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Transcript: The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, 6/9/21

Guests: Eric Swalwell, Ezra Klein, Mondaire Jones, Lauren Groh-Wargo


Two years after that subpoena was issued and after fighting the subpoena in court, Trump White House Counsel Don McGahn finally agreed to testify to the House Judiciary Committee last Friday under the condition basically that it not be on TV. Chuck Schumer isn`t giving up on Joe Manchin, and Senator Schumer said today he is negotiating with Senator Manchin about how to win his support for the For the People Act. Democrats in Congress are trying to play catch-up now with Republican-controlled state legislatures passing anti-democracy bills. Some Republican legislatures are actually changing their processes for protecting the accuracy of the vote count in their states. President Obama says that if democracy collapses in America, it won`t happen in one big bang.



And two years in the making, I`ve got mine here, the Judiciary Committee transcript of the Don McGahn testimony. Only took them two years to get that testimony.

We`re going to be joined tonight by Judiciary Committee member Eric Swalwell.


O`DONNELL: And Andrew Weissmann because, as you know and as you were describing in your hour, so much of this testimony was about the Mueller investigation and Donald Trump`s attempts to block the Mueller investigation, fire Robert Mueller.

Andrew Weissmann was on the other end of that stuff and wondering exactly what the president was up to. They documented a lot of it in the Mueller report, but Andrew Weissmann has actually learned some things about Don McGahn as a result of this testimony. So that`s going to be really interesting.

MADDOW: And I noted that Mr. Weismann was invoked by name during the testimony himself, which I`m sure is not a comfortable situation for him. But, yes, he is right in the middle of all of this stuff.

O`DONNELL: Yes. We`re going to get right to that, Rachel.

MADDOW: All right, Lawrence. Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

Well, as I said, it was two years, two years ago the House Judiciary Committee subpoenaed Trump White House counsel Don McGahn to testify about what he had already testified about in interviews with special counsel Robert Mueller whose investigation of Russia`s interference in the 2016 election to help Donald Trump had also become an investigation of obstruction of justice by Donald Trump because of Donald Trump`s interference with the Mueller investigation itself.

Two years after that subpoena was issued and after fighting the subpoena in court, Don McGahn finally agreed to testify to the House Judiciary Committee last Friday under the condition basically that it not be on TV. So the hearing was held behind closed doors on Friday, and the transcript was released today.

In Don McGahn`s new testimony we learn that he was one of the many leakers of information to the news media in the Trump White House, and we got new clarity on Don McGahn`s personal fear of being charged with a crime by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. As the Mueller report revealed, Donald Trump repeatedly discussed firing the attorney general and firing Special Counsel Robert Mueller and more than once told Don McGahn to do that, to fire the special counsel.

Don McGahn never did make the call to fire Robert Mueller. One reason was that Don McGahn was afraid of being charged with obstruction of justice himself. Question, well, you had previously advised the president that looking, that, quote, knocking out Mueller, end quote, would be, quote, another fact used to claim obstruction of justice. Now, we`ve gone over that and that could be used to claim. Were you concerned that if you had any part in removing Mueller, that could be a fact to use to claim obstruction of justice? Answer: my own concern? Sure, yeah.

At another point in his testimony to the Judiciary Committee, Don McGahn said that given Robert Mueller`s track record of prosecuting people for making false statements to federal investigators, quote, I would have probably been next. He had already publicly made clear he was going after various people for that, and that certainly is what is -- is one that would weigh on anybody`s mind.

Don McGahn testified that it was only when he read the Mueller report that he discovered that Donald Trump had told another White House staffer that Don McGahn is a lying -- word I can`t say on TV. And when he was asked his reaction to Donald Trump calling him a liar in profane terms to another White House staffer, he answered with one word: disappointing.

Because Attorney General Jeff Sessions had recused himself from supervision of the Mueller investigation, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein was Robert Mueller`s boss and was empowered at all times to fire Robert Mueller at any time. Don McGahn described what he imagined would happen if he followed Donald Trump`s order to call Rod Rosenstein and fire Robert Mueller.

Quote: Inflection point. With that I mean a point of no return. If the acting attorney general received what he thought was a direction from the counsel to the president to remove a special counsel, he would either have to remove the special counselor or resign. We are still talking about the Saturday night massacre decades and decades later, and looking back, you always as a student of history wonder could things have gone differently if different people made different decisions, and here my thought was fast forwarding, you know, what this is going to look like down the road.

This seems to be an inflection point. It was time to hit the brakes and not make a phone call to Rod to raise this issue that the president had continued to raise with me. It seemed to me that it`d be easier for me to not make the call and take whatever heat or fall-out there would be than to cause, potentially, a chain reaction that I think would not be in the best interests of the president. Sometimes, lawyers have to do things that their clients maybe don`t like in the moment, but you do them because in your judgment as a lawyer it is the correct thing to do.

Don McGahn testified that President Trump directed him to write a false statement, knowing that the statement was false, and knowing that carrying out this order might expose Don McGahn to charges of obstruction of justice. The statement Donald Trump wanted Don McGahn to write was "the lie" that Donald Trump never asked him to fire Robert Mueller.

Question: if you had put out the statement the president was requesting disputing that the president ever asked you to have the special counsel removed by Rosenstein, would that have been accurate? Answer: that statement would not have been accurate.

Question: so by February of 2018 the president was very aware that it was a federal crime to lie to the special counsel and you could be indicted for doing so, correct? Answer: suppose so, yeah.

Leading off our discussion tonight are Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell of California. He served as House impeachment manager in the second impeachment trial of Donald Trump and is a member of the House Judiciary Committee.

Also with us, Andrew Weissmann, former FBI general counsel, former senior member of Robert Mueller`s special counsel team that investigated the Russian interference and the obstruction of justice case. He is an MSNBC analyst.

And, Congressman Swalwell, let me begin with you and the two-year quest of your committee to get this testimony from Don McGahn.

What do you think is the import of this testimony and what should the Judiciary Committee be thinking about possible next steps here, if any?

REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA): Lawrence, Andrew, good evening. It was a victory for separation of powers that the congressional subpoena power still means something. I wish it would have meant something, you know, two years ago when we asked Mr. McGahn to come in, but we did ultimately prevail. More importantly, it showed just how close we came to a true constitutional crisis in our country, and that this is not a 500-year flood type of situation, that this could happen again under another, more competent corrupt president.

So, what we could do? Well, Adam Schiff has the Protecting Our Democracy Act which would make a lot of reforms around presidential abuses. I also believe that President Biden can instruct his attorney general to lift the department of justice policy that says no president can be indicted so no president can act as if they have this type of impunity.

But we are in very fragile times for our democracy right now. Thank God we had prosecutors like Andrew Weissmann holding the president accountable at the time. But if we don`t make changes and we don`t make them quickly, we could see the rule of law seriously erode.

O`DONNELL: Andrew Weissmann, what did you learn in Don McGahn`s testimony to the Judiciary Committee?

ANDREW WEISSMANN, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I think it is important to first note what we didn`t learn, because it is important to note that what Don McGahn testified to was that the report was accurate. In other words all of the skirmishing by the president and his allies about this being a witch hunt and that this was staffed by Democrats, all of that is for naught when you have the former president`s own White House counsel under oath confirming everything in the report that he says.

So, I think it is really important. It is important to note what he said was that the president wanted him to fire the special counsel just like what President Nixon did in Watergate, and he declined to do that, and that the president wanted him to lie about it, as you noted, Lawrence.

The other is -- remember all of the talk about how the special counsel is using process crimes instead of things like 1,001 false statement charges? Well, this shows why that was so important, because you have Don McGahn under oath saying he actually focused on that, and one of the reasons that he refused the president`s order to lie was that he was concerned of being the next person who was going to be charged with making a false statement.

So there`s a reason for those crimes to be prosecuted and for there to be a deterrent effect, even up to and including the White House counsel.

And then I think the final point is really what Congressman Swalwell is talking about, which is systemic issues, and I do think it is really important to look at this in terms of what can be done about it. I think one of the troublesome aspects I think of the testimony was how limited it was.

You know, the congressmen were only allowed to ask questions about the report and what we had asked Don McGahn, but that`s because of what I think was a really -- an overly broad interpretation of executive privilege. I think it is really incumbent upon this attorney general and the president of the United States to really rethink that in light of the last four years and whether they really want to abide by that kind of unitary executive policy given what we`ve seen in the last four years.

O`DONNELL: And, Congressman Swalwell, what about what we learn about special counsel investigations? Should there be new legislation establishing new rules for a special counsel investigation?

SWALWELL: Yes, Lawrence, certainly giving special counsel more independence, you know, the ability to not have to worry as the Mueller team did about being fired when Mueller testified, we learned from him when he came to the Judiciary Committee that, you know, he was thinking about the president`s constant statements that the investigation was going on too long and that, you know -- that arbitrary timeline that was being set because the fear that the president could wind down the investigation, which is one of the factors that he testified prevented them from subpoenaing the president and having him come in and testify, that further delay would only have the president rant and rave more and more about it.

So giving more independence to the special counsel, Lawrence, I certainly think is something we should consider.

O`DONNELL: Andrew Weissmann, you are the first federal prosecutor I am aware of who had to worry about every day getting fired by the person who you were investigating. How did that inhibit your investigation?

WEISSMANN: Well, one of the things that it did was with respect to a certain aspect of the financial investigation, early on there was a decision to delay that because there was concern that it would essentially poke the bear, that it would cause too much fire in the White House and that we would be fired before we even could, you know, get a toe hold into what had happened.

And, you know, that is really remarkable. I mean that is not how the justice system should work, that people who are subject of an investigation should not have the ability to pull the plug on the investigation.

So I agree with congressman that although we don`t necessarily want to go back to the independent counsel rules, there really does have to be a rethinking of what happened. Otherwise, why have a special counsel ever going forward if you`re going to allow a repeat of what happened this last time?

O`DONNELL: Congressman Swalwell, we made these kinds of investigations more independent after Watergate when we saw Richard Nixon fire the first special counsel, and that`s what Don McGahn was referring to when he talked about the Saturday night massacre. That was a problem for Richard Nixon because Richard Nixon cared about the reaction to the Saturday night massacre.

And Donald Trump, would it have happened -- if Donald Trump had fired Robert Mueller and Andrew Weissmann and everybody working there, Donald Trump wouldn`t have cared what the reaction to that was.

SWALWELL: No. Certainly not at all. Donald Trump was always going to do what was in the best interests of Donald Trump, and we were spared -- you know, we always were scared by his corrupt instincts. We were spared though by his incompetence.

But just because Donald Trump is gone does not mean that corruption and racism and misogyny and bigotry are gone. We still see it manifesting itself in many of the leaders in the Republican Party today, and that`s why we should take this opportunity to get rid of that DOJ policy that says no president, you know, can be indicted.

We should not allow the Department of Justice to defend Donald Trump`s lawsuit that has been brought against him. You know, we should learn from all of the vulnerabilities he exposed, the honor code we thought was in place that would protect us did not protect us under Donald Trump, and now it`s incumbent upon us to put that honor code and codify it in the rule of law.

O`DONNELL: Andrew, quickly before we go, what was it like for you today to be reading this testimony and revisiting that time when you were working under the fear of Don McGahn actually making that phone call some day and having you all fired?

SWALWELL: Well, on one hand it was reassuring to see that he was, you know, telling the truth and reaffirming what he had told us. On the other hand, it really is chilling and should bring back to everyone just how close we came to yet another constitutional crisis, and it really came down to Don McGahn, who you may not agree with as a policy matter, but ultimately did do the right thing and thought about the country and his duty as a citizen and telling the truth rather than obeying a corrupt order to lie to the special counsel and to the public.

O`DONNELL: He also thought about not getting accused of a crime himself. Andrew Weissmann, Congressman Eric Swalwell, thank you both very much for starting us off tonight. Really appreciate it.

SWALWELL: My pleasure.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

And coming up, Chuck Schumer isn`t giving up on Joe Manchin. Senator Schumer said today he is negotiating with Senator Manchin about how to win his support for the For the People Act. Ezra Klein, who has watched many legislative struggles within the Democratic Party, will join us next.



SEN. RAPHAEL WARNOCK (D-GA): I`ve talked to Joe Manchin as a colleague, and not only him but other members of the caucus, and we`re having important and I think productive conversations on both sides of the aisle. There will be some back and forth, some sausage-making, but in the end, if the people can`t have their voice in a democracy, it is not a democracy. I`m not about to allow that to happen in our country without a fight.


O`DONNELL: The Democrats have not given up on Joe Manchin. When Senator Joe Manchin announced his opposition to the For the People Act, the Democrat`s top priority voting rights bill, he did something peculiar. Normally when a senator announces opposition to legislation, especially legislation of his own party, the senator would specify the unacceptable elements of the legislation.

Joe Manchin didn`t do that. So the Democratic leader of the Senate, Chuck Schumer, is still trying to find a way to get Joe Manchin`s support.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MAJORITY LEADER: Is it possible we might change a few things here and there? We`re going to do it. We`ve had discussions with Senator Manchin and they`re continuing.


O`DONNELL: "The Wall Street Journal" reports Mr. Manchin promised to share a list of provisions that he would find acceptable, said Senator Dick Durbin. The pledge came after Democrats complained that Mr. Manchin had declined to specify what changes he wanted. Democrats also played down the prospects for an alternative proposal floated by Mr. Manchin saying it couldn`t act as a replacement for the broader package.

Yesterday, President Biden ended his negotiation with West Virginia`s Republican Senator Shelley Moore Capito on an infrastructure bill. Senator Shelley Moore Capito was negotiating theoretically on behalf of the Republican side of the Senate in the discussions.

The president has now opened new negotiations with a group of bipartisan senators who have been working together already to try to find a compromise infrastructure bill. Joe Manchin is one of those senators.

NBC`s Garrett Haake asked Joe Manchin why this group of Republican senators working with Democrats might be able to deliver the compromise that Senator Shelley Moore Capito failed to do.


GARRETT HAAKE, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Why do you think this group can succeed where her effort failed?

SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): I really can`t speak about that. I just know she did a good job and the template she has I think everybody is working off.

HAAKE: The template she had was rejected by the White House.

MANCHIN: The only thing I`m saying, everybody had a good meeting last night. It was productive. It was three hours long, and her input was invaluable.

HAAKE: If this doesn`t work, would you be willing to go it alone with a Democrat-only option?

MANCHIN: I never give up. Never give up.


O`DONNELL: Joining us now is Ezra Klein, opinion columnist for "The New York Times" where he hosts the podcast "The Ezra Klein Show."

Ezra, thank you very much for joining us.

We are at that stage of the one-vote margin situation in the senate, which we don`t really see that often. I mean I remember my time in the Senate there was exactly one time where we passed something big and it was a 50/50 tie vote, the vice president casting the winning vote for the Democrats. Oh, by the way, we had 57 Democrats at the time, and there were seven Joe Manchins who we couldn`t get.

Here we are again. Joe Manchin says no, but now Chuck Schumer says maybe we can change a few lines here.

You have watched a lot of these over the years, Ezra. Where are we? What is happening?

EZRA KLEIN, OPINION COLUMNIST, THE NEW YORK TIMES: So there are two margins here. There`s a one-vote margin and an 11-vote margin. There`s the one-vote margin to get to a majority vote on budget reconciliation package, on infrastructure, on the For the People Act, but there`s the 11-vote margin to beat a filibuster on them. Not if you go through budget reconciliation, but you need those votes to do it.

So, the thing that is happening here For the People Act that I`m worried watching is Manchin has set up two separate hurdles and I am worried he has created the conditions to give Democrats a faux win when they clear one of them, which is one hurdle as he is now saying he opposed the bill outright. If it came to a vote on the floor, he would vote no on it.

The other hurdle which is exactly as big is that he also will not support any effort, and he is joined by Sinema and others potentially in this, in creating exemptions for the filibuster, or weakening the filibuster, so the For the People Act can actually come to the floor and pass with 50 or 51 votes.

So I can imagine a world where senator -- or Majority Leader Schumer gets Manchin on to some modified version of For the People or an expanded version of the John lewis voting rights act, but Manchin says as he has in other times that he will under no circumstances vote to weaken the filibuster, in which case his vote is simply pyrrhic. This is a tough situation the Democrats are in and Manchin has put them in.

O`DONNELL: Yes, and it is hard to see where the flexibility is with Joe Manchin, but we have seen surprises in the past in certain moments where we thought it was hopeless. I will never forget in the Obamacare legislation they had 60 Democrats in the Senate, Senator Ted Kennedy then died and everyone gave up. People just thought it is hopeless, and somehow they managed to get it through. They managed to divide pieces into reconciliation and get that bill through.

KLEIN: I know about those hopeless. I believed in Nancy Pelosi that whole time.

But this gets to a bigger picture here where Manchin, I don`t know. He has done everything he possibly can to make it very hard for himself to climb down from this position, right? He has created a series of public commitment devices to say he will not vote for this bill, although he`s up to a little bit of wiggle room there, but he really will not reduce the filibuster or weaken the filibuster.

So I do have a question of what is a plan B here, right? 2009, 2010, Obamacare years. What Democrats do is treat that as a period of time in which it is worth taking extraordinarily hard votes that may lose them their majority because it is their one chance to pass an agenda that big.

I think there`s been a mental analogy people are making to this era. It`s not clear that is the era we`re in. I`m not sure they can`t pass anything like the agenda they want to pass in an 50-50 Senate. Then a question becomes how do they actually pass legislation, how do they avoid some of the hard votes and pass some of the popular things that would give them a shot, a shot at increasing their majority and not losing it in mid-terms in 2022 because they need to be playing a longer game here?

So, to me, that`s a secondary question here. You may or may not be able to move Manchin, but if you can`t move Manchin maybe you need not to treat it as your one shot. You may need to be asking, like, what is a series of like check in people`s hand kind of legislation that you can pass in order to win a couple of seats in 2022 and come back with a 52-seat majority where Manchin is not the deciding vote on everything.

O`DONNELL: Which brings us to infrastructure, where there is this new round of negotiations involving a bipartisan group, but there have to be at least ten Republicans in that group who stay in that group all the way and are willing to vote on the Senate floor for this, and John Thune, the number two in Mitch McConnell`s leadership team said he don`t believe you will get ten Republicans on any infrastructure bill.

KLEIN: Probably not. I mean, I can imagine something, none that the White House would accept. Here I think it is a different set of situations. I think that Joe Biden, the Democrats want to be caught trying. Joe Manchin cares about the aesthetic about bipartisanship. So, I think he cares about that more than any actual policy position on anything.

So to be seen trying and then at the end of the day Republicans don`t bite or they don`t bite on the compromise bill and it goes through budget reconciliation, Manchin has supported things like that in the past. He is a big believer in infrastructure. I can imagine him doing something like that in the future.

It is pretty hard -- it is hard for me to figure out right now what is happening. Is it kind of for show bipartisan process before everybody goes through reconciliation or, you know, Manchin is going to force the Democrats to swallow some real half measure on infrastructure?

But I think there`s a better chance here if he is convinced that Republicans will not support anything, that he will go through budget reconciliation because he believes that is already, as he has shown in the past, a reasonable kind of existing Senate process. It doesn`t break it, although he doesn`t favor it in principle or in general.

O`DONNELL: Ezra Klein, thank you very much for joining us tonight -- trying to find our way through this on what happens next. Thank you very much, Ezra.

KLEIN: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: And coming up, Democrats in Congress are trying to play catch- up now with Republican-controlled state legislatures passing anti-democracy bills. Some Republican legislatures are actually changing their processes for protecting the accuracy of the vote count in their states. And no proposed federal legislation, not the For The People Act, not the John Lewis Voting Rights act deals with that problem.

How can the Democrats in Congress keep up with these kinds of changes in state law?

Congressman Mondaire Jones and Georgia election law expert Lauren Groh- Wargo will join us next.



SENATOR RAPHAEL WARNOCK (D-GA): I`m having conversations with my colleagues all the time. And I think that the statement, unfortunately made by the Republican leader on yesterday, that says he doesn`t even want to support John Lewis suggests that they don`t understand the moment we`re in and that the people are not going to allow this to happen. So we`ll keep fighting. It is our job to keep fighting.


O`DONNELL: But what if Republicans do understand the moment they`re in? And what they understand is that they cannot win elections if everyone who is eligible to vote and wants to vote actually votes? And if we then count all the votes, that that`s a problem for Republicans? What if Republicans understand that that`s what they have to prevent in order to win?

Joining our discussion now, Democratic Congressman Mondaire Jones of New York. He is a member of the House Judiciary Committee and the House Ethics Committee. Also Lauren Groh-Wargo is with us. She`s the CEO of Fair Fight Action. She managed Stacey Abrams campaign for governor in Georgia.

And Congressman Jones, the situation seems to be that there`s a struggle now just to be able to keep up in Congress with what Republican legislatures are doing in states around the country, especially the elements of their bills in Texas and Georgia and now Arizona that affects the way votes are counted and protected after the polls close?

REP. MONDAIRE JONES (D-NY): That`s right. And of course, we do have a bill, the For The People Act. That would undo a lot of the voter suppression that we are seeing in the places that you mentioned.

And of course, the For The People Act has not yet had a floor vote in the United States Senate. And so to the extent that people are perceiving deficiencies with respect to that legislation, I would encourage them to be patient for just a couple of more weeks to see if there are any amendments made to Senate Bill 1.

But here is the thing. There`s no substitute for the For The People Act. We must pass this legislation. It would do, as I mentioned, a lot to undo the voter suppression by creating early voting periods and standards for voting by mail.

I mean this is transformative stuff in addition to automatic voter registration, independent redistricting commissions and public financing of congressional elections.

O`DONNELL: Lauren Groh-Wargo, what about these -- Georgia is one of the states where they`ve changed the aftermath of voting. They`ve limited the secretary of state`s involvement. This seems to be an area where -- and since each state that`s playing around this way is doing it differently, it is hard to see how congress can keep up with this and write something that would specifically apply to Georgia, Texas, Arizona.

LAUREN GROH-WARGO, CEO, FAIR FIGHT ACTION: Look, the For The People Act has provisions in the bill that would address so much of the voter suppression we are seeing around the country. And amendments being discussed by my colleague here, Congressman Jones and others, are looking at more that the courts can do to protect voters and to see ahead on the ways voter suppression is going to change in the coming years.

But let`s give an example here, Lawrence. There`s this idea, this sugar coating going on that this last election was flawless. A couple of weeks before Raphael Warnock ran for the runoff election 360,000 voters were challenged by True the Vote. They tried to kick them off the rolls in a race that was won by 90,000.

That type of mass challenge and mass effort of disenfranchisement is what the Republican Party -- that`s not really the Republican Party. We are talking about those who want to democracy versus some sort of MAGA faction. This MAGA faction wants to be able to throw people off the rolls all across the country. The For The People Act addresses these types of mass challenges.

And so when you look at bill after bill after bill in states and then the intention of these bills to disrupt elections, disenfranchise voters, and then question the results after, the For The People Act doesn`t fix all of this but goes a long way towards protecting the freedom of all Americans to vote.

And so it is absolutely crucial. And to what the congressman said, we have two weeks until Leader Schumer said it is coming to the floor. And so that`s why we have launched a huge effort. I am hoping I will get to talk about to encourage folks to call all of their senators because we have two weeks and a lot can happen in two weeks here.

And we didn`t fight so hard in Georgia with Raphael Warnock and John Ossoff, Stacey Abrams and every single activist here, we did not fight so hard and deal with the threats, the meanness, the ugliness, the voter suppression, giving up our holidays, working around the clock.

We did not give that up for America with expectations that our senate was going to deliver for voters, and we are going to push and we are going to make millions of calls this June. And we`re going around the country from New England to the south and southwest to make the case to the U.S. Senate and to the American people that we have got to pass this bill.

And so if folks can pull out their phone right now and program this phone number. It is 888-453-3211 -- program it in and join our hot call summer tomorrow. All you do is call that number and you will get connected to your senate office.

And I don`t care if your senators are Chuck Schumer. And I don`t care if they`re Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff. I don`t care if you support this bill, they need to hear from you because the anti-democracy forces are flooding the phone lines and people need to know that we are not going to rest until we see our democracy protected.

We are dealing with a MAGA faction that wouldn`t even allow us to investigate the insurrection. Ok. We have to shore up our freedom to vote. That`s what Hot Call Summer is all about. Inspired by Megan Thee Stallion about the freedom to be our true, beautiful selves.

This is about the freedom to vote and express ourselves. So we hope you will join us.

O`DONNELL: Congressman Jones, what can you do just across the Capitol campus from the Senate? You don`t have that same kind of Senate rule that requires anything beyond a simple majority in the House of Representatives. But Joe Manchin seems dug in about the rule.

And as it stands tonight, you would need not just Joe Manchin to pass one of these bills, but you would need ten Republicans to join him.

JONES: Well, our democracy literally hangs in the balance over the next few months. And to be sure, House Democrats have been doing the lion`s share of the work of saving our democracy. But you`ve got folks like myself in the Congress who are continuing to work with national organizations to build a grassroots momentum to pass this foundational legislation.

And also, of course, to educate those senators who may be deeply uneducated as of yet about the accidental origins of the filibuster and the way that it has been weaponized historically to block civil rights legislation, including voting rights which sounds very familiar to people today. So we have to make sure that folks who I`m certain do not want their legacies to be defined as the senator, for example, who stood in the way of American democracy and blocked voting rights, are able to get all of the information that they need to do the right thing in this moment.

And of course, the president of the United States has to be part of this conversation. He has to use all of the resources available to him to negotiate some sort of resolution with a member of his own party so that we can still have a democracy moving forward.

Because what is happening right now is the greatest test to our democracy since Jim Crow and we have to get this right. And so I`m calling this democracy summer. Everything is on the line, and folks of good conscience who may not have been paying as close attention to this issue I think are increasingly pivoting to this because they too understand that this is more important even than infrastructure.

O`DONNELL: Congressman Mondaire Jones, please feel free to join us throughout democracy summer. Lauren Groh-Wargo, say your phone number one more time.

GROH-WARGO: 888-453-3211. Let`s light up the phone lines. Turn up the heat.


O`DONNELL: Ok. I just wanted people not to have to rewind in their video to go get it. Thank you very much. Thank you both for joining us. Really appreciate it.

GROH-WARGO: Thank you, Lawrence.

JONES: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: And coming up, President Obama has always been a calming voice. President Obama has always been very good at taking the temperature down on everything, but now President Barack Obama says it is time to worry.

That`s next.


O`DONNELL: President Obama says it is time to worry.


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think we have to worry when one of our major political parties is willing to embrace a way of thinking about our democracy that would be unrecognizable and unacceptable even five years ago or a decade ago.


O`DONNELL: President Obama says that if democracy collapses in America, it won`t happen in one big bang.


OBAMA: The path towards an undemocratic America is not going to happen in just one bang. It happens in a series of steps.


O`DONNELL: And today sounding another note, President Biden told an audience of U.S. Air Force personnel in Britain that the United States is back, supporting democracy around the world.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So we`re going to make it clear that the United States is back and democracies of the world are standing together to tackle the toughest challenges and the issues that matter most to our future. That we`re committed to leading with strength, defending our values and delivering for our people.

This is my first overseas trip as president of the United States. I`m heading to the G-7, then to the NATO ministerial and then to meet with Mr. Putin to let him know what I want him to know.


O`DONNELL: Joining us now, Zerlina Maxwell, host of the program "Zerlina" that airs on peacock. Zerlina, let`s start with what we just heard Joe Biden say. Because there he was in front of a military audience. A military audience is something Donald Trump tried to exploit all the time as president.

And we had plenty of reason to wonder what military audiences were really thinking about him with all of these strange things he said about John McCain, you know, being a prisoner of war and how that is bad.

But President Obama -- President Trump -- Biden, sorry, getting all of my presidents confused here -- President Biden just said this very simple sentence about Vladimir Putin and they got it completely and cheered him, that finally there will be strength brought to confront Vladimir Putin.

ZERLINA MAXWELL, HOST, PEACOCK: Well, I think what you saw there was almost like a release. You know, the last four years we`ve seen a Republican president in Donald Trump, and a Republican Party frankly that was taking positions on Russia and other issues that they had never taken before, antidemocratic positions. You know, if you are someone who believe in American democracy, you don`t take the side of Vladimir Putin. That`s not what you do, that`s not historically not been the case. And so Donald Trump changed that dynamic.

What I think you saw there was an acknowledgment of the shift and the fact that America is back, and certainly Joe Biden is doing this in a very complicated moment for America and our democracy, and had this happened without the insurrection having happened, Lawrence, I think we would be having a different conversation.

But it`s so clear post January 6th and all of the things that have followed that we are in a precarious place. But it`s good to see that we have a commander in chief in President Biden that understands that our democracy matters and we have to project that to the world and live it every day.

O`DONNELL: And we are in a place that`s so precarious, that even President Barack Obama says worry, it is time to worry about this. And I make that point, not because he isn`t perceptive obviously about all these things, but worry is the last note that Barack Obama likes to strike. It`s just not where he wants to go.

He`s always kind of telling us how to look ahead and look for something positive coming. So it`s at point where he`s saying we really have to worry about the state of democracy in America. That is a new point.

MAXWELL: Oh, it`s definitely a new point but he`s absolutely correct. Again we`re post insurrection with the threat of a potential another insurrection or more violence because the lies that perpetuated that violence on January 6th, they haven`t gone away.

And I think that one of the things that President Obama is very adept at is he can`t always be the one to make it plain and spell it out so clearly, but I will and I wrote a book in 2020 called "The End of White Politics" where I spoke about many of the things Barack Obama is identifying about American politics right now.

How, there was a backlash, I call it a white lash in my book, to his presidency. There is a changing demographic and as a response to that and the results of the 2020 election, the Republican Party has decided to do antidemocratic things like pass voter suppression bills, all across the country and rig the rules in their favor to hold on to power because the people that are less likely to vote for them are black and brown and indigenous and growing in numbers, Lawrence.

And so as the country is changing, post Barack Obama, we never entered a post-racial period because of the election of Barack Obama, but we`re in a post Obama and post Trump era and I think Barack Obama is ringing the bell and making us all understand that this moment is urgent and we all have to pay close attention.

O`DONNELL: Zerlina, actually I was going to -- we`re out of time -- but in his interview with Ezra Klein on the Ezra Klein Show" President Obama did talk about that backlash that you`re talking about, he didn`t use exactly the same language but exactly the same concept.

Zerlina Maxwell, thank you very much for joining us tonight.

MAXWELL: Thanks Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: And we`ll be right back.


O`DONNELL: Apparently the voters of Texas` first congressional district really enjoy being smarter than their elected representatives. That`s why Donald Trump won 72 percent of the vote in that district twice and that`s why their congressman is Louie Gohmert, who is a liar, an accused inciter of the insurrection at the Capitol and yes, an ignoramus.

And yes, we`re all ignorant about many things but Louie Gohmert is also profoundly stupid and he proved that once again yesterday in a house subcommittee hearing when he was questioning representatives of the Agriculture Departments, Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management, which in Washington is known as BLM which you will hear in this video in a moment.

Here is Louie Gohmert`s entry in the congressional record which will live in the congressional record forever and ever and confer on him the status of stupidest member of the House of Representatives in history.


REP. LOUIE GOHMERT (R-TX); Is there anything that the national forest service or BLM can do to change the course of the moon`s orbit or the earth`s orbit around the sun?


O`DONNELL: And so, an uncomfortable silence ensued as Jennifer Eberlien desperately tried to figure out what to say in response to the stupidest thing she ever heard from a member of congress.

Jennifer Eberlien is an associate deputy chief of the U.S. Forest Service, where she has worked for the last 20 years.

The single most important thing for nonpolitical career government officials is to never offend a member of congress. That`s commandment number one in their lives. And so we can only can imagine what was racing through Jennifer Eberlien`s mind as she sat in stunned silence.

Finally she was able to summon the presence of mind to press play on the line she has recorded in her brain for moments like this.


JENNIFER EBERLIEN, U.S. FOREST SERVICE: I would have to follow up with you on that one, Mr. Gohmert.


O`DONNELL: And the Emmy for best performance by a witness in response to congressional stupidity goes to Jennifer Eberlien, associate deputy chief of the U.S. Forest Service.

That is tonight`s LAST WORD.