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

Transcript: The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, 8/20/21

Guests: David Rothkopf, Gina Hinojosa, Colin Allred, Katie Hobbs, Zach Wahls


The Pfizer vaccine is forecasted to be FDA approved on Monday. Rising COVID-19 hospitalizations in many states could push for possible vaccine mandates if Pfizer gets FDA approved. President Biden has pledged to evacuate all Americans in Afghanistan and Afghan allies. He explained why he ended the unwinnable 20-year war in Afghanistan. The standoff in Texas for voting rights has ended with the Republicans passing their voting restriction laws. Texas State House Democrats` stand off with state Republicans on voting rights ended last night. As soon as next week, the group that Republicans in the Arizona senate hired to conduct a fake audit of the 2020 election results in Maricopa County will release the final report on their work. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, the first out gay cabinet member confirmed by the Senate, announced this week that he and his husband Chasten have become parents.


RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Thank you for being with us tonight. Like I said, it has been a heavy week of the news -- heavy week in the news, but the weight of it doesn`t mean we can walk away from it. Thanks for being with us tonight. Thanks for being with us all week. I will see you again on Monday night. Now it`s time for "THE LAST WORD" with the great Jonathan Capehart filling in for Lawrence tonight. Good evening, Jonathan. It`s nice to see you.

JONATHA CAPEHART, MSNBC HOST: It is great to see you, Rachel. Thank you very much. Welcome back from your well-earned vacation.

MADDOW: Thank you, my friend. Thank you. God bless. Thanks.

CAPEHART: All right. Have a good weekend.

And breaking news tonight, the Pfizer vaccine could be fully FDA-approved as soon as Monday. Millions of people have received the two-dose Pfizer vaccine under emergency use authorization. The Moderna vaccine is expected to be fully approved in the fall. Experts believe full approval will make a difference in convincing some people to get vaccinated.

But perhaps more importantly, it could lead to a surge in vaccine mandates. Today, the CDC reported 135,494 new cases of coronavirus today in the United States. Across the nation, the weekly average for COVID hospitalizations is 11,521. That`s an increase of 14.2 percent from the week before.

In six states, Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oregon, and Washington, new admissions of patients with coronavirus are currently at their highest level since the start of the pandemic. Hospitalization and infection rates for children are also on the rise. NBC News reporting, as of Wednesday, U.S. hospitals were tending to an average of more than 1,200 children a day, twice the number from the end of July.

Alabama admitted nearly 260 kids between August 10th and 16th, an average of 37 per day and an increase of more than 300 percent from the previous week. Florida leads the nation in children hospitalized with COVID-19, averaging 54 new admissions a day over the past week, according to the CDC. Of course, Florida`s Republican governor, along with a number of other Republican governors across the country, are still banning mask mandates in schools.

But parents and school boards, they`re fighting back. Millions of students in Florida, Texas, and Arizona are now required to wear masks in class as school boards in mostly Democratic areas have defied their Republican governors and made face coverings mandatory.

The south remains the epicenter of the delta surge. But cases are also ticking up in places with higher vaccination rates. "The Baltimore Sun" reports that across Maryland where 60 percent of people are fully vaccinated, 204 of the 271 staffed pediatric beds are occupied. And nearly all of the 61 pediatric ICU beds are taken.

COVID-19 and other respiratory viruses are largely to blame. And as schools reopen with mask requirements that vary from county to county, the situation could escalate and cripple the health care system, hospital officials and medical professionals say.

Leading off our discussion tonight is Dr. Jason Custer. He is the director of the pediatric intensive care unit at the University of Maryland Children`s Hospital, and Dr. Nahid Bhadelia, infectious diseases physician and founding director of Boston University`s Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases, Policy and Research. She is also an MSNBC contributor.

Thank you both very, very much for being here. I want to start the questioning off with you, Dr. Bhadelia, and ask you about this impending FDA approval of the Pfizer vaccine. I noted in the intro that it could lead to a wave of vaccine mandates. Is that what we`re about to -- what we`re about to see?

NAHID BHADELIA, MSNBC MEDICAL CONTRIBUTOR: That`s right, Jonathan. I think I should start by saying that for all of us in medicine, you know, the safety data has already been there. So in some ways, this is -- this is sort of an additional step that for I think for some people who are hesitant.

There was this survey in June that said one-third of those who were not vaccinated said if it was fully approved, they would take the vaccine. So you may see some of the stragglers more likely to get vaccinated. As you mentioned, it`s more likely to get hospitals and universities, which is, by the way, another group that`s going to have congregate living as colleges start again in the fall, that vaccination is going to be important.

That`s going to allow a lot more of those to take those steps of mandates towards vaccination. The third bit (ph) is nine states, Jonathan, by the beginning of this month had passed bans against vaccine mandates and one- third of those are actually particularly around emergency use authorization vaccines.

So hopefully with this full approval those kind of legislative efforts will also be -- will not affect the ability of some of these institutions to mandate vaccinations.


CAPEHART: You know, Dr. Custer, one of the things that I find interesting is that we see a wave of delta -- of increases in coronavirus infection because of the delta variant across the south. But then when we look at states like Washington, Oregon, and your state of Maryland, we`re seeing worrisome headlines out of those states. What does that tell us? Should we make -- read anything into that?

JASON CUSTER, DIRECTOR OF PEDIATRIC ICU, UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND CHILDREN`S HOSPITAL: Yes. Thanks, Jonathan. DII think what it is telling us is a couple of things. In our state, thankfully, we have a high vaccination rate for those that are eligible. We`re also seeing a surge of RSV, which is respiratory syncytial virus at the same time as we are seeing an increase in the COVID cases.

And that sort of unique combination is really causing hospitalizations to surge across the state. We`re in preparatory stages to understand what that means, to understand what our ICU capability is and what our hospitalization capability is for pediatrics, collaborating across the state and across the region to best understand that.

So I think it`s the combination of those two things plus now on the heels of going back to school, that really has our attention with some significant planning.

CAPEHART: So, Dr. Custer, I`m going to stick with you on this. Speaking of children going back to school, is the uptick in respiratory viruses in young children and COVID, are they connected?

CUSTER: Well, here`s what`s really interesting. So last winter, we did not see these typical respiratory virus surges as we would have because of a lot of the mitigation strategies that we had in place. So we had children virtually learning. We had people masked. And that respiratory syncytial virus didn`t circulate in our communities.

And as we have eased restrictions and gotten people back out into the world, we see those viruses start to come online, and then they circulate within children within daycares and with schools. So the important thing to understand is that if you`re eligible for vaccination, please get vaccinated. And wearing masks indoors is a great mitigating strategy to keep not only COVID at bay but the rest of these respiratory viruses.

CAPEHART: You know, Dr. Bhadelia, the other -- the big news at the beginning of this week was the announcement from the administration that eight months after vaccination, people should get their booster shot. How does FDA approval of the Pfizer vaccine as we expect it to happen on Monday, will that have any impact on the timeline of boosters?

BHADELIA: Well, one thing the FDA full approval does, Jonathan, is that it allows some physicians to now be able to give those boosters off-label use, that means a FDA-approved product, a physician can make a medical judgment of the patient in front of him.

And so you may see some physicians prescribe a booster to those patients that they think are high risk that potentially don`t have, you know, they`re not immunocompromised, the group that already had that EUA to be able to use that booster for.

So that`s one way that you could see that change. I do want to mention one thing to Dr. Custer`s point because I think it`s important to note that the south actually opened up earlier and so what you`re seeing is RSV cases started going up there.

But now you`re seeing, you know, the changes in behavior in the north, New York City, New York State actually had a similar RSV advisory, you know, in the last week or so. And the concern that we have for adults, I want to bring that up, is very similar to what we saw with kids is that the flu last year was low because our mitigation strategies were helping with that.

And the concern is that this fall, with adults as well, the respiratory viruses such as influenza may be more severe. And when you combine that with COVID, it may be even more severe. There`s a study from U.K. last fall that said if you get both the flu and COVID your chances of dying away are twice as or passing away are twice as high. So, get vaccinated and use those masks indoors as Dr. Custer said.

CAPEHART: And Dr. Custer, real quickly, there in Maryland, have you seen an uptick in vaccinations? I know 60 percent of the population is vaccinated, but that`s 40 percent that still needs to get vaccinated. Any uptick?

CUSTER: Absolutely. So -- and I do agree with you that full FDA approval should help us on the vaccination front. Of the eligible people in Maryland, I think it`s greater than 70 percent, which is excellent. But remember that if you`re less than 12, you`re not eligible for vaccination at this time. And we`re working very hard to get approval for vaccine for that younger population.

So, it is incumbent on all of us as adults and those of us that have children greater than 12 to get out there and get vaccinated. That is what we can do to help protect the most vulnerable and that younger population. So I do expect, hopefully, this news to get people out and get vaccinated.


It`s very available. The science says it is extremely safe. And this is a very serious virus and downplaying the seriousness of the virus could be a mistake. So we want to make sure that we use all of our mitigation strategies, vaccination, hand hygiene, masking, and most of all, if you`re sick or have symptoms, don`t go out and don`t send your children to school with symptoms. That will help reduce the spread.

CAPEHART: Real quickly, Dr. Bhadelia or Dr. Custer, if you have the answer as well. But I`m wondering, is there a timeline for vaccines for kids?

BHADELIA: Yes. Jonathan, a huge part of that depends on when recruitment for the pediatric trials ends and we have not heard whether both Moderna and Pfizer`s recruitment has ended. And one of the reasons why it`s taking a bit longer is because the FDA and vaccine manufactures decided to recruit more kids because they wanted to get a bigger group of people to make sure there`s no rare safety signals in that bigger group. So that`s why it`s taking a bit longer.

CAPEHART: Got it. Dr. Nahid Bhadelia, Dr. Jason Custer, thank you both very much for joining us tonight.

And before we go, a quick update. On Wednesday, "The Last Word" reported this story about top donor to Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis being invested in Regeneron -- I`m sorry -- being invested in Regeneron, the company that makes REGEN-COV, the monoclonal antibody treatment for coronavirus patients.

The company says, "We believe people should be vaccinated. We also believe sick people should be treated. REGEN-COV is not a substitute for vaccination.

Coming up, we were all moved by the harrowing pictures of personal stories coming out of Afghanistan. Today, President Biden is in the unenviable position of having to teach America how to process leaving a war America did not win.



CAPEHART: Today, President Biden renewed his commitment to evacuate Americans and American allies from Afghanistan and he leveled with the public.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Let me be clear. Any American who wants to come home, we will get you home. Make no mistake, this evacuation mission is dangerous. It involves risks to our armed forces and it`s being conducted under difficult circumstances. I cannot promise what the final outcome will be or there will be -- that it will be without risk of loss. But as commander-in-chief, I can assure you that I will mobilize every resource necessary.


CAPEHART: Since July, the United States has evacuated more than 18,000 Americans and American allies. And today, the Biden administration partnered with more than a dozen countries to receive evacuees and shelter them temporarily while their cases are processed. For days, tens of thousands of Afghans have crowded the Kabul airport, desperate to flee.

This video shows a father handing his infant to a U.S. Marine over barbed wire. That baby received medical attention and has been reunited with her father.


BIDEN: The past week has been heartbreaking. We`ve seen gut-wrenching images of panicked people acting out of sheer desperation. I don`t think any one of us can see these pictures and not feel that pain on a human level.


CAPEHART: Joining us now is David Rothkopf, a foreign affairs analyst and columnist for the "The Daily Beast: and "USA Today." He is the host of the "Deep State Radio Podcast." David, thank you very much for coming to "The Last Word."

I want to put up this picture that the U.S. Marine Corps released showing a marine today holding an infant during an evacuation at the Kabul airport. And I`m just wondering, what do you think of how President Biden is contextualizing these harrowing images with the challenging process of leaving an unwinnable war?

DAVID ROTHKOPF, FOREIGN AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, I think he`s doing the best he can. The best way to contextualize them is to do what he`s done, to send in the troops to get people out, to work with our allies to do that. You`ve just posted the numbers. It`s really kind of a remarkable achievement especially what`s happened in the course of the past week. I think 13,000 people have come out in the past week.

The president is naturally kind of a compassionate leader. That`s always been his brand. He has his heart on his sleeve. And I think he`s tormented by this.

But I also think he`s made a very clear case that staying in Afghanistan would have worse consequences than leaving Afghanistan, whether it be continued conflict, whether it be destruction of our own resources and inability to deal with other threats and priorities around the world.

It`s very tough to tell the American people that 20 years of war have not turned out so well for us, that we did not win that 20-year war.

CAPEHART: You know, David, you wrote a fabulous column in "The Daily Beast" where you are wagging your finger at columnists and commentators. And I want to put up something, a quote from your piece of what you say. "We are likely to come to see the events of the past week not only very differently, but in the opposite light of that depicted by many commentators." Talk that through.

ROTHKOPF: Well, I think a lot of commentators have focused naturally on the week, naturally on the images. They`ve been harrowing images, heartbreaking images, and we`ve gotten caught up in the moment. But I think when we have a few months or a few years on this, we`re going to recognize that something else has happened here. The president has decided to end the post-9/11 era.


The president has decided to shift our priorities finally towards the priorities of the century ahead towards competitiveness, towards investing in ourselves instead of investing in war, towards achieving goals that benefit all Americans as opposed to having unachievable goals like the goals that were set for this war a long, long time ago.

And I think that when we do have the benefit of history, we`re going to realize that this was the right thing to do. It`s too late. You know, the right time to leave Afghanistan was a dozen years ago, may have been 15 years ago. It could have been 10 years ago or eight years ago.

We shouldn`t be leaving now, but it`s a good thing that we are and it`s a good thing that this president has had the courage to take this on because I know that he knew that it was going to be a traumatic experience for all involved.

CAPEHART: You know, a lot of the criticism against the president has been that what`s happening in Kabul right now is only going to make America weaker. You have an incredible paragraph in that "Daily Beast" column that I want to read for everyone.

You write, "The Biden team view is based on the idea that becoming bogged down in a 20-year war with an unclear mission that drained our resources and distracted us from our priorities made us weaker, that entering Iraq without justification made us weaker, that retreat in the wake of the calamities of Bush foreign policy made us weaker. That Trump attacking our alliances and undermining the rule of law at home made us weaker. The gross failure of leadership in managing COVID made us weaker. A president inciting an attempted coup made us much, much weaker."

ROTHKOPF: Well, that`s the case, you know, and I understand why people say this has damaged our standing. But if they think this is the thing that has damaged our standing the most, they`re just not paying attention or they`re not being honest with themselves.

The Trump years were a litany of self-inflicted wounds from the president, whether he was blowing up alliances or he was undermining our status as a democracy in the world. Staying in this war a long time, the illegal, wrong war in Iraq, Guantanamo. We could make a long, long list of things that have happened in the past 20 years that have damaged us grievously.

Getting out of Afghanistan, moving forward, putting those things behind us, is actually the only possible first step toward healing.

CAPEHART: You know, David, there is -- something that the president said in the east room today, we don`t have time to play it, but I want to get your reaction to what he said when he was asked, he said, what interest do we have in Afghanistan at this point with Al Qaeda gone? We went to Afghanistan with the express purpose of getting rid of Al Qaeda in Afghanistan as well as getting Osama Bin Laden and we did.

To those people who say, yes, Al Qaeda is gone now, but once the United States leaves, it`s going to come back and the situation is only going to get worse. Are those people not being -- are they not realistic?

ROTHKOPF: Look, I think it`s natural you -- it`s a natural thing to fear Al Qaeda will return. I think Al Qaeda will return to some degree. We have enormous capabilities, again, as the president has said, to identify those threats and to respond to those threats. It doesn`t take a permanent military presence on the ground to go after those who are, you know, responsible for a threat against the United States.

We have manifold over the horizon technologies, strong intelligence resources. And I think it`s important to remember that we went into Afghanistan to get Osama Bin Laden and he ended up being in Pakistan and we ended up having to go into there to get him.

So we will protect ourselves. There is no question about that. But we do ourselves a lot of damage if we ignore other threats, whether those threats are domestic extremists who pose a much greater threat at the moment than foreign extremists.


ROTHKOPF: Or climate change or the rise of other great powers like China. And I think the president is saying we have to prioritize threats and we have to prepare for all of them and we shouldn`t put all our chips in one battle as we have done in the greater Middle East for 20 years now.

CAPEHART: And what`s happening in Kabul isn`t the only disaster happening in the world, as you wrote -- note in your piece, Haiti, devastated by that earthquake, is also dealing with a lot right now. Dave Rothkopf, we are out of time. Thank you so much for joining us tonight.

Coming up, Democrats in Congress now have federal legislation to stop partisan Republican interference in our election process. Texas Congressman Colin Allred introduced that bill and he will join us next to explain what it will do and its chances of passing.



CAPEHART: Texas statehouse Democrats` standoff with state Republicans on voting rights ended last night when three Democrats returned to the house floor, giving the chamber the quorum needed for the GOP to move ahead with passing their voter restrictions.

Texas Republicans have set a committee hearing on the Senate-passed version of the bill for Monday morning. Today, more than 30 Texas Democrats expressed their disappointment with the development but said, "Our resolve is strong and this fight is not over."

Texas Democrats always knew they`d face an uphill battle, but their six- week-long fight brought national attention to Republicans` efforts to erode democracy. They managed to get some of the most egregious restrictions removed from the bill. And they put intense pressure on Congress to pass federal voting protections. Now, congressional Democrats are responding to that pressure.


On Tuesday, House Democrats introduced the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to restore key provisions of the 1965 Voting Rights Act weakened by the Supreme Court over the last decade.

And today, Democratic Congressman Colin Allred introduced a new bill aimed specifically at blocking Republican attempts to interfere with and take over elections.

Joining us now are Democratic Congressman Colin Allred from Texas, he`s a voting rights attorney; and Democratic Texas state representative Gina Hinojosa. Thank you both very much for coming to THE LAST WORD.

Representative Hinojosa, let me start with you. What do you expect to happen next week with the Republicans when you come back into session now that quorum has been reestablished?

REP. GINA HINOJOSA (D-TX): Well, let me first make clear for the record that quorum has not lawfully been established. It`s not legally been established. And in fact what has happened is there weren`t a sufficient number of members on the floor, and they were probably 12 to 15 members shy of reaching the constitutionally-required quorum.

Notwithstanding, they declared it and have proceeded with business unlawfully and illegitimately.


HINOJOSA: And so yes, absolutely. Absolutely.

CAPEHART: Ok. Wait. I think we need to throw out the breaking news banners here. So Representative Hinojosa, what you`ve just announced to us is that despite what the Texas Republicans are saying, there is no quorum. No quorum has been met, 12 to 15 -- they`re 12 to 15 members shy of meeting a quorum?

HINOJOSA: That`s correct. They did not have the sufficient numbers present on the floor of the House to conduct business. They ignored that constitutional requirement. They declared quorum present. And they have proceeded with business illegitimately, unlawfully.

So at this point, it is clear that we are now dealing with a whole new ballgame here. These Republicans had tried to rig our elections by passing these voter suppression bills. Now they`re rigging the system on the floor of the Texas House to try to push through their agenda and hold on to power at all costs.

CAPEHART: Ok. So then Representative Hinojosa, what recourse do you have? If this is being done unlawfully, can`t you lawfully stop them?

HINOJOSA: Well, we could be present to call for verification. But that would add to quorum. And so it`s somewhat of a Catch-22. Verification would say everybody has to sit on your desk and it`s a roll call but you have to be seen on the floor of the House.

And so -- but if we`re there to call it, then we could establish quorum. That`s the challenge. But they know they don`t have the numbers. Reporters were there. They saw. Members were there. They saw. Staff was in the gallery, they counted, they saw.

Everybody knows this, and they`re proceeding with business as usual to try to pass the voter suppression bill and silence voters, to hold on to power at all costs.

CAPEHART: All right. Congressman Allred, I swear I`m going to come to you, but Representative Hinojosa, one last question. So then what does that mean for Monday? Does that mean we`re going to see another walkout by Texas Democrats to deny a lawful quorum?

HINOJOSA: Well, we`re actively in conversation with one another right now, because now circumstances have changed and seemingly, whether or not we`re present, it does not matter to the Republican majority. It`s a whole new ball game and we`re trying to figure out how to fight in this new fight. And so we`re planning our plan of attack as we speak.

CAPEHART: Well, I`m going to be paying attention to that.

Congressman Allred, to you finally, thank you for your patience. So you`ve introduced a bill to basically stop votes from being nullified. Talk about the bill that you introduced.

REP. COLIN ALLRED (D-TX) Well, thanks, Jonathan. It sounds like you do have some breaking news on your hands here.

I`ll just say that we`ve seen, you know, a wildfire of voter suppression bills. Of course, as Gina knows in the state of Texas, maybe the worst aspect of those has been this targeting of the ability to subvert our elections and to try and have methods to overturn the will of the voters, either through intimidating election officials or trying to lower the threshold for how a court would overturn an election. We`ve seen that across the country.


ALLRED: And so what our bill is trying to do is to expand the protections to election administrators that exist for voters from intimidation and threatening, to strengthen protections for federal election records.

If you`ve been following, as I know y`all have been covering these, you know, looking at the ballots in Pennsylvania and Arizona, they call them audits, they`re not audits. They`re something else. They`re not professionals doing it.

That should not be happening. And also to provide for judicial review of election records so that we can have some kind of compliance and make sure that we can require compliance with our election laws because to me, this is one of the most dangerous things we`ve seen as part of the big lie is this idea that we can subvert the will of the people, that we can substitute with partisan actors deciding who won an election. We can`t allow that to happen in this country.

CAPEHART: Congressman Allred, so you introduced the Preventing Election Subversion Act back in June. How is this, what you`ve just introduced, different from that bill?

And then, I`m sure it will pass the House, but the prospects in the Senate, how are you going to help get it through the Senate?

ALLRED: Well, both of these are aimed at these post-election high jinx that we`ve seen. And so, you know, whether it`s protecting election officials or trying to prevent some of the, you know, attempts they`re making to subvert the will of the people, that`s what these two bills do.

But at the senate level, we have -- these are bicameral bills, so they`ll be introduced by our Senate Democratic colleagues. At the Senate level now, I think this will be rolled into one single bill which I think will probably be S-1 or whatever they`re going to call it. Or probably included many of the budding (ph) provisions that we have in HR-1.

Maybe it will also include HR-4 the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act that we`re going to pass as you said to repair the Voting Rights Act.

We likely will only have one shot at this, Jonathan, so they`re going to have to roll that in but they need us to pass it in the House and to send it to them.

CAPEHART: All right. Texas Congressman Colin Allred and state representative Gina Hinojosa with the big breaking news, to my mind, about what`s happening in Texas. Thank you both for joining us tonight.

Coming up, a Republican elections official in Arizona is begging Republican to accept Joe Biden`s election victory as the cyber ninjas prepare to dump the results of their so-called audit next week.

Another election official, the state`s top official, Arizona`s secretary of state Katie Hobbs joins us.



CAPEHART: As soon as next week, the group that Republicans in the Arizona senate hired to conduct a fake audit of the 2020 election results in Maricopa County will release the final report on their work. Ahead of that, Arizona`s top two election officials have released prebuttal reports showing just how fake and fraudulent that GOP audit is and their claims are backed up with evidence.

The same can`t be said for what we`ve seen so far from cyber ninjas, the group conducting that fake audit. Maricopa County recorder Steven Rickert who, we should note, is a Republican, wrote in his report, quote, "I believe in the simple, straightforward data-backed explanation that Trump lost many Republican voters in affluent areas. Accordingly I know Joe Biden won Maricopa County."

And Arizona secretary of state Katie Hobbs, a Democrat, wrote in her report, quote, this exercise has been a partisan political review of the 2020 general election for president and U.S. Senator in Maricopa County.

It was unnecessary and has undermined public confidence in accurate and secure elections that were conducted in 2020. To be clear, no audit or lawsuit will ever change the results of the 2020 presidential election. Joe Biden won the state of Arizona fair and square.

Joining us now is Arizona secretary of state Katie Hobbs. She is also running for governor of Arizona. Secretary Hobbs, thank you very much for coming to THE LAST WORD.

Your office had observers watching the audit. What do you expect to be in the report?

KATIE HOBBS, ARIZONA SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, I mean nothing good is going to be in the report in terms of actual validating of the election results. And we know that based on the observations that were made and all of the information that we compiled to put together our report that shows what a circus this really was.

And it`s characterized by security lapses, lack of transparency, and just overall poor planning and no use of any best practices that you would see in a close election audit.

CAPEHART: You know, Steven Rickert`s report shows there`s at least one reasonable Republican in a leadership position in Arizona. Do you think most Republicans buy into the big lie or are they just staying silent?

HOBBS: Well, I think that for the most part, they are either on the side of the big lie or they`re staying silent because they have too often seen the political consequences. And that`s really unfortunate because I think it really is our democracy at stake here.

And that`s one of the reasons that I`m running for governor, is because we need real leaders who are going to stand up for what`s right regardless of the political consequences.

We need to put the partisanship aside and get to work on real issues. Rehashing the 2020 election isn`t one of those issues.

CAPEHART: You know, compounding the travesty that is that fake audit that`s happening, the cyber ninjas essentially destroyed many of vote-counting machines. Can you recoup the costs from them?


HOBBS: Well, at the end of the day, it`s probably going to be the Arizona taxpayers that are on the hook for this, whether it`s Maricopa County that foots the bill or the Senate that foots the bill, you know.

And we know that there`s been private dollars raised for this endeavor throughout the process. It`s one of the criticisms is that they seem to be grifting off of this exercise.

We don`t know where the money is coming from, how much it is or who is actually profiting off of it. That really is where the costs should come from to replace the equipment but I don`t know at the end of the day if that`s what`s going to happen.

CAPEHART: One more question for you, and that is this. How damaging really has this fake audit, this fraudulent audit been on -- for Arizona voters? Do you believe that lasting damage has been done to the legitimacy of the vote in Arizona, in Maricopa County?

HOBBS: There is absolutely lasting damage that has been done. I mean this is a group of folks who are being misled to continue to believe that the election was fraudulent and that Joe Biden isn`t the actual winner.

And as long as these folks continue to promote that mistruth, these folks are going to believe it. And that in the long run is harmful to not only Arizona voters but we`re seeing this across the country.

CAPEHART: And as we just saw in the graphic there, President Joe Biden won Arizona by 45,109 votes, Maricopa County, you see it right there.


CAPEHART: Arizona secretary of state Katie Hobbs, thank you very much for joining us tonight.

HOBBS: Thank you.

CAPEHART: Coming up, there is a lot of bad news in the world right now, and sometimes it can be hard to appreciate when things are moving in the right direction.

Something happened this week that was not a cable news talker or the subject of conservative politicking. And that is a great thing.

That`s next.



CAPEHART: Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, the first out gay cabinet member confirmed by the Senate, announced this week that he and his husband Chasten have become parents, making them the most high profile LGBTQ couple in American politics to welcome a child.

Beyond it`s historic significance the announcement was also significant for what didn`t happen when it was made. There is almost zero conservative outrage. The RNC didn`t condemn the news. Republicans didn`t shout how this was the end of parenthood as we know it.

It`s a low bar for the GOP. Now let`s be clear, there are still a lot of intolerant conservatives who don`t want LGBTQ Americans to have the same rights as them especially when it comes to our trans brothers and sisters.

And just last year, Tennessee`s bigoted Republican governor signed legislation that affirmed adoption agencies that discriminated against LGBTQ couples will still get state funding.

But fewer Republicans seem to be embracing those moves. Some have even expressed support for LGBTQ individuals. "Politico" noted this week that the RNC chairwoman`s celebration of Pride Month elicited almost no shock or outrage from Republicans.

Again we don`t want to overstate the case, but that is quite a progression from the 2004 presidential election when George W. Bush campaigned on a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage.


GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The union of a man and woman deserves an honored place in our society. I support the protection of marriage against activist judges.


CAPEHART: Banning same-sex marriage wasn`t just part of the Republican Party platform. It was the party platform. And it is a progression from even a decade ago, when Zach Wahls, then a 19-year-old college student, spoke eloquently about his two mothers as he condemned an Iowa bill that aimed to end civil unions in the state.


ZACH WAHLS, IOWA STATE SENATOR: I`m not really so different from any of your children. My family really isn`t so different from yours. After all, your family doesn`t derive its sense of worth from being told by the state you`re married, congratulations.

No. The sense of family comes from the commitment we make to each other, to work through the hard times so we can enjoy the good ones. It comes from the love that binds us. That`s what makes a family.

So what you`re voting here isn`t to change us. It`s not to change our family. It`s to change how the law views us, how the law treats us.


CAPEHART: That was a beautiful remarkable moment. Just ten years later, it is remarkable how unremarkable same-sex marriage is for the overwhelming majority of Americans. And it`s remarkable how little the right seem to care about the Buttigiegs announcement.

Chasten told the "Washington Post" last month that pair had been trying to adopt for a year without success. "The Post" reports, quote, Chasten thinks sometimes about what they will tell their future child. We tried so hard for you. We waited so long for you. He fantasizes about taking a little one to Michigan, where they could romp through the woods and cast fishing lines with grandpa. He won`t have to fantasize much longer.

And joining us now is Iowa state senator, Zach Wahls. Senator Wahls, thank you very much for being here.

I would love for you to talk about the evolution that you`ve seen from how your mothers were treated ten years ago.

WAHLS: Well, good evening Jonathan. It is great to be with you to celebrate such an historic moment for the community. And to your point, it is certainly is a sea change of what we`ve seen over the last ten years, even though as you pointed out, we still have many, many battles that are being waged when it comes to some of the struggles that we`re seeing yet today.


WAHLS: It is good to know that when it comes to family, we are seeing nontraditional families -- two moms, two dads -- certainly no longer being the political wedge that they used to be.

Watching that speech from President Bush in 2004 certainly brought back memories of watching that speech myself and how scared and how isolating it felt at that time watching those words being said.

And it`s good to know that the secretary and Chasten`s child won`t have to grow up with that same type of fear mongering about their family.

CAPEHART: Senator Wahls, do you see any evolution in the Republican stance on LGBTQ issues? I mean, of course, there are Republicans out there who support LGBTQ equality. But the party writ large, has it evolved as much as the nation?

WAHLS: No, certainly not. And what you`re seeing of course is Republican leaders responding to where the American public is. They know that the American people support marriage equality, that the polling is extraordinarily clear on this. And that`s because advocates were able to make the case successfully, and to defend families like mine.

However, the war is far from over. Right here in Iowa, we saw 15 anti-LGBTQ bills introduced in the most recent legislative session, 13 of them targeting the transgender community.

That was tied (ph) to third most in the United States. And so even though we`ve seen good progress when it comes to marriage equality, we have a long ways to go with LGBTQ equality overall.

And we know that the Republicans are leaning into the culture war -- whether it is LGBTQ rights issues, whether it`s voting rights, where we`re continuing to see attacks right here in Iowa and across the country on these issues. We know that we have a long ways to go when it comes to protecting all families.

And if any of the viewers would like to learn more, they can follow me on Twitter or visit my Web site, to see what is happening right here in Iowa and how they can get involved. CAPEHART: You know, Senator Wahls, as I consider and think about the speech, the clip of the speech we just showed of you, and here we are in 2021 -- what would you say to Zach Wahls who`s, you know, 19, 18, 17, who`s watching right now, who is -- might have two parents of the same gender, who might be worried about their future -- the future of their family. What words do you have for them?

WAHLS: The same thing that I would have said to the eighth grade Zach watching in 2004 which is that it gets better but it doesn`t get better on its own. It only gets better because brave people stand up and are willing to fight for their values and define their families.

That`s happened in the arena of LGBTQ rights for generations. And I certainly today am standing on the shoulders of giants and people who came before.

And so even though it is difficult and even though there are moments where people feel isolated and alone, know that it does get better and it gets better when we work together to make that change happen.

And to that 19-year-old Zach, there`s a lot of work ahead of you, and you`re just getting started.

CAPEHART: And do you think, given the culture wars that we are in and the fact that you are an elected official, how confident are you that those of us who believe in the fact that, you know, equal justice under law and equality for all should apply to all of us, that we will be victorious in this war?

WAHLS: Jonathan, it`s not going to be a war that wins itself. I don`t want to sound like a broken record, but the only way that we`re going to win these struggles, whether it`s for affirming the inherent worth and dignity of all families including Pete and Chasten, whether it`s protecting the transgender kids who are being targeted in schools across America. It`s only going to be by coming together.

You know, I`m a Democrat because I believe that we all do better when we all do better. And I know that there are so many people in this country who share that vision for a more fair and prosperous America for all of us.

But these things are all connected. Right here in Iowa, we`ve seen attacks on voting rights. We know that there is a threat against Iowa`s model redistricting system and the scourge of partisan gerrymandering is very much a threat here in our state.

And so I certainly think that we have a lot of work to do. We have to keep our shoulders to the boulder. And we have to remember that these fights have to be won every generation, the work continues even though we may be winning this battle, the war goes on.

CAPEHART: Zach Wahls, Iowa state senator, thank you very much for joining us. Congratulations, Chasten and Pete.

That is tonight`s LAST WORD.

Don`t forget to catch me on "THE SUNDAY SHOW", every Sunday at 10:00 a.m. Eastern on MSNBC.



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

Day 213 of the Biden administration.

And we will indeed have a full look of the news of this day in just a moment.