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

Guests: Renee Graham, Hayes Brown, Josh Shapiro, Maria Hinojosa, Renee Graham, Mondaire Jones


Republicans pushing strategy to suppress voting rights for future elections. Some states are even doing election audits to push the big lie of Donald Trump`s election loss. This week, 35 House Republicans voted alongside every House Democrat to pass legislation that would establish a commission to investigate the January 6th attack on the United States Capitol. The Biden administration continues to show that it`s willing to negotiate with Republicans on an infrastructure package.



RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: One last thing before we go, something to watch for over the weekend. A couple of weeks ago, a federal judge ordered the Justice Department to release a memo they`ve been trying to keep secret. It`s a memo written during the Bill Barr era about potentially prosecuting President Trump for obstruction of justice.

That judge`s order stands. The Justice Department now under President Biden had asked the judge for more time, an extra week to think about whether they`re going to appeal that ruling or whether they`re going to release the Trump prosecution memo.

They gotten a week`s extension, but that extension runs out on Monday. So on Monday, either the Trump prosecution memo comes out or the Biden Justice Department tells the judge they`re going to appeal to another court to try to keep it secret.

I have no idea what they are going to do, but the time for them to decide is now up. Monday is the deadline. Watch for progress on that potentially over the weekend or on Monday early in the day. I`ll see you again Monday night. Now it`s time for the "Last Word" where Ali Velshi is in for Lawrence tonight. Good evening, Ali.

ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST: Rachel, we will keep an eye out for that and those developments that you`ve told us about. Thanks again for an amazing show and have an excellent weekend, friend.

MADDOW: Thanks, Ali. You, too.

VELSHI: Good night to you. The Republican Party is no longer a party of principle. It`s become a party, well, perhaps a cult of one man and his big lie about an election that he lost. Republicans are lining up behind that man to parrot his lie and to legislate off of that lie, hoping to suppress the vote in almost every state.

But as Stacey Abrams told Lawrence last night, these restrictions are about more than just blocking access to the ballot box.


STACEY ABRAMS, FOUNDER, FAIR FIGHT ACTION: The Republicans have said to themselves, we may not like the outcome so we`re going to wrest away the power that we have invested in our election workers, people who are putting their time and their talent and their lives on the line sometimes, and we`re going to say that they can be overturned by the act of state legislators who don`t like the outcome.

They`re going after the voters, they`re going after the process, and they`re going after the remedy, because when you get through the entire gauntlet, if the last vestige of support for democracy are our courts, they`re going to try to take power away there.


VELSHI: Donald Trump told his supporters to watch Arizona, watch Georgia, watch Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin, all states that he lost. And like clockwork, those states are now ground zero for Republican efforts to steal future elections by suppressing the vote.

Two disgraced Republicans, Matt Gaetz and Marjorie Taylor Greene, are doing Trump`s bidding in Arizona tonight. They`re holding a rally to defend Trump`s efforts to overturn the election results in Maricopa County, where Joe Biden beat Trump by more than 45,000 votes.

And the sham audit in Arizona riddled with partisanship and incompetence is starting to fall apart. The conspiracy-driven company leading the audit, Cyber Ninjas, had to backtrack after accusing election officials of deleting information from a voter database, an accusation that the former disgraced president amplified.

Republican officials in Maricopa County called on their colleagues this week to end what they are calling, "grift disguised as an audit."


JACK SELLERS, CHAIRMAN, MARICOPA COUNTY BOARD OF SUPERVISORS: This board is done explaining anything to these people who are playing investigator.

STEPHEN RICHER, MARICOPA COUNTY RECORDER: The defamatory lies need to stop. It needs to stop.

BILL GATES, VICE CHAIR, MARICOPA COUNTY BOARD OF SUPERVISORS: It`s time to say enough is enough. It is time to push back on the big lie. We need to do this as a country. Otherwise, we are not going to be able to move forward and have an election in 2022 that we can all believe the results, whatever they may be.


VELSHI: It`s important to point out because I started out by talking about what the Republicans are doing. Those people you just heard from by the way are Republicans begging for this ridiculousness to stop. Now, Arizona`s Democratic secretary of state, Katie Hobbs, is advising Maricopa County officials that they, "should replace all voting machines that were turned over to a private contractor for an audit of the 2020 presidential election, citing "grave concerns regarding the security and integrity" of the machines that make them unusable for future elections."

That, of course, could cost millions of dollars all because those machines are under the control of a company, Cyber Ninjas, with no election experience, run by a guy who promoted baseless conspiracies about election fraud.

Secretary Hobbs` warning comes as Trump loyalists are pressuring officials in other states to launch their own sham audits, including Michigan where according to "The Washington Post," at a public meeting last week in Cheboygan County, Michigan, a lawyer from Detroit told county commissioners that the voting machines they used in 2020 could flip votes and throw an election.

She offered to send in a "forensic team" at no charge to the county to inspect ballots and scanners. That`s a lie. It`s a lie that`s also being pushed in Georgia.

Today, a judge ordered 145,000 absentee ballots in Fulton County -- that`s where Atlanta is -- to be unsealed following an election lawsuit claiming nonexistent fraud. The plaintiffs wanted to do exactly what they`re doing in Arizona, turn the ballots over to a private company.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that the judge "made it clear that the ballots must remain in the possession of county officials, citing federal and state law. But he left the details of the review to be sorted out in a future order."

Now, of course, Kelly Loeffler, who lost her Georgia senate seat in the last election, championed the news of an audit in a largely Democratic county that Joe Biden won. And then there is Pennsylvania where Trump is taking a different approach to the same big lie. He`s trying to recruit a Republican state senator who tried to contest Pennsylvania`s election results to run for governor.

"The Philadelphia Inquirer" reports that state Senator Doug Mastriano said he met with Trump this week for over an hour and that Trump promised to campaign for him. Mastriano not only attended the pre-insurrection rally at the Capitol on January 6th, he helped organize a sham election hearing that featured Rudy Giuliani and a phone call appearance by Trump in which he -- wait for it -- lied about the election.

This is not funny business to mock. This is serious. This poison is spreading, and we must stop it because attacks on the electoral process do not need to succeed to irrevocably damage America`s faith in democracy.

Leading off our discussion tonight, Renee Graham, an opinion columnist and associate editor at "The Boston Globe" and Hayes Brown, columnist and editor with MSNBC Daily. Good evening to both of you.

Renee, let me just start with you and I think we are starting to understand with the spread of almost identical efforts in so many of these states, that it does not have to succeed. It`s succeeding already in sowing doubt. We see poll after poll in which a number of Americans, almost exclusively Republicans, continue to doubt the veracity of our elections.

RENEE GRAHAM, COLUMNIST AND ASSOCIATE EDITOR, THE BOSTON GLOBE: The point isn`t really to overturn or change anything. They know that`s not going to happen. The point is to sow doubt in the electoral process and to justify this wave of voter suppression bill and laws Republicans keep pushing.

You know, so right now tonight, we have the GOP`s children of the corn, Matt Gaetz and Marjorie Taylor Greene in Arizona, taking the big lie on the road because that lie is not going to spread itself. So that`s the point here. It`s not about overturning the election. It`s not about changing anything. It`s just about creating doubt in the process and undermining democracy.

VELSHI: And Hayes, you mentioned that it`s about one more thing than creating doubt. It`s creating profit. This is grift. In the case of Arizona and now what is being proposed in Georgia, there are private companies whose only claim to fame is that they parroted the big lie that might be benefiting.

HAYES BROWN, COLUMNIST AND EDITOR, MSNBC DAILY: Yes, absolutely. And it`s a good gig if you can get it, I guess. I mean, out in Arizona, the Cyber Ninjas, they`re making about $150,000 off the state of Arizona. But they`re also raising private funds to help their effort. No idea who this money is coming from, where it`s going, and how it`s going to be spent.

So I`m not -- would not be surprised if a lot of it is going into the pockets of Cyber Ninjas and other people who are helping spread the big lie. And it`s really sad because on the one hand, there is the ideological side of things and wanting to win elections for the Republicans even if they don`t actually have the votes, but, yes, it is a lot about making profit.

And it`s hard to tell where the line is between those two things. That`s one of the things that was the most challenging about the Trump administration, trying to figure out who actually believed all the he was lost in the sauce, and who was just trying to make a good, quick buck off of the lies and the insanity that Trump was spreading.

And I think it`s going to be harder and harder to parse out moving forward especially as the Republican Party refuses to purge these elements, these grifters from their ranks.

VELSHI: I want both of you to stick around, please, if you will because I want to speak to you again later in the hour.

Joining me now is Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro. Attorney General, you and I were together in west Philadelphia just a little bit before the election. And while it is not the biggest news around the country and folks don`t know that it`s happening, it`s been happening in Pennsylvania for some time.

Republicans have been trying to meddle with the rules about the election since before the election. They have been at the forefront in Pennsylvania of the big lie, and now it is continuing.

JOSH SHAPIRO, ATTORNEY GENERAL OF PENNSYLVANIA: That`s exactly right, Ali. Before a single vote was cast in Pennsylvania, we were sued 19 times by Donald Trump and his allies, and we beat back each and every one of them. And then after the votes were cast, they tried to make it harder for those votes to count, and they sued us 21 times, and we won there as well.

We had a safe, smooth, and secure election that was run by Republican and Democratic neighbors and communities all across Pennsylvania. Local officials, community people in those neighborhoods ran the elections. It was smooth and it was secure, period.

VELSHI: And the people who ran the elections, by the way, are not subscribing to the big lie. They, in most cases like in Arizona or in Georgia, in some cases, Republicans are saying this didn`t happen. The stuff that you`re all accusing us off.

But I want to just quote something from "The Washington Post" to you about how the courts can influence elections. It says, in at least 93 bills in 26 states introduced this year that threatened judicial independence by limiting court`s power or injecting more politics into state judiciaries.

According to the analysis, in at least eight of these states, bills have specifically targeted election-related cases. In 21 states, broader court bills were introduced that would impact election cases, among others, by changing how judges are selected, which courts hear cases, challenging the constitutionality of state elections or how judicial decisions are enforced.

Si, in addition to what Renee Graham just said, that you don`t have to win anything. You just have to sow doubt. There is this other thing going on in which we`re dragging the courts into a place that is going to make it very difficult to adjudicate these things in the future.

SHAPIRO: That`s exactly right, Ali. So let me break it down for you. After those 40-plus lawsuits that we beat back and the certification of the election here in Pennsylvania, then-Republican lawmakers seemingly at Donald Trump`s urging went to work to try and do two things. Number one, gerrymander our courts and try and take control over that.

And also to pass really the exact same bills that are now law in Georgia and in Texas and are being pursued in other states, to try and make it harder for people to access the ballot box, particularly people in our black and brown communities, to make it harder for their voices to be heard, harder for them to count in our democracy.

The good news is here in Pennsylvania, we have a Democratic governor who`s going to veto those bills. But it`s dangerous to think what could happen if they were in charge. You referenced one of the leading candidates for governor here in Pennsylvania. There`s a few folks who have said they want to run for governor or senate here in Pennsylvania on the Republican side.

None of them are willing to denounce Donald Trump. All of them seem to subscribe to the big lie and all of them are doing great damage to our democracy. They are dangerous. These bills are dangerous. Efforts to gerrymander our courts are dangerous. We can`t just simply dismiss this as some fringe characters or some, you know, wackadoodles as some people have referred to them as. These are dangerous people doing real damage to our democracy.

VELSHI: You tweeted yesterday, "Time will tell whether the trust that was damaged in the aftermath of the election can ever be fully restored, but imposing accountability on those responsible can play a vital role in that process."

I`m curious, what does that accountability look like? Is it in the courts? Is it what we see in Georgia with this grassroots movement where people were told, either vote or lose your vote? The threat was sort of -- was given to them that this is what they are doing. They`re trying to take your vote away. Is that the kind of thing that Pennsylvania, Arizona, Michigan, Wisconsin, all those places need?

SHAPIRO: Well, accountability has to come in a lot of different ways. It certainly has to come at the ballot box where we hold people accountable who have tried to make it harder for us to count in our democracy. But for me as the attorney general of Pennsylvania, the chief law enforcement and legal officer of the commonwealth, accountability comes by holding those accountable who have tried to undermine our courts.

You know, we have rules in our court system both at the state and the federal level. You`re not allowed to waste the court`s time. You`re not allowed to lie to the court. You have a duty of candor to the court. Yet, we have lawyers like Rudy Giuliani who have come to our courts in Pennsylvania and lied about what happened here and wasted the court`s time.

It`s one of the reasons why I`ve appealed to the disciplinary board in New York State to try and hold Rudy Giuliani accountable. It`s one of the reasons why I sought sanctions in a case out in Colorado where they lied about some ridiculous conspiracy between poll workers in Pennsylvania and Mark Zuckerberg and Dominion voting system.

These lawyers need to be held accountable. Elected officials who pushed the big lie need to be held accountable. And then, Ali, we`ve got to get back to some truth-telling in this commonwealth and in this country. Let`s get back to an agreement on a basic set of facts so then we can have a spirited debate about the issues that are critically important for us.

You know, tonight I was playing hoops with some kids in west Philadelphia, not too far from where you and I spoke just before the election. I was at the Christy Rec Center. They`re worried about gun violence. They`re worried about getting quality education. They are worried about economic opportunities.

Those are the issues we need our elected leaders focused on. We`ve got to get back to that, get away from the big lie and start talking some truth in this country and addressing some of these big issues. I applaud the people in Harrisburg and Washington who are trying to do it, but we`ve got to make sure all people are held accountable to the truth and to delivering for people in our communities.

VELSHI: Josh, good to see you. Thank you for joining us. Pennsylvania Attorney General, Josh Shapiro, here with me tonight.

All right, coming up, new developments in the Matt Gaetz investigation. That`s coming up next.


VELSHI: Congressman Matt Gaetz`s week is ending the same way it began, badly. On Monday, Gaetz`s associate Joel Greenberg formally pleaded guilty to six federal crimes including six -- including sex trafficking of a minor.

Now, the plea was part of a deal to cooperate fully with Justice Department prosecutors and testify in court in exchange for leniency. Now today, another Gaetz associate has reportedly agreed to cooperate with federal authorities, Gaetz`s ex-girlfriend.

According to CNN, who cites people familiar with the matter, the woman, a former Capitol Hill staffer, is seen as a critical witness as she has been linked to Gaetz as far back as the summer of 2017, a period of time that has emerged as a key window of scrutiny for investigators.

She could also help investigators understand the relevance of hundreds of transactions they have obtained records of, including those involving alleged payments for sex. NBC News has not confirmed this reporting. A spokesman says Congressman Gaetz has never had sex with a minor and has never paid for sex.

Also this week, "Politico" obtained a grand jury subpoena sent to an unnamed individual last December in connection with the Joel Greenberg probe.

"The grand jury`s subpoena provides new information on who federal investigators are looking into as well as additional details on the kinds of information authorities are seeking -- documents, video recordings, and communications -- as they look into the Republican lawmaker earlier this year. The subpoena as well as Greenberg`s cooperation with prosecutors appears to increase the legal peril facing the congressman."

Joining us now is Joyce Vance, former federal prosecutor. She`s a professor at the University Of Alabama School Of Law and an MSNBC legal contributor. Joyce, good to see you. Joyce, explain to us how this all works.

Greenberg was facing 33 or 34 charges and he cut some deal in which he pleads guilty to 6 of them, probably is going to do some time, but they don`t tell him how much time he`s going to do until the end of this thing because he`s got to give up a lot of information. And it seems they`re now starting to connect dots.

JOYCE VANCE, MSNBC LEGAL CONTRIBUTOR: You`ve just given a great explanation of how federal cooperation and sentencing works. Essentially a defendant who wants to cooperate has to give him or herself up to the good graces of federal prosecutors and any credit for cooperation is in their sole discretion.

They have to act in good faith, but it`s up to them to determine whether or not the cooperation has been successful. So Greenberg, who is now looking at 12 years in custody is hoping that somehow he will get a sentence that`s below that level of mandatory minimum through really successful cooperation, and that`s the unknown here.

We don`t know yet if federal prosecutors intend to prosecute Gaetz. They could still be making up their minds, but the bad news for Gaetz is that they are continuing to acquire new cooperators. And that means that the former girlfriend, who`s the subject of this story, that there`s something for her to cooperate on. They`re not talking to her just for nothing, and that can`t be good news for Gaetz at this point.

VELSHI: So this is what I want to understand because Greenberg is, by his own admission, a bit of a bad apple. And so he`s committed crimes or he`s admitted to committing crimes, which means they`ve got something to hold over him in exchange for his cooperation. It`s not clear that everybody else in Gaetz`s circle who has information is also guilty of a crime.

VANCE: That`s right, and it`s important to not pre-judge people in this sort of a situation. Sometimes people are merely present. Other times, people don`t know. To be guilty of a crime, you have to have committed both the acts involved and have whatever the necessary state of mind is. So, we shouldn`t jump to any conclusions here.

But, you know, the real problem for Matt Gaetz, there are a lot of people saying that Greenberg could never be a witness against him, but that`s not necessarily true, Ali. I would put him on the witness stand with all of his warts and I would disclose all of those problems to the jury.

But the point of putting a witness like that on the stand is that prosecutors didn`t pick him. Matt Gaetz did. He was Gaetz`s wingman, and that, in and of itself, can be very powerful testimony for a jury to hear.

VELSHI: I`m curious as a former prosecutor what you make of how Gaetz is conducting himself. Now, again, Gaetz has denied any wrongdoing and he has been charged with nothing. But, boy, he is out there flaunting it. He`s out there tonight in Arizona at a rally to stop the steal.

Does that have any -- how do prosecutors see that? In some instances, you`d expect the person who might be the target of an investigation to keep a low profile. That`s not what Gaetz has chosen to do.

VANCE: You know, the real question here is whether he`s doing anything that would damage himself if, say, he were to go to trial. So some of his early statements, these flat-out denials that he`s made -- I never paid money for sex -- these are the sorts of things that can come back to haunt a defendant if the government has evidence that proves that it`s not true.

It`s certainly not a great idea to keep yourself out in the public eye, but Gaetz`s strategy doesn`t seem to be a typical one here, and it`s interesting to note that he`s never really denied the specific allegations that prosecutors appear to be pursuing.

Instead, he`s just gone on with this very public strategy, trying to make himself a popular figure, presumably so he can use the same witch hunt defense that his mentor, the former president, Donald Trump, has used very successfully in some regards.

VELSHI: And he started to hint at that when he first made a public statement after this. If he does -- if prosecutors do something and charge him at some point and this goes to court, does the idea that he may have lied in these general terms matter legally, or does that just sort of give the jury a sense of who he is? Because he`s not lied to prosecutors about anything. So does the lie matter if you -- versus telling it to the FBI?

VANCE: You know, it can be used as evidence of a guilty mind. For instance, the notion that he would publicly take to the airwaves and deny that he ever had sex with a minor. If he`s ultimately charged with that and the government has evidence of it, I assume that they will probably keep him from testifying as a witness in his own defense out of the fear that he would then be confronted with those statements and prosecutors would ask what he meant.

So, he really isn`t doing himself any good, even statements that might appear to be somewhat innocuous at this point in time. Down the road, there`s no way of knowing how prosecutors might use them. But I think it`s important for us to acknowledge that it`s not a foregone conclusion, that he`ll be indicted.

Prosecutors are clearly taking their time and carefully assessing the evidence, and if there`s evidence of crimes, we would expect them to indict. And if they come up, you know, short of the sufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Gaetz has committed a federal crime, then I would expect them to walk away.

VELSHI: As Rachel says, watch this space. Joyce, thanks for joining us tonight as always. My pleasure to have you here. Joyce Vance, former United States attorney, professor at the University of Alabama Law School and MSNBC legal contributor.

Coming up, why Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez says the course of history could have been changed in 60 seconds on January 6th. That`s just part of what she discussed in a revealing new interview with Maria Hinojosa, who joins us next.


VELSHI: This week, 35 House Republicans voted alongside every House Democrat to pass legislation that would establish a commission to investigate the January 9th (SIC) attack on the United States Capitol.

Those 35 votes were a significant step toward holding accountable those involved in the capitol attack. But the vast majority of Republicans in Congress are terrified of that accountability. 175 Republicans are terrified, to be exact.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy did not support the legislation. Neither does Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, which means it only has a slim chance of passing in the senate.

In an interview released today with "Latino U.S.A." Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said this about Republicans` continued denialism of the events that took place on January 6th.


REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-NY): This was an all-out attempted coup. Mike Pence was taken out of the senate chamber something like 60 seconds before these terrorists, insurrectionists got into the Senate chamber. There are things that happened that day that if 60 seconds went differently, if a different door was opened, if a chair wasn`t barricaded in a certain way, we could have a completely different reality right now.


VELSHI: If Republicans cannot even agree on an investigation into a deadly insurrection, how much hope is there for compromise on any legitimate piece of legislation?

So it might be no surprise that President Biden so far has pushed for more progressive policies than many expected, especially Congresswoman Ocasio- Cortez.


OCASIO-CORTEZ: I think that their outreach and collaboration with House progressives -- while I wasn`t there at the time, from what I`m hearing from my colleagues -- is less contentious than it was with even the Obama administration.

And so when it comes to that perspective, I think the administration has acknowledged that there are very strong parts of the progressive movement that frankly, like, saved the party`s (EXPLETIVE DELETED) in November. And they recognize it.


VELSHI: In her interview with "Latino U.S.A." Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez says immigration reform is a top priority on which President Biden must take action.


OCASIO-CORTEZ: The reason I take issue with this term "surge" and all of these things at the border and just even if -- forget whatever you want to call it. The situation in general is unacceptable.


OCASIO-CORTEZ: People act as though this -- as though migration patterns haven`t existed, period. And that they haven`t existed in this way and that this problem is brand-new when it`s just not.


VELSHI: Joining me now is my old friend and colleague Maria Hinojosa. She`s an anchor and executive producer of the public radio show "Latino U.S.A." She`s also the author of "Once I Was You".

Maria, my good friend, good to see you. Thank you for joining us.

And I want to talk to you in a moment about immigration, a topic you and I talk about a lot. But there`s a piece that I haven`t played from that interview yet, and it`s got to do with the personal trauma, something that conservatives mocked Representative Ocasio-Cortez for.

She`s not past it. I think it fascinates her that those 175 Republicans are past it because they were coming for all of them.

MARIA HINOJOSA, "LATINO U.S.A." Look, Ali -- thank you for having me on. It`s great to see you too. I was not expecting that the conversation about January 6th because the interview happened a couple of weeks ago. I just didn`t think that that was where we were going to spend so much time.

You know, you have a limited amount of time and a lot to cover. But as somebody who knows trauma, I developed PTSD when I was working at CNN covering 9/11. I didn`t know what the heck it was. And it`s a very strange thing. And I`m so glad that I was able to get over it after many, many years and a lot of therapy.

And I could see this on Alexandria`s face so clearly that she needed to speak about this. And what`s hard about it, Ali, is that it`s there. You can see it on her face. Of course, when we are presenting, we all can put on makeup and look great. But when you`re close up to somebody and the mask is off, literally the mask is off, there`s the trauma.

And what`s extraordinary, Ali, is that just me talking about this on my Twitter and putting the interview up, all of the trolls come, and this is where it`s like, wow, you know. She can`t even -- she can`t even have her feelings.

And yet what I`m proud of her for -- and you know I`m always skeptical of politicians, so yes. But what I`m proud of her for is that she still remains authentic in that way.

VELSHI: In fact, so much so that I want to play some of what she said to you about her own feelings of wellness after January 6th. Let`s listen together.


OCASIO-CORTEZ: If I take a couple of months now and just be really good, then I don`t have to live with this thing festering and lingering with me like a roommate in my apartment for years.

HINOJOSA: So you`re doing therapy?

OCASIO-CORTEZ: Yes. Oh, yes. I`m doing therapy, but also I`ve just slowed down. I think the trump administration had a lot of us, especially Latino communities, in a very reactive mode. And so I`ve been putting myself in a more proactive space.


VELSHI: Let`s just talk about that. Trump had a number of people in Latino communities in a very reactive mode. This is something you know a great deal about. You report on and you talk to people.

It`s scary when the president targets a group of people. We`ve seen it now with Asian-Americans in the last year. It does have real effect.

HINOJOSA: Oh, my God. It`s exhausting, Ali. It`s completely exhausting.

The full interview -- and this was a place where Alexandria actually was able to talk about Latinos and Latinas. And it`s not just for Latinos and Latinas. But considering that we are the second largest voting bloc in the United States and she`s not just a Latina politician, she`s one of the most fascinating American politicians right now in the United States.

The way she talked about the future was extraordinary. I mean we have to understand that Latinos and Latinas are going to -- she understands that what they do, how they act politically is going to determine what the future of the United States looks like.

But at the same time, it was like a road map the way she was talking about what young Latinos -- you know, I`m a bit older now and so I don`t have a lot of time to figure this out.

But the interview was really for her giving a road map to Latinos and Latinas to understand that we have a lot of work to do to understand who we are in this country and our history and taking the cue from Black Lives Matter, from the activists historically in this country who have said we have to study our own history. We have to affirm ourselves.

And this is what Alexandria is talking about. But at the same time, I`m so happy that she talks about healing, that she talks about therapy, that she talks about going into the woods, doing green therapy, ancestral therapy, getting in touch with her indigeneity.

These are all things that also are part of a road map for many Latinos and Latinas, and we need it.

VELSHI: Maria, as always, a pleasure to talk to you, my old friend. Maria Hinojosa is the anchor and executive producer of the public radio show "Latino U.S.A." She`s the author of "Once I Was You".

Coming up, will Republican opposition to a bipartisan January 6th commission make Joe Manchin change his mind about what`s possible for Democrats on their agenda items, like an infrastructure bill? We`ll talk about that next.


VELSHI: The Biden administration continues to show that it`s willing to negotiate with Republicans on an infrastructure package. Nearly two months after President Biden unveiled his $2 trillion proposal, which Republicans balked at, the White House presented a counteroffer.

In a memo issued today, the White House says the changes to the infrastructure package, quote, "would cut the size of the proposal by about $550 billion", reducing it from around $2.25 trillion in additional investment to about $1.7 trillion.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki called the counterproposal, quote, the art of seeking common ground.


JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: This is the act -- the art, I should say, of seeking common ground. This proposal exhibits a willingness to come down in size, giving on some areas that are important to the president.

Otherwise, they wouldn`t have been in the proposal, while also staying firm in areas that are most vital to rebuilding our infrastructure and industries of the future, making our workforce and our country more competitive with China.


VELSHI: Believe it or not, Republicans have already shot down the new plan. West Virginia Senator Shelley Moore Capito who`s leading negotiations for Republicans, said the counterproposal is, quote, "well above the range of what can pass Congress with bipartisan support," end quote.

That`s an interesting term. Remember, she is saying this as Republicans are in the minority in both chambers of Congress and are also out of the White House.

Yesterday, aides to Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders met with the Senate parliamentarian to discuss passing Biden`s infrastructure bill through the process of reconciliation, meaning it would only need 50 votes to pass instead of the traditional 60.

Interesting idea, except for Democratic Senator Joe Manchin opposes passing any infrastructure plan through reconciliation.

Back with us, Renee Graham and Hayes Brown.

Renee, earlier you called Matt Gaetz and Marjorie Taylor Greene, the GOP children of the corn. So I get the impression you`re willing to speak your mind today. And with that I want to tell you what Joe Manchin said today about GOP opposition to the January 6th bill and how it -- you know, how that`s going to go.

He says, so disheartening. It makes you really concerned about our country. Asked if that is an abuse of the filibuster, he says, quote, "I`m still praying we`ve got ten good solid patriots within that conference."

Renee, evaluate that for me. Joe Manchin thinks we`ve got ten good solid patriots within the GOP conference. I`m wondering whether I have a better chance of growing hair like Hayes Brown`s than that happening.

RENEE GRAHAM, "THE BOSTON GLOBE": You know, if Joe Manchin knows who they are, he should name them, you know. He`s not going to find these ten good patriots on the other side of the aisle to approve the commission. It`s just not going to happen.

Mitch McConnell has been abundantly clear. I don`t know there`s been a single senator yet who has said that they`re willing to support this.

So I`m not even sure Joe Manchin is talking about how he`s praying he can find them. He can pray all he wants. It`s just not going to be there, you know.

But the funny thing about this, it`s like, hey, Joe, there`s something you actually could do. You can vote to get rid of the filibuster, and then we won`t have to think about this anymore.

But he`s still sort of playing this fantasy thing. I think he likes the sense of having this power that he can somehow make Republicans do things that they absolutely, positively are not going to do.

VELSHI: Hayes, the problem is that the January 6th commission is quite possibly the lowest-hanging fruit that the United States Senate will ever face unless they are involved in naming post offices. There`s just nothing else that should have bipartisan support.

So now you got infrastructure, and you got the Families Act and things like that, that actually are policy oriented in which there might be policy differences. If you can`t get this one done, what`s the chance of the other things?

HAYES BROWN, MSNBC DAILY COLUMNIST AND EDITOR: Slim to none, I would say, is the chance of getting those other things done if you cannot get this. You are just not going to be able to find ten senators who are willing to leave the herd, as it were, and vote with the Democrats.

Like Manchin and to a lesser degree, Kyrsten Sinema their argument is that the filibuster encourages bipartisan cooperation because you have to get, you know, these ten Republicans to help break a filibuster.

But if you don`t give them an incentive to break ranks, then if you are able to single them out, then they are -- you are unable to single them out -- they are just not able to break with their caucus, you`re not going to get anything done.

And I get why on a personal, political level Manchin and Sinema would not want to abolish the filibuster, because then they`re the deciding votes and it`s all on them. They can`t blame the Republicans without the filibuster. They can`t say, oh, they`re the ones who are blocking this. It falls on them to not be votes 49 and 50 on whatever is under discussion.

But I really don`t see how Manchin can avoid it on this front with this -- with this investigation, with this commission. There`s for democracy and there`s not. And if Manchin cannot find those ten patriots that he hopes to find, then is he willing to be the reason why this commission doesn`t move forward? I don`t know if he is.

VELSHI: So this is interesting, Renee, because Hayes talks about Kyrsten Sinema. I want to read you an article from Politico. It says "Asked if the Biden administration should keep talking to Republicans about a bipartisan infrastructure deal, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand replied, `Absolutely not. Because we might lose our coalition for human infrastructure.` Instead she`s 100 percent in favor of pushing through a multi-trillion dollar package using budget reconciliation.

She says, `I do not think the White House should relegate recovery to the judgment of Mitch McConnell because he will not function in good faith,` says Gillibrand."

So Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin are starting to be out there blowing in the wind with the rest of the Democrats who are saying, we don`t all think it`s the world`s best process. They didn`t want budget reconciliation for everything, but they`re beginning to understand that they`re not going to get anything done if they don`t use sharper tactics.

GRAHAM: Well, I mean the question becomes how much is Biden willing to turn himself inside out and neuter his agenda in the process to achieve this mythical bipartisanship in which the Republicans have no interest.

You know, his duty and the duty of Democrats is to pass legislation that helps the country. If the GOP wants to get onboard with that, cool. If not, Biden shouldn`t allow them to get in his way the same way he didn`t when it came to passing the American Rescue Plan.

And the funny thing about that, a plan that not a single Republican voted for, that they`re now swanning (ph) around their districts claiming, oh, my God, this is this great achievement and isn`t this wonderful when they know they didn`t support it.

So I think, you know -- and look, McConnell has been very clear. He is 100 percent committed to stopping Biden`s agenda. So the point is to ignore Mitch McConnell and do what you have to do to get this country on track, get that bill passed, and move forward.

VELSHI: It is a remarkable development that we are actually discussing the fact that this bill may not pass.

Renee Graham and Hayes Brown, thanks as always for joining us.

Coming up, I`m going to be joined by Congressman Mondaire Jones to talk about progress on police reform as newly-released body cam video shows a brutal encounter in yet another police-involved death of a black man.



JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I know Republicans have their own ideas and are engaged in very productive discussions with Democrats in the Senate. We need to work together to find a consensus, but let`s get it done next month by the first anniversary of George Floyd`s death.


VELSHI: Well, May 21st -- 25th, I`m sorry -- will mark one year since George Floyd was murdered by a police officer. May 25th is on Tuesday, and key players in the negotiations about this bill are already signaling that police reform will not happen by Tuesday. But it could still happen.

Congresswoman Karen Bass says, quote, "What`s most important is that we get it right. I won`t say we`re apart on all these issues, we just haven`t finished."

Senator Cory Booker says "I`m not really looking at a schedule. I`m just trying to get this bill done right."

The NAACP says they hoped it would happen by the 25th but they want the right bill not a rushed bill.

And the National Fraternal Order of Police, who could potentially bring some Republicans along says, "As long as we`re still talking, there`s still hope."

But tonight negotiations are happening amid another video showing the brutal reality of police violence against black people. These are still images from disturbing newly released body camera footage from 2019 that shows Louisiana state police officers shocking, choking and beating Ronald Green while he screams that he`s sorry and he`s scared.

Ronald Green died afterward on the way to the hospital. His death is under investigation by state and federal authorities and his family is suing for wrongful death. The Louisiana state police acknowledged that the troopers did use force in the encounter but say the use of force was justified.

Joining us now is Democratic Congressman Mondaire Jones of New York, a member of the Judiciary Committee. Congressman, it is good to see you again. I would love to talk to you some time and not have a piece of bad news to discuss with you.

But it just underscores the point this bill, this Justice for George Floyd Policing Act is low hanging fruit. It`s the minimum that we can actually achieve jointly, and it is still in peril.

REP. MONDAIRE JONES (D-NY): It really is the minimum that we can do, and I was proud to pass it with other House Democrats a few months ago. It would having said that be transformative. As you know it would end qualified immunity for law enforcement. It would ban choke holds and no-knock warrants of the kind that led to the murder of Breonna Taylor and, of course, it would create a national police registry for officers engaging in misconduct.

And so we must pass this legislation. I`m fine with it taking a little bit longer than the anniversary of George Floyd`s murder if we`re going to get it right. And I have the utmost faith in the leadership and negotiating skills of Congresswoman Karen Bass.

VELSHI: Let`s talk about the senators on the other side. There is this concern about qualified immunity, what you just talked about, the restriction on being able to sue police officers for potential wrongdoing in the course of their duties.

It is something that Republicans have generally said they are not interested in touching. It is something that the police union do not want them to touch. The other stuff is good and serious but ultimately that is the one that matters to a lot of people, and that`s the thing that rumor says is on the negotiating table.

JONES: It`s unfortunate that it`s on the negotiating table. As you may know this is a doctrine that was created out of thin air by the Supreme Court of the United States. And it is a doctrine that effectively allows law enforcement agents to evade responsibility even when it has been demonstrated that they have violated the constitutional rights of civilians.

I know that there have been a variety of proposals floated with respect to qualified immunity, various versions of what a reforming qualified immunity would look like. And I`m awaiting to see what the final proposal will be. But I`ve got to tell you I cannot imagine it passing in the House of Representatives without it addressing the issue of qualified immunity.

VELSHI: If it doesn`t have qualified immunity in it, but it`s still an advance over what we have now, would you support it?

JONES: I cannot imagine myself voting for something that does not address qualified immunity. It is what is going to deter officers in a meaningful way from engaging in the misconduct that is on the public conscience right now.

And thank God this bill is popular with the American people. We should not be having to negotiate. We should be abolishing really the filibuster to get this through. And at a minimum we should be reforming it so that we can pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act intact, as it was passed by House Democrats and as it is preferred by the American people, and as racial justice requires in the United States of America.

VELSHI: I want to ask you about a voting rights bill. You and three other Democratic representatives have sent a letter to party leaders urging them to pass a more expansive voting rights bill. What are you looking for and why?

JONES: Our democracy is in crisis. The insurrection at the Capitol made that clear. We are seeing voter suppression being enacted in states like Georgia, Florida, Iowa, and Montana. And in a few days it is predicted that Texas will follow suit.

The project of the modern day Republican Party is not to compete on the merits of its policy ideas but rather to disenfranchise large numbers of the American electorate.

And the only way to stop that from happening is to pass the For The People Act also known as HR1 or S1.

Senator Manchin`s ultimate proposal simply is no substitute for what is required to save our democracy. The For The People Act would enfranchise an additional 50 million people, end partisan gerrymandering, undermine -- or rather root out the influence of big money in our politics, and also roll back the voter suppression that we`re seeing in various states.

Senator Manchin`s proposal would not do that and so it was important that we wrote that letter to our colleagues to just (INAUDIBLE) and also obviously to make sure that Senator Manchin is paying attention to what will be required to save our democracy.

VELSHI: Congressman, good to talk to you as always. Thank you for joining us. Congressman Mondaire Jones of New York.

And that is tonight`s LAST WORD.

You can catch me tomorrow morning at 8:00 a.m. Eastern on my show, "VELSHI". Tomorrow I`m joined by Democratic delegate Stacey Plaskett of the United States Virgin Islands, Arizona secretary of state Katie Hobbs and the CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights Nancy Northup.

Don`t want to miss that. That`s tomorrow at 8:00 a.m. Eastern.

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