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Transcript: The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, August 28, 2020

Guests: Ashish Jha, Adam Schiff


Biden versus Trump is official on the U.S. general elections. Trump's nomination and campaign has been attended by people with no masks and no social distancing. More than 70 percent of Americans think that America is heading the wrong track based on a poll by Morning Consult. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) is interviewed regarding Trump's use of federal property during the RNC campaign and accepting the nomination at the White House.


RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Amid fears that the White House might have organized a superspreader COVID event last night at the White House for the president's speech with over a thousand people closely packed together with no masks in sight.

Today we learned that at the actual Republican convention, the Charlotte, North Carolina event that preceded all the stuff in D.C. this week, where they actually did the roll call and they formally nominated the president, today we learned that four people who showed up for that RNC event tested positive for COVID.

Amid lots of public consternation about how the RNC has handled COVID concerns this week at their many events, one senior White House official today told CNN that none of it really matters because, "everybody is going to catch this thing eventually."

While that's true, if we keep going to events organized by the Republican Party in the White House if they keep doing it like this. Watch this space. That will be a developing story as we continue to see the implications of what they organized in multiple occasions over the course of this week.

I'll see you again on Monday night. Now it is time for "The Last Word" where the great Katy Tur is filling in for Lawrence tonight. Good evening, Katy. It's great to see you.

KATY TUR, MSNBC HOST: Hey there, Rachel. How cynical for them to say everyone is going to get it eventually. Also, by the way to you, congratulations on making it through that entire convention especially last night when you had to do a giant fact-check. It was a herculean effort.

MADDOW: It is very nice of you to say that. You have been misled or you are mistaken if you think I made it through. I am not okay, but I am going to take a weekend to get myself okay and I will be back in my human skin by Monday.

TUR: I hope it includes a nice large cocktail. Rachel, thank you very much.

And this presidential election, as with all presidential elections in which an incumbent is on the ballot comes down to one basic question: do you want another four years of the person in the Oval Office right now? Do you want four more years of Donald Trump?

Last night the president made his re-election case to America, but it was hard to see what case he was actually making. He denounced a lot of things and attacked a lot of people, but we didn't hear a lot about what the president would do with another four years.

That might be because the president himself doesn't seem so sure. Here's the picture in "The New York Times" Peter Baker paints following a recent interview with Donald Trump.

"How would he be different in a second term? Really not much at all. I think I'd be similar, he said. Which is exactly what his supporters want and his opponents fear. Beyond more of the same, he has strained lately to define what his second term agenda would be."

One thing is clear, more of the same, though, is not what America wants. Seventy-three percent of voters in a recent Morning Consult poll said that the nation was on the wrong track. And a number that size cannot be ignored.

Trump has faced three crises that have upended his reelection argument, a pandemic that has killed more than 180,000 Americans, an economic slowdown as a result of that pandemic and the growing civil unrest as more and more black men and black women in America are shot by police.

Those crises have also reshaped the race for Joe Biden, and we're going to have more on that in a moment. But let us not lose sight of the president's struggle here. The president has almost put the pandemic behind him.

Several speakers at the Republican convention talked about the coronavirus in the past tense despite the virus still killing a thousand Americans a day.

As Trump accepted his party's nomination, a crowd of 1,500 gathered on the south lawn at the White House, roughly 1,500. Masks were not required and social distancing was not enforced. Those images came hours before it was announced that four people at the RNC in Charlotte tested positive for COVID-19.

And tonight, the president held a campaign rally in New Hampshire. NBC's Shannon Pettypiece reports that about a thousand supporters attended the event and some in the crowd booed when they were told that masks were required. Plenty in the crowd apparently ignored that requirement. Others wore their masks around their chins. And you guessed it. There was no social distancing.

The president is still willing to make his case on the economy, but just last week another one million people filed for unemployment claims. The unemployment rate sits right now at 10.2 percent. And here's how the "Times" Peter Baker describes the president's handling of race in America.

"In responding to the debate over racial justice, he has characteristically sought confrontation rather than calm, disparaging the Black Lives Matter movement, blaming street violence on what he calls radical Democrats and presenting himself defender of the police." Trump said his second term would be similar to all of that. That is the case he wants to make.

Meanwhile, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are taking a different approach to those crisis. As part of his general election rollout, Biden called for a national mask mandate. Last week, he said he would shut down the country if scientists recommended doing so to fight the virus.

And Biden says he will only hold in-person campaign events if they are safe. Biden plans on holding in-person events after Labor Day in battleground states. He specifically cited Pennsylvania, Arizona, Wisconsin and Minnesota, all swing states, but he said the events had to be consistent with the state rules about how many people can be assembled.

And Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have chosen a different path on confronting the systemic racism in this nation. In his RNC speech, Donald Trump did not mention Jacob Blake, the 29-year-old black man who was shot in the back seven times at close range by police in Wisconsin.

Biden and Harris have not only condemned that shooting, they have also spoken with Jacob Blake's family. Here is what Jacob Blake's father said about that conversation.


JACOB BLAKE, SR., FATHER OF JACOB BLAKE, JR.: I have talked to Joe Biden and Kamala Harris for an hour on the phone. They were so comforting that you almost forgot how the situation was really playing out. They relieved some -- they made Jacob's mother stop being nervous for like 40, 50 minutes. And she's so nervous and so worried. And I don't think people understand the worry of a mother. That's her baby.


TUR: The police shooting of Jacob Blake was an important focus today at the march on Washington. Thousands of protesters in D.C. marched and called for criminal justice restructuring and racial equality. Kamala Harris made a video appearance at the event.


KAMALA HARRIS (D) VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The road ahead, it is not going to be easy. But if we work together to challenge every instinct our nation has to return to the status quo and combine the wisdom of long-time warriors for justice with the creative energy of the young leaders today, we have an opportunity to make history right here and right now.


TUR: Sixty-seven days before the election, the difference between the two parties is stark. There are two radically different approaches being offered to handle the major crises facing America. The question is what does America want, more of the same, or is it time for a change?

Leading off our discussion tonight are Yamiche Alcindor, White House correspondent for the PBS Newshour and Zerlina Maxwell, senior director of progressive programming at SiriusXM Radio. She is also the author of the great book "The End of White Politics: How to Heal our Liberal Divide." Both are MSNBC political analysts.

Ladies, it's really great to have you. Really great to see you. I want to start off with that Morning Consult poll, that large number of people that said the country is going in the wrong direction. Zerlina, The question is do those people think that the president is the person to put us back on the right track or that a change in the presidency is what's going to be necessary?

ZERLINA MAXWELL, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it's not surprising that 73 percent of Americans are not happy with the current situation because by and large unless you are a Republican going to a Trump event you cannot live your life as you were living it before, frankly.

You can't go outside. You can't hug your friends. You have to stay socially distant. You have to wear a mask. Our lives have been upended. And so what I think that poll demonstrates is that people have noticed that some of the incompetent leadership by this president has directly caused some of these consequences, not just the fact that the virus exists at all.

But we can see that other countries are able to better handle it and people are frankly looking for leadership that right now appears to be a vacuum left open by Donald Trump because he just will not listen to the scientists.

TUR: Let's talk about what we have been seeing across the country specifically in the last few days over what happened to Jacob Blake. Yamiche, it seems like the Trump campaign is counting on that sort of strife, that sort of racial unrest so they can make this message that America is on fire and they're the only ones that can put it out.

YAMICHE ALCINDOR, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, that was the exact message that President Trump was sending in that hour and 10 minute speech on the lawn, the south lawn where of course, thousands of people, hundreds of people gathered shoulder to shoulder with no social distancing and no masks and no testing.

What the president was trying to really do was sell the idea of fear, this idea that what you see on your TV with the burning cars and looting, that's separate and apart from the peaceful protests that we're largely seeing all over the country, that that's going to come to a neighborhood near you.

He's really trying to convince, especially white suburban women that this is going to be a scary time if Joe Biden is elected. And I will say, as much as we talk about black lives matter, as much as we see boycotting from athletes and really the largest protests movements in a generation, the other thing that we're seeing is that polling shows that the chaos is possibly hurting the Black Lives Matter movement.

So Kellyanne Conway came out yesterday and said the chaos and the violence that helps us essentially. She said that that makes the distinction clear between President Trump and Joe Biden. Joe Biden said that that was really President Trump rooting for more violence not less violence.

And when you look at a poll, Marquette Law School did in Wisconsin specifically, the support for Black Lives Matter movement dropped among independents. It went from about 40 something percent in July to -- rather, in June to lower than that in August.

So what you see is there are people and there is evidence that the voters that both Joe Biden and President Trump want for them, that those people are starting to look at the Black Lives Matter movement and the protest is starting to conflate them with the out of control rioters who are separate and apart from the actual movement that is calling for peaceful protest.

TUR: There are millions of people that tune into Fox News every night and hear that drum being beaten over and over again. Zerlina, it reminds me of a lot of what we saw when we were covering this campaign in 2016. Donald Trump was followed by strife. He was followed by unrest.

A lot of these rallies we went to when you'd walk outside there would be clashes between Trump voters and protesters. He was inside calling for his supporters to punch protesters, do whatever they needed to do. So he was painting this picture that America was wild and out of control, even though it was only wild and out of control in the small pockets where he was at any given time.

He was creating these divisive moments. It seems like what we're seeing right now is the president doing the same with the scenes coming out of a place like Kenosha, Wisconsin. I'm just wondering when you talk to Trump voters, why do they think that the solution to what Trump is doing is more Trump?

MAXWELL: Well, I don't think that they see him as a cause of the unrest because he is telling them and Fox News is backing him up on this with the footage and the narrative that they are spinning is that, you know, the reason this is happening is because Democrat-led cities are not, you know, taking control of out of control black people.

I mean, frankly, that's what he's saying. And I think that, you know, we as American citizens and as folks and allies to equality and justice under the law, which is what we're talking about in this movement or a movement activists are talking about in this movement, I think that, you know, they are very clear in their message and they are not the ones committing these acts of violence in the streets.

They're peacefully protesting because the police have committed an act of violence in the streets. And until there is accountability for that, these protests are going to continue whether Donald Trump likes it or not.

And frankly he may be able to spin it in his favor, but the problem is, is that if he's trying to convince suburban white women that he is the one who can keep them and their families safe, then why on the other hand is he telling them to send their children back to school without following the proper scientific procedures?

So, he is talking out of both sides of his mouth. And it may work with some voters, but frankly I think COVID is something that voters cannot forget. Wherever they stand on the Black Lives Matter movement, they understand that the pandemic is the immediate need that needs to be taken care of seriously.

TUR: I want to talk about Joe Biden very briefly here, Yamiche, and I want to read this quote from "The Atlantic" from George Packer talking about how Biden should immediately go to Wisconsin, immediately go to Kenosha.

He should meet the Blake family, Packer writes, and give them support and comfort. He should also meet Kenoshans like the small business owners quoted in the "Times" piece who doubt that Democrats care about the wreckage of their dreams.

Then on the burned-out streets without a script, from the heart, Biden should speak to the city and the country. He should speak for justice and for safety, for reform and against riots, for the crying need to bring the country together."

I guess why aren't we seeing Joe Biden do something like that tonight or tomorrow?

ALCINDOR: That's a really good question. And I think it's a question that the Joe Biden campaign will likely be reckoning with. Joe Biden has said that if he was president he would go to Wisconsin. And we have seen Joe Biden deliver these kinds of eloquent remarks where they look very presidential.

So, it might be something that we see in the future. I think I go back to that idea that the polling in Wisconsin specifically shows that among independents, Democrats, and Republicans, the approval for black lives matter went down from June to August.

That's a bad thing and a bad sign for Joe Biden in a critical battleground state. There are people in that community, despite how they might feel about the overall racial equality, they're looking at these protests and they do feel like at times they're out of hand.

Again, I think that's (inaudible) conflating a peaceful protest with really people who are looting and not part of that protest. But Joe Biden can maybe go to those people and say, look, here is what people are feeling, here's why your city is feeling this way, and also here are the businesses we understand, we see.

President Trump is going to continue to marshal his message towards saying that these people are out of control. He's going to continue to conflate them and use it in his benefit. So that is an interesting idea that Joe Biden might be wanting to go there based on the fact that it seems as though Wisconsin and likely Americans in other cities are really fearful of what these protests can turn into.

TUR: Yamiche and Zerlina, thanks for just this moment. Let's also bring in Dr. Ashish Jha into the conversation. Dr. Jha is the director of the Harvard Global Health Institute. Dr, Jha, I want to talk about social distancing and mask wearing and the rhetoric the White House, the president and the convention used about the pandemic, using it in past tense.

The other day I was at a Trump event in Pennsylvania. Outside of the event where a number of supporters had gathered. There was no social distancing. There were very few masks. In fact, a lot of people were telling me that masks were just a way for them to control you. It is unclear who that them is.

Shannon Pettypiece is reporting tonight that in New Hampshire there were boos when there was -- it was announced there would be a mask requirement, that many people flouted that. A lot of the masks were being worn around the chin.

What does it do to have the White House hold these events to speak about the pandemic in past tense? What does it do for our national safety when it comes to this virus?

ASHISH JHA, DIRECTOR, HARVARD GLOBAL INSTITUTE: Yes. So, thank you so much for having me on. We are not anywhere near done with this pandemic. I think we have more days ahead of us than we have behind us. And what national leadership requires at this moment is clear communication with the American people, not just of the road ahead but what we must do to protect people during the weeks and months ahead of us.

Obviously we're not getting that out of the White House. And any large gatherings can be dangerous, but large gatherings with no social distancing and no mask wearing is really a recipe for disaster. So, I'm very worried about what's going to happen in the days and weeks ahead.

TUR: It's not just the mask wearing or the social distancing. It's the political pressure at the CDC, at the FDA. The FDA with the plasma treatment, and now the CDC by saying that you don't need to get a test or the requirements to get a test or that you show symptoms, not that you have been in close contact with somebody and you might be asymptomatic. That kind of destroys our ability to contact trace, if we had it in the first place.

JHA: Yes. No, this week has been -- right. No, this week has been terrible for our kind of national scientific infrastructure. Under Republican and Democratic presidents, we have always had a tradition of letting the scientists at the FDA, letting the scientists at the CDC speak directly to the American people and share the facts.

And now, not only have we muzzled them, now we see a real sort of bastardization of that science, a real kind of suppression of that science with all sorts of recommendations about somehow how we don't need testing for asymptomatic people who've been in contact with people with COVID.

Not a single medical group agrees with that. And that's why this week you saw such strong pushback from the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics, others all saying we've got to go back to the science. The political statements cannot get us through this pandemic.

TUR: And let's talk about the president's own personal safety and the risks that he seems to be more willing to take. We not only saw what happened last night and the fact that people -- not everybody on the lawn was tested. They said everybody that was close to the president was checked.

But "The Washington Post" reports this on Secret Service agents testing positive. "When President Trump gave a speech to a group of sheriffs in Tampa last month, his decision to travel forced a large contingent of Secret Service agents to head to a state that was then battling one of the worst coronavirus surges in the nation.

Even before Air Force One touched on July 31st, the fall-out was apparent. Five Secret Service agents already on the ground had to be replaced after one tested positive for the coronavirus and the others working in proximity were presumed to be infected, according to people familiar with the situation.

JHA: Yes. You know, these men and women obviously are providing a critical service to our country, protecting our political leaders like the president. And I have sort of two reflections. First of all, you should not be putting these people in harm's way anymore than is absolutely necessary.

And I don't know why the president has at many times gone to the hot zones of America to give speeches in context where there isn't social distancing and isn't mask wearing. The second point that I think is really critical here is, you know, we keep hearing out of the White House that testing isn't necessary.

And yet, guess what? The president and his entire inner circle gets tested every single day. So, they clearly think testing is necessary. It is just necessary for them. It's not necessary for the rest of us. And what public health officials have been saying is, hey, we want the American people on the same footing as the political leaders who are surrounding the president.

TUR: Dr. Ashish Jha, thank you so much for your expertise tonight. We do appreciate it, as always.

JHA: Thank you.

TUR: And coming up, Chairman Adam Schiff will join us to react to the political spectacle on the White House grounds Thursday night, capping off a week where we watched a U.S. military base and the Secretary of State being used as political props. Chairman Adam Schiff joins us next.


TUR: Campaign paraphernalia and gigantic Trump-Pence signs of the White House lawn, fireworks spelling out Trump over the Washington Monument, Donald Trump being introduced by his daughter who is a federal government employee and then delivering a 70-minute teleprompter speech written by another federal government employee attacking the Democratic nominee for president by name.

House Intelligence Committee chairman, Adam Schiff's reaction was simple. "The law prohibits using taxpayer resources to promote a campaign, period."

Walter Shaub, former director of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics said, "This abomination maybe the most visible misuse of official position for private gain in America's history. It is an abuse of power entrusted to this man, the breach of a sacred trust."

Donald Trump's disregard for political norms and the rule of law are well documented. After all, it got him impeached in December. And in his acceptance speech, he told America he's going to keep doing it.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The fact is I'm here. What's the name of that building? But I'll say it differently. The fact is we're here and they're not.


TUR: Joining us now is Congressman Adam Schiff of California. He's the chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. Congressman, thank you so much for joining us. I want to get into why this is such a big deal.

There are Americans who might not have ever heard of the Hatch Act, don't know what it says. Can you explain why it is such an abuse of power for the president to stand in front of the White House and accept the nomination by his party for president again?

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): Certainly. Thank you, Katy. And what we saw in that clip is just an obscenity. I think Walter Shaub is exactly right. He described it as a civic sin and maybe religious sin as well.

But the whole point of the Hatch Act, the whole point of the law that prohibits you from using federal resources in your campaign, which goes back to the Roosevelt era is that you shouldn't be able to perpetuate yourself in office by misusing federal employees, federal money, federal buildings, and federal properties to help your campaign.

You shouldn't be able to coerce employees in particular by threatening if they help your campaign you'll reward them, if they don't, they'll lose their jobs. You shouldn't have that leverage over people in the federal government.

So, what Donald Trump is doing here and I think this is really key to understanding such a flagrant abuse of the Hatch Act. The lawlessness is the point. It's not a side effect of him really wanting this backdrop and the ego gratification. The breaking of the law is Trump's point.

Like so many other autocrats and aspiring autocrats, he is proud of his lawlessness, and we see it time and time again. You know, in other areas of the government as well, the migration policy, for example. People point out, you know, putting children in cages is cruel as if it were a side effect, an unintended consequence.

When the cruelty is the point and here the lawlessness is the point which, you know, you might say is ironic for someone running on a law and order platform, but it's the play book of all autocrat. I must violate the law. I'm above the law. Under Article 2, this president would say he can do whatever he wants in order to protect law and order. And it's dangerous.

TUR: He's made it clear he can. He thinks he can do whatever he wants. He's going to keep on doing it. He is acting with a certain sense of impunity. Do we need stricter laws with tougher consequences for this sort of behavior in the future?

SCHIFF: I think we do. And, you know, if you look at the federal workforce, those that have been brought up on charges, civil charges by the special counsel's office, I'm sure they feel like the penalties are pretty severe that they have faced.

Some have lost their jobs. Some have had to work without pay. What they're seeing, though, is that for the president or Kellyanne Conway who said basically when it was pointed out her dozens of violations of the law, blah, blah, blah, tell me about it when you take me to jail or Mark Meadows saying nobody cares about that outside of the beltway.

What most federal employees are saying is a complete double standard. For them it does have serious consequences. It affects their livelihood. For the president and his criminal cronies, there is no consequence. And for this and so many other things, we really need a package of our own post-Watergate reform for lack of a better description to curb these kind of violations of law and norm of office.

TUR: Mr. Chairman, can we pivot for a second and go to the Ukraine scheme which ultimately got Donald Trump impeached. Former Florida attorney general Pam Bondi who served on Donald Trump's defense team in his impeachment trial tried to run with the debunked conspiracy about Joe Biden and Ukraine on Wednesday. Let's listen to her for a moment.


PAM BONDI, FORMER FLORIDA ATTORNEY GENERAL: That very same company was being investigated by a Ukrainian prosecutor. Joe Biden, the vice president of the United States, threatened to withhold aid to Ukraine unless that same prosecutor was fired. And then he was fired.


TUR: Other than Pam Bondi though, there wasn't a word about it. Even Rudy Giuliani who was at the center of the scheme did not say a word about Ukraine. What do you make of that?

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): Well, they obviously don't think at least in terms of convention that it is a very winning argument to make, you know. Nonetheless, they did trot out this one speaker who has a rather blemished record of her own, accepting $25,000 in a campaign contribution from the Trump Foundation, a charitable organization that's not supposed to make campaign contributions. And then a short time later she decides not to join the lawsuit against Trump University. So I guess you got to go to someone like that to make this kind of dishonest argument.

But I think that the bigger reason why you didn't see them talk much about this is they didn't want to remind people that the president of the United States was impeached, one of just three in history to go to trial in the Senate for abusing his power.

It was, as the president, I think, acknowledged, you know, one of the worst days of his presidency and rightly so. But I also think that in terms of the Democratic Party, our view is as serious as that Ukraine misconduct of the presidents is and was. 180,000 Americans are now dead -- that is really the issue. The incompetence, the malignant narcissism of the president's that resulted in those deaths.

The lack of character and decency that we proved during the trial I think left a lasting impression to the American people. But the pressing need to address the pandemic and the economic crisis that it has brought about for Democrats is what we really need to be talking about and for the Republicans what they don't want to talk about. But they also realize in terms of the president's impeachable conduct that's not much of a winner for them either.

TUR: So even though he wasn't removed from office, the Senate acquitted him. Is the dividend here that we aren't hearing about Joe Biden and Ukraine day in and day out? We're not hearing at least that piece of disinformation from this campaign.

Well, they may feel, look, they've got Republican senators who are willing to push that disinformation, that bit of Russian propaganda so they don't need to do it during the convention when they have the president's enablers doing it for them on a weekly basis in congress.

But, you know, I really think that probably -- I don't know if you would describe it as a dividend, but the last thing impacted the impeachment was to really segment (ph) an impression and understand with the American people that this president doesn't know right from wrong. He is fundamentally indecent, cannot tell the truth and for that reason is a danger to the country because he's not motivated by what's best for the country, only what's best for him.

And sadly, we got to see that played out with this pandemic where the decisions on testing, on tracing, you know, that display of non mask-wearing at the convention itself are just an ultimate tragic proof of what we showed during the trial, his fundamental unfitness for office.

TUR: Also, his decisions to hold the convention on the White House lawn to accept the renomination on the White House lawn in front of the people's house, not Donald Trump's house.

House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff, thank you so much for joining us tonight.

SCHIFF: Thank you.

TUR: And coming up, a judge in Iowa decides to invalidate 50,000 requests for absentee ballots. We're going to talk to a Democratic county auditor at the center of the fight and find out what the remedy is for Iowa voters. Can their voice still be heard in November's election? That's next.


TUR: In an election year fraught with battles over voting, Republicans have won an initial fight over absentee ballots in Iowa. An Iowa judge ruled to invalidate 50,000 absentee ballot requests in a heavily-Democratic county in Iowa.

The Republican National Committee and the Trump campaign filed a lawsuit after the requests were pre-filled with voter information, including their name, birthday and voter identification number. The judge ruled the Linn County auditor violated Iowa secretary of state's order that any applications sent must be blank.

Now those voters must fill out another request or vote in person on Election Day. Linn County, Iowa includes Cedar Rapids and is the second most populated county in Iowa.

In 2016, Hillary Clinton won the county by nine points. That is just over 10,000 votes. Republicans are currently suing two other Iowa counties over similar claims.

Joining us now is Joel Miller. He is the auditor for Linn County, Iowa. In that role he administers all elections in the county and maintains voter registration records.

Thanks so much for being with us again, Joel.

I want to talk about what voters could do right now. 50,000 votes is a big deal in Iowa, which is a purple state. Hillary Clinton lost it by 10,000 votes.

So what do voters need to do right now if they are one of the people who had their ballot invalidated?


Well, just let me point out that the voter did nothing wrong by filling out that form and returning it to us. So thank you to the voters that returned that. It shows that we have a lot of interest in this upcoming election.

We're going to mail out to the voters that sent us the pre-filled absentee ballot form a new blank form per the order of the judge. And they should receive that by the 15th of September. So all those people will be getting a blank form to fill out and return to us.

TUR: There are a lot of reports out of Iowa -- go ahead.


MILLER: I was just going to say that will come with a prepaid envelope so there is no postage cost. People have a hard time finding a stamp these days, so it will be at no cost to them to return it.

TUR: What I was going to ask was the virus is increasing in Iowa. The number of confirmed cases are increasing in Iowa. Part of the reason people voted during the, I believe it was, the special election in Iowa by mail was because they wanted to stay home and not put themselves at risk.

Are you worried that a decision like this is going to mean people are going to go to the polls or are they going to decide not to risk going to the polls and maybe might not send in a ballot? Is it going to affect turn-out?

MILLER: Yes. it's going to affect turnout. We were expecting 80 percent turn-out which is not a stretch based upon the pandemic. We just had a derecho come through which devastated Linn County. And so we had that to worry about. And on top of that seasonal flu season is going -- seasonal flu season is going to start in about 30 days.

So there is a lot of things going on here. The idea was that we sent that prefilled form out because people don't know what their pin number is so we provided that to them in an effort to avoid getting back pre-filled absentee ballot request forms that were in error because if there is anything wrong on an absentee ballot request form, we cannot issue an absentee ballot. Unlike at the polls where you get a second chance.

You're going to always get a provisional ballot and vote but not so with an absentee ballot request form.

TUR: So I guess the lesson for right now at least, is request another ballot and request one soon.

Linn County auditor Joel Miller, thank you so much for joining us tonight.

MILLER: Thank you, Katy.

TUR: And coming up, thousands gathered on the National Mall today on the 57th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I have a dream" speech. The cry today is, get your knee off our necks.

We're going to have some of the most powerful moments, next.


TUR: Just hours after Donald Trump finished giving his RNC speech at the White House, this is what the streets of our nation's capital looked like. Thousands of protesters gathered at the Lincoln Memorial to participate in the Commitment March honoring the 57th anniversary of the 1963 march on Washington.

The Commitment March also marks the 65th anniversary of the brutal murder of 14-year-old Emmitt Till in 1955 which spurred the Civil Rights Movement. Dozens of speakers used their platform at the Commitment March to confront much of the same inequality and injustice this country is still facing seven decades later.

Reverend Al Sharpton called Donald Trump mean-spirited after the president failed to make mention of many of the families impacted by police violence during his RNC speech.


REV. AL SHARPTON, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL ACTION NETWORK: We have gone from a mean-spirited sheriff to a mean-spirited president.

How do you speak while this young man Jacob lies in a hospital and you won't call his name? How do you sit while Breonna Taylor is in a grave and you won't call her name? Well, Mr. Trump, look right down the block from the White House. We've come to Washington by the thousands. We're going to call their name. We're going to call their name. will never let America forget what you've done. Call their names.


TUR: Jacob Blake is lying in a hospital paralyzed and handcuffed to his hospital bed, according to his family. The Commitment March was organized in the wake of the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. George Floyd died in May.

In the three months since his death, even more black families have been torn apart by police violence. Here's what George Floyd's brother, Philonise Floyd said about the many lives lost too soon to police brutality.


PHILONISE FLOYD, BROTHER OF GEORGE FLOYD: I wish George were here to see this right now. That's who I'm marching for. I'm marching for George, for Breonna, for Ahmaud, for Jacob, for Pamela Turner, for Michael Brown, Trayvon, and anybody else who lost their lives.

Evil (ph) it's never been more clear than change right now. It's happening right now because we demand it.


TUR: Jacob Blake is the latest victim of police brutality that this nation has witnessed. The 29-year-old was shot seven times in the back by a Kenosha, Wisconsin police officer and remains hospitalized. Jacob Blake's father implored protesters at the Commitment March to use their voices to stand up and make change.


JACOB BLAKE, SR., FATHER OF JACOB BLAKE: There are two systems of justice in the United States. There is a white system and there is a black system. The black system isn't doing so well, but we're going to stand up. Every black person in the United States is going to stand up. We're tired. I'm tired of looking at cameras and seeing these young black and brown people suffer.


TUR: Breonna Taylor was 26 years old when she was shot dead by police officers in Louisville, Kentucky back in March. No arrests have been made in her death. Tamika Palmer, the mother of Breonna Taylor, made sure her daughter's voice was still being heard in Washington, D.C.

TAMIKA PALMER, MOTHER OF BREONNA TAYLOR: What we need is change, and we're at a point where we can get that change, but we have to stand together. We have to vote.

CROWD: Say her name. Breonna Taylor. Say her name. Breonna Taylor. Say her name. Breonna Taylor.


TUR: Wanda Cooper Jones shared a message with the crowd from her son, Ahmaud Arbery, who was shot to death while jogging in Georgia.


WANDA COOPER JONES, MOTHER OF AHMAUD ARBERY: I do believe if we continue to stand and fight together, that we will get change.


JONES: Sadly, we have these type of tragic events far too often. But I want each of you to please don't forget their names. Please let their names live forever.

I want to share three words with you that I know Ahmaud would want me to share with you as well, and that is "I love you".


JONES: I love you all for standing with us.


TUR: When we come back, Zerlina Maxwell and Yamiche Alcindor will join us to discuss the significance of today's march on Washington and this moment in history happening just 67 days out from the November election. That's next.


TUR: With just 67 days until the November election, thousands gathered in the nation's capital for the anniversary of the march on Washington.

Here is what Senator Kamala Harris said about the importance of choosing the right leader to handle the crises this country is facing.


SENATOR KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: This is a moment we are -- we are two months practically, a little bit more, away from an election to decide who will become the next president of the United States while we are in the midst of at least four crises. And the American people, regardless of race or gender or age or geographic location, have a right to believe that their leaders will speak truth, even when these are difficult truths to speak and to hear.


TUR: Zerlina Maxwell and Yamiche Alcindor are back with us. Ladies, welcome.

Zerlina, I want to start with you. Just watching today's events, watching those speeches, hearing the words from those family members about their loved ones who have either died or are still in a hospital bed recovering from wounds and chained to that hospital bed for some reason, what is your reaction to what you saw? And where do you think it's going?

ZERLINA MAXWELL, MSNBC HOST: Well, I think in this moment, the legacy of John Lewis just looms so large over all of the events today because I think that, you know, he left everyone with a message. He left us with instructions on how to pick up the baton and keep the movement going.

And so there are so many young people out there, you know, especially in the streets, not just in Washington, D.C. But all over the nation, making their voices heard to change things. I mean I think in the backdrop of all of this is the pandemic, and I think that exacerbated or at least heightened our awareness of many of these systemic issues that have been happening for generations.

TUR: Yes.

Yamiche, it must be so weird to be in Washington right now. On the one side of town, you have this march where thousands of people are demanding racial justice, racial equality. And then you have the White House, which seems to be completely ignoring it.

YAMICHE ALCINDOR, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I had a kind of split-screen week, which is that I was on the south lawn of the White House when President Trump was really making the case that these protesters were bad people, that they were un-American, that they were people who were really threatening the democracy of America.

And then today I spent a large part of my day on The Mall talking to people, talking to protesters, who said they really felt like they had to risk their lives in the middle of a pandemic to be around thousands of people to call for racial justice.

I also spoke to Jacob Blake's father for quite a long time. And there were two things that he said that stuck with me. The first is that he said that he felt like his son was treated like an animal, that his son's humanity just was not seen by these police officers.

And as an extension, he thinks that African-Americans as a whole aren't really treated as human beings in this system that we're all living in

The second thing that he told me was this idea that his own father had been at the march on Washington in 1963 -- that was pretty remarkable. 57 years later, Jacob, of course, is lying in a hospital bed after his grandfather was calling for racial justice.

So I asked him, why do you think that is? What do you make of that? And he said, it shows you how diabolical chattel slavery is. It's the tentacles of slavery. It's the way that we started this country, the way that we enslaved African-Americans and never treated them as full human beings.

That struggle, he says, continues. So I think -- and all the people that I was talking today, they echoed that feeling.

TUR: Yes, and I think it's exemplified by how Jacob Blake was treated and then how the 17-year-old who is accused of shooting and killing two people and shooting another just walked by police, drove home and slept in his own bed, a 17-year-old.

Zerlina Maxwell and Yamiche Alcindor, thank you ladies so much, for joining us tonight. We appreciate it.

And that is going to do it from me for tonight's "LAST WORD".

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


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