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Transcript: The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, December 2, 2020

Guests: Christina Greer, Richard Blumenthal, Katie Porter, Lauren Groh- Wargo

Summary

Today, President-elect Biden held a virtual roundtable with Americans who are facing grave financial struggles because of the coronavirus while Mitch McConnell blocks relief legislation passed by the House that could have helped those people. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) is interviewed. Congresswoman Porter made the point to Mnuchin that it is illegal for him to move $455 billion away from the COVID relief effort until at least five years from now on January 1, 2026. One of the most important developments during the Biden/Harris transition did not happen in the U.S. It was the assassination of Iran's top nuclear scientist on Friday. Voters in Georgia have five days to register to vote for the two Senate elections that will be decided on January 5th.

Transcript

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

We're going to be watching that interview tomorrow night. It's one of those indicators of, this is a civil case that Ivanka Trump was subpoenaed in, but the more you read it, it's pretty easy to see how that could turn into a criminal case with the way the funds were used in that. And that would be covered by a presidential pardon of federal crimes of Ivanka Trump, which has been something that's being talked about in this White House.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Since the Trump inaugural committee was formed and since there were tens of millions of dollars within it unaccounted for from the very beginning, I remember doing those first slush fund segments about it when it was first -- when the unaudited materials were first coming out from that inaugural committee, there has clearly been something going on there. There's been a federal conviction with that inaugural already.

Tom Barrack we know is deposed. The first lady has been subpoenaed. Ivanka Trump has been deposed. But Stephanie Winston Wolkoff is the source for a lot of the attorney general's case there. Hopefully, she'll have more to share with us tomorrow.

O'DONNELLL: And she has tapes.

MADDOW: Yeah, seriously.

O'DONNELL: You were on that from the start, Rachel. Really appreciate it.

MADDOW: Thanks, Lawrence.

O'DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel.

Well, there were tears on the Senate floor today, tears. They were not tears for the 273,823 people in this country who have died from COVID-19. They were not tears for the 205,733 people infected with COVID-19 in the last day alone.

They were not tears for the 628 children held in custody at the southern border by Donald Trump who is now unable to find their parents to reunite them. They were not tears for the way Donald Trump disgraced the White House today by reading a 46-minute speech on a teleprompter that was a lie from beginning to end, a lie about who won the presidential election.

They were not tears for Donald Trump's relentless degrading of democracy. No. They were tears for Lamar Alexander. And the tears came from the place we didn't know tears existed, the eyes of Mitch McConnell.

Lamar Alexander gave his farewell address to the United States Senate after 18 years of service, which actually isn't a very long term of service for a senator. It is traditional that senators give a final speech in the final days of their service. When I worked in the United States Senate, I went to the Senate floor for many of those speeches. Some were more eloquent than others. But almost all of them were moving.

And I got choked up more than once listening to a Senate farewell speech. Not today. Because Mitch McConnell has destroyed the United States Senate as we know it, and Lamar Alexander did everything he possibly could to help Mitch McConnell destroy the United States senate.

Lamar Alexander was a cabinet member and a governor of Tennessee before winning a seat in the Senate. You could write a biography of Lamar Alexander and leave out his Senate years and you would be leaving out nothing, because Senator Lamar Alexander accomplished absolutely nothing. Eighteen years of nothing.

Just like most of his Republican colleagues in the Senate, he has accomplished nothing. He signed on to the Mitch McConnell cult. He did whatever Mitch McConnell wanted whenever he wanted it and today Lamar Alexander complained in his farewell speech that the United States Senate no longer really allows senators to offer amendments on the Senate floor the way they used to.

But he didn't have the courage to mention that it was his dear friend Mitch McConnell who has been preventing him from offering amendments on the Senate floor. Mitch McConnell was moved to tears by Lamar Alexander's speech. That's how much Mitch McConnell treasures his spineless enablers, his quislings who cower in the shadow of Donald Trump.

It was in the United States Senate today that Vice President Mike Pence formally accepted the results of an election that Donald Trump continues to lie about. Two hours before Donald Trump defaced the White House with his verbal graffiti about the election, Mike Pence did his duty as vice president and swore in the newest United States senator from Arizona, Democrat Mark Kelly.

Acceptance of the results of an election does not get more clear and more formal than that, actually administering the oath of office to the winner of that election.

To find Republicans who are willing to stand up to Donald Trump's lies about the election, you have to get outside of Washington, because there isn't a single Republican in Washington with the minimal courage it would take to stand up to Donald Trump's lies about the election and call them lies.

You have to go to Georgia to find that kind of courage. Today Georgia's Republican secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, publicly confirmed that he completely agrees with what one of the officials in his office, Gabriel Sterling, said yesterday in a passionate denunciation of Donald Trump's dangerous lies.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRAD RAFFENSPERGER, GEORGIA SECRETARY OF STATE: And just to let you know, yes, I didn't know what Gabriel Sterling was going to say yesterday. That had our full support. He spoke with passion and he spoke with truth. And it's about time that more people were out there speaking with truth.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'DONNELL: Brad Raffensperger is a Republican. He has said he voted for Donald Trump twice.

What Gabriel Sterling did yesterday was so important and so powerful and sadly rare among Republicans, that we are going to show it again. It's very sad that Gabriel Sterling had to say this. But it is in its way a thing of beauty.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GABRIEL STERLING, VOTING IMPLEMENTATION MANAGER, GEORGIA SECRETARY OF STATE: Good afternoon. My name is Gabriel Sterling. I'm implementation manager for the state of Georgia.

Just so you know, heads up, this will be sort of a two-part press conference today. At the beginning of this, I'm going to do my best to keep it together, because it has all gone too far, all of it.

Joe diGenova today asked for Chris Krebs, this patriot who ran CISA, to be shot. A 20-something tech in Gwinnett County today has death threats and a noose put out, saying he should be hung for treason because he was transferring a report on batches from an EMS to a county computer so he could read it.

It has to stop. 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 take a position of leadership, show some.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'DONNELL: Today, Georgia's secretary of state stressed something that Donald Trump did not mention in his lying speech about the election today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RAFFENSPERGER: Attorney General Barr has stated that he and the Justice Department, this is President Trump's Justice Department, has seen no widespread fraud. We have had -- they have had multiple investigations, like us. And our investigators have seen no widespread fraud either.

Even after this office requested that president Trump try and quell the violent rhetoric being borne out of his continuing claims of winning the states where he obviously lost, he tweeted out, "expose the massive voter fraud in Georgia."

This is exactly the kind of language that is at the base of a growing threat environment for election workers who are simply doing their jobs. We will continue to do our jobs, follow the law, and follow the process.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'DONNELL: The immediate future of this country in many ways is all up to Georgia where there will be a Senate election for two Senate seats on January 5th. If the Democrats win both of those seats, they will control the Senate, and the Biden/Harris administration will have a fair chance at governing.

If the Republicans win just one of those seats in Georgia, Mitch McConnell will continue to control and corrupt the United States Senate, a once-esteemed and occasionally noble institution that Mitch McConnell has personally corrupted beyond recognition.

Today, President-elect Biden held a virtual roundtable with Americans who are facing grave financial struggles because of the coronavirus while Mitch McConnell blocks relief legislation passed by the House that could have helped those people.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT-ELECT: Let me start by saying, I'm going to be completely blunt with you, frank, about what's available to you, what's not, what should be, what shouldn't be, state the obvious.

I'm -- my ability to get you help immediately does not exist. I'm not even in office for another 50 days. And then I have to get legislation passed through the United States Congress to get things done.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'DONNELL: If the voters of Georgia want to give the president they elected a fair chance to govern, then the Georgia Senate elections on January 5, they will give Mitch McConnell something to really cry about. And they'll give America more reason to be hopeful.

Leading off our discussion today, Eddie Glaude Jr., chairman of the African-American studies department at Princeton University. Also with us, Christina Greer, associate professor of political science at Fordham University.

Professor Glaude, let me start with Joe Biden meeting with Americans as he did today, to try to tell them help is on the way. He can't specifically describe what that help is going to be because so much of that depends on Georgia, while at the same time in the White House, we have the rantings of the unhinged president with less than 50 days left, where he continues to pretend so that he can raise money that the election isn't over.

The duality of these things happening at the same time, obviously something we've never seen before and something Joe Biden has to struggle to get beyond.

EDDIE GLAUDE, JR., CHAIRMAN, AFRICAN-AMERICAN STUDIES, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY: Right. I think it's important, first of all, let me just acknowledge the brilliance of that opening, Lawrence, I think it's important for us to understand that what President-elect Biden has to do is show a deep sense of concern and care for Americans who have been devastated and ravaged by COVID-19, because we have experienced deep empathy deficits over the last four years, Joe Biden has to exhibit over and over again the capacity to feel the pain of the American citizenry.

Now, he understands very clearly that his hands are tied, at least as of now. But he has to at least be open and in some ways provide a platform for the expression of that pain that is being experienced across a number of different sectors, especially in terms of workers and small business. So this is really important.

But one of the things I wanted to say really quickly, Lawrence, about the opening, is that the secretary of state of Georgia, who expressed what he expressed, right, still voted for Donald Trump twice. And it's that kind of contradiction that we have to interrogate, right? Even though we have the outrage, we still have the practices that we have to deal with and that Joe Biden will have to deal with as well.

O'DONNELL: And, Professor Greer, it's such an important point that the Republican power structure in Georgia did everything they possibly could to suppress the vote in Georgia. They did everything. There wasn't any angle on it that they left undone in trying to suppress that vote against the force that Stacey Abrams brought to that state, trying to overwhelm their attempts to suppress that vote.

But after having done that, after having committed their own offences against democracy, when it came to counting, when it came to simply counting, they at least at that stage said, we're going to count, we're just going to count, the way you're supposed to count votes. And thanks to that resolve, we have Joe Biden as the winner in Georgia.

CHRISTINA GREER, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF POLITICAL SCIENCE, FORDHAM UNIVERSITY: Right. I mean, keep in mind, Lawrence, the Republicans, you know, pulled this grift in 2018, when Brian Kemp all but stole the election from Stacey Abrams. They tried to disenfranchise voters yet again in 2020. Now they've counted the votes three different times and they recognize that Joe Biden has not only won but he's won by such a significant margin. They're not willing to put themselves at risk or perjure themselves for Donald Trump.

They've clearly stated, as Eddie has said. They've counted. I voted for him twice, I voted for him, I want this president to win however he did not win. And I think what we also have to remember and recognize is that Stacey Abrams also created Fair Fight and she's been doing this work not just the two years since she lost the election in 2018. She's been doing this work for over a decade in states like Wisconsin, in states like Arizona and Nevada and Michigan.

So the states that Joe Biden benefitted from, despite the voter suppression and voter disenfranchisement, we have to recognize that the groups she's worked in conjunction with across the United States have been able to present a victory to Joe Biden because of people of color, according class folks, black women especially and explicitly, not just in the past, say, six months, but years of real dedication to make sure that all American citizens have a full franchise.

O'DONNELL: Professor Glaude, as I said in the opening comments, when I was working in the Senate, I was kind of a sucker for Senate farewell speeches including Republicans. They would be frequently moving, sometimes important.

And today, watching Lamar Alexander's speech and then watching Mitch McConnell's reaction to it with the tears, I for one could not have been more outraged at both of them. This is the year 2020. We are on our way soon to 300,000 dead from coronavirus in this country. And Mitch McConnell could not shed a tear for one of them all year.

This is the year where people shed tears over police use of deadly force after George Floyd, people who had never cried over that before in their lives. Mitch McConnell today is crying because Lamar Alexander is ending his three empty terms in the Senate? That's what he spills tears over?

GLAUDE: Yeah, it's a revelation of character. You know, it's a kind of confirmation of a judgment of his character.

There is a sense in which, and we could draw a line from what we saw today from Mitch McConnell to what we're seeing in Georgia and the outrage with regards to the death threats levied against Republicans and the silence with regards to death threats against activists and the like, that these folk care about particular people, Lawrence, that they're concerned, that the sere of their moral concern is very limited.

And so, there is a kind of genuine expression, I don't want to question if it's genuine or not, but a genuine care and regard for certain folk and genuine disregard for other folks. And so, the vaunted deliberative body of the American polity, the Senate, right, is broken and that brokenness rests at the feet of Mitch McConnell. And that's what we need to see and we need to just acknowledge that for what it is.

O'DONNELL: Professor Greer, let me squeeze in one LAST WORD from you on Mitch McConnell's tears.

GREER: Keep them. Save them. You know, I mean, we had 2,600 Americans who have died today alone from coronavirus. We've heard relative silence from Donald Trump, Mitch McConnell, and the rest of the Republican Party. The tears are useless and hopefully the state of Georgia will deliver us from Mitch McConnell.

O'DONNELL: Professor Eddie Glaude, Professor Christina Greer, thank you both very much for starting off our discussion tonight, really appreciate it. Thank you.

GLAUDE: Thank you.

O'DONNELL: Thank you.

And when we come back, can a president pardon himself? Our next guest wants to make it specifically clear in law that the president cannot pardon himself.

And later in this hour, Congresswoman Katie Porter will join us. She put on another demonstration in a hearing today, this time her victim was Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin who could not have been less prepared for the humiliation that was delivered to him today by Congresswoman Katie Porter.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'DONNELL: Our next guest wants to make these words the law of the land.

The president's grant of a pardon to himself or herself is void and of no effect, and shall not deprive the courts of jurisdiction, or operate to confer on the president any legal immunity from investigation or prosecution.

Joining us now, Senator Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut and a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. He served five terms as Connecticut's attorney general.

Senator, thank you very much for joining us tonight.

This is the first legislation I've ever read about the presidential pardon power.

What else are you attempting to accomplish with this legislation?

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT): Like so much else, Lawrence, in the Trump administration, this kind of action was never thought necessary to protect the rule of law. The idea of the president pardoning himself or members of his family or cronies is really a legal atrocity that never would have been imaginable, certainly not to the founders.

And I think there is a really solid persuasive argument that in fact the Constitution doesn't permit the president to pardon himself. But we want to make it absolutely clear because the pardon power is so broad, it's virtually unchecked. So as applied to members of his family or cronies or himself, we also want to require full transparency and disclosure of all documents relating to any pardon in connection with an investigation of the president or a member of his family as a subject, target, or witness in such an investigation.

So there is accountability here, transparency, that seems to be absolutely necessary given Donald Trump's contempt for the rule of law and the norms and values of the founders.

O'DONNELL: My constitutional reading of this bill is, it looks pretty clear that you have the authority to create this documentary process after the fact of a presidential pardon, because it doesn't interfere with the pardon power in any way. It simply says, show us everything that went into this decision, and that's a traditional function of congress, I'm sure that would be upheld.

But to go in and to describe the pardon power as you do in this passage on the bill where you say the president basically cannot grant a pardon to himself, that seems to be an invasion of the pardon clause of the Constitution.

BLUMENTHAL: A really good question, Lawrence. And if you read the pardon power in the constitution, it says "grant," uses the word "grant, reprieve, or pardon," which implies it is being given to someone else. So, I think if we read it literally, the pardon power arguably doesn't let the president pardon himself.

And also, the Constitution stands very clearly for the proposition that no person shall be the judge in his or her own case, which again, if he were to pardon himself, it would be in effect. We could argue this issue in a court of law, but we want to give the argument against that abuse and clearly an abuse of the pardon power the force of congressional intent.

And there's one more point here, and that is the president in his use of the pardon power is circumventing the normal process, which is set in the Department of Justice, a pardon attorney, a pardon unit. Typically, even though there's been criticism in the past of presidents using and allegedly abusing that pardon power, there's never been anything like this potential abuse of it before.

O'DONNELL: I really can't wait to see the debate on the Senate floor on this bill, because as you say, there is already a bureaucratic process involved for almost all pardons. And so that's already been attached to the pardon process. That doesn't invade the president's power.

But I really want to hear the senators who want to stand up on the Senate floor and argue against you, saying that, of course, the president should be able to pardon himself.

BLUMENTHAL: I would like to see that debate. I don't think there's any real rational or fact-based argument against it. But I would also like to hear what the president's children, if they're pardoned, have to say. Because remember, nobody seems to receive a pardon unless they likely have committed a crime. It is a mark of shame and potential guilt, almost acknowledgement of it.

O'DONNELL: Senator Richard Blumenthal, thank you very much for joining us tonight.

BLUMENTHAL: Thank you, Lawrence.

O'DONNELL: Coming up, five minutes. That's all Congresswoman Katie Porter gets to question a witness in a House hearing and today she used her five minutes to rip up Donald Trump's Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin. We have the video and we have Congresswoman Katie Porter, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'DONNELL: I'm sure not all super rich people are lazy and ignorant. But if you were to go by the ones who work in the Trump administration, well, let's consider the example of Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, who like Donald Trump, was born rich.

Think about how lazy you have to be to testify in a hearing where Congresswoman Katie Porter is going to be asking questions and not prepare for that. Think of how lazy Steve Mnuchin's staff has to be that none of them even bothered to tell Steve Mnuchin he was going up against one of the very best questioners in the history of the United States Congress -- House and Senate.

Steve Mnuchin demonstrated two things today: his ignorance of governing policy and his laziness in preparing for a confrontation with Katie Porter. Congresswoman Porter made the point to Mnuchin that it is illegal for him to move $455 billion away from the COVID relief effort until at least five years from now on January 1, 2026.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. KATIE PORTER (D-CA); Secretary Mnuchin, is it currently the year 2026, yes or no?

STEVE MNUCHIN, U.S. SECRETARY OF TREASURY: First let me comment, I do believe there is an economic emergency --

PORTER: Secretary Mnuchin, let's cut into the --

(CROSSTALK)

MNUCHIN: You're putting words in my mouth that are not correct. Second of all, ok --

PORTER: Reclaiming my time.

MNUCHIN: -- the answer is that 4027 --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The time belongs to the gentlelady.

PORTER: Madam Chair -- reclaiming my time, Mr. Mnuchin. Would you start by answering my question? And I will ask you others. Is today the year 2026? Yes or no?

MNUCHIN: Of course it's not 2026. How ridiculous to ask me that question or waste our time.

PORTER: Well, Secretary Mnuchin, I think it's ridiculous that you're play acting to be a lawyer when you have no --

MNUCHIN: Actually I had plenty of lawyers at the Department of Treasury who advised me. So I'm more than happy --

PORTER: Mr. Mnuchin --

MNUCHIN: I'm more than happy to follow up with Chair Waters and explain all the legal provisions and the ranking member. So more than happy to make that happen.

PORTER: Secretary Mnuchin -- Secretary Mnuchin, are you in fact a lawyer?

MNUCHIN: I do not have a legal degree. I have lawyers that report to me.

PORTER: Thank you. Chair Powell, are you in fact a lawyer?

JEROME POWELL, CHAIRMAN, U.S. FEDERAL RESERVE: I am a former lawyer, a recovering lawyer.

PORTER: You have a legal degree, correct?

POWELL: Yes, I do.

PORTER: Ok. So Secretary Mnuchin, you're trying to tell Chairman Powell to send over any remaining funds right now and you're claiming, falsely in my opinion, that that is what the law says. And you've gotten into a disagreement with someone who is actually a lawyer.

MNUCHIN: Are you a lawyer?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'DONNELL: Are you a lawyer? There are millions of people listening to me right now who know that Katie Porter is a lawyer, who know Katie Porter went to Harvard Law School where Elizabeth Warren was one of her professors.

And the lazy mind of Steve Mnuchin doesn't even know that. And the breathtakingly lazy staff that surrounds Steve Mnuchin don't know that, or didn't tell him that. And were incapable of preparing him in any way for the utter humiliation he suffered today while testifying to the Honorable Katie Porter.

Elizabeth Warren answered Steve Mnuchin's ridiculous question on Twitter. "I've known Katie Porter since she was a law student in my Bankruptcy Class 20 years ago. To answer your snotty question, Secretary Mnuchin, not only is Representative Porter a lawyer, she can run circles around you and any of your legally questionable and morally bankrupt policy failures."

And joining us now is Democratic Congresswoman Katie Porter of California, member of the House Financial Services Committee and the House Oversight Committee.

Congresswoman Porter, I was going to say you make it look so easy, but actually you don't, because asking the treasury secretary what year it is is something I've never heard before, and never could it have been more effective.

PORTER: What I'm really trying to get to is exactly how he's managed to contort the law that Congress passed on a bipartisan basis to get to this outcome which is apparently his desire to strip away $455 billion in COVID relief from the country, from the people of this country, right as the pandemic is at its height.

And so I was just asking him, where is the problem here? It is not 2026. Why do you think you get to write the statute, why do you think you get to take this actions? And I was really disappointed today that he showed such disdain for those of us who were asking questions on behalf of the American people.

O'DONNELL: And that's $455 billion that should be there ready for the Biden administration to make use of on January 21. It seems like Donald Trump's treasury secretary wants to make that money disappear from the Biden administration's ability to use it for COVID relief.

PORTER: And moreover, Lawrence, Chairman Jerome Powell, the chair of the Federal Reserve, who is himself a Trump appointee, has said that the circumstances are extraordinarily uncertain, our economy is very uncertain. And he, you know Secretary Mnuchin asked for the money, and the Federal Reserve said no, we need this money available to us to stabilize the market.

So it's, yes, I think -- you know, I don't know what Secretary Mnuchin's mindset is, why he is doing this. But we should be gravely concerned that the two people who are in charge of making sure our economy is stable during this incredibly difficult period don't seem to agree. And the one who is in fact not a lawyer seems to think that he has all the answers. And I would suggest that he listen to Mr. Powell if not to me.

O'DONNELL: I've got to ask you, when you're sitting there, when you're asking these questions, do you marvel at this the way I do? I watch this and I think, no one told Steve Mnuchin what he's up against when he faces Congresswoman Porter?

I mean, can you believe that they walk into hearings that you're in, still, to this day, without having the slightest idea of apparently what you're capable of in these hearings?

Well, I will say, this today was not the first time in my life I've been underestimated, and I don't think it will be the last. But I do at some point -- I think the hubris that it takes to have that kind of approach in a hearing, I thought it was really disrespectful to the legislative branch, to our oversight obligation, to my colleagues and I who are trying to get answers for the American people, to essentially question whether I have the ability to ask the questions.

And so I hope the American people understand that it wasn't that Steve Mnuchin was slighting me. He was slighting them. He was slight the people's house and representative government. And that is a real concern.

O'DONNELL: Congresswoman Katie Porter, I have to tell you that the workings of the House Financial Services Committee did not become a regular feature of this program until you and your freshman class joined that committee. A lot of extraordinary new members have been doing amazing work there.

Congresswoman Katie Porter, thank you very much for joining us tonight.

PORTER: Thank you.

O'DONNELL: And when we come back, a possible foreign policy crisis, a real one, in the very first week of the Biden presidency. Former undersecretary of state in the Obama administration Wendy Sherman joins us next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'DONNELL: One of the most important developments during the Biden/Harris transition did not happen in the United States. It was the assassination of Iran's top nuclear scientist on Friday.

In response to the killing, parliament passed a law today that would suspend U.N. inspections and boost uranium enrichment closer to weapons grade levels unless sanctions are lifted by February.

That means Iran will probably be Joe Biden's first major foreign policy crisis and he has to deal with that in the very first week of his presidency.

President-elect Joe Biden told "The New York Times" that he stands by his plan for the United States to rejoin the Iran nuclear deal, saying the best way to achieve getting some stability in the region is to deal with the nuclear program.

Nuclear deal, saying the best way to achieve getting some stability in the region is to deal with the nuclear program. If Iran gets a nuclear bomb, he added, it puts enormous pressure on the Saudis, Turkey, Egypt and others to get nuclear weapons themselves and the last goddammed thing we need in that part of the world is a buildup of nuclear capability.

Joining us now is Ambassador Wendy Sherman, former undersecretary of state in the Obama administration. She is an MSNBC global affairs contributor. She led the U.S. negotiating team that reached the Iran nuclear deal in the Obama administration.

Ambassador Sherman, thank you very much for joining us tonight. Since Friday, since that assassination -- I've been eager to talk to you about the situation there. What do you think Joe Biden has to be planning now for that first week?

AMB. WENDY SHERMAN, MSNBC GLOBAL AFFAIRS CONTRIBUTOR: Oh, I think the transition teams are probably already thinking quite hard about this. It's one of the reasons why the transition is so important. There are analysts and policymakers who are thinking through this very hard problem.

I don't believe this forecloses diplomacy. In fact it emphasizes it. I think that the president-elect understands that the only permanent, verifiable route here is diplomacy. Otherwise we have a buildup of the program in very bad ways that gives them a capacity to get to a nuclear weapon, or they go covert.

So if we bomb the heck out of them, to use some colorful language like the president-elect did today, then we can get rid of their facilities but they would rebuild them underground and in secret because they can do that and you can't bomb away knowledge.

We could try to keep sanctioning them but that's what Donald Trump has done for four years and what it has meant is that we have gotten away from the agreement, they have built up their stockpile of enriched uranium, not to the percentage of this law today but nonetheless quite concerning.

They have not stopped their malign behavior in the region. They have not stopped their missile development. They have not stopped putting Americans in Evin prison. They have not stopped the human rights abuses of their own people.

So in my view, the president-elect is exactly right. We need diplomacy to get to stability and we have to make sure that Iran never obtains a nuclear weapon.

O'DONNELL: Between now and inauguration day, there could be some form of revenge exacted by Iran for that assassination. How would that complicate Joe Biden's first week on the job?

SHERMAN: That's incredibly -- would be very reckless, if in fact we get an escalatory cycle that's created by all of the parties who care about this issue. And it might present a very difficult, difficult problem.

But I have no doubt, given the incredibly competent team that the president-elect and the vice president elect are putting together, that these are seasoned, professional people who are very serious, very hard nosed, very clear about what needs to get done here.

They will reestablish relations with our allies. And they will make sure that whatever they do is in the best interests of Americans, of building the middle class that is so important to rebuilding our economy, getting on top of the COVID crisis, dealing with issues of justice in our society.

So -- and as you have eloquently discussed tonight as always, Lawrence, ensuring we have a democracy.

O'DONNELL: Ambassador Wendy Sherman, thank you very much for joining us on this important issue tonight. We really appreciate it.

SHERMAN: Thank you.

O'DONNELL: Up next, there are just five days to go for people in Georgia to register to vote in the senate elections that will be held on January After.

After this break, one of the women who helped Joe Biden win Georgia will tell us what the Democrats need to do to win Georgia's two senate seats.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'DONNELL: Five days, voters in Georgia have five days to register to vote for the two senate elections that will be decided on January 5th.

Here is what Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms told Ari Melber earlier this evening.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAYOR KEISHA LANCE BOTTOMS -- ATLANTA, GEORGIA: If Georgia is going to remain blue, Democrats have to show up and vote. We have got to continue to show up and vote in record numbers so we can elect Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff and hopefully the Republican Party will be able to do whatever it needs to do to just be representative of people of good conscience.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'DONNELL: Georgia's Republican secretary of state said Joe Biden's advantage in mail-in ballots won him the state, a strategy the Democrats are relying on once again for the January 5th election.

Nearly 1 million voters have already requested mail-in ballots. The Associated Press reports some GOP voters could be dissuaded from voting again if they accept Trump's claims that the system is hopelessly corrupted.

Among Republicans more loyal to Trump and to the party, some could skip the run-off out altogether out of anger at the party establishment the party establishment that the president continues to assail.

And joining us now is Lauren Groh-Wargo, CEO of Fair Fight Action. She managed Stacey Abrams campaign for governor.

What do the Democrats have to do in the five days of voter registration left and then in the sprint to January 5: January 5?

LAUREN GROH-WARGO, CEO, FAIR FIGHT ACTION: Well thank you much for having me Lawrence.

Look, Democrats and progressive allies in Georgia need to keep doing what we have been doing which is all of the work on the ground.

And meeting Georgia voters where they are which is the are concerned. They are scared. They want action on COVID. They want final release. They want support from this government. They want the hospitals to stop closing. And they want real results.

The Republicans are devolved into this incredible disinformation propaganda war with themselves. But here we are in Georgia. And Lawrence, I don't know if any of your guests have covered this, but there is this false notion that Democrats don't win run-offs in Georgia. Because of the Jim Crow legacy law, let's be clear. The entire point of the run-offs in Georgia was to prevent black candidates from winning and gaining power.

Right? Full Stop.

But just yesterday, we elected our first Latina district attorney, a Democrat, a progressive and get this, Lawrence, in Brian Kemp's hometown of Athens, Georgia.

After they had threw the book at her to try to suppress the vote.

So yet again, and voter suppression in this racist runoff system, we are seeing historic turn out like you highlighted and really strong Democratic performance, and fair fight and all of our allies along with the two extraordinary candidates are working it every day.

And all your viewers can get involved by going to gasenate.com. So we're getting it done, Lawrence.

O'DONNELL: One of the Trump lawyers -- campaign lawyers said today that Republican senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler do not deserve your vote, do not deserve Georgia Republicans votes if they do not demand that the governor, the Republican governor have a special session of the legislature presumably to somehow award electors to Donald Trump.

So they are saying don't vote for these Republican senators if they are not loyal enough to Donald Trump.

GROH-WARGO: Well, look. The Republicans are going to do what the Republicans are going to do. And this is a problem of their own creation, Lawrence, I mean you and your colleagues on MSNBC have been covering.

Voter suppression was the core strategic imperative of the Trump campaign and the RNC under Trump. They are (INAUDIBLE) concentrically (ph) and so architected a campaign and they really key on this as they architected a disinformation propaganda network that intentionally has been elevating small problems of election administration and the states to try to prove voter fraud exists as this whole voter suppression narrative to try to prevent African-Americans, Latinos, Asian-Americans, young people from voting.

Well, that just has not worked. Folks have voted in record numbers. And the propaganda system that they set up that is sowing all this horrible disinformation is now having a backlash with their voters.

When you bust up institutions in our democracy, there are real world consequences. And now we have election officials in Georgia getting death threats and getting doxed (ph) by militia members. We have Kelly Loeffler campaigning with QAnon folks and militia members.

So this is -- they sort of made their bed on this one and it is awful. But what our mission is, is to elect two people who will be really excellent senators for the state of Georgia and bring relief to Georgia and address these real issues and not all this other drama.

O'DONNELL: Lauren Groh-Wargo, thank you very much for joining us tonight.

GROH-WARGO: Thank you for having me.

O'DONNELL: Yesterday on Giving Tuesday, millions of people around the world demonstrated their generosity for charitable causes even as millions of people are suffering a loss of jobs and income due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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