in the set as a
director with Sacha, with the other actors and discovering new things about
it that you could only find by being out there as the director?
SORKIN: Yes, Absolutely. And particularly, listen, the cast obviously --
you know, I`m beginning to think it`s possible that the performances of the
actors have something to do with the quality of the film. This cast was
incredible to work with.
Coming to the set in the morning I felt like I was getting tossed the keys
to a Formula 1 race car. As long as I didn`t put the car in the wall, these
actors were going to win the race.
But a kind of -- a good tug of war that we had on the set which was helpful
for the film, was that Sacha and Jeremy Strong -- Abbie Hoffman and Jerry
Rubin, they understood that it was their job in the courtroom every day to
demonstrate to this judge that they have no respect for the proceeding at
all. And that they were going to do whatever they could in the courtroom to
bother Frank Langella, basically.
In the meantime, I had to make sure, because we are doing a courtroom drama
that both sides cared about whether they won or lost. So we kind of kept
going back and forth on how much circus there could be in the film.
But these guys have done a tremendous amount of research coming in. Look,
even before Sacha got the part, he was --
O`DONNELL: Aaron, I`m sorry, we are going to have to take that in to our
SORKIN: That`s ok.
O`DONNELL: We are out of time, and Sacha, that`s the only reason Aaron
Sorkin got THE LAST WORD. Sacha Baron Cohen, Aaron Sorkin -- thank you both
for joining us tonight.
COHEN: You will be hearing from my publicist. I have had THE LAST WORD.
COHEN: I stole THE LAST WORD.
O`DONNELL: Ok, Sacha did get THE LAST WORD.
"THE 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS" starts now.
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