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Transcript: The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, 4/27/21

Guests: Jerry Blackwell, Steve Schleicher, Kirk Burkhalter, Marq Claxton, Jim Clyburn


The lead prosecutors from the Derek Chauvin murder trial, Jerry Blackwell and Steve Schleicher, are interviewed. Jerry Blackwell`s prosecution team will be going back into the courtroom on August 23rd in Minneapolis to prosecute the other three officers in the case. With regards to new developments in the police killing of Andrew Brown in North Carolina, the family released an independent autopsy which showed Andrew Brown was shot in the back of the head. President Joe Biden will be the fifth president to address a joint session of Congress with Congressman James Clyburn in the room.



I`ll see you in that coverage tomorrow night too. I will be joining the discussion.

We have Congressman Jim Clyburn joining us tonight, Rachel, to discuss what he expects to hear in that speech tomorrow. And we have so much to do in this hour that Congressman Jim Clyburn will get the last word in this hour, because we have so much leading up to that.

We have the lead prosecutors from the Derek Chauvin murder trial joining us, starting off tonight. This is when I get nervous Rachel, because I have in awe of these lawyers. In the masterful job they did in court, and so I have been looking forward to this, since every day I was watching them in court actually.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, "TRMS": I will tell you, news meeting with my staff and talking people in the building today, everybody is very excited you`ve got these lawyers. I haven`t heard these prosecutors speak outside the courtroom, other than the immediate aftermath of that historic case. I`m in awe that you`ve got them and I`m not going to help you believe any less nervous about it.

O`DONNELL: Well, we are lucky to have them. Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW: Thanks, Lawrence. Good luck.

O`DONNELL: Well, I grew up in courtrooms. Courtrooms and baseball fields I guess. I have been to more trials than I can remember. My final other became a lawyer when I was a baby. He went to night school, for college and law school while he was working full-time as a Boston police officer.

It was after years of sitting on the witness stand as a police officer, and thinking that he could do a better job than the lawyers who were questioning him that he decided to become a lawyer. Lawyering would not have look so easy for him, from that witness stand, if he had been questioned by our first two guests tonight, the lead prosecutors in the trial of Derek Chauvin, for the murder of George Floyd. My father would have known, he was seeing the very best trial lawyers at work.

My father took his kids to work decades before it became a thing. I was still an elementary school when I watch my father argue his first case to the United States Supreme Court, in which he convinced the court to overturn the bank robbery convictions of two black men based on the faulty identification of those defendants. I wrote a book in 1983, about the most important thing my father ever did as a lawyer. The book is called "Deadly Force". And it tells the story of a civil rights law wrongful death lawsuit, that he won in federal court against you Boston police officers who shot an unarmed 25-year-old black man, James Boden (ph), in the back in the back of the head.

My father was 57 years old, when he won that case, and he knew then, that that was the most important thing, that he ever did in his life as a lawyer. He knew then, that in 20 more years in courtrooms, he would not do anything as important.

Sometimes you know. Sometimes you know, when you`re standing on the top of that mountain, that you began climbing in high school, when you are doing your homework, and in college when you are preparing to take the LSATs, and all of those dreary nights in law school when you are trying to drill those sometimes maddening legal phrases into your head, only to be followed after graduation from law school, by the agony of the study for the bar exam that you must pass to be licensed as a lawyer.

Sometimes you know. You know, it was all for this. It was all for this trial. And that is what, that is what it looked like to me when I watched our first guests tonight, Jerry Blackwell and Steve Schleicher prosecuting Derek Chauvin. It looked like they knew, that they were doing the most important thing they had ever done, and probably would ever do as lawyers.

When you spend a lot of time in courtrooms, you can get the feeling that you have seen it all. But that is never true because every case is different and every lawyer is different. The truth is most lawyers are not very good. And great lawyers are very, very rare.

My father was the greatest trial lawyer I have ever seen. And I`ve only seen a handful of others, who I would describe as great. I`m saying all of this, I`m sharing all of this personal perspective with you tonight, only because I want you to understand, and I hope you will share the awe that I feel for our first guests tonight.

Jerry Blackwell and Steven Schleicher are the lead prosecutors in the Derek Chauvin trial. They were joined by Matthew Frank and Erin Eldridge who did great work in examining witnesses during the trial. I have never seen a prosecution case presented so flawlessly in a courtroom.

A trial is a free fire zone where anything can go wrong and usually something does. You get hit with an objection that you did not expect, or one of your witnesses weakens under cross examination. None of that happened to the prosecution in this case. Jerry Blackwell and Steve Schleicher conducted the most masterful criminal prosecution I have ever seen, and they did it under the most pressure I have ever seen, with the whole world watching.

Jerry Blackwell was the first lawyer to speak in the trial, delivering the prosecutions opening statement.


JERRY BLACKWELL, LEAD PROSECUTOR, DEREK CHAUVIN TRIAL: You will learn, that on may 25th of 2020, Mr. Derek Chauvin betrayed his badge when he used excessive and unreasonable force up on the body of Mr. George Floyd, that he put his knees up on his neck and his back, grinding and crushing him, until the very breath, no, ladies and gentlemen, until the very life was squeezed thought of him.

You will learn that he was well aware that Mr. Floyd was unarmed. That Mr. Floyd had not threatened anyone. That Mr. Floyd was in handcuffs. He was completely in the control of the police. He was defenseless.

You will learn what happened, in that nine minutes and 29 seconds. The most important numbers you will hear in this trial, 929. What happened in those nine minutes and 29 seconds when Mr. Derek Chauvin was applying this excessive force to the body of Mr. George Floyd.


O`DONNELL: And after having proved all of that, 21 days later, Steve Schleicher delivered his final argument to the jury.


STEVE SCHLEICHER, LEAD PROSECUTOR, DEREK CHAUVIN TRIAL: This case is exactly what you thought when you saw it first, when you saw that video. It is exactly that. You can believe your eyes.

It`s exactly what you believed, it`s exactly what you saw with your eyes, it`s exactly what you knew. It`s what you felt in your gut. It`s what you now know in your heart.

This wasn`t policing. This was murder. The defendant is guilty of all three counts. All of it. And there is no excuse.

Thank you.


O`DONNELL: The defense final argument came next and tried without evidence to blame George Floyd`s cause of death on George Floyd`s heart. Jerry Blackwell got the LAST WORD in the trial with his rebuttal up that defense argument.


BLACKWELL: Here`s what I thought was the largest departure from the evidence. I`ll show it to you. You were told, for example, that Mr. Floyd died, that Mr. Floyd died because his heart was too big. You heard that testimony.

And now having seen all the evidence, having heard all the evidence, you know the truth. And the truth of the matter is that the reason George Floyd is dead is because Mr. Chauvin`s heart was too small.


O`DONNELL: Joining us now, the lead prosecutors in the Derek Chauvin`s trial, Jerry Blackwell and Steve Schleicher.

Thank you very much both of you for joining us tonight. It really is an honor to have you with us.

I want to begin with that time you spent which was the always the most agonizing time in a trial for trial lawyers, waiting for the jury.

And, Jerry Blackwell, you didn`t have to wait long and there were no questions from the jurors before they said they were ready to return a verdict. So, did you believe as I did that they were coming back with a guilty?

BLACKWELL: Well, we were certainly cautiously optimistic that was the case. The jury had come back awfully quickly and seemed too quickly for them to have debated a great deal. And that we expected it would favor the prosecution. But we were prepared also to have perhaps the biggest shock perhaps to prosecution history if the jury didn`t, because jurors can do anything. But we were optimistic that that was favorable for the prosecution.

O`DONNELL: Steve, you made that ask at the end of your argument for the guilties on all counts, specifically on all counts.

And one thing that I expected from this jury was there would be some questioning, when there`s multiple counts, always some questions about how do we sort this out and what are our menu options. And that`s why when they had absolutely no questions at all, it seemed to me if they`re going to come back that fast, they`re going to come back with exactly what you asked for.

SCHLEICHER: Lawrence, that`s what we thought, too. I think we spent some time during the closing to really go through and explain to the jurors -- to teach them, you know, about the law. What the law required -- what the law required for each element of each count, and to really, you know, give them a guide book because when they`re back in the deliberations room, I mean, that`s all they have.

They have their memory. They have their notebooks. They were taken notes furiously the entire trial, and they have those jury instructions that the court gives them.

And so, we thought it was important to go through and just make sure that they understood what would be required, and not leave anything to chance. So we spent some time there.

O`DONNELL: The -- you always are guessing during the trial and it`s always a guess, what`s the most important moment and there were plenty of moments in the trial that we identified on this program that night as being crucially important to the jury. It turns out we were right about one of them because one of the alternate jurors has spoken about this.

Let`s listen to Gabe Gutierrez`s interview with Lisa Christensen when she was asked, who was the most important witness?

Let`s listen to this.


LISA CHRISTENSEN, ALTERNATE JUROR: What stuck in my mind, like I said, I was close to the witness stand and her words of apologizing to Mr. Floyd at night over and over that she couldn`t sleep and she was sorry that she couldn`t do more to save his life, that was pretty impactful to me. It hurt me.


O`DONNELL: Well, that one was actually about Darnella Frazier. There`s another question and answer about who she thought was the most important witness, which we`ll get to later.

But let`s take a look at that moment that she`s talking about because, Jerry, that`s when you`re questioning Darnella Frazier and she talks about how she feels and what regrets she has.

Let`s listen to that.


DARNELLA FRAZIER, WITNESS: When I look at George Floyd, I look at -- I look at my dad. I look at my brothers. I look at my cousins and my uncles because they`re all black. I have a black father. I have a black brother. I have black friends.

And I look at that and I look at how that could have been one of them. It`s been nights I stayed up apologizing and apologizing to George Floyd for not doing more and not physically interacting and not saving his life. But it`s like it`s not what I should have done. It`s what he should have done.


O`DONNELL: Jerry, that was one of those cases where we`re not allowed to see the witness. But that answer looked like it really got to you.

BLACKWELL: It certainly did. Just because of the humanity of it. I mean, here was a teenager who had encountered on the street a stranger who was suffering. She didn`t know him. All that she knew was his humanity that she saw, that he was defenseless, he was subdued by the police and he was suffering and he was suffering needlessly.

And she had as human desire to try to intervene to stop the suffering to try to save his life, and to see the kind of guilt and remorse and, frankly, responsibility she felt almost a year after the fact was just touching and moving and spoke to her humanity. And it was a rebuttal to the argument that she and others were simply apart of an unruly crowd.

And there`s nothing unruly about it. I mean, it was a very human crowd. As you know, I described them as a bouquet of humanity for the diversity on all of them.

But they were simply human beings who for the most part didn`t know each other, and who are simply responding to a human call and need for help. And I thought it was a wonderful example of what it means to love your neighbor and a wonderful example of what it means to care and one that had Officer Chauvin adopted that evening, George Floyd would likely still be alive.

O`DONNELL: And, Steve, Lisa Christensen, the alternate juror, said that the most important witness was Dr. Tobin. You were watching Jerry examined Dr. Tobin. Sometimes, you have a better feel for how it`s landing because you get to keep an eye on the jury and she talked specifically about Dr. Tobin mentioning moment when the life went out of George Floyd`s body and she said that was the single most moment for her.

SCHLEICHER: It`s such a powerful moment in court, and from a witness who, you know, has given his life to science and really came forward in this case to be able to help, just the desire to help and use science and medicine to do so. And for someone as intelligent as Dr. Tobin is, to be able to communicate with the jury to teach them, to explain things in a way when he was motioning, you know, touching his neck, see all of them doing the same thing, it was. It was a powerful moment, and describing the precise moment that life left George Floyd.

It was -- it was powerful. It was heartbreaking.

O`DONNELL: There was another moment that that juror said stood out to her and really bothered her and that was when one of the defense witnesses, Barry Brodd, who claims to have been an expert in police tactics, talked about George Floyd on the pavement resting comfortably.

Let`s take a look at this.


SCHLEICHER: What part of this is not compliant?

BARRY BRODD, DEFENSE WITNESS: So, I see his arm position in the picture that`s posted.


BRODD: That, you know, a compliant person would have both of their hand in a small of their back and just be resting comfortably, versus, like, he`s still moving around.

SCHLEICHER: Did you say resting comfortably?

BRODD: Or laying comfortably.

SCHLEICHER: Resting comfortably on the pavement?


SCHLEICHER: At this point in time when he`s attempting to breathe by shoving his shoulder into the pavement.

BRODD: I was describing what the signs of a perfectly compliant person would be.

SCHLEICHER: So attempting to breathe while restrained is being slightly non-compliant?




O`DONNELL: Jerry, I want to go to you on this one because Steve won`t brag about it I`m sure. But it`s one of those moments where you don`t know that word is come -- you don`t know that phrase is coming and it comes. And, Jerry, you watched Steve jumped on it, handled it, and it worked on the jury according to this one juror interview exactly the way it appeared to.

BLACKWELL: No, absolutely. I thought it was the one exchange that was essentially the indictment, the symbolic indictment of his entire testimony in terms of his credibility that at display. That level of frankly insensitivity.


O`DONNELL: Go ahead, Steve.

SCHLEICHER: Lawrence, that was outrageous testimony. I mean, the -- starting off with the premise that this wasn`t a use of force. It really was -- it really was outrageous, because understand that that premise, that this wasn`t a use of force was -- you know, it`s kind of a technical explanation, but it`s that it`s a restraint hold not likely to produce pain.

And how can you look at, how can you look at what was happening and make those words come out of your mouth that this wasn`t likely to produce pain. And so, just from the beginning, from his direct examination, it certainly I thought was -- was outrageous testimony and, you know, the explanation of his testimony on cross certainly didn`t get any better.


O`DONNELL: All right. Let me -- let me squeeze in a commercial break here and please stay with us both of you. When we come back, I want to get your reaction to what Minnesota`s attorney general, Keith Ellison, has said he thinks what the most important moment in the trial.

We`ll be right back with Jerry Blackwell and Steve Schleicher.


O`DONNELL: Minnesota`s attorney general, Keith Ellison, assembled the prosecution team in the trial of Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd. And here is what Keith Ellison now says was the most important moment in the trial.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you need a minute?





O`DONNELL: And the lead prosecutors in the case are back with us, Jerry Blackwell and Steve Schleicher.

Jerry, that`s the kind of moment you can`t prepare for. You prepare your witnesses. You prepare your evidence. You line up your exhibits, but then something like that happens.

What was your reaction in that courtroom when that happened?

BLACKWELL: Well, it just grabs your heart to see and feel that from -- it was from Mr. McMillian. And it`s just spoken (INAUDIBLE) to his humanity as one of the bystanders.

But again, it`s very important for conveying to the jurors that again this was not some unruly crowd and unruly mob that was interested in interfering with the police, that you saw the kind of grief and the anguish they felt, Mr. McMillian felt over the sense of helplessness.

And the fact is, they had so much respect, frankly, for the badge and for the policing that they didn`t intervene. With those bystanders there, they could easily have pushed Mr. Chauvin and the rest of them off Mr. Floyd, but it was their respect for the authority that they didn`t do that, and no doubt in fear of themselves being harmed.

And as you know, any number of bystanders instead called the police on the police because of the misconduct. But Mr. McMillian was still torn up a year after the fact over his sense of just helplessness and not being able to do anything to save this man`s life that he saw dying one breath at a time.

O`DONNELL: You both came out of -- came from private practice as volunteers in this case. Both of you working for nothing, not taking a paycheck for it.

Steve, you`re a former prosecutor at the county, state and federal level. What made you decide to leave your private practice to come and take on this burden? And what did that burden feel like in the courtroom?

SCHLEICHER: Well, people talk about receiving a call, I received a call quite literally. It was from the attorney general, Keith Ellison, called me. I`d never spoken with him before. And -- and he asked me if I`d help.

I had over two decades of prosecution experience. I`ve tried quite a few murder cases. I prosecuted police officers before.

And for me, it was very easy. When the attorney general of your state calls and asks for help, you say yes, you do that.

As attorneys, we practice in a profession. It`s a -- it`s a noble profession and it`s a privilege. It`s a privilege to practice law. It`s a privilege to make a living in the practice of law and serving others. It`s a joy to be able to practice with your friends.

And, of course, when he called and asked, I wanted to help. My firm allowed me to do so. They allowed pro bono opportunities. They`ve always allowed attorneys to follow their heart. They allowed me to do that.

And, you know, we do have -- we have a special responsibility as attorneys. I think we have an excellent bar in Minnesota, people who are committed to pro bono. But, you know, I went to schools, public schools I didn`t build, on roads I didn`t create, right, and at some point, you owe something back to the state that`s been so good to you. So, I was -- I was privileged to help.

O`DONNELL: Jerry, why did you decide to join the case and what did it feel like when you were in the courtroom? Did it feel like this is why you became a lawyer, this is where you needed to be?

BLACKWELL: Well, I`ll start the question reversed. It did feel like this is why I became a lawyer and this is we`re supposed to be. I formed the idea of becoming a lawyer in the second grade, frankly because I like to read, and it made my mother proud to see me read, and she said, you should be a lawyer. So, I thought that was a good thing. It makes my mother happy, and I never let it go.

But for me, Lawrence, what most people wouldn`t realize that this was my first foray in the criminal law and the first criminal case I`ve ever been involved in. And I -- and I primarily tried cases for Fortune 500 companies around the country.

This though to me was like a moral moment. It was one of those moments where everything within you, every fiber just so resonated that this is a time to stand up to be counted, to do what you can for the -- just for the cause of good and right.

I didn`t know how it would affect my practice. I didn`t give any thought for myself, that I simply wanted to be involved and offer whatever skills I had to bring about justice in this case.

And it was thereafter that I got a call from the attorney general and it all matched up. I said yes, and then my afterthought, what have I done? This is going to be on the international stage (ph) --


BLACKWELL: -- and your first criminal case.

And -- but, at that point, I was committed to it. So, win or lose or draw, whether I`d be embarrassed or not, I would be committed to seeing this through to the end, and that`s what I did.

O`DONNELL: Well, you made history doing it.

Are either or both of you going to be involved in the prosecution of the other officers that will begin in August?

SCHLEICHER: Yeah, the team is intact.

BLACKWELL: Both in. We`ll be there.

O`DONNELL: OK, great. We will be watching then.

Jerry Blackwell, Steve Schleicher, I cannot thank you enough for joining us tonight. This is really an honor for me. It`s just -- it`s just a thrill to be able to talk to you. Really appreciate it. Thank you.

BLACKWELL: Thank you, Lawrence.

SCHLEICHER: Thank you so much, Lawrence. Have a good night.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

And after this break, Marq Claxton and Kirk Burkhalter will join us. They were with us for every moment of the coverage of that trial. They`ll join us next.


O`DONNELL: Here`s how Jerry Blackwell described to the Derek Chauvin jury the witnesses on the sidewalk who watched Derek Chauvin murder George Floyd.


JERRY BLACKWELL, LEAD PROSECUTOR, DEREK CHAUVIN TRIAL: They tried to interject, to exhort, to please stop, to try to get into what we call good trouble just with their voices because something there was concerning to them.

And when that did not work, you can see any number of them pulled out their cameras to document what was happening such that it would be memorialized, such that it would not be misrepresented, such that it could not be forgotten.


O`DONNELL: So it couldn`t be forgotten.

Joining our discussion 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 both joined us in every day of our coverage of this trial.

Kirk, I want to start with you on what is the news of that segment and that is that this same prosecution team will be going back into the courtroom on August 23rd in Minneapolis to prosecute the other three officers in the case.

What does that mean when you see this same prosecution team holding together having assembled the evidence so well already in this case, going back at it?

KIRK BURKHALTER, DIRECTOR, 21ST CENTURY POLICING PROJECT - NEW YORK LAW SCHOOL: Well Lawrence, it means quite frankly that you will see, and I hate to do it in terms of sports analogy but, round two.

They worked together, they know each other well, they put on a masterful case against Derek Chauvin. And I think that we could expect more of the same.

You know, I tell my students quite often, you don`t have to be perfect, you just have to be better than everyone else. And they`ve demonstrated that they can be better than everyone else. They are well-prepared. They anticipate the defense. So I think that we will see them continue to succeed in this vein and let`s not forget that, you know, this jury was swayed by the evidence.

And I would certainly think that if this matter continues on to trial for the other three defendants, I would not be surprised if that jury was swayed by the breadth of the evidence also.

O`DONNELL: Marq Claxton, we now know that part of what was so solid and powerful about this prosecution is that it was driven by a sense of moral duty by these two lawyers who were doing fine out there in private practice and they did not need this work at all. And they accepted the attorney general`s invitation request to do it. They did it for no money. They did it as Jerry Blackwell just told us because it was a moral moment that he needed to stand up in.

MARQ CLAXTON, DIRECTOR, BLACK LAW ENFORCEMENT ALLIANCE: And also significant, I thought, in your interview, really displayed this quite clearly is that they are genuinely humble people. They come across very humble. They come across very sincere, but very deliberate. Their tone and tenor in court during the presentation, during the prosecution, when they were asking questions was the same as they were answering questions to you.

And perhaps most significant is that they each indicated at different points that they were personally affected and involved, that they were personally offended or concerned by the conduct of Derek Chauvin.

They were invested in the case. So it was more than just a simple process. It was more than just going through the motions and aside from their tone and tenor, really displaying that, they actually indicated that they had a personal investment in it.

They had skin in the game and they seemed to be very pleased with the level of investment that they to made the case and are committed to go in all the way with it.

O`DONNELL: Kirk, I`m so glad that they were able to join us tonight because one thing we never got to do in our coverage was the night where we just praise this prosecution team and what a great job they did because as the case was moving -- the evidence was moving so quickly, we were trying to evaluate each piece of it as it came through each day and then suddenly very quickly we got a verdict.

And so in that wave we never were able to take that pause and say wow. What you are seeing here is the best possible law school tutorial in trial practice.

BURKHALTER: Lawrence, what really stood out to me, amongst many things, they did many things masterfully. One was the narrative, telling a story, a logical cadence to the case but most importantly rebutting the defense`s case before the defense had the opportunity to put it on and doing so, so artfully without naming your adversary or without pointing to your adversary.

So the door was shut before the defense even testified. And that`s something that`s very difficult to train. I think many lawyers pick it up at some point but it also goes to the heart of what you mentioned with regards to your father and the many lawyers out there, preparations. Nights on nights on end.

You don`t role the dice in the court of law. You walk into court to win. And that`s what they did. And they were prepared. And you win by understanding your adversary`s case.

And it was just masterful how they put that on. And as you mentioned, you could run a clinic by showing the progression of the case and how they presented all their evidence in testimony.

O`DONNELL: Gentlemen, please stay with us, I want to squeeze in a commercial break. And I want to consider another case after this commercial break.

Another -- we have new developments in the police killing of Andrew Brown in North Carolina today. The family released an independent autopsy which showed Andrew Brown was shot in the back of the head. North Carolina`s governor is now calling for a special prosecutor. That`s next.


O`DONNELL: Today lawyers for the family of Andrew Brown released a North Carolina death certificate saying Andrew Brown`s death was a homicide and that the immediate cause was a penetrating gun show wound of the head.

Lawyers for the family also released the private autopsy report paid for by the Brown`s family which shows that Andrew Brown was hit by four bullets in his right arm which were not fatal wounds and the bullet in the back of his head which was the cause of death.

Those bullets were fired by police officers approaching Andrew Brown`s car as he tried to drive out of his drive way. Attorney Benjamin Crump described it as quote militarized police force rushing to kill Andrew Brown.

Back with us Kirk Burkhalter and Marq Claxton, both former NYPD police detectives. And Marq, let me get your reaction to these new developments in the Case. FBI is now investigating. The governor says there should be a special prosecutor.

CLAXTON: I have some very serious concerns about the case and those concerns extend beyond my concerns about the (INAUDIBLE) of the integrity of the profession itself by the kind of fact -- with the manner the government and the sheriff`s department has been handling this thus far.

But my concerns extend into the integrity of the investigation itself. I k now it is important and it is a positive step that the Feds have decided to enter the investigation. My concern is what damage has already been done.

You know, there is a lot of information, a lot of evidence that you can`t go back and regenerate. You can`t reprocess that crime scene and gather any additional forensic evidence. You don`t have an opportunity for that.

You can`t have the first interview with witnesses anymore. You can have follow-up interviews but you don`t know the context for which those interviews -- initial interviews are conducted. You don`t even have a well- established outline or agreement as to how the Feds will be involved in this case.

Will they be primary interviews and interrogations, will they just be merely observers? Are they just collecting data for future activity? But really it goes back to maintaining the integrity of the investigation and what damage could be done or could have been done in this week`s period of time about this sheriff`s department and that city government that would later jeopardize whatever the culmination of the investigation occurs in the future.

O`DONNELL: Kirk a quick LAST WORD before we go to a break on this.

BURKHALTER: Yes, Marq is absolutely correct. You know, within seven days a case begins to go cold. That being said the police department and the sheriff`s department and the city government there they`ve lost the trust of the public. And I think it is very important that the Justice Department and the FBI step in and takes over the investigation so they can restore some form of public confidence that that they will get to the truth because as of this point, there is just simply so much that we don`t know.

It is amazing that a family has to go out and obtain an autopsy and so forth before we can hear any of this information from the local authorities.

So I think it is a good move that the federal government is stepping in. and I think it is quite possible, we`ll see a civil rights violation prosecution here.

O`DONNELL: Kirk Burkhalter and Marq Claxton, thank you both very much for joining us again tonight. Always appreciate it.

BURKHALTER: You are quite welcome.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

Coming up, Congressman James Clyburn will get tonight`s LAST WORD. That`s next.



REP. JAMES CLYBURN (D-SC): I can think of no one better suited, better prepared. I can think of no one with the integrity, no one more committed to the fundamental principles that make this country what it is than my good friend, my late wife`s great friend, Joe Biden.


O`DONNELL: Joe Biden will be the fifth president to address a joint session of congress with Congressman James Clyburn in the room. But Joe Biden will be the first president who knows when he looks down from the podium and sees Congressman Clyburn that he would not be standing there as president of the United States without Jim Clyburn`s crucial support in the South Carolina primary which took Joe Biden from losing presidential candidate to winning presidential candidate.

Joining us now is House Majority Whip Congressman Jim Clyburn of South Carolina. Thank you very much for joining us tonight. The night before Joe Biden`s first address to a joint session of Congress as president.

I know when you endorsed him, you publicly relied heavily on the advice of your late wife Emily. And I have to wonder, what would Emily think of these first hundred days of the Biden presidency?

CLYBURN: She would be ecstatic. You know, Joe Biden made it very clear upon his election that he was going to be laser-focused on COVID-19. As you know, my late wife battled for almost 30 years with diabetes and she knows what it is to have to have assistance as well as prayers.

And she would be very pleased that Joe Biden has gotten us into a much better place with this virus. And if we continue to follow the science, listen to the advice being offered by his administration and if he continues on the path he is now following, we will be in a very good place by late summer. And I think we`re going to re-open for school for our children in a very big way.

O`DONNELL: Presidents always try to send members of Congress out of that room on a wave of enthusiasm for their legislative agenda. What do you hope Democrats, at least, leave that room with the resolve to get done first?

CLYBURN: I think that if we leave the room as we will enter the room, and that is with full faith and confidence in this president, I think we will leave the room on a high note. And I think we will go out and explain to the American people that we have got to reimagine a lot of things in this country, to include what infrastructure really is.

I`m amazed at the number of people who seem to feel that infrastructure is what it always has been. They forget that we did not have the railroad until Abraham Lincoln made it a big infrastructure item. We did not have to the interstate highway until Dwight Eisenhower made it a big infrastructure item. And we are not going to have broadband without a big infrastructure program.

And Joe Biden has made it very clear that when it comes to infrastructure, it`s got to be beyond what it has traditionally been. It`s got to be broadband, it`s got to be affordable housing, it`s got to be school construction.

How do you bring our children back into school if we have not done what needs to be done for the HVAC systems? If we have not brought these schools up to par, which we have not done over so many years?

So this infrastructure program is going to be beyond that which we have imagined for decades now, but it will be the kind of infrastructure that`s needed to get education done, to get health care done, to get business development done.

I`ll tell you, I think we`re going to leave that room with what we might call a good foot.

O`DONNELL: The census which comes out every ten years is always a big event in Congress. It can change the future of some members of Congress if their district gets eliminated.

We now see the way the count looks right now. The Democrats will be disadvantaged, to put it mildly, to the extent of possibly three seats that might just automatically now go to Republicans -- three additional because of redistricting, because of the census.

What is the new strategy with this new census for your Democratic majority leadership that you`re a part of to preserve that majority in the House?

CLYBURN: We are going to connect with the American people the same way Democrats did in Georgia earlier this year in January, to be exact. No one ever thought six months, a year ago, that Georgia would elect two Democrats -- one black, one Jewish, to replace two Republican senators, but they did.

And I believe we are going to surprise a lot of people after redistricting. I know that people are looking at the way the shift is going, but people are going to look at this president and the production that he is now masterminding.

And we are going to get out and explain to the American people why this $1.5 trillion program that he is going to propose, the $1.9 trillion program that we already have in place -- why that is good for the country.

And we are going to come up with new and better ways to pay for it. You aren`t going pay for infrastructure by clipping coupons out of the Sunday paper. We`ve got make investments in this. And we`ve got to imagine new ways of doing it.

That`s why this president is going to be proposing that we restructure some of our tax codes so that the very wealthy will pay more and the people who helped to create this wealth will be rewarded with the service that that money can pay for.

O`DONNELL: We saw a new autopsy report today of a North Carolina man shot by police multiple times, a fatal shot in the back of the head, black man. This comes after the verdict in the Derek Chauvin case. What has the continuation of these police incidents every week now done to the momentum for passing the police reform bill.

CLYBURN: I hope it`s been helpful. I do know that Karen Bass is doing all she can to reconcile Democratic differences with my fellow South Carolinian who`s leading the effort on the other side, Tim Scott. I do hope that they get us to a place where we can pass better legislation.

But let me tell you something, Lawrence -- that would be the beginning. When I talk about reimagining -- we`ve got reimagine how we implement law enforcement in this country, and one of those things we`ve got to do is stop talking about training. They`ve got some of the best training that can be created by any mind.

Our problem is about recruiting. What kind of people that we are hiring in these positions. One need to only look at the video from that police officer up there in Virginia pointing his gun at a lieutenant in the United States Armed Services, who is pleading with him. And he ignores all of his pleas, and yelling at him like he`s some animal.

These kinds of people should not be on the police forces. That`s our big problem -- not training. It`s recruiting. We got to recruit better people, and we got to pay better salaries.

You`re not going to get good people for the kind of salaries that we pay these police officers. We`ve got to do better.

O`DONNELL: Congressman James Clyburn, thank you very much for joining us again tonight. We always appreciate it.

CLYBURN: Thank you very much for having me.

O`DONNELL: Programming note: tomorrow night I will be joining our special coverage of President Biden`s first address to Congress. MSNBC`s special coverage begins tomorrow night at 8:00 p.m. Eastern with President Biden expected to begin gain his speech at 9:00 p.m.

That is tonight`s LAST WORD.