"The New York Times" reports tonight President Trump has discussed with advisers whether to grant preemptive pardons to his children, to his son-in-law, to his personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, and talked with Mr. Giuliani about pardoning him as recently as last week, according to two people briefed on the matter. In Georgia today, Republican Gabriel Sterling, one of the election officials working in the Georgia Secretary of State's Office, spoke directly to Donald Trump about the violent threats that he has been inspiring. Today an advisory committee for the Centers for Disease Control voted to recommend that the first group of Americans to receive on authorized COVID-19 vaccine should be health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities. Michael Eric Dyson is interviewed.
LAWRENCE O'DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel.
You know, the only technical problem we have at this little moment in the TV show is that when you're showing Julian's picture, which I'm sure you were, I can't see that. And so, can we show Julian's picture one more time so that everyone else gets to see it again?
Oh, wait, it's your control room. We probably can't because Sterling has control of this. He doesn't have the picture. Okay. Well, I'm just going to have to --
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: I could act it out for you.
O'DONNELL: Go ahead. Go ahead. You're Julian, go ahead.
MADDOW: Here is Matthew Alexander, who is going like this. Looking like this. Baby boy, first kid, so cute. And then there is little Julian going -- it's pretty much it. So that's -- that's pretty much as close as I can get to cute baby for you.
O'DONNELL: And this is who we are. I think we just -- oh, wait, they've got the picture. They got the picture up. There's the picture. Rachel.
MADDOW: Oh, very nice.
O'DONNELL: Rachel, fantastic performance. That was just -- that's perfect. That's exactly what I pictured. Exactly what I pictured.
MADDOW: I need a little hat, but if I had had a little hat, you would have been able to --
O'DONNELL: We're going to get you that hat, Rachel. Christmas is coming. We're getting you that hat. Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Thank you, Lawrence.
O'DONNELL: Thank you.
MADDOW: Well, tonight, the president of the United States is part of a federal criminal investigation of the use of the president's unique constitutional power to pardon. We don't know if the president is a target of the investigation. We don't know if the president is a subject of the investigation.
But based on a federal judge's order released tonight, it is very clear that if this federal investigation leads to criminal charges of bribery in an attempt to obtain a presidential pardon, then the president of the United States will, at minimum, be a key witness in this investigation, and the question will be what the question has always been before, in past presidential scandals. What did the president know and when did he know it?
News of this investigation broke tonight as reporting on the president's pardon plan expanded quickly today from a report about Rudolph Giuliani requesting a pardon from Donald Trump to additional reporting tonight that Donald Trump has been talking about pardoning everyone named Trump in addition to Rudy Giuliani.
"The New York Times" reports tonight President Trump has discussed with advisers whether to grant pre-emptive pardons to his children, to his son-in-law, to his personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, and talked with Mr. Giuliani about pardoning him as recently as last week, according to two people briefed on the matter.
Last night on Fox, with Sean Hannity knowing that the president was watching, as he always is, Sean Hannity spoke directly to the president and he said, pardon yourself and pardon your family.
We've been saying on this program for a very long time that Donald Trump was going to pardon himself and his family. Now we see how the pardons will roll out. First, get his friends at Fox to make it a demand, to insist that the only reasonable thing for Donald Trump to do for his country is to pardon himself and his family because he and his family will be unfairly pursued by investigators if he does not do that, if he doesn't pardon himself and his family.
When Donald Trump is pardoning himself, he will no doubt say that he doesn't think he needs a pardon, but everyone's telling him that he should do it, and by then, everyone at Fox will be telling him that he should do it.
Why would Rudy Giuliani ask for a pardon? Keep that question in mind when you consider the following.
Tonight, the chief judge in the federal district court in the District of Columbia, Beryl Howell, unsealed a memorandum opinion and order that is about a federal investigation of at least two possible federal crimes. One is a violation of the Lobbying Disclosure Act, and the other is a possible attempt to obtain a presidential pardon through bribery. The judge's opinion and order is in response to a presentation made by federal prosecutors in a hearing closed to the public in which they asked for access to evidence obtained in the raids of two offices, the names of the people involved in this investigation and the names of the offices that were raided were redacted in the judge's opinion and order, which is the only document that has become public in this case.
That document is mostly redacted pages that describe in detail what the case is about and the crimes that are suspected or alleged by the federal prosecutors. The judge describes what was obtained in the raids this way. The communications at issue were seized by the government, pursuant to search warrants, which were issued in redacted. The judge describes a seizure of, quote, over 50 digital media devices, including iPhones, iPads, laptops, thumb drives and computer and external hard drives.
Because those seizures involved communications from at least one lawyer, Judge Howell examined the evidence and issued the opinion that the attorney-client privilege does not protect this seizure evidence from being seen and used by prosecutors. The judge's opinion holds that the Justice Department's filter team that is supposed to filter out of the seizure any communication protected by the attorney-client privilege is not needed in this case because the attorney-client privilege does not apply.
What we know about the bribery for pardon investigation is that it involves someone who is unnamed, who has been a major political contributor, and who is now in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons. The judge's memo refers to communications with, quote, defense counsel in the months leading up to redacted's surrender of Bureau of Prison's custody.
The judge's memo says this political strategy to obtain a presidential pardon was parallel to and distinct from redacted's role as an attorney advocate for redacted. That sentence is the key sentence in the judge's memo. A strategy to obtain a presidential pardon was parallel to and distinct from redacted's role as an attorney advocate for redacted.
Rudy Giuliani is an attorney advocate for the current president of the United States. If the two names redacted from that sentence are Rudolph Giuliani and Donald Trump, then that's one thing Rudy Giuliani might want a pardon for. And it's another thing that Donald Trump needs a pardon for.
Donald Trump already needs a federal pardon for his role as individual one in the federal criminal case that sent Michael Cohen to prison, in which Donald Trump was identified as the person who told Michael Cohen to commit those crimes and committed those crimes with Michael Cohen.
Donald Trump could be a completely innocent party in this investigation. He might know nothing about an attempt to obtain a pardon from him through bribery. If Donald Trump becomes a witness in this case, that is what his testimony might claim, he knew nothing about this, but his White House counsel's office did, and does know something, because the judge's memo describes one of the people in this investigation as having provided, quote, a coordinating role, including with the redacted and the White House counsel's office, to ensure redacted's work on behalf of redacted's clemency petition reached the targeted officials.
The targeted officials. The targeted officials for a presidential pardon are the president and White House counsel Pat Cipollone, who defended the president by lying for him in the Senate impeachment trial of Donald Trump.
What did the White House counsel know and when did he know it? Are the targeted officials who the judge refers to now targets of a federal criminal investigation? We don't know yet.
Federal prosecutors didn't want us to know any of this yet. They asked Judge Howell to keep her opinion sealed because it, quote, identifies both individuals and conduct that have not been charged by the grand jury.
Judge Howell told the prosecutors, in effect, that they could suggest redactions to her opinion in order to protect their investigation, which is what the prosecutors did, and so there are nine totally redacted pages in this 17-page document, and on the 18th page there's just a judge's signature.
In those redacted pages is a story that is going to be told. It will become public eventually. But the person who's going to be told this story before any of us hear it is the person who is sworn in as Joe Biden's choice for attorney general of the United States. The attorney general who will be supervising this investigation next year or what's left of it after Donald Trump grants his last pardon.
Leading off our discussion tonight, Chuck Rosenberg, a former U.S. attorney who work on the staff of both Robert Mueller and James Comey at the FBI. He is an MSNBC legal contributor and the host of the compelling podcast "The Oath," which has a new episode tomorrow.
Also with us, Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell of California. He's a member of the House Judiciary Committee and the House Intelligence Committee.
And, Congressman, with your indulgence, I'd like to go to Chuck Rosenberg first as a former federal prosecutor to read into this judge's memo tonight.
We normally defer to the elected official first, but we will start with you, Chuck.
Thank you. Thank you, Congressman.
I start with you, Chuck, and I want to just open the microphone to you on your reading of this judge's memo tonight.
CHUCK ROSENBERG, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Yeah, it's fascinating, but, Lawrence, what you said at the beginning is really important. We don't know who the targeted officials are and we don't know if White House officials were complicit or completely ignorant of the scheme.
What the judge is doing here is rather narrow. She's making a ruling that the attorney-client privilege doesn't protect certain documents because they were disclosed to third parties. Once you do that, you vitiate the privilege and that means prosecutors get to look at it.
It's important, Lawrence, because it helps them build a case. So it's going to take some time. We won't know just yet who tried to bribe whom, who conspired with whom, whether White House counsel when learning of it flat-out rejected it and sent the conspirators on their merry way, but we do know that prosecutors and agents now have more stuff to work with, and that's the import of this decision, they get to see what would have been attorney-client privilege material.
O'DONNELL: Chuck, one more thing that I think is revealed in the judge's memo is that everyone whose name appears in this memo knows who they are because they know about the raid of the offices. They know whose email was obtained, but none of this has been made public, and so everybody in this memo, including the person in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons, everyone at this point knows who they -- who they are.
ROSENBERG: You bet they do, and that's one reason why prosecutors wanted to keep this under seal. As they said, nobody's been charged yet by the grand jury.
Now, I understand what the judge is doing, and the courts have a predisposition to making as much material available to the public as they possibly can. Transparency is integral to the operation of our Article III civilian courts, but prosecutors, and I was one, Lawrence, hate it when stuff gets made public too early because as you said, these folks know exactly who they are.
And, oh, by the way, if the president is handing out pardons, maybe there's a few more now on this list.
O'DONNELL: Chuck, one more technical question before we widen this, and that's the prosecutors here were basically asking the judge to overrule the filtering process that the Justice Department does in a case that involves communications with an attorney that have been intercepted. Does that indicate to you that these prosecutors were dissatisfied and sensed some kind of delay in the way the Justice Department was filtering this evidence?
ROSENBERG: No, not necessarily. Typically, a filter team works alongside but separate from the investigating team. So in other words, if my office was conducting an investigation, we did a search warrant of an attorney's office, I would have one group of assistant U.S. attorneys in my office as the investigative team and one group of assistant U.S. attorneys as the filter team.
And as the filter team decided that things can be passed to the investigative team, they would do so. Sometimes when you're not sure if you can make that pass, you go to the judge and ask for permission. And, Lawrence, I think that's what happened here.
O'DONNELL: Congressman Swalwell, again, I want for you to just open this up. You've been involved in the impeachment investigation of this president. You have been studying the behavior of this White House for a long time, Rudy Giuliani's behavior.
And I just want to give you your opportunity to describe what you think you're seeing in this judge's memo.
REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA): Absolute corruption, Lawrence. We see a president who's not interested in justice. He's interested in protecting himself and recognizes first he has to protect others.
It's not about justice at all. It's a criminal who's seeking to cover his tracks, and we've seen this with other pardons. It's a bribery presidency, a smash and grab out the door. He was impeached for bribery, and in the final days of his presidency, there's a bribery or pardons investigation taking place.
You could have set your clock to this, though, Lawrence, because the president accuses others of exactly what he is always doing. But legally, pardoning himself or pardoning others for future crimes is legally unlawful, practically unenforceable, and morally unconscionable.
And so, in Congress, I think what we have to do is become more imaginative about how to protect our democracy from future presidents doing this and as a country, as citizens, to look at amending the Constitution to prevent a president from ever pardoning themselves, a family member or proactively pardoning others for crimes to shield themselves in criminal investigations.
O'DONNELL: And Rudy Giuliani's history with the president and the Ukraine issue goes back a long way, and it's been the subject of a federal investigation in the southern district of New York. That is something for which Rudy Giuliani may very well be asking for a pardon that covers that -- that would eliminate that investigation, in effect.
SWALWELL: That's right. And, Lawrence, the president has also essentially smeared and cleared the investigators who were working on that in the past, getting rid of the southern district prosecutor who is looking into the president's inaugural committee, the president's lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, Lev Parnas and other individuals.
Look, Donald Trump came into office promising to drain the swamp. Instead, he has appointed the swamp and in his final days is pardoning the swamp.
O'DONNELL: And when you consider the way this evidence unfolds in the judge's memo, it is kind of surprising how much we actually do get to see of it. It tells -- it tells a pretty clear story, leaves out the names.
But then, Congressman, there's nine pages of solid evidence, all of which is blacked out in this, nine pages of evidence that you and other members of Congress are eventually going to want to see.
SWALWELL: Yes, Lawrence. The redactions actually speak volumes, and, in fact, when you look at the redactions, you wonder why the judge actually released this, but he gave us enough -- she gave us enough information, I believe, and may be telegraphing to the president to stop this corrupt scheme that is going on, or maybe to telegraph to others.
We won't know, but as you said, when a new administration takes shape, we will know and we had a call tonight on the Judiciary Committee, and Chairman Nadler has already prepared our committee for what we can do to learn more.
O'DONNELL: I've been saying for a long time that December was going to be pardon month in our coverage on this show, and it's turned out to be that so far.
Congressman Eric Swalwell and Chuck Rosenberg, thank you both for starting us off tonight. Really appreciate it. Thank you.
And when we come back, we'll have more on what to expect during pardon month and how much of Joe Biden's administration can be in place and ready during this -- at the end of this transition. That's next.
O'DONNELL: Attorney General William Barr might want a pardon for himself for some of the legal and procedural lines that he has stepped on in the Justice Department that have brought him dangerously close to obstruction of justice.
But William Barr might have fallen off of Donald Trump's pardon list today when he said even more clearly something that he said in a veiled way two weeks ago. Attorney General Barr told the "Associated Press", quote, to date, we have not seen fraud on a scale that could have affected a different outcome in the election.
What the attorney general has seen, homicidal threats like one of Donald Trump's TV lawyers, Joe diGenova, saying that former homeland security official Chris Krebs should be shot and killed because Chris Krebs said that in his position of cyber security and infrastructure security at -- in the homeland security department, he found the 2020 election to be the most secure election in our history.
On the "Today" show today, Chris Krebs told Savannah Guthrie that he takes the death threat from Trump supporter seriously.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTOPHER KREBS, FORMER DIRECTOR OF THE CYBERSECURITY & INFRASTRUCTURE SECURITY AGENCY: It's certainly more dangerous language, more dangerous behavior. And the way I look at it is that we are a nation of laws, and I plan to take advantage of those laws. I've got an exceptional team of lawyers that win in court, and I think they're probably going to be busy.
SAVANNAH GUTHRIE, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: You feel like there's legal action that might arise from comments like that?
KREBS: We're taking a look at all our available opportunities.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: In Georgia today, Republican Gabriel Sterling, one of the election officials working in the Georgia secretary of state's office, spoke directly to Donald Trump about the violent threats that he has been inspiring.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GABRIEL STERLING, VOTING IMPLEMENTATION MANGER, GEORGIA SECRETARY OF STATE: Mr. President, you have not condemned these actions or this language. Senators, you have not condemned this language or these actions. This has to stop.
We need you to step up, and if you're going to take a position of leader, show some. This is elections. This is the backbone of democracy, and all of you who have not said a damn word are complicit in this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: Joining us now, Jennifer Palmieri, former White House communications director for President Obama and former communications director for Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign. She hosts the podcast "Just Something About Her" from the Recount.
Jennifer, thank you very much for joining us tonight.
I want to begin with Attorney General Barr's statement, clear statement this time. He put it in writing in a way a lot of people missed last week, but the clear statement today to the "Associated Press" that there is absolutely no voter fraud out there, no evidence of it that could in any way change the outcome of this election.
JENNIFER PALMIERI, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR FOR PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Yeah, I mean, that was -- that's a message to the American people, that's a message to the man sitting in the Oval Office now, and I know after he gave that statement he spent the afternoon at the White House. He was there, you know, I saw some reporting on I think he was there for about three hours, which is a long time for the attorney general to be in the White House. I understand that he was meeting with staff, not with the president.
But, I mean, to your earlier point about, you know, the pardon month of December, is that what he was working on with White House -- with White House counsel? They moved from -- that they're fighting the election to figuring how much can they secure for themselves, whether that's pardons or, you know, in the case of the suit that we learned about today or the court case we learned about today, you know, corruption and bribery in order to secure pardons.
It's, you know, when you -- and when you know that Joe Biden is coming in after him with a very sober, somber, experienced cabinet, the sort of shenanigans you see at the White House now seem -- it's all the more stunning for that all to set in about what's actually happening in that building now. You know, we just happened to find out about this one case, right? We just happened to find out about this.
PALMIERI: Imagine all the other pardons they're working on.
O'DONNELL: But also one of the important things about today is that William Barr, when he went to the White House, already knew that Judge Howell's memo was coming out because his federal prosecutors had cooperated with the judge in submitting those redactions, and so he knew that this was coming out. That could have been part of his discussions with the White House today, especially the White House counsel's office, who are implicated very directly in the judge's memo in the description of what was going on in that attempt to get a presidential pardon by bribery.
PALMIERI: And you might think that in another White House, that would chill everything, right? That would put a stop to what is -- to some notion of selling pardons or hoping that you get -- you make a promise for money on the outside after the administration is over.
But I'm -- but with this White House, I think that it might just say, you know, the notion might just be let's hurry up and do as much as we can before we get caught again. So, yeah, three hours there trying to sort it out.
O'DONNELL: The -- we heard from the election officer in the Georgia secretary of state's office today, a Republican. They're all Republicans working in that office, including the man elected secretary of state there. And there he was just speaking directly to the president through those microphones, saying you have not denounced this violent language that goes to the point of one of the president's lawyers, Joe diGenova, saying publicly in a talk show that Chris Krebs should be shot and killed.
And that and other statements crossed a line, even for those Republicans in Georgia.
PALMIERI: It's really interesting what's happening in Georgia, right?
I mean, Sterling, the officer who we heard speak today, he was really emotional, he was very strong. I have to think that there are other Republicans in Georgia that feel the -- feel the same way. The secretary of state is a Republican. Has been very critical of the president, of, you know, Lindsey Graham and other Republicans that are not accepting the outcome there.
You know, you saw in Arizona, Arizona certified the results, said Joe Biden won their state. Trump attacked Governor Doug Ducey and Governor Doug Ducey went about his day.
It is interesting to see Republicans just ignoring the president or challenge him in a way that we have not seen yet, and it's like a little window into what the Republican Party's going to be like post-Trump. Are they going to, you know, are they going to be willing to break with him, like we see some Republicans out in the states do, but then back in D.C., you know, you still -- you don't see that kind of leadership coming from United States senators.
O'DONNELL: Jennifer Palmieri, thank you very much for joining us again tonight.
O'DONNELL: Thank you.
And when we come back, the CDC this evening has just announced who will get the COVID-19 vaccine first.
Dr. Peter Hotez joins us next.
O'DONNELL: Today an advisory committee for the Centers for Disease Control voted to recommend that the first group of Americans to receive on authorized COVID-19 vaccine should be health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities.
If the Food and Drug Administration approves in the next two weeks both the Moderna and the Pfizer vaccines, enough vaccines for about 20 million people would be available by the end of the month.
Today Dr. Anthony Fauci said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE FOR ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: It likely will be started to get to the vaccine for those who are not in the higher risk categories somewhere in April. If you have good uptake, namely the overwhelming majority of people want to get vaccinated, you can expeditiously vaccinate people that by the time you get to the mid -- to the end of the second quarter of 2021, namely May, June, July, August, you very likely could have overwhelming majority of the people vaccinated, which means you'd have herd immunity.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: Joining us now, Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine and co-director of the Texas Children's Hospital Center for Vaccine Development. Dr. Hotez, your reaction to where we stand tonight as this vaccine approaches.
DR. PETER HOTEZ, CO-DIRECTOR, TEXAS CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL CENTER FOR VACCINE DEVELOPMENT: Well, I think it's certainly good news. The information that we have so far is giving high levels of protection, and as you mentioned, we should have enough to vaccinate 20 million people.
And what the advisory committee at the CDC recommended today -- and it's a recommendation, ultimately the decision's with the states but I think most states will go along with it -- is we have to focus on two things.
With those 20 million doses we have in hand now, what are our priorities? One, to save as many lives as we can; and two, to keep the health system going because it's under great threat because of these massive surges at our ICUs and emergency rooms.
So the decision for that 20 million doses or the recommendation is one, vaccinate health care workers to protect them and keep them in the workforce; and second, assisted-living facilities, nursing homes where the death rates have been so high and accounting for about 35 percent of the deaths.
And then we'll roll it out from there as more and more vaccine doses become available from Pfizer then Moderna. And, remember, by the early, middle part of next year, we should have at least five different vaccines. The two mRNA vaccines, the two adenovirus phase vaccines from AstraZeneca/Oxford and J&J; and maybe even a particle vaccine from Novavax.
We're also accelerating a vaccine that's being tested in India now. And we're pretty optimistic about that. Maybe that will come in. So we'll have a fleet of vaccines by the middle of next year. And I think that's how we get to Dr. Fauci's prediction that we could be approaching herd immunity.
I think it's going to be important also that we do the step-down studies in kids to get vaccinated to help get to that 70 percent benchmark, which we think is going to be necessary.
O'DONNELL: Doctor, when you talk about a fleet of vaccines, might that leave some vaccine consumers waiting and waiting to find out which of these is the best vaccine?
DR. HOTEZ: Yes, that's a really important question, and I guess -- I get asked that quite a bit. And here's what I say. In the beginning anyway, you're not going to have a lot of choice about which vaccine might be available. And, remember, they all work pretty much by the same way.
So a lot's made of the different technologies and it's portrayed as a race, it's not really that at all. Pretty much every vaccine seems to work by the same way. They all target the spike protein of the virus. Those proteins that emanate around the surface of the virus and bind to our tissues.
And what we've shown and others over the last decade is if you make lots of virus neutralizing antibody to spike protein as well as some t cells, you can make a vaccine. And all of the vaccines that are in play right now with different technologies are all operating by the same way.
And the only questions that we really have, other than -- because we're pretty confident now about the efficacy in terms of its level of protection is how long they're going to protect? What's the durability of protection?
And that we have no idea because we have so many new technologies. So the point is we're not going to know that until maybe a year from now. So don't wait. Get what you can get.
Get those virus neutralizing antibodies into your system. Keep yourself, keep your family out of the ICU and the hospital. And if it turns out that the one you picked is not the most durable in terms of protection, it doesn't matter, you can probably get boosted later on with either the same vaccine or a different vaccine.
Don't overthink it. Now is the time to get those virus neutralizing antibodies in your system, which is how all the vaccines work.
O'DONNELL: One of the elements of what I think you're going to call overthinking is what I think a lot of us hear from a lot of people. And these are people who get their flu shots every year, they believe in vaccines, they believe in this kind of intervention.
But they're reluctant with this one. They want to wait and see a few months. They want to see people take it because it's so new and possibly because it's rushed. And again, these are not people who are against vaccination. These are people who believe they want to bring their own level of caution to when they use the vaccine. What would you say to them?
DR. HOTEZ: Yes, that's right. These vaccines have been heavily politicized by the White House and it's created some uncertainty. Calling it Operation Warp Speed didn't help any because it made -- gave the impression that these vaccines are rushed, are not being adequately tested for safety.
But the truth is the warp speed part is not around the clinical trials. These are very large, robust trials of 30,000 to 60,000 people. The warp speed part is the fact that they're being manufactured in parallel at the same time that the clinical testing's being done. That is in case they are shown to work then we have it ready to go.
O'DONNELL: Dr. Peter Hotez, thank you very much for joining us again tonight. We always appreciate it.
DR. HOTEZ: Always good to be here. Thank you.
O'DONNELL: Thank you, Doctor.
And coming up, what happens after this year's wave of protests that followed the police killing of George Floyd? Michael Eric Dyson joins us next.
O'DONNELL: On this date, on this day in 1955, 42-year-old Rosa Parks boarded a bus in Montgomery, Alabama. She was on her way home from work. She sat in the front row of the black section of the segregated bus. And as the bus began to fill with passengers, the driver asked Rosa Parks to move back, back to the back of the bus so that a white man could have her seat.
65 years ago today, Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat on that Montgomery city bus. Her actions led to a boycott of the bus system by African-Americans in Montgomery that lasted for 381 days.
The boycott ended on December 20th, 1956 when the Supreme Court issued a ruling that outlawed segregation on city buses.
Joining us now is Michael Eric Dyson. His new book is "Long Time Coming: Reckoning with Race in America". Michael Eric Dyson is a distinguished professor of African-American studies at Vanderbilt University.
Professor Dyson, in those 65 years from the day that Rosa Parks made that historic decision, how far have we come?
MICHAEL ERIC DYSON, VANDERBILT UNIVERSITY: Well, on the one hand, we've had an enormous sense of progress. If Dr. King, who emerged in that consternation in Montgomery, as not only the premier leader in Montgomery, but indeed, of America in terms of the civil rights struggle, the moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends towards justice.
And the reality is that when that Supreme Court decision was delivered, some soul in Montgomery said, God almighty has spoken from Washington, D.C. And so from that time until now, black people have struggled, have met obstacles, impediments, have tried to overcome the invidious (ph) resistance of a dominant culture that refused to acknowledge their humanity.
And yet time and again when there were obstacles put in place, they marched, they protested, they sang, they resisted, they took to the streets, they locked arms with other figures in American society, white brothers and sisters, indigenous, Asian folk and the like to form a concerted corporate union of conscience against what they felt to be un-American practices.
So until now when we've seen a black president, when we see now a black vice president, when we have had enormous political experiences of joy and victory, have also been the lack of opportunity on the bottom. That those who are stuck at the bottom of society, the totem pole does not favor them.
They have not been able to because either lack of access to education or lack of opportunities or even lack of access to housing which is a doorway into the American dream have been able to overcome some of these permanent obstacles.
And as a result of that, we've got two tiers. Those who have overcome and done extraordinarily well, and those who are stuck at the bottom and those who continue to be the victims of a persistence of inequality in America.
O'DONNELL: Michael, you have a dedication that you -- that's actually handwritten. I'm going to try to hold it up for the camera to see if we can see this.
O'DONNELL: There's Michael's handwriting imprinted right here in the beginning, right inside the jacket of the book. And it is a letter. It's a "Dear" and it's addressed to several people.
O'DONNELL: And at the other end of the book, we discover you say, "I wrote this for you".
O'DONNELL: Tell us about this dedication and what it means to you and to the reader.
DYSON: Yes, well. And thank you for acknowledging that work. The book is a series of letters to martyrs, to black folk who have fallen. Emmett Till that you've talked about here so eloquently today, Breonna Taylor, Sandra Bland, Hadiya Pendleton, Clemente Pinckney -- and Breonna Taylor, as I've indicated -- these figures to me are the embodiment of our attempt to overcome.
The line from Emmett Till to Breonna Taylor is one that has consistently seen people striving to become the best they can within the context of American society. The lethal limits imposed by either white supremacy or systemic racism.
And so I wrote this book to them to talk to my ancestors, recently arrived, most of them, into the climbs of another atmosphere where they look down on us as we continue to struggle.
And I wanted to write to them posthumous notes of affection, intentionally trying to conjure their spirits to help lead and guide us along this rough path. So I wanted to say to them, I wrote this book for you, I sit in meditation, acknowledging your power in our lives.
We know Emmett Till was a martyr, 14 years old, but we've never heard his voice. What would it sound like? Breonna Taylor snuffed in her sleep in Louisville, Kentucky. Sandra Bland on the roadside, stopped by a police person. George Floyd dying beneath the knee of a policeman who bruised his already mortally hurt column and asphyxiated him.
I wanted to write to them to say we have not forgotten you. The immortal words of the ages congregate around your bodies to try to ease you into another world that we here left behind have to cope with.
And so I want to acknowledge their beauty, their power, their eloquence but also their inspiration.
Elijah McClain (ph), a young man in Aurora, Colorado today was announced that the city is trying to argue about the wrongful death claim of him.
I wanted to say to these people we will never forget. Memory is a weapon in the hands of the oppressed. It is a blessing to those who continue to live and those of us together must make certain that we never forget the contributions and ultimately the suffering that they endured.
O'DONNELL: And Michael, you have said it so eloquently and beautifully in this book, "Long Time Coming: Reckoning with Wace in America.
My friend, Professor Michael Eric Dyson, thank you very much for joining us tonight.
DYSON: Thank you, my friend.
And when we come back tonight's LAST WORD will go to you, our viewers. That's next.
O'DONNELL: There's about an hour left in Giving Tuesday. MSNBC is proud to be the signature media partner of Giving Tuesday for the seventh year in a row.
After I reminded you last night about one of your Giving Tuesday options, the KIND Fund, Kids in Need of Desks, the brilliant actress Holland Taylor (ph) tweeted this today. "This is my favorite organization where I love to give dough. Lawrence and UNICEF created this fund for desks for dirt floor classrooms in Africa where children had never seen a desk. Desks transform school and their lives, rejoice." And I rejoice for my friend Holland Taylor's generosity and kindness.
Many of you I know will not be able to contribute as you have in the past because of the financial losses so many people are suffering this year with record high unemployment and loss of income because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Erich Zann tweeted "This seems like a good time to promote Lawrence's KIND Fund. Do what you can, folks. These kids need it. My donation is going to be skim this year but I've got to do it every year.
Ali Van Zee (ph) tweeted, "Thanks you Lawrence for allowing us to help these children in Malawi. It has been my honor to be with you from the beginning."
Ann Naylor tweeted, "Thank you so much for reminding me about KIND. This year more than ever we're doing a little more giving because we're doing ok during the coronavirus so far. Happy holidays."
And that's really all I hope to do for you this year is to remind you about Kids in Need of Desks. I'm not going to presume to ask you to contribute in this difficult year, but I know there are many people like Ann who just need to and want to be reminded.
And we know that the need for desks is even more urgent during the coronavirus pandemic because last night we heard from Elizabeth Kalele, the head teacher at Sumaze primary school who explained how the new desks in her school and other schools are helping them maintain social distance between the students in the classroom.
Before desks came to her school kids sat on the floor of the classroom and were jammed together, often leaning on each other to hold themselves up in the fourth and fifth and sixth and seventh hour of the school day.
Elizabeth told us without desks in her classroom it would be very difficult to give each student enough space.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ELIZABETH KALELE, TEACHER: It would be very difficult just because these learners were just being packed in a room. It would be a difficult thing for them to have a one-meter spacing. It would be a difficult thing for them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: The KIND Fund also provides scholarships for girls to attend high school in Malawi where public high school is not free. And the girls graduation rate is half the boys graduation rate.
Tracy Pearson (ph) tweeted "I donated toward a scholarship for girls because on this World AIDS Day 2020 I know prevention begins with education."
You can go to lastworddesk.msnbc.com and give a desk in the name of anyone on your holiday gift list and UNICEF will send that person a notification of the gift that you have given in their name.
Or you can give a scholarship for a girl in the name of someone on your gift list, and it can be any amount. No contribution is too small.
Nathan Brady tweeted, "I just showed my support for UNICEF and the children. My parents instilled the value of education in me from an early age and said we should always help others in their educational efforts, so this donation was made in memory of my father Edward."
Robin Moore tweeted, "Lawrence, the best Christmas gift, the one that made me the happiest was the purchase of a desk through your KIND Fund.
Robin Moore, Nathan Brady, Tracy Pearson, Ann Naylor, Ali Van Zee, Eric Zann, Holland Taylor, and Elizabeth Kalele get tonight's LAST WORD.
"THE 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS" starts now.
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