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Transcript: The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, 8/11/21

Guests: Michael Moore, Tim O`Brien, Victoria Neave, Mondaire Jones, Christina Greer; Nikki Fried


Today, during three hours of testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, BJay Pak, the former United States attorney for the northern district of Georgia, explained his unexpected departure. Trump was upset that Pak wouldn`t lie for him. In the wee hours of the morning, Senate Democrats took an important step toward passing federal voting rights legislation. President Biden got 19 Republican senators to support the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill, but the next legislative hurdle might be harder for Biden. New York will have a new governor in two weeks` time. Kathy Hochul is the name that people are going to come to know. Florida has become the epicenter of the coronavirus in the United States, with one-fifth of all new U.S. infections and hospitalizations.


ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST: Are you in on Friday?


VELSHI: Friday`s the day the pillow guy says the president and vice president are going to resign and the previous guy`s going to become the president again. He`s put out the date.

MADDOW: I am totally going to launder my blazer because that`s going to be a big day.

VELSHI: Yeah. Because that might be what we chat about Friday night. I don`t think so.

Katie Benner is the soundtrack to the survival of democracy. We`re getting most of our information from her. I`m curious about one thing she said to you about the IG report of necessity is methodical and thorough and could take a year.

And as you get more information about the fact that this was a plan, this insurrection attempt this coup attempt was a real plan, how do we even translate that? How do we sit around and wait for a year for a inspector general`s report about the fact that Donald Trump was calling up people and saying, flip this election for me?

MADDOW: Right, exactly. I mean, there`s a -- I appreciate the sort of balance that she`s talking about, that when you are talking about people having committed crimes in a political context in this case trying to overthrow the government, keep somebody in power, we don`t criminalize politics.

You can, however, commit a crime in a political context. It has to be sort of approached so methodically so it doesn`t seem like we`re becoming the kind of country that if you get voted out of office, you then naturally end in jail. That has to only happen if you are definitely a crook committing crimes while you are a politician.

And so, there is a sort of -- there is a sort of balance and inherent small seat conservancy there. But Merrick Garland has a Justice Department where all these former high-ranking officials may have participated in very serious crimes and the Justice Department has to self-police its own officials that fix that in a way faster than any criminal court proceeding could.

VELSHI: Yeah. As you said, he walks into a crime scene every day.

MADDOW: That`s right.

VELSHI: Thank you, my friend. We`ll see you tomorrow, Rachel.

MADDOW: Thank you, Ali. Yeah.

VELSHI: Breaking tonight, new details on the abrupt resignation of a United States attorney weeks before Donald Trump left office. Today, during three hours of testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, B.J. Pak, the former United States attorney for the northern district of Georgia, explained his unexpected departure. Trump was upset that Pak wouldn`t lie for him.

Katie Benner of "The New York Times" reports B.J. Pak, quote, told the panel that Donald Trump had been dismayed that Mr. Pak had investigated allegations of fraud in Fulton County, Georgia, and not found evidence to support them, according to the person familiar with the statements.

Mr. Pak testified that top department officials had made clear that Mr. Trump intended to fire him over his refusal to say the results in Georgia had been undermined by voter fraud, the person said. Resigning would preempt a public dismissal, end quote.

B.J. Pak is the third government official to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee about Donald Trump`s efforts to abuse the Justice Department for his personal gain. Now, that`s not good for the former president, but it`s also frustrating because once again we hear about something that sounds like criminal behavior by Donald Trump, and so far he has not been held accountable for that behavior, which goes to a bigger point on accountability in the wake of the 2020 election.

Trump told his supporters to attack the Capitol on January 6th. He used his election lies. Lies that he wanted B.J. Pak and others to spread to propel those protesters to action, incite an insurrection.

More than 550 people face federal charges for invading the Capitol, but are those charges actually enough to prevent another insurrection? That`s actually the concern of chief U.S. district judge, Beryl Howell. During a plea hearing two weeks ago, Judge Howell asked why a defendant who terrorized members of Congress was getting off merely on a misdemeanor. Quote, does the government in agreeing to the petty offense in this case have any concern about deterrence, end quote?

Any concern about deterrence for the Capitol attackers. What about Donald Trump who egged them to go there? What about Donald Trump`s lost cause rallies which are still pushing that same lie that incited the coup attempt from both inside and outside the Capitol? Do we as a country have any concern about deterrence for insurrections? Deterrence for Donald Trump, who`s still filling our politics with his lies? Deterrence for the next Donald Trump and the bad actors like Russia who want to help American democracy to fail?

This is not about punishing the past, as valuable as that may be. It is actually about protecting the future. It`s about protecting American democracy, which came perilously close to being undermined.

On Monday, in a different Capitol riot case, Judge Howell questioned the financial consequences that the rioters face. Quote, I have found the damage amount of less than $1.5 million, when all of us American taxpayers are about to foot the bill for close to $500 million, a little bit surprising. See, last month Congress passed a $2.1 billion security bill to secure funding for the U.S. Capitol and the Capitol police. That`s why we, the taxpayers, are paying to ensure that another January 6th doesn`t happen.

But what good does that protection do if the criminals who attacked the Capitol are not sufficiently punished? What good does that protection do if the man who incited the insurrection is never held accountable?

As we`ve seen time and again, the only authority that`s been willing to hold Trump accountable so far has been the United States Congress. And he might be held accountable once again by Congress, and this time it`s by a House committee investigating his business dealings.

NBC`s Pete Williams reports, the House Oversight and Reform Committee can proceed with a subpoena to get documents from Mazars, the accounting firm, to examine the nature of Trump`s federal lease for a hotel in Washington. The committee can also get financial records to look at whether Trump`s income on overseas properties violated the Constitution`s ban on foreign emoluments.

Let`s see what happens when the committee gets its hands on those tax documents.

Leading off discussion tonight, Tim O`Brien, senior columnist for "Bloomberg Opinion", and the author of "TrumpNation", and Michael J. Moore, former U.S. attorney for the middle district of Georgia. He`s now partner at Moore Hall (ph) Law Firm in Atlanta.

Good evening to both of you, gentlemen.

Michael, let me just start with you. Do you know -- did you work with B.J. Pak? Do you know him?

MICHAEL MOORE: I know B.J. I was in the group that preceded him under the Obama administration. He and I have known each other for a number of years. He`s a good guy. I think he`s an honorable guy. Not surprised he would get in front of the Senate committee and give them sort of the straight skinny on what went on.

And nor am I surprised he would be someone who would have the integrity to step down as opposed to being used as a pawn to sort of push forward this idea of the big lie of election fraud. And the timing of his leaving, obviously the calls to Raffensperger, you can look at that and those things are happening in no coincidence. So I have respect he stepped down and was not going to perpetrate the big lie.

VELSHI: Yeah, I`m fascinated by that. I`m fascinated by the fact that a handful of people who decided not to perpetrate that might have been standing between us and the demise of our democracy. Glad that they exist.

Tim, I want to listen to what Senator Richard Blumenthal, who thinks or has surmised on our air that there might be a criminal referral from the inspector general`s office. Here`s what he said about Mr. Pak`s testimony.


SEN. RICHARD BLUMETHAL (D-CT): There are details that come to the fore that may not be surprising but are important. And I think every one of these interviews produces very important information, but also leads as to additional witnesses, and we know also that there is a pattern here. Trump has surrounded himself by acolytes and sycophants who do his bidding and enable him to launch these kinds of improper pressure campaigns.


VELSHI: Two things he said there that are really important and relevant to things you studied about Donald Trump. One is not surprising but important, which could be the title of a book on Donald Trump, and the fact that he has surrounded himself, as you have written about for years, with acolytes and sycophants.

TIM O`BRIEN, BLOOMBERG OPINION: Not only with just acolytes and sycophants, Ali, it`s people who he can corrupt. Now, oftentimes, people who take the fall for him or do his bidding. I think what`s interesting now with Pak`s testimony and the other evidence surrounding that, the taped phone calls to Raffensperger where he was asking them to, go out and find me some votes. The pressure we know he put on the Acting Attorney General Rosen to also try to find or manufacture evidence of fraud, even when he was getting pushback. All of this goes to intent.

When Richard Blumenthal is talking about the fact that there might be a criminal referral coming out of this, it means that we are starting to accumulate enough evidence that shows that Donald Trump knowingly tried to turn over the election, interfere with the election, and corrupt the people around him to do this. I think the heartening reality in all of this is that you had a diverse group of law enforcement officials who stood up for the rule of law when the president of the United States, who is meant to execute the law, is trying to pervert it.


And Trump has done this kind of thing for decades. Well over five decades. The fact that he was able to get into the Oval Office and doing it there should continue to alarm people. And we need to take steps to make sure it doesn`t happen again.

VELSHI: Michael, I want to pull on a thread that Rachel and Katie Benner were having in their conversation a little while ago, and that is this distinction that the Senate and the inspector general`s office will have to make between real criminal behavior that should be charged, which I think a lot of people tonight are wondering when that`s going to happen, and things that are politics. And that we have to be careful about not being that country that goes after politics. Somebody loses an election, then everybody, they and their coterie are arrested and thrown in jail. We don`t want to be that country either.

Talk to me about that from a legal perspective.

MOORE: Yeah, I don`t think there`s any shortage of things you can charge Trump with as far as a criminal offense. It may be that in fact, the Southern District of New York does that or we see things come out of a financial transaction he was involved in. The trick to me in the B.J. Pak circumstance, let`s use that as an example, is really just a very short chain of command between the president and the United States attorney, basically the president, the attorney general, the deputy attorney general by designation, the U.S. attorney. The chain of command is very short.

What`s unusual and what unfortunately has become the norm is that the administration was using the Department of Justice and trying to use the United States attorneys around the country to do its bidding, more specifically, Trump`s bidding. And so, you know, I want to be careful and not talk about whether or not somebody should be charged, because I really think that you do serve at the discretion of the president. When you take the appointment, you`re confirmed by the Senate, you know the president at any time can ask you to step down.

He or she, hopefully we`ll see a she one day soon, but he or she can not like something that you said in public, might take a different view on a case that you`ve prosecuted or handled, they can ask you to step down. There`s nothing particularly nefarious about that.

But then I think you look at things out of the vacuum. You look at things like the call to Raffensperger. You look at things like the pressure they were putting on Pak. Those things go hand in hand. I don`t know if I would say the call to Pak or the discussion is enough to be a criminal case here. But I think it tells a big story, it certainly paints a clearer picture of what the administration may be doing, and that may play into other criminal investigations that Trump is facing now, whether that be Fulton County with the D.A.`s office or another jurisdiction.

So, it`s a piece of the puzzle. I don`t think the pressure alone on Pak puts the puzzle awe the way together.

VELSHI: You know, Tim, Michael makes a point about the Manhattan district attorney, whether there might be criminal charges coming out of them. I want to read you a headline. It says: Federal prosecutors became to suspect Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg lied and considered charging him with perjury. It says, New York prosecutors came to suspect the Trump Organization`s chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg lied in testimony during their testimony of Michael Cohen three years ago. Despite their suspicions federal prosecutors did not pursue perjury charges against Weisselberg, but his past interactions with them could now become relevant to the Manhattan district attorney`s office as it seeks his cooperation in the tax fraud case brought against Weisselberg and the company last month.

Translate that into English for us.

O`BRIEN: Well, in English, it means that the U.S. attorney`s office believe that Donald Trump`s accountant lied to them when they were seeking testimony from him about the payments that Donald Trump`s business made to women who alleged they had sexual encounters with the president, and essentially paid them hush money, and whether that was covered up as a business transaction in order to disguise it.

Michael Cohen went to prison for that. Donald, individual number one, did not, that`s Donald Trump. Somewhere in their examination of Allen Weisselberg`s intersection with both of those men, they believe he lied about something. We know from the tape that Michael Cohen made at that time that Donald Trump told him to go talk to Allen, in the tape, about how to handle the money.

The problem with this is, Allen Weisselberg is now possibly a -- going to be a key witness for the Manhattan district attorney`s office if he flips. But the fact that he perjured himself during the federal investigation raises all kinds of questions about the extent to which he will cooperate or not now with the Manhattan district attorney, whether or not his testimony is going to be credible.


And a third question as to why the Southern District of New York did not press him harder and go after him more aggressively if they believed he perjured himself.

This has all gotten extremely messy and it`s going to I think cloud how the Manhattan district attorney`s office uses him and raise questions about whether he`ll flip and what his value will be as a witness if he does.

VELSHI: Gentlemen, thank you for helping us out tonight. Michael J. Moore, Tim O`Brien, we appreciate your time.

Coming up, at 4:00 this morning Senate Democrats took a significant step toward a bill to counter Republican voter suppression laws in the states. And Texas Senator Ted Cruz once again proved that he is incapable of shame.

That`s next.


VELSHI: In the wee hours of the morning, Senate Democrats took an important step toward passing federal voting rights legislation.


All 50 Democrats, all of them, voted to move ahead on a revised version of Democrats` sweeping elections bill, the For the People Act. It was mostly a symbolic move since a group of Senate Democrats are still finalizing revisions on the legislation that will reportedly include proposals introduced by the fourth guy on the top line there, Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia.

At 4:00 a.m. today, Senator Manchin pleaded with Republican senators to join with Democrats to protect voting rights, just as they did to pass the infrastructure bill.


SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): Tonight, I`m again voting to move that process forward because I believe that we need to come together, to restore people`s faith in the integrity of our elections. I urge my colleagues, Democrats and Republicans, to allow us to debate this critical issue and come up with a bipartisan solution that protects every American`s right to vote.


VELSHI: Not one Republican voted to discharge the voting rights bill from committee. Then, Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz blocked the bill from even being debated.


SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX): This bill would constitute a federal government takeover of elections. It would constitute a massive power grab by Democrats. It would disenfranchise millions of Americans. And it would do precisely the opposite of its nominal title "For the People." It is, instead, for the politicians.


VELSHI: A takeover of elections? Is he serious?

Republicans across this country are trying to take over elections right now. Voting against the certification of the election on January 6th was trying to take over elections. Pushing bills in statehouses that not only suppress the rights of voters but also give partisan legislatures more power to overturn election results that don`t go their way.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer promised that voting rights will be the first priority of the Senate when the chamber returns in September.

Joining us now, Democratic Congressman Mondaire Jones of New York. He is deputy whip of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. And Democratic Texas State Representative Victoria Neave, who met with Senator Manchin on voting rights last month.

I want to talk to you both about Joe Manchin and voting rights. But Senator Neave, I have to ask you or Representative Neave, that is precious coming from Ted Cruz of the state of Texas, precious that he suggests a bill to help voting rights, that you in Texas have been asking for as an election takeover?

STATE REP. VICTORIA NEAVE (D), DALLAS, TEXAS: Thank you so much for the investigation.

We know that our communities vote has the power to change the trajectory of our nation, and it already has, and that is precisely why they are trying to pass legislation to enable Trump`s big lie. We Texas House Democrats have been working very hard in Texas to do everything that we can to protect the fundamental freedom to vote for millions of our fellow Texans.

There is so much at stake right now, which is why we made the extraordinary decision to break a quorum in the Texas legislature. We are going to continue to advocate to make sure that we urge Congress to pass these national standards which we need right away. Time is of the essence so that we can enable legislation to protect the voter and Texans.

VELSHI: Congressman Jones, you and I always have a million policy things to talk about. Yet some of our time every time you and I are together gets taken away by the Republican -- I`m sorry, I misspoke -- the Democratic senator from West Virginia, Joe Manchin.

What do you make of what Joe Manchin did at 4:00 in the morning, the fact that he seemed to be coming around to Mondaire Jones` way of voting rights?

REP. MONDAIRE JONES (D-NY): Well, I`m pleased to be joined by him in recent days, hopefully in an understanding we will never get ten Republican senators to sign on to any voting rights legislation of importance. For that reason, have to reform or abolish, which as you know is my preference, Ali, the filibuster, in order to save our ailing democracy.

He speaks as though he understands the threat. And I so appreciate that from him, and I hope that Senator Sinema also understands the existential threat posed by the voter suppression that we are seeing pushed by the Republican Party and states like Georgia and Florida, and yes, of course, Texas, and I`m so grateful for the leadership of the representative in doing whatever it takes, whatever it takes to protect the right to vote and to save our democracy.

VELSHI: Go ahead, sorry about that.

JONES: We need the president to weigh in on this when it comes to the filibuster. He has to prevail upon Manchin and Sinema to do the right thing, understanding that wear not going to get enough support from Republicans to pass voting rights legislation I think they feel threatened by as a party.

VELSHI: Let me ask you, Representative Neave. You and your delegation in various times, on Zooms, sometimes in person have met with various people, have met with a great deal of support in Washington.

Not everybody has told me, when I`ve talked to your colleagues, none of them have told me that they`ve gotten the big hug they were hoping for from the White House and from the president. Is that, as Representative Jones says, the thing that you need to put this over the finish line?

NEAVE: Listen, we know that President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris are aligned. We know that they understand the sense of urgency and the importance of this issue for us. It is not just about Texas for us, it was about shining a spotlight on what is happening and how these stiff criminal penalties are going to implicate and erode our precious right to vote.

So I have no doubt, I have full faith that the president and vice president are supportive of what we are doing. She took the time to sit down with us, to visit with us. And we are inspired by her.

We are also led by faith, by millions of people who have reached out to their congressmen and women, who are reaching out to their senators, who are reaching out to us about the importance of this and how fundamental it is.

So, we`re going to continue to be led by faith. We`re led by -- we know that we have faith in Congress as well, that they`re going to act. We have seen that our meetings have moved the needle, and that is what was of utmost importance for us in creating that sense of urgency. Momentum has continued to build and build, and we are getting closer and closer to getting federal, national standards to protect our right to vote.

VELSHI: Congressman Jones, look, she`s right. Momentum has been building. This has been one hell of a summer. We have seen arrests, we`ve seen some of your colleagues getting arrested. We`ve seen everybody in Texas under threat of being arrested by the governor.

Where do you go from here? Joe Manchin has come around, and like you said, sounded like he meant when it he talked about in the Senate, what has to happen next? How do you see this unfolding? Do you feel confident that Manchin`s in the game and he will help do this?

JONES: Well, many of us are led by faith. As someone who grew up in the church, I know that the Bible says that faith without works is dead. And for that reason, we need more leadership from the White House on the question of the filibuster, which is the only thing along with Manchin and Sinema standing in the way of saving our democracy. And so, yes, I`m so grateful for the leadership shown by so many grassroots organizations that frankly are finding themselves in an odd situation of having to agitate against the same people who they helped elect to the White House and to Congress in some instances.

But we are building momentum. And when we pass infrastructure, I think it is going to be abundantly clear to people there is nothing else we can do without reforms to the filibuster.

VELSHI: Thank you both for the work you`re putting into this, Congressman Mondaire Jones and Texas State Representative Victoria Neave. Thank you both.

Coming up, today, Nancy Pelosi said she`s not making progressives vote for the bipartisan infrastructure bill in the House before Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema vote for the progressive reconciliation bill in the Senate. That`s next.



VELSHI: President Biden got 19 Republican senators to support the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill, but the next legislative hurdle might be harder for Biden.

Roll call reports that at least eight to ten moderate House Democrats -- moderate House Democrats are privately expressing a willingness to vote against the Democrats-only budget resolution which would greatly expand the social safety net for Americans if Speaker Pelosi doesn`t first schedule a vote on the infrastructure bill.

House progressives have a different plan in mind. They want the Democrats- only bill to come first. And Nancy Pelosi apparently agrees with them.

Joining us now, Jonathan Capehart, opinion writer for "The Washington Post" and a former editorial writer and columnist at "The New York Daily News" which will become relevant in a couple of minutes. He`s the host of "THE SUNDAY SHOW" on MSNBC which comes right after "VELSHI".

And Christina Greer, associate professor of political science at Fordham University. She co-hosts the podcast "FAQNYC", covering New York State and New York City politics.

So great to see both of you friends tonight. Thank you for being with us.

Christina Greer, let`s talk about this. Getting 19 Republicans to vote with Democrats on the fact that today is Wednesday is actually a feat. But with this next bill, this larger reconciliation bill, he`s got progressives -- Biden`s got progressives on one side saying, you`ve got to do that first before we do the infrastructure bill. And then you got moderates on the other side saying, no, you`ve got to do that infrastructure bill before you do the bigger progressive stuff. What does he do?

CHRISTINA GREER, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR-POLITICAL SCIENCE, FORDHAM UNIVERSITY: Well, he relies on Nancy Pelosi to do what she did with the ACA and make sure all the Democrats come together. I mean, I don`t think it`s a surprise that Republican senators got on board, because keep in mind the amendments through the Senate don`t have to be germane to the bill. So I`m very curious to see some of the amendments that the Republicans were able to push through for their various pet projects on their particular interests on the bill.

For the Democrats, the blessing and the curse of Democrats is that they are the big tent party. They`re the ones that have great ideological diversity. So you have progressives who want much more action on climate change. They want Biden to be a lot more forthcoming with how infrastructure moves beyond just plain transportation and really thinking about cities, suburbs, and rural areas holistically.

And you have a lot of moderates that are sort of playing footsie with Republicans. So hopefully Nancy Pelosi and Hakeem Jeffries, who`s looking like her right-hand man, will talk to their colleagues and make sure that it`s passed for the American public because the Democrats only have until 2022, and then we don`t know if unified government will last.

So we need to get as much passed now before possibly Republicans come into power and everything comes to gridlock or deadlock.


VELSHI: Jonathan Capehart, blessing or curse right now? I mean the bottom line is the legislation that we are seeing, generally speaking, when you look at polls has got the approval of Americans. The relief act did, the infrastructure bill does, this now -- this bigger reconciliation bill, depending on what it is, it generally speaking has the support of Americans.

We`re going to get dicey when we start getting into voting rights, which would still have the support of most Americans. Blessing or curse right now that Biden has to manage this?

JONATHAN CAPEHART, MSNBC HOST: Well, blessing or curse that Biden has to manage this? That I don`t know. I think he just wants his agenda passed and moved on so that he will have something to run on.

But here`s something that I want everyone to keep in mind. When the president and the G-20 as they were calling themselves, the 10 Democrats and 10 Republicans, were talking about their bipartisan infrastructure plan, it wasn`t the progressives, it wasn`t the moderates. It was Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi who said from jump, we will not entertain this bipartisan bill without the Democrats-only reconciliation bill.

That`s something to keep in mind. So this isn`t something where moderates are making demands or progressives are pressuring her to do anything. She`s already laid the marker.

And if anything she laid that marker and wants this done in tandem because she doesn`t want any Democrats in her caucus to have to take a tough vote alone.

So the bipartisan bill, the moderates want it, that would be great for them. But for the progressives and others in districts where clean energy and all the other things that will be in the Democrats-only reconciliation bill, if that doesn`t happen, then she leaves those members vulnerable.

So that`s why she was the one who from the outset said, the House will not consider the bipartisan bill without the Democrats-only reconciliation bill. We will pass them at the same time.

VELSHI: And that would solve a lot of problems.


VELSHI: One of the reasons I got you both here is New York politics. We are going to have a new governor of New York in two weeks less a couple of days. Kathy Hochul is the name that people are going to come to know.

Let me play for you, Professor Greer, what she said today at her news conference.


KATHIE HOCHUL (D), LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR OF NEW YORK: The governor and I have not been close, physically or otherwise in terms of much time. And so I`ve been traveling the state and do not spend much time in his presence or in the presence of many in the state capital. But that is what is being reported.

And I`m going to stand right here at the end of my term, whenever it ends, no one will ever describe my administration as a toxic work environment.


VELSHI: Well, that`s a nice promise to hear, right? What a great thing to say. No one will ever describe my term as a -- my administration as a toxic work environment. Boy, she`s got her work cut out for her.

GREER: She absolutely does. I mean first, she`s got to wait for Andrew Cuomo to submit his letter of resignation, which he`s not done just yet. Then she has to actually have some healing that needs to happen, not just across the aisle, but within the Democratic Party.

I mean the role of the lieutenant governor in New York state is a relatively weak role. But Kathy Hochul has done -- I would say what Chuck Schumer has done -- visiting all the counties throughout the state. She has a lot of friends. She`s known as a hard worker. She`s known as a straight shooter.

She`s been through some hard races in her career. That`s probably why Andrew Cuomo chose her. He also chose her when he was running against (INAUDIBLE). He wanted a woman on the ticket. She was very clear about that.

So we know that Kathy Hochul comes in at a time where there`s a lot of distrust in Albany. The culture of sexual harassment and improprieties does not begin or end with Andrew Cuomo.

So she does have her work cut out for her because of so many egregious behaviors that will continue to occur in Albany.

And so weeding all of that out will be a challenge. She also has COVID in front of her and lots of other policy issues that quite frankly she didn`t have on her docket as lieutenant governor.

So she`s coming in with fresh eyes and ears which is a pro and a con in some ways.

VELSHI: Jonathan Capehart, your thoughts?

CAPEHART: Look, I think the number one thing she did in her press conference today, Ali, was to show the people of the country, but the people of New York state, that she is ready.

That was the thing that leapt out at the screen at me, that this is someone who is lieutenant governor in a job that doesn`t have a lot of power, but she gave a sense -- she was confident, she was on top of things, she made - - at least made me feel comfortable that the great state of New York is going to be transitioning to very capable, very competent hands.


CAPEHART: And I`m really looking forward to seeing who she chooses as lieutenant governor and who she`s going to put in her cabinet and how she actually leads.

One press conference, the first impression on a much bigger stage was really fantastic. Now the fun part begins to see, ok, how does she govern?

And I`m -- I am more confident than I ever was that she will be a confident and competent successor to her predecessor.

VELSHI: Well, the country is certainly going to get her -- get to know her as the next governor of New York.

Thanks to both of you. So great to see you both --

CAPEHART: Thanks Al.

VELSHI: Christina Greer and Jonathan Capehart: we appreciate your joining us tonight.

Coming up, Florida`s got the highest number of kids hospitalized with COVID in the country and Ron DeSantis has decided to wage war on schools trying to protect their students, including children who are too young to have access to the life-saving vaccine that the Ron DeSantis got.

Instead of this ending his political career, Republican donors are rewarding him with millions of dollars. That`s next.



VELSHI: Florida has become the epicenter of the coronavirus in the United States, with one-fifth of all new U.S. infections and hospitalizations. 134,506 new coronavirus cases reported last week, and 90 percent of the state`s intensive care beds are filled.

All of this led Florida`s Department of Health to request 300 ventilators and other breathing devices from the federal government. Despite his hands- off, masks-off approach to the pandemic, or perhaps because of it, Ron DeSantis is being rewarded by Republicans with donations from across the country as hospitals in Florida are filling up with sick people.

Politico reports quote, "DeSantis` political committee brought in $4.3 million last month and has more than $40 million in the bank -- a sizable advantage over his Democratic challengers. The haul speaks to DeSantis` popularity nationwide and positions him well if he chooses to run for president in 2024," end quote.

Joining us now is Florida`s agricultural commissioner, Nikki Fried, the state`s highest ranking elected Democrat. She is candidate for governor.

Commissioner Fried, good to see you. What do you make of this? Not being in Florida, I just look at it and I wonder how does this feel in Florida? The state must know they`ve got way more COVID than everybody else has right now, and you`ve got a governor who just seems to be on COVID`s side.

NIKKI FRIED, FLORIDA AGRICULTURAL COMMISSIONER: Well, first of all, thank you for having me here tonight. You know, I have three stepsons. When they act out, the last thing we do is reward them for bad behavior.

And unfortunately, we`re seeing Republicans across the entire country reward this bad behavior. But the people here in the state of Florida are revolting. We have seen now this governor has threatened to take funding and defunding our school system if our school boards and our superintendents actually mandate masks in schools. And he`s going through with that threat, sending letters to our school board members who are actually trying to do what`s right for their kids.

And so we saw a whole bunch of schools start back up this week, and the parents are revolting. You`re seeing in very red areas 90 percent of the parents are sending their children with masks.

Because this policy that he is trying to push is not going to be followed by the people of our state. They understand that we are in an emergency even though our governor is traveling across the country raising money for his 2024 bid and risking the lives of not just individuals here in the state, but our children.

Our kids that have no other protections, that can`t get the vaccine, and wearing a mask, and he`s taking a war on our kids at the sake of his 2024 presidential run.

That does obviously fill in some of the blanks, right? If he`s thinking about this as a national policy. Are Florida state Republicans going along with this?

Unfortunately, we`re seeing that`s the case. The only caveat that I`m going to say there is that the governor has actually threatened to have a special session to harm our school districts and our school boards. And the senate president and speaker of the house have said no.

Whether or not they do that when they come back during committee weeks in September is yet to be seen. But we are seeing Republicans across the state backing up this president -- excuse me this governor. My god, that`s a Freudian slip there -- our governor. Because he has a tendency to be very vengeful and take out, you know, horrible repercussions towards people that are not agreeing with him.

So he`s scared a lot of the Republicans here in our state to stand up against him. But the people of our state, and especially our parents, are just not having it.

VELSHI: Nikki Fried, good to see you. Thank you for joining us. Nikki Fried is the commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services in Florida. And she is a candidate for governor.

Coming up, anti-maskers heckled and threatened health care workers at a school board meeting in Tennessee where the COVID positivity rate is in the double digits.

We`ll tell you what happened after this.



VELSHI: As children prepare to return to school, the debate over masks has become more polarizing and more dangerous. And apparently not just dangerous for the kids.

That was the scene in Franklin, Tennessee where a crowd of anti-mask protesters heckled parents outside of a school board meeting after the board passed a temporary mask mandate for elementary school children.

Some of the parents being heckled are health care professionals. The crowd actually shouted, we know who you are.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, 93,824 child COVID cases were reported last week. that`s almost 100,000 children with COVID.

There`s still not a vaccine approved for children under 12 so parents are understandably concerned about sending their kids back to school.

Parents like Dr. Uche Blackstock who shared her concerns on Twitter this week. As a physician and parent of two little ones under 12, I`m more concerned about sending them back for in-person learning this year than I was last year.

This year classes will be back to full size and then there is the more transmissible delta variant. Plus, not all teachers and staff are vaccinated.

I know that there are other concerned parents out there. We want to keep our babies safe and protected. Know what`s going on in your school. Masking, distancing, what happens during lunch, testing, ventilation, et cetera.

Joining us now, Dr. Uche Blackstock, an emergency medical physician. She`s the founder and CEO of Advancing Health equity and an MSNBC medical contributor.

And I think in that couple of tweets, you gave voice to what so many parents are thinking right now. I mean parents want their kids to go back to school. They want their kids to get an education. They don`t want them to lose any more time. But there are so many variables right now to try and make sense of as a parent.


DR. UCHE BLACKSTOCK, MSNBC MEDICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Right, exactly Ali. Thank you so much for having me.

You know, I wanted to make sure that I gave voice to the concerns because so many parents out there, we are scared, we are concerned.

I think that what happens over the next few months is going to dictate the rest of this pandemic and we cannot afford to mess this up. We need to get this right.

And we know what works. We know that a multilayered mitigation strategy worked. That`s masks, ventilation, testing, vaccinations for all eligible people in the school, that those strategies actually reduce the risk of spread.

But we need to make sure that we are supporting our schools in doing this. So for example, the fact that parents have to go out and look for high quality masks for their children to me is inexcusable. The American Rescue Plan should be -- put money aside for schools for this reason.

There should be piles of masks at the front doors of schools. Parents shouldn`t have to worry about testing. Every family should get rapid at- home testing kits.

So I think that we need to do more for our families. We need to do more for our schools than are currently being done.

VELSHI: Dr. Blackstock, I`ve been talking to parents for a year and a half and most of them don`t want to get involved in the politics and the BS of what`s going on. They spent last year trying to save lives and many health care professionals are a little bit puzzled that in August of 2021, they are now still dealing with that kind of stuff even though there is a vaccine.

How are we squaring this? there are people who are getting burned out. There are nurses who are quitting their jobs at a time that we need them. There are doctors who can`t take another year of this.

DR. BLACKSTOCK: Right. No, I understand. I was on the front lines last year caring for patients with COVID. It was really a life changing experience for me.

You know, I think what we need, we need the policies in place to protect people. Right now, we need to have a universal mask mandate at the minimum. Almost every state is substantial or high transmission levels, ok? And so we need the president and the CDC to step up regarding that.

We need them to make this about the collective good versus individual and personal responsibility. We need elected officials in those southern states, and those other states that are preventing mask mandates and vaccine mandates -- like Biden said to get out of the way and let local leaders care for student and their families.

You know, enough is enough. But I do think that policy is incredibly important. I think the CDC can do a better job with communication, messaging, and recommending those policies that are going to keep Americans safe. And that`s not happening.

VELSHI: With each passing day though we are seeing more businesses who are saying we need to see vaccination proof. We`re seeing more employers who are saying you going to either need to be vaccinated or be tested on -- multilayered, as you described it. You`re doing that.

Are we thinking that they can pick up where governments and states have not been able to? Can their countries` employers and businesses take the lead here?

DR. BLACKSTOCK: No. I do think that there is a role for private employers and businesses in this. You know, we see that, you know, there is a vaccine impasse. There are a large number of people who still are not vaccinated.

But I think in order to get those people vaccinated, these vaccine mandates and requirements are needed. So we need everyone on board. Not just federal, state and local government but also private employers and these businesses.

You know, the key is we need to get (INAUDIBLE) to a critical number of people vaccinated. Before we get there, we need to put all of those other policies in place -- masking, testing is still needed. And so we need all of those strategies. Everyone needs to be on board so we can get to the end of this as soon as possible.

VELSHI: Except multilayered strategy isn`t as pithy as my body, my choice, I suppose. That`s part of the problem we`re battling.

Good to see you Dr. Blackstock, as always. Thank you for joining us tonight.

And so this is another interesting matter that we are discussing because Dr. Blackstock was talking about a multilayered strategy. This is -- she mentioned a mask mandate. We do have news that California has become the first state to issue vaccine mandates for all educators.

Hawaii announced last week that public school teachers would have to be vaccinated or tested weekly. And the American Federation of Teachers is calling for all teachers to be vaccinated.

So the two things that are going on side by side are mask mandates and vaccine mandates. That is something we will continue to discuss. We`ll discuss it again tomorrow night.

That is tonight`s LAST WORD.

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


BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: And good evening once again.

Day 204 of the Biden administration.

Millions of Americans may soon be eligible for a third shot to boost their immunity. NBC News among those reporting, the FDA is expected to green light booster shots for immunocompromised people at first, as soon as the next 48 hours.