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

Guests: Jasmine Crockett, Kim Schrier, Sean Patrick Maloney, Josh Shapiro, Mark Pocan


The U.S. Justice Department sues Texas over its restrictive abortion law. President Joe Biden signed executive order mandating vaccines for federal workers and contractors. President Biden`s making sure American voters know exactly who`s preventing us from getting out of this pandemic.


ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel.

That story you had about the flight leaving from Kabul, I think especially in this week where we`re going to be marking the anniversary of 9/11, we remember that flight crews, the pilots and the people on those planes exist for passenger safety, not to, you know, give you things on the plane. That`s bravery.


VELSHI: Taking those flights in and out of Kabul with those Taliban flags and Taliban on the tarmac. I mean, that`s never going to be normal. It shouldn`t be normal. But to be able to, you know, to be on that plane, land it, get passengers off, put passengers on and take off, a thought for all of those pilots and copilots and flight attendants and everybody on those planes who are helping people get to freedom tonight. So thank you for telling us about that.

MADDOW: Yeah, exactly. And you have to believe that this has got to be volunteers. You couldn`t put somebody in this circumstance, and tell them it`s part of their job. These are people that must have volunteered for this, despite those dangers in this absolutely unprecedented and intense situation there. The fact that this may happen on a daily basis going forward makes it more remarkable.

VELSHI: I`m glad you pointed that out. Have yourself a great evening, and we`ll see you on Friday, being Friday eve tonight. Thanks, Rachel.

MADDOW: Thanks, Ali.

VELSHI; Well, President Biden striking back at Republicans, calling out their efforts for all intents and purposes to extend the coronavirus, which we`re going to get to later this hour, lots of development in the fight against COVID.

But he`s also taking some Republicans to court, quote, open defiance of the Constitution, end quote. That`s how the Justice Department described the Texas abortion ban in a brand new lawsuit that argues that the legislation is unconstitutional and should be struck down. This is the first major move against this law from the Biden administration.

Attorney General Merrick Garland said the law, which bans abortions after six weeks, which is before many women would know that they are pregnant with no exceptions for rape or incest violates Supreme Court precedent by denying women their constitutional rights. And he said the provision that effectively deputizes private citizens to be bounty hunters was a, quote, unprecedented scheme end quote to evade responsibility.


MERRICK GARLAND, ATTORNEY GENERAL: This kind of scheme to nullify the constitution of the United States is one that all Americans, whatever their politics or party should fear. If it prevails, it may become a model for action in other areas by other states.


VELSHI: And that`s the point. One should be fearful of this regardless of where you stand on abortion. The Supreme Court has not yet ruled on the constitutionality of the Texas law but the conservative majority on the Supreme Court allowed it to go into effect anyway.

Justice Stephen Breyer told NPR today that he thought quote the majority was very, very wrong to do that. That`s easy to see why because most abortion providers in Texas have now already closed their doors out of fear of being sued by vigilantes or worse. The Texas anti-abortion law allows anyone to become a citizen bounty hunter able to take abortion law enforcement into their own hands and it comes at a time when we`re seeing a massive increase in political violence in America, almost exclusively fueled by the right.

Some reminders, January 6th, when a violent mob hunted members of Congress and brutally attacked police. A rally later this month in Washington, September 18th. In support of the jailed insurrectionists which many are worried would bring more violence, parents across the country harassing educator advocating for wearing masks in schools.

There was a plot to kidnap the governor of Michigan because of COVID restrictions that she put in place. Public officials are being targeted in their homes over election lies, and "Reuters" just identified more than 100 threats of death or violence against election officials inspired by Trump`s lies. Texas has codified violence in its Republican voter suppression bill which empowers partisan potentially armed poll watchers to roam polling locations and intimidate voters, and now, it`s codified vigilante justice by incentivizing right wing anti-abortion extremists to go after anyone they choose and potentially claim a bounty. It`s hard for some of us so fathom, especially those of us who have never known the United States before Roe v. Wade, but this ban is having a real impact on real Americans.


Not everybody is going to be equally burdened by it, as abortion providers point out to "The Texas Tribune", quote, the new restrictions won`t establish a de facto ban on abortion for all Texans. Instead they argue, state lawmakers have created a system that will most heavily affect teenagers and Texans with disabilities, as well as further disadvantaged poor women of color, end quote. This Republican ban will hurt the women who need the help the most.

And now, laws just like it may soon hurt the same groups in other states. "The Washington Post" reports that Republican officials in at least seven states, including Arkansas, Florida, South Carolina, and South Dakota have suggested they may review or amend their states laws to mirror Texas`s legislation. Kentucky, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Ohio, and more are expected to follow.

Attorney General Garland vowed to fight similar lawsuits against states that copy the Texas ban.


GARLAND: The obvious and expressly acknowledged intention of this statutory scheme is to prevent women from exercising their constitutional rights. The United States has the authority and responsibility to ensure that no state can deprive individuals of their constitutional rights through a legislative scheme specifically designed to prevent the vindication of those rights.


VELSHI: Leading off our discussion tonight, Texas State Representative Jasmine Crockett. She is a civil rights attorney. And Joyce Vance, a former federal prosecutor, a professor at the University of Alabama School of Law, and MSNBC legal contributor.

Thank you to both of you for joining us tonight.

Representative Crockett, we have had some opportunities to speak in the last few months, many of them about the voter suppression laws in Texas. But now, we`ve got this, which took some people by surprise. We didn`t think that this Texas law would be the one that the Supreme Court would stumble over.

But here we have it, and I think that point that abortion providers have made to "The Texas Tribune", this doesn`t affect everybody. Women with means will still be able to go to another state, ultimately another country, but women of limited means, poor women, families, poor families, they will be the ones affected by this because they will not risk somebody getting fined or being taken to task by the vigilantes who are now empowered by this law?

STATE REP. JASMINE CROCKETT (D), TEXAS: Yeah, no, absolutely right. First of all, good evening to you, and this is a story of the haves versus the have notes. Sadly enough, that`s what we continue to see out of the state of Texas is that we want to make sure that the privileged few are literally that, few. And so, we`re going to have people that are in financially strained situations. We`re going to have those that, you know, I know there`s been this big debate about rape, right, but you`re going to have people in very desperate situations for very different reasons, and they`re not going to be able to access the health care that we need.

And so what I need the Republicans to say with me is that abortion is health care, say it with me, guys, I know that it`s hard for you to understand because you fail to possess a uterus, but maybe you should start listening to those of us that do.

VELSHI: That`s a wise point to make. Joyce Vance, you wrote a column two days ago which I have tweeted out because what happened in Texas vis-a-vis the Supreme Court is complicated. There are a lot of nuances with it, and what has happened today with the Department of Justice is also complicated because there`s the discussion of the merits of Roe v. Wade and the Texas law, and then there`s a discussion of process and procedure and what Merrick Garland calls a scheme. I`m going to ask you in the limited way in which we can do on television to explain what the Department of Justice is now doing in the face of what happened at the Supreme Court last week.

JOYCE VANCE, MSNBC LEGAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, you`re right, Ali, this is a little bit nuanced, but maybe this will help folks understand. What DOJ did today was they threw the Supreme Court`s decision in the case last week back in its face. Last week, the Supreme Court said, gee, we`ve never seen this sort of private enforcement scheme before where Texas has turned anyone who wants to be a vigilante against abortion into a vigilante who can go out and find these women and claim a $10,000 bounty if they sue the people around them who aided and abetted them in having an abortion.

And the Supreme Court just sort of said, yeah, Texas, you have outsmarted us. We`re not going to keep this law from going into effect because we don`t know how to respond to this novel approach that you have taken. Well, DOJ`s response today was very clear. They said because Texas has effectively tied the Supreme Court`s hands with these private plaintiffs who wants to challenge the abortion law, DOJ has standing, has the ability, has the legal authority to step in and challenge the provision.


They made their case that much stronger because of what the Supreme Court did last week.

VELSHI: Representative Crockett, Texas has not ceased to surprise us a lot in recent months. We have become accustomed to some of the weird stuff that goes on in Texas, but one of the things that was most interesting, you mentioned this in your last response to me about rape, there`s some weird conversations going on about rape, and particularly pregnancies that may result from rape. Your governor has said that`s okay because we`ll just eliminate rape, which is a fantastic goal. But it is a little confounding that that was his response.

CROCKETT: It was flippant, and it was ridiculous, and the sad part was this was part of his priority agenda, so he should have had an actual response ready, whatever that was going to be. But we know this idea that he can wave a magic wand and somehow get rid of rape, my question to the governor is why haven`t you gotten rid of rape before, and you need to tell everybody else in this country how to do it.

You know, but what we do know is when it comes to policies, there`s no money that the governor has actually prioritized for the purpose of processing rape kits. We know that he`s not prioritized rapes in general, and honestly, when you start talking about a rape kit, what does that mean? That means that the rape has already occurred.

And so this idea that he is somehow all knowing, and some god is going to be able to get rid of something that has existed since the beginning of time is ridiculous. We should be ashamed that this is the leader of the second largest state in this country, and these are the type of responses that we get about something that is so fundamental as a constitutional right.

We should be ashamed that this man was on our Supreme Court. We should be ashamed that this man was our attorney general. He obviously doesn`t understand the very basics of constitutional law, and therefore he never should have served in those capacities, and honestly I can`t wait for somebody to kick him out in this upcoming election.

VELSHI: Joyce Vance, there are a number of cases that the department of justice is making but one of them has to do as Representative Crockett just said about constitutionality, and about something called the supremacy clause. Can you explain to me what the department of justice is saying about the fact that the federal government in our case has opined on the legality of an abortion, what does the Department of Justice want done about this?

VANCE: DOJ is relying on constitutional principles that say that when the federal government has occupied the space, occupied this area as they allege they have in this complaint with the 14th Amendment and the Roe versus Wade guarantee to women of abortion rights that the state can`t interfere with those rights, that that would violate the supremacy clause. There`s really good case law that supports this, Ali. It goes back to the 1940s and the 1950s where there were covenants that prohibited people who were African Americans from purchasing homes and ultimately when private residents sued to try to enforce those clauses, the Supreme Court said that`s too much. States you can`t use private citizens, in this case, it was Missouri, you can`t use your private citizens to try to enforce these unconstitutional aims.

So, DOJ will draw a straight line from that well-established body of case law, and use that to make the argument, hear that Texas cannot use private citizens to enforce its unconstitutional aims.

VELSHI: I`m clear on a lot of this thanks to you two tonight. Thank you for joining us.

Texas State Representative Jasmine Crockett and Joyce Vance, we appreciate your time.

Coming up, big news on the delta variant, President Biden has said enough is enough with the explosion of case counts, hospitalizations, and deaths driven by unvaccinated people. The administration making it much, much harder for people to avoid doing the right thing -- that`s next.



VELSHI: President Biden had a message today for the 80 million Americans who still haven`t been vaccinated against COVID. The time for waiting and excuses is over.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Over 200 million Americans have gotten at least one shot. We`ve been patient, but our patience is wearing thin. And your refusal has cost all of us. So please do the right thing.

This is a pandemic of the unvaccinated. And it`s caused by the fact that despite America having unprecedented and successful vaccination program, despite the fact that for almost five months free vaccines have been able in 80,000 different locations, we still have nearly 80 million Americans who have failed to get the shot. And to make matters worse, there are elected officials actively working to undermine the fight against COVID-19. Instead of encouraging people to get vaccinated and mask up, they`re ordering mobile morgues for the unvaccinated dying from COVID in their communities. This is totally unacceptable.


VELSHI: The president`s message to Republican governors and GOP activists pushing anti-public health policies was just as harsh.


BIDEN: The path ahead even with the delta variant is not nearly as bad as last winter, well, what makes it incredibly more frustrating is we have the tools to combat COVID-19 and a distinct number of Americans, supported by a distinct number of elected officials are keeping us from turning the corner. These pandemic politics are making people sick, causing unvaccinated people to die. We cannot allow these actions to stand in the way of protecting the large majority of Americans who have done their part, who want to get back to life as normal.



VELSHI: In short, a vocal conservative minority is extending the length of the pandemic. So, the president is fighting back. Today, he announced new vaccine mandates for all federal workers, millions of federal government contract workers, more than 17 million hospital, home health care, and other medical workers, and employers with 100 or more workers. These businesses will either force their employees to get vaccinated or have those unvaccinated employees undergo weekly COVID testing.

Joining me now is my former partner in crime, Stephanie Ruhle, NBC News business correspondent and host, senior business correspondent and host of the 9:00 a.m. hour here on MSNBC.

Stephan, I have seen press releases going out from companies and organizations, some not loving this, most overwhelmingly are embracing this. Most companies want this cover because they have been trying to figure out how to get their employees vaccinated and now the federal government has extended that awning over them just a little bit more.

STEPHANIE RUHLE, NBC NEWS BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Bingo, Yahtzee, amen, and hallelujah. Is this administration going to get sued for this? Sure, without a doubt. But bet your bottom dollar these lawsuits are not going to go far.

Overwhelmingly, the business community is saying thank you for the air cover. This is what they want. Remember, CEOs are not political, and if they are, they keep politics to their own private life. They want to get business done. They want customers to want to do business with them. They want their employees in their offices and safe and they know that this is the way to do it.

And by the administration or excuse me, the Labor Department really enacting this, it gives companies the ability to say I`m not asking you to do it. It`s the law, and remember because it`s OSHA, they can fine a company, they`re the regulator, it can actually cost them. It can hurt their bottom line.

They want COVID behind us so they can move forward, so if we want to move forward and be healthy as a country and have our economy be healthy, this is the fastest way to do it.

Ali, we have to remember, it was a three-pronged approach. The government developed the vaccine. The medical community are the ones who educated us. And it`s businesses who hold the carrot to influence the majority of the American people to actually get vaccinated and that`s how we`re going to move on.

VELSHI: That makes a lot of sense. Steph, good to see you my friend, people tweet me, why are you and Stephanie not on TV together. We`re going to be together from eleven to two.

RUHLE: We don`t get along.

VELSHI: There`s that. We`re going to be together from 11:30 to 2:00 Eastern on Saturday for the commemoration of 9/11. I`m looking forward to being back with you my friend.

RUHLE: There`s nobody I would rather do it with.

VELSHI: And joining us now -- thanks, friend.

Joining us is Representative Kim Schrier, Democrat from Washington state. She is the first pediatrician to become a member of Congress. And, Dr. Kavita Patel, former Obama White House health policy director, MSNBC medical contributor, and someone I have relied on for years for health policy discussions.

Thanks to both of you for being here. Representative Schneider, thank you for being here, and halleluiah, we got a pediatrician in Congress.

This is sort of a moment to hear from pediatricians who happen to be legislators, we have a unique issue in this country, we are not able to vaccinate our youngest. They`ve got to go to school, so we kind of -- the rest of us who can get vaccines need to do our utmost to protect them. They`re not immune from COVID, and they`re not immune from dying of COVID.

REP. KIM SCHRIER (D-WA): That is exactly right, Ali. I want to thank you for saying that because I was listening to President Biden talk about this being a pandemic of the unvaccinated, and I was thinking in of my pediatrician and also children. They are susceptible to all of the choices we all make. They have not -- if they`re under 12, they don`t have the option of being vaccinated, they are really, you know, at the whim of how responsible we all decide to be.

VELSHI: Kavita, all the stuff that happened today, it might seem incremental, certainly to a lot of my viewers who are vaccinated, wondering how this has to happened. When taken together, all federal workers, federal contractors, companies with more than a hundred people, that`s a big move of the needle. There are a whole lot of people who tomorrow morning are going to be able to say if you are part of my organization, you need to get vaccinated or be subject to a whole lot of testing.

KAVITA PATEL, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Ali, I can confidently tell you this might be go down as the single important action to help decrease the impact of the pandemic and put the worst of it behind us. We`re not going to eliminate it, of course, I actually think what the president did today, and it`s so much more than even we have the time to kind of cover, you peel it away, and it mandates, teachers, and school officials who were withheld for salaries, just because they stood up for masks.


I mean, there`s so much there. I really do think that this plan today could define a moment. I thought it would be when the vaccines were discovered, approved and researched that will definitely go down in history. This will be one of the president`s actions that will go down in history for helping us beat this pandemic.

VELSHI: And one of the things that happened, Dr. Schrier this evening, we heard from the L.A. school district, one of the largest in the country, they`re going to require students 12 and older to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

Talk to me about, there`s a patchwork of things going on in schools across this country. Some are openly defying their governors who say we can`t have mask mandates. What does success look like for schools across the country right now?

SCHRIER: Let me first say, bravo to L.A. Unified. I think that is a really smart decision. They are looking out for the best interest of their students. I was meeting with them yesterday, and I`m excited to see this progress.

Look, we require all kinds of vaccinations to go to school, chickenpox, measles, mumps, hepatitis B, they`re all required, and COVID right now is the single biggest threat to our children and should absolutely be required.

VELSHI: Kavita, how much coverage, Stephanie and I were just talking about this, the stuff that happened today has given cover to some companies that want people to be vaccinated. How much does it break the back of the resistance? Because at some point, it needs to stop, right, people have got to figure out if you want to function in this world, and we want to move forward, we have to do that.

The president was very, very firm about where the resistance, there`s always some legitimate resistance to vaccinations and drugs but the president was very clear that a lot of this is politicized.

Does that make a difference, is it going to make people sit there and say I need to get vaccinated?

PATEL: I think it is, Ali. Look, if we go to other countries where they have had something similar, France, Italy, Greece, parts of the U.K., Ireland, these types of requirements and mandates have been effective in overcoming the resistance, including the United States, we`re going to continue to see the GOP outcry, you can`t force us to do this, it`s government overreach, Ali, I can promise you, as people see cases dropping, less children in ICUs and schools opening and the laughter of children all around us and normal workplace environments, that resistance is going to be overcome.

I would say he didn`t go far enough. I would have loved to have seen him but I know it was a step too far to have a domestic travel mandate for vaccinations to actually do what New York state is doing, a lot of leisure activities that we want to be a part of immediately require vaccination. You know what? I think the president`s actions today give more and more municipalities and states, and your point, private entities the authority to do that.

VELSHI: Yeah, I have gone to restaurants in New York where they ask for proof of vaccination. I feel safer in the environment as a result of them doing it.

Dr. Schrier, I want to ask you, the president is drawing a bit of a distinction between people who have hesitancy or reasons to not want the vaccine, and I don`t know how you say it politely, BS, the horse deworming nonsense, and all of this kind of stuff.

I don`t know what you in Congress can do about this, but disinformation and misinformation is ruining our democracy. It has affected our elections but it`s actually killing people right now.

SCHRIER: It is incredibly frustrating, especially as a pediatrician, to see this. And look, in 20 years as a pediatrician, I met with lots and lots of parents who were anxious about vaccines, and we sat down and had conversations and built trust and we got those children vaccinated.

This is a whole different animal. And what I would love to see, frankly, is for everybody who`s worried about the vaccine to just get in touch with their doctor. Talk to their trusted physician who they developed a relationship with and get the information from them. Not from crazy online.

VELSHI: That is good advice. Thanks to both of you for being here.

Dr. Kim Schrier is a United States member of Congress, and Dr. Kavita Patel is the former member of the Obama White House policy, she`s a former White House policy director and MSNBC medical contributor.

Coming up, does good public health policy makes for good politics? We`re going to ask the Democrat in charge of helping Democrats to keep the House in 2022. That`s next.




JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Right now, local school officials are trying to keep children safe in a pandemic while their governor picks a fight with them and even threatens their salaries or their jobs. If these governors won`t help us beat the pandemic, I`ll use my power as president to get them out of the way.


VELSHI: President Biden`s making sure American voters know exactly who`s preventing us from getting out of this pandemic. People who are unvaccinated by choice and Republican leaders who are actively putting people including young children who are not yet eligible for the vaccine at risk.

The most recent Republican president suggested that Americans might inject bleach into themselves to prevent COVID, and now some Republican lawmakers and conservative media are out there claiming that taking horse de-wormers will cure it.

But America is not a 50/50 country when it comes to COVID. The people taking de-wormers and burning masks and screaming about freedom at flight attendants are out of step with what most Americans want, which is not to get COVID. 75 percent of adults have received at least one vaccine shot. 70 percent of parents are ok with K to 12 children wearing masks in schools.


VELSHI: You can`t get 70 percent of people to agree on anything in this country including what day it is. These are huge majorities in a polarized electorate. It might be why Democrats have decided to directly confront Republican obstruction to ending this pandemic.

Joining us now Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney. He`s the chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Representative Maloney, good to see you.

Republicans, sir, are betting on the fact that Americans are weary of pandemic restrictions and masks and mandates and all this. And I think Democrats are betting that Americans are weary of coronavirus.

REP. SEAN PATRICK MALONEY (D-NY): Well, you know, what I`m willing to bet is that people who want this government to do what it takes to end the pandemic, and that understand that the only reason we`re still dealing with this is that a bunch of Americans have been fed a lie by the former president and bye his friends in the media and other politicians.

First about how serious this pandemic was because they never took it seriously enough. Secondly about the importance of mask wearing, and they`re still fighting that. And most recently they`ve been undermining at every step our efforts to get people vaccinated.

And so enough. I`m glad to see the president strengthening the requirements. I think it`s past due. And I think it`s our job to make sure that people understand that the Republican Party has been reckless and irresponsible on the pandemic and they have been feeding a lie to millions of Americans who unfortunately have believed it, and that`s why we`re still dealing with this pandemic.

VELSHI: You are on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. It was one of the few things that Republicans and Democrats were actually able to come together on to talk about infrastructure.

Now we`ve got the second bill, which a whole bunch of Democrats didn`t want to get done, you know. They wanted it to get done ahead of the infrastructure bill.

We have people including one of your front line colleagues, Stephanie Murphy of Florida who said today she`s not ready to vote on this bill. She tweeted out, "Without the full text of the Ways and Means portion of the bill I simply cannot make an informed substantiative decision. But I`ll keep working to get this bill to a place where I can support it and become law."

Talk to me in your job, which is responsible for keeping the House majority, how you moderate this matter between some moderate Democrats and some progressive Democrats who don`t want the same thing.

MALONEY: Well, let me give you a guide to the whole thing, which is Democrats are going to deliver. And there was a recent back and forth with some of our own members about the best way forward.

And in the end, what happened? 100 percent of us came together, and voted to advance the president`s agenda. We are going to deliver results. And members have all kinds of opinions and that`s as it should be.

And they`re going to all get a chance to voice them. But we are going to pass this infrastructure bill. It will be done on a bipartisan basis. And we`re going to pass the Build Back Better Plan so that we also invest in pre-K and in child care. And make that child tax credit permanent. And make sure community college is available to all Americans. And invest in our people in a way we haven`t done in far too long.

And we`re going to get these things done as a party that believes in results. And we`re going to let the other side spin their webs and try and divide Americans and really hope that the country fails and think that it`s easier to be critics than to be problem solvers.

But we`re going to get these things done. And we`re going to let the results speak for themselves.

VELSHI: To our most recently NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll taken in mid-August about who should control Congress gives Democrats the slight edge but it`s within the margin of error. The margin of error is 3.1 percent. Democrats get 47, Republicans get 46.

Look, some people say it`s stupid to be talking about this in September of 2021. But what has to happen for your purposes to move those numbers in your favor? How do you get more Americans say that Democrats deserve to keep control of Congress?

MALONEY: Look, you know, I spent the day touring the still fresh damage around my district from the recent storms. We`ve got dozens of people dead here in New York -- failing infrastructure, climate change events that are becoming more and more evident every day. So what we`re going to do is focus on real problems like that, and we`re going to get them done.

What I can tell you is the military guys say the only way out is through. And the only way through these problems for us politically is to deliver on the policy, to get results for the American people, to go big, to do it now, to make sure people feel it, to tell them we did it.

And to make sure they know that the red team has lost their minds, and they are engaged in things that are racist, and that are violent, and that are dangerous, like conspiracy theories and the kinds of nonsense we have seen from that party.

But we`re going to fix hard problems, and we`re going to do it because it`s the right thing to do. And we`re going to do it because it`s the best politics in the end.

VELSHI: Congressman, good to see you. Thanks for joining us tonight.

MALONEY: My pleasure.

VELSHI: Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney.

Coming up, we`re going to talk about a new effort by Republicans to claim victory for Trump in a state where Joe Biden beat him in 2020, and what that means for both 2022 and 2024.

We`re also going to show you one of the best footnotes ever which happens to come from my hometown paper. That`s next.



VELSHI: Republicans can conduct fake audits, and recounts and re-recounts until the 2024 presidential election. But they`re not going to find widespread voter fraud from the 2020 election because it doesn`t exist. There simply was none.

Many Republicans know that. They`re still fighting the results because the twice-impeached former president wants them to do. And so today Pennsylvania Republicans held a hearing about quote "an investigation on the 2020 general election" end quote, an investigation only opened because Donald Trump pushed them to open it.

When Republicans in Arizona began their partisan review of ballots in Maricopa County, Arizona, the secretary of state there Katie Hobbs referred to it as a fraud-it because it wasn`t legitimate. It was just a spectacle to mollify Trump.


VELSHI: But what`s happening in Pennsylvania isn`t legitimate either. And "The Philadelphia Inquirer" is refusing to play the GOP`s democracy- destroying game.

Here`s how "The Inquirer" explains what`s going on, quote, "The Inquirer is not currently referring to attempts by Pennsylvania Republicans to investigate the 2020 presidential election as an audit because there`s no indication that it would follow the best practices or the common understanding of an audit among nonpartisan experts.

When asked by The Inquirer, lawmakers leading the effort have not explained how it would actually be run, including whether best practices would be followed. Who would be involved, including what role partisan politicians would play. How the review would be documented, how election equipment and ballots would be secured, and what the scope of any review would be. Joe Biden won Pennsylvania by more than 80,000 votes." End quote.

Joining us now, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro. Attorney general, that`s actually a good start, if media organizations around the country decided to call the BS out for what it is. These are not audits, they`re nonsense.

JOSH SHAPIRO, PENNSYLVANIA ATTORNEY GENERAL: They`re absolute nonsense. And Katie Hobbs is right, it`s a fraud-it. I think it`s a charade and a sham and I think what is important for Pennsylvanians to know is that these Republican Pennsylvania senators are using taxpayer dollars to undermine the faith in our democracy with this charade.

And I`ve been hearing for weeks, actually months that this would be some kind of big blockbuster hearing today. Instead, today`s hearing was a complete and total dud that produced zero evidence in their attempts to satisfy the very people that they have been lying to for the last ten months.

VELSHI: Well, let`s show our viewers what we mean. Let`s play a little bit from this hearing. What you`re going to hear from is the Fulton County, Pennsylvania commissioner, Stuart Ulsh, he`s a Republican; and the Pennsylvania state senator, Vincent Hughes, who is a Democrat. Ulsh was the only person to testify today. Let`s hear a little of the exchange.


STATE SENATOR VINCENT HUGHES (D-PA): In your investigation, was there any fraudulent voting ever found out -- found in the votes?

STUART ULSH, FULTON COUNTY COMMISSIOER: My report come back -- it`s in our report, but no, nothing was found. Everything was ran in Fulton County normally.


HUGHES: Everything was square, up and up, no fraudulent voting.

ULSH: That`s what our report says.

HUGHES: That`s what the report says.


VELSHI: Well, that`s not a wildly successful first outing for this investigation into the 2020 election.

SHAPIRO: No, but first off that was a great question by Senator Hughes. And it`s the truth, that is that there was no fraud in this election. We had a free and fair, safe and secure election that Joe Biden won by just over 80,000 votes.

The problem is these Republican state senators continued to put conspiracies in front of our state constitution, continue to put important issues like climate change and job creation and educating our kids, dealing with gun violence on the back burner so they can instead focus on perpetuating the big lie.

Understand that before they had these hearings, they didn`t check with the taxpayers. They didn`t check with the people. They checked with Donald Trump and asked him if he was comfortable with the direction that they were going.

And now they find themselves caught in the middle of their news max talking points and the reality of what happened here in Pennsylvania, again, that we had a free and fair, safe and secure election.

VELSHI: But a lot of people say, look, it`s not going to happen. I mean what you`re seeing in Arizona or Georgia or Texas can`t happen in Pennsylvania because you`ve got a Republican governor who`s not going to let some of this nonsense go through in terms of some of the changes.

SHAPIRO: Democratic governor.

VELSHI: I`m sorry, Democratic governor -- that`s correct -- who`s not going to let the nonsense go through. But that`s not really the right assurance we should be having. We shouldn`t be -- we need to figure out ways to not entertain this kind of nonsense because at some point, in every state, there will be a Democratic governor there won`t be a Democratic governor. That`s not the point, right.

The point is how do we prevent absolutely unlawful, mythical, made up stuff from possibly coming close to becoming law?

SHAPIRO: Speaking truth, and by not giving these folks who continue to perpetuate the big lie a platform to share it.

Look, they have been spoon-feeding lies to the good people of Pennsylvania for the last ten months. And so I understand why some in Pennsylvania have reacted with questions about our elections, questions about our democracy. Not because there`s any legitimate reasons for them to feel that way but because they have been lied to by these elected officials, lied to by the modern-day Republican Party who`s not beholden to truth but rather beholden and subservient to Donald Trump.


VELSHI: Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, thanks for joining us as always tonight.

Coming up, what America is doing to help the Afghan refugees. That`s next.


VELSHI: Today the first civilian passenger flight to leave Afghanistan, to leave Kabul Airport since the U.S. military evacuation ended arrived in Doha, Qatar. More than a hundred passengers departed from Kabul.

This is actually the Kabul departure right now. This is at an airport fully-controlled by the Taliban flying Taliban flags. This is them taking off from Qatar.

The people on that flight included Canadian, Ukrainian, German, British and U.S. citizens. From Doha they will go to their final destinations.

That flights marks a new stage in the effort to get Americans and Afghan allies out of the country.


VELSHI: Members of Wisconsin`s congressional delegation, including our next guest, Congressman Mark Pocan met this week with Afghan refugees being housed at Fort McCoy in Wisconsin. Here`s what Congressman Pocan said after the meeting.


REP. MARK POCAN (D-WI): I can very confidently say that there`s an excellent job that`s happening right here at Fort McCoy by all the agencies involved and that we`re going to help an awful lot of people who helped the United States in finding places in this country. And it`s our obligation.


VELSHI: Joining us now is Democratic Congressman Mark Pocan of Wisconsin. Congressman, good to see you.

I want to put up a poll, it`s an NPR/Ipsos poll which shows what Americans think about evacuating Afghans who worked with the United states and resettling them in the United States. 69 percent support it, 19 percent oppose it. And again, 69 percent of support is something in this politicized environment is actually quite a big deal.

There`s no question amongst 69 percent at least of Americans these folks helped us, they put themselves on the line, they`re in danger, we need to evacuate them and bring them here.

POCAN: Absolutely, Ali. Thank you so much for having me here.

You know, we went there. It`s a really well-run operation. By the weekend already I think they`re going to have some people going into communities throughout the country and this is our obligation and it`s also our opportunity to thank people who protected our soldiers who were in Afghanistan for 20 years. They and their families now are out of any harm`s way with the Taliban and we`re going to make sure that they`re part of this country.

VELSHI: Interestingly enough, there are some conservatives who were putting -- I didn`t want to put the pictures up because they`re frankly offensive - - but pictures of these groups of refugees. I don`t know if they`re real or they`re just random Muslims that they put pictures up of and instilling fear.

"You really want these people here? You really want these people in this country?" Our history in America with refugees across the board has been overwhelmingly positive. People forced out of their own countries who are allowed into the United States kiss the ground that they come to and generally make themselves very hard working and successful in America.

POCAN: Yes, no question. In fact, they`ve been really great at Fort McCoy, nothing but great stories. They`re getting vaccinated. In fact, the COVID vaccine out of near capacity -- with the capacity of 13,000 people there, one person has turned down a COVID vaccine. Wouldn`t you like to see that with the United States population.

So you know, they`re ready to be a part of this country. They served and protected our soldiers for many, many years. And any kind of rhetoric about whatever background they may have, we have to remember if we want to ever be able to work with another country in a future situation, we`re going to have to deliver, and I think right now this country certainly is lifting both its hands and hearts to those people.

VELSHI: So those you saw, the 12,000 people who were there -- you know some (INAUDIBLE) you had some sense of how pleased they are to be in America. Did you get a chance to talk to any of them about what`s going on back home and how they feel about the Taliban having taken over Afghanistan?

POCAN: We weren`t allowed to talk to them directly. We did talk to one of the interpreters who shared some stories with us. But, you know, this is something where we really are doing our best right now. They`re doing their best at the facility, you know. It`s going near perfect in the transition.

And now, you know, they`re finding 50,000 places across the country to host folks. So, you know, people will start going throughout the country.

But this is really important that we get it done right. I think we`re on the right track. And you know, I give President Biden a lot of credit because he made a very tough, but important decision to leave Afghanistan.

And I think at the end of the day you look at polling there as well, people agree with that decision.

VELSHI: What do you think as a member of Congress we need to be thinking about as next steps with Afghanistan? We`ve heard from Tony Blinken, the secretary of state, that we do not think we`re going to be recognizing or any time soon recognize the Taliban.

But, you know, these flights that are taking off out of Kabul, there`s a certain amount of coordination that is going to have to be done because, like it or not, the Taliban are now the government of Afghanistan.

Yes. I think we`re going to have to see how the Taliban decides to proceed. If they`re going to really be a more responsible government or if we`re going to have additional issues.

But I think what`s important is we need to double our efforts of getting more folks out of Afghanistan, especially some of the interpreters, you know. I think there is an issue with some of the families still are in Afghanistan. And since they`re helping us with interpreting right now, we really have to do more to get those folks out.

But, again, I`ve been really impressed with the effort despite the fact that the Taliban took over so quickly. I think Joe Biden got things done by August 31st, as he said, and we`ve got ourselves out of this situation.

And I just hope that the next time someone decides they`re going to go into a country that`s very different than the United States, that they don`t do what Dick Cheney and George Bush did which is think that we`re going to leave with a bunch of Dunkin` Donuts and Disney Lands.

That was never going to happen and it`s the right thing to get out of there. But let`s make sure we pause next time someone looks at nation- building in a country like this.


VELSHI: Congressman Mark Pocan, thanks for joining us tonight. Congressman Mark Pocan of Wisconsin.

And that is tonight`s LAST WORD.

"THE 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS" begins right now.