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Transcript: The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, 4/14/21

Guests: F. Clayton Tyler, Tina Smith, Kirk Burkhalter, Marq Claxton, Joyce Beatty, Steven Horsford


Live coverage continues of the fourth day of protests in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, after the killing of Daunte Wright. Minnesota Senator Tina Smith is interviewed. Derek Chauvin`s defense team puts its most important expert witness on the stand to challenge the medical examiner`s finding that the death of George Floyd was a homicide. A curfew is in place in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota and the police have just declared an unlawful assembly there. Today, President Biden set an end date of September 11th of this year for the final withdrawal of U.S. troops in Afghanistan where we once had 98,000 American troops and today we have 2,500. Members of the Congressional Black Caucus went to the White House for the first time in four years to meet with President Biden and Vice President Harris about police reform and other issues.



We`re going to go to Ron Allen once again tonight in the streets of Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, where he has just been doing invaluable work for us reporting from the streets as he has done in the past in these kinds of situations. This is one of those weeks that we feel like we`ve lived through before, but it`s new every time.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Yeah. Exactly. And this is now with four sustained days of protests as we head towards the end of the Derek Chauvin trial ten miles away as the defense heads through its part of that trial and we`re heading towards a verdict there, it does feel like we`re going to be there and our attention is going to be there for quite some time.

O`DONNELL: Yeah, it is. Thanks, Rachel.

MADDOW: Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Thanks.

Well, we`re just an hour away from the curfew tonight in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota where once again protesters have gathered on the day when the police officer who shot and killed 20-year-old Daunte Wright while he was unarmed was arrested and charged with second degree manslaughter.

Curfews in neighboring Minneapolis and St. Paul were in place last night at the same hour but were lifted tonight. Last night, 79 people were arrested in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota.

Joining us now from Brooklyn Center is NBC News correspondent Ron Allen.

Ron, you led us off last night. What is the difference tonight?

RON ALLEN, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Lawrence, it just feels a lot more intense. There is a smaller crowd, but they just seem there just seemed to be a lot of energy there. In the last hour since nightfall, we`ve seen projectiles, rocks and bottles going one direction, rubber bullets, and other devices, other projectiles coming from the police as well. And it goes on and on.

If you take a close look, you can see it again, that fence over there which is the entrance to the police headquarters which, again, has been the focus of the protesters and the police and National Guard. There is a significant National Guard presence again there tonight. Troops in camouflage and heavy military-like vehicles back there, again trying to protect this place and keep the protesters back.

All of this comes down to the next hour. What will happen in the next hour as we approach curfew? Will the police and National Guard decide to push and clear the street out here as they have the past few nights? How long will they let the protesters continue to go on?

I hear explosions going off in the background, again, those flash things, and again, we can see some smoke now rising out in front of the gate. But there is a smaller and deterring crowd out there tonight.

There is also a lot of folks out here creating mischief. We`ve heard of a lot of hostility directed at us, at the media. There was some stuff on social media going on telling people to smash cameras and attack journalists. There have been some of our colleagues that have pulled out. We are staying back further tonight than normal because of the feeling we`ve had as we approached nightfall.

There`s just something different than last night.

O`DONNELL: Ron, what about the --

ALLEN: Again, as we approach nightfall, the intensity just picks up. Lawrence, back to you, yes?

O`DONNELL: Ron, what about the arrest today of the police officer? Is that why we`re seeing a smaller crowd tonight?

ALLEN: Perhaps, Lawrence. I think for the most part people feel that the manslaughter charge should have been a murder charge. Simply put, they feel that Daunte Wright was murdered in the streets during a traffic stop. They think manslaughter is letting the officer off too lightly. They feel there is evidence of a double standard, evidence of a racial standard.

A lot of people point to the case of Mohamed Noor, a former Minneapolis police officer who was convicted of manslaughter and murder back in 2017 in the case of a resident who called 911 reporting a problem, and as she approached the police car where Noor and his partner were still in, he opened fire, killing her tragically in a case of apparent mistaken identity.

He said in court that he felt he and his partner were being threatened. Again, very different case, but he was convicted of murder, sentenced to 12.5 years in murder. This officer, Potter, faces manslaughter charges, not murder charges. That`s why people are angry. They want to see a special counsel take over this case, not have the local prosecutors handle it, because they feel the local prosecutors in this state are too close to police.

They`re also down here today, a group of state legislators who have a whole list of reforms they want to see pushed through the legislature that they say they`re getting opposition from the governor and others who are blocking this. It`s a whole litany of reforms to the juvenile justice system to sentencing. They want more records expunged, criminal records expunged. Moves that we`ve seen in other states happening that have not been happening here.

So the bottom line is that, Lawrence, regardless, there is still a long list of demands, a lot of frustration that go beyond the case of Daunte Wright, that go beyond the case of George Floyd, and that will continue to be voiced here for some time to come, I think, for the coming weeks -- Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: NBC`s Ron Allen, thank you very much for that report, and we`ll be coming back to you, Ron, as the hour proceeds as you think is necessary.

And at 11:30 a.m. this morning, the now former police officer who shot and killed Daunte Wright on Sunday afternoon was arrested and charged with second degree manslaughter.

The criminal complaint states that Kimberly Ann Potter caused the death of Daunte Demetrius Wright, by her culpable negligence, whereby Kimberly Potter created an unreasonable risk and consciously took a chance of causing death or great bodily harm to Daunte Demetrius Wright. A conviction of second degree manslaughter carries a maximum of 20 years in prison and a $20,000 fine.

Washington County prosecutors said in a statement today, quote, certain occupations carry an immense responsibility and none more so than a sworn police officer. We will vigorously prosecute this case and intend to prove that Officer Potter abrogated her responsibility to protect the public when she used her firearm rather than her Taser.

In a press conference today, the mayor of Brooklyn Center, Mike Elliott, said this.


MAYOR MIKE ELLIOTT, BROOKLYN CENTER, MN: I share our community`s anger and sadness and shock. And my message to all who are demanding justice for him and for his family is this: your voices have been heard. Now, the eyes of the world are watching Brooklyn Center. And I urge you to protest peacefully and without violence.


O`DONNELL: Later today, the mayor visited the family of Daunte Wright at a vigil where Daunte Wright`s sister said this.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Look at him and look at him and say, oh, he needs to die. Oh, Taser, Taser, Taser! But you know the difference between a Taser and a gun. That`s what I`m trying to figure out. She took my brother`s life for nothing, for nothing at all. The reality here is that he`s gone and I can never see him in person again, can never feel my brother and give him a hug because they took him from me, they took him from us!


O`DONNELL: Joining us now, F. Clayton Tyler, former prosecutor, he is now a criminal defense attorney in Minnesota.

Thank you very much for joining us tonight.

What is your reading, your interpretation of these charges today?

F. CLAYTON TYLER, FORMER PROSECUTOR: I think that Minnesota is leading the way in swift charges against police officers right now. It didn`t used to be that way. However, I think that after all the body cams are in and the background of the officer comes around, I think that we`ll have a situation where we look at maybe a third degree murder charge also.

O`DONNELL: Is there a possibility of what happened in the Derek Chauvin case happening here where the state attorney general takes over?

TYLER: There is a possibility. I think that as in the Chauvin case, they`re doing an excellent job of prosecuting that case. I think that a lot of times, people are concerned that the local district attorney is not going to be as vigorous in the prosecution. I know Pete Orpit (ph), I`ve known him for a long time, he`s a very good, very dedicated public servant and he`ll do a good job prosecuting it. But if Keith Ellison takes over, I think they`ll do an equally good job.

O`DONNELL: Now, you mentioned the possibility of increasing this charge. What would have to be the threshold that would have to be met to do that and what would you expect the body camera evidence to reveal that would make that possible?

TYLER: Third degree murder is very tricky in Minnesota right now because the Court of Appeals just recently ruled that a shoving case could use third degree murder and as everyone know, originally, it was taken off by the judge.

So, the body camera would have to show something of a depraved mind, or something that would be a little different from the normal, negligent comments that this individual made. I`m not sure what, if anything, could kick it up to that level, but I think that the prosecutors will have to take their time and look at it in detail, and I think that they will.

O`DONNELL: A "New York Times" survey today found that in the last 20 years, at least 15 other cases of police officers mistaking their guns for Tasers, et cetera, review 15 other cases of so-called weapon confusion over the past 20 years, show that only five of the officers were indicted, only three, including the other two cases in which people were killed were eventually found guilty.

So there is a pattern here historically of this mistake being made, but the prosecution of it obviously is not common.

TYLER: It`s very difficult. You`ve got a compelling videotape. The defense attorney that`s going to be handling the case, Earl Gray, is an excellent defense attorney, one of the top five attorneys in the state of Minnesota, and he`s going to be looking at every aspect of the case in terms of whether or not she was thinking that he was going for a gun in the car or whatever. They`re going to try to put the victim on trial, which is unfortunate, but that`s what they`re going to try to do.

O`DONNELL: F. Clayton Tyler, thank you for your legal guidance tonight. We really appreciate it.

TYLER: Thank you. I appreciate it.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

Joining us now is Democratic Senator Tina Smith of Minnesota.

Senator Smith, thank very much for joining us, and you are joining us once again while protesters are on the street in Minnesota. You were with us when we were covering the protests of the killing of George Floyd last year.

What is it like for you to be back seeing this again in Minnesota?

SEN. TINA SMITH (D-MN): Well, thank you, Lawrence. It`s great to be with you.

I feel like I think a lot of people on the streets of Brooklyn Center tonight and all across my state, a sense of exhaustion, grief, and also anger and frustration. I mean, how many times do we have to see a black man die, get killed, be murdered, at the hands of law enforcement? And it keeps happening over and over again.

I was talking today or communicating with my friend Valerie Castile who is the mother of Philando Castile who died in another traffic incident with her son, Philando. And Valerie said, how many more panels, how many more expert groups do we ever to have bringing forward ideas before something finally changes? She said, I want solutions.

And that is what I see and feel in Brooklyn Center and in my community of Minneapolis tonight.

O`DONNELL: You have said that this is another incident of what you call over-policing. How would you control that?

SMITH: What I hear from folks that live in North Minneapolis and Brooklyn Center and communities of color all over my state is they feel overpoliced and underprotected. So when they need help from law enforcement, they can`t find it, but when they were simply driving and minding their own business, they end up being pulled over in a traffic stop that could be fatal.

That has got to change. That is the system of policing in our country and in my state that has got to change. And we know what to do. We just have to find the will to do it.

The legislation that we put forward after the tragic murder of George Floyd almost a year ago, we put forth the George Floyd Justice In Policing Act that would help to get at the challenges that we have holding police officers accountable, addressing the issues of qualified immunity, getting rid of these excessive use of force standards that we have in police departments all over this country. Those would be some specific things that we can do.

Yet right now, those are being stopped in the United States Senate, and that is a tragedy that is going to continue to be a tragedy unless we take action.

O`DONNELL: Senator, what is your confidence level in the Washington County district attorney`s office to handle this case? And should it be handled the same way the George Floyd case was handled and moved to the attorney general -- the state attorney general`s jurisdiction?

SMITH: Well, I think the most important thing is that the person who was prosecuting the case has some distance from the law enforcement that are the defendant -- that is the defendant in this case. So, I don`t know the prosecutor personally in the county. I have great confidence in what Attorney General Ellison is doing right now with the Derek Chauvin trial. I think that he is prosecuting the case vigorously.

And that is what we need. That is what the community wants to see, somebody who really has all of their heart and all of their energy into getting accountability for these cases. Because you need to have justice for the killings of Daunte Wright and George Floyd, but you also have to be able to address the systems that allow this to happen over and over again.

O`DONNELL: And what about at the federal level? Is there anything that can be done from your position in the Senate?

SMITH: Well, we should be passing right now, we should be taking up the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act and that would make a huge difference for our ability to stop the worst of these excessive use-of-force standards and also make it easier to hold police officers accountable.

But the other thing, to be a little bit optimistic in this, such a grim moment, is that there are examples of innovation happening in local police departments all over the country. And I propose legislation that would have the federal government support those innovations as we re-imagine what public safety can look like. And if we were able to pass my legislation as well, we would be able to support those -- not experiments but efforts to really try to change the way we do this overpolicing and underprotecting so that those local departments can actually make the kind of changes that they need. That would make a difference, too.

O`DONNELL: Minnesota Senator Tina Smith, thank you very much for joining us tonight, and I`m sorry that tonight you`re once again joining us during what you`ve called appropriately a grim moment for Minnesota and the country. Thank you very much.

SMITH: Thank you, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

Well, today, Derek Chauvin`s defense team put its most important expert witness on the stand to challenge the medical examiner`s finding that the death of George Floyd was a homicide. That`s next.


O`DONNELL: On Saturday, the Maryland legislature voted to override the Republican governor`s veto of the Maryland Police Accountability Act which its supporters call Anton`s Law in honor of a 19-year-old unarmed black man who was killed when he was apprehended by three police officers in Maryland in a manner similar to what happened to George Floyd. The three police officers held Anton Black down and he died.

The medical examiner in that case, Dr. David fowler, ruled that the death of Anton Black was accidental. Dr. Fowler is now being sued in a federal lawsuit by Anton Black`s family saying that he covered up the true cause of death.

Today on day 13 of the trial of Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd, the defense called Dr. Fowler to testify for the defense. Dr. Fowler is no longer a medical examiner in Maryland. He is now a professional witness for hire who is paid an hourly fee for his services.

Dr. Fowler went to medical school in South Africa. He did a residency in pathology at the University of Maryland. Dr. Fowler is by far the most important witness that the defense has called in a case that is all about the cause of death. According to the defense, defense counsel said, in the opening statement, that the defense would be entirely about the cause of death of George Floyd.

The medical examiner in Minnesota ruled that George Floyd`s death was a homicide. In addition to the medical examiner`s testimony, the prosecution has offered testimony from a world-renowned physician, Dr. Martin Tobin, who is an expert on breathing. Dr. Tobin pinpointed the exact moment on the street after George Floyd stopped breathing, the moment which, as Dr. Tobin put it, was, quote, the moment the life goes out of the body.

The prosecution also offered testimony from a cardiologist who explained that George Floyd did not die from any form of heart disease. The cardiologist testified that George Floyd`s heart stopped only because of the pressure on his body from Derek Chauvin that cut off the flow of oxygen in George Floyd`s system.

And after all of that careful and precise medical testimony delivered by the prosecution, witnesses today, the entire defense case came down to this rambling answer to this simple question.


ERIC NELSON, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: How would you classify the manner of death?

DR. DAVID FOWLER, DEFENSE EXPERT, FORMER MD CHIEF MEDICAL EXAMINER: So this is one of those cases where you have so many conflicting different manners. The carbon monoxide would usually be classified as an accident, but someone was holding him there, so some people would say you could elevate that to a homicide.

You`ve got the drugs on board. In most circumstances, in most jurisdictions, a drug intoxication would be considered to be an accident. He`s got significant natural disease, certainly the heart, you can certainly consider it as a potential exacerbating process but I wouldn`t put it at the top of the list. So he`s got a mixture of that.

And then he`s in a situation where he`s being restrained in a very stressful situation, and that increased his fight or flight type reaction, and that would be considered a homicide.

You put all of those together, it`s very difficult to say which of those is the most accurate, so I would fall back to undetermined in this particular case.


O`DONNELL: Lead Prosecutor Jerry Blackwell`s cross examination of Dr. Fowler was aimed at eliminating a sudden heart attack as a possible cause of death.


JERRY BLACKWELL, PROSECUTING ATTORNEY: If you apply pressure to someone`s neck and squeeze until the person becomes unresponsive, and you maintain that pressure for at least four minutes, you will cause irreversible brain damage because you will have starved the brain of oxygen. Is that true?

FOWLER: Correct. It takes four minutes of no supply of oxygen to the brain to cause irreversible brain damage.

BLACKWELL: Now, if somebody dies as a result of the consequences of insufficient oxygen or low oxygen, we know that when that person dies, they`re going to die a cardiopulmonary arrest because everybody dies a cardiopulmonary arrest. Fair enough?


BLACKWELL: And if a person dies as a result of low oxygen, that person is also going to die ultimately of a fatal arrhythmia, right?

FOWLER: Correct. Everyone of us in this room will have a fatal arrhythmia at some point.

BLACKWELL: Right, because that`s kind of how you go.


BLACKWELL: Did you notice that after roughly four minutes and 45 seconds, that Mr. Floyd went unconscious?


BLACKWELL: Did you notice that sometime after five minutes, he was found not to have a pulse?

FOWLER: Correct.

BLACKWELL: In your report, you refer to this as a sudden death event, but in your report and your findings, you don`t record a time, do you, sir, for when the sudden death supposedly occurred, do you?

FOWLER: I don`t specifically remember doing that, correct.


O`DONNELL: Joining us now, Kirk Burkhalter, criminal law professor at New York Law School, where he is the director of the 21st Century Policing Project, and Marq Claxton, director of the Black Law Enforcement Alliance. Both are former NYPD police detectives.

And, once again, gentlemen, we are sharing the screen with the live action in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, as the protesters have gathered there.

And, Professor Burkhalter, let me start with you as a trial tactician and get your reaction to what you saw in court today.

KIRK BURKHALTER, NYU SCHOOL OF LAW CRIMINAL LAW PROFESSOR: Sure. Lawrence, let`s take the totality of all the medical experts who have testified, all of those on the defense side and the expert that testified for the -- I`m sorry, for the prosecution and the expert that testified for the defense today.

As the children`s show says, which one of these things doesn`t belong together? And what do I mean?

The prosecution presented very critical, credible medical experts, and what`s important is they were able to support their positions, their conclusions under cross. That`s juxtaposed with this particular expert that was unable to support his conditions under cross-examination.

And why is this so critical? Because at the end of the day, we know that causation is the critical issue. That`s what the jury is going to consider, and in a battle of the experts, it tends to be the expert that is most credible and the one that is strong in his or her convictions and that can support their conclusions. So, you know, taking a look at this testimony holistically, it didn`t fulfill those categories. It didn`t inspire confidence.

This theory about the carbon dioxide was unsupported, that George Floyd could have died from carbon dioxide poisoning or the inhalation of carbon dioxide from the police car, totally unsupported and speculative, and we didn`t see that from the other side.

So, I don`t think this testimony helped. However, the defense had to find somebody to say that George Floyd did not die because of Derek Chauvin, and quite frankly, this is the best they could come up with. I don`t think it worked so well on the jury for those reasons.

O`DONNELL: On cross-examination, Dr. Fowler seemed to help the prosecution more than the defense wanted him to, especially on the question of giving medical attention to George Floyd. Let`s listen to that.


JERRY BLACKWELL, PROSECUTOR: Do you feel that Mr. Floyd should have been given immediate emergency attention to try to reverse the cardiac arrest?

DR. DAVID FOWLER, EXPERT WITNESS FOR DEFENSE: As a physician, I would agree.

BLACKWELL: Are you critical of the fact that he wasn`t given immediate emergency care when he went into cardiac arrest?

Dr. FOWLER: As a physician, I would agree.


O`DONNELL: Marq Claxton, the defense puts on a witness who then criticizing the defendant for not giving medical attention to George Floyd.

MARQ CLAXTON, DIRECTOR, BLACK LAW ENFORCEMENT ALLIANCE: Lawrence, I`m telling you the testimony today was very difficult to watch. You know, we`ve spoken in the past about police officers acting under the color of law, if you will. That they show up in their uniform and the vehicle and they have the equipment -- all the accoutrement, they`re on duty, but they operate outside of the law -- misbehave, if you will, violate the law sometimes. And we say that`s operating, you know, under the color of laws, which his very detrimental to public safety.

Well, these defense expert medical witnesses are operating under the color of science. Because much of their testimony, their direct testimony, is not supported by any facts. It`s theoretical, it`s hypothetical, it`s easily picked apart. And just as important, the body language, their breathing betrays them every step of the way. You can hear the sighs and the difficulty and even producing an answer that`s in some way responsive to the prosecutor`s cross.

So these medical witnesses are operating under the color of science.

O`DONNELL: Marq Claxton, Kirk Burkhalter, thank you very much for joining us again tonight. Your invaluable perspective with your police experience and courtroom experience is something we always appreciate.

And when we come back after this break, we`re going to go live to the scene in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota with Ron Allen.

We`ll be right back.


O`DONNELL: We are about 23 minutes away from the curfew in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota and the police have just declared an unlawful assembly there.

We`re going back to Brooklyn Center, Minnesota live with NBC`s Ron Allen. Ron, what is the situation there now?

RON ALLEN, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Well, things are ratcheting up, Lawrence. If you can look behind me in the distance there, you can see that there are a lot of flashing lights. We saw a long line of flashing lights. We saw a long line of flashing lights. This is police cars and other emergency vehicles, coming into the far side of where the protesters are.

This happened last night as well, but the number of cars, it`s dozens of vehicles. I can`t -- they`re so far away, I can`t really tell, but it was just a huge, huge show for us.

And since that has happened, the protesters are directing their attention in that direction and away from the police headquarters to some extent.

Last night the number of arrests was close to 80. And each night the number has increased. It appears that that`s what`s going to happen again, perhaps because again they are pushing in from the far side of the protest. And it is an incredibly large show of police force.

Inside the compound here, the National Guard troops and the police are holding their positions. We have not seen the protesters trying to breach it as they did in previous nights. And at this point, the focus seems to be -- is well, certainly is, on whatever is going on back there. And it`s a lot of police. It appears that as the curfew strikes in another -- less than a half hour or so, the police are going to make a statement, try and get people out of here.

As soon as they started making an announcement that this was an unlawful assembly, the protesters were cranking up the music on their cars, which is something you can hear now. They were also blowing their horns, trying to drown out that essentially rejecting the demand to move out. So as we approach the top of the hour, Lawrence, the tension here is really ratcheting up.

O`DONNELL: NBC`s Ron Allen, thank you for that update, Ron. We really appreciate it.

We`re going to take a break here.

When we come back, President Joe Biden made history today by declaring an end to what he called the forever war in Afghanistan.

That`s next.


O`DONNELL: Today President Biden set an end date of September 11th of this year for the final withdrawal of U.S. troops in Afghanistan where we once had 98,000 American troops and today we have 2,500.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We already have service members doing their duty in Afghanistan today whose parents served in the same war. We have service members who are not yet born when our nation was attacked in 9/11.

War in Afghanistan was never meant to be a multigenerational undertaking. We were attacked. We went to war with clear goals. We achieved those objectives. Bin Laden is dead and Al Qaeda is degraded in Iraq and Afghanistan. It`s time to end the forever war.


O`DONNELL: The forever war is now in its 20th year, and after announcing the planned end of that war today, President Biden visited Arlington National Cemetery to honor members of the military who lost their lives in Afghanistan and Iraq.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Was it a hard decision to make, sir?

BIDEN: No, it wasn`t. To me it was absolutely clear. Absolutely clear.


O`DONNELL: Joining us now, Ben Rhodes, former deputy national security adviser to Barack Obama. He`s an MSNBC political analyst.

And Ben, we are continuing to cover the situation in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota so we may be sharing the screen with some of the images from the street there as we speak. But this was obviously an important day and September 11th is an end date. The withdrawal could be accomplished before that time, but that`s the end point for this.

BEN RHODES, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. And I think that`s intentional, Lawrence. I mean first of all to essentially make the point that having been there 20 years, we can hold our heads up high and say that militarily we`ve done everything that we could.

First in defeating Al Qaeda, taking out bin laden and then in trying to give the Afghan security forces and Afghan government a chance here, but there is diminishing return for what we can do militarily anymore.

And the American people I think will see September 11 as a 20-year marker. And we`re moving into a new period -- a new period when we`re no longer going to have troops to go in Afghanistan. That`s a big moment for the country. and I think that Joe Biden not only made the right decision but he framed it as not just the end of our true presence in Afghanistan but the end of a particular kind of period that began on 9/11.

O`DONNELL: The president made clear that we could see more military action there before September 11. Let`s listen to what he said about what happens if the Taliban attacks while the troops are being drawn down.


BIDEN: The Taliban should know that if they attack us as we draw down, we will defend ourselves and our partners with all the tools at our disposal.


O`DONNELL: Ben, that sounds like something that could get us reengaged militarily.

RHODES: I don`t think so, Lawrence. I mean, I think that Joe Biden essentially looked at the arguments from his team. I`m sure that the military was arguing to keep some force in Afghanistan. I`m sure that the intelligence community was warning that the Taliban could take over large parts of the country if we left.

And evaluating those risks, I think he determined that this is still the right decision to make, again in part because our military having troops there is not solving the problems in Afghanistan.

The only thing that can really solve those problems is some kind of diplomatic agreement in the country. I think he was saying very specifically that a withdrawal could be a vulnerable time for our forces. They`re moving out, there`s less support for them in the country. they don`t have the kind of large force that can come to the aid of a departing U.S. convoy.

And he`s sending a message to the Taliban that if you take action, you could face U.S. airstrikes, U.S. additional military force here. But I think the direction he set is pretty clear and that`s the direction of leaving Afghanistan.

O`DONNELL: and let`s listen to what the president said about the terrorist threat that could remain in Afghanistan.


BIDEN: We`ll not take our eye off the terrorist threat. We`ll reorganize our counterterrorism capabilities and the substantial assets in the region to prevent reemergence of terrorists and the threat to our homeland from over the horizon. We`ll hold the Taliban accountable for its commitment not to allow any terrorist to threaten the United States or its allies from Afghan soil.


O`DONNELL: Ben Rhodes, saying we`ll hold the Taliban accountable could sound awfully strange.

RHODES: Well Lawrence, I think that`s the message that he`s sending that look, Afghanistan unfortunately, tragically for the people there who suffered already so much is going to be a difficult place here. It is going to be a grim conflict between the Afghan government and the Taliban, that hopefully resolves itself with diplomacy.

That message is about within that context, the Taliban shouldn`t think that they should provide safe haven to a group like Al Qaeda or ISIS that could threaten the United States.

And what we`re seeing here is a shift from the Afghanistan, or the Iraq war where we have large U.S. (INAUDIBLE) courses in these places to a model like the model that was pursued against ISIS where it`s U.S. air power often working with partners on the ground who share our objectives in terms of eliminating terrorist safe havens.

It`s one that doesn`t require 50,000 -- 100,000 -- 150,000 or even in this case in Afghanistan 2,500 troops to be in the country anymore. He`s suggesting that we`re going to use air power if we see a terrorist safe haven reemerge that threatens us in the United States.

O`DONNELL: What has changed in the withdrawal decision from the Obama White House to the Biden White House?

RHODES: Well part of it, Lawrence, is simply the passage of time. I mean I was thinking today that not only is it 20 years since September 11, this June will be a decade since we began our drawdown from Afghanistan. So this is not a precipitous withdrawal as Republican opponents of the decision have been framing it. This has been a decade in which we`ve been handing things off to the Afghans.

I frankly think we could have made this decision in 2015 and 2016. I think that part of what made that decision difficult at the time for President Obama was that you had the rise of ISIS and that there was some concern that there could be an ISIS safe haven in Afghanistan.

But I think now, part of what`s happened, Lawrence, is that the American people, they want to move on. And you know, President Biden, he`s talking about rebuilding this country, not the trillions of dollars we spend in Afghanistan and Iraq, but rather the types of proposals he`s putting forward to Congress right now, that we build America.

He`s talking about China. He`s talking about the challenges from pandemics and climate change. It`s time clearly to turn the page here even as we have to continue to support the Afghan people diplomatically and with our assistance.

O`DONNELL: Ben Rhodes, thank you for joining us on this historic night. We really appreciate it.

And coming up, the police have declared an unlawful assembly in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota. We are ten minutes away from the curfew being imposed there.

And during another week of the protests of the killing of unarmed black man by police, members of the Congressional Black Caucus went to the White House for the first time in four years to meet with President Biden and Vice President Harris about police reform and other issues. That`s next.


O`DONNELL: We are exactly five minutes away from the curfew in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota tonight where police have already declared an unlawful assembly and are telling protesters to go home.

Yesterday, the Congressional Black Caucus was invited to the White House to meet with the President of the United States for the first time in four years.

Joining us now are Democratic Congresswoman Joyce Beatty of Ohio. She is the chair of the Congressional Black Caucus; and Democratic Congressman Steven Horsford of Nevada, the vice chair of the Congressional Black Caucus.

Congresswoman Beatty, what was the agenda for this first Congressional Black Caucus meeting with the president and vice president?

REP. JOYCE BEATTY (D-OH): Well, first of all Lawrence, thank you so much for having us. We had a very clear agenda. We wanted to share with President Biden our 101st objectives, our goals. We wanted to make it clear as we were talking about people and that included the vaccination, voting rights, civil rights and jobs in the economy.

But we also wanted to talk about the criminal justice system and what`s happening with far too many of our young black men especially, being killed. So we had a full agenda of saying here are our goals and objectives. One of them was to meet with the president and to clearly set up ongoing dialogue with him.

We were very supportive of this president. He`s been very supportive of our issues. So we wanted to make sure that the executive committee sat down with him to help develop a plan. And we shared a dozen of our top priorities with him.

Very clear, we had some deliverables that we wanted to come out of the meeting with, so we could continue to build back better.

O`DONNELL: Congressman Horsford, what did the president and vice president tell you about their concerns coming about what`s happening in Minnesota this week?

REP. STEVEN HORSFORD (D-NV): Well, Lawrence, first I want to join with Congresswoman Beatty and the entire Congressional Black Caucus in extending our prayers and condolences to the Wright family. Daunte Wright should be alive today.

And what the president said in the opening remarks of the meeting is that this has to stop, that black lives matter. As a black parent raising two sons and a daughter with my wife. This is trauma that our families experience every single day when we wake up to the news of another black life lost, killed at the hands of law enforcement.

It`s why we have to pass the George Floyd Justice and Policing Act and the president and vice president share our goals in making sure that we hold officers accountable by ending very draconian practices like the chokehold that contributed to the death of George Floyd and other standards that need to be reformed throughout law enforcement.

This is not about one police officer or one department, this is about systemic racism that has to end in this country.

O`DONNELL: Congresswoman Beatty, what was it like for you to go to a meeting with the president and the vice president and for the first time in history have a former member of the Congressional Black Caucus sitting across from you as vice president of the United States?

BEATTY: Well, it was very welcoming to have Vice President Kamala Harris there. It was very reinforcing. She`s a member of the CBC. She`s vice president. She`s unapologetic and very vocal.

And we had to talk about -- we have to have a conversation about things that could have been uncomfortable for other people. We were very comfortable talking about systemic racism, talking about what is happening today as you`ve been covering today.

As Steven said, it has to stop. We have to be in a position, we`re legislators, we have to write policies and legislation. Will that stop all of the senseless killings? No. But we have to stand up for the people we represent. And it`s happening far too many times.

We are at the same time witnessing live on TV the trial for the killing of George Floyd. Eight minutes and 26 seconds was bad enough and now we`re hearing 9 minutes and 29 seconds. So whether it`s a $20 bill, a cigarette, an air freshener, this is something that the Congressional Black Caucus is going to be joining with other communities, civil rights groups, to make sure that our voices are heard and that we`re going to show our power and our message.

This is our 50th anniversary, and we are the largest caucus within the Congress. And this is one of our top priorities along with COVID-19, making sure we get people vaccinated.

O`DONNELL: Congresswoman Joyce Beatty and Congressman Steve Horsford, thank you both very much for joining us tonight.

We have just arrived at the curfew hour in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota. MSNBC`s breaking news live coverage continues on "THE 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS" which starts now.