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

Guests: Joe Neguse, Katie Porter, Samantha Maltais


Former Attorney General William Barr has been rebuked by federal judge for not telling truth about how he decided that Donald Trump should not be charged with obstruction of justice based on the evidence in the Mueller report. Democratic Congressman Joe Neguse of Colorado is interviewed. President Biden`s proposals continue to prove popular with the American people, even as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell vows that Republicans will completely obstruct the Biden agenda. When Harvard College was founded in 1636, its mission was to educate, "The English and Indian youth of this country"; that`s what Harvard set out to do. U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai delivered life-saving news today when she announced the Biden administration`s support for lifting intellectual property protections for coronavirus vaccines.



And thank you, Justice Department, I was wondering about that.

As we were watching this thing, Rachel --


O`DONNELL: -- and you talking about it, all the great interviews about it, all been so wild and it had the feel of illegality to it, but I don`t know enough about either the federal law or Arizona law to put my kind of legal fingers on it. Here we are tonight with something that`s starting to sound like it makes sense from the Justice Department.

MADDOW: That`s right, and there`s a reason why the federal government certifies various experts and entities who are allowed to do the kinds of workaround elections that contractors are sometimes hired to do, whether it`s recounts, or audits, or canvasses, or forensic investigations and those sorts of things. There`s a federal certification prosecute, can`t just be a rando off the street who heard about it on Facebook group and wandered in and then you`re given the ballots.

That`s essentially what the Arizona Republicans did. But these are real ballots in real federal election and there`s real federal law that applies here.

So, this is from Pamela Carlin (ph) who is essentially running the civil rights division until Kristen Clarke gets confirmed there, but I think we should see this as Justice Department putting these whack jobs in Arizona, forgive me, on notice, that what they`re doing is something they`re not going to be allowed to do for very much longer.

O`DONNELL: I think whack jobs is now in "The New York Times" style sheet for describing what`s happening in Arizona.

MADDOW: Sorry.

O`DONNELL: No, come on, Rachel. Hey, it`s after 10:00 p.m., you can`t be held to the same, you know, careful semantic standard of 9:00 to 10:00 p.m.

MADDOW: Let the record show I never used word whack job before we reported tonight on the fact they were using cameras to look for bamboo in the papers because they thought something might have come from Asia, and therefore, it would have bamboo in it and that`s how they thought they`d find the fraud that would put Donald Trump back in the election.

I mean, that alone I think earns the whack job moniker which I other otherwise would not use, in my own defense.

O`DONNELL: You are -- you are hereby authorized to use whatever word you want for that. Absolutely.


MADDOW: Thank you, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel.

Well, it is never a good time to be Trump lawyer but this week is an especially bad week to be a Trump lawyer. Former Attorney General William Barr has been rebuked by federal judge for not telling truth about how he decided that Donald Trump should not be charged with obstruction of justice based on the evidence in the Mueller report.

And Rudy Giuliani is now begging Donald Trump for money to pay for the small army of New York lawyers that Giuliani has hired in his own legal defense after the FBI raided his home and office last week, seizing ten cell phones and other digital devices that contain mountains of evidence for federal investigators zeroing in on Rudy Giuliani.

And because this is Giuliani world we`re talking about, which has always, and I mean always been every bit as crazy as Trump world, the person publicly making the case for his dear friend Rudy Giuliani that Donald Trump should pay his legal fees, person making that case is a convicted felon, Bernard Kerik, who used to be mayor Giuliani`s chauffeur.

He tweeted: I want to know what the GOP did with the quarter of a billion dollars they collected for the election legal fight. Lawyers and law firms that didn`t do -- crap -- were paid lots of money and people that worked their a-s-s-e-s off got nothing.

And "The New York Times" reports, Mr. Kerik has made similar complaints to some of Mr. Trump`s advisers privately, according to people familiar with conversations, arguing that Mr. Giuliani has incurred legal expenses in his efforts to help Mr. Trump and that Mr. Giuliani`s name was used to raise money in the election fight.

As mayor, Rudy Giuliani promoted Bernard Kerik all the way from chauffeur to police commissioner. Then, Bernard Kerik committed enough federal crimes to serve three years in prison.

"The New York Times" reports that Giuliani`s advisers, which, of course, include Bernard Kerik, were, quote, disappointed that Giuliani did not receive a federal pardon from Mr. Trump despite facing the long-running federal investigation into his Ukrainian dealings, a person close said. After months of speculation that Mr. Trump might issue Mr. Giuliani a preemptive pardon, Mr. Giuliani said on his radio show in January that he did not need a pardon because, I don`t commit crimes. OK.

All right. So, Rudy Giuliani appoints the only New York City police commissioner in his lifetime convicted of crimes, but Rudy Giuliani says, I don`t commit crimes. OK. Maybe.

Figuring out Rudy Giuliani`s relationship to crime will be left to the judgment of federal prosecutors who will be scouring Rudy Giuliani`s digital devices. Those prosecutors have petitioned the court to appoint a special master to sort out any material they seize that might involve attorney/client privilege.

A federal judge in Washington, D.C., ruled against Trump Attorney General William Barr`s attempt to keep a Justice Department memo. William Barr insisted that the memo was protected from a Freedom of Information Act request because it was used in his deliberations about whether Donald Trump would be charged with obstruction of justice because of the evidence revealed in the Mueller report.

Judge Amy Berman Jackson said in her opinion that William Barr was being disingenuous.

The dictionary defines disingenuous this way: not candid or sincere, typically by pretending that one knows less about something than one really does. I, of course, think William Barr was lying, but I`m not a federal judge who has to be careful of accusing someone of a crime because if William Barr was lying to Judge Jackson about the way he used that memo, he also lied under oath to Congress about the way he used that memo.


WILLIAM BARR, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL: The deputy attorney general and I conducted a careful review of the report, with our staffs and legal advisers, and we concluded that evidence developed during the special counsel`s investigation was not sufficient to establish that the president committed obstruction of justice offense.


O`DONNELL: The only problem with that is that William Barr announced that the president could not be charged with obstruction of justice only two days after receiving the very, very, very long Mueller report. Hundreds and hundreds of pages of the Mueller report.

Judge Jackson noted the attorney general`s characterization of what he hardly had time to skim much less study closely prompted immediate reaction as politicians and pundits took their microphones and Twitter feeds to decry what they feared was an attempt to hide the ball. Attorney general was not then engaged in making a decision about whether the president should be charged with obstruction of justice, the fact that he would not be prosecuted was a given.

Leading off our discussion tonight is Neal Katyal, former acting U.S. solicitor general and an MSNBC legal contributor.

Neal, thank you very much for joining us tonight. As soon as I read what the judge said about William Barr, I was eager to talk to you about this.

Disingenuous is not a word I find myself using because I`m not a federal judge but carefully used in situations like this. What do you make about what the judge is saying here about William Barr?

NEAL KATYAL, FORMER ACTING U.S. SOLICITOR GENERAL: It`s hugely significant, Lawrence. I mean, yesterday in my city of Washington, D.C., we really had a tale of two attorneys general. One, Merrick Garland testifying in Congress, carefully, methodically, sober, balanced, and then second we had this description of Bill Barr from Judge Amy Jackson who is easily regarded as one of our nation`s top jurists, and what a contrast, because the attorney general is supposed to be the attorney general of the United States people, not the attorney for the president.

And what Judge Jackson`s opinion, you`re isolating that key word "disingenuous" and that`s right word, she`s saying you were a liar, you were doing Donald Trump`s bidding and not being attorney general.

You know, using the word "disingenuous", I know that sounds a little lawyerly or whatever, but that`s a big deal. You don`t see judges don`t use for ordinary litigant, never see them call the head of the U.S. Justice Department disingenuous.

And so, you know, I think we`ve always known there`s a degree of corruption around Bill Barr but this puts exclamation point on it. Notably she`s not first judge in Washington, D.C., to call Bill Barr such thing. I mean, you`ve had two different judges before, Reggie Walton and Emmet Sullivan say similar things both regard to the Mueller report, as well as Barr`s claim that he dropped case against Michael Flynn for reasons that didn`t seem credible.

O`DONNELL: I want to spend a minute for the audience on this word disingenuous, and why the judge both went that far but not beyond that, didn`t say what I would say, call it a lie. That is because a judge is in a unique position, finder of fact and doesn`t want to be in position to be accuser. She recognizes that prosecutors are in the business of accusing, not judges.

So that`s about as strong a word as a judge in this situation could use, isn`t it?

KATYAL: Exactly. She couldn`t go further, specific question in the case, a public interest organization was seeking memo that Barr used to say -- that he claims he used to say I`m notice going to indict President Trump. That`s something ordinarily the freedom of information act protects against what are called deliberative documents, pre-decision documents that inform the way attorney general or someone might make a decision.

And what the judge said is no, this is disingenuous because you already made your decision before you have this document. It`s a post hoc rationalization. So, that`s all she needed to dispose of that case. To go further and call for criminal prosecution, that`s of course not the job of the federal judge. The job is to evaluate the case before her, not recommend some new case.

So, by using that word "disingenuous", she went, you know, far, I think far probably justified on the facts. I haven`t seen the report. But notably, Lawrence, she did. Barr tried to block her from reading the report and she got it anyway and before she wrote her opinion yesterday, she read entire report and her opinion reflects what`s in the actual report.

O`DONNELL: So, is there legal jeopardy for former Attorney General William Barr in your view given that he did testify to Congress saying the same thing that the judge is now saying is not true?

KATYAL: Absolutely. Like every attorney that surrounds himself with Donald Trump, he`s looking for criminal liability. I`m sure by this point he`s hired counsel because he`s being accused of federal judge of being, as we use the word disingenuous, but problem is the clip you showed before is he said something very different to Congress and that will be sorted out by Justice Department investigators, perhaps also by others, bar disciplinary committees, maybe civil actions or many another things that happen. But I do think he`s in some trouble at this point.

O`DONNELL: You know, it has been reported that Rudy Giuliani actively sought a pardon from Donald Trump, requested one and didn`t get one. I`ve always been wondering is William Barr, back when Donald Trump was president, is William Barr asking for a pardon? Does he think he might need a pardon? Because there are so many legal lines that his toes were on constantly, including I would assume some we don`t even know about.

KATYAL: Yeah, I mean, we don`t know what Barr did. I think Barr is different from Rudy. Rudy Giuliani hasn`t been part of the reality-based community for quite a while. I wouldn`t say that about Barr. I would say he has distorted view of what the law requires, one that`s very self-serving and protects his pals, but two distinct concepts here.

O`DONNELL: Yes. Neal Katyal, thank you very much for starting us off. Really appreciate it.

And coming up, Liz Cheney thinks the Republican Party is at a crossroads tonight. That`s because she missed the crossroads in 2016 when Donald Trump got the Republican nomination for president and the party became the cult of Trump. That`s next.


O`DONNELL: Today, Mitch McConnell said that every single Republican in United States Senate is opposed to every single thing on Joe Biden`s legislative agenda. So, Senator Joe Manchin`s attempt to find a bipartisanship consensus on anything might not take much longer because Mitch McConnell said today that that is impossible.

Mitch McConnell is trying to do to Joe Biden exactly what he tried to do to Barack Obama, and that is block every single thing the Democratic president wants.

Republican Party is no longer governing party. It is simply an opposition party. Republicans in the Senate have no position other than opposition to whatever is the Biden position. Republicans in the House are not even an opposition party anymore, they`re a chaos party. They don`t pretend to have any position on any issues, they spend no time talking about what they think is wrong with Joe Biden`s plans, they just fight among themselves.

At center of that fight is Congresswoman Liz Cheney, who is not backing down from what has become her public fight with leader in name only of Republicans in the house, Kevin McCarthy. In op-ed in the "Washington Post" published online this afternoon, Liz Cheney said, quote, the Republican Party is at turning point and Republicans must decide whether we are going to choose truth and fidelity to the Constitution.

The Republican Party had turning point in 2016 when Donald Trump got the Republican presidential nomination. Every decent Republican publicly opposed Donald Trump`s nomination and his candidacy for president against Hillary Clinton.

Lifelong Republicans who used to be the thought leaders of American conservatism like Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist George Will left the Republican Party in 2016, that, history will show, was the turning point. Liz Cheney missed the turning point.

Liz Cheney holds the position of House Republican conference chair. If you don`t know what that job is, no one else does. It is a job that has absolutely no function, never has had any function. It`s just a way of giving a fancy title to a member of the party in the House.

Many Republicans now want to take that title away and give it to 36-year- old congresswoman from upstate New York, Elise Stefanik who promises to continue to publicly lie as much as possible about the last presidential election.

Republican Congressman Anthony Gonzalez, who like Liz Cheney voted to impeach Donald Trump for inciting the invasion of the capitol on January 6th, says, quote: If a prerequisite for leading our conference is continuing to lie to our voters, then Liz is not the best fit. Liz isn`t going to lie to people.

Today, President Biden said this about Republicans in Congress.


REPORTER: President Biden, you said earlier you don`t understand Republicans. What does it say about them if they oust Liz Cheney from leadership for telling the truth about the election?

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Look, it seems as though the Republican Party is trying to identify what it stands for. And they`re in the midst of significant sort of mini revolution going on in the Republican Party.

I`ve been a Democrat for a long time. We`ve gone through periods, and we`ve had internal fights and disagreements, but don`t ever remember any like this. And so as one of you said, not embarrassed by identifying them, but if you said on national television last night, we badly need a Republican Party. We need a two-party system. It`s not healthy to have a one-party system.

And I think the Republicans are further away from trying to figure out who they are and what they stand for than I thought they would be at this point.


O`DONNELL: Joining us now is Democratic Congressman Joe Neguse of Colorado. He is a member of the House Judiciary Committee and served as impeachment manager in second Senate impeachment trial of Donald Trump.

Thank you very much for joining us tonight, Congressman Neguse. Really appreciate it.

So, Liz Cheney thinks the turning point is now for the Republican Party. It feels to me like they made their turn a while ago.

REP. JOE NEGUSE (D-CO): Good evening, Lawrence. Good to be with you.

I certainly agree. I mean, I -- c there were blaring warning signals years ago as President Trump was candidate Trump for potential for him to undermine the rule of law in our country. And many Americans saw those signals, clearly apparent to most Americans. And so obviously, I agree with you there.

That being said, look, I think that Liz Cheney should be applauded for speaking truth to power now, and her compelling editorial should be read by each and every American. It`s incredibly powerful. I agree with her that history is watching the Republican Party.

I mean, as I think about it, Lawrence, what is most striking to me is just the differences in way in which the two parties -- the two major political parties in the United States have functioned past 100 days. Democrats are fighting for the American people. We`re fighting for small businesses, for families, for kids. We`re trying to speed up vaccinations across the country.

Republicans are fighting with themselves, literally having an existential debate not over policy priorities but whether or not they will respect the rule of law and fundamental democratic institutions such as the legitimacy of our elections. And it`s clear that, unfortunately, that that battle is going to be won by hard liners and far right members of the Republican Party and unfortunately seems to be no room for folks who take more reasonable view and believe in the core functions of our constitutional republic.

O`DONNELL: You said there, they`re fighting themselves. Let`s watch one member of the House who is fighting with himself. Let`s listen to what Kevin McCarthy has said over time about this.


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 that what was unfolding.

When I talked to President Trump about, I was first to contact him when the riots was going on, he didn`t see it. But he ended the call with saying, tell me, he`d put something out to make sure to stop this. And that`s what he did. He put a video out later.


O`DONNELL: Congressman Neguse, Kevin McCarthy has been fighting with himself ever since he delivered what was clearly the best speech of his career when he said that President Trump was, of course, responsible for what happened in the Capitol.

NEGUSE: Yeah, I mean, Lawrence, perhaps most insidious, you know, part of this entire charade is the fact that you have folks like the minority leader who, you know, know what they`re saying today just simply doesn`t comport with the facts. He knew on January 13th, as he said, that the president bore responsibility for the insurrection on January 6th, as do most Republicans in the House Republican Caucus. Unfortunately, they are unwilling to speak the truth and choose country over party, as you were, as the caucus chairwoman Liz Cheney spoke about in editorial in "The Washington Post" today.

And I think history is watching. I really do believe that decisions that are made today will, you know, ring very loudly in history in the coming years. I just -- I wish more Republicans would be willing to do what Liz Cheney has done.

O`DONNELL: It seems that the Republican strategy, House strategy for those members is to win their primaries. They are concerned with not having someone who is Trumpier than they are, confront them in a primary and take that nomination away from them as the Republican candidate for the House in their district. And so, it seems like a party that is entirely concerned with winning its own primary without any concern whatsoever for what voters outside of the Republican Party are thinking.

NEGUSE: I think that`s absolutely right, Lawrence. Big part of their motivation or rationalization is the flawed incentive system we have unfortunately in our current political environment, as you said, where most folks are running to the right in their respective caucus to win their primaries. It`s another reason why we need to pass HR-1 and SR-1, which includes redistricting reform, similar to, for example, the model we have here in Colorado, where redistricting performed by nonpartisan, citizen-led commission.

But, look, at the end of the day, I would simply say it`s important for those House Republicans who agree with Liz Cheney, who understand the geopolitical ramifications of continuing to perpetuate the big lie, who recognize what happened on January 6th could very well happen again. It`s important for them to speak up and speak up now.

O`DONNELL: The -- I understand when you work in legislative body with another party, you always welcome, as someone who has been opponent to your side whenever there`s any area of agreement. And so, what is the feeling among Democrats in the House now? I`m Hearing what you have to say about Liz Cheney, what are your colleagues feeling about Liz Cheney`s position tonight?

NEGUSE: Frankly, Lawrence, I think most of the colleagues that I`ve spoken with agree with the sentiments that were expressed by President Biden earlier today. I mean ultimately, we need a healthy -- we need healthy parties in the United States, healthy political parties in order for our republic to function in the way that the framers and the founders intended.

And so, you want to see more sensible voices emerge within the House Republican Caucus. That`s an outcome that I think every American ought to desire. And I think what is happening right now to Chairwoman Cheney is obviously deeply disappointing in terms of the broader trend lines that it portends for the ability of the House Republican Caucus to function, you know, as a legitimate political party that respects the legitimacy of our elections in the future.

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Congressman Joe Neguse, thank you for joining us from Boulder, Colorado tonight. We really appreciate it.

NEGUSE: Thank you Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

And coming up, polling shows that Republican voters are feeling much more bipartisan in their support for the Biden agenda than Republicans in Congress.

Congresswoman Katie Porter who represents a formerly Republican district will join us next.


O`DONNELL: President Biden`s proposals continue to prove popular with the American people, even as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell vows that Republicans will completely obstruct the Biden agenda.

Today a new Politico/Morning Consult poll found that 58 percent of voters support the American Families Plan which will provide child care support, paid family leave and make pre-kindergarten and community colleges free. That includes support from 25 percent of Republicans.

Politico notes, "The most fascinating finding in the poll: support for Biden`s infrastructure plan was one point higher when the price tag was mentioned than when it wasn`t." Recent polling shows that Americans are also in favor of raising taxes on the rich and corporations in order to pay for these plans.

President Biden is also proposing, as NBC News details, quote, "Changing how corporate earnings are taxed at home and abroad to boost revenue, requiring heirs to multimillion dollar fortunes to pay taxes on inherited stocks and nearly doubling the capital gains tax by only for high earners by treating it as regular income."

Another way the Biden administration is looking to pay for the Biden agenda by improving, simply improving the efficiency in which the IRS collects taxes already owed to the government.

To all of this, to every bit of this, Mitch McConnell says absolutely no.


SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): 100 percent of my focus is on standing up to this administration. What we have in the United States senate is total unity from Susan Collins to Ted Cruz in opposition to what the new Biden administration is trying to do to this country.


O`DONNELL: Joining us now is Democratic Congresswoman Katie Porter of California. She`s a member of the House Oversight Committee. Thank you very much for joining us tonight, Congresswoman Porter.

You represent a district that`s formerly Republican. You`re talking to Republican voters every day. What is your feel for the bipartisanship of the support by voters of the Biden agenda?

REP. KATIE PORTER (D-CA): The American people want Washington to help solve some of the problems and challenges they`re facing including things like being unable to afford college, being unable to afford child care, the high price of prescription drugs, our aging infrastructure, the need to help more seniors age in place.

That`s what they want leaders in Congress to be focused on, not opposing an administration but solving problems. And to hear Senator Mitch McConnell say that all he wants to do is oppose an administration or party rather than evaluate the quality of the ideas that the president is putting forth is really disappointing and I think should be a letdown to every voter, regardless of whatever their party preference.

O`DONNELL: And President Biden has promised no tax increases for anybody reporting less than $400,000 in income. Let`s listen to what he said about the people who would see tax increases in his bill.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We`re not going to deprive these executives their second or third home, travel privately by jet. It`s not going to affect their standard of living at all, not a little tiny bit.

But I can effect a standard of living that people I grew up with if they have a job, if they have child care, can afford it so 20 million more women can be back in the work force. This is just -- makes no sense to me. But I`m going to have to be able to explain this and I`m going to keep banging at it.


O`DONNELL: Congresswoman Porter, you have cross-examined some of those people in House hearings, some of those very rich people who are worried about what this bill might mean to them. What is your reaction to the way Joe Biden describes the possible impact on their lifestyle which he says is zero?

PORTER: Well I love that President Biden that we just saw. I love the President Biden who`s making it clear that what`s at stake is helping American families. What`s at stake is growing our economy.

This isn`t about making sure that the wealthiest of the wealthy never have to share any of the wealth to benefit from the collective well-being of our country.

Let`s be clear about what taxes are. Taxes are an investment that we collectively make in growing our economy and making sure that we remain the best country in the world. That`s what taxes are. They`re an investment and we should all be willing to do our part and pay our fair share in achieving that goal which is really making America flourish.

O`DONNELL: And we`re not all paying our fair share because the current estimates indicate that as much as -- close to $1 trillion a year could be collected by the IRS if we would just give them the resources they need.

Let`s listen to the way Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen talked about this.


JANET YELLEN, U.S. TREASURY SECRETARY: It is really shocking and distressing to see estimates suggesting that the gap between what we`re collecting in taxes under our tax law and what we should be collecting if everybody were paying the taxes that are due, that amounts to over $7 trillion over a decade. And we`re trying to make meaningful steps to close that gap.


O`DONNELL: And Congresswoman Porter, history will show that the IRS` lack of resources was a direct decision made by Republicans in Congress to not adequately fund the IRS.

PORTER: Treasury Secretary Yellen shouldn`t be shocked at this situation. It is the result of policy choices, policy choices that Republicans have made to gut the IRS from simply doing its job.

And who does this benefit? This benefits cheaters? Call a spade a spade, there are cheaters. Who are they? They are disproportionately the nation`s largest corporations and the mega ultrawealthy.

Meanwhile, everybody else does their very best, sits down, goes through TurboTax, digs out their folder, accounts for, you know, the $10 they gave to charity and the books they donated. Where large corporations get away with cheating the rest of us out of a trillion dollars a year.

We can do something about that by simply fully funding the IRS and allowing it to do its work of enforcing the tax code.

O`DONNELL: Congresswoman Porter, we`re seeing tonight that the Republican Party in the House seems to be divided over the fiction that most of them advance about the last presidential election. But what we don`t see is any real stepping forward by any Republicans in the House to try to become anything that you could call a governing partner, even by offering some counter proposal to the proposals that you`re supporting, some lesser version of it or some different version of anything.

Do you have any sense that there is any possibility of a governing partner of any kind in the Republican House?

PORTER: It really concerns me because even compared to the last Congress, we have seen real changes in Republicans` willingness to work across the aisle. I have legislation where I had a Republican cosponsor just two years ago, a year ago, and I can`t find one this time.

And so a lot of these topics that are bipartisan, problems that longstanding bipartisan policy solutions -- we`re seeing a Republican Party that`s too busy fighting with each other to be fighting for the American people. And that`s a harm we all have to deal with. It doesn`t just hurt Republicans, it hurts Americans.

O`DONNELL: Congresswoman Katie Porter, thank you very much for joining our discussion tonight.

PORTER: Thank you for having me.

O`DONNELL: Thank you. And up next, when Harvard College was founded in 1636, its mission was to educate, quote -- this is a quote, "The English and Indian youth of this country". That`s what Harvard set out to do. We`ll see how Harvard is doing with that mission next.


O`DONNELL: The history of federal government treaties with Native American tribes is a history of broken treaties, broken by the federal government. In the second half of the 20th century, some tribes went to federal court to try to restore their lost lands.

In 1976 in federal court in Boston, the Mashpee Wampanoag people filed a suit trying to reclaim 13,000 acres of land they inhabited on Cape Cod for centuries before the pilgrims landed at nearby Plymouth Rock.

The court denied the tribe`s claim. But 40 years later under President Obama in 2016, the Department of the Interior approved the tribe`s applications for 170 acres of land in the Cape Cod town of Mashpee and 150 acres in Tonton, Massachusetts.

Mission of Harvard College when it was founded in 1636 was to educate quote "The English and Indian youth of this country".

Caleb Cheeshahteaumuck, a member of the Wampanoag tribe was the first Native American to graduate from the college in 1665. But no member of the Wampanoag tribe has graduated from Harvard Law School.

Samantha Maltais grew up on Martha`s Vineyard where she is a member of the Aquinnah Wampanoag tribe. Her mother is the chairwoman of the tribe who are the original inhabitants of the island of Martha`s Vineyard. Samantha Maltais has jut been admitted to Harvard Law School where she will begin her legal studies in the fall and perhaps someday represent her tribe`s interest or another tribe`s interest in federal court.

Joining us now is Samantha Maltais, of the Aquinnah Wampanoag tribe who will be a member of the Harvard Law School Class of 2024. Samantha, thank you very much for joining us tonight. And congratulations on starting your legal education in Cambridge. How did you feel when you got that acceptance note?

SAMANTHA MALTAIS, MEMBER AQUINNAH WAMPANOAG TRIBE: Thank you so much, Lawrence, for having me. The, you know, the overwhelming emotion was gratitude, really, for both my family and friends supporting me along the way as well as all the sacrifices that generations before me made in order for me to get to where I come and where I am going in addition to activists and tribal leaders across Indian country who have made those same sacrifices and the organizations that have supported me along the way including, of course, the American Indian College Fund that is providing me the Harvard Law School scholarship covering the cost of attendance for all three years.

In addition to them actually providing me the full circle scholarship while I was an undergrad at Dartmouth College as well. So there is good work being done and I am just so incredibly grateful for all of the opportunities that have been afforded to me.

O`DONNELL: It is so important for legal education to be included for people growing up in the tribes because we have seen these cases that continue to go in to federal courts, continue to go to the Supreme Court about tribal lands all over the country.

MALTAIS: Yes. Like you said. We have seen it with Mashpee and my own tribe, the Wampanoags out of Aquinnah, we are still fighting for our right to gain economic development. And so these cases are really rooted in the same precedence that operate as the foundation of federal Indian law and policy. Those precedents were designed to eliminate us systemically when they were written.

And they got cycled through generations. The language changes a little but that same sentiment remains and it`s an issue of injustice. And today May 5th is the National Day of Awareness for missing and murder (INAUDIBLE) women and girls and that is just one legacy of colonialism that has manifested so tragically in our communities and has been part of this broken justice system.

That is one of the many reasons that I would like to pursue a legal career so that I can address that for future generations -- generations to --

O`DONNELL: One of the most favorable Supreme Court decisions for tribes came just last year involving a case in Oklahoma where the court, the Supreme Court majority opinion, this one written by Neil Gorsuch in a 5-4 decision said, "Many of the arguments before us today follow a sadly familiar pattern. Yes, promises were made but the price of keeping them has become too great so now we should just cast a blind eye. We reject that thinking.|"

And it was such an important opinion for so many reasons including that basic statement of this is the way these cases are always defended. Too much time has gone by and the price of trying to correct these wrongs is too great.

MALTAIS: Correct, yes. And we are looking at things in a modern context, of course. But when you don`t take the historical relevance of a lot of the foundation of legal doctrine, we are really doing future generations a disservice.

O`DONNELL: Samantha Maltais joining us tonight from New Bedford, just across the water from Martha`s Vineyard. Thank you very much for joining us tonight. Really appreciate it.

MALTAIS: Thank you so much, Lawrence, for having me.

O`DONNELL: Thank you. We will be right back with a big announcement from the Biden administration today on a matter of life and death for people around the world. That is next.


O`DONNELL: U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai delivered life-saving news today when she announced the Biden administration`s support for lifting intellectual property protections for coronavirus vaccines. The ambassador said in a statement, "This is a global health crisis and the extraordinary circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic call for extraordinary measures. The administration believes strongly in intellectual property protections but in service of ending this pandemic supports the waiver of those protections for COVID-19 vaccines. The waiver would allow developing countries to access the information to produce their own generic vaccine instead of waiting months or years for adequate supply from the pharmaceutical companies that developed the vaccines.

Africa has the lowest vaccination rate in the world now. In most African countries the current rate is less than 2 percent.


KATHERINE TAI, U.S. TRADE REPRESENTATIVE: We still have a lot of work ahead. That includes making the vaccine widely available and addressing the global inequity in vaccine access.

This is not just a public health requirement. Our economic recovery depends on it.


O`DONNELL: U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai gets tonight`s LAST WORD.


ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST: Good evening once again. I`m Ali Velshi, in for Brian Williams.

Day 106 of the Biden administration. We now have a major escalation in the battle for control of the Republican Party. Wyoming Congresswoman Liz Cheney has gone beyond just publicly challenging --