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Transcript: The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, December 14, 2020

Guests: Amy Klobuchar, Jon Ossoff

Summary

The president-elect of the U.S. addressed the nation, and he praised the people at the local level who made sure this election was fair and could not be stolen, not by Russia, not by the president of the United States. In what appears to be a negotiated settlement, Donald Trump announced on Twitter that Attorney General William Barr will be leaving his job the day before Christmas Eve. Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota is interviewed. Today is the first day of distribution of the coronavirus vaccine and a map of the coronavirus hot spots is now a map of the entire country. The future of the Biden/Harris administration is now entirely up to the state of Georgia with its two senate elections on January 5th.

Transcript

LAWRENCE O'DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel.

I'm hitting refresh on my browser here to make sure I -- to make sure I get my ticket to the "Bag Man Show." It's one of two, only two.

It's amazing what has happened to the giant world of Rachel Maddow book tours reduced now to just these two virtual events. But kind of more convenient for you, right?

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Well, you know, I will say doing this online event last night with Magic City books, I was so scared. I was like how is this going to work? There's going to be like a thousand people there, we're all crowded together inside the same software.

It's so like when you're dealing with people who are good at running these things, it's so seamless and so convivial and it worked so well, and I have to say, I really kind -- I kind of dig it. I'd rather travel and see people, see each other faces, that's the good thing in the world.

But as the next best things, it's kind of cool.

O'DONNELL: Okay. Rachel Maddow's kind of cool book tour tomorrow night.

(LAUGHTER)

MADDOW: Thank you, Lawrence.

O'DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW: Thanks.

O'DONNELL: We all know that Sean Penn is a better actor than I am because he has the Oscars to prove it and I'm not an actor. But Sean Penn is not supposed to be a better political analyst than I am but he as a check to prove that he is. It's the check I had to give him when I lost a big political bet to Sean Penn.

And for me, any bet is a big bet because I don't bet, except for that one political bet, with Sean, it's actually two bets because Sean Penn talked me into another one. And the full story of my gambling habit with Sean Penn will be told at the end of this hour in tonight's LAST WORD, and it will contain a pleasant surprise for Sean Penn if he's watching tonight. If he's not, you can all tell him about it on Twitter.

And with the Biden/Harris administration's ability to govern depending on the outcome of two Senate elections in Georgia on January 5th, the Democratic candidate for one of those seats, Jon Ossoff, will join us tonight. Also, Senator Amy Klobuchar will join our discussion tonight.

Laurie Garrett will join us when we across the grim milestone of 300,000 deaths in this country from the coronavirus, which is also the same day we begin distributing the coronavirus vaccine in this country.

But we begin tonight with today's formalizing of Joe Biden's victory in the Electoral College, which was never in doubt and I mean never. It was never in doubt for me for four years, because Donald Trump never did what every single first term president before him tried to do. He never once in four years of his presidency tried to win the votes of people who did not already vote for him. By midnight on election night, it was clear to me that Joe Biden was going to beat Donald Trump by millions of votes and win the Electoral College.

And the day after election, when Biden campaign manager, Jen O'Malley Dillon explained to reporters when it was explained in a conference call on how she expected the counting of the votes to proceed, I was even more absolutely certain Joe Biden would win the Electoral College and be president. On November 7th, there was literally dancing in the streets all over America when this network and others officially projected Joe Biden as the winner of the Electoral College.

But the dancing stopped not long after that when Trump's legal challenges and other stunts in the battleground states scared many people into thinking the outcome might be in doubt and some false seeds had been planted in the final months of the campaign of what the Trump team might be capable of, including having public legislators choose the electors in their states, instead of the voters.

One highly influential article in the Atlantic was breathtakingly wrong about this, and scared a lot of people. That article suggested that there was an army of Trump lawyers ready to fan out all over the country, when it turned out it was a small band of incompetents and buffoons who are licensed to practice law but do not know how. That same article suggested that the Republican legislature in Pennsylvania could at its whim choose Trump electors even if Joe Biden won the state of Pennsylvania, and there was never a shred of legal truth in that point.

That was not possible under Pennsylvania law and it was not under federal law. And I repeatedly pointed that out on this program but completely impossible scenarios just didn't seem so impossible to a lot of people in a world where Donald Trump was president, which I had once thought was impossible.

The Trump election challenges in court were nothing more than fund-raising gimmicks that have fueled a relentless e-mail campaign by Donald Trump soliciting money for these legal challenges, money that he can really use for other purposes. Donald Trump will continue to do that tomorrow. He will pretend probably that there's away way to challenge the Electoral College result, which is technically true. But that challenge would have to be supported by a majority, a majority of the House of Representatives and a majority of the Senate.

And so, the inevitable is still inevitable. Joe Biden is going to be the next president of the United States.

In the sequence of voting by the states today in the Electoral College, California had the honor of pushing Joe Biden and California's own Kamala Harris over the top in the Electoral College.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I will now announce the tally of the vote for the office of president of the United States, for Joseph R. Biden of Delaware, a Democrat, ayes, 55, nos, zero.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

I will now announce the tally for the votes for office for vice president of the United States. For Senator Kamala D. Harris of California, a Democrat, ayes, 55, nos, zero.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'DONNELL: The California electors knew they were putting the Biden/Harris ticket over the top and their applause went on much longer than we have time to show you here.

This evening, the president-elect of the United States of America addressed the nation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT-ELECT: Good evening, my fellow Americans.

Over the past few weeks, officials in each state, commonwealth and district, without regard to party or political preference have certified the winning candidates. Today, a member of the Electoral College, representing the certified winner cast their votes for president and vice president of the United States in an act just as old as our nation itself.

And once again, in America -- in America, the rule of law, our Constitution and the will of the people prevailed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'DONNELL: This Biden speech was different. It contained much of the expected feel-good rhetoric about the American democracy and the Constitution that Joe Biden always delivers from the heart, but from that same heart came a rebuke, a frustrated, perhaps, rebuke tonight to the people who have revealed themselves as opponents of democracy in this country.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIDEN: Seventeen Republican attorneys general and 126 Republican members of the Congress actually -- they actually signed on to a lawsuit filed by the state of Texas. That lawsuit asked the United States Supreme Court to reject the certified vote counts in Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. This legal maneuver was an effort by elected officials and one group of states to try to get the Supreme Court to wipe out the votes of more than 20 million Americans in other states and to hand the presidency to a candidate who lost the Electoral College, the popular vote and lost each and every one of the states whose votes they are trying it reverse.

It's a position so extreme we've never seen it before, a position that refused to respect the will of the people, refused to respect the rule of law and refused to honor our Constitution. Thankfully, a unanimous Supreme Court immediately and complete rejected this effort. The court sent a clear signal to President Donald Trump that they would be no part of an unprecedented assault on our democracy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'DONNELL: Joe Biden praised the people at the local level who made sure this election was fair and could not be stolen, not by Russia, not by the president of the United States.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIDEN: One of the extraordinary things we saw this year was that every day Americans, our friends and our neighbors, often volunteers, Democrats, Republicans, independents, demonstrating absolute courage. They showed a deep and unwavering faith in and a commitment to the law. They did their duty in the face of a pandemic. It was truly remarkable because so many of these patriotic Americans are subject to so much, and numerous political pressure, verbal abuse and even threats of physical violence.

We all wish our fellow Americans in these positions will always show such courage and commitment to free and fair elections. It is my sincere hope we never again see anyone subjected to the kind of abuse and threats we saw in this election. It's simply unconscionable.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'DONNELL: Joe Biden added a final line to what has been the customary ending of all Biden speeches.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIDEN: Thank you all and may God bless, and may God protect our troops and all those who stand watch over democracy. Thank you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'DONNELL: Leading off our discussion tonight, John Heilemann, MSNBC national affairs analyst, executive editor of the recount, and host of "Hell and High Water" podcast.

And Zerlina Maxwell is with us. She's host of the program, "Zerlina", which airs on Peacock Streaming Services. She's an MSNBC political analyst.

And, Zerlina, Joe Biden is the best I've seen at letting bygones be bygones and letting them be bygones fairly quickly. He has delivered speeches both during the presidential campaign and certainly during the aftermath of the election where some egregious thing that happened by Donald Trump or the Republicans trying to block his election, which he completely ignores and just speaks directly to the American people about what he hopes to do for them.

Today was a different speech. This was a mix. Joe Biden apparently wanted to leave a very clear marker that he saw what he saw and he knows who was trying to block democracy.

ZERLINA MAXWELL, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. And I don't think the American people should forget either. I think it's important for President-elect Biden to put down a marker here, as you said, Lawrence, and say, look, I got 306 electoral votes just like Donald Trump got in 2016 and Donald Trump acted like he had a mandate.

He called that 306 win a landslide and then he proceeded to govern and implement really relentless policies that harmed particular communities which ironically turned out in record numbers to put Joe Biden in the White House instead.

And I think it's important for us all to remember that context as well because Joe Biden is speaking for the millions -- 81 million Americans who sent a clear message of rebuke to this president, not just for what he's done in the past but what he's doing in the present, and I think the 100 or so Republicans who signed on to essentially overturn the will of the majority of the American people have demonstrated that they don't believe in this democracy as much as the people who voted it do.

O'DONNELL: Let's listen to that passage of the speech that you just referred to, Zerlina, where Joe Biden reminds us that Donald Trump said 306 in the Electoral College is a landslide.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIDEN: Together, Vice President-elect Harris and I earned 306 electoral votes, well exceeding the 270 electoral votes needed to secure victory. Three hundred six electoral votes is the same number that Donald Trump and Vice President Pence received when they won in 2016. Excuse me.

At the time, President Donald Trump called the Electoral College tally a landslide. By his own standards, these numbers represented a clear victory then.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'DONNELL: John Heilemann, Joe Biden has within giving speeches recently without any reference to Donald Trump. This was not one of those speeches.

JOHN HEILEMANN, MSNBC NATIONAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Right. No, it wasn't, Lawrence. And I think, you know, to go back, that is of a piece with the other point that you and Zerlina were making earlier.

It's very striking to me. You know, there is a long-running critique of Joe Biden from the left, from the progressives in the Democratic Party, which is that he is too eager to compromise with Republicans. He thinks compromise is possible. He doesn't recognize the nihilism that is now at the heart of the Republican Party, that he will be a patsy for Republicans.

And when you hear Joe Biden, I'm now just echoing this critique from the left, when you hear Joe Biden do what both of us and most people know Joe Biden, he would do if he won the election, which is to say I'm here to unify the country, I'm here to get things done, I'm here to be a president for -- even for the people who didn't vote for me, that inflamed for some in the left the notion, oh God, here we go.

Joe Biden is just going to let bygones be bygones, not hold Republicans to account, not recognize the existential threat to democracy that this postelection period has been and that Republicans have largely sided with and capitulated in a de facto and attempted coup and what Joe Biden tonight said is, no, I am not going to be a patsy. I understand what is going on here, and I'm going to hold these Republicans accountable. I go into this with eyes wide open.

And I think he was sending a very clear message to his party that though he wants to be a unifier, he understands that the fist is necessary, that you cannot be-- and the open palm is not the way governing is going to be the way it gets done in this party, you see the open hand and the fist.

And I think you saw the fist tonight in the way Joe Biden talked about what has happened here.

O'DONNELL: Zerlina, someone told me there will be a victorious winner of the presidential campaign who on Electoral College victory day will actually come out and specifically take a shot at 126 members of the opposing party in the House of Representatives. I would have said to you, well, I know who that is not going to be. That will never be Joe Biden.

In fact, no one's ever done it but, then again, no one's ever had 126 of them come out and say we want to defy the American voter and these 126 have clearly identified themselves to Joe Biden as people he can just forget about ever dealing with.

MAXWELL: Yes. Because I think what they've demonstrated is the fact that they will go along with anything. It's not just that they won one basically case on a technicality out of 61 cases. It's the fact that the substance of these lawsuits were so frivolous that even Republican judges were saying, what are these lawsuits? Ballots decide elections, not these attempts to overturn the will of the people.

And I think what's very, very important for this moment is that if the Republicans if Congress will go along with this, basically an empty page submitted in favor of overturning the election in favor of Trump, then they are not bought into the overall experiment. And so, they have demonstrated they are not going to work with Joe Biden on anything because they are not bought into the entire project.

O'DONNELL: John Heilemann, quickly before we go, I know Joe Biden is very good at not taking it personally, but, boy, in his voice, it felt like you were hearing a certain amount of personal offense of what those 126 Republicans and Donald Trump were up to.

HEILEMANN: And those Republican attorney generals that he called out, Lawrence, I think you're slightly right. I think part of this tonight was a calculated effort to send a message, as I said before, as Democrats and saying, I'm not going to be pushover.

But the other part it was a genuine sense of aggrievement, a genuine sense of frustration. Joe Biden is -- a "let bygones be bygones" guy. He's done that for years and years, but he's trying to let people know here that he's angry. There's an anger here and I think he came through tonight.

O'DONNELL: John Heilemann, Zerlina Maxwell, thank you both for starting off our discussions tonight. I really appreciate it.

And up next, the attorney general of the United States is out of a job as of the day before Christmas Eve. Was he fired or did he resign? I'm not sure.

We'll ask Senator Amy Klobuchar what she thinks, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'DONNELL: Just after Joe Biden won the count today, Donald Trump tried to create news and the only way that he can now by announcing that a crew member was deserting his sinking ship.

In what appears to be a negotiated settlement, Donald Trump announced on Twitter that Attorney General William Barr will be leaving his job the day before Christmas Eve. The Trump tweet and the attorney general's letter announcing this move did not use the words resigned or fired. The letter to the president from the attorney general appears to have been written by Donald Trump, the first sentence refers to a discussion they had today, quote: on the department's review of voter fraud allegations of the 2020 election and how these allegations will continue to be pursued.

The attorney general's letter says: You built the strongest and most resilient economy in American history.

The letter is mostly a stream of praise like that about Donald Trump, having nothing to do with anything under the jurisdiction of the attorney general and on the second-to-last line just before wishing the president a merry Christmas, the attorney general simply says, I will spend the next week wrapping up a few remaining matters important to the administration and depart on December 23rd. Depart meaning depart on vacation? Depart on another investigative trip to Italy?

That seems like a hastily written sentence for a resignation letter. It doesn't say he will depart governor service, it doesn't say actually in clear English, my service as attorney general will end on December 23rd. It could be that William Barr woke um this morning with no intention of writing this letter until it was essentially dictated to him at the White House today.

Joining us is now Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota. She's a member of the Judiciary Committee, and she's the ranking Democratic member on the Senate Rules Committee.

Senator Klobuchar, it's a strange letter from the attorney general. It was written after a meeting with the president in the White House. The president has been kind of public lively threatening to fire the guy. It reads like some sort of negotiated exit.

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN): Or maybe someone else wrote it.

Look, I don't know. If you're having me on because you think I know the inner workings of the Trump Justice Department, no. But what I do look at here is you've got the president had, of course, fired the secretary of defense, the head of cyber security and homeland security. You know that happened, Chris Krebs. And there have been a number of other people that since the election he has removed.

So, we don't really know what happened here. But to me, Barr had spent his time as attorney general really being more of a personal lawyer to Donald Trump than taking that oath seriously to representing the people of this country. And, of course, though, I am concerned when you have mass departures like that.

Usually, people do stick with an administration that are in key positions. They're usually not getting fired at the end. And again, I just look at what we have to get through here to get out the other end to the light at the end of the tunnel, which is, of course, inauguration day.

And one of my jobs as the top Democrat on the Rules Committee is to work to make sure that inauguration happens and that everything goes smoothly with the report of the Electoral College votes and the like.

O'DONNELL: And, Senator, to divert to that for a second, it seems pretty clear procedurally that there's nothing that can derail this. It -- the Congress technically can reject the findings of the Electoral College but it would take a majority vote in both the House and Senate for that to happen.

KLOBUCHAR: Yes. So, one thing we know for sure is everyone better be there. It's January 6th. It's the day after Georgia, just I guess a coincidence. But it's January 6th and if any of the House members object, which you would think they may do to an individual state, then if they are joined by one senator, then it could end up going to both houses for a vote.

And as you correctly pointed out, Lawrence, the House will most likely and will overrule these frivolous objections. But you don't have to have both houses, but given that we've already had several senators congratulate Joe Biden on his victory and today, by the way, three senators said this is over basically in their own words, that Joe Biden won, in different language, that would be Cornyn, Thune and Blunt, all three leaders in the Senate on the Republican side.

So, you can see this vote may not go as some of those renegade House members want.

O'DONNELL: Yeah. It's pretty clear that if you ever did have that vote in the Senate, there would be enough Republican votes to easily give that -- create a majority.

A thought on the Bill Barr departure. It's very clear that Bill Barr will not be around on the final pardon day in the Trump administration, which for controversial pardons is often the last day of that presidency and the pardon office and the Justice Department will no doubt be dragged into an investigation of the wilder pardons that Donald Trump issues at the end of his presidency.

And with Bill Barr gone before Christmas Eve, he won't be dragged into that investigation.

KLOBUCHAR: Who knows if that contributed to this dispute and the reason he would leave early besides wanting to see his family on the holidays, which we all do. But we've got jobs to do right now So, I think, you know, we don't know. It is concerning what the president may do, as you pointed out so well for weeks here when it comes to these pardons.

And the guy that's going to be in charge, Rosen, is more of a -- he's worked in and out of government. He was over at the Transportation Department for a while there and is now over at the attorney general's office. But, you know, we just don't know what track he will take when it comes to things that, you know, are basically some of the things that Donald Trump does as we know all the time, he proposed to do things that are against the law and against the Constitution.

And that's why the Justice Department must do its job.

O'DONNELL: Senator Amy Klobuchar, thank you very much for joining us again tonight.

KLOBUCHAR: You got to watch that January 6. Each day they put up to two hours of debate, Lawrence. We may have a long day after those votes --

(CROSSTALK)

O'DONNELL: But we do know the result no matter what happens and we thank you for helping America understand that.

KLOBUCHAR: Exactly. But it's still going to be something. All right.

O'DONNELL: Thank you very much, Senator.

KLOBUCHAR: Thank you.

O'DONNELL: Thank you.

Up next, Pulitzer Prize winning reporter Laura Garrett joins us on the first day of distribution of the coronavirus vaccine and why she says a map of the coronavirus hotspots is now a map of the entire country.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: Today our nation passed a grim milestone. 300,000 deaths due to this COVID virus. My heart goes out to each of you in this dark winter of the pandemic about to spend the holidays and the New Year with a black hole in your hearts.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'DONNELL: Because the British have the National Health Service that covers everyone in the country, they told us accurately who the first recipient of the coronavirus vaccine was in their country.

But that might not be a provable fact in this country because we do not have a national health service and the vaccine is being delivered to 50 different state governments. And then there's the possibility that the first Americans to actually get the vaccine work in the Trump White House and got it secretly, something a White House spokesperson was defending yesterday after "The New York Times" wrote of the news of a plan to vaccinate everyone in the White House first.

Donald Trump, who lies about everything, issued a tweet last night saying that his White House staff should receive vaccines, quote, "somewhat later, unless specifically necessary". Unless specifically necessary -- so who knows how many people in the Trump White House already secretly got the coronavirus vaccine before the person who was at least the first to get the vaccine publicly, Nurse Sandra Lindsay, a critical care nurse in New York City.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SANDRA LINDSAY, CRITICAL CARE NURSE: I feel like healing is coming. I hope this marks the beginning to the end of the very painful time in our history.

I want to instill public confidence that the vaccine is safe. We're in a pandemic and so we all need to do our part to put an end to the pandemic and to not give up so soon.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

Joining us now Laurie Garrett, Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter covering global pandemics and an MSNBC science contributor. She is the author of "The Coming Plague".

Laurie, day one of vaccine distribution and you tweeted a map of the hot spots of the country and it was a map of the entire country.

LAURIE GARRETT, MSNBC SCIENCE CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, Lawrence. I'm afraid that's true. The areas that are not dark red are so lightly populated that that becomes the major reason why they haven't turned into hot spots. But many rural counties, anyone who knows the states you're looking at can say, yes, that's a very sparsely populated rural county and it's still nevertheless a hot spot.

We got over 110,000 Americans hospitalized today for COVID -- a record breaker. With more than 300,000 deceased by official tally and, of course, as we've discussed before, Lawrence, this is a gross undercount with lag times up to six weeks or more from some states to report deaths. So the true scale is probably closer to 330,000 or 340,000 deceased Americans.

O'DONNELL: Joe Biden, we heard him refer to this as a dark winter that we're entering With COVID-19. In the middle of that dark winter will be inauguration day for Joe Biden on January 20th. If we have a surge in travel for Christmas the way we saw a surge in travel for Thanksgiving, by inauguration day we will be seeing no doubt around the country the results of that travel.

GARRETT: Yes, unfortunately what's very disturbing is that, yes, there's a lot of good news about vaccines and we should be excited and it is tremendous that individuals such as the nurse that you showed earlier are getting vaccinated and may be well protected.

But we need to be very clear, it's going to be many months before most Americans have access to a vaccine. The production scale is very slow and shortages are showing up in all sorts of essential chemicals used to make the vaccines, vital reagents that are used in the processing of the mRNA that in fact are also involved in diagnostic testing.

So the burden on the manufacturers of all these initial reagents, enzymes and supplies is tremendous and it's causing a real backup in production capacity for the vaccines themselves.

And what is disturbing, Lawrence, is that all over in social media, people are already referring to the epidemic in the past tense, as if, you know, it's already in the rear view mirror.

Look, it's going to be a long time before most Americans have access to a vaccine and in the interim, a lot of infection is going to happen. And if people lighten up on their self-protection in any way, if they back off on wearing masks, if they don't abide by social distancing and if they travel over Christmas, we're going to see a horrible explosion in cases and deaths long before the vaccines reach mass distribution.

O'DONNELL: And Laurie, now that the vaccine is in distribution, it's a two-shot vaccine. You get the second shot within a couple of weeks of the first one.

After that second shot or a week or so after that second shot, do people then just take off their masks and go about their business normally?

GARRETT: Well, it is the official recommendation of our Centers for Disease Control that, no, you continue wearing a mask because what we don't know is the nature of the way these studies were done and of the very rapid speed with which these were performed.

We don't know really whether you're still capable of carrying virus in your body even though you're not getting severe disease. What we measured in these trials and in the one coming up for assessment later this week by Moderna in addition to the Pfizer vaccine, what was measured was a difference in severe illness in the placebo versus vaccine group.

So what's been proven is that it's 95 protective against severe disease but you might still be infected. It's not necessarily protecting you against infection and it's not necessarily protecting you against being able to infect others.

We need more study before we know the answers to that. In the meantime, wear the mask.

O'DONNELL: Laurie Garrett, thank you much for joining us once again tonight.

GARRETT: My pleasure.

O'DONNELL: Thank you.

And early voting in the Senate elections started in Georgia today. Joe Biden will campaign for the Democratic candidates in Georgia tomorrow.

We will be joined by Georgia's Democratic Senate candidate Jon Ossoff next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'DONNELL: In Georgia today leading the Biden slate of electors who met in the capital in Atlanta was Stacey Abrams who was elected the presiding officer of today's electoral college meeting by her fellow electors.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STACEY ABRAMS, FOUNDER, FAIR FIGHT: We have now cast 16 electoral college votes on behalf of the state of Georgia for Joseph R. Biden as President of the United States and 16 electoral college votes on behalf of the State of Georgia for Kamala D. Harris as vice president of the United States.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'DONNELL: The future of the Biden/Harris administration is now entirely up to the state of Georgia with its two senate elections on January 5th, which will determine whether the Biden/Harris administration will be locked in gridlock created by the Republicans' control of the U.S. Senate or whether Democrats take control of the Senate by winning both Senate races in Georgia.

Democratic Senate candidate Reverend Raphael Warnock reminded Georgia voters that early voting starts today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REVEREND RAPHAEL WARNOCK, GEORGIA DEMOCRATIC CANDIDATE FOR SENATE: There's a lot of stuff to do this time of year -- get the tree, done. Hang the lights. Not yet. Wrap presents. Check.

But this year there's one extra thing to do. Vote. That's right. Early voting starts December 14th so make voting part of your holiday plans. It will probably take you less time than it will take me to do this.

I'm Raphael Warnock and I approve this message.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'DONNELL: Joining us now is Georgia Democratic candidate for United States Senate, Jon Ossoff. Thank you very much for joining us again tonight. And as I pointed out to the audience last week, every candidate for Senate in Georgia is invited on this program every night, open invitation.

You have accepted that invitation more than once. Raphael Warnock has accepted that invitation. He's joined us. The Republican candidates have not. They are not --

(CROSSTALK)

JON OSSOFF, GEORGIA DEMOCRATIC CANDIDATE FOR SENATE: I'm shocked, Lawrence.

O'DONNELL: Yes. Well, I mean you're facing the refusal to even have a debate in your campaign.

OSSOFF: Yes. David Perdue is still hiding out. David, if you're a fan of Lawrence's program, I'm ready to debate you. I'm still ready. Why don't you give the people the debate they deserve, Senator David Perdue.

Imagine Lawrence, being too much of a coward as a U.S. Senator to answer questions in public at a moment of crisis like this. And Perdue, by the way, is holding up relief for his own constituents, the same Senator David Perdue who was enriching himself in office, buying medical and vaccine stocks.

He opposed even the first round of stimulus checks for people and he's blocking another round right now.

O'DONNELL: To see the electoral college vote in Georgia presided over by Stacey Abrams, publicly reported out in effect by Stacey Abrams was such an important historical punctuation point on this election since no one did more to deliver that state for the Biden-Harris ticket than Stacey Abrams.

OSSOFF: Stacey is extraordinary and a visionary and she's built institutions that have registered and mobilized voters in communities over the last decade. And this whole team in Georgia, the state that's become younger and more diverse by the year.

I mean Lawrence, think about this, Georgia, the most competitive battleground state in the country, two U.S. Senate runoffs for Senate control. And the standard bearers are a young Jewish son of an immigrant mentored by John Lewis and a black preacher who holds Dr. King's pulpit at Ebenezer Baptist Church who pastored John Lewis.

Our state has come so far. The momentum here is extraordinary and we are doing everything we can to get everybody out to the polls so that we can define the next chapter in American history and not be mired in Mitch McConnell's nonsense for years to come.

O'DONNELL: You're on a bus tour now around the state. You're calling it the Health, Jobs and Justice Bus Tour. What is the justice component of that?

OSSOFF: Health, jobs and justice. And justice means we need a new civil rights act and a new voting rights act in this country to ensure true equal justice under the law for all regardless of race and regardless of class.

Look, when we pass a new civil rights act to end police brutality and racial profiling and hold local authorities accountable where there is bias on racial or class lines, we will look back on the peaceful mobilization of last summer after Breonna Taylor and George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery were killed as our generations marched across Edmund Pettus bridge in 1965 which paved the way for passage of the voting rights act of 1965. We can do these things but only with victory in Georgia

O'DONNELL: And as you approach January 5th how much coordination is there with the other democratic campaign, with Raphael Warnock -- his campaign you seem to have some appearances where you're together. Will that be the case tomorrow when Joe Biden's there?

OSSOFF: Yes, the Rev and I talk multiple times per day. Our teams are in constant touch. We will be rallying with President-Elect Biden tomorrow, rallying together in Savannah later this week.

Please everybody out there across the nation, know this, we are getting outspent on the air, but we're out hustling on the ground. Help power the most extraordinary get out the vote effort in American history at electjon -- elect j-o-n -- com. Help us defend voting rights and get out the vote in Georgia.

O'DONNELL: Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff appearing with Joe Biden tomorrow. Jon Ossoff, thank you very much for joining us tonight. Really appreciate it.

OSSOFF: Thanks so much.

O'DONNELL: Thank you.

Tonight's LAST WORD about my gambling habit with Sean Penn is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'DONNELL: I am no a betting man, and so it was with a mixture of fun and trepidation that I shook Sean Penn's hand on a bet in the summer of 2008 when everyone was wondering who Barack Obama would pick as his vice presidential running mate. Sean Penn was absolutely certain it would be Joe Biden. And I just didn't know because there was a long list of possible choices.

And so the odds on the bet were strongly tilted in my favor. Sean was betting it would be Joe Biden and I was betting it would be anyone else. Sean still hasn't cashed the check that I gave him for losing that bet. And he offered another bet this summer on who Joe Biden would pick for vice president. And this time I won the bet.

But this time Sean said that the money should go to the winner's favorite cause. And so I sent Sean Penn's contribution to the KIND Fund today. Kids in Need of Desks, the partnership that I created between MSNBC and UNICEF to provide desks to schools in Malawi and scholarships for girls to attend high school in Malawi.

And I'm sending a matching contribution to Sean Penn's organization CORE, which is now providing free COVID testing in California and elsewhere around the country.

You can join Sean Penn in contributing to the KIND Fund tonight by going to lastworddesk.MSNBC.com. You can make a contribution in the name of anyone on your holiday gift list and UNICEF will send them an acknowledgement of your gift.

Four years ago on this program we introduced you to Joyce Chisale (ph) who was 13 years old and attending high school, thanks to a scholarship from the KIND Fund. She told us then that she wanted to be a doctor and a poet.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOYCE CHISALE: My poem is entitled "Little By Little".

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: "Little by Little".

CHISALE: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ok.

CHISALE: Little by little we'll go no matter how far the distance is we are not shaken. Little by little we'll go and reach our destination.

Little by little we'll go no matter how bumpy or rocky the road is, we are not going to turn back. Little by little we'll go and face the odds (INAUDIBLE).

Little by little we'll go no matter how narrow the path is we are going to put ourselves to task. And little by little we'll go and reach the promised land.

Don't be shaken, don't turn back. Little by little you'll go and reach your destination.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'DONNELL: Joyce is 17 years old now. And this summer Joyce Chisale from her home in Malawi virtually attended Harvard Medical School's Med Science Program for high school students. And she has now been accepted at Malawi's College of Medicine which combines college and medical school.

And here's what Joyce told us about that just a few days ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHISALE: When I was selected to go into medicine I was so excited because I will be a doctor who I want to be, yes. And also when I go there I'll finish my education, and also I will do the poetry part because I just don't want to be a doctor but I also want to be a poet so that I can help the nation, I can support the world. I can have something to share with the world through being a doctor and being a poet.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'DONNELL: I can share something with the world through being a doctor and being a poet. We hope to show you more of Joyce's poetry on later programs. Joyce Chisale, once again gets tonight's LAST WORD.

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

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Well, good evening once again.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.END

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