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Transcript: The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, August 31, 2020

Guests: Mandela Barnes, Adam Schiff, Brian Stelter


Joe Biden delivered a speech today unlike any other in the history of presidential campaigning. It was the sharpest, most forceful and most truthful attack on a president of the United States by the candidate who was trying to stop that president's re-election. The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff, is interviewed on Donald Trump's director of National Intelligence refusing to continue intelligence briefings on foreign interference in our election, even though the intelligence community has already found that Russia is once again interfering in this election to try to help Donald Trump win. "The Washington Post" reports that Scott Atlas is pushing Donald Trump to adopt the kind of herd immunity strategy that Sweden has been trying. An analysis by "The Washington Post" found that with a population of 328 million in the United States, it may require 2.13 million deaths to reach a 65 percent threshold of herd immunity. Chadwick Boseman found his purpose in his 43 years on this planet.



And, of course, in Massachusetts, those fights are about a Democrat replacing a Democrat, and in the Senate race, they're spending over $25 million or so on the Democrat replacing the Democrat campaign?

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: I mean, the fascinating thing about that Senate race is -- I mean, it's been an interesting rate on its merits but Joe Kennedy has to give up his seat in the House to try to take that seat from Ed Markey in the Senate. And so, if he swings and misses there, it has quite an opportunity cost for him.

Alex Morse, the mayor of Holyoke, Mass, is taking a clean shot at Richie Neal with nothing like that on the line. But Richie Neal he has a national profile because of his roles as Ways and Means chairman and what that means about the failed effort thus far to get Trump's taxes. It's both super interesting races.

O'DONNELL: What do you think we're going to know at this hour tomorrow night given how many mail-in ballots have to be counted?

MADDOW: It's a super interesting question because Massachusetts has never had a big race, state-wide race that's going to be so predominantly mail-in ballots like this. As far as I know, they never have.

And so, Massachusetts is going to be flexing some new muscles that they've never had to use before. So, I have no prediction at all as to when we will get results there. I mean, I think with any race, again, if you get a very lopsided result, you tend to get it earlier, but I don't know. That part is going to be fascinating to watch, too.

O'DONNELL: All right. There you have it. Rachel Maddow, no prediction at all. So, we will --

MADDOW: I have learned. I have learned.

O'DONNELL: -- we will be very patient. We will be very patient. Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW: Thanks, Lawrence.

O'DONNELL: Well, at the end of the hour tonight, we will have a special last word by Chadwick Boseman, a man and an artist who found his purpose. Chadwick Boseman in his own words will get tonight's last word.

Later in the hour, we will be joined by the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff.

But we begin tonight with the presidential campaign. Joe Biden delivered a speech today unlike any other we have heard in the history of presidential campaigning. It was the sharpest, most forceful and most truthful attack on a president of the United States by the candidate who was trying to stop that president's re-election.

Now, we have all gotten used to heated rhetoric and overheated rhetoric during the Trump era, but no Democratic candidate for president in history has ever attacked a sitting president the way Joe Biden did today.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Fires are burning, and we have a president who fans the flames rather than fighting the flames. But we must not burn. We have to build.

This president long ago forfeited any moral leadership in this country. He can't stop the violence because for years he's fomented it. You know, he may believe mouthing the words law and order makes him strong, but his failure to call on his own supporters to stop acting as an armed militia in this country shows how weak he is.

Does anyone believe there will be less violence if America in Donald Trump is re-elected? We need justice in America. We need safety in America.


O'DONNELL: Donald Trump is once again trafficking in fear to win votes. Joe Biden exposed the big lie of the Trump fear-based campaign today.


BIDEN: They have no agenda or vision for a second term. Trump/Pence are running on this, and I find it fascinating. Quote, you won't be safe in Joe Biden's America. And what's their proof? The violence we're seeing in Donald Trump's America.

These are not images of some imagined Joe Biden America in the future. These are images of Donald Trump's America today. He keeps telling you if only he was president it wouldn't happen. If he was happen.

He keeps telling us, see, if he was president you'd feel safe. Well, he is president, whether he knows it or not and it is happening.

It's getting worse. And you know why. Because Donald Trump adds fuel to every fire, because he refuses to even acknowledge that there is a racial justice problem in America, because he won't stand up to any form of violence.


O'DONNELL: In half an hour, Joe Biden dismantled all of the Trump re-election rationales offered in last week's four nights of Republican political theater, including the lies told by Donald Trump and others about Joe Biden's policy positions.


BIDEN: I am not banning fracking. Let me say that again. I am not banning fracking. No matter how many times Donald Trump lies about me.

I want to make it absolutely clear, something very clear about all of this, rioting is not protesting. Looting is not protesting. Setting fires is not protesting. None of this is protesting. It's lawlessness, plain and simple. And those who do it should be prosecuted.

Violence will not bring change. It will only bring destruction. It's wrong in every way. It divides instead of unites, destroys businesses, only hurts the working families that serve the community. It makes things worse across the board, not better.

You know me. You know my heart. You know my story, my family's story. Ask yourself, do I look like a radical socialist with a soft spot for rioters? Really?

I want a safe America, safe from COVID, safe from crime and looting, safe from racially motivated violence, safe from bad cops.

Let me be crystal clear, safe from four more years of Donald Trump.


O'DONNELL: With the coronavirus raging, Joe Biden asks the question that voters surely will be hearing from the Biden/Harris campaign all the way to election day. Do you really feel safer under Donald Trump?


BIDEN: More than 180,000 lives in just six months, an average of a thousand people dying every day in the month of August. Do you really feel safer under Donald Trump?

Mr. Trump, you want to talk about fear? You know what people are afraid of in America? Afraid they're going to get COVID, afraid they're going to get sick and die, and that is in no small part because of you.

We're now on track to more than 200,000 deaths in this country due to COVID, more than 100,000 seniors have lost their lives to the virus. More cops have died from COVID this year than have been killed on patrol. Nearly one in six small businesses closed in this country today. Do you really feel safer under Trump?

What about Trump's plan to destroy the Affordable Care Act? And with it, the protections for pre-existing conditions. It impacts more than 100 million Americans. Does that make you feel safer?

Or how about Trump's plan to defund Social Security? The Social Security Administration's chief actuary just released a report saying that if a plan like the one Trump is proposing goes into effect, the Social Security trust fund would be, and I quote, permanently depleted by the middle of calendar year 2023 with no ability to pay benefits thereafter.

Put it plainly, Trump's plan would wipe out Social Security, period. You feel safer and more secure now?


O'DONNELL: Hours after Joe Biden spoke today, Donald Trump took a few questions from reporters at the White House. He was asked about Kyle Rittenhouse, the 17-year-old vigilante now charged with the murder of two protesters in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and charged with the illegal possession of the assault rifle that he used to shoot and kill protesters.

The president of the United States was asked, quote, do you condemn the actions of vigilantes like Kyle Rittenhouse? And to the surprise of no one, even though we have seen Kyle Rittenhouse shooting and killing people on video, Donald Trump did not condemn that. Instead, Donald Trump said it was, quote, an interesting situation.

And then Donald Trump launched into a self-defense argument for Kyle Rittenhouse as if Donald Trump were Kyle Rittenhouse's criminal defense lawyer.

Donald Trump said that the protesters violently attacked Rittenhouse. Donald Trump said, quote, I guess he was in very big trouble. He would have been. He probably would have been killed, but it's under -- it's under investigation.

You would never know listening to Donald Trump today that the 17-year-old Trump supporter, Kyle Rittenhouse, is charged with murder in that investigation already. That is exactly what Joe Biden said Donald Trump would say in response to a question like that today. Donald Trump was asked about an attack by his supporters in Portland this weekend.


REPORTER: I noticed you did not mention that your supporters were also in Portland this weekend firing paintball guns at people, (INAUDIBLE) pepper spray. Do you also want to take this chance to condemn what your supporters did?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I understand, they had large numbers of people that were supporters, but that was a peaceful protest. And paint is not -- and paint is a defensive mechanism. Paint is not bullets.


O'DONNELL: Yeah, paint's okay. You hit with paint, what's the big deal?

Donald Trump rambled on from there. And his last line was, quote, that was a peaceful protest totally.

So, in Trump world if Trump supporters fire paint balls at you, they are being totally peaceful. And they have every right to do that, according to Donald Trump. Donald Trump proves once again today that every word Joe Biden said about him today is absolutely true.

Donald Trump is planning to take his re-election campaign of fear to Kenosha, Wisconsin, tomorrow. Wisconsin's governor and the mayor of Wisconsin have both asked the president to stay away.

Governor Tony Evers said: I, along with other community leaders, who have reached out, are concerned about what your presence will mean for Kenosha and our state. I am concerned your presence will only hinder our healing. I am concerned your presence will only delay our work to overcome division and move forward together.

And leading off our discussion tonight is Mandela Barnes, the lieutenant governor of Wisconsin.

Lieutenant Governor Barnes, thank you very much for joining us tonight.

What are you feeling tonight as Donald Trump's visit to your state approaches?


I would be lying if I didn't have any heart burn about Trump's planned visit for tomorrow. I know that I don't think it's a good idea for him to be here. Neither does the governor or the mayor of Kenosha.

Kenosha is on a path to healing. Just this past weekend we had a rally with Jacob Blake's family. The day after that there was a big clean-up project to build community in general. We stand to see a lot of that progress be lost when Donald Trump comes in with the same rhetoric that he is coming into Kenosha with.

He refuses to condemn the person who came in and shot and killed and injured -- killed two people and injured one other person. That's not leadership. Kenosha needs leadership right now.

And somebody said, I was listening earlier when you said, you know, Donald Trump, if you are being the president, things would be much different. He is president and we need him to act like one and that's not happening.

O'DONNELL: I want you to listen to something Kellyanne Conway said. She basically said out loud what they have been saying to each other in the White House. Let's listen to this.


KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT: The more chaos and anarchy and vandalism and violence reigns, the better it is, the very clear choice on who's best on public safety and law and order.


O'DONNELL: What is your reaction to that?

BARNES: Like you said, this is what we already knew. And we imagined Donald Trump hopping on an airplane with gasoline to come into a city that was already on fire. That's the unfortunate part because there are so many hard working people. Kenosha is a blue collar town. It's former home to a Chrysler plant that built a strong middle class there and created opportunities for so many people. And once that plant left, it devastated that area.

Fortunately there are new business opportunities in Kenosha for people. However, the nature of the events of the past week have really put a strain on this community. And I am very fearful that Donald Trump's visit will create even more strain and even worse more division. He doesn't care if communities are united because he can only win a re-election if people are divided, if people are at each other's throat.

And that only serves him. It doesn't serve the whole of America. That's the problem. His entire presidency, his entire campaign has only been about him. They are not voting if their interest by voting for Donald Trump. Donald Trump -- his ego is going to tear this country even further apart.

O'DONNELL: The Secret Service normally coordinates very closely with local law enforcement, state law enforcement, governors, mayors. Is that happening in this case?

BARNES: I can't directly to that, but I know what President Trump requested would cause a strain on law enforcement. It would cause a strain. It would take away people who are already committed to efforts like fighting COVID-19, another fight that Donald Trump has not been a part of. He has been AWOL as a leader.

For him to come at a time like this is purely politics. It shows what his true values are. I had a chance to go to Kenosha. I had a chance to speak with the family. I had a chance to speak with business owners and communities as well.

And they are optimistic, despite of it all. People see a path forward. I share that optimism. I know that things can be much better because there is a reckoning going on. Folks are recognizing the challenges that exist in Kenosha and across the state and across this country and people are saying we want to do better.

And we're seeing better happen. But Donald Trump doesn't care about that. He wants to come in with a sledgehammer and undo all that progress.

O'DONNELL: Lieutenant Governor Barnes, thank you very much for joining us tonight and I hope things stay peaceful in Kenosha and in your state tomorrow.

BARNES: Thank you.

O'DONNELL: Thank you.

Joining our discussion now, John Heilemann, national affairs analyst for NBC News and MSNBC. He is co-host of Showtime's "The Circus", and the executive editor of "The Recount".

John, I want to listen to one more bit of what Joe Biden had to say today in what was, I have to say, the most striking counter speech I have ever heard from a presidential candidate immediately following the convention of the other candidate.

Let's listen to this piece.


BIDEN: Donald Trump looks at this violence and he sees a political lifeline. Having failed to protect this nation from the virus that has killed more than 180,000 Americans so far, Trump posts an all caps tweet screaming law and order to save his campaign.

One of his closest political advisers in the White House doesn't even bother to speak in code. She just comes out and she says it, quote, the more chaos, violence, the better it is for Trump's re-election.

Let's think about that. This is a sitting president of the United States of America. He's supposed to be protecting his country, but instead he's rooting for chaos and violence.

The simple truth is Donald Trump failed to protect America. So, now, he's trying to scare America.

O'DONNELL: John, your reaction to the Biden speech today?

JOHN HEILEMANN, MSNBC NATIONAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, Lawrence, good evening. I think, you know, the most predictable thing in the world was knowing the Democratic Party which, you know, is famous for what David Plouffe back in 2008 characterized as bed-wetting, was that the party would start to freak out a little bit after the Republican convention. And there's been definitely as the race has tightened, as it inevitably would, especially in the battleground states, if not nationally, you saw over the weekend, a lot of Democrats, and I'm talking about at the elite levels of the party all the way down to the rank-and-file, people saying that Biden is in trouble, Biden needs to address this. He needs to come out swinging. He needs to really take Trump on on this law and order issue.

And so, there was something -- the campaign was hearing it from its donors, from elected officials, from all over the place. And I think, you know, this decision, they went out into the battleground states yesterday about a week ahead of what their schedule was. They were on terrain that was not the terrain they wanted to be fighting. They wanted to be talking about COVID and prosecuting that case against Donald Trump.

And, yet, if there was any Democrat that was worried that Joe Biden wouldn't be able to make the argument that he needed to make, I think today dispelled a lot of that concern. There was an audible sigh of relief because this speech was, as you said, Lawrence, I think, you know, an incredibly effective political speech. More than anything, just one that demonstrated that Biden is able to address this place of what some people saw as a vulnerability and turn it back on Donald Trump and make an argument in plain vernacular language, make this argument in a very direct way, in a plain spoken way, say the kind of things that are on the minds not just on a lot of Democrats but a lot of Americans who have gone through what they have gone through over the last six months.

And to hear Biden say those words in the way that he did, bracing, as I said, direct kind of plain spoken English I think is going to do is, A, a very strong political move for him and, B, something that's going to create a sense of reassurance among a lot of Democrats that are worried that he wasn't able to make this argument with this kind of force at this juncture in the campaign.

O'DONNELL: One thing I was struck by, John, was the economy of the speech and the totality of it. It really did go after every single attack point raised in several hours of Republican TV last week. And, yet, he did it in a half an hour. There wasn't a wasted word. There wasn't a wasted line.

HEILEMANN: Yeah. Less than that, I think the speech was under 20 minutes. And it was, as I -- vernacular was the way I'm thinking about it, Lawrence, but economy was also a feature of it. You know, I would say there wasn't really an argument that the Republicans made in their ten hours of television last week, ten hours of television, that Biden didn't address in some way.

He not only took on the law and order question but also took the argument to where he wanted to take it, which was to say, you know, if safety and security and order in the truest sense is your concern and you're a voter in a lot of these swing suburbs, take a look at the totality of the America that Donald Trump has wrought and try to understand this is not just a question of crime and not just a question of policing and not just a question of what's going on in a handful of American cities, but a national problem that if you define security and order in the broadest sense, Trump has brought us nothing but chaos.

And I think that is going to be in addition to the more specific arguments that they're going to want to make between now and election day, that sweeping argument Trump is chaos, Trump is the barrier to getting America back to something like normalcy and Joe Biden is both strong enough and empathic enough, both of those things, strength and empathy side by side, he is the antidote to the problems Trump brought to the country and he made that in a crystallized, distilled way today. I think that's the roadmap of what they're going to do for the next 60 some-odd days.

O'DONNELL: John Heilemann, thank you very much for joining us tonight. Really appreciate it.

HEILEMANN: Good to see you, Lawrence.

O'DONNELL: And when we come back, the intelligence community has already found that Russia is once again interfering in the presidential election to help Donald Trump. But Donald Trump's director of national intelligence is refusing to brief the intelligence committees on that interference.

The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff, joins us next.



REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: It's hard to be shocked anymore at the abuse of power of this administration now, isn't it? It is very clear that the president wants, invites, appreciates Russia's involvement in our election, which is not lawful.


O'DONNELL: That was Speaker Nancy Pelosi's reaction tonight to Donald Trump's director of national intelligence refusing to continue intelligence briefings on foreign interference in our election, even though the intelligence community has already found that Russia is once again interfering in this election to try to help Donald Trump win.

The current Trump director of national intelligence is a former member of the House Intelligence Committee who caught Donald Trump's attention for his fact-free defenses of the president during the impeachment inquiry.

John Ratcliffe, who is the most politicized director of national intelligence in the history of the office released a statement Friday saying he was discontinuing the intelligence briefings so that the information in those briefings would not be politicized.

Joining us now is Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff of California. He's the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.

Chairman Schiff, how did you get the news about this change?

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): We got a call. I think it was Friday night from the director's office saying, hey, you know that hearing that we scheduled, that hearing in September that we offered to provide and the hearing that we offered to do not just for the committee but also for the full house -- well, cancel that. And we said why, and they had no answer.

That was when we first heard about it. They later sent the answer to the press that was meant for us, which we didn't get until after the press did.

Obviously, something changed, Lawrence, from their commitments to do these periodic hearings to make sure that Congress but more importantly the country was informed about Russia's effort to help re-elect Donald Trump. Something changed, and I have to imagine what changed was. Donald Trump said, I don't want you to do this. I don't want the Congress to know and I certainly don't want the American people to know.

That's very consistent with his efforts to seek foreign help, his efforts to coerce foreign help, his efforts to beg foreign help, and his effort to cover it up.

O'DONNELL: Without these briefings, what are you and the intelligence community going to be able to do between now and the election to discover what's actually happening?

SCHIFF: Well, the community, you know, according to the director's office, they're going to put this in writing for us instead of briefing us. And the reason why that's wholly inadequate is you can wordsmith a document to be literally correct but completely misleading. And Indeed, I think we have seen that sadly from this politicized intelligence community under Donald Trump in the past.

Without the ability to question the witnesses, to test their assumptions, to probe whether they're misleading in what they omit and what they put in writing, we don't get the whole picture and ultimately the American people don't get the whole picture.

So, Lawrence, we're considering what remedies we have to force them to provide the information. They're required, as the speaker said earlier today, they're required by law to provide it. It's not theirs to withhold. It belongs to the American people.

So, we'll use whatever we have to use. Public pressure certainly helps. Public pressure, obviously, you know, forced the postmaster general to reverse certain things that he was making to slow down the mail.

But we may need to do more than public pressure. We may need to use whatever tools we have at our disposal.

O'DONNELL: Congressman Ratcliffe, who seems to still behave like a congressman, even though he's a former congressman, in his statement today, he basically accused the intelligence committees of possibly leaking information and saying he didn't want to provide this information to committees basically because he doesn't trust you.

These committees, of course, have been getting briefed directly by the intelligence community every kind of year, every week of their existence.

But suddenly, this director of national intelligence has decided the committees are no longer trustworthy.

SCHIFF: Of course, that's nonsensical because what's he's also saying is, we don't trust committees, so we will actually put it in writing as if that's some kind of protection.

But, Lawrence, what we're seeing is really just an instant replay of what we saw in February this year when the intelligence community came, they briefed the House Intelligence Committee.

Republicans members were upset that the intelligence community informed Congress that the Russians were intervening again, and they're intervening to help Donald Trump. And Republican members of the committee reportedly went to the White House to complain and Donald Trump responded by firing the then director, McGuire. Fired him for informing Congress.

It wasn't the problem with it leaking. It was a problem with that Donald was being informed. And that's the same situation here. I'm not aware of any leaks that came out of the last round of briefings. It did force the Intelligence Committee to issue a statement to the American people acknowledging the truth, that Russia was once again trying to help elect Donald Trump and, of course, that's what the president resents.

He doesn't want the American people to know that he's getting foreign help, that he's grateful for the foreign help but he's doing nothing to stop the foreign help. That he doesn't believe that he could win a fair election against Joe Biden, that he needs to have the help of foreign cheating.

O'DONNELL: And we're learning in Michael Schmidt's book that Robert Mueller never actually fully investigated Donald Trump's relationship to Russia. Let's listen to what Joe Biden said today about Donald Trump and Russia.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Never before has an American president played such a subservient role to A Russian leader. It is not only dangerous, it is humiliating and embarrassing for the rest of the world to see. It weakens us.


O'DONNELL: Chairman Schiff, are we any closer to understanding why Donald Trump is so subservient to Vladimir Putin?

SCHIFF: Well, you know, we have had to litigate all the way to the Supreme Court and now start over again because of the decision of the Supreme Court to get the Deutsche Bank records, to get the banking records to find out whether it is a financial entanglement that is guiding Donald Trump's policy.

Now, we know that he wanted to build this Trump Tower Moscow, and that would have been the most lucrative deal of his life and we know that he was lying about it during the 2016 campaign when he was still pursuing that deal even while he was saying he had no business dealings with Russia. He certainly I think has given every reason to believe he still wants to build that tower.

So there are financial entanglements in what we know publicly. But I'm glad that Joe Biden pointed that out what he did today. The president won't stand up to Putin when it comes to bounties on the heads of U.S. troops, won't stand up to him when it comes to assaulting U.S. troops in Syria as the Russians recently did, won't stand up to the Russians on election interference and it is not only dangerous, but it is also so belittling of the strongest power on earth. And it shows what a weak president Donald Trump has turned out to be.

O'DONNELL: Chairman Adam Schiff, thank you for joining our discussion tonight. We really appreciate it.

SCHIFF: Thanks, Lawrence.

O'DONNELL: And when we come back, the "Washington Post" is reporting that the new Trump plan for dealing with COVID-19 could lead to more American deaths than the number of Americans killed in World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Afghanistan War and the Iraq Wars combined. That's next.



BIDEN: In the early days of World War II Franklin Roosevelt told the country, and I quote, "The news is going to get worse and worse before it gets better and better. And the American people deserve to have it straight from the shoulder."


O'DONNELL: That was Joe Biden today reminding the country of what presidential leadership sounded like at the beginning of World War II when the country was on the verge of sending over 400,000 American soldiers to their deaths over the four years of the United States involvement in that war.

"The Washington Post" is reporting that Donald Trump is now considering sending two million Americans to their deaths from COVID-19. Donald Trump's new favorite adviser on COVID-19 is a Stanford neuroradiologist who has no experience whatsoever in infectious diseases.

"The Washington Post" reports that Scott Atlas is pushing Donald Trump to adopt the kind of herd immunity strategy that Sweden has been trying. An analysis by "The Washington Post" found that with a population of 328 million in the United States, it may require 2.13 million deaths to reach a 65 percent threshold of herd immunity.

"The Washington Post" reports that the administration has already begun to implement some policies along these lines, according to current and former officials, as well as experts, particularly with regard to testing.

Joining our discussion now is Dr. Vin Gupta, pulmonologist, global health policy expert and an MSNBC medical contributor.

Dr. Gupta, so this strategy, if it's carried out, could lead to -- would lead to more deaths than all of the American war dead in all of the American wars of Donald Trump's lifetime.

DR. VIN GUPTA, MSNBC MEDICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, Lawrence -- good evening, Lawrence.

We already have, as you mentioned, proof positive examples in Sweden that this doesn't work. Conceptually we can debate it all we want. Intellectually we can debate it. Dr. Atlas and whomever he wants to debate it with, we can have that discussion.

But we see what's happening in Sweden, a country like Florida, like the state of Florida and in some cases the state of Georgia that never really shut down, that kept bars and restaurants open largely, that allowed children and adolescents to go to school.

And guess what happened, Lawrence? It didn't protect the nursing home individual, the over 70 individuals in Sweden. Sweden has the highest death rate per capita in that part of Europe. They have 6,000 deaths, a thousand more than China and they're about one-one hundredth of the population of the Chinese.

So what's happening right now in Sweden is a cautionary tale for any argument regarding herd immunity. And just a quick word for those viewers, we use a lot of complicated terminology. Herd immunity is this notion that if enough of the population gets exposed to COVID-19, then that will serve as a bulwark against further population infection surges of the virus protecting those who have not previously been infected. But it just doesn't work.

O'DONNELL: Dr. Gupta, what does it mean for public health generally that the Trump administration is considering a plan that could completely flood the system with new COVID patients?

DR. GUPTA: Well, it means that they're essentially pursuing a strategy without any pop-off valve. We don't have more ICU beds. We talked about in March, we still don't have. We don't have enough PPE for 21 days.

So people will die, Lawrence. It's the idea here. You estimated that two million deaths. People will assuredly die unnecessarily and we should not have to make that trade-off.

O'DONNELL: Dr. Vin Gupta, thank you very much for joining us again tonight. We always appreciate it.

DR. GUPTA: Thanks, Lawrence.

O'DONNELL: Thank you.

Coming up, Joe Biden says Donald Trump is poisoning democracy, but Donald Trump could not do that without the help of a certain television network. The man who wrote the book on that is next.



BIDEN: We have arrived at a moment in this campaign, we all know, including the press in front of me, knew we would get to. The moment when Donald Trump would be so desperate he'd do anything to hold on to power.

Donald Trump has been a toxic presence in our nation for four years, poisoning how we talk to one another, poisoning how we treat one another, poisoning the values this nation has always held dear, poisoning our very democracy.


O'DONNELL: Donald Trump could not have poisoned our political system on his own. He needed help. And he has gotten that help every day of his presidency from Rupert Murdoch's Fox News which will be doing everything they can to help Donald Trump and every day remaining in this presidential campaign.

So how is that going to look from here to Election Day? Joining us now is Brian Stelter. He's the host of "Reliable Sources" on CNN. He's the author of the new book "Hoax: Donald Trump, Fox News and the Dangerous Distortion of Truth".

Brian, I want to fixate for a moment on one word in your subtitle and it's that word, "dangerous". Tell us about what you found in studying how Fox produces what it produces and what the danger is.

BRIAN STELTER, CNN HOST: Well, I think the pandemic this year has proven the thesis. I always understood and you have always understood that Fox is incredibly powerful. It has a monopoly position on the American right. But this year has proven the danger like never before.

I reproduced a timeline in the book for January, for February, for March and I show how Trump and Fox were saying the same things about the pandemic at the same times. They were downplaying this disease in ways that endangered people's lives.

Don't take it from me. Take it from the people in the book who wrote to the STC (ph) and said my dad believes Sean Hannity. My mom believes Fox News and they are in danger.

This is, of course, not the only danger Fox poses though, Lawrence. We are, as you've been talking about, two months from a presidential election. What will the Murdochs do, what will Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott do, when talent at the network tries to deny the elections outcome?

If, in fact, Joe Biden wins in the initial vote counting and then President Trump tries to contest the result, what will Fox do? I think it is not an exaggeration to say that Fox News is going to have a pivotal role in this election when it comes to the result.

O'DONNELL: Brian, I want to consider one of the other dangers that you couldn't have written about while you were writing this book.

And that's what we're seeing in Kenosha, Wisconsin. We're seeing this 17-year-old who goes out there, inspired by the Fox view of the universe and the Trump view of the universe and now getting support from Fox even after being shown on video to kill people and being charged with murder, still gets support on Fox.

I have to wonder in your writing of the book, which was done before this happened, is this the kind of thing that you could have anticipated? If someone said to you, look, it's going to be a summer of danger in the streets because of protests and all of this stuff, what will be the Fox factor in all of that?

STELTER: I think white identity politics has been suffocating Fox for the past couple of years. It's become more intense. This time last year, we were talking about the massacre at Walmart in El Paso by a gunman who talked about an invasion of Hispanics, you know.

This kind of rhetoric has been coming from the right wing media. It's been getting more and more loud and extreme. And when it comes to something like Kenosha, you know, the entire business model of Fox is this backlash to a changing America, pushback against this changing America.

And that's something that it seems Lachlan Murdoch, the head of the company; Suzanne Scott -- they are ok with these stars on Fox like Tucker Carlson going on trying to justify violence, trying to defend vigilantism.

Sadly there's a lack of strong leadership at this network that causes, you know, this kind of rhetoric to go on and on without any accountability.

O'DONNELL: Brian, one of the other elements of danger that I felt in reading your book is the danger that people working there feel about what they're doing. And they remind me of the prominent people like Steve Schmidt, Stuart Stevens -- people who have run Republican presidential campaigns who have come out against Donald Trump and Trumpism. These voices that you found working within Fox remind me of those Republicans who turned against Donald Trump.

STELTER: That's why I felt like I had to write this book, because I was hearing from so many people on the inside of Fox who have never been heard before, who say, I couldn't take it anymore. I had to leave.

Or you have these staffers just like Trump White House aides who say, I'm trying to stay here. I want to make it better. I want to fix it. I want to try to improve the content.

You know what? Those people are losing and these primetime propagandists are winning. And I get it. I understand why President Trump wants to go on and sit there for an hour and lie about Portland and Settle and Kenosha and New York City. What I do get is why these primetime stars allow it. And why management allows.

The President tonight is saying that all of Portland's been on fire for (AUDIO GAP). Everyone who lives in Portland knows that's a lie. Just go read the local newspaper in Portland. I understand why the president wants to lie about that, to try to win his re-election.

But why do these primetime stars put up with it? Why do they take it? Why do they sit there and pretend like he's telling the truth when they know that he's lying to millions of people?

Sadly, Lawrence, I think it's about the money, and I think it's about the access to power.

O'DONNELL: And is that the answer for Rupert Murdoch, who allows the people on Fox to do what they do?

STELTER: That's a big part of the answer for Rupert and for his son Lachlan. You know, this is a cash machine. They make up to $2 billion a year in profit just from Fox News. There's no other media company like that on the planet. It is an incredibly lucrative business.

But someone has to still think about the content. And it seems there's not that kind of leadership. I had dozens and dozens of staffers say to me we actually miss Roger Ailes. Yes, he was a tyrant and he abused his staff, but we all knew who was in charge back then. And at least he would challenge Trump when Trump would attack our news anchors.

You know, Trump sometimes attacks Chris Wallace, another news anchor at Fox because he doesn't want news on tv. He only wants propaganda. Fox just takes it, doesn't issue a statement, doesn't push back, doesn't challenge him. That's a disturbing sign for our, you know, for our democracy when a news outlet, something that calls itself a news outlet, doesn't even defend itself from the president's attacks.

O'DONNELL: The book is "Hoax" by Brian Stelter. Brian, thank you very much for joining us tonight. We really appreciate it.

STELTER: Thank you, Lawrence.

O'DONNELL: Thank you.

STELTER: Thanks.

O'DONNELL: And when we come back, Chadwick Boseman will get tonight's LAST WORD, and that word is "purpose".



CHADWICK BOSEMAN, ACTOR: Purpose is an essential element of you. It is the reason you are on the planet at this particular time in history.


O'DONNELL: Chadwick Boseman found his purpose in his 43 years on this planet. We now know that he was struggling with colon cancer when he delivered that commencement address to his alma mater, Howard University, two years ago, exactly three months after he had become the biggest movie star in the world playing "The Black Panther".


BOSEMAN: The struggles along the way are only meant to shape you for your purpose. When I dared to challenge the system that would relegate us to victims and stereotypes with no clear historical backgrounds, no hopes or talents; when I questioned that method of portrayal, a different path opened up for me.


O'DONNELL: And that path led to Chadwick Boseman playing a fictional superhero for which he became world famous, and a real-life superhero Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, a graduate of Howard University Law School.


BOSEMAN: Mr. Spell, I'm Thurgood Marshall with the NAACP. Have you heard of us?


BOSEMAN: I am. This is Sam Friedman. He's a lawyer too.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can go. I got no money for lawyers.

BOSEMAN: Anybody ask you for money?

Did you rape that woman, Joseph?


BOSEMAN: Why does she say you did?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know why she's saying that.

BOSEMAN: She says you raped her and tried to kill her.


BOSEMAN: I'm telling you this up front. The NAACP we're not like not like most lawyers. We only represent innocent people, people accused because of their race. That's our mission. You understand?

So I need to know this. Look at me now. Did you do what they said you did?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I never touched that woman.

BOSEMAN: Ok, Joseph. You got lawyers now.


O'DONNELL: In his final words for the Howard class of 2018, Chadwick Boseman spoke from his own experience and from Thurgood Marshall's experience and from the experience of many other Howard graduates who found their purpose.


BOSEMAN: If you're willing to take the harder way, the more complicated one, the one with more failures at first than successes, the one that has ultimately proven to have more meaning, more victory, more glory, then you will not regret it.

Howard's legacy is not wrapped up in the money that you will make but the challenges that you choose to confront. As you commence to your paths, press on with pride and press on with purpose.

God bless you. I love you, Howard. Howard forever.


O'DONNELL: Chadwick Boseman forever.

STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC HOST: Good evening once again.


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