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Transcript: The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, 5/11/21

Guests: Jeff Merkley, Colin Allred


Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon is interviewed. Tonight, on the floor of the House of Representatives, Republican Congressman Liz Cheney, who expects to be banished from the leadership of her party tomorrow, rose to describe the crisis that American democracy faces now. Former voting rights attorney, Texas Congressman Colin Allred talks more on what Senator Merkley calls quote, "a crime against the rights of Americans" in the Republican state legislatures that are restricting the rights to vote in their states. Today President Biden held a virtual meeting with a bipartisan group of six governors to discuss COVID vaccinations.



Rachel, you`re so terrible at jealousy, because what you did is tell the biggest possible audience in the world, the Rachel Maddow audience, what`s happening tomorrow at 10:00. And so, you know, that`s not what you`re supposed to do with your jealousy.

Thank you very much, Rachel, really appreciate it. You know, here`s the truth, here`s the truth --

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: I am super psyched for you.

O`DONNELL: I am very, very excited about speaking to Joe Biden as president for the first time ever and for the first time for this network. But the truth is, I`ve been speaking to Joe Biden for, you know, over 25 years. It`s not going to be completely new.

MADDOW: Uh-huh.

O`DONNELL: What is incredibly exciting for me is Dr. Kizzie Corbett, who you mentioned. Kizzie Corbett is one of the people --


O`DONNELL: -- who basically invented the vaccine that is in me right now, the Moderna vaccine. And I have never got a chance to talk to her. I`m going to be meeting her for the first time.

She`s 34 years old when she did the work --


O`DONNELL: -- to deliver with this vaccine.


O`DONNELL: I am going to be totally intimidated by Dr. Corbett, and scared and nervous. So watch for that, Rachel, watch for just how I mask, if I can, how nervous I am talking to Dr. Corbett.

MADDOW: It will give me a little bit of the -- what the jealous part of me is looking for, like, oh, Lawrence has really got a lot to deal with here. I`ll get to see if you look a little head up there, I can take a little bit of that home with me.

Lawrence, I am super proud of us as a network that you`re doing this tomorrow. I cannot wait to see it. Anything I can do to help out, anything you would like me to, you know, jump in for, I`m ready for you.

O`DONNELL: As I pass the word to you today, send me questions. Send me questions.

MADDOW: I will. I will.

O`DONNELL: That`s it. OK. Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW: Well done, my friend. Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Thank you very much. Thank you.

Well, tonight on the floor of the House of Representatives, Republican Congressman Liz Cheney who expects to be banished from the leadership of her party tomorrow, rose to describe the crisis that American democracy faces now.


REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): Today, we face a threat America has never seen before. A former president who provoked a violent attack on this Capitol in an effort to steal the election has resumed his aggressive effort to convince Americans that the election was stolen from him. He risked inciting further violence.

Millions of Americans have been misled by the former president. They have heard only his words but not the truth as he continues to undermine our democratic process, sowing seeds of doubt about whether democracy really works at all.


O`DONNELL: Democrats in Congress are trying to legislate a guarantee that democracy really works. They`re doing that with a bill that they call the For the People Act. Each bill introduced in the Senate gets a number, and the majority leader gets to decide that number. The majority leader decides who gets the most important number, which is number 1.

Chuck Schumer gave the For the People Act the designation of number 1, Senate bill number 1, S-1.

Today, the Senate Rules Committee considered amendments to S-1 and voted on the bill. It was a 9-9 party line tie. In the Senate, it takes a majority vote to send the bill from the committee to the Senate floor, but majority leader Chuck Schumer has the power to bring S-1 to the Senate floor even after only a tie vote in the Rules Committee today.

On the day, this day, that the Senate Rules Committee voted on nothing less than the future of democracy in America, Republicans in Arizona became the latest state to pass legislation that will make it more difficult to cast a vote in elections in that state. Arizona`s Republican Governor Doug Ducey signed the bill into law this afternoon immediately after it was passed by Arizona`s Republican controlled Senate.

Both of Arizona`s Democratic Senators Mark Kelley and Kyrsten Sinema have signed on as co-sponsors of S-1, the For the People Act, which would prohibit the kind of voter restrictions signed into law in Arizona today. The sponsor of S-1, Senator Jeff Merkley, is a member of the rules committee.

And at the markup of the bill today, Senator Merkley said this.


SEN. JEFF MERKLEY (D-OR): The For the People Act is a culmination of years of careful work, countless studies, expert recommendations on the needs, the issues that need to be addressed to ensure every American access to the ballot box.

Many of the provisions have been adopted in blue states, in red states, in purple states alike, and they are broadly popular with a majority of Americans, both Democrats and Republicans. You know, seeking to block groups of Americans from voting, it`s a crime against the freedom of Americans. It`s a crime against the rights of Americans. It`s an assault on the founding vision of our We, the People Constitution.

To thwart such schemes, such plots, we need national election protection standards -- standards to protect the freedom of every American, the right of every American, to fully participate in guiding our nation.


O`DONNELL: Mitch McConnell tried to tell the Rules Committee today that it is now the Democrats in the Senate who are trying to rewrite election laws to their advantage, not Republicans in state legislatures.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): We all learned early in life, if you can write the rules, you can win the game. If you can write the rules, you can win the game.


O`DONNELL: Chuck Schumer pleaded with Republican members of the Rules Committee, including Mitch McConnell, to do something they never do: consider the eyes of history.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): In a democracy, when you lose an election, you try to persuade more voters to vote for you. You don`t try to ban the other side from voting. That`s what Orban does, that`s what Erdogan does, that`s what dictators do.

So what are my Republican colleagues in the Senate going to do? These laws carry the stench of oppression, the smell of bigotry. Are you going to stamp it out? Or are you going to allow it to be spread?

I plead with my Republican colleagues, think twice. I plead with Leader McConnell, think twice. The eyes of history are on all of you. Where are you going to stand? Think twice, please, my Republican friends. Think twice, Leader McConnell.

President Trump told a big lie, one of the biggest ever told. We are all know that, every single person in this room knows that, every single person.

And it`s taking root, this big lie is taking root in our country, not just in the minds of his voters but in the laws of the land. When you perpetrate -- when you perpetuate or tolerate lies about the election like this, you erode our democracy.


O`DONNELL: Leading off our discussion tonight, the sponsor of S-1, Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon.

Thank you very much for joining us tonight, Senator. I know this is a very important day for you, when your own bill like that, an important bill, comes before the committee for a vote.

I want to go to something that we just heard Senator Schumer say. He said to that committee, to everyone in that room, that everyone in that room, meaning Mitch McConnell and every Republican senator knows that Donald Trump is telling a big lie about the election.

Did any of them counter that? Did any of them debate that and say, no, Donald Trump hasn`t told any lies about the election?

MERKLEY: No, not at all. They didn`t push back on Schumer`s comments in any possible way. Schumer was absolutely accurate. Every senator in that room, Democrats and Republicans, understand this big lie, and yet they are following a path to essentially continue the assault on the Capitol by proceeding to try to enable states to block citizens from voting.

On January 6th, it was about burning the ballots for 80 million Americans, now, it`s about preventing millions of Americans from voting by allowing state after state after state to erect barriers that prevent targeted communities from being able to participate in American elections.

O`DONNELL: The goal that you`ve brought forward, you have 49 co-sponsors in the Senate. That`s an extraordinary achievement in and of itself to get that far that quickly. Joe Manchin is the only senator who hasn`t signed on to it.

Do you have any sense of Joe Manchin`s view of this legislation and why he has not signed on to it?

MERKLEY: Well, Joe has made it very clear that he wants to explore issues about how the bill is implemented, the ideas and concerns of secretary of state from across the country, make sure we`re really tackling the issues that need to be tackled, so he`s in thoughtful consideration.

And also, part of the due deliberation that a senator is well-entitled to and should be engaged in.

I think what we proposed today was a manager`s amendment that gave enormous amount of adjustments based on that feedback from secretaries of state and local election officials, and the Republicans turned it down, voted on a party line basis, we don`t -- we don`t want to have improvements in this bill that recommended by secretaries of states across this country, we want to kill it.

And, you know, it really comes down to three core issues in this bill. Keep billionaires from buying elections. Give every American full access to the ballot. And stop the gerrymandering that destroys equal representation. Those -- that`s the battleground.

O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to what Senator Klobuchar, who is the chair of the committee, had to say about the campaign finance components of this.


SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN): The secret money is flooding our elections, denying voters a right to know who is trying to influence their vote. Spending for the 2020 election cycle was approximately $14 billion. That`s more than double the 2016 election cycle.

And while more than 98 percent of Americans who made political contributions last year gave less than $200, those who gave donations larger than that accounted for nearly three-quarters of all contributions made.

We need to take these threats to our democracy head on with immediate action to restore Americans` confidence in our political system, and that`s exactly what the For the People Act does.


O`DONNELL: Senator, in the past, this would be considered two different pieces of legislation, campaign finance reform was always one discussion and one kind of legislative vehicle, and voting rights were always another discussion in another kind of legislative vehicle.

Why have they been combined here?

MERKLEY: Well, this is about election protection. And you have to address the money side of this and you have to address the access to the ballot side. And that third point, you have to address equal representation.

So these three things all work together. When you put anything through the Senate, it`s extremely hard to do on policy. And so, if we were to try to have three separate bills, it would be an opportunity for it to never get done. And we want it to get done, it has to get done.

And these three things are connected, they support each other. They`re about to fix things that Americans say they want fixed, a supermajority of Americans say absolutely address these things.

We`re talking Democrats, independents, Republicans, they do not want billionaires buying the election. They do not want party groups to be targeted to prevent them from voting. Americans think we got past that in 1965. That`s half a century ago, and yet we`re now deep again in trying to prevent black Americans, poor Americans, college students and Native Americans from being able to cast a ballot.

O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to what Stacey Abrams said about this situation today.


STACEY ABRAMS, FAIR FIGHT ACTION FOUNDER: I think the more we watch these states undertake the continuation of what the insurrectionists began on January 6, the more likely we are to see a real response at the federal level.

This is not the first time the federal government has had to step in and reassert the fundamental notions of who we are as a nation. And my hope is that while this process continues in the U.S. Senate, that we see a return to just the fundamentals.


O`DONNELL: Senator, the Republicans, so far, there are no Republicans who see it your way or see it Stacey Abrams` way. How would this legislation move in the Senate since it cannot be included in a reconciliation bill?

MERKLEY: Well, so we`ll go to the floor either by the Senate voting by simple majority, and that`s 50 votes plus the vice president to pry it loose from the committee, or by coming through the majority leader`s office through a rule called Rule 14 which is a very common way of putting issues on the floor.

And then we`re going to be immersed in an extended debate in which I anticipate there will be 100 amendments considered. Out of that well-versed (ph) debate, in the end, we have to come together and say this has to pass.

If we can`t bring any Republicans to join us, and Mitch McConnell has been very clear that basically Republicans are barred, they are barred from trying to ensure that every American can vote. They are barred from even entertaining the thought that maybe billionaires shouldn`t be able to buy elections.

And they`re absolutely barred from trying to stop gerrymandering which the estimate gives them a 15-vote advantage in the House, and they think with redistricting coming up, maybe they can get a 25-vote advantage in the House by savagely attacking equal representation.

So in the end, it`s very unlikely we`ll have a single Republican join us. I certainly hope we will. But then 50 Democrats will have to figure out how to get this bill passed one way or another.

O`DONNELL: Senator Jeff Merkley, thank you very much for starting us off tonight. Really appreciate it.

MERKLEY: Thank you, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, you have caused this. That`s what Senator Mitt Romney said to Senator Hawley during the attack on the Capitol by the Trump mob when those senators were hiding out from that mob together. Tonight, Liz Cheney said what Senator Hawley and the cheerleaders of Trump`s big lie can never say. That`s next.


O`DONNELL: You have caused this. That`s what Senator Mitt Romney said to Senator Joshua Hawley in an emotional confrontation while senators were hiding from the Trump mob that invaded the Capitol on January 6. New reporting in the "Washington Post" says that Mitt Romney, who is as mild- mannered as any senator in history, erupted at Josh Hawley. That`s the word they used, erupted.

Another mild-mannered former Republican senator, John Danforth of Missouri, told "The Washington Post," I feel very responsible for Josh Hawley being in the Senate. I feel terrible about it. Josh Hawley played a central role in creating, if not the darkest day in American history, one of the darkest days in American history.

Senator Danforth, who discussed his regrets about Joshua Hawley on this program in January, said that encouraging Joshua Hawley to run for Senate against our next guest, Senator Claire McCaskill, was, quote, these were his words, the greatest mistake of my life.

Josh Hawley has said he used to read Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist George Will religiously. George Will wrote that Senator Hawley, along with Ted Cruz and Donald Trump should be, quote, forevermore shunned. Each will wear a scarlet S as a seditionist.

Tonight on the House floor, Liz Cheney said what Joshua Hawley and the Republicans who George Will now calls seditionists in support of Donald Trump`s big lie can never, ever say.


CHENEY: The election is over. That is the rule of law. That is our constitutional process. Those who refuse to accept the rulings of our courts are at war with the Constitution. Our duty is clear. Every one of us who has sworn the oath must act to prevent the unraveling of our democracy.


O`DONNELL: Joining our discussion now, Claire McCaskill, former Democratic senator from Missouri and MSNBC political analyst. Also with us, Professor Eddie Glaude, chairman of African-American studies at Princeton University and an MSNBC contributor.

And, Senator McCaskill, let me start with you and what it must feel like to read Jack Danforth`s deep regrets at doing everything he could to defeat you at your reelection campaign through the candidacy of Joshua Hawley.

CLAIRE MCCASKILL, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yeah, Jack Danforth, revered by the old Republican Party in my state, someone who refused to campaign against Tom Eagleton because they worked together on many issues that were important in Missouri when they were in the Senate. And he and I had worked together on some campaign finance issues. He`s a believer in limiting dark money into politics. He`s not a fan of the Citizens United decision.

So it is sad. But I will say Jack Danforth said January 6 was one of the darkest days in history. Tomorrow will be one of the darkest days for the Republican Party in this country, because what they`re going to do, Lawrence, is they`re going to oust a leader for the grievous sin of telling the truth.

Any moral high ground the Republican Party thought they had, whether it was on issues of integrity or morality or faith, they`re gone now. Because it`s not that she voted to impeach Trump, because they voted to keep her as a leader after that. It`s because she`s refusing to participate in the fraud being committed, the dangerous fraud being committed against our country right now.

And shame on all the Republicans that are going to participate in what will be, I think, looked back on as the low point of a Republican Party that is shrinking by the day.

O`DONNELL: Professor Glaude, Liz Cheney did something so rare in our politics. Here she is, she is a partisan Republican and certainly a staunch conservative, and she gave a speech on the floor of the House that no one on the Democratic side of the aisle could disagree with and possibly only Democrats listened to.

EDDIE GLAUDE, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think that`s absolutely right, Lawrence. I think one of the interesting things, no matter what I might think or what I might think about Liz Cheney or her politics, there are set of assumptions that she holds that are really important, that is we have our disagreements, we have our arguments within the frames of our democratic commitments. That our commitment to democracy, those background agreements, make possible the condition for our disagreement.

Now, what she has done over the course of her career has in some ways fertilized the soil that made Trumpism possible. And now that Trumpism has come in full bloom and they have evidenced a resistance to those background commitments, she has drawn the line.

And that`s really important, because even though we may disagree, that disagreement is predicated upon our commitment to democracy as such. But we have political actors on the scene today, Lawrence, who are not committed to democracy at all. They are only committed to the relentless pursuit of power.

O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to more of what Liz Cheney had to say on the House chamber tonight.


CHENEY: This is not about policy. This is not about partisanship. This is about our duty as Americans. Remaining silent and ignoring the lie emboldens the liar.

I will not participate in that. I will not sit back and watch in silence while others lead our party down a path that abandons the rule of law and joins the former president`s crusade to undermine our democracy.


O`DONNELL: Senator McCaskill, Kevin McCarthy`s message on this has basically been, I just wanted her to shut up. I just wanted her to stop talking about it. If she had stopped talking about it, she could have stayed in her sort of meaningless title in the House. She says, remaining silent and ignoring the lie emboldens the liar. And that`s why we have this controversy now.

Liz Cheney could not remain silent.

MCCASKILL: Yeah. And everyone who has remained silent is complicit, every single one of them. I believe if I were a journalist that, you know -- and you know, Lawrence, over in the Senate the journalists all hang out by the tram as people go back and forth to the Capitol for votes. If I were a journalist tomorrow, I would try to catch every single one of them and ask them how they would have voted on Liz Cheney.

Now, none of them will have the courage to say how they would have voted, they`ll say, that was a House decision. But this is really unbelievable this is happening. And, by the way, she has a more conservative record than the woman they`ve picked to replace her.

She has the more rock solid -- I mean, I`m with Eddie, I don`t agree with a lot of Liz Cheney`s policy positions, and she`s going to be replaced by someone more moderate than she is.

So what is this about? This is really just about the former guy, insisting that if he is going to help these people and lead a shrinking base in a shrinking Republican Party, Liz Cheney has to go, and they say, yes, sir. They report to Mar-a-Lago and they say, yes, sir. They kiss his ring and they come back and they are complicit in the big lie.

O`DONNELL: Professor Glaude, the image Senator McCaskill just gave us of the reporters kind of -- and we`ve all seen the video of this. They`re allowed to chase the senators a certain amount of distance and they`re allowed to follow them down pretty much in a hallway asking questions, and we just saw four years of Republican senators trying to run away from questions about what Donald Trump just tweeted and saying, oh, I don`t know what he said. I didn`t see it. I have to go to this meeting down the hall.

They`re now going to be running away from the question of what do you think of what Liz Cheney just said?

So both sides of this issue make those Republican senators run away from answering to either side of it, the Trump side of it or the Liz Cheney side of it.

GLAUDE: Well, I think the evidence is clear that, you know, the Republican Party is running major deficits encouraged that there is a complete absence of statesmen and stateswomen on that side of the aisle.

But I want to be careful here. I think it`s important for us to isolate and to, in some ways, describe the problem as Trump`s -- I`m losing my language here -- as Trump`s kind of -- lord, have mercy, Lawrence -- Trump trafficking in the lie. That`s important.

But the lie is tethered to a set of resentments and grievances and fears out in the American public. And if we don`t understand the relationship between the lie that Trump traffics in and the Republican Party traffics in and those fears and grievances and resentments that are circulating in the American public, then we`re going to think of this as a political drama with just these particular actors and not see these underlying forces at work in our politics.

I apologize for stumbling.

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: No please. And what Liz Cheney`s forcing them to face is silence is trafficking in the lie.

Professor Eddie Glaude, Claire McCaskill, thank you both very much for joining our discussions tonight. Really appreciate it.


O`DONNELL: Thank you. And coming up more on what Senator Merkley calls quote, "a crime against the rights of Americans" in the Republican state legislatures that are restricting the rights to vote in their states. We`ll speak to former voting rights attorney Colin Allred who is now Texas Congressman Colin Allred. That`s next.


O`DONNELL: Stacey Abrams is trying to take the politics out of the right to vote and access to voting in this country.


STACEY ABRAMS, FOUNDER, FAIR FIGHT ACTION: What is so important is that we not relegate this and be so reductive that we think about this as a purely political issue because the reality is, no matter what the intent, the undermining of our democracy is a danger to everyone regardless of their party.

And that`s why it`s so urgent that we stop treating this as a binary conversation between Democrats and Republicans and really focus on this as an issue of citizenship versus partisanship.


O`DONNELL: So far, Republicans have enacted voter restrictions in 12 states: Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Montana, Utah, Wyoming and, as of today, Arizona.

Ohio Republicans hope to join that list. Republicans in the Ohio state legislature introduced a bill last week that would increase ID requirements for mail-in ballots, reduce the number of days of early voting, and restrict the number of ballot drop boxes.

Joining us now is Democratic Congressman Colin Allred of Texas. He is a former voting rights attorney. Congressman, thank you very much for joining us tonight. It must be busy for you behind the scenes in Congress these days because House members will constantly want to turn to voting rights attorneys and voting rights experts. You can tell them from your experience in the field what`s going on here.

What is your reaction to where it stands tonight as of these 12 states and what`s coming, possibly Texas might join them soon?

REP. COLIN ALLRED (D-TX): Well, Texas will join them soon. And thank you for having me on, Lawrence.

This is one of the most dangerous periods for our democracy in our history, you know, period. We had one of the worst attacks on our democracy on January 6. I was on the House floor when that happened. And now we have state after state after state advancing creative and new laws to try and make it harder to vote, all to support the big lie.

And, you know, this is so concerning to me because there is no legal strategy that is going to be able to challenge and successfully beat these laws in all of these states. Most of these laws, if we don`t do something at the federal level, will be in place when we go to vote in 2022.

And I`m concerned about what this -- portending for 2024 and whether or not this version of the Republican Party would try to overthrow a presidential election if they were given power by establishing these laws.

O`DONNELL: The Brennan Center has analyzed the "For The People Act", the bill we were discussing at the beginning of the show tonight Senator Merkley, S-1.

The Brennan Center says -- has analyzed each of the restrictive voting bills pending in the states and concludes that the "For the People Act" would thwart virtually every single one, it would foil state efforts to manipulate voting rules to exclude eligible voters or create discriminatory outcomes. That shows that the stakes could not be higher for S-1.

ALLRED: They couldn`t be -- and you know, what we`re trying to do here, Lawrence is really quite simple. It`s something that Congress has done before is set national standards so that our democracy is not radically different from state to state.

And so we`re setting national standards around early voting, setting national standards for vote by mail, and really importantly, national standards for voter registration.

Because you know, what we`re seeing here is that if these laws are allowed to go through, you`ll see some states where it`s quite easy to vote where the state is trying to make it easier for their citizens to be involved and make their voices heard. And others where particularly black and brown voters and young voters, too, many of these laws are aimed at young voters, extremely, extremely difficult.

And we can`t allow that to happen. I don`t know what the Senate is going to have to do. As you know, Lawrence, you`re a senate guy; I`m a house guy. But they have to find a way to make this bill into law because we need to have national standards to protect our democracy.

I agree with Stacey Abrams. It`s not a partisan issue, it`s an issue about our democracy.

O`DONNELL: It got a little personal today in the Senate Rules Committee hearing when the chair of the committee, Senator Klobuchar, addressed Senator Cruz. Let`s listen to this.


SENATOR AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN): When, in fact, you, Senator Cruz, not all of your colleagues here today, you were contesting the electoral college. You were leading -- one of the leaders on the effort to say that the election results were not correct. And so you wonder why we want to make sure that people have the right to vote.


O`DONNELL: And you see there in that shot that your Texas Senator cannot even look up and face what is being said to him, which is absolutely true.

ALLRED: No, he can`t. And, you know, he has bragged recently about leading the insurrection on January 6. I agree with what was said earlier, they each should have a Scarlet S everywhere he goes as a seditionist.

You know this is -- the biggest divide in our, Lawrence, in my opinion isn`t between the parties and between ideologies. It`s between folks who believe in democracy and those who don`t. And so we need to have support for the folks who believe in democracy in the form of legislation that prevents these states from putting in place these laws, prevents folks like Senator Cruz who clearly has no interest in our democracy and is only engaged in promoting himself and, of course, promoting the big lie, (INAUDIBLE) for being in charge of who gets elected, who gets put in power and how our democracy works.

O`DONNELL: Election law expert, Congressman Colin Allred, thank you very much for joining our discussion tonight.

ALLRED: Thank you, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: And coming up, if you`re having trouble getting to a vaccine site, President Biden will call an Uber for you. No, seriously, the president is providing free Uber and Lyft rides to vaccine sites. That`s next.


O`DONNELL: Today President Biden held a virtual meeting with a bipartisan group of six governors to discuss COVID vaccinations. The three Republican governors were Mark DeWine of Ohio, Spencer Cox of Utah and Charlie Baker of Massachusetts.


GOVERNOR MIKE DEWINE, (R-OH): Mr. President, thank you for doing this. We appreciate you listening. We want to say hi to Jeff and tell him, we appreciate his work and the fact that he`d listened.

GOVERNOR SPENCER COX (R-UT): We appreciate Jeff in taking all of our complaints over the past few months. He`s been -- he`s been remarkably helping us resolve all of this.

GOVERNOR CHARLIE BAKER (R-MA): I`m going to also give Jeff Zients and his team a shoutout for all the work they`ve been doing to help us, help you, the American people succeed in getting vaccinated.


O`DONNELL: In that meeting with the governors, President Biden announced a new plan of free rides to vaccine sites.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: To ensure that transportation is less of a barrier, from May 24th to July 4th, Uber and Lyft -- Uber and Lyft are both going to offer everyone free rides to and from vaccination sites. I think that is really stepping up.


O`DONNELL: Joining us now, Dr. Kavita Patel, the health policy director in the Obama White House. Also with us, Maria Teresa Kumar, president and CEO of Voto Latino, both are MSNBC contributors.

Maria Teresa, I just want to begin with you because I want to begin with the politics of what we just saw. Those three Republican governors thanking the president, thanking the president`s coordinator of coronavirus policy dealing with the states, clearly working together with the president in a way that Washington Republicans never even dream of.

MARIA TERESA KUMAR, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, what Joe Biden is reminding the American people is that once someone gets voted in and steps into the Oval Office, they are everybody`s president -- every single American, regardless of political stripes.

And so this is him reaching out very specifically and highlighting the Republican governors who are struggling with COVID vaccination and hesitancy as so many other governors are demonstrates that Joe Biden is absolutely the man of the people. He is the American president.

And after four years of Donald Trump where he failed to do that, to demonstrate that he was unifying and speaking for everyone, it`s a refresher to see someone stepping in and understanding what that Oval Office means Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Dr. Patel, we seem to have switched from the, you know, January, February, March, April, I guess, desperate attempts by people who were eligible for the vaccine to struggle to try to get an appointment to get the vaccine. Now we are struggling to get the vaccine to the people who seem harder to reach.

DR. KAVITA PATEL, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, Lawrence, that`s right. And we knew this point would come, that the demand would decrease and the supply would increase. I think what was, you know, left in question was, ok, next -- then what?

So we`re taking down these mass vaccination sites, putting it into clinics and doctors` offices and pharmacies that Americans feel like represent more of their community presence. But then what?

How do we deal with people who aren`t vaccine -- anti-vaxxers. I don`t even know if they`re vaccine hesitant per se. They`re kind of reluctant because they`ve been doing ok with the wait and see approach. They haven`t felt that sense of urgency and candidly, Lawrence, there`s a lot of us, myself included where at times, you know, I`m still wearing a mask outside because I feel kind of ashamed not to where we`re still in between what`s normal and what`s not.

And I think that will get clearer over the next several weeks, certainly with the president`s July 4th kind of milestone. I hope that we can turn a corner with numbers of vaccines, 12 to 15 getting vaccinated certainly helps.

O`DONNELL: Maria Teresa, I know you had an experience with your mother, that you`ve written about that -- illuminated for you some of the harder to anticipate components of what we are generally calling vaccine hesitancy.

KUMAR: Yes, Lawrence. So about in the middle of December, my mother, who runs an elder care facility, has been in the health care industry now for about 20 years. When she told me that they were going to come in and actually vaccinate her elderly patients or residents, her whole staff -- she told me that she was hesitant to take the vaccine.

And it took me about seven weeks to find out why. And it turns out that she had been targeted through WhatsApp misinformation saying that the COVID vaccine was technology never used on humans and it was all in Spanish. And it was by someone claimed to be a pharmacist from El Salvador, of all places.

And it just talks to you about how situation is real, but Lawrence, at Voto Latino we ended up setting up the Latino anti-disinformation lab because what we`re learning is that a lot of this anti-vaccine information that is targeting the Latino community is supposed to create a distrust in government.

And if you don`t trust your government to keep you safe and healthy, you are going to distrust your government to go out and vote. It`s the most morbid form of voter suppression that we are seeing to date.

At the same time, these individuals are also targeting the extreme right, saying look, you can`t trust Biden with the vaccine. So you`re going to have to go out and vote in the mid term to get him out.

It`s really interesting to watch from the outside, but recognizing that this information is dealing with the most, you know, the most sacred part of our lives, which is our health and our safety, and our communities.

So we will continue getting these information. I finally got my mother to get a vaccine. We had a family reunion, after 13 months of not seeing each other with her, my grandmother, my mother-in-law. And it was incredibly you know, beautiful moment and I want more Americans to experience that because it allows us to get to what Dr. Patel was saying, a level of normalcy that we desperately so need in this country right now.

O`DONNELL: Dr. Patel, that is a multi-month story of a conversation within a family about the vaccine, that is how long it took to get that one vaccination done. And so that`s a conversation we all have to be willing to join.

DR. PATEL: Yes, that is right, Lawrence. It takes time. This last kind of 150 to 100 million people, including tens of millions of adolescents, where one in three parents, Lawrence, are saying that they do want the vaccine. That means two out of three families don`t want it for their 12 to 15 year old. The only way to overcome that is not by shaming them, not by creating, you know, bright lines and saying, you can`t come in, but to actually welcome and understand. And it`s taken me, on average two to three visits with patients who are just reluctant to convert them.

And the conversion really is remarkable because all of a sudden, they say, oh, I don`t know why I did not do this before. But it takes -- it takes time. And Lawrence, I hate to say it, in health care, time is money, time is something we don`t have a lot of. But that`s exactly what we`re going to have to do now. It`s a ground game now. and so slogans and campaigns can help, but it`s one on one now to get it done.

O`DONNELL: And time is also a risk. Maria Teresa, you`re worried the entire time your mother is not getting the vaccine you are worried that she might get COVID.

KUMAR: Exactly. And that she can get exposed. My mother is 70 years old and I said this on air and she`s going to call me tomorrow, saying why would I do that.

But you know, she is older and that is what the challenge is. Especially you find this challenge particularly in immigrant communities where English is not the dominant language and they are getting inundated by disinformation, not just from the United States but from across the border.

So the more that we can have peer to peer, one on one contact, we need to do that. but we are also learning that young people are vaccine hesitant and they are getting the majority of their health information not from not doctors because they don`t oftentimes have health care, but from their older family.

So, it`s going to be very much an individual conversation that we have with our loved ones so we can see them, hug them, and get back to normal.

O`DONNELL: Dr. Patel and Maria Teresa Kumar, thank you both very much for joining our discussion.

KUMAR: Thank you, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

We will be right back.


O`DONNELL: In a discussion with the Urban League in December, when Dr. Anthony Fauci was asked about COVID vaccines among African-Americans he said this.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: The vaccine that you are going to be taking was developed by an African-American woman. And that is just a fact.


O`DONNELL: The year Barack Obama was elected president, Kizzmekia Corbett graduated from college. In Barack Obama`s second term as President, Kizzy Corbett received her PhD in microbiology and immunology at the University of North Carolina. And she began working on coronavirus vaccines at the National Institutes of Health.

The year Joe Biden was elected president, Moderna decided to use Dr. Corbett`s mRNA technology to develop its COVID-19 vaccine.


DR. KIZZMEKIA CORBETT, CREATED MODERNA COVID-19 VACCINE: The thing that I want people to know is that they should trust it. They should trust that the vaccine works and they should trust that the vaccine is safe.


O`DONNELL: The amazing Kizzy Corbett will join us tomorrow night for our special hour "VACCINATING AMERICA, AN MSNBC TOWN HALL". I could spend the whole hour listening to Dr. Corbett tell the story about how a little girl growing up in Hillsboro, North Carolina in the 1990s attending Oak Lane Elementary School, grew up to be one of the world`s super scientists who is now saving hundreds of millions of lives all over the world.

And I could listen for the whole hour to Kizzy Corbett describing the drama that unfolded on that Friday in January, when the sequencing of COVID-19 was published and she adapted a vaccine she had created to COVID-19 over that weekend.

But we won`t have time for all of that tomorrow night because Dr. Corbett will be sharing the spotlight with President Joe Biden who will join us for his first MSNBC interview as President of the United States. Right here, tomorrow night, 10:00 p.m. President Biden will get the first word and Dr. Kizzy Corbett will definitely get THE LAST WORD.

That is tonight`s LAST WORD.