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BREAKING: Trump asks Supreme Court to intervene in Mar-a-Lago case

Transcript: The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, 5/26/21

Guests: Adam Kaufmann, Laurence Tribe, Jocelyn Benson, Aisha Mills

Summary

A Trump advisor told "Politico" today that there`s nerves in the air because of the grand jury investigation in New York City where prosecutors have obtained and are studying Donald Trump`s tax returns for evidence of possible bank fraud, tax fraud, insurance fraud. In a filing this week, in a lawsuit by Congressman Eric Swalwell against Donald Trump for inciting insurrection of the Capitol, Donald Trump`s lawyers said the lawsuit should be dismissed because on January 6th, Donald Trump was acting as president of the United States and therefore has what his lawyers call absolute immunity from any lawsuits. The Republican fraud-it in Arizona is inspiring Trump supporters in Georgia and Michigan to pressure county governments to launch similar election so-called audits. Officer Brian Sicknick`s mother, Gladys Sicknick has sent a statement to Mitch McConnell and every Republican member of the Senate asking them to meet with her to explain their opposition to a January 6th commission.

Transcript

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel.

And I`m going to do something that we`ve both been promising to do and I`m sure you`ve never done. I`m going to use --

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Okay.

O`DONNELL: -- a script tonight at the end of the hour written by Kyle Griffin for Monday night`s show that has gotten bumped all the way to Wednesday because of the news. It`s one of these wonderful stories about what a difference the presidency makes, the difference between Joe Biden and Donald Trump.

And so, just, you know, get out of here, so, get yourself positioned and get ready to watch that. Now three-day old Kyle Griffin script at the end of the hour.

MADDOW: You sure know how to sell it. Ha-ha.

O`DONNELL: No, no. And I want you to tell us tomorrow whether you think it worked, whether you think the shelf-life held.

MADDOW: Okay.

O`DONNELL: OK.

MADDOW: All right. I will report back. Thank you, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: OK. Thank you, Rachel. Thank you.

Well, if there were a Pulitzer Prize for tweets, I would nominate a tweet by "The Washington Post" drama critic Peter Marks written at the end of the first week of November when we were on the verge of calling Joe Biden the winner of the presidential election.

Working within the word limit of a tweet, Peter Marks captured in simple but starkly dramatic terms as a drama critic would, what was sure to be the rest of Donald Trump`s life, the rest of his life. Peter Marks called the election result, quote, a chilling, final turn of the plot.

And then he said: His world is coming to an end. He will never have another good day. Loser label will haunt him. The law will pursue him. Mental illness will hobble him. His properties will bankrupt him.

Three of those five things have already happened to Donald Trump. He has never had another good day. The loser label haunts him. And the law is pursuing him.

Donald Trump knew that that was his future. He knew that. He knew that was his future if he lost his reelection campaign and when Donald Trump was running for reelection in 2020, he was running for his life. He was running for his freedom. Freedom from criminal prosecutors who are now closing in on him in Georgia for possible election-law violations and in New York where a criminal grand jury has been empanelled especially and only to study the possible crimes of Donald Trump and his associates.

And so, we will report the daily twists and turns and dramas of Donald Trump`s life, but they are simply the latest details to emerge in a future that most of us saw coming for Donald Trump and that Donald Trump certainly saw coming for himself if he lost his reelection campaign. That is why he fought all the way to January 6th because he knew that without the presidency, as Peter Marks put it, he will never have another good day. Loser label will haunt him. The law will pursue him.

And so, today`s reporting in politico that there`s a new sensation of anxiety, in the Trump world. It`s something we knew was coming and Donald Trump knew was coming.

A Trump advisor told "Politico" today, there`s definitely nerves in the air because of the grand jury investigation in New York City where prosecutors have obtained and are studying Donald Trump`s tax returns for evidence of possible bank fraud, tax fraud, insurance fraud.

"The Washington Post" reports, quote, the district attorney also is examining the compensation provided to the top Trump Organization executives, people familiar with the matter have said. Prosecutors reportedly are hoping that added pressure on Donald Trump`s long-time accountant, the so-called chief financial officer of Trump world, Allen Weisselberg, whose own taxes are under criminal investigation will convince Weisselberg to cooperate with investigators, as he has actually done before in a Trump investigation.

The Trump advisor told "Politico", I think the Weisselberg involvement and the wildcard of that makes the particular situation more real. The fact that they`re dealing with a numbers guy who just has plain details makes people more nervous.

One of the unnamed Trump aides told "Politico", he`s missing being president terribly. No kidding. He`s missing the attention? He`s missing Air Force One. Of course, not being president means that Donald Trump is a loser.

As Peter Marks said, the loser label will haunt him. That`s what they really mean when they say he`s missing being president terribly. He is being haunted terribly and relentlessly, every minute of his life, awake or asleep, by the fact that he is a loser and Joe Biden is the president.

Fifty-three percent of Republicans think that Donald Trump is the real president. We don`t know if Donald Trump`s own mental health has deteriorated to the point where he is one of those Republicans who thinks that he is still president. But he wouldn`t be as worried as he reportedly is tonight if he was able to believe that he is still president.

Because the twice-impeached and fully-disgraced Donald Trump is banned from Twitter and other social media, he released an old-fashioned press release last night in response to news that grand jury was investigating him -- is investigating him, and in that press release, he, of course, called the investigation a witch hunt and in that same written statement, he said, I`m far in the lead for the Republican presidential primary and general election in 2024.

A new Quinnipiac poll showed what a disaster Donald Trump would be in a general election as a Republican candidate in 2024 when he is 78 years old. Sixty-six percent do not want Donald Trump to run for president again ever. Sixty-six percent have had enough of Donald Trump.

According to voting patterns in Manhattan, closer to 100 percent of the grand jurors who will be considering the evidence against Donald Trump do not want him to run for president again. But they will take an oath not to let politics in anyway effect their decision about giving Donald Trump a new title -- criminal defendant Donald Trump.

Today, Michael Cohen who confessed to committing federal crimes with and at the direction of Donald Trump in a conspiracy to help him win the 2016 presidential election said this about the possibility of Donald Trump running for president in 2024.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER PERSONAL ATTORNEY TO DONALD TRUMP: 2024 is three years away. And it`s a very long time especially when you have the district attorney and the attorney general`s office breathing down your neck. They don`t just have the document that they got from the tax returns. They now have Rudy Guiliani documents as well.

This is a multi, multi-facetted investigation. There`s many tentacles that are going to be grabbing at Trump, at Don Jr., at Ivanka, Eric, the Kushners, you name it, and a host of other people. So, I really do believe that they need to come down to -- you know, they need to come back to reality.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Leading off our discussion tonight are: Adam Kaufmann who served as executive assistance district attorney and chief of the investigation division at the Manhattan District Attorney`s Office.

Also with us, John Heilemann, an MSNBC national affairs analyst, host and executive producer of Showtime`s "The Circus" and host of "The Hell and High Water" podcast from "The Recount".

Adam Kaufmann, let me start with you. What we just heard Michael Cohen say you can agree with the political piece of it, but the way he describes what he thinks -- the shape of this investigation is and how many directions it goes involving everyone at the higher end of the Trump company which, of course, includes Donald Trump`s children.

ADAM KAUFMANN, MANHATTAN DISTRICT ATTORNEY`S OFFICE, FORMER EXECUTIVE ASSISTANT DISTRICT ATTORNEY: That`s absolutely right, Lawrence. Thanks for having me on tonight.

It really has been an astounding turn of events for Mr. Trump and I`m sure he is worried. I love the quote you opened with, the law will pursue him, because that`s exactly what we`re seeing. And he`s not being pursued for political reasons, he`s being pursued for financial crimes, as any business man who skirts the law might be pursued.

The fact the district attorney has now actually convened a special grand jury really indicates that they think they have evidence of criminal conduct. We don`t know against whom precisely. But perhaps against some, the Trump Organization itself, perhaps against Donald Trump, perhaps against executives, but they`ve reached a point where they`re looking at that evidence and assessing it and saying, we have enough now to bring this to a grand jury to start considering charges, to start making strategic moves about compelling testimony.

There`s so much can go on with the special grand jury that sits for the next six months, perhaps longer, that this could go in a lot of different ways.

O`DONNELL: And for the Trump lawyers, it`s mostly a mystery what`s going on with the grand jury, right? I mean, the best they can do is -- if they can find out, is to try to read what it means that so-and-so testified.

KAUFMANN: That`s right. If they know that someone testified, right? Grand jury proceedings are secret as a matter of law. The witnesses may talk about their own testimony, but certainly, the district attorney, the court will not be broadcasting who testifies, who appears.

The other thing lawyers can do is if friendly banks, financial partners, individuals receive subpoenas, those individuals may reach out to the Trump lawyers and let them know they received subpoenas. But there`s no right, there`s no visible for the Trump team into the grand jury process itself, which, of course, in and of itself is going to be very nerve-racking.

O`DONNELL: John Heilemann, citing Michael Cohen as a political expert is not really what we`re doing here, it just strikes me as -- and has always been -- so absurdly obvious that by 2024, Donald Trump is going to have so many new things on his resume as a defendant, both civil already, and possibly criminal.

JOHN HEILEMANN, MSNBC NATIONAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Oh, sure, Lawrence, I think there are a couple things to say about that, right? One is, you and I had the conversation of variety of settings about our -- I think our shared view about which we`ve been wrong, which is that I don`t think either of us would have thought Trump would be as influential in the Republican Party in May of 2021 as he`s turned out to be so we got cautious about what the future holds for Donald Trump, because he`s surprised me at least over the course of these last four months, and more than the Republican Party has.

So, I do think, though, those two facts -- you cited a really important number, the number -- that 66 number, I do not think that number is going to go down, 66 percent of Americans, not of Republicans, but of Americans, who do not want to see Donald Trump run for president again. That`s an incredibly powerful number.

And just like I say, I don`t see what good happen in the next couple of years that`s going to make that number go down. It`s only going to go up.

And then there`s the reality of all of this metastasizing legal jeopardy that Michael Cohen did talk about, that he does know something about related to Donald Trump himself, his businesses and his family. All of those things -- any one of those things, any one of those legal entanglements would make it exponentially harder for him to run successfully for Republican nomination in 2024. Multiple entanglements of that kind, man, I just -- I find it -- it beggars belief that Trump could pull off together and be able to pull off a successful campaign. I don`t want to say it`s impossible but it`s going to be very tough.

O`DONNELL: And isn`t -- John, isn`t Mitch McConnell and other top Republicans really hoping that the Manhattan D.A. and the district attorney in Fulton County, Georgia, take Donald Trump just out of their lives.

HEILEMANN: Yes.

O`DONNELL: Just get him -- get him to be a convicted criminal defendant.

HEILEMANN: Mitch McConnell has no courage whatsoever, Lawrence. He has no courage. He has no spine. He has no -- he`s demonstrated amply that he is not willing to pull the trigger so to speak on Donald Trump. He had his chance and he decided not to do that.

But that does not change the fact that for Mitch McConnell, the dream scenario is a grand jury outside the realm of politics, someone just coming in, a deus ex machina, as they say in Latin, coming in and taking out Donald Trump out of his life for good. This is the -- this is the scenario that Mitch McConnell prays to the Sweet Lord Jesus above every night comes along, I have no doubt about that

O`DONNELL: Adam, you`re an expert on the way these grand jury works. You`ve been in the secret room that none of the rest of us don`t get to go in. I`m a little -- I`m a little bit confused on one element of New York grand juries. It has been said that if you are a witness in a New York grand jury, you are automatically granted immunity when you walk in the room.

Does that mean, if true, that if we discover someone has testified to the grand jury that means that person`s not going to be charged with a crime?

KAUFMANN: That`s generally true. A witness who testifies in a grand jury in the state of New York gets complete immunity. It cannot be prosecuted for the subject matter for their testimony, unless they agree to waive their immunity and testify pursuant to some sort of agreement. So, what can happen at times is a witness may have some exposure and they reach and agreement where they -- perhaps a plea agreement, perhaps a non-prosecution agreement and they waive their -- they waive their immunity and go ahead and testify.

The other very interesting thing about New York state-grand juries is that defendants have a right to testify, a defendant has right to have their lawyer contact the D.A. and say, my client demands to testify before the grand jury. Now, a defendant or target who does that is on obligated to waive their immunity and give testimony.

But unlike federal grand jury practice and unlike any other state I`m aware of, Donald Trump could waive immunity and appear before the grand jury to give his testimony.

O`DONNELL: So, Adam, quickly before we have to go to a break here, absent any leaks what would you be looking for as external clues about what`s happening in this investigation?

KAUFMANN: I would look for people pleading guilty, which will occur in open court. People linked it to this will get a plea agreement, they`ll plead guilty, and I`m sure there are people watching the dockets and studying the courthouse to see if any pleas are taken, anyone gets a cooperation agreement. It`s a telling sign.

O`DONNELL: So, John, you have an assignment, get down to the courthouse and look for people pleading guilty and then we got a show to do.

HEILEMANN: I`m on my way, Lawrence. I`m on my way now.

O`DONNELL: OK. Adam Kaufmann and John Heilemann, thank you both very much for starting us off tonight. Really appreciate it.

KAUFMANN: Thank you, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

And coming up, Donald Trump is trying the same legal defense that President Richard Nixon tried in the 1970s, but Nixon never had to use that defense in court because he got a pardon from his vice president after he resigned the presidency. Harvard constitutional law professor, Laurence Tribe, will join us with his analysis of Donald Trump`s new legal claim of absolute immunity.

Get ready to take notes, you`re going to learn a lot.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: Three years after Richard Nixon was forced to resign the presidency because of his criminal conduct, he said this --

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICHARD NIXON, FORMER PRESIDENT: When the president does it, that means that it is not illegal.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: He said that after his successor, President Gerald Ford, issued Richard Nixon a blanket pardon for any crimes that he might have committed while he was president. Donald Trump is trying to extend the false Nixon doctrine of presidential immunity to civil law.

In a filing this week, in a lawsuit by Congressman Eric Swalwell against Donald Trump for inciting insurrection of the Capitol, Donald Trump`s lawyers said the lawsuit should be dismissed because on January 6th, Donald Trump was acting as president of the United States and therefore has what his lawyers call absolute immunity from any lawsuits.

Joining us now for tonight`s lawsuit class on civil procedure and constitutional law is Laurence Tribe, university professor of constitutional law emeritus at Harvard Law School. He has won 39 cases in the United States Supreme Court and he`s won every case he`s presented on this show.

Professor Tribe, go ahead, Donald Trump`s absolute immunity from civil process, civil lawsuit because of January 6th.

LAURENCE TRIBE, HARVARD LAW SCHOOL CONSTITUTIONAL LAW PROFESSOR: It`s a remarkable claim, Lawrence. It`s a claim that I`m not even sure Richard Nixon would have made.

Nixon actually invoked the claim of absolute immunity from certain kinds of certain lawsuits. There was one brought by a guy named Ernie Fitzgerald after Nixon`s executive order reorganizing the Air Force and after Nixon had left office, Fitzgerald sued Nixon saying that he was reorganized out of a job and that the real reason the president did it was he didn`t like the way Fitzgerald testified against him.

The U.S. Supreme Court in 1982, in a case called Nixon v. Fitzgerald held that when the president is exercising his official duties, he cannot be held liable. Among other things, the court said the desire to be reelected will deter the president from abusing his official duties. That`s a good one in a case like this where the president had been voted out of office.

The court also said that you could rely on Congress to check the president. That`s a really good one in a case like this where the president is accused by Congressmen Swalwell of aiming an angry mob at the Capitol at Congress to prevent it from performing it`s function.

The president`s claim that it is part of his official duties to stay in office no matter, even after he has been voted out by the people and by the Electoral College takes it to a new level. It says, I have a duty to you my subjects, I can just hear George III in the background in the play "Hamilton". I have a duty to you my loyal subjects, to remain in office, to prevent congress from counting the electoral votes that would kick me out of office.

If a president had an official responsibility that was part of his job description to hold on to that office even after he`s voted out of it, and to do it even by trying to have his own vice president hung in front of the Capitol, by storming the Capitol, by killing a Capitol police, if that was part of the job description then the job that would be described is dictator, not president. So it`s not a claim likely to find favor, to put it mildly, with the courts of the United States.

O`DONNELL: A possible illustration of what you`re talking about in terms of official duties here is the distinction between, say, Donald Trump on that day and Senator Hawley on that day. One might argue that Senator Hawley helped provoke an insurrection at the Capitol by challenging the Electoral College vote. However, there is an official procedure that Senator Hawley was working within when he did that and it might have been encouraging to people and -- but he was working in a prescribed official procedure when he did that.

TRIBE: Right. He was, in fact, exercising his role as a member of Congress, however disgustingly he was doing it. There`s a speech and debate clause that says any speech you make on the floor of Congress and for exercising your official duties, you can`t be questioned in any other place. There is no such provision for the president.

There is however, a judicially created immunity. The court recognized and elaborated on it in the case of Nixon versus Fitzgerald but it said it was part of the separation of powers, that you don`t hold the president responsible in the Article 3 judiciary for his carrying out his Article 2 duties as president.

Among other things is said, the impeachment powers, which is also good one in this case. Remember when a lot of the members of the Senate voted to acquit him they said, including Mitch McConnell, he will be held responsible. The law will follow him, to use that quotation from the tweet that you began with.

The law will follow him. He will be held accountable. That`s why we don`t have to convict him.

Well, this is the law holding him accountable. And he says, not me. I was president of the United States. He has just has made a fundamental mistake.

A president is not a sovereign. A president is not the king of us. He is not George III. He is not even George Washington.

He is exercising power as an employee of the people of the United States. That he answers to the people. And one of the ways you answer to the people is by being held accountable for the damages that you do, when you aim an angry mob at members of Congress and others who gets severely injured as a result.

Eric Swalwell in his lawsuit talks about how he thought he was going to die. He basically said goodbye to his wife and to his children, because he was among the targets of this supposed exercise of official power.

The president is trying to have it both ways and everywhere, is trying in fact, also to say, that he had a First Amendment right to do what he did. A right that private citizens have, but not that the government has.

And for him to say that he was really just being the government, doing the government`s duty, doing his duty to American citizens, when he fomented an insurrection, a violent insurrection to try to hold on to office just pushes it way beyond the limit.

And it`s like the 13th chime of a clock. With other defenses you might have in a lawsuit like this really become laughable when his basic defenses, you can`t touch me. I was president of the United States. And for all we know, he`s among those of his followers who says, I`m still president of the United States, if you want to know the truth.

It won`t work. It`s just not me -- it doesn`t meet the laugh test as we see in the law.

O`DONNELL: Professor Laurence Tribe, thank you very much, once again tonight. We really appreciate it. Thank you very much.

TRIBE: Thank you, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

And coming up, Republicans in Arizona are trying to restrict the secretary of state`s authority over elections because she`s a Democrat. Republicans in other states, including Michigan, want to launch their own "fraudits" just like the one in Arizona. Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson has warned them that that is against the law. Secretary of State Benson will join us next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: The last time Arizona`s Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs joined us on this program, she solved a problem for us, what to call what Republicans are doing to the presidential ballots in Arizona. Hobbs called it a fraud-it and then she said this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KATIE HOBBS (D), ARIZONA SECRETARY OF STATE: When they are unboxing ballots to do whatever they`re doing to the ballots and then putting them back they`re not making sure they get put back in the right place. It also appears as if they are co-mingling uncounted versus counted ballots.

They are leaving ballots unattended on tables. They`re just absolutely not taking seriously the magnitude of what they have in front of them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Republicans in Arizona don`t like election experts and election law experts and so Republicans in Arizona state legislature have advanced a bill that would strip the secretary of state of the authority she has to respond to election lawsuits.

The Republican bill would give that authority to the Republican state attorney general in all election litigation through January 2, 2023.

Secretary of state Katie Hobbs released a statement saying, "The fact that the legislature has singled me out and my office for these unjustifiable restrictions, restrictions which expire at the end of my term make it clear what this is really about partisan politics."

The Republican fraud-it in Arizona is inspiring Trump supporters in Georgia and Michigan to pressure county governments to launch similar election so- called audits.

In Georgia, the Republican secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger who is running for reelection against a Trump-endorsed opponent told "The New York Times" that he suddenly supports a review of the ballots in Fulton County which Joe Biden won by 242,965 votes.

And "The Washington Post" reports Michigan top election official, secretary of state Jocelyn Benson and the company whose voting equipment has been the subject of baseless claims of fraud are cautioning local governments in the state that outside audits of the 2020 election results like the one underway in Maricopa County, Arizona would be illegal and would void the machines` security warranties.

Joining us now is Jocelyn Benson, Michigan secretary of state. Thank you very much for joining us tonight. Really appreciate it.

What is happening in Michigan? And why did you have to issue that warning?

JOCELYN BENSON (D), MICHIGAN SECRETARY OF STATE: Well we`re seeing again a continuation of the big lie where individuals are trying to find other ways to keep the misinformation alive, to stay in the news, to stay relevant and also to intervene with our security protocols which we take quite seriously.

And you know, the bottom line is in our state at the local level, county governments cannot simply hand over access to secure ballots or voting machines or other types of materials that we use to make sure elections are secure.

And my office as the state chief election officer, my job is to make sure the law is followed and that security protections remain in place against those who would seek to continue to find ways to undermine our democracy here in our state.

O`DONNELL: You know, there was once a time, you know, like about, I don`t know, six months ago where almost no one in America could tell you who their secretary of state was in their state. It was one of the kind of comfortably obscure jobs normally done in a professional and very non- partisan way all over the country.

What has it been like to transition from that kind of a position, trusted by both parties, never really doubted into center now -- center of kind of cross-current attacks and controversy?

BENSON: I`ve always believed, because voters in many states choose their chief election officer that we should indeed have a straighter spotlight on these position because we do make decisions every day that impact people`s right to vote and thereby their ability to hold their elected officials accountable.

So it is important we take these offices seriously and what unfortunately we also see happening is efforts in Georgia, as you mentioned, in Arizona in particular, to now reduce the authority of these positions to further partisan agendas and partisan goals and that is particularly troubling in light of what happened in 2020 where democracy prevailed because you had good people in secretary of state positions on both sides of the aisle willing to stand up and defend every vote and every voice.

And if those folks are replaced by people who don`t have that same commitment or if their job description has changed to give that ability to oversee elections to more partisan individuals like, you know, in Arizona the attorney general, we do have a problem on our hands that impacts the ability to protect the integrity of our elections and our democracy moving forward.

O`DONNELL: Does this feel to you like in effect spring training for the big game. The big game being in 2024, the next presidential election, where these things that are presenting themselves as challenges right now will actually get turned into Republican-controlled practices in various battleground states.

BENSON: Well, we`re absolutely right to look at this as preparation for the 2024 election cycle. Indeed, I believe everything we saw and endured and survived in 2020 will be back again in 2022 and in stronger forces in 2024 by those forces who sought to undermine democracy in 2020 will be back.

They will be better organized. They will be better funded. They will have more people in position of authority. So yes, in many ways everything you`re seeing right now from the fraud-its that are perpetuating the big lie and feeding the big lie misinformation campaign to the changes to election laws all across the country to make it harder to vote. To the changes in authority or efforts to strip authority from election administrators.

It`s all about preparing for the next big battle in 2024 where those forces will be back and I think it`s important for folks to know in that and to me this feels like continuation more than training. Meaning I feel like we were told this marathon would end in the 2020 election but indeed the big run, the big race was just beginning and it`s going to take us through 2024 and require all of us to stay vigilant throughout this time and into 2024 to protect our democracy and ensure that it prevails again.

O`DONNELL: Michigan secretary of state, Jocelyn Benson, thank you very much for joining this important discussion tonight. Really appreciate it.

BENSON: Thanks for having me.

O`DONNELL: Coming up officer Brian Sicknick fought for hours with the attackers of the Capitol on January 6th. He suffered two strokes and died in the hospital the next day. Officer Sicknick`s mother now wants to meet with every Republican senator who opposes a January 6th investigative commission. Most Republicans are planning to vote against that Commission tomorrow without ever meeting with Officer Sicknick`s mother.

That`s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): Today we mourn and give thanks for the true patriots who lies in the rotunda. the senate and entire country send our deepest condolences to Officer Sicknick`s family and all who loved him. His name will never be forgotten.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: He has been forgotten by Mitch McConnell and Republican senators. Mitch McConnell is now blocking an investigation into what happened to Brian Sicknick when he engaged to hand-to-hand combat on January 6th, suffered two strokes and died the next day. Mitch McConnell plans to use a procedural vote in the Senate to block a bill establishing a bipartisan January 6th investigative commission.

Officer Brian Sicknick`s mother, Gladys Sicknick has sent a statement to Mitch McConnell and every Republican member of the Senate asking them to meet with her to explain their opposition to a January 6th commission. In her statement to Republican senators, Gladys Sicknick says that her son, quote, "died because of the insurrectionists who stormed the Capitol building on January 6th."

Gladys Sicknick said that her son "fought for hours and hours against those animals who were trying to take over the Capitol building and our democracy as we know it."

"Not having a January 6th commission to look into exactly what occurred is a slap in the faces of all the officers who did their jobs that day. Because of what they did the people in the building were able to go home that evening and be with their families. Brian and many other officers ended up in the hospital.

I suggest all that all congressmen and senators who are against this bill visit my son`s grave in Arlington National Cemetery and while there think about what their hurtful decisions will do to those officers who will be there for them going forward."

Joining our discussion now, Maria Teresa Kumar, president and CEO of Voto Latino and an MSNBC contributor. Also with us Aisha Mills, Democratic strategist and host of BNC News.

And Maria Teresa, Mitch McConnell said he would never forget. It seem like he has forgotten.

MARIA TERESA KUMAR, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Once again, Mitch McConnell says nice things behind -- on the floor of the Senate, but does it with empty words and without action.

And what I find the most tragic is that that officer, Officer Sicknick died doing his duty to protect Mitch McConnell and to protect every single person in that building. He was doing his job.

And for law -- for the Senate leadership not to ask for an investigation of something that was so against the history of America and to do it in a way that is a slap in the face for those people who lost their lives that day and who almost -- who were trying to safeguard our democracy is not only a slap in the face to that family but to the American people because his job was to protect Mitch McConnell and Mitch McConnell basically is turning his back on trying to find out the truth.

O`DONNELL: And apparently turning his back on Brian Sicknick`s mother, Aisha. Gladys Sicknick said this, "Putting politics aside, wouldn`t they want to know the truth of what happened on January 6th? If not, they do not deserve to have the jobs they were elected to do."

Aisha, I just can`t imagine how that conversation would go between Gladys Sicknick and a Republican member of the senate who is opposed to this commission.

AISHA MILLS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Me either. And I`m just so curious to see who would actually take her up on having those real conversations because here`s the thing, you know, we have to just kind of take a minute to think about, what is democracy. As we talk about this whole anti- democratic you know, wave of dis-imagination of the Republican Party. They weren`t always this but they are this today.

And the truth is that our democracy is a system that is set up under mutually-agreed upon rules where rivals compete but ultimately compete within a system of shared and agreed-upon rules.

That`s not what`s happening any more. You have a Republican Party that essentially, instead of seeing the opposition as, you know, rivals under the same system, they see Democrats and people who share Democrats vision and ideals and want accountability in the Democrats in the same way the Democrats do.

They see them as mortal rivals and a threat in a way that they want to stomp them out, as opposed to participate in a mutually-agreed upon process to get down to some answers and to really legislate.

Here`s the thing that makes that difficult is when you have a party that sees the opposition as something to stomp out there`s nowhere to go with that. There`s no -- there`s really no system anymore. There`s nothing to participate around.

And so, you know, I think that, you know, they`re all going to shun this man`s mother because how could they sit and have a conversation with her and be a part of a process that they actually no longer believe exists or to want to participate in?

And the last thing that I`ll say briefly about this is that I always want us to remember that this rush towards, you know, kind of eroding our democracy always begins and ends with race.

At the end of the day, the greatest predictor for this kind of anti- democratic viewpoint that the Republicans have now is always going to be about racial animus. And, you know, you say it in a lot of different ways but that`s what it comes down to.

And so forced to actually participate in a system that gets down to answers around this insurrection is going to be a reckoning on a whole lot of nasty underbelly of views that the party has that they don`t want to touch with a ten-foot pole.

And so here we are where they want to do nothing and to not participate. And it`s just really unfortunate and such a breakdown and frustrating.

O`DONNELL: And Maria Teresa, it seems if the Republicans vote this down, it will get a majority vote, it will get a couple of Republicans, but if it doesn`t get 60 to cross that procedural threshold, the Republicans will vote it down.

If they do that, it is then within the powers of the Democratic chairs of the Senate and House committees to conduct their own investigations.

KUMAR: Well, here`s the thing. By making it a partisan issue, whatever the Democrats find, there`s going to be an opposition from the right saying that it was not transparent, even though they didn`t want to participate.

And the hypocrisy of Mitch McConnell, not -- who claims to be a patriot for this country -- not wanting to know and get to the bottom of what almost overthrew our democracy in a fair and safe election is not only obscene, but it`s cowardly.

And it`s time that the Republicans have a reckoning within themselves and look and say are we part of a system, of a country, and do we want a democracy and to strengthen it for future generations?

That is the claim by them right now in office, but it has only been Cheney, Liz Cheney who has actually been the one that`s been forceful with her voice saying this is what a country looks like. It`s patriotism above political parties.

And Mitch McConnell needs to be able to figure out how he can be less cowardly and actually be a leader of his party.

O`DONNELL: And Aisha Mitt Romney said today that Republicans would be seen as not wanting the truth to come out. Yes, that`s pretty obvious. But most of them don`t fear appearing that way at all.

MILLS: Well -- and this is the conundrum that we`re in, right, is that the Republicans are playing to a base and they`re playing to a base frankly that, you know, has sentiments that always existed, but that Donald Trump stoked.

And so now they`re left with a party of people who are really emboldened around their anti-democratic ideas who are really steeped in racial animus, who really want to just burn everything down and not participate, and frankly want to get away with it all scot-free.

And that is who they`re responding and reacting to. And while we all know and believe that they`re certainly a minority in numbers in America from an electoral stand point, these members of Congress are reliant upon that sect to keep them in office.

And so Mitch McConnell is doing this really vile dance right now with instead of being for the people and doing the business of the people, what he`s trying to do is keep his party in a position where they can compete for power. And the base of their power is full of hate, doesn`t want to know the answers, doesn`t want a commission to do its work because it`s ultimately going to just reflect how nasty they are.

And so that is where we are. It`s all about power and politics once again.

O`DONNELL: Aisha Mills and Maria Teresa Kumar, thank you both for joining our discussion. Thank you.

KUMAR: Thank you, Lawrence.

MILLS: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: And coming up, what a difference a presidency makes. A mother of a U.S. Army lieutenant was deported to Mexico by Donald Trump. President Biden brought her back to the United States to be reunited with her son.

That is next in tonight`s LAST WORD.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: First Lieutenant Gibram Cruz is an intelligence officer in the United States Army and so he had reason to believe that his mother would be allowed to stay in this country under a program that allows parents of active duty members of the military to remain in the United States.

But under the Trump administration, no one was safe. And so Lt. Cruz`s mother, who came to this country in 1988 and raised her children here was sent to Mexico in January 2020.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LIEUTENANT GIBRAM CRUZ, U.S. ARMY: It`s a hard feeling, having to say good- bye to my mother, putting her in danger especially when we`ve given up so much for this country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: That was then. And Joe Biden is now. Lt. Cruz flew home to California from Fort Hood, Texas last week to welcome his mother back into the United States. Lt. Cruz`s mother was allowed to return to the United States in an arrangement between the American Civil Liberties Union and the Biden administration.

Having been away from her family for a year a half, when she was reunited with them last week, Lt. Cruz` mother said this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROCIO REBOLLAR GOMEZ, LT. CRUZ`S MOTHER (through translator): It was the happiest day of my life to be able to touch them physically have them near me, my kids and my grandkids.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Lt. Gibram Cruz`s mother, Rocio Rebollar Gomez, gets tonight`s LAST WORD.

"THE 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS" starts now.