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Transcript: The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, 5/7/21

Guests: Gloria Browne-Marshall, William Spriggs, John Fetterman, Rafael Anchia


Four former Minneapolis police officers involved in the murder of George Floyd were filed with civil rights charges today. Democrats and Republicans drafting bipartisan police reform in Congress. Not one single Republican voted for President Biden`s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan. Pfizer and German company BioNTech have become the first to apply to the FDA for full approval of their COVID vaccine for use in people 16 years old and older.



RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: I leave you with the sincere hope that the whole Chinese rocket thing is something that we`re all laughing about by Monday. I hope you have a fantastic weekend. I`m planning on not thinking about it at all. Now it`s time for "The Last Word" with Ali Velshi who is in for Lawrence tonight. Good evening, Ali.

ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST: I mean, I don`t if I`m actually allowed to do this, but I would have just preferred you continue that conversation with Matt Kaplan. That was wild and it was interesting. But I thought it was interesting that you point out that we earthlings can do little about this right now, so I think you`re right. Let`s just hope for the best and we`ll talk about it on Monday.

MADDOW: Exactly, exactly.

VELSHI: Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW: Or let`s hope that we`ve forgotten about entirely. That`s what we`re hoping for. Thank you.

VELSHI: Correct. That`s right. That`ll be success. Rachel, thanks for telling your viewers about Texas Representative Rafael Anchia. He`ll be joining us tonight. Have a great weekend. I`ll see you see you Monday.

All right. New tonight, Democrats and Republicans have reached something that`s rare in Washington these days, common ground. Three weeks after Derek Chauvin was found guilty in the murder of George Floyd, "The Wall Street Journal" reports tonight Democratic and Republican staff in Congress are drafting language for a possible police overhaul legislation that would limit the transfer of some military equipment to local departments, ban police use of choke holds except in life-threatening situations, and set federal standards for so-called no-knock warrants.

This news is a good sign of bipartisan momentum for something supported by 60% of Americans according to a recent "Washington Post" poll. Still unresolved are the issues of individual liability protection for police officers and whether the standard to federally charge officers should be changed.

What is clear is that that threshold to federally charged police officers was met for the four former police officers involved in the murder of George Floyd. A federal grand jury has indicted those four former Minneapolis police officers on civil rights charges today.

According to an indictment unsealed this morning, Derek Chauvin, J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao were acting under control -- under color of law, wilfully deprived George Floyd of his constitutional rights.

All four former officers are charged with deliberate indifference to George Floyd`s serious medical needs. Former officers J. Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao are charged with violating George Floyd`s right to "be free from an unreasonable seizure." Derek Chauvin is also charged with violating George Floyd`s right to be free from the use of unreasonable force by a police officer. A

According to the Minneapolis "Star Tribune," federal prosecutors have long felt they`ve enough evidence to indict the officers on civil rights violations, but charges were delayed so they wouldn`t disrupt Derek Chauvin`s state trial. J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane, and Tou Thao all made an initial court appearance this morning via Zoom.

They`re not currently in custody and they are scheduled to be tried together on state charges in August. Derek Chauvin, by the way, is currently in a Minneapolis prison -- a Minnesota prison awaiting sentencing after a jury found him guilty on all three state charges for his role in the murder of George Floyd.

A second and entirely separate federal indictment was also unsealed today against Derek Chauvin in a different case charging him with violating the civil rights of a 14-year-old during a 2017 arrest involving use of force and a neck restraint.

The civil rights charges facing all four former officers are brand-new charges today, meaning all four could face another trial, this time in federal court. Prosecuting police officers for federal civil rights violations is incredibly rare in this country. Before the charges filed today, the "Star Tribune" reports only three cases in Minnesota have been charged in the last decade.

Now the question is whether the case involving the murder of George Floyd is an exception or is it the beginning of holding bad cops accountable for their actions.

The day after George Floyd was murdered, Joe Biden tweeted, "George Floyd deserved better and his family deserves justice. His life mattered. I`m grateful for the swift action in Minneapolis to fire the officers involved. They must be held responsible for their egregious actions. The FBI should conduct a thorough investigation."

Here`s White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki today on the new charges.


JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: It`s a reminder, as was the verdict in the Chauvin case just a few weeks ago, that there`s still more that needs to be done. While that was a moment of justice, certainly, that it is just the beginning and it`s a reminder of the need to put police reform in place through our legislative process and put those reforms in place across the country.


VELSHI: There`s still more that needs to be done. The House passed the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act in March and a bipartisan group of senators are currently working on their version of a police reform bill. But the Biden administration is not waiting for Congress to take action.

After four years of a corrupt Justice Department under Trump`s attorneys general Jeff Sessions and Bill Barr, the Biden Justice Department is showing us what can be done to protect the rights, civil and otherwise, of all Americans.

Under the leadership of Attorney General Merrick Garland, the Justice Department has launched investigations into both the Minneapolis and Louisville police departments to determine whether they engaged in patterns or practices of unlawful behavior.

Last week, separately, the department announced federal hate crime charges against three men accused of murdering Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia. Their state trial will begin in October. In March, amid the rise in hate crimes against Asian-Americans, the Justice Department announced an expedited review to determine how it can better track and prosecute crimes involving race.

And as Republicans across the country are doing everything they can to make it as difficult as possible to cast a ballot, the Department of Justice has questioned the GOP-driven private re-count of ballots in Arizona`s most populous county over fears that it could spark voter intimidation in future elections.

This is what happens when honest people are in charge. Bad people are held accountable. And those who need protection are offered protection. The Biden Justice Department has taken incredibly important steps to correct the Trump legacy, but there is still more to be done. There will always be more to be done. Here`s Michelle Obama this morning on CBS.


MICHELLE OBAMA, FORMER FIRST LADY: We don`t want to be out there marching. I mean, all those Black Lives Matter kids, they`d probably not have to worry about this. They`re taking to the streets because they have to. They`re trying to have people understand that we`re real folks and the fear that many have of so many of us is irrational and it`s based on a history that is just -- it`s sad and it`s dark and it`s time for us to move beyond that.


VELSHI: Leading off our discussion tonight are Gloria Browne-Marshall, a civil rights attorney and constitutional law professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and Glenn Kirschner, a former federal prosecutor and an MSNBC legal analyst. Good evening to both of you.

Gloria, let me start with you. I want to read to you an article that was published in "The New York Times," which reads as follows. Federal prosecutors have hesitated to bring the civil rights charge in high-profile police killings because it is harder to meet the law`s willfulness standard, which would mean proving that an officer intended to use excessive force in order to violate someone`s civil rights.

The split-second nature many police shootings, including those at the center of several of those cases, make them particularly difficult to prosecute." Your thoughts on the decision to charge the four former police officers in Minneapolis?

GLORIA BROWNE-MARSHALL, CIVIL RIGHTS ATTORNEY: Well, I think the operative word here is hesitant to bring these charges. Why don`t we let the courts decide? Let a grand jury determine whether or not there`s enough evidence to indict them even if the standard is high as willfulness under -- of course, you have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt.

I think it`s excellent that these federal charges have been brought and that the prosecutions of police officers in state court is so willfully negligent on the part of these prosecutors to ignore their duties that the federal government has been forced to step in. This federal legislation was put in post-slavery.

This is civil rights legislation post-slavery that we`re talking about because it was understood then that states were not going to protect the rights of African-Americans. This has been tweaked over years with different presidents coming in and Joe Biden for one, is going to be a part of this national criminal justice legislation, but there is so much more that needs to be done.

VELSHI: Glenn, how much of this is a shot across the bow or as Cynthia Alksne said, the Department of Justice rising from the ashes and sort of letting states, police, and everybody else in this country know that they`re back on the scene?

GLENN KIRSCHNER, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, Ali, there are only three counts in this indictment and it only runs about three pages. It`s very short, but boy, does it speak volumes about the fact -- I think it`s fair to say there`s a new civil rights sheriff in town, and his name is Merrick Garland.

When you look at the three charges, the first one is, I would say, predictable. It charges Derek Chauvin with using unreasonable force to end the life of George Floyd. And we all enjoy a constitutional protection against the police using unreasonable force.

That is a seizure. It`s an unconstitutional seizure. But what I`m even more intrigued by is the second count on this indictment because the second0 count charges officers Thao and Keung with not applying unreasonable force, but with standing by and watching Derek Chauvin apply unreasonable force, ending the life of George Floyd, and not intervening.

That is where I think it`s a real shot across the bow to all state and local police departments, not only if you are an officer and you`re applying deadly force, unreasonable force, unconstitutional force, but if you are other officers and you`re watching it happen and you`re not coming to the aid of that citizen, you could be federally charged with a civil rights violation. That is a really important message to send.

VELSHI: Gloria, regardless of what the bar is and proving the willfulness many people say is a high bar, is the law sufficient? In other words, if you are faced with these charges, if you`re one of these police, former police officers or anyone else in the country faced with a civil rights violation charge by the federal government, how serious is that?

BROWNW-MARSHALL: It is very serious. My concern is there are more state prosecutors and they are for state police officers outnumber federal. There are 18,000 police jurisdictions in this country. So, we have to do something in the prosecutor`s office. And I`ve said these many times. It doesn`t matter what the law is if a prosecutor fails to prosecute.

And so yes, this is symbolic of the federal government stepping in finally. Back in a case, Cruz v. United States in 1945, they said even then that this was rare that federal prosecutors step in. So, I`m concerned. Eric Garner, Michael Brown, the federal prosecutors did not step in.

Yes, it sends a message, but what about all those state prosecutors who are failing to uphold the rights of these people harmed and murdered by police officers? There has to be something done that holds them accountable, forces them to do their jobs.

VELSHI: And Glenn, how much does this force someone to do their job? Is there a level of embarrassment when a state doesn`t succeed in bringing charges that the federal government has moved in and found something to charge people with?

KISCHNER: You know, here`s what`s interesting about this choice by Merrick Garland`s Department of Justice to bring these charges. If we think back to Rodney King, that felt like a civil rights prosecution by the Feds to clean up a state system that couldn`t get the job done, that didn`t convict the officers who assaulted Rodney King.

This is not that, Ali. This was a successful prosecution. I would argue as a former career prosecutor. This was an expert state prosecution against Derek Chauvin. So, this was not the Feds galloping in to clean something up.

This was the Feds saying we are going to protect the civil rights of the citizens not only when the states fail to do it, but whenever it`s the right thing to do regardless of what the states are doing. This is really an important development for the Department of Justice and, I think, for the civil rights of the American people.

VELSHI: Well, everybody should get their copy of their constitution out and read it tonight because it sounds as a non-lawyer sounds like an important development to me that that is what the federal government is now saying. Thanks to both of you for being here tonight. Gloria Browne-Marshall and Glenn Kirschner. Appreciate your time.

Coming up, today`s shocking jobs report was a stark reminder we`re not out of the pandemic when it comes to the economy. What needs to be done, who`s still hurting the most, and will congressional Republicans continue to obstruct in the face of the needs of their constituents? We`re going to talk about all that, next.


VELSHI: More help is on the way if Republicans don`t stop it. That was President Biden`s message to Americans after today`s shocking jobs report, revealing that the American economy is still very much in a pandemic recovery. Just 266,000 new jobs were added in April falling far short of the 1 million jobs that some economists expected.

The unemployment rate ticked up slightly to 6.1 percent though I always say don`t pay too much attention to that number. Economists caution that the number is misleadingly low given how many people have dropped out of the labor force in the last year.

Eight million jobs that were lost when the pandemic forced businesses to close last spring still have not come back. Republicans have claimed we don`t need the Biden proposals because the economy is coming back all on its own. But it`s not. President Biden said today`s jobs report proves more help from the federal government is needed.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Some critics said that we didn`t need the American Rescue Plan, that this economy would just heal itself. Today`s report just underscores, in my view, how vital the actions we`re taking are. Checks to people who are hurting, support for small businesses, for childcare and school reopening, support to help families put food on the table. Our efforts are starting to work, but the climb is steep, and we still have a long way to go.


VELSHI: The Biden administration advocated that the American Jobs and the American Families Acts are intended to tackle some of the issues keeping people from rejoining the workforce. Vice President Harris echoed the need to give families more support, particularly women who left the workforce due to the pandemic, saying in a statement, "Roughly 5 million women still can`t get work or still can`t work due to child care issues. Our American Families Plan will lower the cost of child care, making it possible for more women to work. When we lift up women, we lift up families and communities and our economy is stronger."

Joining us now, William Spriggs, professor of economics at Howard University. He`s the chief economist at the AFL-CIO and the former assistant secretary of policy at the Department of Labor. Bill, good to see you. Thank you for being with us.


VELSHI: Let`s talk about this. There is a fundamental disagreement in this country that seems to go down ideological lines at the moment about whether we have a need for government intervention to get us out of this problem or whether the economy will fix itself just fine once more people are vaccinated and cities start to opening up. What`s the truth of the matter as far as you`re concerned?

SPRIGGS: This report was kind of startling because there were a lot of job losses. There were a lot of permanent job losses and temporary job losses, which I think shocked many of us who have been watching the numbers. We had been anticipating continued growth. We hadn`t really been anticipating the setbacks that we saw in manufacturing and in some of the other areas where we thought that we would still see steady, but modest job growth.

And the ability to reconnect workers both on the side of employers who have lost contact with workers because the job networks that supplied them with workers have been so disrupted, but also from the workers who now are separated from those kind of jobs and those kinds of contacts. It`s very complex to get them all back. And it was disturbing to see how hard it is for those who are unemployed to find jobs.

We saw a big jump in people who are under five weeks unemployed, that`s 237,000 people. And a large chunk of those were new job entrants, not people getting unemployment checks. These are new job entrants who found it very difficult. Their unemployment jumped.

VELSHI: So this is interesting because there is a real concern out there. And I`ve spoken to small businesses, particularly restaurants, who say we`re having trouble hiring people. But that`s not actually the case for most of the population.

"The Washington Post" had a story here which reads that, "Two Republican- led states, Montana and South Carolina, have canceled federal unemployment benefits in the last week, blaming them for hampering the return to work. And the business lobby has echoed those concerns as well with the Chamber of Commerce using the disappointing jobs report to call for the end of the $300 a week unemployment supplement that the federal government is currently providing."

Bill, give me a fact check on this. People are not taking jobs because they`re getting a $300 a week temporary unemployment assistance from the government.

SPRIGGS: We studied this heavily in the summer because the $600 that have been added to the unemployment check, not the $300. The $600 that have been added last year caused this same argument that people wouldn`t return. But we saw throughout the summer that people, in fact, did return to jobs and re-employment.

It wasn`t because of the $600. And it`s kind of common sense from an economist perspective just from the job theory of job search. You have to think about what`s the expected value of continuing to look? We have 4 million Americans who`ve been unemployed over 26 weeks. That means there are a lot of Americans who know they have very little chance of finding a job.

So they expect the value of continuing to search is zero. So it doesn`t make sense and the data and the reports that we have. There are articles in the American Economic Review, a wonderful report from JPMorgan Chase Institute all documenting that the extra money, what it did do, was provide stability for the economy, continue consumption by those who were unemployed and kept us from having a much worse recession.

VELSHI: Yes. I mean, just to be clear, $300 a week is $7.50 an hour, is $15,600 a year if you work full time. If that`s what you`re robbing the system of, you`re not a very successful robber. I want to talk to you about women, the point that the vice president was making. Let`s look at this thing called labor force participation, which is a much better measure of what`s going on in the economy -- 67.6 percent men, 56.1 percent women. How do you interpret that?

SPRIGGS: Well, there have always been a gap there. Labor force participation did not recover for women for most of this century, and we know where the problems are. We don`t have paid family leave. We don`t have enough childcare facilities in the United States. What we do have is too expensive, and we haven`t done what other industrialized countries have done to increase women`s labor force participation.

That was a problem before this happened, and it`s been exacerbated by this situation. That`s why what`s in that American Family Plan that the president has proposed is so vital because we have to get women`s labor force participation rate back up.

We saw the birthrate in the U.S. has collapsed. The only way we`re going to continue to grow is we have to have bigger labor force participation.

VELSHI: And you studied other countries. The United States is uniquely bad at this.

SPRIGGS: We are uniquely bad at this. Japan, which has (inaudible) the same aging as Europe, knew they had to get women`s labor force participation rate up. Many people thought it was just cultural or something about the Japanese culture that, you know, you couldn`t get women`s labor force participation up, but it`s exceeded the United States.

So, they started off behind us and they`ve gotten ahead of us. And it was through doing the things that the president is proposing in terms of paid leave, help with child care, the child tax credit that he wants to extend beyond this year, is vital for getting women into the labor force, and is getting child care workers paid so that we can keep a supply, a steady supply of well-paid child care workers. It`s vital to women`s jobs, women`s wages and getting women in the labor force.

VELSHI: Bill, thank you for your analysis tonight. We appreciate it. Williams Spriggs is a professor of economics at Howard University and the chief economist at the AFL-CIO. We appreciate your time.

Coming up, once again, in a time of crisis, congressional Republicans are voting against helping people then going home and taking credit for Democratic-passed relief in their districts. But if they have struck help going forward, will swing state voters hold them accountable. I`ll ask Pennsylvania Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman about that, next.



BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have to point out, though, that some of the very same folks in Congress who opposed the Recovery Act and claimed that it hasn`t worked have been all too happy to claim credit for recovery act projects and the jobs those projects have produced.

They come to the ribbon cuttings and -- they find a way to have their cake and vote against it too.


VELSHI: That was former President Obama 11 years ago. 11 years later, Republicans are still having their cake and voting against it all over again. Not one single Republican voted for President Biden`s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan. That hasn`t stop some in the GOP from promoting parts of the plan that help their constituents.

Republican Congresswoman Nicole Malliotakis of New York promoted, quote, "bringing federal funding to the district and back into the pockets of taxpayers. She listed the $3.7 million in health care grants from President Biden`s bill under her personal list of achievements on her, quote, "first 100 days report card".

The Associated Press writes, quote, "Republicans from New York and Indiana, to Texas and Washington State have promoted elements of the legislation they fought to defeat."

It`s even happening in House leadership. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy touted the rescue plan`s restaurant revitalization fund encouraging constituents to apply for the program.

In response, Speaker Nancy Pelosi said, quote, he called the American Rescue Plan "socialist", claimed it would turn the U.S. into Venezuela, and convinced every member of his caucus to vote against it. No one should be surprised that McCarthy, a man with such strong principles, voted no and took the dough with the American Rescue Plan. The only question is, which parts of the American jobs and families plans will he pick to brag about," end quote.

Time will tell.

Joining us now Lieutenant Governor of Pennsylvania, John Fetterman. He`s running for the United States Senate in Pennsylvania. Lieutenant Governor, this is -- it would be funny if it weren`t so serious. They literally -- not a single Republican voted in favor of this plan and they are literally taking credit for this.

If they were in a college, they would be caught out for academic dishonesty, but I guess there`s no such thing in Congress.

LT. GOV. JOHN FETTERMAN (D-PA): Yes, I mean --

VELSHI: Hang on a second. I thought I wasn`t able to -- there we go. We got you, we got you. Go ahead, sorry, we didn`t hear the beginning of that, Lieutenant Governor.

FETTERMAN: Sure. I mean when has the Republican Caucus ever let telling the truth get in the way of reality? I mean it`s like, this is the group that`s claimed that there was massive voter fraud, Joe Biden. It was rigged for Joe Biden. But when they`re on the same ballot, well, the voters love me. I mean there wasn`t any fraud in my race.

I mean, they`re estrangement from the truth continues but this is hardly surprising.

VELSHI: So what does success look like on this front? Because if the American Rescue Plan and the American Jobs Plan and the American Family Plan, which are just basically large government interventions into the economy that some of us think is the right thing to do, if they work fundamentally, does Joe Biden, do Democrats, do people like you ultimately reap the benefits for it? Or do people who put this on their resume or their first 100 days report card benefit from the fact that they fooled people into thinking that they were responsible for it?

FETTERMAN: You know, we`re all going to benefit from things like the American Rescue Plan. I mean that`s obvious. Communities are no stronger than the weakest family, and cities are no stronger than the weakest community within a city. And states are no stronger than the weakest cities in their state.

And it just comes down to providing the resources America needs to get through and get past this pandemic. And you know, a question was put to me earlier, what`s the midterms going to look like? It`s like well, if it`s running on policies that the kind that Joe Biden has already passed and put forward, then I should be so lucky. That`s going to be the climate that we`re going to find ourselves in the midterm.

Yet everyone knows that this is the kind of intervention that`s needed. And when the Republicans will campaign and tout the success that they actively voted against and tried to stop, it tells you you`re heading in the right direction and doing the right things.

VELSHI: So, there`s the concept of having discussions on policy in the midterms. There`s also the issue of the number of Republicans who have not accepted the outcome of this election and continue to fan this delusion of Donald Trump`s and the stuff that`s going on in a number of state houses and the recount going on in Arizona.

There`s a public radio station in Harrisburg, WITF, that has a story that they are telling listeners. I want to just read to our viewers what it says.

"As part of the WITF`s commitment to factual reporting, we will use language in our reporting to show how elected officials` actions are connected to the election fraud lie and the insurrection. We are not taking this approach lightly and will apply it to lawmakers who took at least one of these actions: signed on to a Texas lawsuit aimed at invalidating Pennsylvania`s election, signed on to a state House or a state Senate letter urging congressional representatives to object to or delay certification, and voted against certification."

Do you think that kind of thing works to bust up the big lie?

FETTERMAN: Sure. It`s something that we have to push against. I mean the bottom line is this. Everyone knows there was no voter fraud. Everyone knows that in Pennsylvania we`ve had a total of four or five documented cases of voter fraud out of nearly seven million ballots cast.

Donald Trump owned the dead mother vote in Pennsylvania, and he got 100 percent of it. But the truth of the matter is they`re going to keep telling these kinds of lies and they`re going to keep trying to pass legislation that decreases the access to the poles in Republican-controlled states.

They can`t do that in Pennsylvania, so all they can do is amplify the propaganda of the big lie, as I mentioned earlier, claiming that we rigged it for Joe Biden, but we kept our Republican members of our congressional delegation around because they`re just such swell guys.

I mean, that`s how they`re going to continue to play it because that`s the only way they can play it at this point.

VELSHI: Does it strike you as odd because in places like rural Pennsylvania, there could in some quarters be an argument for old-fashioned ideological conservatism in some quarters.

Today`s Republicans are not making that argument at all. The few that still make it are retiring from politics. But does that strike you as odd that that`s the best argument Republicans have right now?

FETTERMAN: I mean no because it`s all they`ve got. I mean, like, to your point, I mean they`ve given up on traditional -- the whole William Buckley kind of traditional George Will conservatism. It`s just how many crazy things can we say, how many lies can we tell, and we`ve continued to get away with it. And you look at the numbers of the number of Republicans that believe there was election fraud. I don`t think they actually believe that there`s election fraud. I just think it`s a protest belief.

But this idea that if you can`t traffic in reality, you traffic in fantasy. And they have an entire media ecosystem where you can live and not be challenged on any of that and then -- until they`re actually sued do they actually acknowledge that they, in fact, you know, take me seriously. That wasn`t -- how could anyone take me seriously? And they have to end up apologizing to Dominion and these other entities that they`ve smeared.

VELSHI: I`m going to be talking to Texas state Representative Rafael Anchia next. You`ve claimed the reward, right from -- the lieutenant governor of Texas offered money if anybody found voter fraud and you did find four or five cases in Pennsylvania. I think that you didn`t get your money. I`d have heard if you did, right?

FETTERMAN: No. We`re still waiting for my handsome reward for discovering voter fraud. But I guess the voter fraud of course that they really wanted was the Democratic voter fraud for Joe Biden which we didn`t have in Pennsylvania. But yes, still waiting on my handsome reward. If you can get them to pay up, I mean that would be outstanding. We would thank you.

But regardless, I don`t anticipate them ever playing it straight up in the future because the facts are never on their side, from the pandemic to the relief packages that we passed to the actual election integrity.

VELSHI: Lieutenant governor, good to see you. Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman of Pennsylvania. Thanks for joining us tonight.

Coming up, everybody`s talking about our next guest after he delivered a history lesson in racism and voting to one of the Republican authors of the Texas voter suppression bill in the Texas house today. You`ve probably seen the clip on Rachel`s show. That Texas representative Rafael Anchia joins us next.


VELSHI: Texas Republicans are determined to force through voter suppression bills despite outcry from voting rights advocates, some corporations and frankly being utterly embarrassed by Democrats in debate.

Here`s Democratic state representative Jessica Gonzalez quoting the Republican secretary of state.


JESSICA GONZALEZ (D-TX): The secretary of state said that the 2020 elections was free, fair, safe and secure. Do you now agree with that -- what the secretary of state said?

BRISCO CAIN (R), TEXAS STATE REPRESENTATIVE: I think that -- that that`s their opinion, sure.

GONZALEZ: Are you saying that you disagree with the secretary of state`s office is what I`m asking you.

CAIN: I mean, I think they`re probably right in the adding up of it all from what they saw -- free, fair, and secure election.

GONZALEZ: What are we trying to fix here that is not broken?

CAIN: We don`t need to wait for bad things to happen in order to try and protect and secure these elections.


VELSHI: They don`t need to wait for bad things to happen. The Republican who said that, by the way, is Representative Briscoe Cain. He wrote the House version of the voter suppression bill that has now passed both chambers of the Texas state legislature.

And when he wrote the bill, he chose to use a phrase from the state constitution, a phrase that is deeply steeped in racism.


RAFAEL ANCHIA (D-TX), STATE REPRESENTATIVE: You talked about preserving the purity of the ballot box, is that correct?

CAIN: Yes. That`s a quotation from the Texas Constitution, Article 6, Section 4.

ANCHIA: Right. And are you aware of the history behind that provision of the constitution?

CAIN: I`m not.

ANCHIA: That provision was drafted specifically to disenfranchise black people, black voters, in fact, following the Civil War. Did you know that?

CAIN: No. I`m sorry to hear that.

ANCHIA: Did you realize that that purity of the ballot box language in the Texas Constitution gave rise to all-white primaries?

CAIN: No, I didn`t.

ANCHIA: And did you know that this purity at the ballot box justification was also used during the Jim Crow era to prevent black people from voting?

CAIN: No. No, those are troubling things. I didn`t know that --

ANCHIA: Did you know that in states across the country that penal disenfranchisement schemes were put in place, including in Texas, as far back at 1845 to effectively lock African-American people out of the political process? Are you aware of this history?


VELSHI: Joining us now is Texas state representative Rafael Anchia. He is a Democrat representing the western corridor of Dallas. He`s the chairman of the Mexican-American Legislative Caucus, which is the largest and oldest Latino legislative caucus in the United States.

Representative, thank you for being with us. Did anything come of that remarkable debate? It`s very rare for us to see actual political debates in a legislature. So when you watch something like that and you think you presented your counterpart on the Republican side with a lot of interesting information that should have fed his decision as far as writing this bill goes. What happened after that?

ANCHIA: Well, thanks for having me, Ali, and shout out to my mom who I know is always watching and to all moms on this Mother`s Day weekend.

I got to tell you, you know -- the last, I don`t know, 48 hours have been really tough. We stayed up until about 3:00 a.m. last night, came back this morning and fought this bill. Regrettably, the bill passed.

Democrats were able to chip away at the edges of this thing, but you know, when a bill is sort of based on the big lie -- I was glad to see the lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania talking about that -- you know, it`s irredeemable. The bill sought to have partisan -- these election observers looking over people`s shoulders, intimidating voters.

We were able to chip away at some of those things so election judges, independent election judges won`t have somebody looking over my mom`s shoulder when she`s trying to vote. And so we thought that was an important provision to take out of the bill.

The history lesson is not only something that, you know, hearkens back to Jim Crow or even that purity of the ballot box language. I mean we`re seeing it real time here in Texas.

During the last decade, we had multiple findings of intentional discrimination against the Texas legislature in voting rights matters, not 50 years ago, not in black and white, but real time and digital during the last decade.

So it`s something that continues to happen in this state, already the toughest state in which to cast a vote in the union. And Republicans are continuing to pile on.

We scored some points last night, but this is still a terrible bill that passed today. That`s going to hurt voting rights in the state.

VELSHI: Representative Cain when confronted with the idea that this was a free and fair election in Texas, we know that your lieutenant governor has offered a bounty for people who have found examples of voter fraud. Doesn`t seem to want to pay that bounty out for examples of Republican voter fraud.

But when Representative Cain was confronted with that information and he said well, we don`t want to have to wait for bad things to happen, Texas has enjoyed freer voting rights in the past without bad things happening.

What was the precipitating event in Texas or in Pennsylvania or in Georgia or in Iowa or in Arizona that has caused everybody to make this priority number one?

ANCHIA: Well, it`s the loss of Donald Trump in the last election. The ex- president has continued to talk about stopping the steal and he`s perpetuated the big lie. His enablers have done it over and over again, and that big lie is that people of color stole this election from him in cities like Dallas, and Houston, and across the nation. The reality is, as you heard Representative Gonzalez, my colleague in the legislature say, you know, the secretary of state, that`s Governor Abbott`s chief elections officer, she said that the election was safe, secure, and successful. There`s no evidence of voter fraud.

But that has -- you know, that`s not deterred Republicans in this state either in the last decade or this decade as they continue to trample on voting rights. Might I say not of Democrats, not of Republicans, but of all Texans, Texans of all stripes.

I mean in my closing speech today, I said help me preserve the votes of Texas Republicans. Help me preserve the votes of Texas Democrats and everybody else in between because this should not be a partisan issue.


ANCHIA: You know, my parents are immigrants to this country, and we think this is the greatest country in the world. And we`re very proud that we still have this precious right to vote. Lot of places around the world people don`t have it. But we sure as hell are going to fight all night like we did last night. We`re going to fight and we`re going to make some good trouble on bills that seek to curtail these rights.

And we have to live up for the best ideals of this country we`re not doing it here in Texas.

VELSHI: Representative, good to see you. Thank you for being with us. And Happy Mother`s Day to your mother since I know she is watching. Representative Rafael Anchia from the Texas legislature.

We`ll be right back with some good news on a Friday night.


VELSHI: Time for some good news.

Pfizer and German company BioNTech have become the first to apply to the FDA for full approval of their COVID vaccine for use in people 16 years old -- and older. The vaccine`s currently being administered under an emergency use authorization. Full approval would allow Pfizer to market the vaccine directly to customers.

Moderna plans to apply for full approval for its vaccine later this month. More good news by the way, coronavirus infections in the United States are now at their lowest level in seven month.

The vaccines are turning the tide in America`s battle with the virus. Deaths and serious illnesses have dropped significantly. And now cases are falling too, an important piece of protection for the future if we can keep it up.

Over half of all American adults have now received at least one shot of a vaccine. 41 percent of adults are fully vaccinated. The U.S. averaged about 48,000 new cases per day over the past week. So it is not gone. That`s a 13 percent improvement however over the week before. And it`s the first time since October that average daily cases have dipped below 50,000.

Joining us now is a guy who needs no introduction, Dr. Vin Gupta who may have been new to some of you a year and a half ago but unfortunately has become very familiar to you. He`s a pulmonologist, a global health policy expert, an affiliate assistant professor at the University of Washington Medical Center and an MSNBC medical contributor.

Vin, it is -- I mean, for a lot of last year and change we have not been able to talk about good news. There is something good happening here. I didn`t know what the full approval of these drugs would mean. It basically allows them to market the drug to people. What difference will that make in the uptake of vaccinations in this country?

DR. VIN GUPTA, MSNBC MEDICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, good evening, Ali. I think this is huge and cannot be underestimated because what I hear from the younger people especially is, well hey, Doc, isn`t this vaccine still experimental? Are we sure we know the full spate of side effects, the short and long term? This alleviates that, Ali because this takes this notion of emergency use out the window and that scared a lot of people. It caused a lot of people to say let me wait and see.

So I do think that this is going to be a positive signal to everybody across the country and we can message more confidently. Moderna`s following suit in the next month. So this is definitely a boon to messaging especially to younger people, Ali.

VELSHI: It also does another thing and that is for companies who is are thinking about, you know, mandating that you have to be vaccinated. It sort of gives them a little bit of a leg up.

But what I didn`t know about, that I read in "The New York Times" is that it could allow the military to mandate vaccination and that`s been a bit of an issue because the uptake (ph) in the military has not been as high as people were hoping.

DR. GUPTA: Well, I can say as a reservist that that`s absolutely probably going to happen. I mean I`m not making the decision but from what I have heard internally they`re waiting for that. Colleges and universities are waiting for that.

So this is the signal here that you`re going to start seeing uptake across the different sectors of society, Ali. Definitely universities, probably the military from what I`m hearing and likely parts of the entertainment industry, Restaurants, hotel chains.

You`re going to start see more of a movement there and that`s going to be really important as well because really the critical difficulty for small and medium businesses, Ali, is the capacity issue.

But if you can create a safe bubble, you can get to 100 percent capacity and that`s the key piece. You`re seeing Major League Baseball actually leading on this issue.

VELSHI: You got a discount at some games if you can either prove vaccination or get vaccinated on site.

The White House wants 70 percent of Americans vaccinated. Polling recently indicates that probably that many Americans are willing to get this vaccine. What should we be thinking about in terms of herd immunity? Does the matter? Is there a number? How do you think about this?

DR. GUPTA: I think the metric that matters here, Ali, across zip codes is hospitalizations. What is the stress in local health systems? Here in (INAUDIBLE) county we have 80 plus percent of our ICU bed capability available. That`s reassuring, as Governor Inslee decided to keep us in phase three here. That is a key piece here because people are not going to test as much, Ali, once they get fully vaccinated.

Their behaviors are going to change so hospitalization rates are going to be a key metric, key surrogate (ph) of have we or have we not reached herd immunity. So that`s going to be number one.

And then two, I think we need to be mindful here if we do not reach 70 percent across certain regions of the country what happens come fall or winter? Ali, as you know, coronavirus likes cold, dry air, not warm humid air.

So I worry we`re entering a phase here where people might feel like we`re actually past the worst of it. But come fall or winter I do expect there will be areas of the country that are going to see potentially surges in their hospital systems because they didn`t reach their optimal uptake of the vaccine.

VELSHI: Vin, thanks for joining us tonight. Thanks for having joined us for so much of this time since the beginning of this pandemic. Vin Gupta is a pulmonologist and global health policy expert.

Thank you for being with us.

And that is tonight`s LAST WORD.

You can catch me tomorrow morning at 8:00 a.m. Eastern on my show "VELSHI". We`ve got a lot lined up for you. I`ll be joined by Senator and former vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine, Congresswoman and former impeachment manager Stacey Plaskett, Congressman Jim Himes, and Arizona secretary of state Katie Hobbs.

That`s it for me.

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