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Transcript: The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, 9/1/21

Guests: Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA); Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-A); James Fellows; State Rep. Ilana Rubel (D-ID)


At least one of the critics of the evacuation from Afghanistan has finally noticed that the United States has never had a smooth and orderly evacuation from a war that we lost. In the state of Idaho, there are only four ICU beds available tonight out of nearly 400 yesterday. The Republican governor of Idaho, Brad Little, activated the National Guard to help hospitals with the COVID surge. Today the White House announced that President Biden will travel on Friday to Louisiana where he will survey the damage caused by Hurricane Ida, and meet with state and local leaders.



I`m just pondering that kind of news day. We`re never going to have one. It`s just never going to happen.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, "TRMS": I think we did once.

O`DONNELL: I feel like that. I feel like ten years ago, at the beginning of the show, there would be afternoons where we were wondering, okay, we know what the first two stories are but what else is there?

And you`d wonder are we going to do the thing about the kid in Oklahoma? No. Maybe. You know, it`s like -- it`s a very, very intense news world.

MADDOW: Indeed it is. Yeah, Remember like features? Remember being like oh, enterprise something and go find a story that nobody else has thought about because I have time to work on it. No, it`s just whack-a-mole.

O`DONNELL: And plan when you would show it. Plan when you`d do it. Let`s do it the week after next on Thursday night. And it would work. You could do that kind of thing.

MADDOW: I know. There is a parallel universe in which you and I are both doing shows like that and the news is like that. We look amazing, we both look 20 years younger and it`s like earth 7 and it`s over there.

O`DONNELL: You can find it somewhere in the corner of YouTube somewhere. It`s there.

MADDOW: Thank you, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel. Thank you.

Well, as you`ve heard from Rachel, a new Texas law that went into effect today is being accurately reported as banning abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy in direct violation of federal law as established by the Supreme Court in 1973. But the important reality is the Texas law is very likely to ban all abortions in Texas, in effect, because it puts every provider of abortion services, including the Uber driver who drives women to a clinic at legal risk of being sued for every abortion performed in Texas at any stage of pregnancy.

Anyone in Texas or anyone else anywhere else in the country can file a lawsuit in Texas now suing the receptionist at a clinic where an abortion has been performed. If it can be proved that the abortion was performed before a fetal heartbeat can be detected, then the receptionist defendant will win the case and be okay. But how is the receptionist defendant going to pay a lawyer in that case? How is everyone else working at the clinic going to be able to pay a lawyer when every single abortion performed at that clinic becomes the subject of a lawsuit as of one of them surely will.

Yes, they might successfully defend themselves in those lawsuits and prove that it was a legal abortion under this new law, but it will cost them a tremendous amount of money to do so. The new Texas law says that if the person who files the lawsuit wins, then the Texas receptionist has to pay damages and has to pay $10,000 for the attorney`s fees of the person who sued the receptionist. If the receptionist wins and everyone else at the clinic wins the lawsuits, their attorneys` fees will not be paid by the other party, according to this new Texas law.

The Texas law essentially invites an avalanche of lawsuits to bury every abortion services provider in Texas in litigation forever. There is no limit to the number of people who can sue over any individual abortion procedure. So, one abortion could bury the receptionist at the clinic and everyone else at the clinics in written interrogatories sent to them by dozens or hundreds of lawyers who are suing them over that one procedure.

They could then be forced to testify in depositions scheduled by dozens of lawyers suing them over the same event. The attorney fees in these situations would be incalculable. That is the risk faced by anyone in Texas who is considering helping in any way in the delivery of abortion services to anyone are no matter when the pregnancy and the abortion might have occurred.

The only person involved who the law prevents from being sued is the pregnant woman who has decided to end the pregnancy. This is the single most insane law written about abortion in the Republicans` decades-long quest to overrule and circumvent Roe v. Wade.


Civil litigation normally demands two things of the plaintiffs, one is standing and the other is damages. None of the plaintiffs who will sue Texas abortion providers will have suffered any damages as a result of the abortion. None. And none of them have standing to sue in any real legal sense, which essentially means a legal interest in the action that occurred, in this case that being the abortion.

This law is a travesty on its face and the Supreme Court of the United States has decided to do nothing about it. The Supreme Court could have ordered that the law not be enforced while appeals are being considered, but the Supreme Court has refused to do that, disgracing itself yet again.

The hope for the Supreme Court, not the design, but the hope was that it would be a body of legal scholars above politics. The design flaw from the start is that politicians appoint justices and so the Supreme Court has always been a political institution because it has always been the product of politics. But the public image that the Supreme Court has strived for, especially in the second half of the 20th century, is a scholarly group of men residing above politics. And I say men because we didn`t have a woman on the Supreme Court until 1981.

Harvard Law School and Yale Law School have done much to create the aura of scholarly wisdom at the Supreme Court by flooding the property with clerks from Harvard and Yale Law School every year and eventually mounting a virtual takeover of the bench itself. Only one of the current justices on the Supreme Court is not a graduate of either Harvard or Yale Law School.

Ted Cruz is a graduate of Harvard Law School. Josh Hawley is a graduate of Yale Law School. Bill and Hillary Clinton are graduates of Yale Law School. Barack Obama is a graduate of Harvard Law School. Those law schools produce some honorable lawyers, but they mostly high-priced corporate lawyers and they also produce politicians, some of whom end up on the United States Supreme Court.

And they end up on the Supreme Court by successfully navigating the politics of the confirmation process, something they begin navigating when they were in law school, they navigate that process in the United States Senate, which is in and of itself an anti-democratic institution. Each state gets two senators. That leaves Republicans overrepresented in the United States Senate.

The United States Senate creates an asterisk that must appear at the end of every sentence that calls the American government a democracy.

The number of United States Supreme Court justices fluctuated until 1869 when the number was set at nine in federal law. Those nine judges were the final judicial authority in a country of 38 million people and only 37 states in 1869. We now have 332 million people whose legal issues are far more complex than the legal issues that faced the 38 million people who were served by the nine justices of the Supreme Court in 1869.

If we had increased the Supreme Court in proportion to our population increases over time, we would now have 81 Supreme Court justices. When the Congress chose to have nine Supreme Court justices in 1869, there were only 74 senators. If we had increased the size of the Supreme Court in proportion to the United States Senate, we would now have 12 Supreme Court justices.

So the reasonable number of Supreme Court justices in 2021 as opposed to 1869 is somewhere between 12 and 81, but we still have nine. The political pressure on those nine very precious seats has intensified every day since 1869, and they are lifetime appointments. And so, the most important laws in the United States are written and rewritten depending on when elderly people on the Supreme Court die.

The death of a Supreme Court justice has become even more politically significant and momentous than the death of a president. When President Franklin Delano Roosevelt died in office in 1945, his vice president, Harry Truman, carried on and won World War II on the same schedule that FDR would have won the war.

When President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963, Vice President Lyndon Johnson carried on the agenda and its legislative agenda was possibly even more successful because of the emotional outpouring in the aftermath of the death of President Kennedy.


But when Ruth Bader Ginsburg died, she was replaced as quickly as possible by a judge who could spend even more years on the court than just Ginsburg did and spend every day trying to undo Ruth Bader Ginsburg`s life`s work. When a Supreme Court justice dies, hundreds of millions of people do not know what that means for the rights the Supreme Court has been protecting for them. When a Supreme Court justice, Americans do not know what rights they might lose because of that.

And so, tonight, because some Supreme Court justices retired at the right time and other Supreme Court justices died at the wrong time, women in Texas who have been raped, women in Texas who are pregnant because their fathers or their uncles or their brothers made them pregnant will not be able to end those pregnancies because the judges put on the Supreme Court by George W. Bush and Donald Trump have shown no concern for what happens to the victims of rape and incest in Texas.

This is exactly what Republican presidents have all run on since Roe v. Wade. If you voted for George W. Bush, if you volunteered to work on his campaign, this is what you voted to, what you worked for. If you worked for Donald Trump, volunteered to work on his campaign, this is what you worked for.

Those politicians and every one of the voters who supported those politicians put the politicians on the Supreme Court who are threatening your rights tonight.

Leading off our discussion, Cecile Richards, the former president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. She`s currently co-chair of American Bridge 21st Century. And Dahlia Lithwick, senior editor and legal correspondent for and host of the podcast "Amicus".

Cecile, let me begin with you as a Texan yourself and someone who has been heavily involved in the delivery of pregnancy services of all sorts for many years, what is the impact in Texas tonight?

CECILE RICHARDS, CO-CHAIR, AMERICAN BRIDGE 21ST CENTURY: It`s devastating, Lawrence. And you really laid out the case. About 7 million women of child bearing age in Texas lost their right to make their own decisions about their pregnancy last night at midnight. And, as you said, the Supreme Court has done absolutely nothing about it.

This is the first state since Roe versus Wade was decided that has actually made abortion basically completely illegal. And I`ve been talking to my friends that run health centers in the state and the stories are heart breaking. This is a cruel, devastating bill for women, for their families and it`s just the beginning because this is not by chance. This has been the Republican Party`s agenda for a long, long time. And if the Supreme Court doesn`t take action and this bill or this law is allowed to stand, it is going to create a ripple across the country and a right that women have had for almost 50 years in this country, we are losing.

O`DONNELL: Dalia, my point about the legal threat to all abortions in Texas, it rests on this notion -- if someone gets an abortion in Texas now and let`s say it`s four weeks in, it`s a completely legal abortion according to the current law, anyone can sue the clinic for having provided that abortion, go through a very expensive legal discovery process in which after some months or a year or so they discover, aha, this abortion was actually legal and we lose the lawsuit. But all of the costs of the lawsuit are still going to be there, even for what would be a legal abortion under this law in Texas.

DAHLIA LITHWICK, SR. EDITOR & LEGAL CORRESPONDENT, SALON.COM: That`s all correct, Lawrence. There`s a few other things, not only is it the case that that clinic can be sued, they can be sued in any jurisdiction in Texas, which means they might have to go back and forth to some jurisdiction that`s hours away to defend the suit. They can be sued by anyone in the United States. You don`t have to be a Texan to bring this lawsuit. And there`s a provision of the law that doesn`t get enough attention, Lawrence, that certainly suggests that if a clinic or provider has been found by a court to have provided an unlawful abortion, that clinic can be shut down altogether.


And the best evidence of how this is intending to chill clinics and providers is the fact that clinics and providers stopped providing services last night at midnight, they all stopped providing any services because they are well aware that the intention of this law, in addition, as you say, to conscripting every neighbor, Uber driver, every counselor, everybody who wants to sue a clinic is now attorney general for the state of Texas. But in addition to that, every clinic is terrified because they`re going to bear the burden of dozens and dozens of meritless lawsuits that they will have to defend, and as you said at the top, even if they win, they don`t recover costs.

O`DONNELL: And, Cecile, they make very clear that abortions performed because of rape or incest do not get any special treatment in this law, that someone who is the victim of incest can go for abortion services in Texas and that will now provoke a lawsuit because that person who was raped by a relative, say, wanted an abortion.

RICHARDS: Exactly. And it just almost impossible to wrap your head around this. The thing that is in addition so distressing, Lawrence, is it`s not that this -- because of this law, it`s not that abortions won`t exist in Texas. They simply won`t be legal and they won`t be safe. And this is why Roe versus Wade was decided the first time, almost 50 years ago, was because young, healthy women were routinely dying in emergency rooms across this country.

And we cannot go there again. And the piece of the law that also is so terrifying is for women who are scared now who know abortion is no longer legal and accessible, women with low incomes, women in rural Texas, they`re going to be afraid to ask for help to find an abortion provider. The chilling effect this has on women particularly who have the least access to resources and the care is devastating.

And again, those are the stories I was hearing today of them showing up the clinics, who doesn`t have the ability to go to another state, who don`t have the resources to fly somewhere else. Many have children already. This is heartbreaking, but I will tell you, it is lighting a fire across this country and not just with women.

You know, I know Dalia is following all of this so closely. We`re going to have a case before the Supreme Court in Mississippi essentially this fall that would undermine Roe as well. Finally folks are waking up and realizing if this can happen in Texas, it can happen anywhere.

O`DONNELL: Yeah, let`s note with so many laws, it doesn`t have to be written in. But the rich are exempt to this law. They can just fly out of Texas and even people with reasonably modest means will be able to fly out of Texas. So there`s a money exemption built into this.

I want to read a passage from "New York Times" reporting on this. It says - - this is quoting a doctor in Texas now dealing with this. It says "If this was a criminal ban, we`d know what this is and what we can and cannot do, Dr. Rubino said, but this ban has civil implications that requires a lawyer to go to court, that requires lawyer fees and $10,000 if we don`t win. What happens if everybody is sued, not just me.

My staff is nervous. They`ve been asking what about our families?

And, Dahlia, it seems to me, that is exactly the design of the law, terrify everyone working in that clinic, including the receptionists, about what their attorney`s fees will be and how that will wipe out their families.

LITHWICK: I think that`s exactly right, Lawrence. The design of the law is to show our clinics, it is use words like aid and abet an abortion without any description of what aiding and abetting means. It really does tag the Uber driver. It does tag the counselor who talks to you about it.

And, ultimately, I think this is so important. This is happening in an emergency order. This hasn`t been briefed, it hasn`t been argued, this hasn`t been in any way fleshed out in the lower courts. The Supreme Court is treating this as though it is a case that has been fully litigated at the lower courts, nothing of the sort. All we`re doing is having an emergency order that isn`t actually coming down.


It is determining whether millions of women in Texas have access to a constitutional protected abortion.

O`DONNELL: Dahlia Lithwick and Cecile Richards, thank you very much for starting off our discussion tonight.

LITHWICK: Thank you.

RICHARDS: Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

Coming up, Chairman Adam Schiff who now serves on the select committee investigating the January 6th insurrection will join us next on what that committee wants to know about some Republican lawmakers` communications with Donald Trump on January 6th. And also, Kevin McCarthy`s threat to telecommunication companies if they cooperate with the investigation.

Adam Schiff joins us next.


O`DONNELL: Today, the president of Ukraine got the White House meeting Donald Trump dangled as a reward if Ukraine had agreed in 2019 to Donald Trump`s bribe, in effect, that Ukraine help Donald Trump hurt Joe Biden`s presidential campaign, which became the basis of Donald Trump`s first impeachment.


Here`s the Ukrainian president this afternoon in the Oval Office with the president of the United States.

And Donald Trump`s first impeachment trial for bribery, the president of Ukraine, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff issued this warning.


REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): He is a danger to the country because he will do it again, and none of us can have confidence based on his record that he will not do it again because he is telling us every day that he will.


O`DONNELL: Less than a year after Adam Schiff`s warning at the urgings of Donald Trump, the Trump mob attacked the Capitol and entered that same chamber where Adam Schiff was speaking, the United States Senate, to stop the certification of Joe Biden`s presidential election.

Donald Trump then made history as the first president to be impeached twice and the first president to be found guilty in the Senate trial by members of his own party. Tonight, the United States Capitol police say they are closely monitoring activity around a planned September 18th rally in support of the Trump criminal defendants who attacked the capitol on January 6th.

It comes as the select committee is investigating the communications Donald Trump and some Republican members of Congress had on January 6th and Kevin McCarthy is threatening telecommunications companies not to cooperate with the congressional investigation.

Joining us now is Adam Schiff, chairman of the House Intelligence committee and a member of the House Select Committee investigating January 6th.

Thank you very much for joining us tonight, Mr. Chairman.

I wanted to get your reaction to Kevin McCarthy`s threatening of parties who you as investigators have been in contact with about your investigation.

SCHIFF: Well, first, Lawrence, I just want to say how refreshing it is to see Zelensky finally get that White House meeting and with President Biden. After all, it was Trump`s effort to try to sneer Biden, to try to weaken him as a political opponent that ended up getting him impeached and he did so by withholding hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid that Zelensky desperately needed to fight off the Russians. So, very refreshing to see that meeting take place and to take place with Joe Biden.

In terms of McCarthy, McCarthy understood even as we were investigating the president`s Ukraine -- President Trump`s Ukraine malfeasance a couple years ago, that Donald Trump was guilty, but nonetheless, he and the Republicans in the Congress at the time defended the president and tried to thwart our investigation, even though we all understood that if he wasn`t stopped, he would do it again or worse and, in fact, that`s what happened.

So what McCarthy is doing now by issuing the statement threatening the telecoms if comply with a lawful process by select committee, he will punish them if he should be the speaker one day. It goes to show you nothing has changed for McCarthy. He`s still protecting the former president. It`s still a cult in that party around this former failed president.

And the fact he would go to such length as to threaten the telecoms shows how desperate he is in the former president`s defense. But it`s an egregious violation I think of ethics and it shows yet again with Kevin McCarthy will never be permitted to go anywhere near the speaker`s office. We have to make sure we maintain a Democratic majority in Congress.

O`DONNELL: I just want to dwell on this McCarthy threat because it comes from a legislative body. His power, if he were to become speaker, would be legislative. So he`s saying if you comply, if you telecommunications companies comply with legal process, we will write a law and we will pass a law that we would not pass. We wouldn`t do this at all, we wouldn`t even think about it as long as you didn`t comply with legal process. But if you do, we will write a law that will have to be about something like taxation or some regulation of telecommunications in a way that is -- that they haven`t even contemplated. He doesn`t even know what it is. He couldn`t even announce what the actual legislation would be.

But what he`s clearly saying is this legislation isn`t necessary, there`s no reason to do it. The only reason we would do it is as some kind of vindictive act against companies that complied with the law.

SCHIFF: Well, that`s exactly right. And here he is following again the form of his boss from Mar-a-Lago. Trump when he was in office also threatened the telecoms because he didn`t like when there was sort of adverse feedback on social media about him. So he threatened, for example, to repeal the immunity from liability that the telecoms enjoy.


Now, there may be good reasons to do that, but punishing them because he doesn`t like their content isn`t one of them.

And here it`s almost more egregious from McCarthy because you have Congress, the very branch in which he is serving on a bipartisan basis telling these companies preserve these records because we may need them in our investigation, and he`s threatening them because they`re going to be asked to comply with legal congressional process.

He`s essentially trying to undermine his own branch to protect this former president. It shows just what a sacrifice of our own institutional interests McCarthy is willing to undertake to protect this would-be autocrat.

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: What can you tell us about the pace of the committee`s investigation of January 6th? What can we expect next?

SCHIFF: Yes. I mean we are working as expeditiously as we can. We`ve been hiring new staff. We`ve been mapping out our next hearings or hearing.

We`ve been -- as you can see, issuing a broad series of requests for information and preservation letters. When you compare how quickly we have assembled ourselves and are moving forward compared to, for example, the 9/11 commission, we`re moving with pretty break neck speed.

Now, I think it`s in part because we feel a real sense of urgency here. The country is still not out of the woods. The very forces that brought about January 6th continue and as you were pointing out, Republicans in Congress are now trying to turn these criminals who attacked the Capitol, terrorists who attacked our law enforcement and bludgeoned them as some kind of political prisoners and heroes.

So these lies go on, the very lies that resulted in January 6th continue to be propagated by McCarthy and Marjorie Taylor Greene and Cawthorn and all these people. So this is really quite urgent but we`re also determined to be very thorough which is apparently what frightens McCarthy.

O`DONNELL: Chairman Adam Schiff, thank you very much for joining us tonight.

SCHIFF: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

Coming up, at least one of the critics of the evacuation from Afghanistan has finally noticed that the United States has never had a smooth and orderly evacuation from a war that we lost. That`s next.



O`DONNELL: Robert O`Brien was Donald Trump`s fourth national security adviser. He is one of the least qualified national security advisers in the history of that position. And he is of course, a critic of the withdrawal from Afghanistan. And he went to a very strange place today to deliver his criticism.


ROBERT O`BRIEN, FORMER TRUMP NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: President Trump made it very clear in the Oval Office on numerous occasions to General Milley, to myself and to others no Saigon-style withdrawal from of a Afghanistan. President Trump wanted to get out of Afghanistan, we wanted to pivot to China, the existential threat for our country, but we were going to get out Afghanistan with honor and dignity. So no Saigon style departure and unfortunately that`s what we had.


O`DONNELL: Two things to note about that, finally a critic of the evacuation is admitting that the same sort of things that happened the last time we evacuated from the war that we lost in Vietnam happened in Afghanistan.

But he did it at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library, a monument built to honor a criminal. Richard Nixon lied his way into the White House in 1968, claiming to have a secret plan to end the war in Vietnam. The war went on for seven more years.

By the time we were evacuating, Richard Nixon was in California avoiding prosecution for federal crimes because he was pardoned by President Gerald Ford after Richard Nixon resigned the presidency.

Joining us now are Democratic Congressman Ruben Gallego of Arizona. He is a Marine Corps combat veteran and served in Iraq. And he`s a member of the House Armed Services Committee. And James Fellows is with us. Staff writer for "The Atlantic" and a former speech writer for President Jimmy Carter.

Congressman, let me begin with you. That setting, Richard Nixon`s library, which is where the worst crimes -- that`s the president who committed the worst crimes of the Vietnam War, that`s the place where Robert O`Brien decided to say we shouldn`t -- we weren`t going to have an evacuation that looked as bad as what happened in Vietnam because he somehow believes that he was going to figure out how to withdraw from a war that we lost in an orderly and safe way.

REP. RUBEN GALLEGO (D-AZ): Look, it`s just a fact, 20-year wars do not end well, especially wars where you liberate 5,000 prisoners right before the withdraw deadline and cut a deal with the Taliban that`s fairly favorable.

No matter who was going to be in charge, certainly this was not going to go well. The deal that, you know, President Trump arranged was certainly did not set up for it to go well.

At the end of the day, the most important thing is that we got out. No, I do agree could evacuations have gotten better? Maybe. I think there are certain things we could have done.

At the end of the day, we can`t deny that this war was always going to end badly. The real basis of what was occurring throughout the country for 20 years really fed into I think at the end of the day this mass evacuation of people who just did not trust the Afghan government to look out for them. And it really is, you know, incumbent upon all of us to recognize that.

And lastly, you know, the O`Briens of the world, the Petraeuses of the world, the McMasters of the world -- all these people are now trying to come up with these like alternative reality of how Afghanistan could be.

It should really be called culprit (ph) because they are part of the problem. They`re part of the reason why we`re here. They hid from the public how weak and frail the Afghan government was.


GALLEGO: They continued to tell us that we`re about to turn the corner. When the fact is we never turned a corner, we just eventually just gave up. And I think that`s actually the best situation we could have found ourselves in unfortunately.

O`DONNELL: James Fellows, it was odd for me, as you can imagine, to see Robert O`Brien sitting in the Nixon library of all places talking about America`s evacuation from a war that we lost.


I think that was -- as you and I discussed last week, the scale comparisons between the fall of Saigon and all the carnage that followed that and the evacuation of Kabul in the last month are entirely of different scales. I think it was interesting the way Mr. O`Brien would still make that comparison because as time has gone on and I think as President Biden was saying in his remarks yesterday, it is sinking in what the U.S. managed to accomplish in a terrible situation.

The terrible situation is losing a war. The accomplishment is being able to get as many people out as were gotten out and the contrast to the urban war that was going on in the streets of Saigon at the time is clear. And that hen you`ve pointed out many times.

O`DONNELL: Congressman, Jim Fellows and I, who were old enough to remember watching on TV the evacuation from Saigon, I was a college student at the time. We had reason to believe we would never see that again because the lessons of Vietnam, we thought or many of us thought were learned by 1975 and we would never go into a war like that again.

Turns out those lessons didn`t last long enough. What are the lessons that we should be learning now?

The most important lesson is that if you`re going to commit your country to war, you should actually commit your whole country to war. We actually did not really fight a war as a nation. We expected the one-tenth, the 1 percent of the American public, you know, that produces sons and daughters to the military to fight this war.

We hid the remainder of the war through Special Forces, and basically, you know, even the media ignored it basically until the last three weeks.

There was this unwritten alliance between I think a lot of the think tankers and, you know, more pro-war hawks that basically they thought they could just continue to have this silent war and not have to admit defeat until, you know, democracy caught up

And democracy said and people spoke out and said we want to get out of this war and they were shocked that, you know, politicians followed up with it. Well, you know, in the end if you want to have a long-lasting war, then you actually have to have people that want to commit to it.

But that is against the idea I think of the history of this country. That`s not in our nature. And in the future I hope we recognize that we`re not an occupying force.

And if you are and you really truly need to have a commitment from the public and not have this haphazard policy where we hope that, you know, the rest of the public forgets about these oversea adventures.

O`DONNELL: James Fellows, what are the lessons you think we should learn?

FELLOWS: So I could not agree more than I do with the Congressman`s remarks. You may remember, Lawrence, five years ago I published a cover story in "The Atlantic" called "Chicken Hawk Nation" about a nation that was willing to do anything for its military except take them seriously. That is salute the heroes and then have all the other -- the answers but not think seriously about the missions to which we are committing this small fraction of our population.

In the last 20 years it is fewer than 1 percent of the entire U.S. population that has served in any point in either Iraq or Afghanistan. And it is natural that when the costs are deflected from a country as a whole that the nation is not careful about how it uses its military force and we should be more careful.

O`DONNELL: James Fellows and Congressman Ruben Gallego, thank you both very much for joining us tonight.

FELLOWS: Thank you.

GALLEGO: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

And coming up, in a state where there are only four -- four ICU beds available in the entire state, some Republicans are still trying to help the coronavirus fill up those ICU beds. That`s next.



O`DONNELL: Today the United States reported 212,924 new cases of coronavirus, a 5 percent average increase in the last two weeks. And today the United States reported 1,916 deaths from coronavirus, an 8 percent average increase in the last two weeks.

In the state of Idaho, there are only four ICU beds available tonight out of nearly 400 yesterday. The Republican governor of Idaho, Brad Little, activated the National Guard to help hospitals with the COVID surge.


GOVERNOR BRAD LITTLE (R-ID): My fellow Idahoans, yesterday evening I toured a nearly full ICU wing in Boise. What I saw was heartbreaking. Among the COVID positive patients, all of them were unvaccinated.

I wish everyone could have seen what I saw in the ICU last night. Please choose to receive the vaccine now to support your fellow Idahoans who need you.


O`DONNELL: Idaho has vaccinated only 39.3 percent of the population. In the last month, new COVID cases in Idaho increased by 164 percent and COVID hospitalizations increased by 166 percent. Yesterday 32 deaths from COVID- 19 were reported in Idaho, the highest in eight months.

Joining us now is the minority leader of the Idaho state house, Democratic State Representative Ilana Rubel. Thank you very much for joining us tonight. What has the Republican legislature there done to help the fight against COVID-19?

STATE REP. ILANA RUBEL (D-ID): Well, not enough to help the fight against COVID-19 but as you noted in your intro, we are at the worst point of crisis we`ve been at since COVID hit America.


RUBEL: We have the highest hospitalization, highest ICU occupancy rate. There are basically no (AUDIO GAP) and we`re on the brink of implementing crisis standards of care, full-on rationing of health care, kind of the death panels that Sarah Palin threatened were coming one day. They are here in Idaho now.

But what we`re seeing our legislature do, GOP-dominated legislature wants us to come in for an emergency session not to figure out how we can get more resources to address the pandemic but to pass a law banning our health care providers from requiring vaccines for their personnel.

Right now, we have various private employer across the state who are requiring their employees, doctors and nurses and others to be vaccinated. But legislature is talking about coming back in to ban those vaccine requirements.

So to me it`s a little stunning that we`re looking at these numbers and there are folks concluding from this that our top priority should be to remove vaccine incentives.

O`DONNELL: What should Idaho be doing now?

RUBEL: Well, certainly, you know, I`m grateful that our health care providers are taking the health of their patients seriously, and ultimately I think it`s their prerogative to make decisions. You know, they make all kinds of decisions. They might require people to wear masks and gloves and, you know, it`s been long standing practice for them to require personnel to take other -- to have other vaccines.

So at the very least I think we need to let health care experts do their business and we need to let communities do their business. There was also really a push during session I think we`re going to see again to ban school boards, to ban local governments from taking precautions.

And you know, our governor elected never to do a statewide mask mandate but I would at least like to see local governments have the freedom to do what they think is necessary for their communities.

And there`s really an appetite on the part of the legislature to crack down on anybody at any level of government that wants to take precautions.

O`DONNELL: What happens if and possibly when all those ICU beds are full?

RUBEL: It`s a terrifying prospect. I mean we`re already seeing -- you know, right now, they`ve put a freeze on all, what they called, elective procedures. But those aren`t necessarily very elective. I mean if you have cancer and you need a tumor removed, you can`t have that procedure right now because those have all been put on a freeze to make room for all the COVID patients.

If it gets to -- I think it`s very likely we`re going to hit as I said -- we`re going to hit crisis standards of care. They`re going to put in standards where they`re going to look at how old you are and how many years of life they think you have left and they`re going to decide whether you get care based on whether you meet those criteria, you know and the triage criteria they have is whether they let you in for any care at all.

So it`s not just hitting the unvaccinated, this is going to hit people who are in car crashes, and have strokes and heart attacks and other health problems.

O`DONNELL: Idaho State Representative Ilana Rubel, thank you very much for joining us tonight.

RUBEL: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: We`ll be right back with tonight`s LAST WORD.



O`DONNELL: Today the White House announced that President Biden will travel on Friday to Louisiana where he will survey the damage caused by Hurricane Ida, and meet with state and local leaders.

NBC Miguel Almaguer spoke to us earlier about the situation in Louisiana.


MIGUEL ALMAGUER, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Lawrence, good evening. The damage you see behind me is relatively widespread in parts of Louisiana but really it`s the damage that you don`t see that`s also adding to the heartbreak.

Tonight, this is the misery after the mayhem. The lines for basic services, food, fuel, water and ice, stretching for hours in communities where Ida`s devastation is no match for its aftermath.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s hard. It`s hard for everybody out here.

ALMAGUER: On a day where sweltering temperatures reached dangerous levels - -

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It`s hot. It`s hot.

We have people in their 80s and 90s here, it`s hot.

ALMAGUER: St. Martin Manor, a senior community in New Orleans, home to 150, is still in the dark. Disabled residents forced into the lobby as rooms easily top 100 degrees.

74-year-old Joanne Moss suffers from severe asthma. For three days unable to power her breathing machine.

How much longer do you think you can last here?

JOANNE MOSS, ELDERLY PATIENT: I can`t. I can`t last. I can`t.

ALMAGUER: Is this life and death for you?

MOSS: Yes, it is.

ALMAGUER: Power across Louisiana is still out to roughly one million homes and businesses. Today energy was restored to more than 11,000 in New Orleans, just a fraction of those in dire need.

It could be weeks before the mangled, shredded power grid is restored.

Today our Morgan Chesky flew alongside the governor who toured the hardest hit communities who were on an island and off the grid.

MORGAN CHESKY, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: To the folks who are here, they`ll be without power for more than a month, what do you tell them?

GOVERNOR JOHN BEL EDWARDS (D-LA): Well, first of all, I`m not certain that that`s going to be true for everyone. We already saw some lights coming back on in New Orleans today. I think the momentum is going to build every day.

But there are some places where the infrastructure is so devastated particularly in the (INAUDIBLE) in Terrebonne Parish --

CHESKY: What do you tell those folks?

EDWARDS: We`re going to do everything we can to help them.

ALMAGUER: For a region battered and bruised, the uninhabitable still face the unimaginable. Many coastal homes were swept into the ocean.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ida made Katrina look like warm summer breeze. Yes. I was not anticipating. This is craziness.

ALMAGUER: Tonight, what`s left of some communities, a painstaking reminder of what`s gone.

Tonight, authorities are also warning about more troubling news. At least a dozen people, including some children, have been hospitalized after carbon monoxide poisoning. People who do not have power in their homes are running generators powered by gas far too close to their homes, say authorities.

Lawrence, back to you.



O`DONNELL: NBC`s Miguel Almaguer, thank you.

That is tonight`s LAST WORD.