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Transcript: The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, 4/23/21

Guests: Nekima Levy Armstrong, Harry Colbert, Michael Tubbs, Jocelyn Benson, Kurt Andersen, Sharice Davids


Johnson & Johnson vaccine pause lifted by CDC and FDA but will come with a warning regarding rare blood clots. The sentencing of former police officer Derek Chauvin on his guilty verdict for the murder of George Floyd is set on June 16th. Republicans are entering a new deplorable phase in their assault on voting rights. The GOP`s not only making it harder to vote, it is also removing election officials who stood up to Trump`s efforts to overturn the last election.



RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: I hope you have an excellent weekend. Keep in mind when you`re thinking about next week when it`s a new president in his first year, we don`t call it the "State of the Union" but honestly, it`s the "State of the Union" and that`s on Wednesday night. And it happens to be the 99th day of Joe Biden`s time in office.

It`s going to be interesting. It`s a joint address to Congress. They are not cramming all members of the House and the Senate into the House chamber in order to hear it because of COVID protocols. So, it`s going to look different. It`s going to be interesting that it`s this far into the start of the presidency.

That`s Wednesday night. We`re all prepping for it already. Have a great weekend. I`ll see you again Monday night. Now it`s time for the "Last Word" where my friend Ali Velshi is in for Lawrence tonight. Good evening, Ali.

ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST: Rachel, I`m grateful that you continue the conversation about Alexei Navalny because it can sound sometimes like the same conversation, but he`s still actually a guy who is jailed and persecuted by the Russian government. And we have to remember it every day because it doesn`t stop.

We can stop talking about Alexei Navalny one day when he`s actually free to run for office, when he`s free to do to represent the people of Russia the way they would like him to. So, thank you for doing that and have yourself an excellent weekend, my friend.

MADDOW: Thank you my friend. Thanks, Ali. Appreciate it.

VELSHI: All right. We`ve got major news to get to on this Friday night. First, the CDC has issued new guidance tonight about the Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccine. A panel of public health experts says it`s safe for vaccine providers to once again administer the one-dose shot but it`ll now come with an additional warning about extremely rare blood clots.

Fifteen cases out of 8 million total Johnson & Johnson shots. The White House says the U.S. has more than 9 million doses of the vaccine that can be distributed immediately. And on the final day of a World Climate Summit with more than 40 world leaders, President Biden argued that confronting the global warming crisis can also benefit the U.S. economy.

Biden has pledged to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by half by 2030, a goal wrapped into his $2 trillion infrastructure plan. And tonight there is a new development in the Derek Chauvin case. NBC News has learned that Chauvin is scheduled to be sentenced on June 16th after a jury found him guilty of the charges brought against him in the murder of George Floyd.

This week will be remembered for that historic verdict. And while justice was served in the courtroom, there is still much work to be done on the streets of Minneapolis, on the streets of America because let`s not forget, real justice would be if George Floyd were still alive. If George Floyd could still walk the lakes of Minneapolis with his girlfriend and play sports with the kids in his neighborhood and be a father to his 7-year-old daughter. That would actually be justice.

George Floyd is not here, so justice was not fully served. But what there was, was accountability. After deliberating for 10 hours, a jury of Derek Chauvin`s peers delivered a clear message to the former Minneapolis police officer -- guilty, guilty, guilty.

The jury held Derek Chauvin accountable for his actions, for holding his knee on the neck of George Floyd for nine minutes and 29 seconds. For refusing to let up even after George Floyd cried for help and even after George Floyd went unconscious and lost his pulse.

The jury held Derek Chauvin accountable for murdering George Floyd. And just as powerful as those three guilty verdicts, was this image of Derek Chauvin getting handcuffed by a Hennepin County sheriff`s deputy and escorted out of the courtroom.

As a courtesy, its worth mentioning Derek Chauvin did not afford that to George Floyd. Here`s how that image reverberated throughout the police community according to Congresswoman Val Demings who is the former chief of the Orlando Police Department.


REP. VAL DEMINGS (D-FL): To see a former police officer being led away in handcuffs certainly gets everyone`s attention. But you better believe it gets the attention of the men and women who do that job. It gets the attention of everybody, all of the officers. But those who -- the bad ones, the ones who should have never been hired in the first place, the ones who don`t have the mind or heart to do the job. You better believe that image got their attention.


VELSHI: Tonight, Derek Chauvin is being held in solitary confinement until he returns to that courtroom for sentencing on June 16th. Now the question is whether law enforcement will view Derek Chauvin as an anomaly, a one off bad cop or is a symbol of systemic problems with policing that have unfairly targeted communities of color since this country`s founding.

Will police officers rethink their use of deadly force because it`s wrong or because they don`t want to end up in jail like Derek Chauvin? I spent a lot of time in Minneapolis since George Floyd was murdered covering the activism, the protests and the continued use of police force.

Yesterday I sat down with a group of community leaders in Minneapolis to reflect on the week and how Derek Chauvin`s conviction will impact their continued fight for real justice.


TOMEE BEEVAS, MINNEAPOLIS RESTAURANT OWNER & ACTIVST: The whole city took a collective breath just knowing that at least we have a small victory in the larger war, right? And then the next day we all got ready because we knew the journey would have to continue. So all of our plans that we had before whether guilty, not guilty or not guilty enough, it`s still has to continue. That work has to still continue.


VELSHI: The people of Minnesota didn`t have to wait for a verdict in Derek Chauvin`s trial to be reminded of the fight for justice and how it is a fight that is ongoing. Just 10 miles from the courthouse while the trial was still under way, 20-year-old Daunte Wright was shot and killed by a police officer who said she fired her gun instead of a taser.


ALEXANDRIA REYES-SCHROEDER: As a black Minnesotan, I am hurt, I am angered. You know, I feel this trauma all over again before -- we can`t even, you know, say that this is such a giant step forward by there being a conviction of Derek Chauvin because we`ve already taken two steps back by having the killing of Daunte Wright happen.

W. SETH MARTIN, PASTOR, THE BROOK COMMUNITY CHURCH: One of the things I thought a lot about is if this verdict had perhaps, if the trial had wrapped up and the verdict had perhaps come out last week would maybe Daunte Wright still be alive? Because perhaps would that officer have thought twice.


VELSHI: "The New York Times" reports that since George Floyd`s death, more than 140 police oversight bills have been passed at the state level that are meant to hold police officers accountable for their actions. And while those reforms are progress, even more is needed on a bigger scale to bring real justice.


FELICIA WASHINGTON SY, CLINICAL SOCIAL WORKER: This is the trauma of moral outrage. This is when our very values as individuals, as families and communities and a nation have been assaulted. And so we need a united federal response to the moral outrage that is being expressed in the country right now.

It`s very important for the nation to bear witness. When we`re talking about the relief of moral trauma, the nation must bear witness and do the right thing. That`s the kind of support that I`m talking about at that national level.


VELSHI: The nation must bear witness and do the right thing. Heading off our discussion tonight, Nekima Levy Armstrong, a civil rights attorney and former president of the Minneapolis NAACP, and Harry Colbert, editor-in- chief of North News in Minneapolis. Good evening to both of you. Thank you for being with us tonight.

Nekima, the conversation I had been with the black Minnesotans yesterday was remarkably moving and remarkably important, but there was this interesting thread of the idea that they wanted this outcome of this verdict and they did feel that that was accountability, but to call it justice, some of them felt was a stretch.

Because as they say justice would mean that Daunte Wright was not killed, that George Floyd was not killed. That would look like justice, not penalty, but not having black people die at the hands of police in the first place.

NEKIMA LEVY ARMSTRONG, FORMER PRESIDENT, MINNEAPOLIS NAACP: Absolutely. And I think that that`s an important point to articulate for those who are saying, you know, George Floyd got justice. He got a measure of justice. But true justice would be George Floyd still being alive, still living his best life, and still being able to enjoy his time with his family and in his community.

The fact, though, that there was accountability is something that we should be able to celebrate, take a deep breath because we`ve all been holding our collective breath for almost a year since George Floyd was murdered at the hands of Derek Chauvin and three other officers.

So even for our self-care and our mental health, we have to process this in terms of our work not being in vain, where we all took to the streets and demanded justice. Additionally, we have seen changes in some jurisdictions across the country that wouldn`t have happened were it not for what people witnessed on May 25th of 2020. That`s something to think as being positive.

VELSHI: Harry, one of the things that the folks I was talking to in Minneapolis struggled with is what the way forward looks like. You know, there are a lot of people in this country who when they heard that verdict thought that something like justice was done. And there are still some who hold that it wasn`t.

Meaning they didn`t think this was Derek Chauvin`s fault. They find a way to blame the people who die at the hands of police because of some perceived slight or some perceived petty crime that was committed. A "Washington Post" ABC News poll about policing says that 60 percent of Americans favor doing more to hold police accountable, and 33 percent say that laws on policing do too much to interfere with how police officers do their job.

Now, it`s a 60-33 split, so, you know, almost twice as many people think that police need to be held accountable. But how do we move forward with this united view that policing can be different in this country, that black people can feel protected by police not just hunted by them?

HARRY COLBERT, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, NORTH NEWS: Empathy. At the end of the day people have to walk a mile and honestly you really have to walk a few inches in the shoes of black people to see that there is a duality when it comes to policing and law enforcement in this community. Earlier in the segment, you showed Derek Chauvin in handcuffs and a lot of people focused on those handcuffs.

What I looked at when I saw that still photo was actually the taser on the sheriff`s belt. And the reason I saw that taser is because it`s bright. It`s yellow, it stands out. And that lets you know that that`s not a handgun.

And so, that brings us to Daunte Wright. When you have these glaring problems in policing that continue to happen day after day after day, well, once it`s an accident and twice it`s an anomaly. Three or more it`s a pattern.

VELSHI: Well we got three or more. Last week, Nekima, everybody -- well, yesterday everybody I was talking to was still talking about Derek Chauvin, but Daunte Wright, but Philando Castile. One of the gentlemen I was talking to, a young man, college student, said I would not call the police if I needed help because I don`t believe they`re here to help me.

ARMSTRONG: Well, they have every reason to be afraid given all of the officer involved killings that have happened. I mean, on the same day in which the jury verdict was being read in Derek Chauvin`s case, we have Makiyah Bryant in Columbus, Ohio being killed. A 15-year-old black girl.

And so folks immediately breathe a sigh of relief from hearing guilty, guilty, guilty and then they turn their attention to Makiyah Bryant and the injustices surrounding the fact that she was killed by police in Columbus. And then we`ve had other police killings since then.

So we should breathe, but we should realize there`s still so much work to do. I`m also not sure why the expectation was that one guilty verdict is going to transform the system. If you think about how the Derek Chauvin trial was framed by the prosecution, they made it clear that this was about one bad apple.

I don`t agree with that, but they were appealing to the sentiments of some jurors who believe in the police and the sanctity of the institution, who believe they`re there to protect and serve and who without that video wouldn`t even believe that Derek Chauvin was capable of choking the life out of George Floyd.

And so, you know, we have a lot of work to do and a long way to go, but I feel this guilty verdict is definitely progress.

VELSHI: Nekima Levy Armstrong, as always, thank you for your analysis. Harry, thank you for being with us tonight. Harry Colbert is the editor-in- chief of North News.

Coming up, a new movement to help eradicate racial inequities and poverty is gaining traction in cities across America. It`s called giving people cash. That`s next.



TIM WALZ, GOVERNOR OF MINNESOTA: Minnesota is an exceptional state. We contribute a lot to the world and we rank as I`ve told people time and time again, at the very top of quality of life indicators, life expectancy, personal incomes, educational attainment, homeownership, but when you disaggregate that, there`s not just a little gap. We go from 1st to 50 if you`re black. We need to bring up all of those things because it didn`t start in inequities when they ended with the police encounter. It starts when they`re born.


VELSHI: That was Minnesota Governor Tim Walz on the "Last Word" the day Derek Chauvin was convicted of murdering George Floyd. How can we unwind the inequities that as the governor said, start at birth? One way some cities across America are working to do that is by ending deep poverty.

They`re ending it with money, providing a universal basic income. No strings attached money that goes directly into people`s hands. Now, that idea, UBI, gained national attention when Andrew Yang ran on it in the 2020 Democratic presidential election.

But decades before that, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was sold on the idea. Dr. King wrote in 1967, "I am now convinced that the simplest approach will prove to be the most effective. The solution to poverty is to abolish it directly by a now widely discussed measure, the guaranteed income."

But it was once -- what was once an out there idea has started gaining real momentum in the United States in part because America has started doing it during the pandemic. When the economy was forced to shut down and lots of lower income people couldn`t work, the government responded by giving them money.

CNBC said that the Biden relief bill looks like a guaranteed income experiment noting that some families could receive up to $14,000 in aid, and that was prompting experts to question whether more permanent guaranteed income or universal basic income policies are in the country`s future.

This week, Chicago lawmakers began considering a plan to offer guaranteed income to poor residents. In Los Angeles, Mayor Eric Garcetti announcing a $24 million basic income guaranteed program in his city budget which would provide $1,000 a month to 2,000 Los Angeles families for a year. There will be no obligation how to spend that money.

Mayor Garceti is a member of Mayors for a Basic Guaranteed Income, which is a coalition of 41 mayors advocating for a guaranteed income at all levels of government. It was founded last year by our next guest, Michael Tubbs, the former mayor of Stockton, California, the country`s most racially diverse city.

In February 2019, Michael Tubbs helped launch a pilot program called, the Stockton Economic Empowerment Demonstration. It gave 125 randomly selected people living in lower income neighborhoods $500 per month. According to a study by a team of independent researchers, "Recipients of guaranteed income were healthier, showing less depression and anxiety and enhanced well-being.

Joining us now is the former mayor of Stockton, California, Michael Tubbs. He`s the founder of Mayors for a Guaranteed Income. He`s currently a special advisor to California Governor Gavin Newsom. Michael Tubbs, good to see you. Thank you for being with us.

I want you to answer the first question that doubters and naysayers have when you discuss a universal basic income. Why would you give money to people who may not have a specific need for it?

MICHAEL TUBBS, FORMER MAYOR OF STOCKTON, CALIFORNIA: Well, everyone has need for money because money is a proxy for agency. Money is a proxy for ownership over time, and incomes are so volatile. So, someone may not need money today as COVID-19 has illustrated for us when a pandemic happens, whether it`s a flood, a public health disaster, et cetera.

Cash is an important tool by which people can stay healthy, people can move to shelter, et cetera. So I would absolutely say that we understand that we live in a world in an economy that necessitates the need for cash to be able to pay for child care, for transportation, for utilities, but also to deal with the unexpected emergencies.

And we know before COVID, that one out of every two Americans, not just people in poverty, one out of every two Americans cannot afford one $500 emergency and that`s why a guaranteed income is a powerful tool to help with that.

VELSHI: So let`s talk about a study that -- some findings of your program, the Stockton Economic Empowerment Demonstration. They measured recipients from February 2019 to February 2020 right before the pandemic what they got -- what they spent their $500 on. Consistently, the largest spending category in each month was food followed by sales, merchandise.

Other leading categories each month were utilities and auto care or transportation. Less than 1 percent of tracked purchases were for tobacco and alcohol. So, this idea that if you give people money they`ll just waste it on stuff didn`t actually pan out in your experiment.

TUBBS: Absolutely not and screamed out from the mountaintops. We can trust regular people with money just like we trust millionaires and billionaires with tax cuts every time there`s an economic conversation about how we move forward as a country. And I think it, again, goes to the point that we know that the vast majority of people are rational actors.

We know that the issue isn`t that people don`t know how to manage money. The issue is that people don`t have money to manage. We know the issue is not with people. The issue is with an economic system that doesn`t allow for opportunities for everyone where opportunities are not widely shared, only people are nearly working themselves to death and still unable to pay for necessities.

VELSHI: But it is -- its philosophical issue, right? I mean, we were able to -- the Federal Reserve was able to do things to make sure companies could borrow money in a flash. The government is able to cut taxes for corporations. And yet the three times that we have asked for money, taxpayer money to be given to people who are American taxpayers in their moment of need, we have twisted ourselves into pretzels to justify whether it`s these many hundred dollars or that many hundred dollars. It is kind of remarkable.

TUBBS: It`s ridiculous and it`s actually really, I would argue in racism. We know that oftentimes that classes are proxy for race. So when people say that folks who don`t have as much as others will spend their money on alcohol or drugs or make them not work, those feed into racist tropes around people, particularly black people, not knowing how to spend money or being lazy or buying Jordans and malt liquor.

And the data, the evidence illustrates that`s not true and that`s why I`m so proud of the over 40 mayors now who are standing up and saying no. In this moment, the most important investment we can make to build back better is an investment into our people.

I`m excited about the childhood tax credit. It needs to be permanent because that`s monthly, that`s reoccurring and it`s a guaranteed income for families with children. And we know that this pandemic had illustrated not just people in poverty that are struggling. It`s people who are one paycheck away, a small business owner who have their business disrupted because of COVID-19.

It`s a solution good for everyone and one that has to be a policy in this country moving forward.

VELSHI: That will only going to figure this out if we do experiments like what you did in Stockton. So we appreciate that we`re able to look at that and study it and see those outcomes and advocate for it. Michael Tubbs is the former mayor of Stockton, California. He`s the founder of Mayor`s for a Guaranteed Income. Thank you for joining us tonight.

Coming up, Michigan secretary of state Jocelyn Benson conducted her own study of Republican voter suppression bills in various states. What she found is alarming. She`ll join us next.


VELSHI: Republicans are entering a new deplorable phase in their assault on voting rights. The GOP`s not only making it harder to vote. It`s also removing election officials who stood up to Trump`s efforts to overturn the last election.

Professor Richard Hassen, an expert on election law writes, "The message these actions send to politicians is that if you want a future in state Republican politics, you had better be willing to manipulate election results or lie about election fraud."

Case in point, Republicans in Arizona to this day are still recounting votes from the 2020 election even though court after court after court found no merit to their unsubstantiated fraud claims. In Michigan, not one audit but 250 audits found no fraud and reaffirmed the state`s 2020 election was conducted with accuracy and integrity.

Our next guest, the Michigan secretary of state, Jocelyn Benson, has conducted her own study that found alarming similarities in the voting restrictions that Republicans are pushing in statehouses across the United States.

Secretary Benson compared the 39 Republican bills in Michigan to the Republican bills in other states. Here`s what she found when she compared those 39 bills to the bill that the governor of Georgia signed into law. In both states, Republicans want voters to present proof of a state I.D. with absentee applications.

They both want to reduce drop boxes for ballots and restrict ballot processing and counting, which would delay voting results and lead to misinformation.

And in both Michigan and Georgia, Republicans want to ban election officials from proactively sending voter applications for absentee ballots.

I want to have this conversation with the Michigan secretary of state, Jocelyn Benson. I think she`s with us but I know we`ve been having a little bit of a technical issue getting hold of her. So I`m going to ask my control room, do we have -- very good, all right.

We`ve got Secretary Benson.

Secretary, thank you for being with us. There you are in person. I`m glad we were able to connect with you. What was the goal of this effort? I know that you like the numbers. You like the statistics. You like the detail in the job of being secretary of state. So I think you`re generally inclined toward this sort of thing. But what were you trying to figure out when you undertook the study?

JOCELYN BENSON, MICHIGAN SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, certainly, to try and understand what`s going on, I mean, if you took a list of things that worked in 2020 to ensure people on both sides of the aisle could vote in record number safely and securely and then you compare that list to all of the policies that were being proposed in Michigan, they were the same.

In other words, every policy that was proposed was undoing the very policies that worked so well in Michigan in 2020. And then if you start looking to other states like Georgia, like Arizona, like Texas, like Iowa, like Wyoming, you know, the list goes on. You start seeing the very same language even in the legislation, all of which again is directly connected to and responding to the policies that worked so well in 2020.

People voted absentee in record numbers. Now it`s harder to get absentee ballot in all these states. People are returning ballots to drop boxes, now they`re trying to do away with drop boxes in all of these states.

So you see these patterns and it`s deeply trouble because really this is just an escalation of the battle that we fought to protect democracy in 2020 that seems to be moving toward future elections to make it even more difficult to not just vote but certify the results.

VELSHI: The question is whether -- what influence this is having on voters. A poll that was released yesterday showed that Republican support, meaning people -- Republican people supporting two key voting provisions has plummeted since 2018, right. This is just a little over two years.

Support in 2018 by Republicans for no-excuse absentee early voting was 57 percent. It`s now 38 percent, down 19 points. Support for automatic voter registration, which is what they do up in Canada where I come from, 49 percent in 2018, 38 percent in 2020, down 11 points. What`s motivating this shift, Secretary?

Well, it`s again, a manifestation of the misinformation that has been flowing through various portals on social media. And it`s really just unfortunate because both those policies you lay out -- automatic voter registration not only makes it easier for people to become registered. It makes it easier for us to keep our voter rolls accurate and secure.

And enabling people to have choices on how to vote, to vote absentee -- that`s something that people have embraced in record numbers because it`s an option that enables particularly senior citizens and others to vote from home which is particularly important even in the midst of the pandemic.

So these policies work. They protect democracy. They make it robust. The only reason people would lose faith in them is in response to the lies they`ve been told by lawmakers furthering political goals and ultimately trying to decrease their participation.

VELSHI: You talked about the things that worked and the laws that are now looking to overturn those things that worked. Do we not have a shared view of what works in an election? We used to have a shared view that everybody who`s entitled to vote should vote and we should make it easier to do that.

There were times when you didn`t have to wait in long lines and you didn`t have to do certain things but now we see these long lines all over the place. And people don`t have flexibility in their working lives.

So no-excuse absentee voting, not having to come up with creative excuses for why you may have to be traveling or dealing with a sick relative, not having to -- you know, not having to stand in line for hours and hours. Why are we not -- I mean what are we -- how are we justifying voting against those things?

BENSON: Well, it`s not only that there seems to be, you know, a deep division among the views of access to the voter or not and whether you value and of course "The National Review" a few weeks ago put out an op-ed even suggesting that, you know, perhaps there`s a school of thought out there that doesn`t want everyone to vote, which is kind of saying the quiet part out loud.

And, you know, so we can`t even agree on not just that but even the same set of facts and data to work from. Now, I know and history teaches us that the best policies, the policies that further justice, that further healthy society, really every issue you`ve talked about on the show tonight, all of it can be solved by having all voices at the table equally empowered, participating in government and self-government. And that`s what democracy is about.


BENSON: And so we have to look to our history to recognize especially a time like this where there does seem to be these divergent views, history teaches us that when everyone has a seat at the table and a voice in the policies that govern our society, the policies are better for everyone.

And so we have to get back to recognizing that and recognizing the value of collaboration, of compromise, of deliberation, and working from the same sets of facts and data to come up to solutions that benefit all of us. And if we can get back to that then, I think we can get back to valuing democracy.

But what`s most troubling to me about all these policies is not just they`re lying in really trying to undo access to the vote but they`re also trying to undermine the ability of us as election officials to certify the results and ensure that every ballot vote is counted which can really start to cause problems in future elections in 2020 and 2024.

VELSHI: Thank you so much, Secretary, for staying on top of this and for fighting for this battle to just do the right thing. It`s not partisan. It`s just what democracy is supposed to be.

Michigan secretary of state Jocelyn Benson, we always appreciate your time.

Coming up, on this day last year Donald Trump told the country that maybe they should inject bleach to beat COVID. That`s crazy. It`s crazy to think that that actually happened. The actual president of the United States actually said that in the White House press briefing room where today Jen Psaki conducted a totally normal question-and-answer session.

Anyway, the Republican Party still thinks that guy should be president. We`re going to talk about that after this.


VELSHI: Donald Trump is irrelevant. He gives interviews that don`t make headlines. He sends out statements that become the butt of jokes. Sure, he`s got the ear of Congressional Republicans but no member of the GOP has the influence or the audience to beat Trump`s messenger which makes him irrelevant.

But this segment isn`t meant to mock him. It`s meant to mourn what actually could have been because Donald Trump didn`t have to be irrelevant. 74 million Americans voted for him in 2020; like him or not his voice matters to some people.

He could have spoken out in real honest ways on important issues without the fear of polls and push back that guided so much of his value system in the White House.

It is ironic that on the one-year anniversary of Trump wondering whether people could inject bleach into themselves to kill the coronavirus, he told "The New York Post", quote, "I`m all in favor of vaccine. I strongly recommend it because it`s a real lifesaver," end quote.

Now he says this.

Where was he months ago when the vaccines first came out while he was still president and his words could have mattered? It was even clear by his refusal to help distribute the vaccines. He wanted credit for pushing companies to develop the vaccines, but he didn`t seem to care if they ever got into peoples arms.

And are New York and D.C.-centric Republicans, the main "New York Post" audience really the people who need to hear this message? Could this be a stunt to make himself look better or any positive side effect that is just that -- a side effect?

Trump could have pushed Americans to get vaccinated sooner. He could have told Americans that vaccines are safe. But he`s so preoccupied with attacking Lebron James and Mitch McConnell that he missed his moment to save lives.

And we should note Trump`s message is a good one. The vaccine is a lifesaver and maybe skeptics will take his advice, which would be great for all of us. But it`s likely too little too late because he`s irrelevant.

And let`s not just limit this to vaccines. Trump could be relevant if he spoke to other issues affecting his base like infrastructure. Biden`s $2.2 trillion infrastructure plan would benefit large swaths of Trump`s base.

It would provide jobs to rural and suburban communities. It would repair critical infrastructure. It would expand broadband access. And Trump has good reason to support the Biden plan because he actually pitched a $2 trillion infrastructure plan just last year.

But that`s just not Trump. Of course he`s not advocating for anything that might give Joe Biden a win even if it helps his base because it doesn`t help him. So he condemns the plan.

And that`s been Trump`s problem since he came down that infamous escalator at Trump Tower to declare his candidacy for president. Trump doesn`t want to help others if it doesn`t help him. He doesn`t push vaccines because many in his base are against them. He doesn`t push an infrastructure plan because it`s a Democratic plan. And he`s still out going on Fox to claim that he won the election. And Putin who`s currently killing Alexei Navalny in prison is an ok guy.

So perhaps he should be irrelevant. But his claim to political power is the paralysis that elected Republicans have in breaking away from him. You have to be against what the Trump base is against even if it`s not rooted in fact. You can`t be for policies that a Democrat would support.

You have to be cool with anti-Democratic impulses like voter suppression. That`s where the Republican Party is right now. COVID conspiracies, defending the Capitol riot as overblown or committed by Antifa and BLM. Thinking Republican election officials in states that correctly certified the vote for Joe Biden are traitors, and frantically pushing legislation to make sure that never happens again.

But when this is what the party is about how else could they possibly win?

Joining us now Jennifer Rubin, an opinion writer for "The Washington Post" and an MSNBC contributor; and Kurk Andersen, journalist and author of "Evil Geniuses: the Unmaking of America, a Recent History".

Jennifer Rubin, a conservative for a long time. This is just weird. This is weird nonsense that`s going on right now. There`s an opportunity to break away. There`s a real space right now for debate about what health care looks like, what wages should look like, what infrastructure should look like. But Republicans are generally speaking, with a few exceptions, disengaged from that entire dialogue.

JENNIFER RUBIN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: You know, your description of Trump reminds me of the old joke if my grandmother had three wheels, she`d be a tricycle. Meaning that if the current world were upside-down and different than we might have a rational person, a rational second party.

But I think you hit the nail on the head. They`re not about governing. I think we have to get through the notion that they want good things to happen even for their own people.

This is about, I think, keeping people angry, keeping people resentful, keeping people with the view that whites are somehow endangered. How could you possibly turn the Chauvin conviction into a bad news story? But yet they do that on Fox News.

So, they have a completely different view of what politics is about. And it`s about self-promotion. It`s about engaging, keeping people angry and paranoid. So, you`re right.

You know, (INAUDIBLE) Trump say I`m the hero, I got all these vaccines through. I`m the hero, take it, take the Trump vaccines. You`d think that that would be a --


RUBIN: -- that Trump was. But that`s just not what he`s going to do.

And you know, I think waiting for him to grow into the presidency after he`s left, you know, we`re barking up the wrong tree here.

VELSHI: We have a better chance of me growing hair on my head.

Kurt Andersen, what happens then because it is becoming very, very difficult for Republicans at this point who think that they might want to be figuring out who their next presidential candidate is or run against policies that maybe they disagree with that Democrats are putting forward, but they can`t break away. They can`t break up with Trump.

KURT ANDERSEN, AUTHOR: Well, they can`t. And imagine what the Josh Hawleys and Ted Cruzes and the rest of them who plan to run for president in 2024 are thinking?

I mean they are on the one hand obliged because of their Trumpist base to - - for he`s the dear leader and be close to him even though he`s no longer president. And yet they all are petrified of having to run against him.

Because can you imagine any of them waging a tough campaign against Donald Trump? How does that work exactly?

So no, he has paralyzed the party. And of course, on -- you know, what you were saying before in terms of, yes, he could embrace the vaccine and say, look -- and he could even do it in a Trump way. That`s the thing. He`s so, frankly dumb that he doesn`t even say, look, Joe Biden`s getting all this credit for this thing I invented, and I did.

Certainly, he can say about infrastructure, yes, Joe Biden $2 trillion in infrastructure that`s what I want to do. I was Mr. Infrastructure. Yet he doesn`t even do that.

It`s curious, and I think he -- his whole pleasure is as you say, wielding the bit, the strange, peculiar power he still has over these frightened Washington Republican politicians.

VELSHI: Yes. He`s given new life to the concept of grievance.

Thanks to both of you for being here tonight. Jennifer Rubin and Kurt Andersen, always a pleasure to talk to you both.

All right. Coming up a new poll shows just how much Joe Biden has won over Americans who didn`t vote for him. That`s coming up next.


VELSHI: As President Biden approaches his 100th day in office, his approval ratings consistently show that he is winning over Americans who did not vote for him.

Joe Biden won 51 percent of the vote in November. The latest Gallup poll just taken this month has Biden`s approval rating at 57 percent.

Biden has enjoyed overwhelming support, 72 percent, according to Pew Research, for his handling of the coronavirus vaccine rollout. The $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan is supported by 67 percent of Americans, according to Pew. And a majority of Americans support Biden`s jobs and infrastructure proposals.

So Joe Biden`s agenda is popular with both Democrat and Republican voters if not Republican lawmakers.

Joining us now is Democratic Congresswoman Sharice Davids of Kansas. She is the vice chair of the New Democrat coalition. She was among a group of lawmakers who met this week with White House senior staff to discuss policy priorities for the American Jobs Plan.

Congresswoman Davids, thank you for being with us tonight.

REP. SHARICE DAVIDS (D-KS): Good to be here.

VELSHI: Let`s talk about, first of all, this concept of governing for people who didn`t necessarily vote for you. You know this well coming for - - being a Democrat from the state of Kansas these days. What is it that is working in your opinion after a conversation that you had at the White House this week with the -- you met with senior White House officials this week? What is it that`s working for you?

DAVIDS: Look. I think that right now what we are seeing is an administration with President Biden who has done what he said he was going to do. He`s been laser focused on making sure that we`re getting vaccines into people`s arms, for getting money into people`s pockets. We are getting folks back to work. And a lot of that was because of the American rescue Plan.

And I think that when people look at the job that this administration is doing, that those of us in the House and the Senate who are working hard to help get relief to people who need it the most that`s the kind of stuff that people are going to want to see regardless of what party they`re in.

One of the issues that Joe Biden has pointed out in some of his executive actions is that he`d really like a lot of these things done legislatively. And that`s one of the topics I understand that you discussed with the White House. How to get some of the priorities of fellow Democrats who are like- minded, how to get that stuff done through Congress.

DAVIDS: Yes. You know, when we went to the White House this week, as the New Democrat Coalition. One of the things we highlighted was the fact that we are one of the largest caucuses in the United States Congress.

And when you`re talking about getting legislation across the finish line you have to be working with people who are willing to talk to anybody who`s pushing for good policy.

Look, I have said the entire time that I have been in office that I`m willing to work with anybody if we`re talk about getting policy done that`s going to be good for the third district in Kansas, good for the state of Kansas and good for our country.

And the New Dem Coalition, the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee -- we`re all focused on that and so is the Biden administration.

VELSHI: Jill Biden has actually been in Navajo Nation this week talking Navajo women about their needs. The Associated Press writes "The trip was Biden`s third to the vast reservation and her inaugural visit as first lady. She`s vowed to work with the Navajo Nation and all tribal nations in a recognition of their inherent sovereignty and political relationship with the United States."

This, of course, is a topic that has become much bigger under this administration. And with your former colleague Deb Haaland now as a cabinet secretary. How does this -- what does this look like to you? What is success for tribal communities and Indians in America look like?

DAVIDS: I mean certainly we have seen a huge leap forward with the confirmation and appointment of now Secretary Deb Haaland to the Department of Interior. You know, I think it`s important to note that when the federal government used to interact with tribal governments it was through the Department of War. And now what we`re seeing with the Department of Interior is having a person who not only understands it from the legal perspective but also from a lived experience.

Having Congresswoman Haaland -- Secretary Haaland there is -- I`m definitely missing her out of the House -- having her there is historic and for so many different reasons but certainly having a Biden administration whether we`re talking about President Biden or the First Lady paying attention, learning the issues, showing up, listening and really trying to be as engaged as possible with tribal communities is going to go a really long way to helping address -- to helping address some of the disparities that we have seen over centuries really.

VELSHI: I want to talk to you about voting rights stuff because we`ve been talking about that a lot tonight. Your governor in Kansas has vetoed a number of GOP -- or a couple of GOP election bills saying that they`re designed to disenfranchise voters. The quote from her is that "This is a solution to a problem that doesn`t exist. It is designed to disenfranchise Kansans and make it more difficult for them to participate in the democratic process, not to stop voter fraud."

What`s your view of how this goes? You are the only Congressional Democrat in the state.

DAVIDS: Yes. No, look. Kansas has been dealing with voter suppression issues for a while. Folks might remember that we had Chris Kobach as our secretary of state and so we`ve been kind of pushed back against --- trying to push back against voter suppression for a while.

I`m very, very glad that the folks in my home state in Kansas were able to see that Governor Kelly was going to be the person who would help get us on the right track in our state and she demonstrates that time and time again vetoing these awful voter suppression bills is just one more example of that.

VELSHI: Chris Kobach is founding father of nonexistent voter fraud fears. So yes, you guys come by it honestly in Kansas. Congresswoman, good to see you.


VELSHI: Thank you for being with us.

Congresswoman Sharice Davids is the vice chair of the New Democratic Coalition. She`s a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and is Democratic representative from Kansas.

And that is tonight`s Last Word.

I`m going to see you tomorrow morning as usual on "VELSHI" where I`m going to have much more of the conversation yesterday with black Minneapolis residents about the way forward after the conviction of Derek Chauvin and the death of Daunte Wright.

Plus, I`m going to be speaking to the former EPA chief Gina McCarthy who is now advising President Biden on the environment about how America`s back in the global climate change discussion after a four-year absence.

"VELSHI" airs Saturday and Sunday mornings at 8:00 a.m. Eastern only on MSNBC.

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