IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Transcript: The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, 4/9/21

Guests: Renee Graham, Debbie Dingell, Stephanie Skelton, Barbara Lee


Tenth day of the trial of Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd. Medical examiners who took the witness stand affirm that it was the knee of Chauvin on the neck is what killed George Floyd causing deprivation of oxygen. The outdated view of infrastructure is that it`s only big concrete and steel things like bridges and roads and trains and airports. President Biden`s $2.2 trillion infrastructure plan is big.



RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Putting my vaccination sticker back on. Just going to keep reaffixing it to things. I don`t recommend sticking it to your headfirst so then you`re going to try to stick it to all of your articles of clothing for the rest of the week. Anyway, that does it for us tonight. We`ll see you again on Monday. Now it`s time for "The Last Word" where Ali Velshi is in for Lawrence tonight. Good evening, Ali.

ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST: I am loving the ingenuity story and I was just reminded of the Wright brothers. It was December 17, 1903. Orville and Wilber Wright went out with the first plane. Orville took it up for 12 seconds, it was 120 feet that that thing lasted and then they tried it four times that day.

On the last one, Wilber took it up and he got it 852 feet and 59 seconds. That`s just in one day, and then the plane broke. And then obviously since then, they have been able to improve things a great deal, but that`s how it starts.

So, whatever happens on Mars with Ingenuity, I`m going to be peeled to it, Rachel, because for all the stuff we have to report on, that`s not as much fun, there`s some good stuff going on up there.

MADDOW: And I will tell you, Ali, that they are taking, I kid you not, a tiny little piece of the Wright brothers plane with them for the Ingenuity copter to go up there. And so, they have attached a little piece of the Wright brothers` history physically to it for this interplanetary, you know, benchmark. Super exciting. Sunday night. It`s going to be fantastic.

VELSHI: We`ll be watching it. Rachel, have a great weekend. Great to see you and congratulations on the vaccination.

MADDOW: Thanks, Ali.

VELSHI: Well, it was another day of dramatic testimony in the trial of Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd. Today`s key witness, the medical examiner, Dr. Andrew Baker, who conducted the autopsy on George Floyd, had his turn on the witness stand. We`re going to show you what Dr. Baker said about the presence of drugs in George Floyd`s system and what that had to do with his death in just a moment.

But as we mark the end of the second week of the trial, we want to take a step back and note that this is not a normal trial. This is not how other trials of police officers over the use of deadly force have gone because as much about this -- as this trial is about holding Derek Chauvin accountable for his actions, it`s also about honoring the life of George Floyd, including the last moments of his life.

It might be easier to show you what I mean rather than tell you about it. Here`s how the week started. Minneapolis police chief, Medaria Arradondo took to the stand and testified against his former officer, Derek Chauvin.


MEDARIA ARRADONDO, MINNEAPOLIS POLICE CHIEF: Once there was no longer any resistance and clearly when Mr. Floyd was no longer responsive and even motionless, to continue to apply that level of force, to a person proned out, handcuffed behind their back, that in no way shape or form is anything that is by policy, is not part of our training and it is certainly not part of our ethics or values.


VELSHI: Now, police chiefs don`t find themselves testifying against their former officers all that often, but Chief Arradondo unequivocally condemned the fatal force that was used by Derek Chauvin. The blue wall of silence fell in this trial because of what the chief saw Derek Chauvin do.

And then there`s the science. Medical experts told us in stark vivid detail what George Floyd experienced as he died under the knee of Derek Chauvin. Here`s veteran medical examiner Dr. Lyndsey Thomas today describing to the jury her observations of what was captured on an officer worn camera.


LINDSEY THOMAS, VETERAN MEDICAL EXAMINER: Overtime, you can see that his breathing is getting more and more difficult. And he is saying less and less. And then, about halfway through, the whole restraint, subdual compression process, he stops breathing. Well, he first stops speaking entirely.

And then, again, shortly after that, there`s a movement that I believe is what`s then called an anoxic brain reaction which is it looks like kind of a twitch. It`s something that the body does when the brain no longer has enough oxygen.

So, that`s the point at which you can tell by looking, oh, that`s where he no longer is getting enough oxygen to his brain. And then, the restraint and subdual compression continue for many minutes more, even after someone checks and says, oh, there`s no pulse. They maintain the position. So, at that point, his heart has also stopped.


VELSHI: Have you ever heard such specific and upsetting testimony about a murder victim`s excruciating death. This trial is bearing witness to what we all have known to be true for the last year. See for our own eyes Darnella Frazier`s 10-minute video that captures the last minutes of George Floyd`s life.

Law enforcement experts, medical experts, even by-standers who witnessed George Floyd`s murder are all confirming what we knew to be true because of what we, what the world saw with its eyes. For too long, victims of deadly police force have become dehumanized.

They`ve been blamed for their own deaths because they committed a petty crime or they had too much to drink or they were selling loose cigarettes or they stole some candy, or they did nothing at all.

Let`s be clear. The defense is trying to do that in this trial, by painting George Floyd as an aggressive, belligerent, drug addict who was in poor health. But this time, because of that video, we know what the truth is and the experts know that too.

During this trial, we heard from George Floyd`s former girlfriend that George Floyd was a caring boyfriend who loved dining out, he loved playing sports with kids in his neighborhood. He was also one of 1.6 million Americans who struggled with opioid addiction. That`s what a character witness like a former girlfriend is supposed to do. Bring the victims to life for jurors.

But what`s different about this trial is that the clinical has also become the personal. The experts are making George Floyd more human, not less. As each witness testifies, it further confirms that who the defense wants George Floyd to be is not who George Floyd actually was. What they wanted him to be doing, when they tried to arrest him is not what he was doing.

The defense wants us to think that George Floyd`s death was George Floyd`s fault. But the men and women who`ve taken the stand have rejected that view time and time again.


MARTIN TOBIN, PULMONARY AND CRITICAL CARE SPECIALIST: The cause of death is a low level of oxygen that caused the brain damage and caused the heart to stop.

WILLIAM SMOCK, POLICE SURGEON, LOUISEVILLE METRO POLICE DEPARTMENT: Mr. Floyd died from positional asphyxia, which is a fancy way of saying he died because he had no oxygen left in his body.

THOMAS: The primary mechanism was asphyxia or low oxygen.


VELSHI: George Floyd did not die because of a pre-existing health condition or because drugs were found in his system. George Floyd died because Derek Chauvin put his knee on the neck of George Floyd and kept it there for nine minutes and 29 seconds, suffocating him, starving his brain of oxygen.

For the last year, we could all see that George Floyd was not resisting arrest. We could all see that despite George Floyd`s desperate cries for help and despite the pleas from onlookers to stop, Derek Chauvin did not stop. He would not let up.

Those facts cannot be denied. You and I and the world saw it on Darnella Frazier`s video. But it`s one thing for us to see it. It`s another entirely for experts under oath to agree with it. It`s another thing to hear in horrifying detail what George Floyd must have been feeling and thinking and experiencing in his final moments.

Knowing you are going to die. That the police are killing you. That there is no one who can help you. It`s another thing to know from law enforcement officers and medical professionals that George Floyd did not have to die.

George Floyd needed one thing to be alive today and for us to never have known his name. He just needed Derek Chauvin to stop. Here`s the Hennepin County chief medical examiner, Andrew Baker.


ANDREW BAKER, HENNEPIN COUNTY CHIEF MEDICAL EXAMINER: To the best of my knowledge. He was generally healthy on May 25th before the events of that evening. In the context of an altercation with other people that involves things physical restraint that involves things like being held to the ground and involves things like the pain that you would incur from having your, you know, your cheek up against the asphalt and abrasion on your shoulder, those events are going to cause stress hormones to pour out in your body specifically things like adrenalin.

And what that adrenalin is going to do is it`s going to ask your heart to beat faster. It`s going to ask your body for more oxygen so that you can get through that altercation. And in my opinion, the law enforcement subdual restraint and the neck compression was just more than Mr. Floyd could take.


VELSHI: Leading off the discussion tonight, Paul Butler, a law professor at Georgetown University and a former federal prosecutor. He is also an MSNBC legal analyst, and Renee Graham, opinion columnist and associate editor at "The Boston Globe."

Good evening to both of you. Paul, let`s start with you. In your evaluation now at the end of week two, and we`re getting near to the end of the prosecution`s case. They may rest early next week. Where do you think we have come in the last week?

PAUL BUTLER, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: And the prosecution had another excellent week. That should be expected because the defense has not had its turn. But the jury has heard some of the most compelling evidence in any trial of a police officer in recent history.

Last week, there was the emotional testimony from eyewitnesses who all suffered from survivor`s guilt because they could not save George Floyd`s life. And this week, a parade of experts, 10 police officers who say Chauvin used excessive force and four medical experts who said Chauvin killed George Floyd not drugs or heart disease as the defense claims.

VELSHI: Renee, let`s look at this more broadly. There are a lot of people who like to point out to me that as much there have been social justice movements around this and the eyes of the world are on this case, this remains the case of one man in the death of another man.

But there are things happening at this trial. There is testimony, capital T testimony, and bearing of witness to things that people have been talking about for generations in this country. And for the first time, the video evidence all supports it.

And there is a police officer who is not being supported by police officers around him. Is there something about this trial that`s going to matter that`s different from the outcome, that`s different from the verdict?

RENEE GRAHAM, COLUMNIST AND ASSOCIATE EDITOR, "THE BOSTON GLOBE": I mean, hopefully, that`s the idea, right? I mean, a sense that people should have some sort of catharsis. This is at this point, seemingly the kind of trial that so many people have waited for. Where the police are testifying against one of their own. Where the science and the physiology of what happened to George Floyd is being laid bare.

Person after person is making it abundantly clear that, you know, we shouldn`t fall for this what aboutism defense. That George Floyd did not die from drugs. He did not die from hypertension. He did not die from an enlarged heart.

He died because Derek Chauvin put his knee on George Floyd`s neck for nine and a half minutes. So I think that`s part of what`s making this somewhat different. Now, you know, we know the way things go in this country.

We are still a long way from the verdict and the defense still has to present its case. And it only needs to create enough reasonable doubt and of course, that`s exactly what Eric Nelson is trying to do. He is trying to create doubt to say, well, this was wrong with George Floyd and this was wrong with him and all of these factors come in.

But the science is there. They said it time and time again. A healthy person. A perfectly healthy person would have died if they had suffered what George Floyd did.

VELSHI: Paul, you both mentions now the fact that we`ve not had the defense`s cases begin yet. They did say, at the outset of this trial, in opening remarks, that there are a few things you`re going to hear. You`re going to see different camera angles that`s going to tell you a different story.

We have seen lots of camera angles and they haven`t generally told us a different story. They said you`re going to find out that it wasn`t Derek Chauvin`s knee that killed George Floyd. I`m paraphrasing here, but that it was fentanyl and other drugs in his system and his enlarged heart.

And they`re going to -- and that you`re going to see that what Derek Chauvin did was authorized and he was trained to do. None of that has come to pass and in fact, we have learned in each of those cases that all of that stuff is not true. So, tell me how it works that a defense shores up their argument that`s already been decimated?

BUTLER: So, the defense opening statement portrayed George Floyd as this big black thug, high on drugs, committing a crime and possessing a brute strength that three officers could not contain. So, crazy as it sounds, the prosecution has to let the jury know that Mr. Floyd was a human being. Not perfect but not deserving of having the life squeezed out of him.

And so that`s why the jury heard Mr. Floyd`s life partner talking about their romantic courtship and his struggle with addiction. But Ali, I remember Charles McMillian, he was the older gentleman who just stopped on the stand. When he saw Mr. Floyd being pinned down by the cops. He told Mr. Floyd, just do what they say. You can`t win.

And George Floyd said, I`m not trying to win. And we know from the medical testimony that Mr. Floyd was just trying to breathe at that point. And the officer`s knee on his neck didn`t allow that.

VELSHI: Renee, you talked about the catharsis of this. Let`s go a little bit further and just let me ask you, is the catharsis helpful? Does it do something good for us or is it -- does it just have a lot of people in America say, I told you so, you are now seeing what I have been telling you?

GRAHAM: Well, I mean, look. For me, at least, you know, catharsis implies relief or a kind of emotional deliverance. And I`m just not there yet. You know, the ache of hearing again and again the agony that George Floyd, how he spent his last moments is just too great for me to feel anything but sorrow right now.

And I understand why there are people who can`t bear to watch this. And when I wrestle with that myself, I think a lot about Mamie Till-Mobley who was the mother of Emmett Till, the 14-year-old Chicago boy who was lynched by two white men in Mississippi in 1955. And no matter how badly he was mutilated, she wanted an open casket funeral so that America could see what was done to him.

And I keep thinking about that. That`s what we are doing right now. We are bearing witness. But this is also an indictment of white supremacy. This is an indictment of police tactics. You hear this testimony, you watch this video and you know that George Floyd should not be dead, and would not be dead if not for systemic racism and white supremacy.

And that`s what`s on trial here. It`s not just one police officer who did this thing on that day. It`s an entire system that created the climate for George Floyd`s murder.

VELSHI: Thank you to both of you for your analysis and your observation. Renee Graham and Paul Butler, we appreciate you joining us tonight. Coming up, we`ve got breaking news. Congressman Matt Gaetz is now the subject of a House Ethics Committee investigation. Congressman Gaetz spoke out tonight about the investigation into some very serious charges including possible sex trafficking of a minor, that`s next.


VELSHI: Breaking news now. Congressman Matt Gaetz spoke out tonight about the federal investigation into him.


REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL): The smears against me range from distortions of my personal life to wild, and I mean, wild conspiracy theories. I won`t be intimidated by a lying media. And I won`t be extorted by a former DOJ officials and the crooks he is working with. The truth will prevail.


VELSHI: Gaetz was the keynote speaker at a conservative woman`s conference. Yes, a woman`s conference, held in the friendly confines of Trump`s Miami resort. It comes after the lawyer to Gaetz`s associate, Joel Greenberg, who is facing at least 12 years in prison on charges of sex trafficking of a minor, stalking and bribery, and who is reportedly seeking a plea deal, said this.


FRITZ SCHELLER, ATTORNEY FOR JOEL GREENBERG: I`m sure Matt Gaetz is not feeling very comfortable today.


VELSHI: Federal investigators are looking into Gaetz`s travel to the Bahamas with women specifically whether these women were paid to travel for sex. According to "The New York Times," "The FBI has questioned witnesses about whether the women had sex with the men on the trip in exchange for money and free travel and about whether they used drugs.

Immigration authorities stopped one of the two planes taken by the group on its return to the United States in Fort Lauderdale. It`s unclear why the plane was stopped. Well, federal investigators also questioned a woman who was part of the trip and seized her phone.

Congressman Gaetz has obtained legal representation now and he`s hired an outside P.R. firm to deal with the federal investigation. He has denied that he has violated any laws. Joining us now, Cynthia Alksne. She`s a former federal prosecutor who specialize in sex crimes and an MSNBC legal analyst.

Cynthia, the new news tonight about the inquiry at Congress, what do you make of that? Is that important or is that pro forma?

CYNTHIA ALKSNE, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I think it`s important because they are looking in to the allegations that, you know, he was sharing, essentially revenge porn on the floor of the House, in addition to everything else. But I must tell you, I`m sort of underwhelmed.

He threatened a witness during the impeachment proceedings and nobody did anything. So, I have more faith in the FBI and the Justice Department than I do with the Ethics Committee in the House. But if they can figure out how to get him off, you know, the Judiciary Committee, it seems wise to me.

You know, your set up about the Bahamas I think is really important because in that story is the little tidbit that they took one of the young girls` phones. Well, as a mother of four girls under the age of 25, I can assure you there is nothing that happens in their life that is not recorded on the phones. And so, to the extent they were paid or there were drugs or there was any deals in advance, it will be on that phone.

VELSHI: Let me ask you about the other part of the story that you -- the Katie Benner story that we read in "The New York Times" yesterday. It came out late last night. There`s a second story about Gaetz having some connection to a ghost candidate, running a sort of fake candidate.

It`s amazing, but given the context of everything that`s going on in the level of illegality that has been alleged especially with his friend Joel Greenberg, what do you make of that part of the story?

ALKSNE: It`s completely bizarre. But I live in Florida and to my amazement, there`s another case going on in Florida just like it and a couple of people were indicted last month. So it`s not out of the realm of possibility in this crazy state. Especially if you look at the fact that the woman who ran has now disappeared to Sweden and the other person involved in it has suddenly lost his job.

So, here`s what it tells me, the fact they are looking into it. And I think Katie Benner made this point really well from "The New York Times." And that is the investigation is expanding not contracting. So, it starts out maybe with a little identity fraud, then it moves into sex trafficking.

Now, it`s moved into money pay for play on this marijuana legislation. It`s moved into prostitution and drugs, and now this election fraud. So, this is -- we`re basically going to have to have a Matt Gaetz task force at the FBI for a while.

VELSHI: Wow. And you did this. You were a prosecutor, and you did -- you specialized in sex crimes. What do you think is happening here? They`ve got Joel Greenberg on 33 charges. He plead not guilty today, but that`s because we believe he is engaged in negotiating a plea deal and then the plea may change to guilty if he does that.

But what do you think is really going on? Is this all about Greenberg or are they constantly questioning him about what he can give them about Gaetz?

ALKSNE: Well, I would say, given the way they -- the courtroom discussion about how we`re going to put off the plea for a couple of months to see if we can do it. And then if you add that his lawyer said outside the courthouse, Matt Gaetz is probably pretty worried by now, something to that effect.

And then you add that the minute he says that, Gaetz hires one of the fanciest best lawyers around who is a real a serious criminal trial attorney. It is my opinion that Gaetz knows he has a big problem. And that Greenberg is probably discussing why do they have these Venmo transactions back and forth, and exactly who was he venmo`ing and were there other e- mails that are involved?

And what was going on with all the other money he was paying to Gaetz`s friends and why did he do that? And when were they going to hotels? I mean, the thing about travels these days is that everything is recorded. So, it`s all going to come out.

I mean, it`s the only thing I agree with Matt Gaetz on today. The truth is coming out, and it may be drip, drip, drip.

VELSHI: Right.

ALKSNE: But it is going to come out in this case, and we are going to find out exactly what he is up to. But the arrogance is shocking, right. The arrogance that they can do this.

VELSHI: Okay. Thanks for joining us. We always appreciate. Well, that`s why I was wondering about his appearance at this event in Florida. It`s not what you expect as the normal behavior of someone who is under this sort of investigation. But it`s the kind of thing you`d expect of President Trump and Matt Gaetz does a lot of Trumpian kind of stuff. Cynthia, good to see you. As always, thank you my friend. Cynthia Alksne, former federal prosecutor.

Coming up, Republicans have found their attack on Joe Biden`s popular infrastructure plan claiming that it`s not infrastructure. But it doesn`t matter what they think. What do voters think about it? We`re going to look at how Joe Biden`s infrastructure plan is playing in a key battle ground state, after this.



JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The idea of infrastructure has always evolved to meet the aspirations of the American people and their needs. And it`s evolving again today.


VELSHI: The outdated view of infrastructure is that it`s only big concrete and steel things like bridges and roads and trains and airports. But infrastructure is really any major collective undertaking that is beyond the ability of individuals to construct but that allows business and to operate more efficiently to produce and to earn and to pay taxes and to grow the economy.

And while that traditional sense of infrastructure, is certainly a big part of it, there`s more than that that needs to be done that may be less obvious. To unleash our collective human potential, we need more than bridges and roads and trains and airports.

We need to be a bit visionary about this. We need to look around and find out what is missing. What do other countries have that America doesn`t have? What does the workforce of the future need? What can we improve upon? And what are the next big things that will elevate our collective competitiveness in the rest of the 21st century?

Here are some ideas -- electric cars, universal high-speed broadband access, expanding access to care giving for those who are older, and those with disabilities and improving pay and benefits for caregivers.

Now, none of that sounds like traditional infrastructure, maybe broadband does, but not really. But all of those things are too big for individuals to achieve or even individual companies. And you can see how all of them would make life better and more productive, allowing as many people as possible work, to prosper and of course, to pay the taxes that pay for that infrastructure.

Everyone seems to agree that we need to spend on infrastructure, but we are only well, I mean the question is are only going to spend on the infrastructure of our grandparents or could we maybe spend on the infrastructure we need today or the infrastructure we need for our grandchildren?

Joining us now, Democratic Debbie Dingell of Michigan. She represents Michigan`s 12th congressional district which is west of Detroit.

So you have to go -- Congresswoman, thank your for being with us -- you have to go and sell these ideas to your -- your people, your constituents, who probably still think of infrastructure the way we all do, traditionally.

How do you sell them on hey, let`s get involved in caregivers and things like that in infrastructure?

REP. DEBBIE DINGELL (D-MI): Well, first of all, I think all four of these issues that you just used as examples are critical. And I think, there`s also general agreement that we are going to have to do something on building out an electric vehicle infrastructure if we are going to transition this country to electric vehicles.

But here`s the fact of the matter. The Webster dictionary says -- gives the definition of infrastructure as being a foundation, a framework. Actually the dictionary says it`s basic systems that allow country or an organization to operate effectively as you just said in your opening remarks.

In this country, we are going to have -- the population is going to triple of those seniors over 85 like (INAUDIBLE) and there`s going to be 40 million people that are going to be seniors in 2050.

The long-term care system is so broken in this country and people don`t know it. We are one of the only industrialized countries in the world that doesn`t do something about it.

Until you are a care giver or you are in the system, you don`t understand how broken it is. I know I`m elected but 99 and 9 times (ph) the people you can`t find help. The people that are the caregivers are being -- many of them are working two jobs and still at the poverty line. They are not giving any benefits.

And yet we have a responsibility in this country to take care of our seniors. To take care of our communities and our society. It`s critical and we have got to do something about it. And the time is now.

How many have (INAUDIBLE) for me, see the fractures in our society, we have seen the disaster that we`ve created.

VELSHI: How do you fight the -- look, it`s not a weirdly conservative idea that infrastructure is roads and ports and highways and things like that. We have all kind of grown-up thinking about it. And someone made a good point to me the other day that before we had the interstate highways you didn`t think of that as infrastructure because you hadn`t had it and now it seems obvious to us well, it`s highways and it`s going to be broadband.

How do you sell this to people, is there resistance to the idea that there`s $2 trillion in here and most of it isn`t going toward the things that most people think are infrastructure because it`s an allegation that Republicans are making that this is just Democratic policy that they are calling infrastructure?

DINGELL: Well, first of all, let me be really clear. If you`re out in the real world, Republicans are trying to use those talking points. But when you talk about broadband, we have a lack of -- the disparities in our children as they have been trying to learn from home and lack of broadband in both rural areas, in urban areas has just been brought home. And I think Republicans and Democrats are supporting that.

And many people want to go to electric vehicles. All of the auto companies -- both foreign and domestic -- are saying that they are going to build electric vehicles. But nobody is going to buy them until they are sure that they have got both range and they`re going to have the ability that if they need to recharge, they can charge.

So, I don`t have a hard time selling that. I think that there`s agreement that we have to address that as a community. I have very long thoughtful conversations with people about care giving in this country. We just look at what is happening and how women have been forced out of the workforce in the past year.

I think COVID has been a nightmare. It`s turned our world upside down. But it is an opportunity for us to look at where the fractures are and what we need to fix.

And I remind you that no one can imagine their life without social security now, but we came out of the Great Depression and that was called socialism and communism back then. And I would argue that (INAUDIBLE) are infrastructure and caring for people in this country as well.

VELSHI: Congresswoman, Michigan has had an increase of 76 percent in new cases in COVID, you were just talking about COVID, over the last 14 days. You`ve got an average of 7,234 new cases a day. I know you are talking to the administration about getting more vaccines. What else do you need in Michigan?

DINGELL: Well, you know, there`s two reasons here. We have one, people have COVID fatigue. They`re tired of being inside. They`re tired of feeling isolated. They`re tired of wearing masks.

And you know what, we may be tired of COVID but COVID is not tired of us. And the facts of the matter our hospitals are full, they are cancelling surgeries again, and the patients in the hospitals right now are young. They`re 20 to 30, they`re 40 to 50.

So people are just going to have to respect the rules. That`s part of it.

The other part of it is we that have the B-117. We apparently have the highest number of cases at the moment in the country. And it spreads faster and it`s deadlier.

So we -- I have asked the administration to support it and so has Fred Upton, my Republican colleague, to help (ph) the administration to look at getting more vaccine into the states. The governor has urged a number of further actions today. And we all got to do our part.

We are sick of it, but we have to -- it`s going to, we have a crisis still. It`s not over. We want to see the light at the end of the tunnel. But we all got to do our part. We all have responsibility right now.

VELSHI: Congresswoman, good to see you. Thank you for joining us this evening. Congresswoman Debbie Dingell is from Michigan.

Coming up, if you are a long-time watcher of politics our next guest might surprise. She is an economist and she`s here to talk about Joe Biden and the Democrats going big but in the way that is very unusual if you watched how Bill Clinton and Barack Obama did it. That`s next.


O`DONNELL: President Biden`s $2.2 trillion infrastructure plan is big. But Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez told Rachel Maddow last week that it should be much bigger.

If we are looking at ideals and what we think is the actual investment that can create tens of millions good union jobs in this country can shore up our health care, our infrastructure, our housing and doing it in a way that draws down our carbon emissions, to help us get in line with the IPCC standards, we are talking about realistically $10 trillion over ten years.


VELSHI: Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez advocates a $10 trillion because she was thinking about the investment that she thinks we need to make right now. President Biden`s $2 trillion plan on the other hand is the investment he thinks we can pay for right now.

To be fair as viewers of this the program know, that is the modern Democratic presidential brand. Obama reduced the deficit, Clinton ran a surplus, Democrats are in fact, fiscally responsible in contrast to the deficit spiking tax cuts that the Republicans enact.

But to understand the difference between Biden and AOC right now, you have to understand the difference in the questions.

Stephanie Kelton is an economist who is laser-focused on that difference. She laid it out in a recent "New York Times" op-ed entitled "Biden can go bigger and not -- quote -- `pay for it` the old way", in which she writes quote, "We face enormous intersecting crises -- a climate crisis, jobs crisis, health crisis, housing crisis among others. By focusing on how much revenue they think they can raise from a broad array of tax increases on the well-off, Democrats risk allowing the scope of their ambitions to be governed by the dated framework of fiscal responsibility in Washington and the political appetite for tax increases rather than what is truly possible based on logistics in the real economy," end quote.

Joining us now is Stephanie Kelton, a professor of economics and public policy at Stony Brook University. She is the author of the book, "The Deficit Myths".

Stephanie, good to see you again. Thank you for joining us tonight.

You lay this out well and I can`t do justice to it talking about the things that you have written. But you`re discussing it in a world that we`re in right now, where there`s lots of people unemployed. Business not happening.

Unemployment is higher than it was, dropping a lot of money into an infrastructure plan makes sense. People will some of that money and they will start to get the we are talking about the plan. They will start to get the engine of the economy going again.

You`re talking about, thinking about a time when we`re back to where were before the recession, before the pandemic. We had 3 percent unemployment, not enough people in this company, everybody super productive. What then?

STEPHANIE KELTON, STONY BROOK UNIVERSITY: Yes, I mean that`s the question. So the constraints are very different when you are operating in a depressed economy. When as you have said, you have lots of idle capacity. You`ve got unemployed people. You`ve got businesses that are desperate for orders. They want to produce more, they are capable of supplying more.

That`s an economy into which the government can safely spend a whole lot of money and the economy will absorb that spending without producing inflationary problems.

As the economy gets closer to full employment, you begin to hit up against capacity constraints, right. You begin to run out of workers. Businesses start having difficulty filling orders. And so in a full employment economy it becomes much more important to be very careful about how much additional spending you are trying to force into the economy because inflationary pressures are going to become a problem.

And so, really the challenge for Democrats is to try to calibrate things, try to figure out where are we going to be at the time that they want to roll out an ambitious infrastructure package.

And my own feeling is that, you know, I think that Congresswoman Ocasio- Cortez has this right. I believe that $2 trillion isn`t enough to deal with the various challenges and problems that we face in this economy.

I would like to see Democrats go much bigger. But recognizing that you`ve got to be very careful when you manage the so-called pay-fors. How do you off-set spending in an economy that is moving closer to full employment?

VELSHI: And you are talking about that being broader policy initiatives. In other words, thinking about immigration, thinking about trade policy. Not just thinking about this is how much this will cost, so this is how much we offset it with tax increases. But rather saying what does the entire policy structure look like that would supports a bigger infrastructure program that would make moving around and communicating and living and working in America better.

KELTON: Exactly. So, there are lots of ways to manage an ambitious spending program. We have done this historically, Ali. I mean we did it in World War II. We have done big ambitious things before and we have paid attention to the inflation risk. And we`ve done things like you mentioned and I mentioned in the piece -- immigration policy and other sorts of industrial policies to build out our productive capacity. So that when we are running out of people, when we are running out of capacity, there are ways to pull a release valve, to release some of the pressure so that we don`t get mounting inflation but we are still able to continue with that ambitious spending in the economy.

VELSHI: Lots of reasonable people have grown up believing that deficits are bad. If you spend -- they compare it to a household -- if you spend more than you take in it`s bad. Deficits become debt. Debt becomes inflationary and it`s all bad for the economy.

In as simple terms as you can present it, you do not share that view and you think people need to sort of update their view of debt, deficit and inflation?

KELTON: I sure do. Every deficit is good for someone -- that is the bottom line. The deficit is just the difference between two numbers. That`s literally what it is.

One of the numbers is how many dollars the government spends into the economy each year. And the other number is how many dollars the government subtracts back out of the economy, mostly through taxation.

So we hear this word "deficit" and it`s loaded. It`s a very charged word and people think that it inherently implies that something has gone wrong, right. there`s some mismanagement to the government`s finances. That`s not the case at all.

A government deficit is really just net spending. It`s how much the government is adding relative to what it`s subtracts and so a deficit means the government is making financial contribution to some other part of our economy. Their deficit becomes our financial surplus.

The question is, for whom? Right? The Republicans did huge tax cuts in December 2017. Those tax cuts produced a windfall, a financial surplus for others in the economy.

They don`t want to do deficit spending now with COVID relief and that deficit is going to serve a very different constituency. But make no mistake about it. Both of those deficits were good for someone. The question is always for whom and for what are these deficits being run?

VELSHI: You just encapsulated a whole lot of economics into about a minute there. Stephanie, thank you. I would not recommend that our viewers try and get away with the bite-sized stuff. Stephanie has a lot of writing out there that will help you understand what she is talking about.

But we appreciate you doing it in this time. Stephanie Kelton is a professor of economics and public policy at Stony Brook University. And she`s the author of a very important book called, "The Deficit Myth".

All right. Coming up the legal troubles just keep piling on for Donald Trump as more lawmakers sue him for inciting a riot at the capitol on January 6th as you`ll see a black Capitol police officer describe his encounter with the rioters after this.


VELSHI: Ten more House Democrats have joined the federal lawsuit filed by Congressman Bennie Thompson against Donald Trump for his role in inciting the Capitol riot. The amended lawsuit details the lawmaker`s experiences during the riot and that most as "The New York Times" summarizes quote, "continue to suffer from the trauma of hearing gunshots, seeing broken windows and the faces of rioters on the other side of the doors".

Federal authorities continue to find and prosecute the rioters. Kevin Seefried, who carried a confederate flag through the halls of congress was indicted by a grand jury yesterday on five counts of obstruction, entering restricted property, and disorderly conduct.

Seefried is one of the hundreds of mostly white men who have been charged in the insurrection, according to a new study. As covered on this program, that study found that race was the motivating factor for the pro-Trump rioters.

Quote, "Most of the people who took part in the assault came from places that were awash in fears that the rights of minorities and immigrants were crowding out the rights of white people in American politics and culture."

In a new special, "ON ASSIGNMENT: OUR HOUSE" airing Sunday on MSNBC Richard Engel spoke to one of the black Capitol police officers about encountering the rioters.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One person said, you hear that, this N word voted for Joe Biden. And they just started booing. And the people that were with them joined in with them. Yes this N word, F you. This N word voted for Joe Biden. F you, F you. Boo.


VELSHI: Joining us now, Democratic Congresswoman Barbara Lee of California. She is one of the ten House Democrats who joined the lawsuit against Donald Trump.

Congresswoman Lee, great to see you as always. Thank you for joining us. I feel like for once I haven`t made you get up crazy early in the morning to talk to me.

Congresswoman, let`s talk about this news, the study that indicates that this grievance, white grievance, people came from areas where they`ve seen a decline in white populations in America replaced by either Hispanic or black people. And that fed some of the racism that led to the decision to go and storm the capitol on January 6th. Does that help you to have any of that context?

REP. BARBARA LEE (D-CA): That`s the context that as an African American we know. I know. White supremacy has been with us since the beginning of time here in America. And in fact what is taking place now as we saw January 6th is that the organizing, such as the Oath Keepers, the Proud Boys, along with Donald Trump, Rudy Giuliani -- all of them have gotten together now to really try to in many ways, first of all, they entered into what we say I say was an attempted coup, through their violence and insurrection but secondly they`re trying to take away our fundamental democratic rights, our constitutional rights.

You see what is taking place throughout the country just in terms of voter suppression laws. So this has been with us. And now I think the rest of the country, the rest of the world is seeing what African Americans have had to deal with for centuries in America.

VELSHI: Experts with whom I`ve spoken would say that you`re on solid ground calling it an attempted coup. What is the remedy, this case that you`ve joined -- what is the remedy that makes sense? What do you want to happen?

LEE: Sure. Well first, we seek accountability. Those responsible for this conspiracy and for instigating and perpetuating and promoting this assault and this violence to be brought to justice. That`s the first thing. We cannot allow our democracy to be that fragile.

We see now what has taken place. So we have got to move forward with this lawsuit so that people, first of all, will understand how fragile it is and was, and we have to make sure that those who have tried to act in dictatorial fashion that we bring them to justice.

Secondly we seek a punitive damages to punish those who were the principal architects of the attack. These people cannot get away with in many respects with murder. And so we`ve got to deter them from engaging in this conduct in the future.

Also, we`re seeking redress from the harms that were perpetuated, the people and members of congress and others, Capitol police, staff, maintenance staff, people who work on Capitol Hill that they endured after the attack, during and after the attack.

And finally, injunctive relief (ph) so that we can prevent this from ever happening again. So hopefully and I`m so thankful for the NAACP and our civil rights lawyers for putting this lawsuit together.

VELSHI: I have 30 seconds. But does that injunctive capability that you`re looking do anything to stop Donald Trump from running again?

LEE: Well, we have to see how this legal process moves forward. But just politically, I just have to say let`s hope that we do not allow this man to ever run for any public office again because he truly is a national security threat. And he did conspire to help overthrow or tried to help overthrow the United States government and to prevent the peaceful transfer of power.

VELSHI: Congresswoman, good to see you as always. Thank you for joining us. Congresswoman Barbara Lee.

And that is tonight`s LAST WORD.

I will see you tomorrow morning as usual on "VELSHI". Tomorrow, I`m going to speak with the first black woman ever to be elected mayor in St. Louis, Missouri Tishaura Jones about making history and her new controversial agenda to pair police with social workers in the fight against crime in her city.

And Senator Bernie Sanders joins me to discuss how big a blow to unionization efforts the loss of a vote at an Amazon plant was and what he thinks he can do in an effort to get Biden`s infrastructure plan passed.

"VELSHI" airs Saturday and Sunday mornings, 8:00 a.m. Eastern right here on MSNBC.