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Transcript: The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, 4/2/21

Guests: Adam Schiff, Cliff Albright, Tom Smith, Delores Jones-Brown, Nicholas Kristof, Matt Fuller


One Capitol police officer is dead, and another is injured when a man rammed his car through a barrier in Capitol Hill. The suspect was 25- year-old Noah Green who was killed by authorities. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) answers questions regarding the attack on Capitol Hill and President Biden offering Ukraine support amid tensions with Russia. The first week of the Derek Chauvin trial has been a lot to take in. President Biden`s infrastructure plan is focused on one idea -- what this country could be if we invested in it. New details into the investigation into Congressman Matt Gaetz for possible sex trafficking in one case of a minor.



RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: "The action shown in the video were in clear violation of policies and training on the appropriate use of emergency safety interventions. Staff were swiftly terminated for their participation in the restraint."

Kate Snow`s reporting on this, as I said, has been going on for more than two years. It is part of a special that you should absolutely see. It is hard, particularly in light of the George Floyd trial that has transfixed the country for this past week, and will into next week, I think it is absolutely critical.

The special is called "Children That Pay." It`s going to air this Sunday night at 10:00 p.m. Eastern time on MSNBC. It`s well worth your time. All right, that`s going to do it for us tonight. Thank you again for bearing us with through our technical difficulties at the start of the hour. We will see you again on Monday when everything will run perfectly. Now it`s time for "The Last Word" Ali Velshi in for Lawrence O`Donnell tonight. Ali Velshi, my knight in shining armor. Good evening, Ali.

ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST: Well, we got the squirrels under control, Rachel, which is good, and I was glad we were able to get you back for it. Have yourself a happy belated birthday and maybe you get a little celebration in this weekend because it`s going to be another busy week next week.

MADDOW: Thank you, my friend. And thank you, thank you, thank you for rescuing me, I really appreciate it.

VELSHI: Always my pleasure, friend. Have a good weekend. Thanks, Rachel.

MADDOW: Thanks.

VELSJHI (on camera): And thank you, to you at home. Today, the defenders of the United States Capitol were attacked again. Just 86 days after a pro- Trump mob invaded the Capitol in an attempt to stop Congress from fulfilling its democratic duties.

Today`s attack was much smaller, but it was as tragi because the United States lost a martyr for our democracy in this new attack. That`s how House Speaker Nancy Pelosi described the police officer, William Billy Evans who died heroically protecting the Capitol, a martyr for our democracy.

Officer Evans died of his injuries after a man rammed his car through the north barricade of the Capitol and into Officer Evans and another officer, who is still unidentified and who remains in the hospital in stable condition.

Police say the suspect, 25-year-old Noah Green of Indiana, then exited his car with a knife and began lunging at the officers. At least one officer shot the suspect who later died. Police do not believe the attack was related to terrorism.

And so today, with the Capitol insurrection still fresh in our collective memory, another family mourns the loss of their loved one and the nation mourns with them. Officer Evans had been a member of the United States Capitol police for 18 years.

Today, officers paid their respects as a police procession escorted Officer Evans` body from the hospital to the medical examiner`s office. Officer Evans is now the fourth police officer to have died since the Capitol insurrection, less than three months ago.

You`ll remember Officer Brian Sicknick died the night after the January 6th attack. Capitol Police Officer Howard Lebengood, and Metropolitan Police Officer Jeffery Smith died by suicide days after defending the Capitol. They are all martyrs for our democracy.

Today, President Biden ordered flags to be lowered to half-staff and he acknowledged the heavy burden faced by the Capitol Police officers who are understaffed and had been working overtime to protect Congress. In a statement, the president said, "Jill and I were heartbroken to learn of the violent attack at a security checkpoint on U.S. Capitol grounds."

Evans of the -- Officer Evans of the U.S. Capitol police passed away today. And the president marked that passing by ordering staff -- flags to be flown at half-staff. Today, the acting Capitol police chief had this to say about the police officers who were attacked today and asking the nation to pray for the defenders of our democracy.


YOGANANDA PITTMAN, ACTING U.S. CAPITOL POLICE: I just ask that the public continue to keep U.S. Capitol police and their families in your prayers. This has been an extremely difficult time for U.S. Capitol police, after the events of January 6th, and now, the events that have occurred here today. So, I ask that you keep our U.S. Capitol police family in your thoughts and prayers.


VELSHI (on camera): That was the acting chief of the U.S. Capitol police. Joining us now, Capitol Hill correspondent Leigh Ann Caldwell. Leigh Ann, I was watching your e-mails as this was developing today. It was tragic, what ended up happening and it sent a wave of fear through people at the Capitol and throughout this nation as to what was under way.

LEIGH ANN CALDWELL, MSNBC CAPITOL HILL CORRESPONDENT: That`s right, Ali. When I was in the (inaudible) rotunda, which was -- went under lockdown right when this happened, my first thought was what now? What again is happening?

Of course, this is in the aftermath of January 6th, where nerves are still raw. Security is still hyper-alert. And the National Guard still has a presence around the Capitol. And that fencing, the inner perimeter of the fencing anyway still exists.

And then when the helicopter descended on to the grounds of the Capitol, that was something that I had never seen before. But we`re learning a little bit more about the suspect. We`re learning a little bit more about Billy Evans and his family, the fact that he has two children, Speaker Pelosi acknowledged them in her letter to colleagues that she sent out just moments ago.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer says that he spoke with Officer Evans` family and extends his condolences on behalf of the entire Senate. But this has come when Capitol police have been through an extremely trying time. The morale has been really low. They have been working extra hour`s overtime, very few days off in order to meet the needs of the security rush situation on the Capitol.

There`s a report by retired Lieutenant General Honore, by Speaker Pelosi, had dispatched and it found that they are understaffed. And as far as January 6th is concerned, they were underprepared. And so this is just another instance, and a very, very trying time for the law enforcement that just lost another person.

And the reason there is a security debate that is currently happening on Capitol Hill about what to do about security, a debate that has become very highly partisan, and this is definitely going to influence how that debate moves forward, Ali.

VELSHI: Russell Honore calling for an additional 854 positions. There are currently 233 positions open at the Capitol Police, so when you say understaffed, that is an understatement. That`s not a few people. It`s a lot of people.


VELSHI: Leigh Ann, I`m very glad to see you safe. I saw your e-mail when you said that a helicopter has landed on the Capitol grounds, you know, and you`re doing your job as a reporter, but I think anybody looking at this today, their first thought is what is happening. That was your first thought, too so I`m glad to see that you are safe friend. Leigh Ann Caldwell from the Capitol.

There is still much that we do not know about this attack and the motivations of the suspect or why he chose the Capitol building today. We do know that less than two months ago, the nation watched on television and in real-time, as a mob breached the Capitol for hours at the behest of the then president.

That was on the minds of many people as they watched the news today. It was on my mind. The threat of violence and fear of violence is something that members of Congress, Capitol Hill staffers and employee, Capitol police officers now must reckon with every single day.

Joining us now, Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff of California. He`s the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. Congressman Schiff, good to see you. Let me just start because one has, to like I was saying to Leigh Ann, one has to check in on how everybody is doing, what their psyche is after yet another attack. And years gone by, you could have put it off as sort of an isolated incident, you can`t do that anymore.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): No, you can`t. And it`s just a heartbreak for all of us that are a part of the Capitol Hill working community. These police officers, we get to know them, those of us that have had security details from time to time. They get to know our families. And to lose another officer and have another officer also injured, it`s just devastating.

And you know what, I think we had had hoped that maybe some of the fences could come down, we want to try to strike that balance between security and accessibility, but clearly, we`re not ready to take the fences and all the barriers down. The Capitol is still very much a target.

We don`t yet know what the motivations of this man were. But of course, when you see something like this, an attack like this happens, it`s hard not to harken back to January 6th.

VELSHI: And it`s hard to know that some people are still not taking this seriously, what happened on January 6th. I mean, you and I have heard over the last couple of months, particularly people on the other side of House and the Senate, making comments about how they weren`t scared, this wasn`t particularly serious.

But what we saw today in a "Washington Post" article is another connection between the old keepers and Roger Stone, and I just want to read a little bit of this. "Oath Keepers founder Steward Rhodes, his deputy and three members who guarded Roger Stone exchanged nearly 20 phone calls over three hours on January 6th coinciding with the first assault on police barricades protecting the U.S. Capitol and spanning the time the three members breached the building, prosecutors charged on Thursday. Some charged Oath Keepers were seen acting as bodyguards for Stone earlier in the day."

Are you -- I imagine the answer is no, but are you satisfied that everybody around Congress is taking this connection between the prior administration and these extremist groups seriously now?

SCHIFF: No, not at all. And you know, I think many are pushing back, suggesting that anyone who makes a connection between the president`s calls to march on the Capitol or fight this rigged election, that anyone associated with that is somehow tarred with the brush of being a terrorist, that`s the way they`re trying to pejoratize (ph) that if you disagree with them, you`re calling them a terrorist.

But look, these people had attacked the Capitol are guilty of domestic terrorism and we have a real white nationalist domestic terror threat that now eclipses the threat from international terrorism, and we darn well better take it seriously. And I think it`s really shameful in light of all we have experienced and the lives that are lost, another one today, that anyone in Congress could treat this with anything but the utmost seriousness.

VELSHI: What`s your sense of General Russell Honore`s recommendation that there are 233, I believe, openings right now, in the U.S. Capitol staff. He is calling for an additional 854. It`s a massive increase in staffing. What`s your sense of the level of staffing and the level of work and the appropriateness of how many people there are guarding the Capitol?

SCHIFF: Well, I think we are dramatically understaffed and one of the things that General Honore also points out in his report and this is something that members feel acutely, and that is it`s not just about security around the Capitol. It`s also about the lack of security around many of our district offices out in our home states.

And of course, some of the state Capitols are at risk. So, I do think there`s going to have to be a dramatic expansion of the Capitol police. We`re going to have to resolve security issues not just at the Capitol but in other venues as well.

And we`re going to have to strengthen this was another of the general`s findings, the intelligence operations of the Capitol police department to make sure they`re gaining good information about threats to the Capitol, that there`s good communication between Capitol Police, Metropolitan Police and the National Guard that we can get response in a timely way. There`s a lot that`s going to need to change if we`re going to avoid further violence at the Capitol.

VELSHI: Chairman, I want to ask you about another matter. This is about threats to the country outside of the Capitol, something you dealt with a lot in the last few years, and that is the relationship between the United States and Ukraine.

And in fact, the fraught relationship between Donald Trump and Vladimir Zelensky. Today, President Biden had his first call with President Zelensky, and he went very, very differently than Donald Trump`s last call, there wasn`t threatening, there he was cajoling, there wasn`t an attempt to dig up information, but there was apparently some reassurance that America stands by Ukraine in its continued efforts for survival particularly under the attack from Russia.

SCHIFF: That`s exactly right. And it`s so refreshing and frankly, after four years of something quite different, it`s so novel even to get a read- out of a presidential call with a foreign leader and feel good about it.

Here, President Biden, doing exactly what you would expect the American president to do, express solidarity with our democratic ally, in the fight to preserve the geographical integrity of Ukraine, with Russia occupying large portions of Ukraine.

A very important show of confidence for Ukraine at a time when Russians are once again amassing troops in and around Ukraine. And so very important message being communicated, and likewise, the president`s call with Vladimir Putin, pushing back against Russia`s maligned activities in Ukraine, pushing back against Russia poisoning critics like the gentleman who was poisoned and almost died and now is incarcerated.

VELSHI: Alexei Navalny, yes.

SCHIFF: Exactly. And so, you know, the president doing exactly what he should and it`s wonderful to see.

VELSHI: It`s a different world. Congressman, good to see you as always. Chairman Adam Schiff of the House Intel Committee. Thank you for joining us tonight.

And coming up, the pressure from voting rights groups and from business leaders is working. Today, Major League Baseball announced it`s pulling the All-Star game from Atlanta to protest the new voter suppression law. Cliff Albright from Black Voters Matters joins us next.


VELSHI: Do you feel that? You might not. You`re watching TV. This is not an interactive experience, but all the same, there is something you might be sensing. It`s the corporate world taking action. Major businesses condemning restrictive voting laws being pushed by Republicans at the state level. Some are doing more than speaking up. Some are taking action.

Today, Major League Baseball announced that the All-Star game will be moved out of Atlanta because of the state`s new Republican voter restriction. The Republican governor who signed that legislation underneath a painting, I`m not making this up, of a plantation on which there were slaves, was outraged by the decision and he blamed, creatively, liberal cancel culture.

It is not cancel culture to respond to democracy weakening legislation. Stopping Georgians from voting is actually cancelling something. Major corporations based in Georgia are condemning the legislation, including Coca-Cola and Delta.

And in a historic open letter, 72 black executives led by former American Express CEO Ken Chenault and outgoing Merck CEO Ken Frazier called on all corporations, no matter their location, to oppose these voting restrictions. And some did, including Microsoft and Amazon. And the outcry is spreading as other state Republicans make similar pushes to restrict the right to vote.

American Airlines and Southwest Airlines, both based in Texas are speaking out against restrictions being pushed by Texas Republicans. Let`s make clear why all this is happening. This is happening because of activists who care about protecting the right to vote.

Activists pressed Georgia-based businesses to publicly oppose voting restrictions for weeks before those restrictions were signed into law, then they called on people to boycott those same companies when they failed to speak up. And they did fail to speak out.

It didn`t take long for those companies to change their tunes. Joining us now are Cliff Albright, co-founder of Black Voters Matter and Tom Smith, a professor and sports economist at Emory University School of Business. Good evening to both of you. Thank you for joining us.

Cliff, I mean, on one hand, I`m a business reporter, right, so I would like to point out the fact that when American businesses decided to do the right thing, they`re starting to have an impact. But they didn`t really decide to do the right thing in time.

They were warned of these anti-Democratic things. Delta and others, you know, made statements that sounded like it`s okay, they`d fix some of this law, and they`re not as bad as they were. Only now have they come out and called these laws what they are and decided to take action.

CLIFF ALBRIGHT, CO-FOUNDER BLACK VOTERS MATTER: Right. And you know, we hear in the coalition that have been pushing for this, we like to think that it`s never too late to do the right thing. And so, but what we need them to do is the master of strong words and strong statements, late statements, but still strong statements. We need them to match it now with strong actions.

We need them to match it now with doing in other states that Georgia is in solidarity with like Texas as you mentioned where I was earlier this week, like Michigan, like Arizona. We need them to step in and do in those states what they failed to do in their home state of Georgia.

We need them also to step up and support voting rights legislation like HR- 1 and HR-4, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and as well as the For the People Act. We need them to step up. And so there are things that they can do. They can actually step up and call for the repeal of the law that was just passed here in Georgia because there has never been a law that has been passed that can`t be unpassed.

We just repealed a law here in the state of Georgia. There was a citizen`s arrest law which was used in the death, the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, which many people know about. So, it can still be undone. So, that`s what we`re asking these companies to do. It was through our pressure that they stepped up and now we need some action.

VELSHI: Professor Smith, let`s talk about this. Obviously, pulling the all- star game is a big deal that`s actually going to affect some people negatively in Georgia particularly some struggling businesses. But we`ve seen this before.

We`ve seen first of all, the players putting pressure on the league to do this. And we`ve also seen places where short-term pain is worth long-term gain. But it certainly gets tricky when you start talking about sports.

TOM SMITH, EMORY UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF BUSINESS: It does, right? We did see this in Charlotte in 2017, when the legislation passed with the Trans- Gender Bathroom Bill and the NBA all-star game said, you know, we don`t want to be associated with a state that is going to pass legislation that might be less inclusive.

And so I think it is going to hurt some companies, especially the companies that are in and around the battery, which is the complex where the Truist stadium is. I feel bad for these companies, but sometimes you have to take a little bit of pain in order to do the right thing.

And I think the right thing is for Major League Baseball to protect their brand, for them to back away and say, look, we don`t want to be associated with a state that`s going to put, for lack of a better term, a black mark on our brand, on what Major League Baseball should stand for.

I think it is also incredibly ironic that, you know, at the Major League Baseball all-star game, they`re going to do a very nice contribution to Hank Aaron because he just passed away this past year. And so it`s, you know, Major League Baseball has no choice. They got to say, look, we can`t, you know, say, look, let`s honor Hank Aaron while we`re in a state that is not honoring let`s say the votes of African Americans.

VELSHI: Cliff, let`s talk about -- I`m a little surprised at the lack of sophistication that came out of the governor of Georgia, who by the way is in the process of getting canceled by Donald Trump and his crowd, but they both come out -- the former president has come out with a statement as well tonight, and they`re all carrying on about woke culture, and cancel culture.

At some point, the ark of history is pointing in a particular direction and Georgia Republicans and a lot of Republicans in state legislatures around the country are on the wrong side of that piece of history. I`m not sure the anti-woke cancel culture argument is strong enough to withstand a movement of people who are trying to get civil rights applied fairly.

ALBRIGHT: No, it`s definitely not strong enough to withstand that. Just like the voter suppression that we saw in 2018 was not enough to stop the wave that we saw in 2020. At the end of the day, you know, Governor Kemp, you know, he`s been saying things like knee-jerk reactions. At the end of the day, the facts remain, the only thing that`s being canceled in this situation is that they`re canceling voter access. They`re canceling days of early voting. They`re canceling locations where you can return drop boxes.

Yes, they are canceling days of early voting in spite of some of the stories that have been put out to Kemp`s statements and even some journalists that have wrongly reported, is actually a reduction on days of early voting, particularly when you look at runoff elections here in the state of Georgia.

So, the only thing that is being canceled is the access to voting but at the end of the day, we`re confident just as we were able to out-organize them in 2020, we`re going to out-organize them now. We`re going to get this law repealed. We`re going to expand voting rights all across this country. They can`t stand in the way of the wave of history.

VELSHI: Cliff, thanks for joining us. Cliff Albright is the co-founder of Black Voters Matter and Tom Smith is a professor of sports -- professor and a sports economist at Emory University School of Business. Thanks to both of you for joining us.

Well, coming up, today, devastating testimony from Derek Chauvin`s former colleagues in the Minneapolis police department, capping off a powerful week of witnesses for the prosecution in the trial of former officer Chauvin in the murder of George Floyd.


VELSHI: The first week of the Derek Chauvin trial has been a lot to take in. There were witnesses who cried on the stand, wishing they had done more to help George Floyd. Other witnesses testified about George Floyd the man who was called by his middle name, Harry, not George Floyd the murder victim. and others said Derek Chauvin`s actions were out of line.

That all continued today. Remember the case is still in the hands of the prosecution. When the senior most member of the Minneapolis Police Department testified that Derek Chauvin`s use of force against George Floyd was quote "totally unnecessary".

Derek Chauvin kept his knee on the neck of George Floyd for what we now know to be nine minutes and 29 seconds. Lieutenant Richard Zimmerman classified that as "deadly force". He said there was no reason for Derek Chauvin or the other officers on scene to feel threatened once George Floyd was in handcuffs.


MATTHEW FRANK, PROSECUTOR: What`s your responsibility with regard to that person from that moment on?

LT. RICHARD ZIMMERMAN, MINNEAPOLIS POLICE DEPARTMENT: That person is yours. He`s your responsibility. His safety is your responsibility. His well-being and it`s your responsibility.

FRANK: Once you handcuff somebody, does that affect the amount of force that you should consider using?

ZIMMERMAN: Absolutely.

FRANK: What is your -- you know, your view of that use of force during that time period?

ZIMMERMAN: Totally unnecessary.


VELSHI: Here`s what Terrence Floyd, the brother of George Floyd, told NBC News after court adjourned for the day.


TERRENCE FLOYD, BROTHER OF GEORGE FLOYD: It`s wonderful to hear because, you know, you hear them say it on the side to you but for them to actually say it in the courtroom so everybody could hear that it was actually wrong, it was like a yes moment.


Joining us now is Delores Jones-Brown, founding director of the John Jay College Center on Race, Crime and Justice, and a board member of the Center for Policing Equity. She is a former prosecutor.

Ms. Jones-Brown, thank you for joining us today. There is a concept in policing that is not well understood from those of us who get our information, you know, from TV shows. But it`s care in custody. When someone is in your custody, when you have taken someone into your custody, whether or not they are thought to be criminal or not, you are, as police, responsible for their care as well. And the prosecution is arguing that these police officers, including Derek Chauvin, had no regard for the care of Mr. Floyd.

DELORES JONES-BROWN, FOUNDING DIRECTOR, JOHN JAY COLLEGE CENTER ON RACE, CRIME AND JUSTICE: And I think that the police department agrees with that concept. and I think that even the defense attorney for officer Chauvin agrees with that concept.

and that is why his defense is going to be that his action did not cause George Floyd`s death, that it was the drugs in Mr. Floyd`s system, his injury to himself while he was in the patrol car, and that -- and his prior medical treatment is all of that, or medical conditions, all of that contributed to the death, or the cause of the death rather than his actions.

VELSHI: And ultimately this is a trial about the death of George Floyd, so those matters -- those technical matters are going to be important for the jury to consider.

What about the other part of it? The fact that we have now seen, I don`t know, 10 or 12 different angles of exactly the same thing, and none of them are exculpatory. None of the different angles suggest that the police were doing anything other than what we all saw with our eyes?

In the end, Derek Chauvin looks like a man who was heartlessly killing a man under him, regardless of what the medicine or the drugs might show. How does that affect the outcome of this trial?

JONES-BROWN: The legal question will be one of causation. I think Chauvin fully realizes that what he did was barbaric. The department understands that a man died for $20, and that is indefensible.

And so the only possible way out of this, what should be a homicide conviction, whether it`s murder or manslaughter, is to try to argue that the cause of Mr. Floyd`s death was not the action that we saw on the video.

VELSHI: So there`s another matter here, and it is again, it speaks to the idea of his health, and the care that was provided. This Lieutenant Richard Zimmerman who we heard from earlier. He is one of the senior most member was the Minneapolis PD. He was -- I just want to play this exchange with the prosecutor, Matthew Frank, that took place today. Let`s listen together.


ZIMMERMAN: Once a person is cuffed, the threat level goes down all the way, you know to, they`re cuffed, how can they really hurt you, you know?

FRANK: Well, certainly there could be circumstances when a cuffed person could still be combative.

ZIMMERMAN: Oh, absolutely, yes. Yes. But you getting injured is way down. That person is handcuffed, you know. And they -- the threat level is just not there.


VELSHI: Delores, one of the things that the defense is going to argue, they told us this in their opening statement, is that the knee on the neck was approved procedure. And that he was trained -- Derek Chauvin was trained in doing that.

But what we are hearing is testimony from police who say there was no need to do that. If he was cuffed and under control, they were applying more force than necessary. Is that relevant or does it still go to that idea of did it not cause George Floyd`s death?

I think I`ve lost the connection with Delores Jones-Brown.

Delores Jones-Brown is the founding director of the John Jay College Center on Race Crime and Justice. We`ll see if we can get her back.

Until then, let`s do a pop quiz. This one`s especially relevant in the pandemic. What is a word that means a new day care in or near your office, bigger and better spaces at your kid`s school. How about being able to work remotely from anywhere, or start an e-business anywhere? What`s the word for being able to go halfway across the country by lunchtime, without ever standing in an airport line?

What`s the word that encapsulates all of those things? I`ll give you the answer after the break.



JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You have to move now. Because I`m convinced that if we act now, in 50 years people are going to look back and say this was the moment that America won the future.


VELSHI: The American Rescue Plan is about recovery right now, then the American Jobs Plan is about the future. President Biden`s infrastructure plan is focused on one idea -- what this country could be if we invested in it.

Now, there are important investments to repair roads and bridges in his plan. That`s the stuff you think about when someone says infrastructure. But many of the proposals are far more holistic because they`re investments that look toward making America a more competitive and current global player.

Like investments to expand broadband access to rural communities and investments to increase the reach of cellular networks and a massive push toward clean forms of power for American homes and businesses, and factories so that we`re less dependent on fossil fuels.

President Biden mentioned China six times during his speech unveiling his infrastructure plan. China invests heavily in infrastructure, ten times the amount that the United States does.

A few years ago, I took a train from Beijing to Shanghai -- it`s 800 miles -- in four hours and 18 minutes. That`s by the way the same distance as New York to Chicago, or New York to Atlanta. A trip in the United States that would take about 20 hours by train.

And where there is good, fast transportation and communication, there`s commerce. And where there is commerce, there are jobs. At some point in the not-so-distant future, if America doesn`t pick up on this, we`re going to be left behind on the global stage if we don`t step up and invest.

Joining me now, Nicholas Kristof, Pulitzer Prize winning columnist for "The New York Times", joining us from his family farm in Yam Hill, Oregon which is poetic for the purpose of this discussion, Nick, because Yam Hill, Oregon is a place that during the New Deal, during the administration of Franklin Delano Roosevelt was electrified like a lot of rural America does, thankfully you can talk to us from there because of it.

NICHOLAS KRISTOF, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": That`s right. Well, and if I freeze -- that`s because an owl jumped in front of the dish we have here and it will underscore the importance of improving broadband around the country. But Ali, you know, that`s right.


VELSHI: And broadband -- your point is broadband is in fact the new electricity. That`s one of the things we got to be thinking about.

KRISTOF: Exactly. Exactly. And you know, a quarter of rural residents around America don`t have reliable broadband. And you know, here in Yam Hill, there are some kid who at home have neither broadband Internet access nor cell service.

So you know, how did they do remote education? And, you know, as you suggested, this area was transformed by FDR`s rural electrification, and it wasn`t just that it improved well-being, although it certainly did that, but it also vastly improved productivity. And so that people, you know, could compete and could contribute to GDP and support the nation.

And these days, broadband is the equivalent of electricity. And we need to make sure that everybody around the country has it, you know, both as a matter of equity and social justice, but also as a matter of that`s where the highest return investments are.

VELSHI: So it`s probably relatively easy for our viewers to imagine broadband as the new form of infrastructure, when we think about the New Deal, and we think about The Highway Act, you know, that built all of the highways. This is the new version of it, but a really important point that you make is that big infrastructure investments in U.S. history might not be exactly what you think they are.

You mentioned things like the land grant college system, support for state universities, community college, the G.I. Bill of Rights, and things like that. The education that came with the G.I. Bill of Rights. The idea that investment in human capital is a form of infrastructure. It`s one of the ones that this bill tries to tackle.

KRISTOF: Yes. And of course, many of the human capital investments will be in the second phase of this bill, as you know. But, you know, look we think back and we think of infrastructure and we think of the transcontinental railroad.

And yes, that was immensely important, but you know, indeed it was land grant colleges that helped educate America. We think of Eisenhower in connection with the interstate highway system, and that was pivotal, but so was the investments in secondary education and tertiary education.

And I`ve got to say that as I look around at America, and how it lags vis- a-vis China, then you`re absolutely right, that we lag in terms of our rail system, you know. We lag in terms of our airport. But I think what has struck me the most is that we lag in investments in human capital.

We`re the country that invented mass high school education and yet we rank number 21 worldwide right now in high school attendance. My high school was actually built, funded by the $27,000 from the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s. So, you know, that`s an example of infrastructure investment that also created human capital.

VELSHI: Joe Biden makes a point that in 50 years we can look back at this and see it as a point where Americans grabbed the future. I never really understood why infrastructure is as partisan as it is. I would think that no matter where you are in the political spectrum, you can enjoy the idea that the government prompts spending in many cases by the private sector, sometimes on the government on its own, but that improves our lives and creates a return for decades to come.

KRISTOF: Yes. And I think so much of the criticism has been based on the cost, but I think we need to think of this not as an expense but as an investment and, you know, that`s obviously true in the case of bridges and some of these things.

You know, one of the elements of this infrastructure plan is to change lead pipes so that we don`t have more than half a million American kids each year who surfer lead poisoning. And you know, investing in America`s kids, so that they won`t be compromised intellectually, they`ll be able to get more schools, so they`ll be able to do better for decades to come for their entire lives. That`s not an expense, that`s an investment in their future and our country`s future.

VELSHI: Nick, good to see you as always. We`re grateful that the area is electrified so we`re able to see you tonight. But let`s make sure we can get broadband out throughout the whole country.

Nick Kristof is a Pulitzer Prize winning columnist for "The New York Times".

All right. Coming up new details into the investigation into Congressman Matt Gaetz for possible sex trafficking in one case of a minor. The reporter who says he has been working the story for three years and we`ve only scratched the surface will join us next.


VELSHI: "Such a skeeze." That is how one former campaign staffer described Congressman Matt Gaetz after learning about the lurid accusations for which the Florida Republican is now being investigated.

The Justice Department is looking into whether Gaetz had a sexual relationship with a minor and paid for her to travel with him. NBC News reports that Gaetz`s communications director abruptly quit quote, "out of principle". It`s not clear what the principle is here.

But "The Daily Beast" reports that Republicans have been waiting for years for a Matt Gaetz scandal to break. Why? Well, CNN reports that Gaetz used to show nude photos of women he claimed to have slept with to colleagues on the floor of the United States House of Representatives.

And "Business Insider" reports that Gaetz took part in a game that scored female sexual conquests while he was a member of the Florida legislature.

Matt Gaetz has denied that he`s ever paid for sex or had a sexual relationship with a minor. He`s not been charged, and the investigation is ongoing.

Joining us now Matt Fuller, senior politics editor for "The Daily Beast", and Cynthia Alksne a former prosecutor who specialized in sex crimes. She`s an MSNBC legal analyst. Cynthia is joining us on the phone.

Matt, you have been reporting on the story or at least following the story for a long time and you have suggested that we haven`t seen nothing yet.

MATT FULLER, SENIOR POLITICS EDITOR, "THE DAILY BEAST": Yes, I think we have got a glimpse of maybe end game of this a little bit last night when the New York Times reported that the Justice Department probe might be centered around basically a sex trafficking ring with this friend of his, Joel Greenberg, another Florida Republican, this tax collector in Seminole County

It is just an insane story. This is a very serious -- very serious allegations. Matt Gaetz has denied almost everything here. He keeps on saying he has never had sex with a 17-year-old. The last time he had sex with a 17-year-old, he was 17.

This doesn`t seem centered on a relationship with a minor. This seems centered on a potential involvement in this sex ring. This is something that Joel Greenberg has been indicted for.

And this -- this story is just, it`s crazy. He is this Greenberg character was making fake IDs. They were potentially paying these women to have sex with them. And you know, again, I think that the initial story here was just the tip of the iceberg, and now we are seeing all the sort of fallout from this and the potential ramifications of this, and the criminal ramifications are enormous.

VELSHI: Cynthia, this story is Byzantine. It is so complicated to follow what is going on. But it`s mystifying that regardless of the legal liability that Matt Gaetz might face, the fact that he continued to be a bombastic political person out there in the public eye, if any of these allegations turn out to be true. You have prosecuted cases that have looked like this in the beginning. What do you make of this?

CYNTHIA ALKSNE, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST (via telephone): Well, I don`t know. And I mean, it`s hard to unravel it all at this point.

But if he was showing pictures of underage girls on his phone naked, on the house floor -- what I don`t understand is why other house members were not doing something? I mean it`s not just an Anthony Weiner story, it`s like he was on the House floor. And apparently many of these House members knew he was a problem and yet he sits on the Justice Subcommittee.

So, for me, it`s not just a story about his criminal involvement which clearly, it`s going to be. But also, why they did nothing to stop him and to keep him in a position of authority.

VELSHI: And Matt, you wrote about this in "The Daily Beast" that Republicans have been waiting for a Matt Gaetz scandal to break. One former GOP staffer, according to your reporting, said on Wednesday that their office had an informal rule not to allow their member to appear next to Gaetz during TV hits fearful of the inevitable scandal that would come out one day.

So, to Cynthia`s point, this does not seem to have been the best kept secret around Capitol Hill.

FULLER: No, I don`t think it was the best kept secret. I would certainly say that Republicans didn`t know that he may have been involved in a sex ring or a sort of a trafficking situation, but I think a lot of them knew he certainly had a taste for younger women. When I say younger women, I mean women in their early 20s.

It certainly seems like the woman that he was showing these naked photos of it seems like she would have been 21 or 22.

You know, I don`t think Republicans thought Matt Gaetz was an upstanding morale citizen. I think they thought he was drinking. I know that many of them speculated about his drug use. I don`t think any of them also thought he was, to this extent, that it went this far down.

Again, I -- this is a lot of new reporting. A lot of this is just sort of breaking now. But we don`t know the truth. A lot of this is unverified and it still has to be sorted out.

You know, the Justice Department probe aside, this doesn`t mean he is necessarily guilty. But we do know he is probably guilty, and I think a lot of Republicans know he is probably guilty of some very questionable morals.

VELSHI: Cynthia, we have heard reporting that the Department of Justice has known about this for a while, has been investigating something that the former attorney general Bill Barr had been briefed on it.

Tell me how does process work its way through? What do you think is happening right now? Obviously, this appears to be an ongoing investigation. Matt Gaetz tried to sort of suggest that that this was -- he was a subject, not a target of an investigation. Meaning he could have been a witness to his friend, who`s been charged I think now, what, 33 times. What do you make about what is likely happening in the justice system?

ALKSNE: Well, first, I think you`re correct to highlight that this investigation began under Barr, so we don`t have any of the "oh, no, we`re just the Department of Justice, the Biden department is going after Gaetz." This is really the Trump Justice Department that began this investigation. That`s number one.

Two, that Barr would absolutely have been briefed on what was going on because Gaetz is such a high-profile person in the country.

My guess is what`s happening is his friend has been charged with 33 felonies. He is facing trial this summer. And my guess is there is an ongoing effort to flip him and to get him to testify against Gaetz, who is up -- higher up the chain. I mean that`s the way things work, right?

And my guess is he is sitting in jail. He is not out on bail. He`s actually sitting in jail and that does tend to focus the mind on how to save yourself. So that`s happening.

There`s also an aggressive investigation not only in Florida but probably in some of the surrounding states and out of the FBI office in D.C. And they are working together to see if they can -- if there`s a case that could be put together.

I mean he is facing, just by the reports that we have, a couple of serious things. There`s the sex trafficking. There`s -- did he use the Internet or phone lines to do so which would up the penalties? Is there a child pornography portion of this for girls under 18? Is there a transportation for prostitution which is a very serious felony? Are there drug offenses? Even Ecstasy (ph) is a Schedule One narcotic and that could be up to 20 years depending on the weight and how it went and whether or not he was supplying it to other people.

And there may or may not be campaign finance cases. So, there is multiple - - I would guess, there are multiple FBI offices that are working together to try to come up with something at the same time somebody else is trying to flip his compatriot.

VELSHI: I got to tell you, for all the stuff we have talked about in the last four years, I cannot believe this conversation is actually happening. What a wild story.

Thanks to you Matt Fuller, for your great reporting on this. As you said, this is still a story that is unfolding right now.

Thanks Cynthia, for your wisdom on this. Cynthia Alksne is a former federal prosecutor and an MSNBC legal analyst.

That`s tonight`s LAST WORD.

You can catch me tomorrow morning on "VELSHI" 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. Eastern.

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