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Transcript: The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, 5/18/21

Guests: Debbie Dingell, Tim O`Brien, Marq Claxton, Kirk Burkhalter


Michigan Congresswoman Debbie Dingell is interviewed. The New York state attorney general`s office is now actively investigating The Trump Organization in a criminal capacity along with the Manhattan district attorney. Today, the district attorney investigating the case, Andrew Womble, said that Andrew Brown Jr.`s killing was a justified shooting and killing by police.



And Linda Zhang is amazing. To have turn the F-150 into an electric F-150 was quite a story to unfold, in your hour.

And to have Linda Zhang, the Ford engineer who came up with how to do this and letting her have that moment of telling how it all happen was really wonderful to see.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Oh, thank you. Thank you.

I mean, I`m -- I am a car person, I am obsessed with this stuff. Every detail that they revealed today and the weight of the battery, the way the chassis sits on top of the battery which is in the center of the -- what used to be a drivetrain, which isn`t a drivetrain anymore, seeing that light bar on the front, her talking about the way that could be used as a generator, lots of different ways, all of it is fascinating to me. But nothing is more fascinating than meeting the woman who`s been in charge of it for years and is now bringing it to fruition. It`s a really just -- whether you are a car person or not, it is an important moment.

O`DONNELL: Car talk with Rachel Maddow tonight.

Rachel, the attorney general news out of New York is a very big turn for Donald Trump. For the attorney general to be saying what had been a civil investigation is now a criminal investigation, what we don`t know is how long it has been a criminal investigation. The fact that, that statement came out tonight does not mean that it`s a new development.

And so, a criminal investigation by the state attorney general, New York state, a criminal investigation, we already know it is criminal by a Manhattan district attorney and we know that one is criminal because it is a grand jury involved. And now, they want to combine -- they want to combine their forces on this investigation. This is a very big night for Trump`s criminal defense attorneys.

MADDOW: Yeah. And, you know, it`s -- it`s an important thing, I think, too, to recognize that this is an investigation by the New York attorney general of the president`s business. And so, to have a criminal penalty against the organization and the against the business has implications for him and his family and his standing in the world that are very, very different than potentially civil penalties.

And, I mean, we`ll wait to see. We`ll have to verify this information and we hopefully to get more information from the attorney general`s office or from smart observers as to what this might mean. This is -- if this pans out, this is a real thing and this is a big deal.

O`DONNELL: And, Rachel, it`s one of the reasons why I`m always semi amused and I kind of stay out of these political pundit discussions about Donald Trump `s power within the party four years from now or two years from now. Because I think every one of those discussions has to begin by telling me how many crimes will he be convicted of or accused of in how many states between now and then? And please have a political pundit explain to me what that does to his political standing. That`s completely unknown political arithmetic.

MADDOW: Right, like what does it mean to have a presidential candidate who`s also a fugitive from justice who can`t leave certain jurisdictions to cross into others that have extradition treaties with the places that want him arrested and have law enforcement personnel standing by to do so? I mean, whether they try to shelter him someplace from extradition to face potential arrest, that would be a complicating fact for like, you know, planning a rally, let alone a bus tour.

O`DONNELL: Yeah, a local prosecutor in Florida has already said that this talk of Donald Trump being able to hide out in Florida and avoid extraditions in New York would never work, that the Republican governor of Florida could maybe delay it a little bit but it would never work.

And so, those stories will continue to be studied as Donald Trump moves around. Apparently, he`s moving to New Jersey already or soon. But these prosecutors in Georgia, prosecutors in New York, New York state, New York City, criminal prosecutors closing in on Donald Trump is the real story of Donald Trump`s life now. And he knows that.

He is so much more worried about that than what Liz Cheney said yesterday. He is much more worried about the prosecutors closing in on him than any of that stuff.

MADDOW: Yes, and he has to be because he has to work on it constantly and he has to pay for the legal defense. And I will tell you, I just got a note from the control room, Lawrence, while we`ve been talking, we at MSNBC on our show have just confirmed with the New York attorney generals office what CNN reported a few minutes ago which is that in fact the New York attorney general says the Trump Organization investigation is no longer purely civil, it is now an active investigation of the Trump organization in a criminal capacity.

We`ve confirmed that and so that is -- that is for real. And you`re right, that`s the center of his universe right now and in short order, will probably be the sum total of his universe.

O`DONNELL: And there`s more than a few ways that a business can be involved in criminality but there are tax evasion is a crime, and so, being prosecuted in the New York state by the state attorney general. So if they see criminal tax evasion going on, and there`s instances where your tax returns have issues with it. They say no, we don`t think you can deduct that. They don`t take that to be a criminal tax evasion but if that business crosses the line in the prosecutors in attorney generals office think of as criminal tax, state tax evasion in New York state, that is one of the things that eat the attorney generals office would take over and would take the lead on.

MADDOW: And, Lawrence, I`ll just say, I mean, not to get too far down the rabbit hole here but if there are tax issues, we know that they`ve been looking at, according to public reporting, they`ve been looking at potential for tax fraud, potential bank fraud, potential insurance fraud. If tax fraud or tax evasion is one of the things they`re looking at, it`s - - I`m not an expert in these things but as I understand it, it`s almost hard to commit state tax fraud without also committing federal tax fraud.


MADDOW: It`s hard to evade state taxes without also evading federal taxes. And while the Justice Department under Merrick Garland does not seem to be super eager to be pursuing the dangling sort of tendrils of criminality that Trump has left behind him as he left office, if there is going to be a criminal state tax prosecution, it`s going to raise very hard questions very quickly for whether or not SDNY should be looking potentially at federal tax charges as well, something I think the Biden Justice Department does not want to do at all but it will be right in their lap if that happens.

O`DONNELL: Yeah, and for a typical person and in individual tax returns, our tax returns, federal, mirror our state tax returns. And they use basically the same numbers. Businesses, it`s different. New York state has its own tax regime.

New York City has its own tax regime that you fall under and so, New York is actually possibly the most complex taxing region, state, in the country in the way that interacts with New York City taxation. And so, there are plenty of ways for the Trump Organization in New York City and New York state to have crossed a line that actually doesn`t exist in federal taxation, because business taxation is so different from the way our -- but for most of us, our individual returns are basically just mirrors of our state returns and if you`re guilty of evasion on one, you`re guilty of evasion on another.

But with this Trump Organization, there are so many trick wires in New York state law and New York City law on taxation that there`s a lot to look at there.

MADDOW: I want you to get Tish James on your show. I bet that doesn`t happen. It doesn`t work that way.

O`DONNELL: As we`ve been talking, Rachel, the bookers of THE LAST WORD have been working furiously and Andrew Weismann is going to join us and who knows who else because whatever show we were going to do, we`ll see what`s left of it by the time we`ll get to our first commercial break.

MADDOW: Live TV, baby. That`s how it goes. Go with God, my friend. Well done.

O`DONNELL: That`s the way it works, the way it works. Thank you, Rachel. Thank yo.

MADDOW: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Well today, Joe Biden made his second trip as president to Michigan, one of the swing states that give the presidency to Donald Trump in 2016 and then to Joe Biden in 2020. Trump won Michigan by 10,000 votes. Four years later, Joe Biden won Michigan by 154,000 votes.

In the president`s opening line today, at a Ford plant in the home state of the American auto industry, the president showed the rhetorical touch that won him a clear majority of Michigan voters.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My name is Joe Biden and I`m a car guy.


O`DONNELL: A car guy indeed.

Michigan Congresswoman Debbie Dingell was with the president today when he delivered that speech in Dearborn, in her congressional district. She will join us in a moment.

Tomorrow, Congresswoman Dingell will be voting on a House bill to create a 9/11 style bipartisan commission to investigate the attack on the capital on January 6 by a Trump mob after Donald Trump urged them to go to the Capitol and fight, fight, fight. It`s a bipartisan compromise bill created by Democrats and Republicans on the House Homeland Security Committee.

Today, the House Minority Leader Kevin said he is now opposed to that bipartisan compromise bill. And the House Minority Steve Scalise is now urging Republican House members to vote against the January 6 investigative commission.

Here`s what House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told NBC`s Garrett Haake about the legislation.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I am very pleased that we have a bipartisan bill to come to the floor and it`s disappointing but not surprising that the cowardice on the part of some of the Republican side, not to want to find the truth.


O`DONNELL: Another member of the House Democratic leadership, New York Congressman Hakeem Jeffries said this.


REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES (D-NY): It`s hard to take Kevin McCarthy seriously at this point. I don`t know what Kevin McCarthy is afraid of.


O`DONNELL: Well, Kevin McCarthy could be afraid of being subpoenaed to testify under oath to that commission about what he said to Donald Trump on the phone and what Donald Trump said to him on the phone while Kevin McCarthy it was in hiding in an undisclosed location during the attack on the Capitol.

Here`s what Kevin McCarthy said on the floor of the House of Representatives after his phone conversations with Donald Trump during the attack on the Capitol.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): The president bears responsibility for Wednesday`s attack on Congress by mob rioters. He should have immediately denounced the mob when he saw what was unfolding. These facts require immediate action for President Trump.


O`DONNELL: After that, Kevin McCarthy immediately stopped saying unkind things about Donald Trump and is now in the midst of expelling Republicans from the House leadership who say anything unkind about Donald Trump.

Speaking of Liz Cheney, on Sunday, she said that Kevin McCarthy should testify under oath to the January 6th Commission.


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 that he`s got information about the president`s state of mind that day.


O`DONNELL: In the early days, after January 6th, Kevin McCarthy privately told Republican members of the House that when he was on the telephone with Donald Trump begging Donald Trump to make a public statement telling his supporters to leave the Capitol, Donald Trump said, well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are.

One of the people who was more upset about the election than Kevin McCarthy is Jacob Chansley, who entered Kevin McCarthy`s workplace on January 6th dress like this.

In an interview with "Talking Points Memo", Jacob Chansley`s attorney told reporter Matt Shulan that Jacob Chansley was more than upset. In the first line of his quote, to Matt Shulan, the lawyers said: I`m going to use this colloquial term, perhaps disrespectfully about a lot of these defendants.

The lawyer then went on to deliver a richly profane statement about the mental health of his client and others who attacked the Capitol. Some of the words that I can say on TV in the lawyers quote are, these are people with brain damage, they were subjected to four plus years of goddamn propaganda, the likes of which the world has not seen since effing Hitler.

Today, on the day the president visited Michigan, the court in Michigan dismissed the final election fraud case in the state brought by a voter who believed that there should be an audit of the presidential vote.

Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson said, the dismissal of the last of the lawsuits attempting to undermine democracy and furtherance of the big lie affirms that despite the intense scrutiny and an unprecedented misinformation campaign, the 2020 election was fair and secure and the results accurately reflect the will of the voters.

Today in Dearborn, Michigan, the president elected by the voters of Michigan toward the ford electric vehicle center where President Biden test drove Ford`s new electric pick up truck, the F-1:50 and he spoke about the future of auto workers and promised them that we will leave no one behind.


BIDEN: We`re in a great inflection point in American history. How we handle the next 4 to 10 years is going to determine where we`re going to be 30, 40, 50 years from now. It`s one of those moments in American history. The future of the auto industry is electric. There`s no turning back.

We`re going to put America to work, modernizing our roads, our highways, our ports, our airports, rails, and transit systems. That includes putting IBEW members and the union workers to work installing 50,000 charging stations all along our roads and highways, our homes and our apartments. The IBEW is ready to do it and they can.

Now I know many of you watching at home are like the folks I grew up with in Scranton and Claymont, Delaware. They feel left out, left behind, in an economy and industry that`s rapidly changing. I understand it. I really do. But we will leave no one behind.


O`DONNELL: Congresswoman Debbie Dingell was with the president during that speech. Congresswoman Dingell`s late husband John Dingell was the longest serving member of the House in history when he passed away in 2019 after 59 years of serving in the House, decades of which overlapped with Joe Biden`s service in the United States Senate.


BIDEN: Representative Debbie Dingell, another dear friend. I know John`s looking down and saying we`re finally getting it done, huh? We`re getting it done.


O`DONNELL: Leading off our discussion tonight is Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Dingell of Michigan. She is the senior Democratic whip.

Congresswoman Dingell, thank you very much for joining us tonight.

I want to begin with the January 6th commission that you`ll be voting on tomorrow. I imagine you`re having no challenges as a whip with Democrats on board, but what are you expecting tomorrow now that the Republican leadership has turned against this bill?

REP. DEBBIE DINGELL (D-MI): So, Lawrence, I`ve talked to a lot of my Republicans colleagues. There were several of them from Michigan, others in the Problem Solvers, and others in Tuesday Group.

Now, I was with the president today, so I wasn`t on the House floor. But as of last night, there were a number, a significant number of -- at least a couple dozen if not more, that are going to vote for this commission. And you know, when people say what it didn`t happen or these were visitors to the Capitol, the American people watched what happened on January 6. In fact, I was on the House floor.

At first, I didn`t understand what was happening out there. I thought I was safe. The American people thought what was happening and their symbol of democracy, people like I did.

So to say that this didn`t happen, it`s simply impossible to understand and we all need to worry about the fear and the hatred that has enabled people like that to come to our Capitol and understand how it happened.

O`DONNELL: It`s Kevin McCarthy who wants the block this investigation, is watching professional prosecutors around the country from Georgia to New York close in on Donald Trump, something we`ve never seen with a previous president being investigated this way criminally, and tonight`s news the New York state attorney general is teaming up with the Manhattan district attorney to join in a criminal investigation of Donald Trump`s businesses while Kevin McCarthy is trying to protect Donald Trump from an investigation of what he did on January 6, it seems that Kevin McCarthy countrywide, anyway, is fighting a losing battle against the concept of investigating Donald Trump.

DINGELL: You know, I quite frankly don`t understand how or why so many things that are happening right now, because we see it in front of our eyes. I mean, I don`t -- you know, I want to put the last four years behind us because I think this nation needs to heal. I think we have a lot of problems that we`ve got to come together on and reach across the aisle and people that have been pitted against each other for the last four years need to start working together.

But -- so that fact that the attorney general would undertake the criminal investigation against the former president, that is a very significant development and there must be very disturbing evidence that has something happening. By the way, I think people need to be held accountable but I also think this nations got a lot of work to do and we have to find a way that stop -- I want to stop this fear, this hatred, this continuing division that`s hurting the fundamental tenets of our democracy. And what`s going on right now contributes to it. It`s not helpful.

O`DONNELL: Congresswoman Debbie Dingell, thank you very much for leading us off tonight. I really appreciate it.

DINGELL: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

And joining our discussion now is Andrew Weissmann, former federal pros prosecutor, he served as FBI general counsel and chief of criminal division in the Eastern District of New York. He`s an MSNBC`s legal analyst.

Andrew, I want to get your reading of this legal development tonight for Donald Trump. Here you have the New York state attorney general teaming up, in effect, with the Manhattan district attorney sharing resources, sharing information in a criminal investigation of Donald Trump`s business.

ANDREW WEISSMANN, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, I think something that`s important to notice the New York attorney general generally only have civil authority with one important exception and that`s something called the Martin Act. Viewers may remember that Eliot Spitzer when he was the New York attorney general used the Martin Act a lot.

People think that the Martin Act only covers securities and commodities fraud. That is fraud or deceit on the sale or purchase of securities or commodities, but it also has a provision that covers fraud or deceit in the sales of real estate in New York state, that is co-ops or condominiums in New York state.

So, we don`t know what`s being looked at. But if you narrow it down to what is the attorney general have criminal jurisdiction over, it`s the Martin Act. If you look at the provision of the Martin Act, which is securities, commodities and real estate, it seems, you know, if you connect the dots, that`s what Letitia James, the New York attorney general, has now in her sight in connection with the Trump investigation.

O`DONNELL: And when you think about the patter and practices of the Trump Organization, they lost a real estate fraud case in California where they defrauded people who were buying condos in a so-called Trump`s development in California. That happened during the 2016 presidential campaign where all of those people who were defrauded by the Trump`s operation were coming forward going public.

So, it`s not like this business is unfamiliar about where the lines are on criminal fraud and real estate.

WEISSMANN: Sure. Well, as an inveterate New Yorker, you know, until a little while ago, you could see the Trump name plastered all over hotels and other residences that he had and developed across the city. Many have been taken down in light of people`s reactions to the presidency. But you can imagine that the attorney general looking at any and all representations that were made by the Trump Organization in connection with those real estate deals.

O`DONNELL: And so, in a situation like that, I guess from this distance, it`s hard to say who personally has legal liability for those representations. I guess that would depend on the evidence base.

WEISSMANN: Absolutely. Just because there is an investigation, it does not mean there is going to be a liability and it certainly doesn`t mean even if it is going to be liability that it is going to go all the way to the top. That being said it is important to remember that the Trump Organization is small and Donald Trump is a notorious micro manager. So, you know, if there is something there, somebody is going to take the fault for that. I suspect that Letitia James, like the Manhattan District Attorney`s Office is going to be upping the pressure on people like Weisselberg to cooperate with the investigation.

O`DONNELL: So, does the partnership now, prosecutorial partnership with the Manhattan district attorney`s office by the state attorney general indicate that what the state attorney general is investigating occurred in Manhattan?

WEISSMANN: Well, it certainly occurred in New York state. That`s something at least in part it has to occur here for there to be jurisdiction. But just remember, this is where the Trump Organization is. You know, that makes a lot of sense and it is not like this investigation is being brought in Nebraska.

This is really the ground zero for where you would expect an investigation to be into Trump as a businessman to be housed here.

O`DONNELL: What is the likelihood that Donald Trump`s criminal defense lawyers already knew about this partnership in this prosecution?

WEISSMANN: That`s a good question. I don`t know if they would know that. This could be something that`s taken them by surprise. You know, we don`t have a lot of insights into the communications that have been going on with the state and that speaks well of the state that they are keeping their investigation under wraps, and we`ll only unveil it if and when there are charges.

But it is a little bit surprising that we have not heard anything of a defense lawyer because if you look at the Rudy Giuliani situation, you have a defense lawyer taken a different tact of trying to ma everything public and thinking the best defense is a good offense.

O`DONNELL: The statement that we at MSNBC have now confirmed, is that -- it says: we have informed the Trump Organization that our investigation into the organization is no longer purely civil in nature. We are now actively investigating the Trump Organization in a criminal capacity along with the Manhattan D.A.

Was the state attorney general under any obligation to tell the Trump Organization about this change?

WEISSMANN: No, and that`s a great question. I would suspect that the reason for that is again increasing the pressure on witnesses to cooperate. You know, it`s one thing if you face civil liability and that`s mainly the question of money. And for people in the Trump Organization, you know, there are ways to take care of that, that liability. But criminal exposure is completely different game. You know, there is no way to buy your way out of jail.

O`DONNELL: Andrew Weissmann, we were not planning on a segment of defendant Trump tonight but thank you very much for jumping in and covering this for us. We really appreciate it.

WEISSMANN: You`re welcome.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

We`ll be staying on this breaking news. Coming up, David Plouffe will join us with his reaction, and news that Congresswoman Val Demings is ready to challenge Marco Rubio in his Senate reelection campaign in Florida. Senator Demings could be in Florida`s future.


O`DONNELL: We have breaking news at this hour from the New York state attorney general who issued this statement just minutes ago. "We have informed the Trump Organization that our investigation into the organization is no longer purely civil in nature. We are now actively investigating the Trump Organization in a criminal capacity along with the Manhattan district attorney. We have no additional comment at this time."

For additional comment, we are joined now by David Plouffe, former campaign manager and White House senior adviser to President Barack Obama. He`s an MSNBC`s political analyst.

And David, this is news unlike any we have ever heard about any previous president before or after serving in the presidency.

Here you have the New York state attorney general teaming up with the Manhattan district attorney, clearly because the Trump Organization is located in Manhattan. Manhattan district attorney already running a criminal investigation of the Trump business using a grand jury.

They are going to share information and so the New York attorney general will be able to obtain conceivably information that has been gathered by this pre-existing criminal grand jury.

This is not a politics question. This is a, you know -- this is a how do you face this. Donald Trump pretending to spend his day concerned with what Republican members of the House might be saying about him. The truth of his life is this is what occupies his day -- worrying about the next thing his criminal defense attorneys are going to tell him.

DAVID PLOUFFE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes Lawrence. There`s no doubt about that. I have long maintained even though Donald Trump sought the presidency and won the presidency and not many people have done that, I think he`s going to regret entering the presidential race much less winning.

Because I think this is just the beginning of the end potentially. You know, the rest of his days on this earth are going to be faced with dealing with investigations and perhaps against more serious than that.

Now, the question politically -- I agree this is about the law and not about politics -- will this at all shape the Republican obsession, what their (INAUDIBLE). My guess is not. They stuck by him through thick and thin as he tried to shred the constitution. And you know, led a very immoral life.

But he`s in deep trouble. And I think that this is probably just the beginning. And so yes, he can send out ridiculous statements about Arizona ballot equipment and he can, you know, applaud them for getting rid of Cheney.

But at the end of the day this has to occupy his time. And you know, my sense is it`s probably a business that`s not doing that well and he`s got a struggling business and he`s got deep legal exposures. So it could not have happened to a better guy as far as I am concerned.

O`DONNELL: David, as I was saying to Rachel at the beginning of the hour is thing that has made me just sit out any pundit discussions about Donald Trump`s political power and his political power going forward is I`ve always thought well, you have to tell me whether we are talking about a convicted criminal or a current criminal defendant in a pending a criminal case, when we`re talking about this character Donald Trump, the politician.

He now has three -- count them -- three criminal investigations against him right now. One in Georgia, two in New York. Now, what are the odds -- what are the odds that Donald Trump gets lucky on all three? If you know the answer to that, you know the answer to his political future.

PLOUFFE: Right, but I think the question is -- there are two really questions that will relate -- well, obviously there is a question of does he run again and seek for presidency. I have got real doubts about that.

But is he somebody who can be helpful with swing voters in `22 or is he going to hurt the Republican Party? And then, of course, the bigger question is right now he`s a cult leader. He has ascribed (ph) the Republican Party. They all bow down to him. They follow him down whatever road he sets out. The big lie being the biggest problem we face right now.

And so my guess is this won`t shake their allegiance to him at all. You know, you saw some local Arizona elected officials beginning to speak out. There`s been a handful of people in Congress.

You know, what I don`t understand about this Lawrence is, you know, if they all decided to say you know what, we think he did a good job on some issues but we are done with the big lie.

Like the sun would come up tomorrow. You know, they`re like basically held hostage by him. And I think he`s a paper tiger at the end of the day. But this won`t shake the allegiance of most Republican elected officials and maybe most Republican voters, you know, until there are some more stones to be turned down the road.

O`DONNELL: So let`s talk about one of the cult members Marco Rubio who ran against Donald Trump for president calling him a con man nonstop for a while there. And then when he lost to Donald Trump in the primaries he kind of immediately joined the cult.

Val Demings is now on the verge of announcing that she`s going to run against Marco Rubio in Florida. So you could have a Senate campaign in Florida next year where cult member Marco Rubio has to defend Donald Trump everyday on the campaign trail for the latest twist and turn in a criminal prosecution of Donald Trump while Demings, a former law enforcement official herself, is out there campaigning against the kind of crime and corruption that Donald Trump represents and campaigning positively for Senate as Marco Rubio has the job of defending Donald Trump.

PLOUFFE: Yes, grab the popcorn, Lawrence.

So if you`re a Democrat -- or I would say, you know, even if you are not a Democrat, you`re a Republican who believes in democracy versus autocracy and realizes Democrat have to hold the Senate and the House, this is extraordinarily (INAUDIBLE) news.

So first of all Marco Rubio seems afraid of everything. Val Demings seems like she`s afraid of nothing. But I think there`s a real contrast in terms of strength and character.

But listen, there`s a belief that is Florida gone for the Democratic Party. Listen Obama wins it, you know, narrowly in `12. You know Hillary loses it narrowly in `16. Gillum and Nelson win it by a whisker in `18. Trump opened up a few points win in `20.

But Florida with the right candidate and the right excitement and the right organization is a winning state and you have to look at the Senate picture in totality.

The Democratic Party in my view, this isn`t just about maintaining control in 2022 as important as it is. The 2024 cycle in the Senate races is really brutal for the Democrats. You know, you`ve Joe Manchin`s seat. You`ve got Jon Tester`s seat. We are not playing that much offense, maybe it will be (INAUDIBLE) now to campaign against Cruz in a presidential year. Maybe Rick Scott.

So you have to maximize in Wisconsin this cycle, North Carolina, in Pennsylvania. You`ve got to protect Warnock and Kelly -- those could both be tough races.

And you`ve got to have some states like Florida. And I remind people that this time in the 2020 cycle there were few people in politics in either party who thought that either Georgia race would be super competitive and obviously they ended up determining the president -- the senate control.

So Florida is really important. I think Val Demings can put up a play. And you have to have as many shots on goal as possible, so you don`t have to win them all. Not just to retain the majority but again, I think the Democratic Party has to exit `22 with some room to spare because you could give up some of that ground in `24.

O`DONNELL: David Plouffe, thank you very much for joining us tonight. Really appreciate it.

PLOUFFE: Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: And up next, we`re going to have more on the breaking news tonight that the New York state attorney general`s office is now investigating the Trump Organization in a criminal investigation.

Tim O`Brien, expert on the Trump businesses, will join us next.


O`DONNELL: The breaking news of this hour is a statement from the New York attorney general that MSNBC received 45 minutes ago. New York attorney general Letitia James issued this written statement saying, "We have informed the Trump Organization that our investigation into the organization is no longer purely civil in nature. We are now actively investigating the Trump Organization in a criminal capacity along with the Manhattan district attorney. We have no additional comment at this time."

Tim O`Brien is a senior columnist for Bloomberg Opinion. He is the author of the book "TrumpNation".

Tim O`Brien, thank you very much for joining us for this breaking news tonight. You wrote a book about Donald Trump`s businesses. Donald Trump sued you because you said he was not a billionaire. Donald Trump lost that lawsuit against you because Donald Trump is not a billionaire. No one outside of the Trump Organization knows more about the Trump businesses than you do.

What`s your reaction tonight to this announced -- publicly announced team work now in a criminal investigation of the Trump businesses by the New York state attorney general and the Manhattan district attorney?

TIM O`BRIEN, AUTHOR, "TRUMPNATION": This is dramatically ups the legal pressure on Trump, Allen Weisselberg and on the entire Trump Organization, Lawrence.

You know, up until now Cy Vance`s investigation of Trump was the more consequential of the two relative to Tish James` investigation. She`s the New York attorney general because he had a criminal probe in motion and a criminal probe potentially carries a prison sentence with it. A civil probe usually at it worst just can results in a massive fine.

The fact that she -- that the New York AG has decide to convert her case from a civil probe into a criminal prosecution suggests that she has evidence of criminal intent. That is the standard in a criminal case that the defendant knew that he or she was doing something wrong and had criminal intent behind it.

And that`s a very difficult and challenging standard to meet in a prosecution. And I would think that both Cy Vance and Tish James are dotting all their Is and crossing all their Ts in this investigation because it involves a former president. And either one of these things would be an epic prosecution and it appears they are also joining forces.

So this is just a huge, huge development in the investigation of Donald Trump.

O`DONNELL: Andrew Weissmann told us that the attorney general is under no obligation to make this public statement and under no obligation to communicate this to Donald Trump`s criminal defense lawyers. So your initial point about the heat that this puts on the people in this case, it seems to have been announced as a way of alerting all of the other potential witnesses or defendants in this case, this is more serious now than you thought it was yesterday.

O`BRIEN: And remember that throughout her investigation the Trump family has essentially thumbed their nose at her. Eric Trump missed sitting for a deposition as I recall initially with her. She had to compel him to sit for deposition.

We know that at least one of the things she`s looking is how they value an estate that Trump owns in Westchester County and they haven`t played ball. And I think the fact that she`s going public with this suggests that she wants it to be known as a tool for pressuring them and bringing them to heal as it were in the course of what she`s looking at.

O`DONNELL: Tim O`Brien who literally wrote the book about Trump`s businesses. Thank you very much for joining us tonight.

O`BRIEN: Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: And coming up, can cars move sideways? No, of course not. But a district attorney in North Carolina thinks that they can and that`s one of the reasons he says the officers who shot and killed Andrew Brown were justified in using deadly force.

Marq Claxton and Kirk Burkhalter will join us next.


O`DONNELL: 14 bullets -- police in North Carolina fired 14 bullets at a moving car even though firing at a moving car is against the rules of their police department. And as usual most of those bullets missed the person they were shooting at as most police bullets do. One of those bullets hit a nearby house, and two of those bullets hit Andrew Brown, Jr., behind the wheel of his car.

One non-lethal bullet entered his right upper arm near the shoulder. The second bullet entered the back of his head and killed him.

Today, the district attorney investigating the case, Andrew Womble, said that it was a justified shooting and killing by police. The district attorney said that he has no idea which of the officers at the scene fired the bullet that actually killed Andrew Brown, because that bullet was fragmented into three pieces and could not be matched by ballistics tests to any one of the police firearms.

But the district attorney did acknowledge that further testing could determine which officer actually fired the fatal shot. But that didn`t matter to this district attorney who insists that Andrew Brown, who was unarmed, was using a deadly weapon against the police officers. That deadly weapon, according to the district attorney, was Andrew Brown`s car.

The district attorney described how seven sheriff deputies approached Andrew Brown`s car in his driveway to serve a warrant on him.

At a press conference today, the district attorney showed images from police body cams and then took questions from reporters.

Many of the reporters asking questions did not see what the district attorney believed he saw in the videos. Most reporters believe the videos showed Andrew Brown trying to avoid hitting the police officers with his car.


ANDREW WOMBLE, PASQUOTANK COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: Even after backing into a corner with no escape, but to maneuver his vehicle directly at the officers, Brown continued the felonious assault by using his vehicle as a deadly weapon.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You`re saying he was threatening them but then he`s backing away and it`s the officers going to the car.

WOMBLE: Ok. When you employ a car in a manner that puts officer`s lives in danger, that is a threat. And I don`t care what direction you`re going -- forward, backward, sideways.


O`DONNELL: And that`s the problem. A car cannot go sideways. And the officers who claimed to be threatened by Andrew Brown were standing beside the car on each side of the car. And when Andrew Brown was shot and killed in the back of the head, his car wasn`t even near any of those police officers. It was rolling away from those police officers when he was shot in the back of the head.

Police claiming that a car was used as a deadly weapon when they are standing beside the car, the car that cannot move sideways, has been used as a police defense of deadly force for as long as cars have existed.

That is exactly the defense that was used in the Boston case that I wrote a book about in the 1980s called "Deadly Force". And in that case, the question that two police officers could never answer in court was, if you were beside the car, why didn`t you just step backwards away from the car?

And that is a question that district attorney Andrew Womble does not care about, because he apparently believes that cars can move sideways.

Joining us now, Kirk Burkhalter criminal law professor at New York Law School where he is the director of the 21st century policing project; and Marq Claxton director of the Black Law Enforcement Alliance. Both are former NYPD detectives.

And I`m sorry we`ve had to squeeze our discussion into the end of the show because of the breaking news tonight.

But Marq, let me just begin with you and your reaction to the district attorney`s statement today.

MARQ CLAXTON, DIRECTOR, BLACK LAW ENFORCEMENT ALLIANCE: Well, I think you pointed out the most important thing and that was that the district attorney was acting as if he was a defense attorney, to be honest with you. And I think the comments that he made, he`s trying to shape and develop a narrative that will survive the investigation or the alleged investigation that he`s conducting, and quite possibly some additional investigations moving forward.

So his main focus is to defend obviously -- to defend the police officers and to develop a narrative, and that tries to convince you not to trust your lying eyes.

O`DONNELL: Kirk, your reaction to what the district attorney had to say today?

KIRK BURKHALTER, NEW YORK LAW SCHOOL: Sure. Well Lawrence, the statement I don`t care which direction a car was moving -- frontward, sideways or backwards, I can`t imagine a lawyer, let alone a prosecutor making that statement.

It matters what direction the car was moving, because that has direct bearing onto whether the officers were threatened. It is the mission of the police department to arrest offenders and bring them before the court, not to exact justice based on the criminal record.

And the person`s criminal record, what they were being arrested for in no way justifies "I don`t care what direction the car is moving in." So I find that statement very problematic for a prosecutor.

O`DONNELL: And Marq, this district attorney, as you say, sounded like a defense attorney. But he also sounded -- he sounded like he was describing a case out of the 1980s because the principles he was using for this, like he went so far to say they have a right to shoot him in order to execute these warrants.

CLAXTON: Right. And he used a word that I found quite troubling and disturbing about he talked about extinguishing the threat, which I was kind of shocked when he even indicated that. That`s very troubling in itself.

And perhaps quite telling about what his perspective is on these type of things, he failed to even consider or discuss or present as an option or a possible area to be explored further by also creating jeopardy (ph). So there`s so many elements that he failed to present. He was really trying to set a narrative going forward.

O`DONNELL: The FBI is still investigating this case, so there could be more on it at the federal level.

Kirk Burkhalter and Marq Claxton, thank you both very much for joining us tonight.

That is tonight`s LAST WORD.