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Transcript: The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, 5/14/21

Guests: Jocelyn Benson, Pramila Jayapal, Dean Baker, Dorothy Brown, Estela Juarez, Alejandra Juarez


Congress announces that there will be a commission on the January 6th attack on the capitol. It will be bipartisan comprised of 10 unelected officials, five Democrats and five Republicans. Voter suppression bills being legislated in some states links a conservative group that drafted those bills to make it harder to vote. Gaetz`s friend Joel Greenberg has reached a plea deal with federal prosecutors to quote "cooperate fully with the United States in the investigation and prosecution of other persons and to testify fully and truthfully before any federal court proceeding," end quote. 18 states all led by Republicans are now moving to cut the $300 federal supplement to unemployment insurance.



RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: That`s going to do it for us tonight. I hope you have a fantastic weekend. I`ll see you again Monday night. Now it is time for the "Last Word" hosted by the great Ali Velshi who is in for Lawrence tonight. Good evening, Ali.

ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST: Rachel, thank you. I hope you have a great weekend as well. We will see you Monday and thank you for that great show.

Well, on January 6th the United States capitol was attacked by an angry mob of Donald Trump supporters who for months had been fed lies about the results of the 2020 presidential election. This week, during a House hearing, some Republicans did everything they could to down-play the attack with one describing the capitol invaders as a group of well-behaved tourists.

Despite those efforts, today, Democratic Congresswoman Betty Thompson and Republican Congressman John Katko announced a bipartisan commission to investigate the January 6th attack. The commission will include 10 unelected officials, five appointed by Democrats and five appointed by Republicans. It was modeled after the commission that was established after 9/11.

Today, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said he did not sign-off on the commission, but there`s a pretty good chance he`ll be involved, nonetheless. Here`s what Congresswoman Liz Cheney said earlier today.


JONATHAN KARL, ABC NEWS HOST: Should Kevin McCarthy be willing to speak -- testify before that commission? After all, he is one of the few people that we know of that was actually talking to Donald Trump while the attack was taking place.

REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): He absolutely should, and I wouldn`t be surprised if he were subpoenaed. I think that he very clearly and said publicly he`s got information about the president`s state of mind that day. I would hope he doesn`t require a subpoena, but I wouldn`t be surprised if he were subpoenaed.


VELSHI: This week, Liz Cheney, as you know, was run out of the Republican Party leadership because she`s refusing to go along with the big lie, the baseless claims that the 2020 presidential election was riddled with voter fraud and that Donald Trump is the true winner of the election.

It`s a lie so effective and enduring that in an effort to perpetuate it, Republicans in the House and in the Senate are doing everything they can to stop Congress from passing a voting rights reform bill. And at the state level, Republicans are passing voter suppression legislation and creating more potential to overturn results that they don`t like.

The voter suppression bill signed into law in Georgia, for example, removes the secretary of state from the election board and instead allows the Republican controlled legislature to appoint the majority of the board`s members. That board then has the authority to take over any counties` election board that it views as underperforming.

Last month on this program, Michigan secretary of state Jocelyn Benson said this about the wave of voter suppression bills proposed by Republicans in Michigan rolling back policies to make it easier for more people to vote.


JOCELYN BENSON, SECRETARY OF STATE OF MICHIGAN: Every policy that was proposed was undoing the very policies that worked so well in Michigan in 2020. And then if you start looking to other states like Georgia, like Arizona, like Texas, like Iowa, like Wyoming, the list goes on. You start seeing the very same language even.


VELSHI: Jocelyn Benson conducted her own study comparing the voter suppression legislation in Michigan to the legislation in other states and found striking similarities. Well, as it turns out, she was onto something.

"Mother Jones" has obtained video of a private meeting last month between Republican donors and a well-funded conservative think tank. The video shows the executive director of Heritage Action for America, which is a sister organization to the conservative Heritage Foundation bragging about writing many of those bills.


JESSICA ANDERSON, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, HERITAGE ACTION FOR AMERICA: We`re working with these state legislators to make sure they have all of the information they need to draft the bills. In some cases, we actually draft them for them, or we have a sentinel on our behalf give them the model legislation so it has that grass roots, you know, from the bottom up type of vibe. What are these states? Georgia, Florida, Nevada, Wisconsin, Texas, Arizona, Iowa, and Michigan.


VELSHI: And Michigan. Joining us now, Jocelyn Benson, Michigan`s secretary of state. Secretary, good to see you again. You know, naive me, I was asking you at one point about are these states just watching each other and picking up on some of the legislation that`s being passed in places? And you definitely had a sense that this was a little more organized than that.

BENSON: Yes, and I think what was really uncovered this week is not just the fact that it has been a national coordinated partisan effort. It`s also well-funded and also explains the speed with which we`ve seen this, you know, manifestation of the big lie transformed into really bad election policy in states all across the country that are -- it`s going to do a lot to make it a lot more difficult for people to vote and really allow for more partisan interference in election counting and certification, which is not a good thing for our democracy.

VELSHI: There are states like Georgia or Arizona where there are Republican legislatures and Republican governors, and there are states like Michigan where you`ve got a democratic governor. Jessica Anderson, the executive director of Heritage Action for America addressed that matter as well in this video. Let`s listen.


ANDERSON: Now, there are other states like Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania. We don`t have governors` offices there that are going to sign these bills. We`re still going to move them. We`re going to put the marker in the state legislatures of where -- what the states need to do to tackle their reforms and to get these laws done.

And we`re going to do it with an eye that all of this needs to be safe and secure for the time we`re at 2022 and then keep that eye on the ball with H.R.1 and blocking that federal legislation.


VELSHI: So, on one hand, Secretary, I appreciate that they`re saying the quiet parts out loud. But there`s -- the little bit of code in there despite the fact she is saying what they intend to do. There`s this code we`re going to do it with an eye that all of this needs to be safe and secure.

This is a conversation you and I have had very frequently. And that is that we don`t have in any of these states a voter security problem that they are solving for.

BENSON: No. Actually, the secure protocols that we have in place in Michigan and that are in place in states all around the country were tested and highly scrutinized in 2020, and they passed in flying colors. We saw the most secure election in 2020 than we`d seen in our states history and in our country`s history.

It was also marked by high turnout. And I also found that on that note really compelling that in this report you mention, the goals of this effort were "to right the wrongs of November." And really the defining characteristic of the November elections was that they were so highly accessible and that so many people participated and there was such high turnout.

I don`t see what`s wrong with that. I think it`s a great thing. And again, that really speaks to the pernicious nature of this effort to really undermine people`s ability to participate and hold their elected officials accountable through the vote.

VELSHI: So, one of the reasons that we continue to have this conversation is because you`ve done a good amount of research into both the rules and the changes that are being proposed. When Heritage Action for America was confronted with this report, the response by the executive director, Jessica Anderson, was that "We are proud of our work at the national level and in states across this country to promote common sense reforms that make it easier to vote and harder to cheat.

We`ve been transparent about our plans and public with the policy recommendations and we won`t be intimidated by the left`s smear campaign and cancel culture."

Again, their rationale if they were talking to the average American who`s wondering about the motivation behind it, the rationale is that there is cheating and fraud that are underlying some of these decisions. And that as you and I have discussed, in many cases across the country, the proposals being made to amend voting and the ability to do so don`t actually deal with cheating and fraud anyway.

BENSON: That`s right. They actually make it harder for people to get a ballot by eliminating the ability for people to send absentee ballot request forms. They make it harder to return a ballot by eliminating drop boxes or eliminating prepaid postage for folks wanting to vote by mail.

They allow for partisan interference in elections making it harder to safely and securely tabulate the vote. And in Michigan, there`s a lot that could actually criminalize efforts by my office and local clerks to educate citizens about things as simple as where to find your polling place or how to register to vote.

So, there`s nothing about these bills that make elections any more secure. But there`s a whole lot of data that shows these policies will make it a lot more difficult for people to vote and participate tin democracy.

VELSHI: Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, thanks again for joining this discussion. Joining me now is Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal of Washington. She`s a member of the judiciary committee. Congresswoman, good to see you. Thank you for being with us.

To what degree can the bills that have gone through Congress that are now before the Senate as they relate to voting rights counter some of the work that I was just talking to secretary -- the Secretary of State from Michigan about?

REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL (R-WA): Well, they absolutely would counter the things that we`re seeing across the country. And specifically H.R.1, it`s also S1 in the Senate and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, those are the two pieces that fit together like a glove and are essential for us to pass urgently.

Because Ali, I think the GOP has figured out that they can`t win on the Trump agenda of, you know, giving huge tax breaks to the wealthiest and stripping health care away from people. And so what they have to do is they have to stop people from voting, otherwise, they`re going to lose just like they did in 2018, just like they did in 2020.

And so now what we have to do, the House has already passed the H.R.1, and we`re working on the revised version of H.R.4 which is the John Lewis Voting Rights Act because there`s so much that`s happened, we need to make sure that this all is inclusive.

But the Senate needs to immediately pass S1, which is the companion version of H.R.1. That would make almost everything we`re seeing across the country illegal and it would also put in place the kinds of best practices that we know are very successful, things like automatic voter registration, things like mail-in voting like you were talking about is happening in Oregon and other places across the country.

You know, I think those are the things that need to be in place if we`re going to make sure everyone can vote. And in order to do that, we`re going to have to get rid of the filibuster because the Republicans are not going to go along with us on S1.

They don`t want to make voting easier. The only way they`re going to win their election is to do what they`re doing right now and pass these voter suppression laws.

VELSHI: So without the filibuster it does appear that there would be enough support in the Senate to get this done. In fact, I want to just play for you what Joe Manchin, senator from West Virginia said about it today.


SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): How in the world would do something in a partisan way right now when there`s so much animosity and so much disbelief? So, we have to bring it together. And John Lewis Voting Right Act says no matter who you are, no matter what color of your skin. No matter what -- as long as you`re an American citizen, you have not only a right but an obligation to vote, and we sure as heck shouldn`t make it more difficult. And that`s what that would do and I think that would bring us all together and we can pass that in a bipartisan way.


VELSHI: Is he right that we can pass this in a bipartisan way?

JAYAPAL: I don`t see that happening. We have to have 60 votes to do it in that way. It could be bipartisan. We might get a couple of senators with us, but I don`t think we`re going to get 10, which is what we would need in the Senate, and that`s the problem with the filibuster.

It actually is the tyranny of the minority. You get 40 senators who are able to block even things that are bipartisan and that the entire country wants just like happened during, you know, the Jim Crow era and the movement of -- or the black movement of anti-lynching bills.

So, we need to get rid of the filibuster. And it`s not enough just to pass the Voting Rights Act. That is one piece of it, but the other piece is also S1, which is the bill that would actually make illegal many of these practices across the country that you were just talking about with the Michigan`s secretary of state.

And would put in place the things that would make voting an actual right that is easy. I mean, we`re the only major country in the world that requires voters to register to vote and then requires them to re-register if they move. So, it`s a big problem if we really want to preserve democracy.

VELSHI: As you know I come from Canada where you don`t have to do that. You`re on the roll unless something actively happens to take you off the roll. I want to talk to you about this January 6th commission, and I remember back to 9/11, people may have had different ideas about what the cause, the underlying cause of the attacks of 9/11 were. But there weren`t people who -- they weren`t people in mainstream politics who didn`t believe it happened.

I do wonder with the vitriol and the polarization in Congress right now and the nonsense frankly that`s floating around, how do you feel that this commission which is launched in a bipartisan way is going to go?

JAYAPAL: Well, we have to make sure that the people that are selected are people that are really interested in the charge of the commission. And it is important that it happens, though, because even now, Ali, you see in the oversight committee Republican after Republican denying that the insurrection even happened, calling the insurrectionists proud patriots, good people.

This is absolutely unacceptable. There needs to be accountability and we need to understand exactly how close we were to losing our democracy and how that could possibly have happened. So, the commission is essential. We are going to have to make sure that the Republican named individuals who sit on the commission are actually there to carry out the work of the commission and not to just stop that work from happening.

VELSHI: It sounds logical. I hope we can get there. Congresswoman, good to see you. Thank you for joining us as always. Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal of Washington State.

All right, coming up, just one day after the CDC announced fully vaccinated people can lose their masks, there are multiple reports of high profile fully vaccinated people testing positive for COVID-19. We`re going to talk to a doctor about what`s going on. That`s next.


VELSHI: One day after the CDC announced that fully vaccinated people can basically go back to life without masking and distancing, several high profile people are testing for COVID despite being fully vaccinated. Comedian Bill Maher revealed yesterday that he tested positive for the coronavirus despite being fully vaccinated.

And this week, eight fully vaccinated New York Yankees members also tested positive for COVID. Bill Maher said he`s feeling "perfectly fine" and many of the others are asymptomatic. But it`s adding another point of confusion to yesterday`s surprising announcement which has local governments and businesses, not to mention families with young unvaccinated children try to navigate the new guidance.

Some states have announced plans to implement the new mask guidelines immediately or in the coming weeks. Meanwhile, some businesses are choosing to keep mask mandates in place including Target, Home Depot and CVS.

Forty-seven percent of Americans have had at least one vaccine dose. Nearly 36 percent of Americans have been fully vaccinated. In 31 states, fewer than 50 percent are even partially vaccinated according to the latest data from the CDC.

Leading off our discussion tonight is Dr. Nahid Bhadelia, an infectious disease physician and a medical director of the special pathogens unit at Boston Medical Center. She is an MSNBC medical contributor. Dr. Bhadelia, good to see you. Thank you for being with us. What is the explanation for these fully vaccinated people testing positive?

NAHID BHADELIA, MSNBC MEDICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think this is a well- known phenomenon. If you look at the trials that we had, there were a certain number of people who did have break through infections. Moderna in their trial actually looked at asymptomatic infections and they showed that they decreased it by two thirds.

And since then, you know, real world data is telling us that vaccinated people are for the most part, right, 80 percent, 90 percent depending on some of these real world cohort -- epidemiology cohorts you look at, it reduces the chance of any infection.

CDC`s own study in front line health care workers showed that after the second dose, 90 percent of all infections, symptomatic and asymptomatic go down. But that means there are 10 percent of the people who still get break through infections.

What you`ll notice that is that both in the case of Bill Maher as well as the Yankees cluster almost everybody was asymptomatic except for one person who had mild symptoms. And that is the power of these vaccines. They`re protecting us from severe disease.

And the other thing that -- the missing piece here that I think people are worried about is that if people who are vaccinated still get an infection, are they passing it on? I think most experts would say that what we know so far is that people who are vaccinated have less amount of virus in their airway.

The reason nobody can tell you with certainty about whether those vaccinated people with low amount of virus can transmit it to other people is think about the kind of study that it would require. It would require like a human challenge study where you put an infected patient among other people.

And so everything else is just, you know, inference that we`ve done. And that inference tells us with much confidence that likely vaccinated people are not likely to transmit to other people.

VELSHI: So, you know, for many of us, the idea of being fully vaccinated with one of these approved drugs makes us feel a little bit like we`re not going to get the vaccine -- get the virus. And in fact, the statistical likelihood of getting it is lower.

But fundamentally, one of the things that it promises is that if you get it, the likelihood of having serious effects of it or hospitalization or death is the thing that is really reduced.

BHADELIA: That`s right. And not only that, but you -- if all number of infections are reduced from the vaccinated person, that basically means that they are serving as a buffer, which means that if you`re around a vaccinated person, you`re much less likely to get the infection.

That person, the vaccinated person is much less likely to transmit it to other people. I think that we`re asking the wrong question in the setting of the CDC that, you know, mandates. The question here is not whether it`s safe for the vaccinated people to take their masks off. That`s totally safe. I think the concern becomes that as these mask mandates go down, you might have a certain number of unvaccinated people who also start unmasking.

You know, because who`s going to confirm their vaccination status? And the risk is much higher when there are fewer people unvaccinated -- fewer people vaccinated in your community, and if this risk of -- and if the cases are higher, that`s why I wish that the CDC guidance, which is great for vaccinated, had three-pieces of information in there.

One, I wish they had given the state some sort of bench mark. You know, certain number of people vaccinated, much safer for you to drop the indoor mandates. Certain number of cases in your community that are low five to 10 by 100,000, much safer for you to drop the indoor mandates.

I wish they had given some more guidance to businesses particularly those that now have to sort of wade through this very uncertain period of how do we figure out who`s vaccinated or not. And lastly, I wish they`d given a bit more guidance for those families with kids, as you said, under 12 as well as those who have immuno compromise persons in their family.

VELSHI: And that`s an interesting point because there are people, you know, for some people, this is all politics. But there are parents with kids who are not vaccinated, who might have kids too young to be vaccinated. Maybe they, as parents are, who are trying to make sense of all of this. What am I supposed to do because at least in the world of masks, you went out and had a sense that everybody was trying to do their part. Now it`s confusing.

BHADELIA: Yes. I think for parents, you know, if you`re vaccinated for the reasons that we just talked about, you are not a threat to your kids, you know, because the likelihood that you`ll get infected and likelihood that you might get infected and transmit it to your kids is going to be lower.

But the reason maybe for you to continue to wear a mask is to be, you know, in solidarity with them, potentially, if they are continuing to wear a mask. The threat to kids is not the vaccinated people around them. The threat to kids is if they come across somebody who is unvaccinated and potentially has an infection that they might get exposed to.

And so that means the community, just like for the whole pandemic, community transmission, the infections in kids reflect activity of the disease in the community. And that`s why what you`re seeing in places like Israel that`s farther ahead than us in vaccinations, is that as they vaccinated more people and community transmission goes down, even if the kids are not vaccinated, the cases are actively going down in kids and that`s what we want to do, is get many of -- as many of us vaccinated who are qualified to get vaccinated so we can make it safer for our kids.

VELSHI: I remember, you know, in February of 2020, we didn`t know the term -- you knew it, community transmission. But the rest of us were just becoming familiar with it. There is some sense that with all this vaccination that we`ve had, that it`s less of a threat. There just isn`t that much of the virus around. But these positive tests from people who have been vaccinated sort of are a bit of a stark reminder to us, there`s a lot of this virus still around.

BHADELIA: There is, and not just here. Again, you know, I think that we should still just figure out if the vaccinated, even if they do get the infection, if they have the virus, is it enough to transmit to other people? We don`t know that. That`s a piece of information that we need.

But the threat is the global part, Ali. There`s a lot of virus globally. There`s a lot of transmission going on and the concern is that we need to get these vaccines out not just here, but just many states as possible, but as you and I have talked about in the past, globally, so that we can stop the evolution of this virus for the same period. It`s a local community immunity and then there`s a global community immunity to keep all of us safe to get back to normal.

VELSHI: Nahid Bhadelia, thanks as always for making this a little clearer to us. Dr. Nahid Bhadelia.

Coming up, the latest on the Matt Gaetz investigation. Former federal prosecutor Paul Butler is going to join us. He worked in the Justice Department in the unit that is reportedly handling the plea deal for Matt Gaetz`s friend, Joel Greenberg, who`s now officially cooperating with federal prosecutors. He shares his insights with us next.



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


VELSHI: We found out today why Joel Greenberg`s attorney was sure Matt Gaetz was feeling uncomfortable. Gaetz`s friend Joel Greenberg has reached a plea deal with federal prosecutors to quote "cooperate fully with the United States in the investigation and prosecution of other persons and to testify fully and truthfully before any federal court proceeding," end quote.

Joel Greenberg agreed to plead guilty to six federal charges on Monday including sex trafficking of a child. That`s a fraction, by the way, of the 33 federal charges that he initially faced. The move signals potential trouble for Matt Gaetz as Joel Greenberg could become an important witness in the sex trafficking investigation of the congressman.

In today`s court filing Joel Greenberg admitted to spending over $70,000 in 150 transactions between 2016 and 2018 to pay women to have sex with him and other men. One of those women was 17 years old. According to the filing, quote, "other men who Greenberg introduced to the minor to engage in commercial sex acts with the minor in Greenberg`s presence when the minor was under the age of 18. The court document does not identify the other men, and Matt Gaetz has denied the allegations.

Joining us now is Paul Butler, law professor at Georgetown University, former federal prosecutor and an MSNBC legal analyst.

Paul, good to see you. Thank you for joining us. I want you to give me your analysis as a former Department of Justice guy who worked in the public integrity section as to what is behind both this investigation, how robust it is and why they would agree to this deal after 33 potential charges. Why this deal for six?

PAUL BUTLER, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: This is a really good deal for Greenberg, and that`s really bad news for Congressman Gaetz. Prosecutors have thrown the book at Greenberg -- 33 felonies. But now all except 6 will be dropped in exchange for his substantial cooperation.

That means everything he knows about Congressman Gaetz but way more important than Greenberg`s words are any physical evidence that he can provide prosecutors. And that`s because Greenberg has zero credibility as a witness.

He`s about to plead guilty to six crimes, one of which is making up sex allegations about somebody else that turn out not to be true. So prosecutors would only make this deal if they have receipts to back up Greenberg`s claims.

VELSHI: Pete Williams who covers Justice Department for us gave us some context today, in which he said that Greenberg may testify, that at a minimum he understood that there was a substantial chance of the person with whom he had sex was underage. The federal law has something called a willful blindness doctrine, which means they don`t have to prove that Gaetz actually knew the person was underage but that there was a significant risk that she was. Tell me a bit about this.

BUTLER: That`s exactly right. So a defense could not be, well, I didn`t know for sure how old she was. What the cooperation agreement says is that Mr. Greenberg understood that there was a significant risk that this child was under the age of 17. And in fact, he learned that she was and continued to have sex with her.

Again, Gaetz isn`t named in the cooperation agreement, but there`s a strong inference in the agreement that he was down and dirty with his colleague Greenberg including in these sordid allegations about sex and drugs with minors.

VELSHI: And I want to just read an excerpt of the copy of the plea agreement, in which it says Greenberg agrees and acknowledges that he acted in reckless disregard of the fact that the minor was less than 18 years old when he engaged in commercial sex acts with the minor and that Greenberg had a, quote, "reasonable opportunity to observe the minor".

That doesn`t necessarily mean anything to us nonlegal minds, but it`s an important thing -- the reasonable opportunity to observe.

BUTLER: That`s right. So, Ali, they`re not going to bring charges against Gaetz especially sex trafficking charges involving a minor unless they have a slam dunk case.

And so in addition to the words from Greenberg, they`re looking for communications. Allegedly Greenberg paid with cash apps. They`re looking at transactions involving credit cards. They`re looking at texts. They`re looking at e-mails.

They`re not going to charge Congressman Gaetz unless they have an airtight case. Allegedly there were sex and drug parties involving both the minor and other adults. So there may be other witnesses who may be willing to make a deal.

Think of a pyramid. Think of Greenberg as at the bottom or the middle of the pyramid. Mr. Gaetz is at the top.

VELSHI: Paul, good to see you. Thank you for your analysis.

Paul Butler is a law professor at Georgetown University, a former federal prosecutor and an MSNBC legal analyst.

Coming up, here are some possible reasons why people might not be able to find work right now: unreliable child care, not being fully vaccinated or because they`re living the highlife on that extra $300 a week from the federal government.

We`ll talk about that next.


VELSHI: The next time you hear a Republican claiming to be for the working class, think about this. 18 states all led by Republicans are now moving to cut the $300 federal supplement to unemployment insurance. We`re still in a pandemic situation. Only 36 percent of people in the United States are fully vaccinated. Many shops, businesses and restaurants are still closed or operating with reduced capacity or service. The unemployment rate is still above 6 percent nationally and 10 percent for black workers.

Some schools are still not fully open and there`s no vaccine yet approved for children under the age of 12 so many parents are still lacking reliable consistent child care.

But with all of that knowledge Republican governors are focused on clawing back the financial cushion from people who are already suffering from joblessness. Apparently an extra $300 a week is just too much.

Without the temporary federal supplement, it is temporary I remind you, jobless aid on average amounts to about $16,000 a year. Or put another way it would actually push a single mom out of work right back below the poverty line.

Joining us now are Dean Baker, a senior economist at the Center for Economic and Policy Research; and Dorothy Brown, a professor of law at Emory University School of Law. She`s an expert in tax policy, race and class. And her new book, "The Whiteness of Wealth: How the Tax System Impoverishes Black Americans and how we can fix it".

Welcome to both of you. Thanks for being here

Dorothy, I want to start with you because I want to ask you about this. The tax system has no problem giving wealthy people or people who are able to invest or earn their money through investments something that feels like $300 a month or much, much more. But God forbid we give that to working people because this $300 is why they`re at home sitting on their asses and not taking a job.

DOROTHY BROWN, EMORY UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF LAW: It`s actually outrageous. And I live in Georgia so I`m in one of the states where the governor is doing this. And it makes no sense.

We`re still in a pandemic. I know friends of mine who are working from home and dealing with their children who are on Zoom. They are under 12, and this is a real problem. The lack of child care, the lack of all schools aren`t open is real.

It isn`t about people taking $16,000 as you pointed out and deciding, oh, I`m not going to work. It`s just not as simple as the governors are trying to make out.

VELSHI: And Dean, there is something to the fact that it isn`t that simple because we`ve heard from employers, small businesses who have said they are having some difficulty in filling open positions.

So how do you square that, the idea that it may be true that some people understanding this is temporary aid, not having child care, not knowing where this ends may be looking at potential job offers and not taking them. But how do we square that with the idea that we`re actually punishing the poorest among us?

DEAN BAKER, CENTER FOR ECONOMIC AND POLICY RESEARCH: Well, I mean the question is are we going to improve the situation for these businesses?

And there`s no doubt, I mean, a lot of these businesses are really hurting. Getting through the pandemic and again as you say we aren`t through it yet, but getting through this has been a really big burden on many small businesses. Many, of course, went under. And those who stayed in business are struggling.

But the question is, ok, are we going to help these businesses by taking away this $300 supplement? And if people can`t work because they have to look -- they`re doing child care for their kids, schools aren`t open. And that was one of the reason we didn`t see more jobs last month. There are very few jobs created in education. They didn`t go back -- schools are still not fully open.

And again this is something that has been studied very carefully. You`ll recall last summer in the original cares package it was $600 a week, and there were several studies, independent studies that looked at that discouraging people from going to work.

And all of them found there was very little evidence that was a factor discouraging people from going back to work. So everyone`s (INAUDIBLE) about their lazy cousin, and you know, I`m sure someone has that lazy cousin. But the reality is people aren`t working because either they can`t work because they have to be with their kids, they`re worried about the pandemic or the jobs still aren`t there. We`re still down 10 million jobs. So the idea everyone can just get a job if they want, no that`s not true.

VELSHI: Dorothy what`s that -- how else can we think about this because you study the tax code. I think there are a lot of wealthy people out there who could spend exactly 10 or 15 minutes on the phone with their accountant and say I need to find $16,000 a year in deductions or creative ways of looking at things. And wealthy people can do that, poor people can`t.

BROWN: That`s right. That`s absolutely right. And our tax system is geared for the wealthy, quite honestly. That`s what my book shows. And it`s just unacceptable to target low income Americans who are struggling. There is an issue about the moratorium on evictions coming back.

This is -- increased homelessness. This is really serious. These fees -- people are really suffering. So yes businesses are suffering but the workers are suffering. And you have low wage workers who have to deal with customers even before the CDC changed their guidance who wouldn`t wear masks when they weren`t vaccinated.

These are the low income workers that are having to do battle with customers being unreasonable. It`s really awful to think about the tax subsidies that go towards the wealthiest Americans, but low income wage earners are begrudged $300 a week.

VELSHI: It is interesting to me, Dean. Why does that happen? Why is it when we`re thinking about how to save this money or how to fix a problem like employment, why are these people on the line as a possible target for cutting?

We have other places in society where we can save money. We have other ways where we can fix employment issues. Why is this our instinct?

BAKER: Well, it is kind of incredible. I mean another area where I do work I`ve been looking at the issues around the patents with the vaccines, with Moderna, Pfizer. They both made billions of dollars. And, you know, those of us who are saying, ok, we should suspend the patents, have the vaccines widely distributed. And the argument is they won`t get enough incentive.

So here you`re literally talking about billions of dollars going to these very wealthy companies that have already made billions and saying that they aren`t going to have enough incentive. But when we`re talking about working people and generally these are, you know, not the best paying jobs, restaurant work, working in hotels, retail work, these are generally low paying jobs.

To give them more incentive we take away money. There`s an old joke, John (INAUDIBLE), the great economist said that when we want to give rich people incentive, we give them money. When we want to give poor people incentive we take away money.

VELSHI: I`m going to leave it at that because that is something that we should all be thinking about. Dean Baker and Dorothy Brown, we appreciate your time. Dorothy is the author of a remarkable new book called "The Whiteness of Wealth". Thank you for joining us tonight.

Coming up, a Biden administration task force is working to reunite children taken from their parents at the border by the Trump administration. But there are also the children, American children, American citizens who had their parents taken away from them by the Trump administration.

11-year-old Estela Juarez`s mother was deported to Mexico under Trump. Last weekend she got her back. Estela and her mom join us after the break.


VELSHI: The Biden administration is undertaking a massive family reunification effort, trying to undo some of the damage done under the Trump administration`s zero tolerance immigration policy. The family reunification task force is working to reunite more than a thousand families, including children who were separated from their parents when their parents were deported.

Here`s 11-year-old Estela Juarez who had a message for Donald Trump that she delivered during the 2020 Democratic National Convention.


ESTELA JUAREZ, MOTHER WAS DEPORTED BY TRUMP ADMINISTRATION: Instead of protecting us, you tore our world apart. Now, my mom is gone and she`s been taken from us for no reason at all. Every day that passes, you deport more moms and dads and take them away from kids like me.


VELSHI: Estela`s mom, Alejandra Juarez, was 18 years old when she came to the United States illegally to escape violence in Mexico. A few years later, living in Florida, Alejandra met and married her husband, Timo. He served in the U.S. Marine Corps and became a naturalized citizen before deploying to Iraq with the Army National Guard.

The couple had two daughters both born U.S. citizens. A traffic stop in 2013 exposed Alejandra`s immigration status, but under the Obama administration, she was allowed to stay as long as she checked in with immigration authorities twice a year.

Then in August of 2018 under Donald Trump`s zero tolerance immigration policy, Alejandra Juarez was deported, leaving behind her husband and her daughters aged 9 and 16. Three years later on Mother`s Day weekend, the Juarez family was united.

Joining us now, Alejandra Juarez and her daughter, Estela Juarez, who were reunited last weekend after being separated for three years. Estela, as you saw, spoke at the 2020 Democratic National Convention. She also petitioned the president and congress to allow her mother back into the country. She`s writing a children`s picture book until someone listens about her family`s experience.

Welcome to both of you. I cannot imagine, Estela, what it feels like and what it felt like to welcome your mother last weekend. Tell us a bit about what that was.

E. JUAREZ: Well, it was honestly amazing. It was a long journey to get her back. But it was help from a lot of people. It wasn`t just me. So we had a lot of people around us to help, but I`m happy I can finally hug her.

VELSHI: I apparently lost my audio. I`ll have my control room figure that out. But Alejandra, I have to ask you, you know, you always had high hopes for your daughter, Estela. Some of these high hopes are already realized for what she has done over the last three years.

ALEJANDRAS JUAREZ, DEPORTED BY TRUMP ADMINISTRATION: Yes. I am extremely proud of her. I mean, the fact that I`m here today, you know, has everything to do with Estela. I mean, and of course the current administration and my congressmen.

But oh, my gosh, she`s a champion. I`m so proud of her.

VELSHI: Estela, this is a part of a story that a lot of people don`t know, that their parents were living here as undocumented immigrants and living their lives, their full lives with their family, and then one day when you were nine years old, your mother was taken away.

Can you just tell us what that felt like for you?

E. JUAREZ: Well, I don`t think my family deserved what happened to us because my mom out of the 21 years that she`s been here, she has no criminal record and she was just living here with her family.

She works hard. And at the time I was nine years old so I didn`t understand why she had to leave. But now I understand it`s because the immigration system is broken. So hopefully we can fix that soon.

VELSHI: That`s amazing. Alejandra, you actually -- you know, you`re actually worried about the values of what your deportation meant. You were married to somebody who has served their country, your children are born here.

And one of the things you pointed out was that your daughters have a full and promising life in front of them. When you yank a mother away from their children, you increase the likelihood of a broken family and people who grow up troubled.

A. JUAREZ: Exactly. When you take a parent away from a child, you are (AUDIO GAP) you`re torturing that child and that child, you know, becomes broken. What can you get out of a broken child?

I mean, you know, my kids have so much potential, and I was so afraid that because of what happened to me and being away from me, you know, they were going to become broken. So this is just cruel and unnecessary and inhumane. It needs to be fixed.

VELSHI: Estela, I`m having trouble understanding how much you know about the world at your age. I`m many times older than you are and I don`t think I have as clear an understanding of it.

But you wrote to the president, President Biden because you thought that he might understand some of this having lost his own son. You wrote to him and said maybe he will understand what it felt like for your mother to be taken away from her daughter.

You said ever since my mom left, I have a hole in my heart. I know you have one too. I`m deeply sorry about the loss of your son. I wish you didn`t have to go through such loss. I feel blessed that my mother is still alive.

You continue to say, I see her every day when we video chat. I can see her face and talk to her, but I cannot touch her, hug her, or feel her arms around me. My family has prayed that you would become president. I`m praying with all of my heart that you will help her come home.

Is that hole in your heart healing?

E. JUAREZ: Definitely now that she`s back, that I can hug her and I have her back again. But I just want to say thank you so much. You have no idea how much it means to my family, President Biden, that I have my mom back. And I`m sorry it happened to you. I know it`s very hard to lose a loved one.

VELSHI: Alejandra, what do you want people to understand about this process of deporting law-abiding people who`ve been here for a long time and put their roots down in America?

A. JUAREZ: It is horrible. It is unnecessary and inhumane. We are immigrants. (INAUDIBLE) We just want a normal life like any American. We just want to come and work and raise our kids and raise them -- in my case and in so many other cases (AUDIO-GAP) -- we just want what every American wants. We just want a second chance. We just want to live here legally.

VELSHI: I`m so honored to meet you both. Estela, I`m in anticipation of what you are going to end up doing if this is what you`ve done at the age of 11. I`m glad that you two are back together and that your family is reunited.

Estela and Alejandra Juarez, thank you so much for joining us tonight.

And that is tonight`s LAST --

A. JUAREZ: Thank you so much for having us.

VELSHI: -- our pleasure. That`s tonight`s LAST WORD.

You can catch me tomorrow morning at 8:00 a.m. Eastern on my show "VELSHI". Tomorrow I`m going to have a chance to ask some key Republicans who are part of a breakaway group that`s threatening to split the GOP just how far they are willing to go. I`m going to talk to Bush era homeland security secretary Michael Chertoff, former Republican governors Bill Weld and Christine Todd Whitman.

You don`t want to miss that tomorrow, 8:00 a.m. Eastern.

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