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Transcript: The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, 6/1/21

Guests: Katie Hobbs, Julian Castro, Daniel Alonso, Jennifer Palmieri, Caleb Gayle


President Biden vows action on voting rights as he marks 100 anniversary of Tulsa race massacre. Today, a federal prosecutor told the district judge in Washington, D.C. that the Justice Department has started to hold preliminary plea discussions with some defendants who call themselves Oath Keepers who have been charged with conspiracy for their role in the January 6th attack on the Capitol.



And thank you for bringing Steve Kornacki back to television. It has been a couple of years. I mean, feels like -- feels like that. Doesn`t it? Doesn`t it?

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: I know. It has been long enough that I definitely could not wear the same pants that I wore the last time I talked to him. Apparently, he`s in a time warp, but his pants are fine.

O`DONNELL: Yeah he`s got the one-pant, so we are very used to that pant he wears.

But, hey, it`s a remarkable -- not so remarkable. Semi-predictable results in New Mexico tonight. But so far, a stronger than expected showing for Democrats.

At the end of our hour, we`ll see exactly where the votes stand and we`re going to do it without Steve Kornacki which means I might have to take my jacket off. I`m not sure. We`ll see how we do.

MADDOW: Okay. If you stand up and take your jacket off, you will -- I don`t even want to be for the ratings coming in tomorrow. It`s going to be overwhelming.

O`DONNELL: Yeah, you may reconsider the whole thing. Thank you, Rachel.


MADDOW: Thank you, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Well, in Tulsa, Oklahoma, today, President Biden described what he called a truly unprecedented assault on our democracy. And he was talking about voting rights when he said that. But he went to Tulsa today to mark an assault that happened there 100 years ago.

These two assaults 100 years apart are both driven by white supremacy. That is what`s behind both of the assaults that President Biden talked about today. The one that happened 100 years ago was a violent, murderous attack on the black neighborhood of Greenwood that became a massacre of black people, so huge that no official accomplice accounted of the number of dead bodies after the white supremacist attack.

One hundred years ago, America`s white supremacists, like the people of Tulsa who massacred their black neighbors and not only not want the black people to vote, they did not want them to breathe. They did not want them to live. The white supremacists of Tulsa, did not just take away black people`s rights to vote, they took away black people`s rights to life.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: One night, one night changed everything. Everything changed. While Greenwood was a community itself, it was not separated outside. It was not everyone. There was enough hate, resentment and vengeance in the community. Enough people believe that America does not belong to everyone and not everyone is created equal.


O`DONNELL: Not everyone is created equal is the first amendment of white supremacy. Republicans do not believe that everyone is created equal. That is why Republican legislatures believe they can restrict black Americans` right to vote, because Republicans do not believe all voters are created equal.

Republicans believe that Republican voters are better people than Democratic voters. And that is the belief that justifies for them everything they are doing in state legislatures around the country to make voting more difficult for Democratic voters who Republicans believe they can identify by race.

We`ll begin tonight with a discussion of what President Biden called the truly unprecedented assault on our democracy of the Republicans have launched this year and later in the hour, with Professor Jelani Cobb and Caleb Gayle. We`ll consider in great details the assault on life itself that occurred in Tulsa, Oklahoma, 100 years ago.

The Democratic legislators in Texas and other states calling for help in Washington now to defeat the assault on our democracy.

Today, President Biden said this.


BIDEN: June should be a month of action on Capitol Hill. I hear all the folks on TV saying, why don`t Biden get it done? Well, because Biden only has the majority of effectively four votes in the House and a tie in the Senate with two members of the Senate who vote more with my Republicans. But, we`re not giving up.

Early this year, the House of Representatives passed For the People Act to protect our democracy. The Senate will take it up later this month and I`m going to fight like heck with every tool of my disposal for its passage. The House is also working on the John Lewis` Voting Rights Act, which is critical to provide legal tools to combat the new assault on the right to vote.

To signify the efforts, today, I am asking our vice president Kamala Harris to help these efforts and lead them, among her many responsibilities. With her leadership and your support, we`re going to overcome again. I promise you but it will take a hell of a lot of work.


O`DONNELL: Texas State Representative Trey Martinez Fischer had this message for Democratic Senator Joe Manchin.


STATE REP. TREY MARTINEZ FISCHER (D), TEXAS: Here in Texas, we say when times get tough, it`s time to cowboy up and so with all due respect, I ask Senator Manchin to please cowboy up and understand that you may not think - - you don`t want to destroy the country but they`re going to destroy the country state by state with these harsh voter suppression tactics. This is very, very tough.


O`DONNELL: After Texas Democrats successfully blocked in voting restrictions bill by walking out of the House chamber and denying the Republicans the quorum necessary to have a vote, Texas Governor Greg Abbott promised to call a special session of the legislature to try to bring the bill to a vote again.

The governor also threatened to defund the legislature in a tweet yesterday which was, of course, purely Trumpian style. And Donald Trump liked that tweet so much that he endorsed Greg Abbott today for the governor`s reelection campaign next year.

The Brennan Center for Justice finds at least 14 states have enacted 22 new laws that restrict voting access. Secretaries of state have been targeted in some of that legislation. Georgia has restricted the secretary of state`s authority over elections.

And in Arizona, Republicans removed Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs` ability to defend election results in court challenges. Secretary Hobbs will be joining our discussion in a moment.

Today, over 100 scholars, including historians and political scientists signed a statement condemning Republican laws restricting voting.

The statement says that we have watched with deep concern as Republican-led state legislatures across the country have in recent months proposed or implemented what we consider radical changes to core electoral procedures in response to unproven and intentionally destructive allegations of a stolen election. Collectively, these initiatives are transforming several states into political systems that no longer meet the minimum conditions for free and fair elections. These actions call into question whether the United States will remain a democracy.

As scholars of democracy we condemn these actions in the strongest possible terms as a betrayal of our precious democratic heritage.

The statement urges Congress to do it is necessary to preserve democracy including changing the Senate 60-vote rule to pass federal voting protections.

The last line of their statement says, ominously: Our democracy is fundamentally at stake. History will judge what we do at this moment.

Tonight, former Democratic Texas Congressman Beto O`Rourke, who`s now a voting rights advocate, said this in discussion with Chris Hayes.


FORMER REP. BETO O`ROURKE (D-TX): People understand just how precarious and important this all is and that it calls upon all of us to do what we can while we still have this window to act. Thanks, by the way, to the Texas State House Democrats who stopped that voter suppression bill and bought us a window of time. We may have about the month of June within which to get the for the people acts passed in the U.S. Senate and that puts an end to what they`re trying to do in Texas and Georgia in about 45 other state legislatures across the country.


O`DONNELL: Leading off our discussion tonight, Julian Castro, former mayor of San Antonio and former secretary of Housing and Urban Development in the Obama administration.

Also with us, Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs.

Secretary Hobbs, let me begin with you and your reaction to what the president had to say today.

KATIE HOBBS, ARIZONA SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, the president has done nothing but continue to lie about the election that he lost and what`s more concerning about it is that he`s inciting --

O`DONNELL: Secretary Hobbs, I was asking about what President Joe Biden said today.

HOBBS: Oh. Sorry I thought you said President Trump, so sorry about that.

No, I mean the president is exactly right. He -- we are seeing an assault on our democracy for many fronts starting with the former president`s continued assault on the election that he lost last November that most Americans have moved on from and then all of these bills that were seeing passed in legislatures across the country continuing to attack people`s right to vote. This is an assault on our democracy.

O`DONNELL: And, Julian Castro, the president today laid out the sketch of his schedule is saying June was going to be a very important month to try to move this forward.

JULIAN CASTRO, FORMER HUD SECRETARY: Yeah, look, what we have is a moments that is critical to preserving our democracy as we know it. I agree with Joe Biden that we have a democracy that`s under assault and most of our 50 states and this is a party that`s going to do everything that it can to hold unto its grip power, and I thought that the president did something fantastic today in asking Vice President Harris to take the lead on trying to work with folks around the country to preserve our voting rights. That means it`s going to be a top priority with someone who understands these issues you has a lot of fight in her so it gives us confidence.

O`DONNELL: Secretary Hobbs, in Arizona and other states, the Republicans in the legislature don`t need any Democratic votes at all to pass these restrictions on voting. Yet in Washington, for the Democrats in the Senate passed a protecting voting in America and it requires 60 votes now under current Senate rules, which means it requires at least ten Republicans to join this initiative to protect the vote in the United States.

What would you say to Senator Joe Manchin about the fairness of that? That these laws can be passed without any Democratic votes and state legislatures but in Washington they need these ten Republican votes under the current rule.

HOBBS: Well I would say to him that and any senator that`s blocking the -- getting rid of the filibuster right now that we are under assaults like we have never seen before. And democracy itself is at stake.

We need that to rise to this moment and do everything they can and use every tool in the arsenal to make sure that we`re protecting voting rights in states across the country and if we can`t protect it in the states we need to protect it at the federal level and the filibuster is blocking that.

O`DONNELL: Secretary Castro, what happens next in Texas?

CASTRO: I`m very proud and they have a lot of fight in them and they were able to stave off the passage of SB-7. We know it`s going to be back in the special session. So, what happens now is that everybody on the inside, of those elected officials on the outside in the advocates in everyday Texas are pushing and pushing and we`re also going to keep pushing Washington D.C. and Senator Manchin and Senator Sinema and others to step up and to pass the For the People Act and the Voting Rights Act.

This is critical. We need to get that done. Everyone`s going to do their part including in Texas but we need the help of Washington, D.C.

O`DONNELL: Secretary Hobbs, the elements of these bills that actually concern me the most is what happens after the votes are cast. Georgia has changed that process after the votes are cast and reduced if not eliminated the secretary of state`s authority over dealing with accounts and managing the challenges.

Your authority has been reduced to secretary of state of Arizona in what happened to the votes after they are cast if there`s a court challenge. In Texas, they are also changing what happened and what is possible into the votes after they are cast in terms of lawsuits brought in trials -- in the standards of proof of trial and that sort of thing.

What do you see in this pattern of Republican legislators trying to reach in and change the processes for how votes are handled after they are cast?

HOBBS: This is incredibly alarming and should be incredibly alarming to everyone paying attention and even to those who aren`t paying attention. They`re laying the groundwork to steal the next election. Not through means that we can`t see but right out in front of us. They are laying the groundwork to do that now and we have to do everything we can to stop it.

O`DONNELL: And, Secretary Castro, and Texas what they`re saying is you can overturn an election by going to court alleging voter fraud but you will not have to prove that the allegation you`re making involves enough votes to actually change the outcome of the election but still and its access court Texas Republicans want to be able to overturn an election.

CASTRO: Lawrence, this is absolutely crazy and it`s the world turned upside down. This is providing the opening for the type of fraud that you are fraudulently asserting right now. They`re creating right now as Hobbs says rigging an election and stealing an election and bring a fraud in the election.

This is the same kind of projection that we saw in four years of Donald Trump except this time, you actually can`t have consequences to our democracy and that`s why this moment is so urgent. And in strong enough terms how Senator Sinema to put our democracy ahead of our concerns for reelection and do the right thing in this moment.

O`DONNELL: And, Secretary Hobbs, thank you first of all fruit coining the phrase -- the term fraud-it describe what`s happening to the ballots.

What`s the latest on the fraud-it there and what is next?

HOBBS: Well, I think they`re going to continue to drag this out for as long as possible because we`ve seen that they`re making money off of it. They`re continuing right now at a very slow pace and we`re continuing to send observers in that have continued concerns about the processes in place that just seem really prime for cooking the books in terms of whatever results they come up with. So I guess we`ll continue to watch and will continue to observe and share our concerns with the public.

O`DONNELL: Secretary of State Katie Hobbs of Arizona and former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Julian Castro, thank you both very much for starting off our discussion tonight.

CASTRO: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

Coming up, 16 and four new indictments there are now 16 people who give themselves the false label oath keepers who are charged with a criminal conspiracy to attack the capital on January 6 and some of them have now begun plea discussions with prosecutors which means they could become cooperating witnesses against a coconspirators and possibly reveal more coconspirators in their plot. People like Roger Stone who hung around with so-called oath keepers should be very worried tonight. That`s next.


O`DONNELL: Today, a federal prosecutor told the district judge in Washington, D.C. that the Justice Department has started to hold preliminary plea discussions with some defendants who call themselves Oath Keepers who have been charged with conspiracy for their role in the January 6th attack on the Capitol.

Last week, more members of that group were indicted and accused of conspiracy in the attack on the Capitol and accused of conspiracy to stop Congress from formally certifying Joe Biden`s Electoral College victory.

That brings the number of codefendants charged and the largest conspiracy case from that day to 16. Newly-named defendants are Joseph Hackett, Jason Dolan, and William Isaacs, all from Florida. A fourth need to defendants name and alleged actions are still redacted.

According to the indictments, a group of 16 dependents are all accused of taking part in a conspiracy to obstruct confirmation of the election. Defendant William Isaacs allegedly yelled, quote, the fight is not over. Once the group entered the Capitol building and he waved rioters down the hallway toward the Senate chamber.

Joining us our discussion now is Daniel Alonso, a former federal prosecutor and a former chief assistant district attorney in the Manhattan district attorney`s office.

Dan, thank you very much for joining us tonight. I really appreciate it.

I want to go straight to this part of reports saying that one of the people who is indicted the name is still redacted and what`s the crime is. The accusation is redacted. Why would that be?


What I would probably say here is that the person has not been apprehended and the government doesn`t trust these folks, right? The indictment wreaks of people that really don`t respect the government, don`t really want the government to operate the way it does. Law enforcement authorities typically are pretty paranoid in normal cases and so in a case like this, before they apprehended the person, they just don`t want a signal of who it is.

So that`s why they`ve probably redacted it in this case.

O`DONNELL: So a federal prosecutor, your old job, today told the court that they`re in very -- what they call very preliminary plea discussions with at least some of these accused coconspirators in the 16. What does very preliminary mean?

ALONSO: It means they don`t want to be bound by. It means they`re starting to talk to the defense lawyers.

It`s a very common thing in the criminal justice system for lawyers to talk to each other. You know, hey, what`s this all about, what do you have? How tough -- how strong are the charges? What are you looking for? How much time? Et cetera.

So you`re having these kind of discussions. Maybe it`s not quite so stylized as "Law and Order", but you do have these kinds of discussions between prosecutors and defense lawyers. So it simply means that that they`re having preliminary discussions.

You should know that the prosecutors want this case to be resolved by guilty plea. They`d rather not try it because logistics would be pretty nightmarish to try 16 people at once which the judge in today`s case noticed and said, and commented on.

O`DONNELL: But it becomes a little bit more manageable if some of them become witnesses for the prosecution that reduces your active defendant count and the trial and it also provides you with usually pretty damning evidence.

ALONSO: There`s nothing prosecutors like more than one people so-called flip. So, yeah, the evidence is already pretty damning in this case. It seems like a pretty strong case against a charge defendant, but they`re always looking for someone to be able to get up on the witness stand to explain in a narrative exactly what happened, how did this all come together.

And let`s not forget, there are uncharted coconspirators trying to mention in the indictment with pseudonyms. And we, of course, know that there are folks out there who run the Oath Keepers how have not been charged. So, any cooperator that might decide to plead guilty and be a government witness out of this indictment could lead to other charges with other people. Not just these folks.

O`DONNELL: Yes, and one of those people who faces that kind of danger is named Stewart Rhodes who`s identified one of those filings as person one.

And they quote him, prosecutors caught him in one of these filings saying this: I do want some Oath Keepers to stay on the outside to stay fully armed and prepared to go in arms if they have to. So our posture is going to be that were posted outside of D.C. awaiting the president`s orders. We hope this will give us the orders. We want him to declare an insurrection and to call us up as the militia.

Dan, I`m struck by the facts that they were so afraid of Washington, D.C.`s gun control laws that they were staying outside of Washington, D.C. with their guns but then waiting for this president to actually say publicly, yes, this is an insurrection and I need you to get in there with their guns, in effect.

ALONSO: I mean, it`s another good reason why it would be nice to have a bipartisan January 6 commission, right? I mean, we really need to get to the bottom of what kind of communication there was here but him saying that is a very interesting statement. There are other statements in the indictment by him and by others in this is a strong case of people who were in a premeditated way trying to obstruct the ultimate justice.

You know I handled a lot of obstruction of justice cases as a prosecutor but it was always grand juries or trials or federal investigations. This is obstructing the pinnacle of democracy and its charged an actual indictment, what`s stopping the count of the presidential electoral votes. So this is the pinnacle of obstruction of justice and say it makes me wish that I were back in the department. It`s a very interesting case.

O`DONNELL: Daniel Alonso, thank you very much for sharing your former federal prosecutor expertise on this case tonight. Really appreciate it.

ALONSO: Thank you, Lawrence. Good to be here.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

And coming up, Professor Eddie Glaude and Jennifer Palmieri will join us next with their reactions to some of President Biden`s that insulted today, including his push for an infrastructure bill.


O`DONNELL: In his speech in Tulsa, Oklahoma today marking the massacre of black Americans that occurred there 100 years ago and included the destruction of a vibrant business community then called Black Wall Street President Biden said this.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Let`s unlock more than the incredible creativity and innovation that will come from the nation`s historically black college and universities. You know, I have a $5 billion a year program giving to research, and to invest in research centers and laboratories and high demand fields to compete for good-paying jobs in an industry -- the future like cyber security.

The reason why they don`t, their students are equally able to learn as well and get the good paying jobs that at $90,000 and $100,000. But they don`t - - they don`t have the -- they don`t have the money to provide and build those laboratories. So guess what? They`re going to get the money to build those labs.

So instead of just talking about infrastructure, let`s talk about the business of actually rebuilding roads and highways, filling the sidewalks and cracks, installing street lights and hi-speed Internet. Creating a space -- space to live in, work, and play safely.

But ensure access to health care, clean water, clean air, nearby grocery stores stocked with fresh vegetables and food -- I mean these are all things we can do.


O`DONNELL: Joining our discussion now, Jennifer Palmieri, former communications director for the Obama White House. She is a co-host of Showtime`s "The Circus". Also with us Professor Eddie Glaude, chair of the African-American Studies Department at Princeton University and an MSNBC contributor.

And Professor Glaude, I just want to begin with you. and I wouldn`t presume to direct you to any particular part of the president`s speech today to just get your reaction to what you heard the president say in Tulsa today.


You know, I found it to be a very fascinating speech. On the one hand there is this attempt to re-narrate, to tell a different kind of story about America`s past, to reveal the truth about the Klan`s role at a particular moment in our country. The number of Klansmen in Congress.

The number of Klansmen in the Senate, on the courts, the way in which the Klan informed the policy in a sense and the way in which the detail around the Tulsa moment. It was almost as if it was a kind of explicit counter narrative to the cultural wars that are being waged by Republicans around the 1619 Project and quote-unquote "critical race theory". So there is a sense in which President Biden`s speech put forth this kind of claim, Lawrence, to be quick about it that what we leave out of our stories actually reveal the limits of our conception of justice. So if we tell a fuller story, a thicker story, a truer story we actually can lay the ground work for a robust conception of justice, a robust view of justice.

And then the second half of the speech, I don`t think was as unprecedented because it was so familiar. That was the remedy. I don`t think the remedy was at the scale of the description but it was really fascinating to see those two aspects of the speech at work.

I have never heard a president in my lifetime speak like he did. But at the same time, I heard the remedies before even as he talked about the infrastructure bill, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Yes, that`s such a good point, Jennifer that that Professor Glaude just made that the speech works as a cohesive piece. And if you just pulled out paragraphs of it from one part or another, you wouldn`t believe that you`d be able to go from a detailed description of what happened in that massacre to a more detailed description of what President Biden want to do in his infrastructure bill.

But did do that showing that he will take every opportunity to get his agenda in front of American voters and link it to whether it might be history or whatever that moment of the day is that he needs to link it to.

JENNIFER PALMIERI, FORMER OBAMA WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: I think that the fact that he`s able to do that shows you just how difficult the job before him, before the country is. Because it was not out of place to link an infrastructure bill which is, you know, literally nuts and bolts to questions that loom very large about the country`s reckoning with race.

And you know, there was another president, President Obama who had an interview with Ezra Klein this weekend and that was really insightful and thought from the same kind of wave about the story that we have to tell the country, the full story, you know, that the ark of justice -- the ark of history is long, it can bend towards justice if we work really hard at it.

And what you see with, you know, Biden, you know, that the infrastructure bill is not just about infrastructure, it is about proving that democracy can work. It`s proving that you can get this big thing done but also that America can still do big things literally also while we are, you know, coming to reckon with race.

And how he leads, how Biden leads this moment is so important particularly after four years of someone was so reckless and so careless with everything from race to governing.

O`DONNELL: And Professor Glaude, he also talked about voting rights within this speech that he delivered today. And I`m glad you reminded me about the passage where he was talking about actual members of the Senate who were members of the Klan while serving in the senate. Members of the House who were members of the clan while serving in the House.

Robert Byrd who was Joe Manchin`s predecessor in the United States Senate as a young man and he was not -- he graduated from high school and did not go to college. As a young man he joined the Klan in West Virginia. He lived in shame of that for the rest of his adult life. He was not in the Klan for a long time. He certainly was not in the Klan when he started running for office, running for the senate.

But that is part of West Virginia history and so much of what Joe Biden is urging the Congress to do depends entirely on Joe Manchin and how Joe Manchin sees the urgency of this moment and it`s we will discover just how persuasive Joe Biden has been with Joe Manchin at some point.

GLAUDE: Yes, Lawrence. And I think that we will have actually see over the coming days whether or not Joe Manchin is actually being a good faith actor. There is a sense in which he`s giving voice to this commitment to bipartisanship that he thinks the filibuster is key to the Senate working although many of us believed that the so-called greatest deliberative body in the country has already been broken for a variety of reasons.

But at every turn when there`s been an actual good faith gesture to reach across the aisle to Republicans, we see this game. They draw it out, they try to negotiate and then we don`t get much.

And so how much evidence does a Joe Manchin need to see that those people across the aisle are not necessarily good faith actors or they very well may be as I believe them to be the new redeemers. And those are the same folks who at the end of the radical reconstruction who sought to dismantle what radical reconstruction represented after the civil war.

So we have to begin to engage what -- I know the politics of West Virginia but we have to engage what Joe Manchin is really committed to and what is really motivating him. And I think this moment will make that clear -- Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Jennifer, the White House is suggesting June 9th thereabouts as what they`re kind of calling a a soft date for knowing exactly where we stand on infrastructure. Are we going it alone as Democrats or will we have some Republicans?

PALMIERI: Yes. they have, tomorrow the president`s going to meet with Senator Capito from her office from West Virginia. I think that they are -- I think they are right to continue to try to pursue this in a bipartisan way. The truth is there is enormous bipartisan support within the country for this infrastructure package.

And I think, you know, as I said before, the manner in which Joe Biden does his job really matters now. Show the public that you are trying to be bipartisan. Show the public that there is bipartisan support even in the country is not in D.C. for this.

They want to -- they don`t want to get deep into June without moving on the legislation. I think that`s why you see a June 9th deadline for saying that (INAUDIBLE) bipartisan way. But they want to get caught trying.

O`DONNELL: Jennifer Palmieri and Professor Eddie Glaude, thank you both very much for joining us tonight.

GLAUDE: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

And coming up, Professor Jelani Cobb and Caleb Gayle will join our discussion of what happened in Tulsa 100 years ago and how the president of the United States described that event.

That`s next.


O`DONNELL: On May 31st, 1921 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, a violent white supremacist mob attacked the thriving black neighborhood of Greenwood, home to what was then called Black Wall Street. Joe Biden`s high school history class did not mention that story. My high school history class did not include that story. And many American history classes in high schools still do not include that story.

Today in the Greenwood neighborhood in Tulsa, Oklahoma the president of the United States told that story.


BIDEN: Through the night and into the morning, the mob terrorized greenwood, torches and guns shooting at will, a mob tied a black man by the waist to the back of their truck with his head banging along the pavement as they drove off.

A murdered black family draped over the fence of their homes outside. And elderly couples knelt by their beds praying to God with their heart and soul, and they were shot in the back of their heads.

Private planes -- private planes dropping explosives -- the first and only domestic aerial assault of its kind on an American city here in Tulsa.

My fellow Americans this was not a riot, this was a massacre.


O`DONNELL: That applause was for the truth. This was a massacre. President Biden outlined what should be the new rule for American high school history class.


BIDEN: We can`t just choose to learn what we want to know and not what we should know. We should know, the good, the bad, everything. That`s what great nations do. They come to terms with their dark sides. We are a great nation.


O`DONNELL: Joining us now from Tulsa is Caleb Gayle, a fellow at New America. He wrote the cover story "100 years after the Tulsa massacre, what does justice look like," in the New York Times Magazine.

Also joining us Jelani Cobb, a staff writer for the New Yorker, and professor of journalism at Columbia University. He`s an MSNBC political analyst who has returned from reporting in Tulsa.

And let me both, let me give both of you this -- Caleb Gayle, beginning with you, I don`t` presume to direct you in your response to what you heard the president say today. I just want to give you an open opportunity to react to the president`s speech or any other aspect of this 100 year marking of this tragic event.

CALEB GAYLE, FELLOW, NEW AMERICA: Yes, I mean, Lawrence, thank you so much. It is hard to under estimate the potency of the president of the United States accounting for Americans and the world exactly what happened.

And doing so oftentimes with graphic detail that I quite frankly as a Tulsan, or a native Tulsan growing up and going to Tulsa high school never ever heard. There`s something quite potent about that.

But also then kind of illustrates the enormity of not just the damage done but the lingering effects of that damage and whether or not the policy solutions that he mentioned or that others mentioned really are enormous enough to then deal with the challenges that are still being faced by so many black Tulsans.

So quite powerful to hear that form a president, to hear the truth especially after four years with a president who obfuscated the truth. But the question still remains are solutions as big as the history that we are standing against.

O`DONNELL: Professional Jelani Cobb, I`ve been wondering all day what`s been going through your mind about this.

JELANI COBB, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I mean a lot obviously. And I think Caleb`s point is well taken. But I do want to give a little bit of context.

You know, when you saw everyone stand up and applaud when he said this is not a riot, it was a massacre. That was important because President Biden was stepping squarely into the middle of a debate, that has -- among many debates that has been roiling the commemoration of what happened.

And you know, there has been an attempt to soften the language by referring to this as a riot as opposed to referring to it as a massacre. And you can really kind of dictate where people stand on the issues by the language that they were using to describe what happened 100 years ago today.

And so that`s part of it. And so he`s kind of settled that debate.

In a bigger sense though, one of the things that disturbed me was, you know, conversations I had with people when I went around Tulsa -- and you know, not all the people who said this things (INAUDIBLE) were white but people said well, you know, I`m not quite sure if things were as bad as they`re saying they were. Or -- did they really kill 300 people?

That`s a little hard to believe. And it is really not simply about what President Biden said that we have, but look at the ugliness in our past. But we have to actually be willing to believe these things happened or else we leave ourselves open to them being recommitted in the present and the future.

O`DONNELL: That`s exactly why I chose that particular piece of the video of the president`s speech, he was going into those real details and not flinching.

And I want to hear take a moment to listen to Viola Fletcher, 107 years old, who is one of the last living victims of this massacre. She testified on May 19th to a house hearing. Let`s listen to what she said.

VIOLA FLETCHER, SURVIOR OF TULSA MASSACRE: I will never forget the violence of the white mob when we left our home. I still see black men -- can see them being shot, black bodies lying in the street, I still smell smoke and see fire.

I still see black businesses being burned. I still hear airplanes flying overhead. I hear the screams. I have lived through the massacre every day. Our country may forget this history, but I cannot.


O`DONNELL: Caleb Gayle, your extraordinary piece about this 100-year-old event, it`s just amazing to consider that there are still some living witnesses to it.

GAYLE: Without a doubt. I mean not only did she -- did Mother Fletcher mention that, you know, America has a tendency of forgetting this sort of event, it`s that that forgetting was rather intentional.

It was the goal of the city of Tulsa to ensure that the stories that Mother Fletcher would then tell would never reach outside of the bounds of Tulsa. The goal was to ensure that people still wanted to flood into this booming city, as President Biden mentioned earlier today.

The goal was to ensure that they made promises of restitution without actually spelling out what restitution would look like. So the reason that Mother Fletcher and her brother and Mother Randall are advocating in the way that they are is because for so long their stories were silenced on purpose and their desire is not just for those stories to be told but then those stories that are told might indicate what we might owe them.

And so that`s the reason why there`s such incredible living testaments to not just the damage done but the lingering damage. The fact that quite frankly black Tulsans on average live six years less than most white Tulsans.

O`DONNELL: Caleb Gayle and Professor Jelani Cobb, I cannot thank you enough for joining us on this important night. Really appreciate it. Thank you.

COBB: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: And coming up, looks like there could be good news for Democrats in the special election in New Mexico tonight to fill the seat vacated by President Biden`s Interior Secretary Deb Haaland. That`s next.


O`DONNELL: Breaking special election news tonight. The Associated Press has called the special congressional election in New Mexico`s First Congressional District for the Democrats. Democratic state representative Melanie Stansbury defeated Republican state senator Mark Morris for the seat vacated by Deb Haaland who is President Biden`s Interior Secretary now.

Democrats will now hold 220 seats in the House; Republicans 211 seats. This is the important number, margin now is 62 to 33 in this race. That`s a 29- point lead.

Biden won this district by 23 points, Deb Haaland herself in the last election won it by only 16 points. I say only, that`s compared to the 29- point lead that the Democratic candidate has in that district at this point tonight. So that`s a big win for the Democrats tonight.

That is tonight`s LAST WORD.