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Transcript: The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, 9/16/21

Guests: Hakeem Jeffries, Mary Trump, Gene Sperling, Conor Lamb, Stuart Stevens


The new book "Peril" revealed that Paul Ryan as speaker of the House consulted psychiatry papers about narcissistic personality disorder to try to figure out how to deal with Donald Trump. Interview with Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY). Republicans in Pennsylvania are trying to launch the largest attack on privacy in the history of American state legislatures.



And I have on the desk tonight the book "Peril." It seems like every other week, there is a new book of great import. This is by my count Bob Woodward`s 14th book on the presidency and his first book co-authored with Robert Costa.

We`re going to be discussing it tonight because of the revelations that are now being focused on in some media reports about Paul Ryan as speaker of the House consulting psychiatry papers about narcissistic personality disorder to try to figure out how to deal with Donald Trump.


O`DONNELL: So, Mary Trump, who has made a lifetime study both professionally and otherwise of Donald Trump in this problem, is going to take us through what she -- what would be her perspective on what Paul Ryan must have experienced with Donald Trump.

MADDOW: Yeah. She`s the in the Venn Diagram, like she`s the only person in the overlap between trained mental health professional and lifelong observer from childhood of Donald Trump. She`s the one. She`s like the bookable person on this.

O`DONNELL: Yeah. And she`s -- it just makes her the invaluable perspective on Donald Trump. It was just so lucky that she chose the educational path she chose and is such a smart talker and great writer about it. So we`re lucky to have her tonight.

MADDOW: Awesome. Thank you, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW: Well, Bob Woodward and Robert Costa`s new book "Peril" reveals that after Donald Trump was elected president, Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan consulted a doctor and studied psychiatric research to figure out how to deal with Donald Trump since Trump was so obviously mentally unstable.

In their book, Woodward and Costa report, quote, once Trump won, Ryan was caught off guard. He now had to deal with him. Ryan began, on his own, to research how to deal with someone who is amoral and transactional. The exercise initially was difficult. Ryan liked to call himself a policy guy, but his wonkiness did not extend from the realm of Social Security and Medicare into psychiatry.

Then, a wealthy New York doctor and Republican donor called Ryan and said, you need to understand what narcissistic personality disorder is. What? What, Ryan asked. The doctor sent Ryan a memo and an email with his thoughts on how to best deal with a person with anti-social personality disorder.

He also sent along hyperlinks to dense articles in The New England Journal of Medicine. The memo contained material from the international statistical classification of diseases and related health problems, 10th edition, called "ICD-10." Ryan studied them for weeks, convinced Trump had the personality disorder.

Ryan`s main takeaway, do not humiliate Trump in public. Humiliating a narcissist risked real danger, a frantic lashing out if he felt threatened or criticized.

On a visit to Trump Tower on December 9, 2016, Paul Ryan found the president-elect incapable of concentrating on anything. Quote, Trump nodded as Ryan spoke earnestly about taxes and health care, then looked down at his cell phone, which was ringing. It was Sean Hannity of Fox News.

He answered the call as Ryan and his advisers sat silent. Yeah, I`m here with Paul, Trump told Hannity. Oh, you want to talk with him? Trump looked at Ryan, then put the call on speaker phone. Sean, talk to Paul, he told the host, and Hannity did for about seven minutes.

We don`t know whether Paul Ryan`s study of Donald Trump`s personality disorder included listening to the psychiatrists who appeared on this program to discuss that very subject beginning exactly one month into the presidency on February 21st, 2017.


JOHN GARTNER, PSYCHOLOGIST: If we could construct a psychiatric Frankenstein monster, we could not create a leader more dangerously mentally ill than Donald Trump.


He`s a paranoid, psychopathic narcissist who is divorced from reality and lashes out impulsively at his imagined enemies. This is someone, as you mentioned, who is handling the nuclear codes.

LANCE DODES, PSYCHIATRIST: He lies because of his sociopathic tendencies that Dr. Gartner was talking about.

He can`t stand that aspect of reality that he doesn`t want. So he rejects it. His grasp of reality and his attention to reality is loose, an extremely dangerous in a trait in a president that actually makes him unqualified.

GARTNER: He`s just sane enough, as it were, to pass but actually detached from reality as Dr. Dodes said, so that what is real is fluid. It`s totally malleable according to his personality disorder.

So you have someone handling the nuclear codes, who is not in touch with reality and who is paranoid, who actually imagines that he`s under attack by people who are not actually attacking him. Then what you have is a very dangerous combination of someone who can act on his paranoid fantasies in a way that can have catastrophic consequences.


O`DONNELL: Paul Ryan`s rule of not humiliating Trump in public was broken on August 15th, 2017. Here is the Woodward and Costa account in "Peril."

Quote: A lasting rupture came on August 15th, 2017. On a hiking trip with his family, a member of Ryan`s eight-person security team approached with the satellite phone. On the line, an adviser had bad news. Trump was at it again, blaming both sides for Charlottesville. The media was asking for a comment. Ryan sighed. This time, he had to pop Trump publicly. Standing alone on the side of a mountain, Ryan began to dictate a cutting statement that was then tweeted out.

Paul Ryan actually tweeted: We must be clear. White supremacy is repulsive. This bigotry is counter to all this country stands for. There can be no moral ambiguity.

Woodward and Costa report, once back in normal cellular range, Ryan`s phone buzzed. It was Trump. You`re not in the foxhole with me, Trump screamed.

Ryan yelled back, are you finished? May I have some time to speak now? You`re the president of the United States. You have a moral leadership obligation to get this right and not declare there is a moral equivalency here.

These people love me. These are my people, Trump shot back. I can`t backstab the people who support me.

In Charlottesville, Nazis were chanting "Jews will not replace us," and Donald Trump said, these people love me. One of the Nazis drove his car into a crowd of people and killed Heather Heyer, and Donald Trump said, these people love me. These are my people. Donald Trump said, I can`t backstab the people who support me.

That`s why Donald Trump has never and will never condemn the Trump mob of criminals and terrorists who attacked the Capitol. And tonight Paul Ryan, who was once the Republican nominee for vice president of the United States and speaker of the House of representatives and the Republican most likely to someday be nominated for president, is a private citizen who was, in effect, knocked out of politics by Donald Trump in 2019 and is living the rich, quiet life of, among other things, being a member of the board of directors of Fox News.

And Donald Trump, who was knocked out of office by Joe Biden, remains the leader of what is left of the Republican Party.

Leading off our discussion tonight is Democratic Congressman Hakeem Jeffries of New York. He is the chairman of the House Democratic caucus. Congressman Jeffries, thank you very much for joining us tonight.

What was your reaction to what we`re learning in Bob Woodward and Robert Costa`s book about Paul Ryan`s interaction with Donald Trump and his preparation for dealing with what he considered to be, at minimum, a mentally unstable incoming president?

REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES (D-NY): Well, it`s extraordinary, but the challenge in dealing with Donald Trump is that not only is he a malignant narcissist, but he of course is a psychopath and a pathological liar at the same time. That`s pretty complicated for an ordinary citizen. It`s incredible to have to deal with someone of that nature as the president of the United States of America.

The challenge that the Republicans have had is that they accepted Donald Trump for who he was and continues to be in part because of the desire for the acquisition and maintenance of raw power to accomplish their own policy objectives.


In the case of Paul Ryan, that`s cutting taxes for the wealthy, the well off, and the well connected. And in the case of Mitch McConnell, that`s to jam right-wing Supreme Court justices down the throats of the American people to take us back to the dark ages.

O`DONNELL: So you`re Paul Ryan. You`re the speaker of the house. You`re second in line for the presidency after the vice president of the United States in the line of succession.

And you`re working with a president of your own party who you believe has mental health problems in the extreme. And he seems to have done nothing about it except come up with a tactic for verbally dealing with Trump himself. But he did nothing on the record that we know about so far to protect the country from this kind of president.

JEFFRIES: That certainly is the case, but things have deteriorated from there because I think Paul Ryan is fundamentally a good man. I disagree with him on policy, and clearly he had some challenges with Trump, could have done much more to articulate that publicly, but right now, you have a House Republican leader in Kevin McCarthy who is a wholly owned subsidiary of Donald Trump. And it`s solely because he sees Trump and Trumpism as a pathway back to House Republican control of the majority, which would be a frightening thing because it would functionally be Donald Trump running the House of the Representatives in partisanship with Kevin McCarthy and Matt Gaetz and Marjorie Taylor Greene and the rest of that group of individuals.

O`DONNELL: Can I ask what is the difference in effect between Paul Ryan as the leader of Republicans in the House and Kevin McCarthy as the leader of Republicans in the House?

JEFFRIES: It`s a great question. I think at least Paul Ryan had some policy goals and objectives that he wanted to achieve, most of which we disagreed with. But Paul Ryan was very helpful in working with some of us on the other side of the aisle, for instance in getting criminal justice reform over the finish line.

Kevin McCarthy is all about the acquisition of power. That`s it. There is no ideology. There is no policy concerns. There`s no effort to try to improve the lives of everyday Americans to work with us as Democrats to crush the virus or improve the economy.

And in order for Kevin McCarthy to achieve his ambition, he has decided that, I`m just going to bend the knee to Donald Trump. It doesn`t matter that he sparked a violent insurrection and attack on the Capitol that was an extraordinary event in American history and is dangerous.

Kevin McCarthy still hasn`t denounced this hate-filled, violent rally that is being planned on Saturday outside of the Capitol to defend the insurrectionists.

O`DONNELL: Are you satisfied with what you know to be the preparations for the security of the Capitol this weekend?

JEFFRIES: Yes. I know Speaker Pelosi has been in close communication with all of the security officials who are new. We have a new police chief of the Capitol Hill police squad, and we have a new sergeant at arms, and we have, perhaps most importantly, have a Biden administration that is going to take this effort seriously, not potentially hold back the National Guard to the extent the need arises.

O`DONNELL: Congressman Hakeem Jeffries of New York, thank you very much for starting off our discussion tonight.

JEFRIES: Thank you, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: And joining us now is Mary Trump, the author of the book "The Reckoning: Our Nation`s Trauma and Finding a Way to Heal."

Thank you very much for joining us tonight. Really appreciate it.

I`m eager to get your reaction to the Woodward and Costa account of Paul Ryan doing his psychiatric homework on narcissistic personality disorder during the presidential transition as he was trying to figure out President-elect Donald Trump.

MARY TRUMP, AUTHOR, "THE RECKONING": As is often the case, it`s shocking but not surprising. One of the things that`s shocking about it is that Paul Ryan was allegedly found float flat-footed after the election when anybody who was paying attention, anybody with some modicum of intelligence and insight who had met Donald for five minutes would have known what a deeply psychologically disordered person he was. So, for Paul Ryan to have waited for Donald to be in the Oval Office before doing his homework and attempting to put up safeguards long after he actually could have done something to make a difference is, I think, testament to how we got where we are.


The kind of fecklessness of people like Paul Ryan and Jeff Flake, who instead of taking a stand against what was clearly a dangerous and incompetent person, they just stood aside and let him ascend to power and then have left the rest of us to deal with the quite serious fallout.

O`DONNELL: It seems that Paul Ryan`s personal strategy in all of this, once he saw how impossible it was to deal with this madman in the White House was to basically track his own personal exit strategy not just from the speakership, not just from the house of representatives, but from politics entirely and land as softly and as richly as he could on corporate boards like Fox News. Now, that was apparently his -- his route of moral responsibility that he found for himself.

M. TRUMP: Yeah. I guess he just found it too difficult to stay in the fight and try to save his party from its worst instincts, which obviously were championed by Donald. So the problem is because potentially moderating influences -- and I`m not suggesting that he ultimately would have been, but at the time, the belief was that people like Paul Ryan would be some kind of moderating influence. Because they chose to be cowards and get out of public life, we now understand that Donald is not the end result of how bad the Republican Party can be. He`s the leading edge of it.

O`DONNELL: Mary Trump, as a psychology professional, this is the thing that has been mystifying me since the weeks after the inauguration. When Donald Trump was running for president and should have been losing, there were times when I used to just theoretically say to myself, occasionally to others, it would be so interesting to see him win the presidency because then he would discover that Paul Ryan is more powerful than he is, that the speaker of the House actually tells the president what is possible legislatively and that the Senate majority leader is more powerful than the president is on domestic policy issues.

And then I saw something I`d never seen before, the collective collapse of the male ego. Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, all these Republican chairmen of powerful committees who used to love to defy presidents of their own party and other parties, just if nothing else to show how powerful they were. And in Washington, among Republican men, suddenly the male ego evaporated in the face of Donald Trump. And I`ve never had a satisfactory explanation of that.

M. TRUMP: Well, I think that is true in some cases. In some cases, I think it`s also true that there are many elective Republicans who absolutely agree with Donald and his hateful rhetoric. And then I think people like Mitch McConnell are playing a long game. And as Representative Jeffries said earlier, he sees Donald as an opportunity to retain and cling to raw power no matter how illegitimately he gets his hands on it. So he`s willing to make certain concessions because behind closed doors, I still think that there is nobody more powerful than Mitch McConnell.

O`DONNELL: As you see this kind of reporting come out from Bob Woodward and Robert Costa and you see now that people were actually thinking about your uncle in the terms that you had been thinking about him before he even became a politician, and you see Paul Ryan doing this psych psychiatric homework on your uncle, did you feel -- you must have felt very frustrated about at least publicly how long it took them to catch on to just how far gone he was.

M. TRUMP: Yeah. It honestly, Lawrence, mystifies me because it`s not as if Donald has a poker face, you know? He`s exactly who he is. He has no private self. He`s all what we call false self. He`s the same in any context, in any situation. So, again, if you`re paying the slightest bit of attention, you know that. You know what he would be capable of doing.

And as you`ve said before, the Republicans had so many opportunities. They had so many off-ramps to cut ties with him and to defend our country against him, and yet they never did.

I mean I`m very glad that General Milley took the steps he took, and obviously there`s a lot we still don`t know.


But, you know, giving an anonymous interview to Bob Woodward just doesn`t cut it, I`m afraid. So we have a lot of soul searching to do, and we have - - we have to ensure going forward that our institutions are safeguarded because what Donald has shown us, not purposely of course, is that fragile institutions bend towards the greatest dysfunction. And it turns out that our institutions and our system are very, very fragile indeed.

O`DONNELL: Mary Trump, I can never thank you enough for joining us. I hope as you heard Rachel and I discussing at the beginning of the hour, your perspective on your uncle, both professional and personal, is so invaluable to this country to understand what we have been through, what we continue to go through, and for historians. Just cannot thank you enough, Mary Trump. Really appreciate it.

M. TRUMP: Thank you, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

And coming up, we`ll be joined next by my friend and sometimes neighbor Gene Sperling. We`ve worked together when Gene Sperling was an economic adviser to President Bill Clinton and I was chief of staff of the Senate Finance Committee. And we worked together again when Gene Sperling was a consultant to the NBC drama "The West Wing," and I was a writer and executive producer on that show. But most importantly, Gene Sperling is a veteran of the last free Democratic White House staffs in the administration of President Clinton and President Obama, and now once again, President Biden.

Gene Sperling will join us next in tonight`s good news segment about how government is now helping American families with children. That`s next.


O`DONNELL: Good news for American families who are struggling to pay their bills. Yesterday, 35 million families with 60 million children across the United States started receiving their third monthly direct payment of the child tax credit which President Biden and Democrats expanded.


Not a single Republican in Congress voted for that expansion, but Treasury Department data shows that the top ten states by average monthly child tax credit payments are all states that voted Republican in the last presidential election -- Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas, North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Utah, and Alaska.

All families earning below $150,000 are eligible to receive the full child tax credit of $3,000 per child under the age of 18 with an additional $600 per child under the age of 6. President Biden and congressional Democrats want to extend the child tax credit expansion through 2025.

On Sunday, Democratic Senator Joe Manchin was asked about making it permanent.


DANA BASH, CNN HOST: Do you support making it permanent?

SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): Wwell, I support child tax credits. I sure am --

BASH: But the expansion that is --

MANCHIN: Let`s talk about this before you start taking about is it going to be permanent. Let`s see how we`re doing. Let`s make sure we`re getting it to the right people.

If it`s child tax credit, you want to help the children and the parents that are basically providing for those children. There`s no work requirements whatsoever. There`s no education requirements whatsoever or better skill sets. Don`t you think if we want to help the children, the people should make some effort?


O`DONNELL: Joining us now is Gene Sperling, White House coordinator for the American Rescue Plan.

Gene, what`s your response to what we just heard Senator Joe Manchin say?

GENE SPERLING, AMERICAN RESCUE PLAN WHITE HOUSE COORDINATOR: Well, listen, I think that in the long run, it`s going to be a tough negotiation as Lawrence, you and I have been through together 93 other times. But I think we`ll get there, and I think the reason why is there will -- there is a shared value here. If you look at this Build Back Better plan overall, it is so much about, you know, reinstating or tax fairness, making sure the economy is working for working families and that it`s giving the type of support that allows working families to work and raise their children with dignity.

Now, in terms of the issues that Senator Manchin is raising, who we have great respect for, we think when you look at it, we will all agree that it is getting to the children that we want it to. First of all, 97 percent of the children who receive the child tax credit, 97 percent are in working families. That`s number one. Number two, many of those 3 percent who aren`t are facing a disability, an excessive health care challenge or disability challenge or excessive care for older parents or children.

So we think it is getting to the children, and we`re already seeing that. You know, middle class families are overwhelmingly using this for back-to- school clothes, for helping with dental costs, for paying down credit card debt. But for lower income families, it`s a big boost. It is projected over time to have a major impact and could have a permanent impact on reducing child poverty, reducing child hunger.

So I think that, you know, there`s going to be negotiations. There always are. But I think in the end, people are going to see that this child tax credit is a unique and powerful proposal, very much like Social Security in that as Rosa DeLauro says t is a lifeline for middle class families but can be a lifeline for children out of poverty.

When you get all of that in one policy, that is a powerful policy. If Republicans oppose that, then they`re going to be supporting raising taxes on all of those working middle class families and making it that much harder for them to meet the cost of raising their families and their children.

O`DONNELL: So is it the administration`s position that you want to extend it to 2025, or is it to make it permanent?

SPERLING: Our budget proposal in this reconciliation is to extend it for years and years, till 2025. But our ultimate goal, President Biden`s ultimate goal, is that people will see that this does work, that it is a major boon for reducing child poverty.

Our ultimate goal is unquestionably this will eventually be a permanent part of our economic policy, and in doing so, it will be, as President Biden says, making sure that we`re offering tax relief that`s helping hardworking middle class families meet the costs of raising their children and at the same time reflecting a value deep for many of us and certainly President Biden, that every child deserves the basics in life. They deserve a chance to move up.

And we`ve seen that this -- you know, people estimate the child tax credit alone could have a permanent decrease in child poverty by 35 percent, 40 percent, just that one policy alone.

So I think this is a policy we want to get extended for several years now and that ultimately made a permanent part of our economic policy. And I think it will be an enormously positive legacy for all of the advocates, all of the senators, and President Biden himself in what they did during their time in 2021 to make life better for hardworking families in our country.

O`DONNELL: And how is it paid for in this reconciliation bill?

SPERLING: Well, this is an important point. You know, a lot of people are like, oh, my God, this thing, you know, costs a lot. Or you know, will there be costs for inflation?

You know, Lawrence, it`s a funny discussion. I think normally when we`ve seen a budget plan, you look at what are the net costs? How much does it cost overall? This is a plan -- whether it`s the child tax credit or the overall build back better plan -- which has savings.

So what it is, is not that`s it`s going to add costs or add costs to the deficit. It`s about what budgets and tax proposals always are -- priorities, values, who you`re fighting for.

This proposal, yes, does ask our wealthiest Americans and corporations, many of them who pay zero taxes on huge profits, to pay their fair share. In doing so, the extra cost of having this child tax credit, which is $3,600, as you said, for a child under 6; $3,000 for children up to 17 for virtually every middle class family and working family and low-income family in our country, can be added without adding a penny to deficits or debt because it`s part of an overall proposal to make our tax system more fair.

This will be one of the largest and most significant tax cuts for working families and children in the history of our country.

O`DONNELL: Gene Sperling, now working in his third Democratic White House and future Democratic presidents are going to want him in their White Houses.

Gene Sperling, thank you very much for joining us tonight. Really appreciate it.

SPERLING: Thank you, Lawrence. Thanks for having me.

O`DONNELL: And coming up, Pennsylvania Republicans have issued a subpoena for the kind of personal information about you that hackers would love to steal from your computer so they can then steal your identity.

Republicans are trying to get that data on 7 million people in Pennsylvania who voted in the last election. And if you live in Pennsylvania, your privacy has never been more threatened than right now. And if you don`t live in Pennsylvania, don`t be surprised if Republicans try it in your state.

That`s next.



O`DONNELL: The biggest newspaper in Pennsylvania has a big problem. What should they call what the Republicans doing there? "The Philadelphia Inquirer" is refusing to call it an audit of the last presidential election because, as the newspaper so politely puts it, "There`s no indication it would follow the best practices or the common understanding of an audit among nonpartisan experts."

Republicans in Pennsylvania are trying to launch the largest attack on privacy in the history of American state legislatures. Republican state senators voted to approve subpoenas to obtain voter records which include, quote, "the names, dates of birth, driver`s license numbers, last four digits of social security numbers, addresses and methods of voting for millions of people who cast ballots in the May primary and November general election."

If you voted in Pennsylvania -- all 7 million of you -- Republicans want every piece of information about you that would allow someone to steal your identity. Republicans cannot guarantee you that that information will be handled carefully. In fact, they don`t even know who`s going to handle it.

There is no chance of that information being handled carefully because the people who want that information don`t even know what kinds of precautions are necessary to protect data like that.

Pennsylvania`s Democratic attorney general is vowing to protect that data by challenging the subpoenas in court. Pennsylvania actually conducted two real audits of the presidential election before certifying that Joe Biden won that state by more than 80,000 votes.

Joining us now is Democratic Congressman Conor Lamb of Pennsylvania. He is now a candidate for the United States Senate, running for the seat now occupied by Republican Senator Pat Toomey.

Thank you very much for joining us tonight, Congressman Lamb. I want to get your reaction to what the Pennsylvania Republicans are requesting in these subpoenas.

REP. CONOR LAMB (D-PA); I think you used the key word in your opening, Lawrence. And it`s nice what the newspaper did, but this isn`t just not an audit. It is an attack. This is an attack on our system and our democracy itself.

And in this particular instance, yes, I think people are really going to feel it once they realize that these Republicans in Harrisburg want all their personal information and it`s just one of many ways in which they hope to scare people out of voting.

And if they can`t scare them out, they`ll try to keep them out by getting rid of drop boxes and convenient voting hours and vote by mail. And if they can`t do that, they`ll get out the county election worker or the state election worker who is actually counting the ballots in some of these states. If they can`t do that, they`ll physically attack the Capitol like so many of their followers did on January 6th.

This particular commission in our state started with someone who was at the Capitol on January 6th. So these things are all intimately connected. There`s no mystery about what`s going on here. These people are desperate to maintain their power by any means possible.


LAMB: And it`s hard to understand why they`re doing it because of, you know, obviously 7 million people that voted are not going to like having their personal information spilled.

But people need to -- your viewers need to understand this is a financial scam. They do this so that they can send out emails to raise money off of it. That`s what they did in Arizona. And it was very profitable for them.

They`ve been doing it in this case already, and it will continue. So that`s what we`re up against. Those are the stakes.

O`DONNELL: Well, they`re doing it to Republican voters. I mean that point you just made, that they`re trying to make people afraid to vote, well, if you`re afraid of getting your identity stolen because all of your data has been handed over to some private individual, private so-called company that doesn`t know what they`re doing with it or might even have malicious intent. That will scare Republican voters from voting as well as Democratic voters.

The way to escape this as a Pennsylvania citizen is simply not to vote. That`s the message they`re giving across the board.

LAMB: Right. I didn`t say that these particular Republicans were smart.


LAMB: But they are very determined, and they have a short-term focus on two things to stay in power -- raising money and getting Donald Trump`s approval. That`s what you need to be in the game on their side. We see it time and again.

I know you guys covered tonight my colleague from Ohio, who said he wasn`t going to run again because his vote for impeachment against Trump, which was the right thing to do, makes it impossible to be on their side. We`ve seen it with Liz Cheney.

So they know what they need to do. And if it`s up to them, they`ll shrink the electorate down as far as they possibly can so that they can try to just get their narrow slice of it out, and it`s an increasingly narrow slice.

But I think what folks on our side have to realize is this is not a joke. This is not -- they`re not so stupid that we can make fun of them and think that they`re going to lead to their own demise.

These people are willing to do anything to try to take power in our state, which is one of the key states of the country. So we have to make our defense impregnable.

This is an attack. Our defense to it, yes, it will come in the form of laws and voting rights protections and all those things. But ultimately it`s written inside of us.

And if you know somebody who`s running for school board this year or town council or county commissioner in the counties where they`re going to be counting these votes, you got to get out there and help them for our statewide judicial candidates who are going to be the ones deciding these cases.

You have to donate to and support people who believe in democratic self- government. It`s that simple. And you know, the knock on us as Democrats is sometimes we only show up every four years, and that isn`t cutting it anymore.

There is way too much on the line for this now. And this is just the latest episode to convince us of that.

O`DONNELL: Congressman Conor Lamb, candidate for Senate in Pennsylvania, thank you very much for joining us tonight.

LAMB: Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

Cond coming up, California Governor Gavin Newsom won a huge victory, and I mean huge victory this week, for fighting to protect the health of the people of California while many Republican governors are risking the lives of the people of their states by refusing to protect the citizens of their states from COVID-19.

Former Republican presidential campaign strategist Stuart Stevens and MSNBC`S Zerlina Maxwell will join us next.



O`DONNELL: Life in Mississippi has never been easy for most people who live there. When Mississippi became a state, nearly half of its residents were enslaved. By the time Mississippi was fighting the Civil War, the majority of the state`s residents were slaves.

Today Mississippi has the lowest incomes in the country. Mississippi ranks 50th in per-capita income among the states.

Mississippi never gets to be number one -- until now. Today, Mississippi became the state with the highest per-capita COVID death rate in the country. Mississippi passed New York and New Jersey, two of the hardest-hit states in the early days of the pandemic.

Mississippi has now suffered 306 deaths per 100,000 residents. Mississippi`s vaccination rate is 41 percent which ranks 48th out of the 50 states.

And today`s Mississippi`s attorney general was one of the 24 Republican state attorneys general who sent a letter to the Biden administration threatening a lawsuit over President Biden`s plan for vaccine mandate requiring businesses with 100 employees or more to ensure their employees are vaccinated or undergo weekly testing.

California`s Governor Gavin Newsom crushed the Republican campaign to remove him from office this week. Today Governor Newsom said he won two- thirds of the vote in California by stressing the strong public health tactics that Mississippi`s governor refuses to use in the battle against COVID-19.

Today on CBS, Governor Newsom said this.


GOVERNOR GAVIN NEWSOM (D-CA): What I`m saying here is be affirmative. Don`t be timid. Lean in because at the end of the day, it`s not just about the formal authority of setting the tone and tenor on vaccines and masks, but it`s the moral authority that we have, that we`re on the right side of history and we`re doing the right thing to save people`s lives.


O`DONNELL: Joining us now, Stuart Stevens, a veteran of five Republican presidential campaigns and the author of "It Was All A Lie: how the Republican Party became Donald Trump", which was just released in paperback. Also joining us Zerlina Maxwell, host of the program "ZERLINA" that airs on Peacock.

Stuart, let me begin with you as a son of Mississippi. When you look at what`s happening in your state tonight, how did Republicanism and Trumpism bring Mississippi to this new low?

STUART STEVENS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: It`s really extraordinary. I mean Mississippi gets 40 percent of its budget from the federal government. It`s the hardworking people in states like California and New York that keep Mississippi from being a complete disaster.


STEVENS: And yet when you have a governor like Tate Reeves -- I know Tate, he`s not a dumb guy, he`s not an evil guy -- but what`s happening there is pretty much the definition of evil. They`re using this tragedy for political purposes.

And Tate actually has appointed a very good person to head up the health effort here, a Yale-educated, Mississippi-born physician. But Tate won`t stand up and do what needs to be done to protect the citizens of Mississippi. It`s just an absolute tragedy.

O`DONNELL: Zerlina, it`s an extraordinary thing. One party -- the Republican Party is doing nothing to protect not just the people of their states but their actual Republican voters.

And you have the Democratic Party and Democratic governors like Gavin Newsom who are fighting to keep everyone alive in their states.

It`s hard to believe that the parties would be divided by their concern with keeping people alive. One party concerned about that, the other not.

ZERLINA MAZWELL, HOST, "ZERLINA" ON PEACOCK: Well, Lawrence, you had Mary Trump on earlier, and a quote that not a day goes by that I don`t think about is one from her first book, which is if he can in any way profit from your death, he will facilitate it and then he will ignore the fact that you died. And that is Mary Trump on her uncle, former president Donald Trump.

And I feel like the entire Republican Party has been corrupted by this very idea that there is political benefit maybe in the short term as they see it in fundraising dollars but certainly not in the short term for the lives and livelihoods that are lost during this pandemic.

I mean, people are losing their mothers and fathers and sisters and brothers, and that, I think, ultimately is something that each Republican is going to have to, for the rest of their life, as long as they are on this earth, they`re going to have to go to bed every night understanding that they facilitated the deaths of their own constituents.

O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to what William Marsh, New Hampshire state representative, said here on this program last night about why he has just switched from the Republican Party to the Democratic Party.


WILLIAM MARSH (D-NH) STATE REPRESENTATIVE: The grassroots organization on the ground in all the cities and towns throughout the state, they`ve really been taken over by these extremists who believe that their rights trump anybody else`s rights. And that they have the right to do whatever they want to no matter how it affects the other people around them.


O`DONNELL: Stuart, how important is it that they`re taking over the grassroots and Republican Party positions in the states?

STEVENS: Oh look, you know, there`s actually some successful Republican governors out there -- very successful, very popular. Phil Scott in Vermont, Charlie Baker in Massachusetts, Larry Hogan in Maryland.

I work for all these guys. I love them. But here`s the thing. They are so out of touch with their own party, they can`t pick their state party chairman. And you know from your years in politics just how extraordinary this is, that a sitting popular governor can`t pick their own state party chairman. And that`s just the division in the party.

And I don`t see where it ends. It just is a -- they`re calling this sort of race to the bottom and COVID is the ultimate test that if you`re willing to let people get sick and die for political gain, you`ll do anything. And that`s where they are.

O`DONNELL: Zerlina in the "New York Times", Kevin Williamson, the conservative writer in an op-ed piece talking about where the dividing line now is in our politics saying, when it comes to a coup, you`re either in or you`re out. The Republican Party is leaning pretty strongly toward in. That is going to leave at least some conservatives out and in all likelihood, permanently out.

That`s another dividing line between these parties, one that is in favor of, in effect, a coup, in effect denying democracy; and the other party still traditionally in this very old-fashioned way actually in favor of democracy.

MAXWELL: You mean like the constitution (INAUDIBLE)


O`DONNELL: Yes, like that stuff.

MAXWELL: -- we can all be that way?


MAXWELL: So Lawrence, I`ve been thinking a lot about this idea of a coup, and earlier in the -- before new reporting released this week about General Milley, I was thinking a lot about it being a coup in essentially three parts, right?

The courts and Rudy Giuliani and the gang going into court and lying about election fraud. The second piece, of course, is the DOJ, all the phone calls and pressure that Donald Trump was putting on Department of Justice officials to over turn pieces of the election or say that it was stolen. And the third piece was the insurrection.


MAXWELL: But now I`m thinking there is actually a continuing piece to the point in that Williamson op-ed which is that they`re continuing to try to subvert democracy by implementing laws that will change the way the votes are counted up after the fact. It`s election subversion, Lawrence and that`s the threat to democracy.

O`DONNELL: Zerlina Maxwell and Stuart Stevens -- thank you both very much for joining us tonight.

STEVENS: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: We`ll be right back.


O`DONNELL: Literally can`t put it down. Programming note: on Monday "The Washington Post`s" Bob Woodward and Robert Costa will appear here on THE LAST WORD for their first cable news interview the night before the official publication date of their book "Peril" which is already on top of online best-seller list. The book is filled with revelations about the final days of the Trump presidency.


O`DONNELL: "Peril" is Bob Woodward`s 14th book about the presidency and it is his first book co-authored with Robert Costa. The reporting team of Woodward and Costa, will join us Monday night right here on THE LAST WORD, 10:00 p.m. Eastern right here on MSNBC.

That is tonight`s LAST WORD.