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Transcript: The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, 9/2/21

Guests: Carol Sanger, Laurence Tribe, Tim O`Brien, Darrell Steinberg


The U.S. Supreme Court refuses to block the strict Texas abortion ban. This afternoon, a New York grand jury heard testimony from Matthew Calamari, Jr. the head of security for the Trump Organization as part of the investigation into Donald Trump`s finances.



And I decided today why I would be a terrible Supreme Court justice. And that is I would struggle with the muted language that they use like, for example, the word "unprecedented," which the dissenters use repeatedly in their reaction to this Texas abortion law. I called it insane last night. Reduced to one word, that was my judicial opinion about the Texas abortion law.

Sonia Sotomayor, she was pretty great because she departed from the unprecedented, gentility language. And so, I`m really thankful for that because she kind of speak of those of us who are frustrated by the limits on language and the way those guys reacted.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Her first line is "the court`s order is stunning".


MADDOW: And the whole dissent is amazing. It is only three and a half pages. Everybody should read it.

She says, the court should not be so content to ignore its constitutional obligation to protect not only the rights of women but also the sanctity of its precedent, and the rule of law, period. I dissent, period.

Now, Justin Kagan`s dissent will also give you blisters. But at the end of Kagan`s dissent, she says, I respectfully dissent. Sotomayor has even turned that out, actually, I just dissent.

O`DONNELL: Yeah, I would forget to use that word "respectfully" a lot. I just, oops,. oops, I forgot to say respectfully, I`m very sorry. We will get into it tonight. We`re going to get into it. It is -- it`s one of those stories that continuing to -- you get a night`s sleep on this story and it is either just as bad or worse the next day. There is just more to say, more to get into about it. It is really a horrible, horrible situation.

MADDOW: And in practical terms. We were discussing this with Dahlia Lithwick earlier not hour, Lawrence. I said to her bluntly, is there any reason we shouldn`t expect all the other red states to immediately enact copy cat laws to have new abortion laws in new states insistently because of this. She says there is no reason not to expect that.

So note in each passing day, whether it`s south Dakota, or Florida, or wherever else it`s going to be, the place they`re already working on it, we`re going to see red states all over the country ban abortion using this as the Xerox template, and it`s going to go fast.

O`DONNELL: Yeah. Just start with every Republican governor who is running for president. They are demanding of their legislatures right now. Send me one of those to sign immediately.

MADDOW: Yeah, exactly. Even as the country doesn`t want abortion laws made more strict, let alone wants an abortion banned. I mean, there is a reason that folks in the conservative media aren`t talking about this right now, as the dog that caught the car. They like talking about trying to achieve this now that they realize the country is against this and the backlash is going to be considerable.

O`DONNELL: We will see. Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW: Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

Well, Justice Sotomayor said new Texas law creates citizen bounty hunters. Here`s the way the new Texas abortion law works. If you are a girl who grows up in Texas and in college meets the person who you think is the love of your life and you have a loving way in every way that`s important to you and six months or a year into that intimacy, you share the worst thing that`s ever happened to you and you tell your partner a few years ago, your father raped you, and you became pregnant and you went to Planned Parenthood and they helped you end the pregnant, and your partner is very supporting and loving and through tears says everything right in that moment.

But for reasons having nothing to do with that moment, just the normal twists and turns of young romance or romance of any age, you eventually feel yourself drifting apart from that person and at some point you break up. And your partner does not take it well. Your partner becomes enraged.

And so, this person you thought you loved, this person who you thought loved you becomes a citizen bounty hunter and files a lawsuit in a Texas court to sue every one involved who provided abortion services to you -- the people who helped you when you needed them the most, the people who helped you in the darkest moments of your life.


Four years, every day for four years after that abortion is performed, everyone involved in performing that abortion can be sued at any time in those four years.

If the citizen bounty hunter who betrays you wins the lawsuit because four years later, the records aren`t clear on whether a test was done to establish any cardiac activity in the embryo, then everyone involved in that abortion except the pregnant woman is going to have to pay damages of at least $10,000 with no limit on those damages, all paid to a person who betrayed your confidence, who took your most painful experience to court for money.

And the people involved in performing that abortion are going to have to pay the attorneys` fees of these citizen bounty hunters, who betrayed that intimacy to go into a Texas courtroom and sue the people who ended the pregnancy that was caused by rape and incest. The Texas law does not make an exception for cases of rape or incest or both because that is a matter of Republican religion. It wasn`t always that way.

The first abortion language to appear in a Republican platform was in 1976 in the platform called for, quote, the continuance of the public dialogue on abortion and supports the effort of those who seek enactment of a constitutional amendment to restore protection of the right to life for unborn children. Now, Republicans knew they would not be a constitutional amendment. They were just trying to appeal to the anti-abortion. That`s all.

The last debate among Republicans about what their antiabortion position should be, what should be on exemptions for rape and incest, was 21 years ago when John McCain and George W. Bush were running against each other for the Republican presidential nomination. By that time, the Republican platform opposed all abortions without exceptions for rape and incest.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ): George, do you believe there is an exception for rape and incest and life of the mother?


MCCAIN: Yeah, it is interesting. Here is the one that says, that George W. Bush supports the pro-life plank.

BUSH: I do.

MCCAIN: So, in other words, your position is that you believe there is an exception for rape and incest and life of the mother, but you want the platform you are leading to have no exception.

BUSH: I will. I will. It doesn`t talk about what specifically should be in the constitutional amendment.

Please let me finish, John. Let me finish. The platform speaks about a constitutional amendment. It doesn`t refer to how that constitutional amendment ought to be defined. John --

MCCAIN: Read the platform. It has no exceptions.

BUSH: John, I think we need to keep the platform the way it is. This is the pro life party --

MCCAIN: When you are contradicting --

BUSH: May I finish, please? Please. We need to be a pro-life party. We need to say life is precious. That`s what that platform refers to. That`s why we need to leave it the same.


O`DONNELL: During that campaign, John McCain was asked by a reporter in his campaign bush if he would tell his then 15-year-old daughter that she could not have an abortion if she became pregnant, and John McCain said, no, I would discuss this issue with Cindy and Meghan and this would be a private decision that we would share within our family. Obviously, I would encourage her to know that that baby would be brought up in a loving family. The final decision would be made by Meghan with our advice and counsel. And I think that`s such a private matter.

And all reasonable people agreed with that answer. But immediately a panic set in among the McCain campaign staff over that answer, and John McCain took it back. "The New York Times" report of that day says, quote, a short time later, Mr. McCain telephoned reporters and said, "I misspoke. What I believe I was saying and intended to say is this that this is a family decision. The family decision will be made by the family, not by Meghan alone."

Eight years later, John McCain was the Republican presidential nominee of the party that believes in no exceptions for rape or incest or both, and he chose as his vice presidential nominee the governor of Alaska who fully embraced the Republican doctrine of no exceptions.


Four years later, the Republican nominee was Mitt Romney, who embraced the Republican doctrine of no exceptions. When Mitt Romney was running in Massachusetts, he ran as a full supporter of Roe v. Wade. He went from completely pro-choice to completely anti-abortion with no exceptions when he became the Republican presidential nominee. He changed his position to comply with the demands of politics.

John McCain changed his position to comply with the demands of Republican politics. George W.H. Bush changed his position from a supporter of Planned Parenthood as a Texas congressman, to the standard Republican anti-abortion position, to become Ronald Reagan`s running mater in 1980.

Those are not deeply held beliefs. Those are political briefs adopted in service of ambition. And as the Republican Party became ever more insistent on the absolutism of their no exceptions on abortion, young Republicans in law schools dreaming of becoming Supreme Court justices knew what they had to think in order to become Supreme Court justices chosen by Republican presidents, and so you have the majority of the Supreme Court tonight who have said to the women of Texas, if you are a rape victim, if you are an incest victim and if you end a pregnancy that results from those crimes, everyone involved in ending that pregnancy can be sued, and that is why you won`t be able to end those pregnancies in Texas, because abortion providers cannot run the risk of losing their homes to provide services to women in need.

People working in abortion services have been taking their lives in their hands for decades in this country, people who claim all life is precious have shot and killed abortion providers in this country. And now this. Now they want to bankrupt them.

Supreme Court justices appointed by George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush and Donald Trump have delivered whatever Republican presidential nominee since Ronald Reagan promised their voters they would deliver. It may be that all of the Republican presidential candidates who ran as anti-abortion candidates with no exceptions did not believe what they were saying. But the Supreme Court justices chosen by Republican presidents are now enforcing the words that those presidents at least pretended to believe.

Leading off our discussion tonight are Carol Sanger, Columbia University law professor and author of the book "About Abortion: Terminating Pregnancy in the 21st Century." Also with us, Maria Teresa Kumar, president and CEO of Voter Latino. She`s an MSNBC contributor.

And, Professor Sanger, let me begin with you. This evolution of Republican thinking on abortion obviously is something that law students with judicial ambitions were paying attention to, knowing where they would have to go on this if they were to make it on to the federal bench and above. And it seems to me that the message, whether the politicians believe what they are saying or not has been accepted by the judiciary they appointed.

CAROL SANGER, LAW PROFESSOR, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: Well, I don`t -- I try to keep Republican and Democratic politics out of the class, but there certainly are interest groups now that Constitution Law Society and the Federal Society that support pro-life and pro-choice provisions. And I`m not sure that`s what you`re asking.

O`DONNELL: Maria Teresa Kumar, I want to get your reaction to the situation in Texas tonight with providers basically shutting down.

MARIA TERESA KUMAR, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: This is incredibly dangerous because what you`re doing is that you are putting so many women`s lives at risk, and women that you are putting at risk are might be able to go into a different state to do so. But you are putting at risk the women most vulnerable.

Let`s be clear, Lawrence. The women there seeking abortion in the second trimester are oftentimes women that have found that there is something wrong with the fetus or they find out within six months they`re pregnant and realizing the best decisions for themselves and for their family and for their existing children is to make the hard, personal decision of ending a pregnancy.

What the Republicans have done today is telling women that not only do they not have agency over their body, but they`re also telling them that they do not know how to best value their priorities to make sure that their existing children and family are safe.


This is incredibly devastating, and we cannot take it lightly because the fight not only continues, but it demonstrates what the stakes are when it comes to election even in the midterm because everything that we are talking about when it comes to women`s ownership of their body, what we can do when it comes to the ability to communicate our health and our priorities has been basically tried to be stripped away. The fact that Justice Roberts said this decision was unprecedented and he sided with Sotomayor, he sided with Kagan, demonstrate that this is not only highly unusual, but they have politicized the Supreme Court in the era of the woman`s right to choose.

O`DONNELL: And, Professor Sanger, in Justice Breyer`s dissent, he referred to running the financial and other risks that come from waiting for a private person to sue them under the Texas law. And the Texas law, as I said, gives them four years. And, so, for 48 months after every abortion that might be performed, if any are performed under this law, everyone involved would be waiting the 48 months to find out if they`re going to be sued.

SANGER: Yes. And what I think we see from that is the kind of -- that has a huge societal and cultural implications. It turns -- it turns a community into something like a surveillance state.

And it`s not clear yet what kind of evidence you have to show or bring in, but we know that if you are going to get your $10,000, you`ve got to prove that this was an illegal abortion, so you have to have records. You have to have calendars. You have to have dates. You have to have testimony. All this is being assembled.

And it`s a very -- it`s very un-community-like and gives a financial incentive to hunt down your neighbor, your cousin, your friends for financial reasons or, perhaps, for true devout beliefs. But in any case, it is not the kind of culture that we pride ourselves on having.

So, yes, Breyer has that right. It is a long time to be under -- to be under suspicion. And women who have abortions even outside of Texas find that abortions come back to haunt them in future aspects of their lives, like abortion -- early abortion can come up in a family law custody fight and there are a number of examples of that. An early abortion can come up in a job interview, even though that`s not supposed to happen.

So abortion is a -- an excellent tool to hold over women`s heads at various points long after the event and that`s -- that`s one of the -- that`s one of the powerful things about having such an abortion ridden culture, is that it stays with everyone in a very negative way.

O`DONNELL: And, Maria Teresa, my point about the citizen bounty hunter as Justice Sonja Sotomayor call them, that they might not have to hunt. It could be an intimate. IT could be your sibling. It could be someone you make the mistake of trusting.

At some point in those four years and you share this secret with that person and at some point down the road for whatever reason, that person gets angry with you and decides, okay, I know how to get back of the you. I`m going to go into court and I`m going to be the person who sues over the abortion you told me about in a moment of intimate sharing.

KUMAR: Well, Lawrence, you are describing weaponizing a woman`s most vulnerable moment. That should send chills up and down everybody`s spine. The possibly that all of a sudden in the most intimate, most vulnerable moment you share something with someone that was heart wrenching for you to make that decision and then they turn around and weaponize is not only immoral in so many ways, but it also makes women vulnerable.

Folks know that oftentimes when an abortion happens, women look for other services because it is a difficult decision so they can have a conversation on mental illness and mental wellness and this will prevent many of those conversations from happening and we need to make sure we`re providing them with the full support.

And the idea that your neighbor or your lover has the ability to hold something over your head that was a very private decision, not only creates a cruelty, but it creates a gender imbalance where women once again are not on the same level playing field as men and are put instead in a place where they cannot fully exercise their agency and their ability to choose.


O`DONNELL: Maria Teresa Kumar and Professor Carol Sanger, thank you both very much for starting off our discussion tonight.

KUMAR: Thank you, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

And coming up, Harvard`s constitutional law professor Laurence Tribe will join us next on the Supreme Court`s decision about the Texas abortion law. That`s next.


O`DONNELL: Unprecedented, that`s the word Rachel and I were discussing at the beginning of this hour. And that`s the word that appears from the four Supreme Court justices who believe that the new Texas abortion law should be stopped in its tracks.

Unprecedented is a strong word for judges, but it has lost its meaning in public discourse, especially in the age of Trump.


Justice Sotomayor just couldn`t take it anymore. She just couldn`t go along and use language like unprecedented. And as Rachel pointed out earlier, the first sentence in her dissent is the court`s order is stunning.

And she goes on from there, quote, the extraordinary step of enlisting private citizens to do what the state could not, the Texas legislature has deputized the state`s citizens as bounty hunters, offering them cash prizes for civilly prosecuting their neighbors` medical procedures.

She then calls them, quote, citizen bounty hunters, a breathtaking act of defiance of the Constitution. This is untenable. It cannot be the case that a state can evade federal judicial scrutiny by outsourcing the enforcement of unconstitutional laws to its citizenry.

Justice Sotomayor ended with what, for the court, is a version of pounding the table in anger. Her last sentence is simply, I dissent, instead of traditional "I respectfully dissent."

And joining us is Laurence Tribe, university professor of constitutional law emeritus at Harvard Law School. He has won 35 cases in the United States Supreme Court. His new article for "The Guardian" is entitled "Roe versus Wade died with barely a whimper, but that`s not all."

Professor Tribe, thank you for joining us tonight. I want to give you an open field here to comment in any way that you want on this decision and let America know what they should be thinking about it.

The one thing I would ask is that you begin with Judge Sotomayor`s point about this peculiar deputizing of the citizenry to be the civil prosecutors of actions that have no relationship to them whatsoever. It establishes a class of plaintiffs that have never existed in American law that I`m aware of. This Texas law seems to have no relationship to American law, federal or state law, in saying that it will be citizens who enforce this law, not the law enforces of the state and the Supreme Court used that, apparently, as the reason why they couldn`t stop it.

LAURENCE TRIBE, CONSTITUTIONAL LAW PROFESSOR, HARVARD LAW SCHOOL: Well, it is truly stunning. Justice Sotomayor had it exactly not.

It is not exactly unprecedented. Back in the early slave years, fugitive slave laws were enforced by bounty hunters. They went out and sought to return even freed slaves to their so-called owners to collect a bounty. So it has a kind of ugly, dark history.

But as Justice Sotomayor said, it simply cannot be the case. Although, five justices say they think it is. It cannot be the case that the state can pass a flagrantly unconstitutional law, unconstitutional unless and until Roe v. Wade is formally overturned, and then avoid any judicial review by deputizing strangers, total strangers.

And they don`t have to be Texans. They can be from California. They can be from France. The law clearly allows anyone on the Planet Earth to come into Texas court during, as you say, that four-year period after an abortion and get $10,000 from anyone, friend, a neighbor, the ex-lover, the Uber driver, the person who funded the abortion, anybody who was involved in the abortion, unless somehow the evidence is accumulated that there was no heartbeat.

That is not only stunning, it is abominable. It`s breathtaking. And I`m hopeful that even though we know this court does not mean that Roe v. Wade should stand, that maybe one of the five justices in a lawsuit that attacks specifically the bounty hunting aspect by preventing officers of courts from actually transferring the bounties and thereby taking the financial incentive out of it, maybe a justice will be so upset by the idea of privatizing law will get a fifth vote. Not very likely.

But there`s very little else that can be done. The whole idea of legislating Roe v. Wade, making it part of statutory law, which I favored for a long time, is something that is going to happen in the House, but it looks like it will die in the Senate.


And even if it were passed, the court that just a little while ago in 2007 said that the commerce power of congress is broad enough so that congress can ban a particular late-term abortion procedure, they probably will turn around and say, oh, but now we discovered new limits to the commerce power. They can`t do that.

Just imagine if we were talking about a right that conservatives like, you know, like gun rights. Suppose Massachusetts, the state where I live, decided to disregard the Supreme Court`s precedents about guns and made it a crime for any private citizen to own a pistol without special government permission and without showing the flagrantly unconstitutional. But if they didn`t have public prosecutors enforcing it and had like an army of citizen vigilante making sure that nobody can have a gun at home, do you think this court would have applied its logic to say, oh, we`re going to let that go into effect. Not on your life.

So they are not at all consistent. All of these procedural mumbo jumbo things that they said make it very hard for us to figure out how to review this law. But that was just really concocted for the purpose of evading review.

And what was most stunning in Justice Sotomayor`s dissent was how compelling her arguments were. I mean there was emotion in it, but the logic was impeccable. She said (INAUDIBLE) she could have added to what she said.

She could have said when you deputize private citizens to enforce the law, they become arms of the state. And so you should be able to go after them in the same way you can go after other state officers.

But instead the majority said, well, we`re not sure that these judges who were sued are proper defendants. We`re not sure you can sue a judge, a state judge. There is nothing in the constitution that says you cannot have federal suits against state judges.

We`re not sure that these judges would enforce the law. What, are they going to be scoff (ph) laws? It`s all made up so that the majority is just tipping its hand. They hate Roe v Wade. They ducked. Didn`t want to say that it is overruled. They claim not to be judging that.

But at the very same time, they`re simply obliterating the rights of all the women of Texas to control their own lives and their bodies.

And I do think it is not clear, that they can leave the state without creating vulnerabilities. I mean, if I pay somebody to help them get a bus ticket to go to a neighboring state where she can get an abortion, I might be aiding and abetting an illegal abortion, even though it is not illegal at the state where she goes to.

That may not be true, as someone has said it is ambiguous. But as long as the chilling effect is there, as long as you don`t know when you are helping a woman deal with a tragic situation in her life, as long as you don`t know whether you are going to be socked for $10,000 here and $10,000 there that you`re likely not to reach out and help her as a Good Samaritan.

So this is a devastating decision. And I said in my op-ed piece in "The Guardian", Welcome to Gilead -- the nightmarish place in "The Handmaid`s Tale". That`s the world that this court is creating and I think it is a disaster.

O`DONNELL: Harvard Law Professor Laurence Tribe, thank you for joining us tonight. Professor Tribe`s column about this is in "The Guardian". It is entitled "Roe v Wade died with barely a whimper". But that`s not all. You should read it.

Professor Tribe, always a pleasure. Thank you very for joining us.

TRIBE: Thank you, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

And coming up, the grand jury in Manhattan heard testimony from two key employees of the Trump Organization today as part of its investigation into Donald Trump and his businesses.

Tim O`Brien will join us next.



O`DONNELL: This afternoon, a New York grand jury heard testimony from Matthew Calamari, Jr. the head of security for the Trump Organization as part of the investigation into Donald Trump`s finances. His father Matthew Calamari, Sr. is the chief operating officer of the Trump Organization and has not yet been subpoenaed.

"The New York Times" reports Jeffrey McConney a top finance official at the Trump Organization is also believed to have testified before the grand jury today. It would be the second time that he has provided testimony in the same investigation.

In July, Manhattan district attorney, Cy Vance, charged Donald Trump`s accountant Allen Weisselberg in the Trump Organization with tax fraud.

Joining us now is Tim O`Brien, senior columnist for "Bloomberg Opinion" and the author of Trump Nation. He was sued by Donald Trump in 2006 and Tim O`Brien won.

Tim, what do you make of this news about Matthew Calamari Jr. testifying today?

TIM O`BRIEN, SENIOR COLUMNIST, "BLOOMBERG OPINION": Well, you know, it`s an incremental development, Lawrence. But I think it`s significant in that it shows that the Manhattan DA is going down and up the food chain at the Trump Organization to gather information and to gather testimony and to apply pressure to anyone in the Trump Organization who might have knowledge of illegalities there.


O`BRIEN: If what the Calamari were asked about was consistent with everything else that the Manhattan district attorney has been probing, it was probably about whether or not they got undeclared compensation in the form of freebies like apartments and automobiles that weren`t properly declared to the IRS.

The consequence of that will -- consequences of that will matter because if -- if the Calamaris are exposed then it turns them into potential witnesses against others in the Trump Organization, including Donald Trump himself.

It also continues to beg the question of whether or not the Trump children will be called to testify in the same set of issues and anyone else in the Trump Organization including Jeff McConney and as we know already, Allen Weisselberg.

And all of them have to be looking at what Allen Weisselberg is looking at, which is the possibility of a severe prison sentence if this goes in as bad as a direction as it might, which of course it might not.

I think the other thing to remember, when it comes to the Calamaris themselves, is I know hired Matthew Calamari because he saw them -- saw him beating up a few people at the U.S. Open and hired him as a body guard.

And then years along the way, he got transformed into Donald Trump`s chief operating officer. And it`s a reminder of how cartoonish and comically absurd the Trump Organization is as an entity.

This person who was elected because of his supposed business prowess was hiring people willy-nilly for roles that were far above their experience or expertise but he didn`t really care. And it was a mirror of what he later did in the White House, I think.

O`DONNELL: Well, I mean isn`t that just a title, chief operating officer? Isn`t that -- I mean Donald Trump is the chief operating officer, along with the kids, presumably.


O`DONNELL: And that title was just there to give away to someone who wasn`t named Trump.

O`BRIEN: 100 percent. And remember, this was essentially a mom and pop operation. This wasn`t a large, sophisticated Fortune 500 company. This was a small group of people intensely loyal to Donald Trump.

And at the end of the day, two or three people that have called all of the shots and none of them did anything with Donald -- of significance without Donald Trump signing off on it.

O`DONNELL: Now, Jeff McConney, if I have him placed correctly, he is in the financial structure of the operation. Is he the kind of guy who would be in the room with Allen Weisselberg a lot?

O`BRIEN: Well, he`s the kind of guy who helped the Trumps prepare their tax returns. And he`s the kind of guy who has knowledge of what the scope of their business really looked like, who some of their financial partners were, how they structured deals on paper.

I think at the end of the day, it was really Allen Weisselberg and Donald Trump and -- and maybe one or two other people that had deciding roles in all this. And I don`t think that Jeff McConney was always there, but he was certainly there frequently enough that he`s a very material witness and he`s somebody whose testimony is clearly damaging and threatening to Donald Trump.

O`DONNELL: There is -- there is something that`s always been fascinating about this investigation and that is that the district attorney is leaving office basically at the end of the year, which is unusual in these kinds of investigations.

And so we have all had this time frame of thinking what`s going to happen will happen within this calendar year, at least get started in a serious way. And so, that`s why every time there is a witness going in, the news media thinks we`re closer and closer to that point of what happens next.

O`BRIEN: Well, I think that might be an artificial time frame, Lawrence, because Cy Vance Jr. has put in a very sophisticated team of investigators. They are being methodical as they should be. I think they`re trying to build a bulletproof case, as they should.

And I think he`s very cognizant of the fact that there is a likelihood that this case will run past his time as DA, which I think it most likely will. And I think that`s a good thing.

It may not happen quickly enough to satisfy everyone`s appetite for quick justice. But it is -- I do think it is an indicator of the kind of formidable investigative team he`s put in place.

O`DONNELL: Tim O`Brien, thank you very much for joining us tonight.

O`BRIEN: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, a new poll of California voters shows Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom doing better in the recall election that will be held on September 14th.

But if more than 50 percent of California voters say Gavin Newsom should be recalled, the polls show that a Republican radio talk show host will be the next governor of California. That`s next.



O`DONNELL: The first question voters must answer in California`s second- ever recall election of a governor on September 14th is -- shall Gavin Newsom be recalled, removed from the office of governor?

A new poll by the Public Policy Institute of California found that 58 percent of likely California voters will vote no on that first question. 39 percent would vote to remove the governor. The poll also found that 53 percent approve of Gavin Newsom`s job as governor at this point.

The second question on the ballot is if the governor is recalled who do you want to replace him? A poll found that Republican radio talks show host Larry Elder, who is a full-fledged Trump supporter is leading the field with 26 percent. That 26 percent would be enough to make Larry Elder the governor of California if 51 percent of voters vote to remove the governor.

Today Governor Newsom said this.



GOVERNOR GAVIN NEWSOM (D-CA): It shouldn`t surprise any of you that this recall is part of an extended narrative that started with a big lie. Extended to the insurrection of January 6th. Extends to the voter suppression laws you`ve seen all across the country. And yes, what you saw yesterday in Texas and the assaults on women`s rights and reproductive freedom in this nation.

This is a profoundly important moment to say no. Not in California.


O`DONNELL: Joining us now is Darrell Steinberg, the Democratic mayor of Sacramento. He was the president of the California Senate during the administration of Arnold Schwarzenegger who became governor in California`s first recall of a governor.

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

My California political friends and some former operatives including Anthony Reyes who used to work as a staffer in the state senate and used to work on this show -- by the way, he`s my pipeline to California politics -- had been worried about the Democratic strategy on this, which is telling people just to vote no and don`t bother choosing a name to replace the governor, which all voters can do.

You can vote no and, you know, you don`t want the governor removed and then you can vote for whoever you think is the best person or the least bad person to go in there.

The polls now indicate that that strategy might work because the governor might beat this recall by a substantial margin.

But as we go into it, what do we make of polls on recalls? How reliable are they? Recalls are such a strange process. Do the pollsters even know how to poll this question?

MAYOR DARRELL STEINBERG (D-CA), SACRAMENTO: Well, thank you for having me, Lawrence, first of all.

Democrats are beginning to wake up. And that is a good thing. But there is 13 days left, and we cannot take anything for granted because as Governor Newsom said, there is far too much at stake.

Look, this governor doesn`t get enough credit for what he is doing in California. He`s doing a terrific job. He has led and is leading this state through the worst pandemic in modern history. He is following the science. And our state is doing relatively better than other states like Texas and Florida.

He has also achieved some incredible things for the people of California, whether it`s universal preschool, whether it is billions of dollars into leading on climate and setting the national standard for carbon neutrality. Whether it is attacking the homeless problem with more money and more attention than any governor in our history.

And so, this is a political hijacking -- an attempt at a political hijacking. And I think the people of California, especially the Democrats, are beginning to pay attention.

And in part, Larry Elder in some ways is helping because think about it for a moment. In 2003, when I was in the legislature, I worked with Governor Schwarzenegger when he was the governor. The recall back then was wrong, too. But Schwarzenegger and the Republican Party in those days were relatively moderate.

Today, Larry Elder taking over the state of California, he`s against vaccinations. He`s against a woman`s right to choose. He`s a climate denier.

If he were somehow to slip in with 25 percent of the vote, remember how this works, God forbid if Governor Newsom gets recalled, he would be recalled say getting 49 percent of the vote. And then on the second question, Elder would slip in with 25 percent of the vote. The process itself needs to be reformed.

But having said that, it is the choice of anybody to vote on the second question. I did not. I think Democrats ought to go to that ballot and they ought to vote no. It takes about 20 seconds and be done with this thing. Because California despite its many challenges, is actually making tremendous progress on a number of issues that President Biden and the Congress are attempting to achieve through the infrastructure bill.

Governor Newsom is leading that charge. To have this kind of political hijacking midterm would be terrible for California. It would bring government to a standstill, and it has to be turned back.


O`DONNELL: Well, it is all about Democratic turn-out. Obviously if the Democratic voters turn out, Governor Newsom is going to win by a wide margin. It is all about that turn-out.

Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg, thank you very much for joining us tonight. I really appreciate it.

STEINBERG: Thank you so much.

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


O`DONNELL: The tail end of the downgraded Hurricane Ida battered the northeastern United States late yesterday and last night leaving a path of destruction across New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania. At least 43 people have died according to NBC News.

During a briefing on the storm damage, New York Governor Kathy Hochul said this.


GOVERNOR KATHY HOCHUL (D-NY): What`s so fascinating is that the records that were broken in Central Park, for example, 3.15 inches in one hour. It broke a record literally set one week earlier.

That says to me that there are no more cataclysmic unforeseeable events. We need to foresee these in advance and be prepared.



O`DONNELL: Governor Hochul gets tonight`s LAST WORD.