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Transcript: The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, 8/23/21

Guests: Hakeem Jeffries, John Yarmuth, Lucas Kunce, Jay Jacobs

Summary

Democratic Congressman Hakeem Jeffries of New York is interviewed. Democratic Congressman John Yarmuth of Kentucky is interviewed. The latest guidance from the White House at this hour tonight is that a total of 53,000 people have been evacuated from Afghanistan. Kunce served two tours of duty in Afghanistan as a captain in the Marine Corps. In an article for the "Kansas City Star", he writes quote, "What happened last week was inevitable and anyone saying differently is still lying to you." One hour from now at midnight, New York`s Governor Andrew Cuomo will become a private citizen and New York`s Lieutenant Governor, Democrat Kathy Hochul will become New York`s 57th governor and its first woman governor.

Transcript

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel. I know there is a lot of news today and a lot of stuff to cover and the networks didn`t cover this.

But I watched Andrew Cuomo`s farewell speech today, which if you came in late, if you missed the part where he attacked the state attorney general. You would think it was a campaign speech for his campaign for governor, which he has $18 million to finance if he chooses to run for governor next year. Which as of now, he can do.

We have the -- the chair of the state Democratic Party joining us at the end of the hour. That`s going to be one question. Is Andrew Cuomo running for governor? Among many others.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, "TRMS": Lawrence, do you know offhand or will this come up in the interview, I guess, if he decided to try to play kingmaker and shunt that $18 million over to some other candidacy that he then blessed? Does he have the ability to do that? Or would that count as - - or would that be treated as like a campaign donation, you are not allowed to move it between candidates?

O`DONNELL: The place where he could move that much money is to the state Democratic Party. And I`m going to ask the chair if Andrew Cuomo should do that. He cannot move it to federal candidates because it`s raised under different laws and regulations within the state of New York. They have high -- they have higher contribution limits.

MADDOW: Uh-huh.

O`DONNELL: But he`s got $18 million there that he raised on a -- on a premise that you could now say was either fraudulent or -- you know, you could -- he`s not any longer capable of doing the job that he raised the money for. And to -- and so, the question what happens to that money?

Most people in New York politics at this point believe that that money, if it`s going to be used in campaigning, will be used in campaigning for Andrew Cuomo.

(LAUGHTER)

MADDOW: Well, that sounds like an excellent thing to talk to the chair of the New York Democratic Party about. I am glad that you are about to do that.

O`DONNELL: Well, we`re going to do it at the end of the hour. We got other stuff to do like Afghanistan and a few other things, including what is going on in the House of Representatives tonight. We have no idea. That`s the first thing we are going to go to.

MADDOW: All right. Thank you, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel.

Well, we have breaking news situation in the House of Representatives tonight. And the breaking news is we don`t know what`s going on. Luckily, we are going to be joined by a key member of Speaker Nancy Pelosi`s house leadership team, and also, joined by the chair of the House Budget Committee -- two key players in this. They`ll be joining us, in a moment, to give us an update on what was supposed to be the first vote tonight in the House on the Biden infrastructure plan. It was supposed to be a procedural vote on a budget resolution.

Here is what White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPORTER: What is your message to moderate Democrats who want to vote on the bipartisan infrastructure bill before they`ll vote on the 3.5 million - - trillion dollar budget blueprint? And why not just do the bipartisan deal first?

JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Well, first -- I would first say that the president has every intention of signing each of these pieces of legislation into law. And what I want to be clear with you all about is he supports Speaker Pelosi`s proposed path forward to get this process done.

I`d, also, note and you follow this all closely. But for those of you watching at home, this is a procedural vote. Important one. But there are a number of different ways forward here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: President Biden has been on the phone with some of the moderate House Democrats who want to vote on the bipartisan infrastructure bill that was passed by the Senate, before they cast their first procedural vote on the rest of the Biden infrastructure package that will be passed through budget reconciliation, which means it can then be passed in the Senate without any Republican votes.

Speaker Pelosi was reportedly hoping to push through a vote tonight on a budget resolution for the portion of the infrastructure bill that will be done, in the end, through budget reconciliation. But the resistance of a group of originally nine moderate Democrats, which has now grown to ten, is now turning what was supposed to be voting night in the House into what could be a long night of negotiations in the House.

And leading off our discussion tonight is Democratic Congressman Hakeem Jeffries of New York. He is the chair of the House Democratic Caucus.

[22:05:02]

Congressman Jeffries, thank you very much for joining us tonight.

You`re a member of the leadership team. What can you tell us about where Speaker Pelosi is at this hour and in her negotiations with that group of ten Democrats?

REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES (D-NY): Well, good evening, Lawrence. It`s great to be with you.

We had a robust discussion, family discussion amongst the House Democratic Caucus earlier today, so that members had an opportunity to articulate their perspectives.

It`s my sense that the overwhelming majority of members certainly support a parallel track approach. We want to make sure we get the bipartisan infrastructure deal done. At the same time, we want to make sure that the budget reconciliation package, which is an instrumental part of President Biden`s Build Back Better agenda related to other portions of the American Jobs Plan and the American Families Plan also gets over the finish line.

So, there`s some discussions in terms of trying to figure out how we can arrive at a agreed-upon rule that we can vote on. It`s my expectation that we will vote at some point this evening. And we can get the process moving forward.

O`DONNELL: Well, there`s less than a couple of hours left in this evening before we end up into what is called early-tomorrow morning. This -- this seems to have been dramatically slowed down by that group of nine, which over the weekend picked up another supporter. Now, it`s a group of ten.

Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey, Democrat, has been the leader, at least spokesman for that group. Let`s listen to what he had to say about this, this morning.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOSH GOTTHEIMER (D-NJ): I believe both will move forward and get done. I think we`ll work this out. You know, I`m ready to sit at the table and so are my colleagues, ready to sit at the table and figure this out and we can, right? This just makes sense to get both bills moving. We can do that.

You know, but -- but there`s no reason to wait four or five months or more sitting on this infrastructure package and risking that or threatening and holding it hostage like some of my colleagues are doing. That just doesn`t make sense.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: So, that sounded like he was ready to compromise, in some way, this morning. Has he proposed a compromise?

JEFFRIES: Well, I know he is in discussions with Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Hoyer. And hopefully, those discussions will bear some fruit sometime soon.

I think you`re exactly right, Lawrence, that what Josh has said publicly is similar to what he said privately, which is that while he has a disagreement in terms of the strategic approach and the pathway forward, he doesn`t disagree with the substantive need to enact the budget resolution framework in order to arrive in an agreement, so we can do things that support more robustly childcare and homecare and healthcare and elder care, investing in America`s children and families, along with the physical infrastructure part of the bipartisan agreement.

And so, I think that`s the hopeful thing that as Democrats, we`re all on the same page in terms of substance. We just need to figure out what the highest common denominator is going to be, as it relates to process, so we can get both of these things done and we will.

O`DONNELL: It sounds like Speaker Pelosi`s attempt or initial strategy to not do the bipartisan bill in the House until the basically Democrats-only version through budget resolution -- budget reconciliation -- which is a two-stage process has been completed which will take a couple months. Probably, October at the earliest.

It sounds like she doesn`t trust these ten Democrats and possibly other Democrats to show up when she needs them in October to vote on the budget reconciliation package if she lets them vote on the bipartisan pack -- package now.

JEFFRIES: Well, I think what`s important is that this is going to be a bicameral negotiation. It`s going to be the House and the Senate. And right now, the senators on the Democratic side have agreed to the resolution but there is still a lot of discussion that needs to take place in terms of the ultimate substance of the $3.5 trillion agreement.

And so, from my standpoint -- not speaking for anyone else -- you had senators like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren vote for the resolution, along with senators like Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin. That`s the least that we can do in the House of Representatives to get the process started.

And then, over the next few weeks, we can have a substantive discussion and negotiation about what the Build Back Better budget framework should look like before it gets enacted into law.

[22:10:01]

O`DONNELL: Congressman Jeffries, before you go, Andrew Cuomo has less than two hours left in the job as governor. He has followed your advice and everyone else in the New York congressional delegation who asked him to resign based on the accusations brought forward by the state attorney general on sexual harassment.

What should Governor Cuomo do now with the $18 million in campaign funds that he has in his campaign funds? Should he turn that money over to the state Democratic Party?

JEFFRIES: We`ll have to make some decisions about how to use those resources hopefully to elect other Democrats, moving forward. Help us keep our majorities in both the state legislative bodies, as well as in the House and the Senate. He will have to work through the legalities of that.

Right now, the most important thing is that we should all be falling in behind Kathy Hochul, our soon-to-be governor, supporting her because her success will be the success of the people of New York state.

O`DONNELL: Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, thank you very much for starting off our discussion tonight. Really appreciate it.

JEFFRIES: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: And joining us now is Democratic Congressman John Yarmuth of Kentucky. He is the chair of the House Budget Committee.

Mr. Chairman, I can see you sitting there eagerly on the edge of your seat waiting to get to work on this budget resolution, which is being slowed down at least by ten Democrats in the House who don`t want to vote on -- on moving toward a budget resolution. They just want to vote now on the bipartisan bill from the Senate. Get that done. And then, turn to the question of a budget resolution.

What`s wrong with that idea?

REP. JOHN YARMUTH (D-KY): Well, I think -- Lawrence, thanks for having me on. I describe my job over the last couple of months as cat herding, and that`s what I have been doing.

And you know, we -- we have -- we have moderates as those represented by the ten members who say let`s take a victory, and on the physical infrastructure bill. And then, we have dozens and dozens of progressives. I count myself among them, who say, no, we can`t set up a situation in which we say, okay, enough members will think that that is sufficient to vote on the physical infrastructure bill and not vote on what we consider the most visionary, futuristic part of the Biden agenda which is to create a human infrastructure in this country that provides daycare and early-childhood education and senior care, and deals with climate change and expands Medicare.

These are all things that represent what -- what I would describe as deficits in our society that are longstanding deficits that we need to act on. And that`s how many of my colleagues in the Democratic Caucus feel. So yes, it`s a game of chicken, in a sense. But it is also very, very important because as Chairman Jeffries I think very -- put it very well, we all agree on the ultimate goal here.

We have some people who say, for whatever reason, let -- we`ve got to do the -- the physical infrastructure first because that`s the easy part. That`s the bipartisan part. But we -- there are many, many more in the Democratic Caucus who say we have got a chance to make transformational change in this country that will address many longstanding needs.

And that we can`t allow -- we can`t essentially give even a small number of Democrats the option of saying, well, physical infrastructure is enough. And as you know, the number -- it`s all a numbers game. We have very -- very few votes to lose in -- in the House right now. It`s four.

So, we`re not going to get any Republican votes for anything we do. So, that`s where we are. And what -- what we`re -- what we`re saying to our members right now is in terms of the budget resolution, the reconciliation process, by which we can do all of these other things, it`s incredibly important initiatives that are not just part of the Democratic agenda but are part of the American agenda., that we need to make sure that we have that opportunity.

[22:15:03]

And what we`re saying is vote for the budget resolution. It is a -- it is basically shooting off a starting gun for process which will allow us to develop legislation that can ultimately pass the House, and then the Senate without a filibuster.

O`DONNELL: Chairman John Yarmuth, you said a lot there but the keywords and I think the audience caught the keywords were "game of chicken". That is what we are watching tonight.

(LAUGHTER)

O`DONNELL: I`m -- I`m betting on your side of getting to this, at some point, getting to a budget resolution on this and we really appreciate you joining us as this process goes forward.

Chairman John Yarmuth, thank you very much for joining us tonight. Really appreciate it. Thank you.

YARMUTH: Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: And coming up: as of tonight, the Biden administration has evacuated 48,000 people from Afghanistan after the Taliban took control of the country and the president of Afghanistan fled. That is 48,000 more people than the United States was able to evacuate the last time this happened in Vietnam, where exactly zero people -- zero people -- were evacuated after the North Vietnamese army took full control of South Vietnam and its capital city.

Our next guest who served two tours of duty in Afghanistan says that what we are seeing now in Afghanistan was inevitable. That`s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[22:20:37]

O`DONNELL: The latest guidance from the White House at this hour tonight is that a total of 53,000 people have been evacuated from Afghanistan -- 48,000 of those people were evacuated after the president of Afghanistan evacuated himself and the country fell under the complete control of the Taliban. With 53,000 people already evacuated, the Biden administration and the American military continue tonight, as they did last week, to manage the most successful evacuation from a war that America lost.

And the Washington press corps continues to portray that evacuation as a debacle. That is because most of them, if not all of them, were not old enough or not yet born the first time the United States lost a much bigger foreign war, and fled that country while being shot at by the people the United States then called the enemy, and who the United States now treats as one of its friends and trading partners in Asia.

Our relations with Vietnam are so friendly tonight that it is the next stop on Vice President Kamala Harris`s Asia trip. To call something a debacle suggests that there is a better way of doing it, and we know how to do it better. If you are rowing a boat in a hurricane and it sinks, do we call that a debacle? Or do we call that inevitable?

When you hear people calling the evacuation from Afghanistan a debacle, ask them compared to what? When has any country ever evacuated from a foreign war that they lost, in a way that is better than what we are seeing now? The answer is never. This is the best version of an evacuation from a lost war that the world has ever seen.

That doesn`t make it good. That doesn`t make it orderly. That doesn`t make it safe for everyone involved. But it does mean that nothing else was realistically possible.

In the White House press briefing room, in 1975, the day after the last American helicopter left Vietnam, Republican President Ford`s -- Gerald Ford`s press secretary, Ron Nessen, who he had inherited from the disgraced President Nixon who was forced to resign the office was asked what the reaction was to South Vietnam`s surrender North Vietnam to which the press secretary said, quote, given the military situation, this did seem to be the inevitable result.

No one in the White House press corps then asked why President Ford did not publicly say it was inevitable that the side we had been fighting for would surrender before they surrendered. Because the reporters were all adults then, who understood that the president of the United States, even if he believed it, could not publicly predict the surrender of the weak government we had been fighting for.

Then, in that 1975 press briefing in the White House, there was this question. Question: Are there any plans by the United States government to attempt to evacuate any other south Vietnamese now that all Americans have left? Mr. Nessen: no.

Question: There will be no further effort to bring out any South Vietnamese, is that right? Mr. Nessen: That is correct. Some South Vietnamese, I understand, are making their way by various boats out into the South China Sea. And I suspect they probably will be picked up.

Those people, at the time, were called boat people in our news coverage. Some of them drowned. Some of them were picked up.

And then, at that White House press beefing the day after the last helicopter left Vietnam, there was this question: is the president disappointed that he was not able to get between 100,000 and 200,000 out, as he had originally opened? Mr. Nessen: as many were evacuated as was realistically possible.

Question: Do you have any sort of figure on that? We have had figures all the way from 45,000 to 70,000. Mr. Nessen: It is not possible, yet, because some left on their own and have gone to various places, and there is no complete count.

[22:25:06]

No complete count. Realistically possible. As many were evacuated as realistically possible.

And no one challenged that. No reporters challenged that. Everyone accepted that there would be no complete count of how many people got out of Vietnam at the end of a war we lost. No one on the White House press corps believed they were better at evacuation logistics than the American military.

The American news media was not yet in the business of paying generals to come on TV and tell you that they are smarter than the current generals in command, and parenthetically, smarter than they, themselves, were when they were busy losing the Vietnam war or the war in Afghanistan.

Was the evacuation from Vietnam a debacle? Well, you could call it that. But we all knew, at the time, every day of our military involvement in Vietnam was a debacle and a moral disgrace.

During the evacuation, pilots in the South Vietnamese military flew helicopters we had given them to our aircraft carriers which were already too crowded servicing the American helicopters that were actually busy conducting the final days of the evacuation from Vietnam. And so, the American-built helicopters that we gave to the South Vietnamese army, that they used to save themselves were simply pushed off the aircraft carriers into the ocean. Now, you can see debacle in that imagery.

Or -- or you can see doing what was realistically possible. We`ve done this sort of thing only once in our history before last week, 46 years ago in Vietnam. We did it while the capital city of South Vietnam was falling under the control of the North Vietnamese army. And American soldiers were being shot at.

I told you the story last week of the last two American combat casualties in Vietnam. Two Marine buddies, Charles McMahon and Darwin Judge. They were killed the day before our last helicopter left Vietnam. They were killed in a rocket attack at the airport in Saigon.

The reason we were using helicopters instead of military transport planes is that the north Vietnamese controlled the airport after killing American soldiers to gain control of the airport. And so, the American military heroically did what was realistically possible. And what was realistically possible did not include bringing back the bodies of the final two American casualties of that war. Charles McMahon and Darwin Judge. Their bodies were left behind in a hospital in Saigon.

And no one criticized President Ford for that. No one attacked the American military for only doing what was realistically possible in that evacuation. The opponents of the war only wished that that evacuation had taken place years earlier. No one, so far, is shooting at the American military as they do what is realistically possible in the current evacuation.

And that is because the Biden state department has been negotiating with the Taliban about the evacuation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAKE SULLIVAN, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: We are engaging with the Taliban. Consulting with the Taliban on every aspect of what`s happening in Kabul right now, on what`s happening at the airport, on how we need to ensure that there is facilitated passage to the airport for American citizens, SIVs, third-country nationals, and so forth.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: That is something we did not do and could not do during the evacuation of Vietnam.

Here is more of what National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan had to say today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SULLIVAN: In the last 24 hours alone, 28 U.S. military flights have evacuated approximately 10,400 people from Kabul. In addition, 61 coalition aircraft have evacuated approximately 5,900 additional people. That is more than 16,000 people in 24 hours, and the flights are continuing, hour by hour, as we speak.

We believe we are making enormous progress. And taking a step back, a week ago, I don`t think almost anyone in this briefing room would have thought we`d be standing here today with 37,000 people already evacuated from the country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Enormous progress. That`s the phrase he just used. You will not see those words and headlines written by a news media that is committed to the debacle story.

The Biden administration has made enormous progress. Over the last time we did this in the evacuation from Vietnam.

[22:29:54]

The next time we lose a foreign war and flee that country, you will see these images again, because no one in history, no country has ever evacuated from a lost war without the kind of final images we saw in Vietnam and the final images we are seeing now in Afghanistan.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAKE SULLIVAN, WHITE HOUSE NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: No operation like this, no evacuation from a capital that has fallen into civil war could unfold without those images.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Let me be clear. The evacuation of thousands of people from Kabul is going to be hard and painful, no matter when it started or when we began. It would have been true if we had started a month ago or a month from now.

There is no way to evacuate this many people without pain and loss of heartbreaking images you see on television. It`s just a fact. My heart aches for those -- those people you see.

SULLIVAN: So, an evacuation operation in a dangerous situation was going to have to happen, at some point. And when you run an operation like that, when you are trying to position assets to go in and secure an airfield in a city that has been taken by opposing forces with a government that`s collapsed. Your contingency plan is going to hit head on, with reality. And there are going to be complexities and challenges and difficulties.

And you work through them. You make adjustments, and you ultimately get an operation going that is moving out thousands, if not tens of thousands, of people daily. That is what we have accomplished over the course of the week.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: And so, you can look at the evacuation from Afghanistan and say it`s a mess and chaotic, which it is. And you can look at the evacuation from Afghanistan and say it is the best organized evacuation by the American military and the State Department from a war we have lost which it is.

It is impossible to lose a foreign war and evacuate that country safely and honorably, leaving no one behind. That has never happened in human history. And it is -- was not going to happen in Afghanistan.

And the American news media`s naive presumption that the evacuation from Afghanistan could have run smoothly is part of the naive belief system in the American military`s invincibility that allowed the Afghanistan war to go on for 20 years.

Our next guest uses the word "inevitable" to describe what you are seeing in Afghanistan. That is the same word that the White House press secretary used on the last day of the Vietnam War to describe the surrender of the side that we had been fighting for there. "Inevitable". That`s what the White House called it in 1975.

Our next guest, Lucas Kunce served two tours of duty in Afghanistan as a captain in the Marine Corps. In an article for the "Kansas City Star", he writes quote, "What happened last week was inevitable and anyone saying differently is still lying to you."

Lucas Kunce, who is now a Democratic candidate for Senate in Missouri, will join us next.

[22:33:06]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIDEN: We`re working hard and as fast as we can to get people out. That`s our mission. That`s our goal. We are working diligently to make sure we`ve increased the ability to get them out. We`ve changed the gate operations and the whole range of things. And that`s why we have been able to significantly increase the number of people we are getting out.

So far, the Taliban has not taken action against U.S. forces. So far, they have, by and large, followed through on what they said in terms of allowing Americans to pass through and the like.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Joining us now is Lucas Kunce, a former Marine Corps captain who served two tours of duty in Afghanistan. He is now a Democratic candidate for Senate in Missouri.

Thank you very much for joining us tonight, Captain Kunce. I -- I -- you -- your piece, the article you wrote about this says that what we`re seeing there was inevitable. When did you think -- when did you come to believe that this was inevitable?

LUCAS KUNCE (D), MISSOURI CANDIDATE FOR U.S. SENATE: Yes. Hi, Lawrence. I can actually tell you the exact moment that happened. So, I learned Pashtu in the Marine Corps, the language of southern Afghanistan and I deployed to Afghanistan twice on Special Operations task forces.

And I remember the first time I was there. You know, I spoke to everyone when I was there -- Afghan security forces, normal, everyday people and even the Taliban.

And I was interviewing this Taliban guy in the Herat city penitentiary and I asked him sir, do you know why you are here? And he said, straight and firm, yes, because I was trying to kill me -- I was trying to kill you.

And I said, ok, and where do you think this is going to go? He`s like, well, you can either let me out and I`ll keep trying to kill me. Or you can keep me in here and one of these days, I`m going to be out because you guys are going to be gone.

And based on all my interactions with everyone else I had, I saw that, you know, this is when it is -- it`s going to happen. It`s inevitable.

You know, I was there in 2014. 13 years, we had been in Afghanistan and my unit and me were doing absolutely everything for the Afghan forces. We are doing their logistics. We were getting them ammo, food, all sorts of supplies.

And so, the idea that we`d stay seven years later and something would somehow change was absolutely wrong. It`s been inevitable for a long time and most people who are there would say the exact same thing.

O`DONNELL: How -- how surprised were you that the Afghan army basically collapsed almost instantaneously and the president fled?

KUNCE: I wasn`t surprised at all. In fact, the president fleeing is just iconic of what happened in Afghanistan -- actually, both for Americans and for Afghans.

[22:39:52]

KUNCE: You know, the people who paid the price for this war were normal, everyday human beings both in America and in Afghanistan. You know, we are the people who died. We`re the people who paid for the war.

And the people who really made out were the elites on both sides. You know, contract -- defense contractors here, Politicians who used the war to -- to get into office.

And then, on that side, you know, there -- there are all these commanders who would just take American money. Not push the food or supplies down to their troops. I don`t blame the troops there At all for what happened. They were undersupplied and underfed.

The elites made out here and it`s not surprising to me at all that when, you know, when push came to shove, they fled and what happened in Afghanistan happened.

O`DONNELL: The news media attached great respect, sometimes awe and hopes in various succession of commanders in these military operations in both Afghanistan and Iraq at different times. General -- General Petraeus comes to mind.

Was there ever a command change or a tactical change in Afghanistan after you served there that made you think, oh, this might work?

KUNCE: No, I think that this has been inevitable from the very beginning. And it was just -- you know, there was a systematic institutional lie in place that was, I think, perpetuated just to make sure that the American people believed that this investment in Afghanistan of, you know, 20 years, almost 2,500 U.S. service members` lives and $2.25 trillion was worth it so that we could keep staying there.

And they are perpetuating that on the news right now. They`re getting out there and almost saying that we need to go back because they are trying to somehow say that it was worthwhile. The same way that they are saying that Iraq was worthwhile, that the $6.4 trillion we spent over there was ok.

And you know, these are the same people that refused to spend just a fraction of that amount of money right here in America building up our infrastructure.

And so, for me, like -- like the real shock and surprise in this whole thing for me isn`t what`s happening there. It`s the fact that the American people didn`t realize that this was inevitable when so many military people on the ground did.

And the reason for that is because we have been lied to, over and over again about what was happening in Afghanistan, what their capabilities were and what we were getting for that investment.

We weren`t getting anything for that investment and it`s a real shame that places like where I grew up in Missouri are falling apart now. And they could have really used the investment, instead.

O`DONNELL: One of the huge advantages that this evacuation has over the evacuation from Vietnam is ongoing discussions with the Taliban, ongoing discussions with the other side that is allowing this to proceed, so far, in a way that is not -- you know, they`re not having to evade being shot at by the Taliban as they do that. That -- that`s a huge change over the way we left Vietnam.

KUNCE: Yes, look. I hope it stays that way. It`s -- it`s good right now for the military service members who I know are working around the clock. Literally, around the clock to make sure we get as many people out as we can.

And so, you know, the media`s super interested in this right now. Where was the media for the last five, ten years for Afghanistan? They weren`t there.

And my question now is how about for the next five or ten years, are they going to keep a highlight and a spotlight on what`s -- what`s going on in Afghanistan? So that the international community knows what`s happening and can pressure the Taliban to do the right thing?

Or are they just going to look at it right now, and then -- and then go ahead and leave? I don`t know. But I know what we need to do is keep a focus there so we can make sure to protect everyone as best we can who actually does have to stay and give them the best life possible.

O`DONNELL: Lucas Kunce, thank you very much for joining us tonight. I`d love to have you come back at some point to talk about your campaign for Senate in Missouri. Really appreciate you being here tonight.

KUNCE: That`d be great. I would love to come. Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

And coming up. At midnight tonight, Andrew Cuomo will be unemployed. But today, it sounded like he was running for governor, again. That`s next.

[22:43:53]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: One hour from now at midnight, New York`s Governor Andrew Cuomo will become a private citizen and New York`s Lieutenant Governor, Democrat Kathy Hochul will become New York`s 57th governor and its first woman governor.

If you came in late to Andrew Cuomo`s farewell speech today and missed the part where he complained about the state attorney general`s investigation of sexual harassment claims against him, you would think you were listening to Andrew Cuomo`s first campaign speech in his next campaign for governor.

He complained about unnamed Democrats who advocate defunding police even though no elected Democrats advocate defunding police. And he laid out the Cuomo agenda for New York`s future.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANDREW CUOMO (D), OUTGOING GOVERNOR OF NEW YORK: And we must demand that government continue to perform and achieve and accomplish. We have embarked on the most aggressive green energy plan in the nation -- not talk, action. Hundreds of projects all across the state starting now. New transmission lines for a green grid.

We are rebuilding our upstate airports. Buffalo is building back. A new LaGuardia airport, first new airport in the nation in 25 years. A new JFK Airport. A new Penn Station to end the hellacious conditions of Penn Station. More affordable housing than ever before.

These projects are underway and essential to complete quickly and effectively because they are literally building our future.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Joining us now, Jay Jacobs, New York State Democratic Party chair. Thank you very much for joining us tonight. Really appreciate it.

You know Andrew Cuomo well. You advised him to resign. What was that speech we were listening to today? Was that a campaign speech?

[22:49:50]

JAY JACOBS, CHAIRMAN, NEW YORK STATE DEMOCRATIC PARTY: Well, I think it was a farewell speech. I think that he -- he was looking to firm up his legacy and -- and remind voters of all of the accomplishments that he`s so proud of in the time that he`s been in office. I don`t think it was a campaign speech.

O`DONNELL: He -- one of his aides who`s also leaving office in almost as much disgrace as the governor issued a written statement today saying that Andrew Cuomo, quote, "has no interest in running for office again".

Now that is nothing close to a statement that Andrew Cuomo will not run for governor again. What about the scenario in which Andrew Cuomo runs as an Independent using his $18 million. He could be the best-funded gubernatorial candidate next time around, running against a Democratic nominee that could be Governor Hochul at that time or could be someone else and a Republican nominee. Andrew Cuomo in the middle, $18 million as an independent.

As the chair of the party, are you worried about that?

JACOBS: Well, you know, certainly that would not be a good scenario for the party. It wouldn`t be a good scenario in a primary. And it wouldn`t be a good scenario in a general election.

Let`s face it, you know, it kind of reminds me of when Teddy Roosevelt back in, I think, 1912 you know, went on -- became the Bull Moose Party because he couldn`t get the Republican nomination and went on to challenge Taft and ended up with Woodrow Wilson becoming president. So you never know what happens in a scenario like that.

I think that Andrew Cuomo believes in the Democratic Party. I believe him and I take him at his word that, you know, he is retiring at this point. And I`m hopeful that Governor Hochul when she comes in is going to do such a great job that that`s going to preclude all other possibilities.

Nobody is looking at it from the context that, you know, we have to see what the future is here. And you`re not going to see it until it happens. So when Governor Hochul takes office, I think she`s going to do a great job and all these other scenarios are going to just melt away.

O`DONNELL: What should Andrew Cuomo do with the $18 million that he has? He can`t distribute it to federal candidates because it`s raised under New York state rules, which are different.

He can give it to your party -- your state Democratic Party. Are you going to ask him for that $18 million?

JACOBS: Well, I can share the wiring instructions with him if he would like. We would be more than happy to take some of that money into the party.

Look, I think the governor hasn`t even thought of those kind of things. And my hope is that he is going to remain a productive and positive force in the party and in politics and his help with those funds and other assets certainly, you know, would be something we would appreciate.

O`DONNELL: But is that -- is that kind of morally acceptable to the New York state Democratic Party that Andrew Cuomo would sit there with the $18 million and dole it out to the people within the Democratic Party say in New York here and there that he favors in particular and possibly in a grudge match against others who he resents based on the way the last year of his career has worked out as governor?

JACOBS: Well, you know, depending upon, you know, what he does with it, you know, I could either live with it or not. I would say that $18 million is a lot of money to have in a campaign account, certainly if you`re not running for reelection.

I don`t expect him to be running for office again. I think that it would be helpful for him to give some of that money to the state party if he would like. But it`s certainly his prerogative and his, you know, his option to give it to whomever he chooses under New York state law, which candidates he chooses.

He`s limited in how he can spend the money. He might decide to give it to charity. He might -- and that would be a very good use of the money as well, giving it to causes that help people around the state, something that I think would enhance his image and his legacy.

O`DONNELL: Are you going to support Kathy Hochul as the Democratic nominee for governor in the next race?

JACOBS: Kathy Hochul and I have been friends a very long time. I think she`s going to be an excellent governor. As the state party chair at this moment in time, it`s not appropriate for me to give an endorsement. But I will tell you that I have every expectation that when the people of New York state get to meet Kathy Hochul, understand the type of leader that she`s going to be, they`re going to like her and I think that`s going to, you know, end the story in terms of, you know, what`s going to happen with the Democratic nomination.

But it`s all -- it`s all up to time, and we`ll see, you know, what the future brings us. But I feel very good about Kathy becoming our governor. And as I say, I think she`s going to be superb.

O`DONNELL: Jay Jacobs, thank you for your guidance in the last weeks of the Cuomo administration and we look forward to your insights about the Hochul administration. I really appreciate you being here tonight.

JACOBS: Thanks Lawrence. Thanks for having me.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

We`ll be right back.

[22:54:59]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: The report by the cyber ninjas about the election -- the presidential election in Arizona is going to be delayed now because three of the five cyber ninjas working on the analysis tested positive for the coronavirus and are reportedly quite sick.

The Republican recorder of Maricopa County, Stephen Richer, issued a 38- page open letter entitled "Dear Arizona Republicans" about the cyber ninjas. Mr. Richer calls the cyber ninjas, quote -- let`s see what that says after the quote -- yes there it is in the prompter. "Biased, inexperienced, incompetent, conspiracy-theory-driven, unscrupulous, and partisan". And he says "The ninja audit is an abomination that has so far eroded election confidence and defamed good people."

[22:59:58]

O`DONNELL: Republican Stephen Richer gets tonight`s LAST WORD and that word is "abomination".

"THE 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS" starts now.