IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

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

Guests: Eric Swalwell, Chris Van Hollen, John Cranley, Jessica Gonzalez Julie Johnson

Summary

Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell of California is interviewed. Sen. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland is interviewed. President Biden promotes infrastructure plan in Ohio. Former President Donald Trump peddles election lies as his businesses sink. Trump faces mounting legal, financial treats. Texas GOP seek "audit" of 2020 election while Texas Democrats fight to protect voting rights. Texas GOP introduce bill seeking "audit" of states 13 largest counties in support of Trump big lie. Vice President Kamala Harris meets with election workers on voting rights.

Transcript

ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST: It is good to -- good that you checked.

And happy Thursday eve to you, my friend, and perhaps we`ll see each other again tomorrow.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Indeed. Thank you, Ali.

VELSHI: Have a good night.

All right. Tonight, we begin with a lesson. I promise, it`s not about French literature or particle physics, it`s a lesson two years in the making and it should be I guide to Democrats as they work to uncover the truth about the Capitol insurrection.

The White House announced today the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky will meet with President Biden at the White House on August the 30th. The announcement comes almost exactly two years after Donald Trump threatened the president during a phone call in an effort to sabotage then candidate Joe Biden.

As more details emerge it became clear that Trump needed to be held accountable for his abuse of power and it seems obvious now but at the time, a common refrain from political pundits was that holding Trump accountable would be electoral death. The Democrats would give fuel to Trump`s base and hand him his reelection on a silver platter.

In that critical moment, Democrats did the right thing, opening an impeachment inquiry and exposing the breadth of Trump`s Ukrainian skim. Trump was soon impeached for the first time, and Congressman Adam Schiff made his case soon after for the Senate to convict the former president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): You can`t trust this president to do the right thing, not for one minute, not for one election, not for the sake of our country. What are the odds if left in office that he will continue trying to cheat, I will tell you, 100 percent.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELSHI: Trump, of course, was not convicted and Trump did it again, he tried to cheat after he lost. He spewed lies for months demanded fake audits, and incited the anchor that led to the capital insurrection, and a second Trump impeachment.

Today`s announcement, the president Biden will meet with President Zelensky is a win for the Democrats, who investigated and impeach Donald Trump. It is one of the end results of ignoring the pundits and doing the right thing. The Ukrainian isn`t leading with an American president who wants to undermine our democratic institutions. He`ll be meeting with a president who wants to strengthen international relations, and confront common enemies.

Democrats did the right thing, and were rewarded for it, investigating Trump did not hurt their electoral chances, neither did impeaching Trump, and now here`s the lesson, Democrats should take the same approach to investigating the Capitol insurrection.

House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, a possible witness in the investigation, wants to undermine the January 6th Select Committee. He picked unserious, undemocratic Republicans who should`ve been rejected from the committee. And then when Speaker Pelosi followed through and rejected some of them, Kevin McCarthy pulled all of his picks from the process.

Pundits and reporters might cast these developments in terms of winners or losers, or optics, the lessons Democrats should ignore that trash, this is about democracy. This is about a serious thoughtful investigation of the serious domestic terror incident.

Kevin McCarthy doesn`t win because Speaker Pelosi looks partisan. It`s not how it works. The news media should know better than that and Democrats must ignore anything that harkens back to the doubters of the first impeachment investigation. The same people who were wrong then, are wrong now, when it seems Speaker Pelosi for one minute already know this lesson.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPORTER: Madame Speaker, Leader McCarthy says you are playing politics.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: You`ve mistaken me for somebody who would care about that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELSHI: Joining us now is Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell of California. He served as the House impeachment manager in the second impeachment of Donald Trump. He is the author of "Endgame: Inside the Impeachment of Donald J. Trump".

Congressman Swalwell, good to see. Thank you for being with us.

You and I actually had this discussion in real time way back then, when people were saying it is politically fraught to pursue impeachment against Donald Trump, particularly since there`s not much chance he`s going to be convicted of it anyway.

[22:05:06]

And you and others made the argument that that`s not actually -- that shouldn`t be part of the calculus. Either you as members of Congress do what you are called upon to do and what the Constitution dictates that you do, or you don`t, but it shouldn`t be about whether it is politically fraught or politically advantageous.

REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA): Thank you, Ali.

And it was effective, right? We did not obtain a conviction in the Senate but by holding him accountable in the first impeachment, we were actually able to shine a light on this effort to have Ukraine put dirt on Joe Biden and we stopped it. And Ukraine was not able to ultimately run the campaign that Donald Trump was inviting them to run.

So, shining a light, although it did not remove Donald Trump, it prevented Ukraine from doing that.

I just want to draw a distinction between what happened with Ukraine, where you had Masha Yovanovitch, Fiona Hill, Lieutenant Colonel Vindman coming forward and they stopped that corruption scheme, we`re now reading about all these actors who were preparing for a coup because Donald Trump was contesting the election, but they didn`t have the gumption or the courage to come forward before the coup. They`re telling their story now to vindicate themselves in books but had they done that, perhaps we would not have seen the Capitol stormed the way it was, and democracy nearly die as it did on January 6.

VELSHI: You know, Jim Jordan, whom Speaker Pelosi has rejected from being a member of this committee, Jim Jordan has said that this is just impeachment number three. You`ve been involved in the impeachment. You`ve written about the impeachments.

Why -- what is your response when people say this is impeachment three?

SWALWELL: He`s unserious. And this is somebody who was holding the gas cans when the arson took place and not wants to be on the committee that investigates the arson. Speaker Pelosi recognizes that democracy is on life support. And this is very binary, either your pot off the team that is trying to resurrected, we are trying to pull the plug.

And Jim Jordan and Jim Banks who is hanging out with an insurrectionist, they want to pull the plug. We need a serious investigation so that we can ensure and guarantee every American this will never happen again.

VELSHI: So, I want to read to you an op-ed by Greg Sargent and Paul Waldman in "The Washington Post" today. They post something interesting. They`re saying efforts at a real examination of arguably the worst outbreak of political violence in modern times, and efforts to protect our democracy more broadly will not be bipartisan. These things will be done by Democrats alone. The less involved McCarthy is with this committee, the more likely it will undertake a genuine and comprehensive accounting.

So, Waldman and Sargent are making the point that if the serious work needs to be done, it may be just as well that McCarthy is not populating his side of the team.

SWALWELL: That`s exactly right. And, by the way, he had a chance to have an independent bipartisan commission that he and Mitch McConnell walked away from. And as I was saying, this is so binary right, now either you`re trying to resurrect and revive democracy or you`re trying to kill it, that when people say to me, well, Liz Cheney, I don`t agree with her on where she stands on abortion, or where she stand on taxes, I say, well, that -- you know, give me the problem that democracy is around three years that we can have that debate with her. But right now, she is standing up for democracy, so we need her. Same thing to Adam Kinzinger.

And so, yes, we need to move swiftly right now and having Jim Jordan on the committee just for the sake of, quote/unquote, bipartisanship, I don`t think that goes to saving democracy.

VELSHI: Yeah. And so, Jim Jordan and Banks have said that they were there to save conservatism and things like that, Liz Cheney actually made the point, let`s play it, that there`s no room for partisanship in this exploration. Listen to what she said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): There must be an investigation that is nonpartisan, that is sober, that is serious, that gets to the facts wherever they may lead, and in every opportunity, the minority leader has attempted to prevent the American people from understanding what happened, to block this investigation.

This investigation must go forward. The idea that anybody would be playing politics within an attack on the United States Capitol is despicable and is disgraceful.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELSHI: And, Congressman, I want to show you a poll by CBS News/YouGov released yesterday. This is among young Americans. Seventy-two percent say that there is more to learn. Even of the Republicans polled, 59 percent say there is more to learn.

So this is the point that Liz Cheney is making, I have people coming up, people on my show telling me that maybe it is Antifa, maybe it`s BLM -- great, well, you get yourself a commission, you can work it out.

SWALWELL: That`s right. And, look, we just learned yesterday that there was an active DEA agent who was at the Capitol. He was arrested. So, there are so much more to learn of who was involved that day.

But, right now, what I think is just so awful, Ali, the Capitol Police and Metropolitan Police who fought in hand to hand combat for hours that day, they are seeing the Republicans sympathize with the cop killers.

[22:10:09]

Vote against security systems to make sure that this doesn`t happen again, vote against the gold medal being awarded to those officers. Blaming police and suggesting that the FBI was behind it, and then today, the final insult to just walk away and not be there next week one for officers will animate just how horrible that day was.

VELSHI: Congressman good to talk to you as always. Thank you for joining us.

SWALWELL: My pleasure, thanks.

VELSHI: Eric Swalwell, congressman from California. He`s the author of "Endgame". "Endgame: Inside the Impeachment of Donald J. Trump".

All right. Coming up, and right on cue, after raising the debt ceiling three times, during the previous administration without a hitch, Mitch McConnell opens the door to weaponizing the debt limit again. Senator Chris Van Hollen joins us after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VELSHI: Today, the entire Republican Senate caucus including 11 Republican negotiators working on the bipartisan infrastructure framework locked a key procedural vote to begin debate on an infrastructure proposal.

[22:15:10]

The vote fell well short of the 60 votes needed to advance the measure but this was expected to fail, it doesn`t seem to indicate that all hope is lost for a bipartisan agreement. After the vote, the bipartisan group of negotiators issued this statement. Quote: we`ve made significant progress and are close to a final agreement, we will continue working hard to ensure we get this critical legislation right and are optimistic that we ill finalize and be prepared to advance this historic bipartisan proposal in the coming days, end quote.

The Senate is expected to take up the measure again next week. If that`s not enough drama for you, Mitch McConnell is making threats about the debt limit, just days before the government`s borrowing authority expires. Quote: I can`t imagine a single Republican in this environment that we`re in now, this free-for-all for taxes in spending to vote to raise the debt limit, they need to put it into reconciliation bill.

Funny how the Republican leader didn`t share that same concern when a Republican was in office or when he and his Republican colleagues cut the corporate tax rate.

Joining us now is Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen of Maryland. He`s a member of the Budget and Appropriations Committee.

You were, in fact, the ranking member of the Budget Committee during the time that those taxes were cut and we had to do those things.

I`m -- explain this to me in a way that I`m having trouble, Senator, explaining to my viewers, that it`s the same thing. If you cut revenue because you cut taxes on corporations, or the wealthy, or you cut taxes somewhere else, or you spend money elsewhere, it`s all the same thing. The debt ceiling is paying bills you`ve already incurred.

SEN. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D-MD): Well, that`s exactly right, Ali.

And Mitch McConnell, as you say, is just trying to have it both ways. This is a cynical and reckless statement he made today because, you know, when Republicans were in charged back in 2016 with President Trump, they, of course, cut taxes for the rich, they increase the deficits and debt by $2 trillion but then they proceeded to raise the debt ceiling when President Trump asked them to. And now that we have a Democratic president in the White House, they are threatening to not support that.

And, of course, that would jeopardize the full faith and credit of the United States. That would totally tank the economy if the United States ever defaulted on its obligations.

VELSHI: So, is it a game of chicken knowing that he doesn`t want that to happen, or that Biden doesn`t want that to happen, and you all don`t want that to happen? Is he saying you need to get serious about negotiating about the infrastructure bill differently?

VAN HOLLEN: I don`t know if it`s about the infrastructure, I think he`s just trying to wreak havoc during the time the President Biden is in office. After all, it wasn`t that long ago that Mitch McConnell said that he`s 00 percent focused on blocking initiatives from the Biden administration.

So this just seems to be Mitch McConnell`s doing what he`s always done, trying to obstruct, trying to disrupt. But here, he`s playing with real matches. I mean, if you were to actually not support raising the debt ceiling, you would wreck the U.S. economy. And even as you get close to that point, even as you were to pull the trigger on it, that can create lots of uncertainties and lots of damage in the economy.

So, I hope -- you know, I hope other Republican senators will rein him in, or at least themselves do the reining in (ph).

VELSHI: Yeah, this is usually something that people play around with at the fringes. It`s not usually the leader who`s involved in it.

Let`s talk about the infrastructure bill, the bipartisan bill that had a procedural vote today that did not succeed, many did not expected to succeed. A group of senators from both parties who were working on it seem to think that this was not the end of the road for that.

But where are we on this? There`s pressure from progressives in the Democratic Party to not continue to scale back on the infrastructure deal, and there`s pressure from conservatives in the Republican Party to not put more into that infrastructure deal than feels like what we all know to be infrastructure, i.e., roads, bridges, repairs, things like that.

VAN HOLLEN: Well, Ali, I was disappointed that all Republicans voted to block the motion to proceed just to debate the infrastructure bill, including those, you know, Republicans who were part of the bipartisan group, voted against it.

On the other hand, they have issued that statement you quoted, saying that this is just a question of putting the final touches on this bipartisan proposal. So, I hope that they complete it.

But make no mistake, in addition to passing that, and I hope we get to that point, we`re also going to pass the other parts of President Biden`s Build Back Better agenda, which includes the infrastructure proposals he`s made that are not part of the bipartisan plan, and also include very important provisions in what he calls his American Families Plan, Universal Early Childhood Education, trying to make sure that we have affordable childcare.

[22:20:06]

Bringing down the price of prescription drugs is something that we`re focused on as Democrats in the Senate.

So, we`ve got to both ask the bipartisan bill, but also pass the framework, the budget resolution to do the rest of that legislation.

VELSHI: And it does seem that, "Roll Call" is reporting, that Senator Bernie Sanders is working on drafting the budget resolution. The budget chairman says the staff is already working on drafting the resolution despite having not having finalized specific reconciliation instructions for each committee, breaking down the $3.5 trillion spending top line top Democrats agreed to last week.

What`s the status of this budget reconciliation bill?

VAN HOLLEN: Well, Ali, I think we`re going to get there. When I say we, I mean the 50 Senate Democrats. There`s an understanding that as we move forward the bipartisan bill, we have to do this other major piece, the President Biden`s agenda. And so, we`ve got to get a framework done, and then we can debate the pieces.

I think of it as -- the budget resolution is the frame of the House, and then once you set that, you move about building in the rooms, and putting the furniture in. So, the first step is to get that broad agreement, as you said, on the $3.5 trillion amount, which I should emphasize includes things like extending the child tax credit, right?

This month, we saw families begin to receive up to $300 per month in that tax credit. We don`t want that to end at the end of this year. We want it to continue.

We want Medicare to cover important services like vision, dental, hearing, which is not covered by Medicare. We want to reduce the cost of description drugs by giving Medicare the power to negotiate drug prices.

These are all important elements of the budget route framework that we`re working on in the Senate with the Democratic Party.

VELSHI: In 2017, in a press conference with the then-Treasury Secretary Mnuchin, Mitch McConnell said that there is zero chance we won`t raise the debt ceiling -- debt ceiling, no chance, America is not going to default. Now, he`s suggesting that you all put this into the budget reconciliation bill.

A, can you do that? And Be, can you just put it into the budget reconciliation bill that you were raising the debt ceiling? Can all -- can all that be done?

VAN HOLLEN: Well, Ali, it would be cumbersome to do it that way. We`re looking at all the options because Democrats don`t want the United States to default on its both faith and credit. We don`t want to create a meltdown.

And as you`ve explained -- it`s important that everybody understand -- raising the debt ceiling is to pay for the obligations that the United States government has already undertaken, that are already owed. So, they would be like you saying, you`re not going to pay the mortgage on your house except, the United States is defaulting on all its debts. So, it would crash the economy.

So look, we will make sure that we will do everything we can to make sure we don`t default on that.

But Mitch McConnell, you know, at least other Republicans need to do the right thing here rather than threaten economic catastrophe if they don`t somehow get their way. We`re not going -- we`re not going to negotiate with them on something that all of us need to be in together.

You don`t get something, you know, a Republican priority in order to do the right thing for the entire country.

VELSHI: Senator, good to see again. Thanks for joining us. Senator Chris Van Hollen of Maryland.

Coming up: Joe Biden went to the front lines of the infrastructure fight, Cincinnati. That`s where the regional pro-business Chamber of Commerce are begging Congress to pass an infrastructure bill to fix the bridge that connects Ohio to Mitch McConnell`s state. That`s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VELSHI: President Biden traveled to Cincinnati today, his third trip as president to Ohio, which also happened to receive more than $5 billion in American Rescue Plan money.

That`s the backdrop for the president pitch today on his infrastructure plan. He visited with electrical workers at a training center, pointing out that the plant would create more good-paying, union jobs.

The president was greeted at the Cincinnati Northern Kentucky International Airport by Kentucky`s Democratic Governor Andy Beshear and his family, because the Cincinnati airport is literally in Kentucky.

Cincinnati and Mitch McConnell`s home state are also physically and economically connected by the important Brent Spence Bridge over the Ohio River. That bridge carries nearly 160,000 commuters and freight trucks between Cincinnati and Covington, Kentucky, every day, twice the original design capacity.

The American Transportation Research Institute listed the Brent Spence corridor as the second most congested for truck traffic in the United States.

Joining us now is the mayor of Cincinnati, Ohio, John Cranley, who attended the president`s visit today.

Mayor Cranley, good to see you again, thank you for joining us.

MAYOR JOHN CRANLEY (D), CINCINNATI, OHIO: It is so good to be with you, Ali.

VELSHI: Mayor, this is an area that has received a good amount of money from the American Rescue Plan. This is the plan, of course, that no Republican supported, but many Republicans have taken credit for or off touted in their neighborhood.

Do people who live in this area, because you really have a lot of the old- fashioned physical infrastructure that we`re talking about, bridges, roads, transport, do they get it? Do they know what they got out of the American Rescue Plan, and do they know but they could be getting out of the infrastructure plan -- that bill?

CRANLEY: Well, you know, look, we know we have the ability to keep police and fire and our public service employees who are members of our great (INAUDIBLE) working, providing police and fire services. But the right-wing Republicans in Columbus passed the biggest defund the police and fire bill ever just a couple of weeks ago, to defund radically the cities and townships and counties across the state.

And so we`ve had to shore back up our police fire and public services. But the American rescue plan was not an infrastructure bill so that Brent Spence Bridge that you pointed to needs to be fixed. Donald Trump promised to fix it. But of course he never did. Joe Biden is trying to fix it. And I hope to God that they`ll pass the bipartisan infrastructure bill.

ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST: The President points out, as do many others, that this infrastructure bill and the American families plan, the two big things he`s trying to do right now are overwhelmingly popular amongst Americans, even amongst Republicans out there. It just doesn`t seem to have that degree of support in Congress. How are people out there feeling about that? Obviously, they think about that bridge, I guess that`s where, as we say, the rubber hits the road, right? The infrastructure that you experience is the one that you want fixed?

CRANLEY: Look at Donald Trump had a press conference in front of that bridge and promised to fix it. He never did, never even try. Joe Biden and our two senators, Democrat, the great Sherrod Brown and Republican Rob Portman, have been architects of this infrastructure plan. And so thank God with Joe Biden`s leadership and vision, we -- I`m hopeful that we will in fact, get this done and fix this bridge, which should have been fixed a long time ago.

You know, it`s Joe Biden, who`s getting us out of expensive foreign wars, and is proposing to spend money in Middle America on bridges like the Brent Spence Bridge, and high speed broadband internet, and clean water initiatives replacing lead pipes. This is what America needs. This is what Ohio needs and Republicans in Ohio have defunded the police and fire and I mean that literally. And they didn`t do anything to meaningfully get high speed broadband internet during remote economy, remote education. And thank God Joe Biden is trying to get that done for Middle America because the Republicans in Congress haven`t helped. And of course, Republicans who have run our state for almost 30 years have failed to lead on these critical infrastructure issues.

VELSHI: So this is an important conversation for people in Ohio. It`s also important because Ohio is a state that votes Republican, votes Democratic, a lot of these dollars are going into Republican areas. In the end, there is overwhelming support for the things you`re talking about.

CRANLEY: Look, just like FDR electrified the South with the TBA. We need high speed broadband Wi-Fi, not just for inner city kids in Cincinnati, who go to McDonald`s to do their homework to get access to Wi-Fi. But I know farmers throughout Ohio immediate so their tractor equipment that they have their life savings into will work to provide the analysis of how much fertilizer to use, and save money but also prevent the runoffs that create algae blooms in our waterways.

We need lead pipes to be replaced in all of our country, especially in the Midwest where we have systems that are 100 years old. And by the way, these are all good American jobs. And I`m so glad it`s so refreshing to have a president who doesn`t just have a press conference like Donald Trump did in front of that bridge, but is actually proposing and working across the aisle to get this done.

VELSHI: Mayor Cranley, good to see you as always. Thank you for joining us, Mayor John Cranley of Cincinnati.

Coming up, there`s new reporting about the state of the Trump businesses now that is fallen from the President of the United States to delusional and sore loser facing legal jeopardy. That`s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[22:37:35]

VELSHI: The loser one term twice impeached former president is praising Capitol rioters and marinating in his own conspiracies. Last night on this program, the Washington Post`s Phil Rucker and Carol Leonnig, authors of "I Alone Can Fix It" told us about their interview with Trump on March 31, in which he peddled self-serving lies about the last election and January 6. Well tonight, we`ve got tape of it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, (R) FORMER UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: It was a loving crowd, too, by the way. There was a lot of love. I`ve heard that from everyone. Many, many people told me that was a loving crowd. And, you know, it was too bad. It was too bad that they did that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELSHI: It was too bad that they did that. Trump predictively continues to lie after that. That`s the current state of Donald Trump and the Trump brand. And it`s been like that for a long time. Even Trump himself knows it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: In my life in terms of business and life and everything was the day before he announced they`re running for president. Everything was good. The company was good. I was -- I had finished up a lot of jobs that were very successful. It was -- and then I said, I want to do this.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELSHI: A new report of The Washington Post looks at the current state of the Trump Organization. It`s not pretty. According to the Post, the company`s holdings declined during Trump`s presidency, as four hotel hotels closed, the Trump merchandising empire shrank, buildings took down the Trump name. The company was hurt by the coronavirus pandemic, by its politically toxified brand, and by the indictments of Trump Organization Chief Financial Officer, Allen Weisselberg and true to Trump corporate entities.

Joining us now are two reporters who both won Pulitzer Prizes for their investigations into Donald Trump`s finances, David Fahrenthold, Washington Post Political Reporter and MSNBC Contributor and David Cay Johnston, investigative reporter and author of The Making of Donald Trump.

Good to see you both. David, let me start with you. Well, actually, you`re both David. So David Cay Johnston, let me start with you. On the issue that Trump was saying to a reporter earlier. It was in March when he was being asked about his business and he said, look, everybody Hilton`s (ph), everybody in the hotel business is suffering. Donald Trump`s brand has suffered differently than other major brands have suffered. Some of it`s been pandemic related, but a lot of it is just straight brand related?

DAVID CAY JOHNSTON, AUTHOR, "THE MAKING OF DONALD TRUMP": Yes, well, he benefited because people were paying tribute to him. Remember on his way to the White House after his inauguration, they took that two minute turn on the street and it was in front of the Trump hotel. It was the signal you want to do business with this administration. He will pay tribute. Nobody has reason to pay tribute anymore. So he`s suffering there along with the rest of the hotel business.

[22:40:16]

VELSHI: David Fahrenthold, you write along with Josh Dawsey and Jonathan O`Connell that the company`s day to day leaders are Trump Jr., who`s 43 years old and his younger brother, Eric 37. Eric, who lives in New York usually plays a more active role since Trump Jr. has moved to Florida and become more involved in politics. Ivanka Trump was a top executive at the Trump Organization before she joined her father in the White House. But she does not appear to have retaken any former role in the company since she left according to recent filings reviewed by the Washington Post and, of course, Weisselberg, not running the operation. Who is running this company?

DAVID FAHRENTHOLD, THE WASHINGTON POST POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, it seems to be both on paper and really Don Jr. and Eric. Now Eric Trump has played a pretty big role within the company while his father was in the White House. So that part`s not new. But the part that`s different here is the lack of Allen Weisselberg. Allen Weisselberg, the CFO, his role was really bigger than that. He was more of like a chief operating officer, he really made the company run for years, but especially while Trump senior was in the White House. He was a guy who, you know, looked at every transaction down to the point of, you know, if my subsidiary paying too much for pens and office supplies, you take a guy like that out of the organization. Yes, on paper, you can replace him with Don Jr. But there`s really nobody who`s playing that kind of executor, you know, CEO role within the company now.

VELSHI: David Cay Johnston, I want to go further with your idea of who`s not paying tribute to Donald Trump, in some not insignificant part, it`s the Republican Party. According to reporting in the Washington Post, the reason for the drop in revenues for Trump, though, isn`t really that Trump isn`t carrying the same appeal for his allies as he used to. It`s in his own campaign committees are not spending money anymore, because he`s not holding fundraisers at his properties or leasing office space to the campaigns. It also reinforces another reason that Trump might be interested in running for president again in 2024. Why not get 1000s of people to give money that bolsters his personal bottom line, we still know that he`s charging exorbitant amounts to his secret service to stay at his properties. This is sort of the grift part that you`ve talked about.

JOHNSTON: Well at D.C. report, the news service I run, we refer to Donald now as the beggar in chief. That`s his principal source of revenue is asking people to send him money. Republican candidates who used to have to come and pay tribute to him, they don`t need to go do that anymore. Russians who used to come waterborne government, Saudis, why would they need to come anymore? And so I don`t see any good future for him here in his business. I mean, golf swung into declining business. We know because of the British records that is two big courses there, Aberdeen and Turnberry have been losing money from day one. And one of the things he has to worry about is managers, the good managers, he has heading for the door for better opportunities elsewhere and trying to recruit new ones, which involves the reputational risk of going to work for Donald Trump plus, well, if he gets indicted or something else happens, your job can go.

VELSHI: I want to ask you to that point about beggar`s, David Fahrenthold. Don Jr. is soliciting money to -- for Donald Trump`s legal fund. This was posted to telegram on July 7, in which he says guys, my dad is suing big tech, with three exclamation points, if you can click to link to donate to his PAC to help out. It`s becoming a little Don Jr. and his, sort of, appeals are becoming a little interesting.

FAHRENTHOLD: Well, I think that the one caveat to what you said earlier about the decline in political spending at Trump properties is we still haven`t seen the numbers for Trump`s own PAC. Remember he`s been collecting this giant pile of money from people by saying, I`m going to take on big tech, I`m going to challenge elections. And I don`t see much evidence. He`s actually spent that much money on the things he promised to, but he could have been giving it to himself, he could have been paying it to his businesses. So I don`t think we really know the degree to which Trump`s political spending is down until we know how much that committee chunk, that Don Jr. has been fundraising for has spent, we won`t know that until the end of this month.

VELSHI: David Cay Johnston, how much does Donald Trump if he doesn`t run, and he doesn`t stay involved in politics, can he rebuild this building? This company does something meaningful because it`s a different place than it was before he ran. There are people who carry the Ivanka Trump`s brand that don`t do that anymore. Their buildings that had Donald Trump`s name on it, that will not do that anymore. What does he build into? What does it become if he tries to make a go of it?

JOHNSTON: Yeah, I don`t see him recovering his brand. He`s tarnished it on his own by his own conduct. The people he`s appealing to can`t afford to go to Trump properties. They`re not people who can spend $1,000 to have a room for the night at the old post office in Washington, D.C.

[22:45:11]

He`s really damaged his brand. And as his late legal bills mouth, and really good lawyers, knowing Donald`s history are going to demand payment up front. He`s going to be squeezed there. So it really is this reliance on donations, as David Fahrenthold has been doing fantastic work points out. We won`t know for a little bit what his latest fundraising is. But we do know that what he raised so far, promising to challenge the election he spent up to summit.

VELSHI: Yeah, I mean, David, this becomes -- this is tricky, though, when Donald Trump`s biggest business becomes raising money for and running elections?

FAHRENTHOLD: Yeah, I think the business of the Trump Organization as it`s currently constituted, does not make any sense with Trump, as he`s currently constituted. He got hotel, why does he want to be selling his name in Chicago or, you know, trying to get people to go to his hotel in Las Vegas. You could shrink this business down to just capitalizing on his on his political base, paying money to himself through his PACs, keeping the properties he lives at and selling t-shirts. That`s a business that could sustain itself. The problem is the businesses that aren`t working like the hotels and some of the golf resorts, those are the ones that have the huge loans on them. So it`s going to be hard to just cast them off and focus on what is working. That`s his dilemma for the next couple of years.

VELSHI: And in a responsible reporter in March when talking about these businesses not doing well as specifically the hotel business, David Cay Johnston, Donald Trump does say, I`m very underleveraged. So that`s good. It`s hurting me, but it`s hurting everybody else as well. I mean, he`s sort of, he`s saying, what what`s it to me? I don`t owe anybody any money?

JOHNSTON: Yeah, Donald has lots of money. He has due dates that are coming up on him where he`s got to come up with for refinancing. And who is going to refinance anything on the Trump Organization while it is under indictment? I mean, maybe he can find a banker who will do it, but it would not be prudent for any bank to do that. And he has not personally been charged yet. He gets personally charged. He`s not going to be able to refinance anything.

VELSHI: Guys, thanks very much for your excellent reporting. David Fahrenthold and David Cay Johnston, thanks for joining us tonight.

Coming up, while the Texas Democrats are in Washington fighting for voting rights, the Texas Republicans are pushing a fraud in support of Trump`s big lie. They want Texas to become the latest state to embarrass itself fighting the 2020 election results, that`s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[22:51:40]

VELSHI: Today, Texas Democrats continued their week of virtual conferences on protecting the right to vote, meeting with civil rights activists, election officials and lawmakers including House Democratic Leader Steny Hoyer, and Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries.

Back in Texas, however, Republicans have a different priority, relitigating the 2020 election, they are still doing that. Texas Republicans have introduced a bill seeking an audit of the state`s 13 largest counties, most of which voted for Joe Biden. Trump won the state of Texas so it`s not really clear what Republicans hope to achieve here. There have been no reports of widespread voter fraud. Republican Briscoe Cain even acknowledged that when Texas State Representative Jessica Gonzalez challenged him on it earlier this year.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STATE REP. JESSICA GONZALEZ, (D) TEXAS: The Secretary of State said that this 2020 elections was free, fair, safe and secure. Do you not agree with that with what the Secretary of State said?

STATE REP. BRISCOE CAIN, (R) TEXAS: I think that, that that`s her 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 at all from what they saw, free, fair and secure election.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELSHI: Here`s how the Dallas Morning News puts it, the push shows how despite no evidence of widespread fraud and the state that Donald Trump carried, some Republicans are still raising questions about the 2020 election results, six months after Biden took office.

Joining us now is that Texas State Representative you`re watching Jessica Gonzalez, vice chair of the committee on elections and Texas State Representative, Julie Johnson.

Good evening to both of you. Thank you for being here. Representative Gonzalez, you and I have had this conversation before in which we describe how this is a solution in search of a problem. But it`s -- they`ve jumped the shark on this one. They the 13 counties they`re investigating, three of them, Collin Denton and Montgomery County voted for Trump in a state that Donald Trump won, are we now relitigating elections for the sake of it or once you`ve -- once you glommed on to the big lie, you can`t get off that train. You just got to keep on counting votes?

GONZALEZ: Yes, I mean, from the very beginning, you know, during the regular session when it started in January, I mean, it became clear to me and many of my fellow Democratic colleagues in the Texas House that Republican leadership would attempt to pass some sort of harmful voter suppression legislation that was based on the big lie that somehow Donald Trump actually won the election in 2020. And when we spoke up about it, we were dismissed, we were disrespected. And now by filing this bill, they`re not even denying their intention here anymore. You know, Texas Republicans are pushing this narrative even further.

Also, they can get an endorsement from the former disgraced president for their primary races. And so this is all what it is. It`s all they`re putting politics over to people.

VELSHI: It`s very strange, Representative Johnson because the things that they are imposing, the things that you have all left to prevent from being passed, again, are problems that were not problems in the election. So when we talk about 24 hour voting or drive thru voting or prohibiting elections from proactively sending out absentee ballot applications to those who have not requested them, increasing criminal penalties for election workers who run afoul of regulations. None of these things actually happened in the election.

[22:55:13]

STATE REP. JULIE JOHNSON, (D) FARMER`S BRANCH, TEXAS: Exactly, exactly. There was no voter fraud in the state of Texas. And the crazy thing is that the author of this bill is from Montgomery County. And so he`s basically wanting an audit and zone election that he won. And so it absolutely makes no sense whatsoever. This really is an attempt for them to try to justify filing these oppressive voter bills, to keep Democrats and to keep young people, to keep elderly people, to keep disabled people, to keep people of color, to keep busy moms with too big schedule from voting. They`re trying to slim the margins at the end to try to retain power. And these sorts of tactics are what they`re trying to do. They have not had public opinion in their election bills, and they`re having to file this kind of stuff to justify what they`re doing.

VELSHI: Representative Gonzalez, Vice President Harris today met with poll workers and election officials about the threats that they`re facing and the challenges they`re facing. Let`s listen to a little bit.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KAMALA HARRIS, (D) U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: You`re the people who make elections happen. We cannot, we dare not take the work of poll workers for granted. And I think we do. But the work of poll workers, unencumbered, without intimidation, without threats, should be a commitment that we all have, not only to them who served but to our democracy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELSHI: Representative Gonzalez, we`ve all gone to polls and seen who these poll workers are, they are the symbol of, you know, of civil service. They are people volunteers, in some cases, paid in some cases, who are doing the work that allows our democracy to continue. In Texas, there are all sorts of things going on, that would lead to the intimidation of the possible criminalization of and the removal of bipartisanship or non partisanship from some of these roles.

GONZALEZ: Yes. And so one of the big problems with that is that it`s already hard for us to find poll workers as it is, and so, you know, legislation, that that as a violation of criminal sanction to poll workers for simply denying access to a poll watcher, given and even if they`ve had a problem with them in the past before that is not enough. The way that this bill HB3 is written is that it limits it gives an untrained partisan poll watchers, unfettered access to room polling location, while also limiting the power of a poll worker to be able to conduct the, you know, to the elections.

And so you know, that`s a very, it`s a slippery slope for us to go down. And, you know, the language of the bill makes it really hard for a poll worker to remove a disruptive poll watcher. So for example, even just intimidating someone or standing too close to someone that is not enough to rise to the level to where a poll worker can remove a person from a polling location. And not to mention the fact that a person gets one free felony, right? So they have to have already been worn once before that, before it could even rise to that level. And the laws that in the provision is unclear as to whether the person has to violate the same, it has to be the same violation under the code. And so it`s just -- it`s a really dangerous thing for Texas to go down a very dangerous path. Because people are, they`re not going to when they`re feeling intimidated, they`re just going to leave and they`re not going to come back to vote. And so, you know, that that provision is very, very problematic.

VELSHI: And Representative Johnson, let`s just go down that road a little more. Because for those of us who have never faced intimidation at a poll, it seems very obvious to say, you can`t intimidate me, I`m going to go, I`m registered to vote, I`m going to cast my ballot and somebody does anything with me, I`ll call the police. That`s not the history of this country. Voter intimidation, polling place intimidation plays a very, very big role. And what Texas is saying in some of this legislation is we`re OK with some of that.

JOHNSON: That`s exactly what they`re saying. And what they`re really trying to do is imagine the insurrectionists that stormed the Capitol on January 6, a lot of them were from Texas, even one was a state representative, the Republican from Texas, and they`re trying to -- those are the kinds of people that can be recruited, and they want to send them down into especially minority neighborhoods, where a lot of times we`re trying to get new registered voters that might be first time voters to be able to stand over them even possibly review their ballot and just be disruptive. And just as if my colleague Jessica was saying, you know, the election workers are very limited in order to kick them out. So it`s a huge problem.

VELSHI: This is a big fight that you`re all happy to having and continued success to you in fighting for Americans voter`s right, Texas Representatives Jessica Gonzalez and Julie Johnson, thank you for joining us tonight.

And that is tonight`s LAST WORD. "THE 11TH HOUR" with Brian Williams begins now.