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Transcript: The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, December 3, 2020

Guests: Renee Graham, Laurence Tribe, Michael J. Moore, Stuart Stevens


President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris sat for their very first joint interview. Once again today, the United States set a new record for the highest number of coronavirus cases reported in a day at 210,161, at the same time that the highest number of coronavirus hospitalizations on a single day, 100,667. We now have multiple reports that Donald Trump is considering pardoning his own sons along with the rest of his family and himself. Michael J. Moore who served as a U.S. attorney in Georgia appointed by President Obama sent a letter today to Georgia's state election board asking for investigation of Lindsey Graham's phone call to Georgia's secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger.



I have a law school question for you, and this is fair because neither one of us went to law school. Can the president pardon himself?

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Unclear. Part of the --


MADDOW: -- thing about the -- well, two things -- two things about the pardon, right? The pardon power is plenary. It's in the Constitution. It has like -- you know, it's not a complicated thing. The president can pardon people.

But like the one thing that's never been tested is the president trying to pardon himself and the way that we learn the extent of new law is by trying it and seeing if you can get away with it and so he'd be the test case. And if I were him, I wouldn't count on that.

O'DONNELL: So, my reading of the constitution is that the president can pardon himself, but who cares what we think when Laurence Tribe is going to join me later in this hour?


O'DONNELL: Harvard constitutional law expert. The world's leading expert on this question.

And he has a very definitive opinion, very, very clear. He leaves -- for him, there's no question about this. It's very, very clear to him.

MADDOW: Well, then he should definitely get the last word here and not me.

O'DONNELL: He's going to. That's the way it's going to work tonight. Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW: Thanks, Lawrence.

O'DONNELL: Thank you.

Well, with more reports every day and more and more people in the Trump White House spending their day talking about pardons including Donald Trump issuing that pardon for himself, the question is not, will someone named Trump get a pardon? The question is will everyone named Trump get a pardon? Can Donald Trump pardon himself?

And as I said, the way I read the Constitution, president seems to have that authority. Seems like an unlimited authority in that direction. Doesn't say anything about the president not being able to pardon himself, but it also doesn't say the president can pardon himself.

Tonight, we will hear from America's leading expert on the Constitution, Harvard's constitutional law professor Laurence Tribe. We will get Professor Tribe's answer to the most important question facing Donald Trump in his remaining 48 days as president, can a president of the United States pardon himself?

In the last hour, President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris sat for their very first joint interview. It was the first picture we have had, really, of the Biden/Harris administration in action, the way they're going to work together. We're going to get to all of that in our discussion here.

And on this record-setting day, on this day when we set a new record for the total number of coronavirus infections in one day, and we set a new record for the total number of deaths from coronavirus in one day, and we set a new record for the total number of people hospitalized for coronavirus in the United States in a day, President-elect Joe Biden said that he has spoken with Dr. Anthony Fauci and that Dr. Fauci will have an expanded role in the Biden/Harris administration as a chief medical adviser to the president.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: I talked to him today. We spoke today, 3:00. My COVID team met with him. I asked him to stay on in the exact same role he's had for the past several presidents, and I asked him to be a chief medical adviser for me as well and be part of the COVID team.

And so what has to be done is we have to make it clear to American people that a vaccine is safe when it occurs, when that is determined and, number two, you have to make sure as he points out, you don't have to close down the economy like a lot of folks are talking about now. We talked about masking.

It is important that we, in fact, the president and the vice president, we set the, you know, pattern by wearing masks. But beyond that, the federal government has authority, I'm going to issue a standing order that in federal buildings you have to be masked, and in transportation, interstate transportation, you must be masked, in airplanes, buses, et cetera.

I'm going to ask the public for 100 days to mask. Just 100 days to mask. Not forever, 100 days.

I think we'll see a significant reduction, if that occurs, with vaccination and masking to drive down the numbers considerably.


O'DONNELL: Jake Tapper did an excellent job conducting this interview, covering a lot of ground. The first interview of President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect kamala Harris appearing together.

President-elect Biden said that the prospect of Donald Trump pardoning himself along with his children and Rudy Giuliani and others concerned him, but he would not tell the Justice Department what to investigate and what not to investigate, and here is how Vice President-elect Harris put that.


SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), VICE PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: We will not tell the justice department how to do its job, and we are going to assume, I say this as former attorney general elected in California, and I ran the second largest Department of Justice in the United States, that any decision coming out of a Justice Department, in particular, the United States Department of Justice, should be based on facts, it should be based on the law, it should not be influenced by politics. Period.

BIDEN: And I'll guarantee you that's how it will be run.


O'DONNELL: Today, in Trump language, Donald Trump once again said that the Justice Department should be investigating whatever he wants them to investigate.


KRISTEN WELKER, NBC NEWS WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Do you still have confidence in Bill Barr?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Ask me that in a number of weeks from now. They should be looking at all of this fraud.


O'DONNELL: Attorney General William Barr has said, quote, to date, we have not seen fraud on a scale that could have affected a different outcome in the election.

Leading off our discussion tonight, Eugene Robinson, associate editor and Pulitzer Prize winning columnist for "The Washington Post." He's also an MSNBC political analyst. Also, with us, Renee Graham, opinion columnist and associate editor at "The Boston Globe."

And, Gene, we saw in Jake Tapper's interview what looked like a real team at work. And I have to give Jake Tapper credit, he really covered a lot of great very effectively, and the president-elect and the vice president-elect shared in the answering, sometimes the same question, sometimes Jake directed us to different questions to vice president-elect, but they not only seemed to be on the same page, but they seemed ready and very much, as I said, a team.

EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yeah, they did seem to be a team, and President-elect Biden kept referring back, as he has done previously, to his years as vice president working under President Obama, where they really functioned as a team. One fascinating moment was when he was describing how they were going to work, in which he had a specific portfolio and would he take some issues, and he said, well, it's basically going to be incoming, you know, what's coming in today, you know, and, hey, can you handle this because I'm busy over here.

And that just brought home to me just how much of a mess, how much of a chaotic mess they're going to inherit from this -- these shambles of an administration that we have now. They'll have a pandemic, will still be raging. They'll be trying to distribute as quickly as possible millions of doses of vaccines. There will be all these international issues that have been either handled wrongly or have to be handled better, getting back into the game of climate change.

The economy will still need a lot of work. It is -- it is a daunting agenda that faces the two of them. So that struck me.

Then the other thing that struck me, of course, was just how normal it all sounded after the last four years, you know, two intelligent, dedicated, public servants talking about the issues in a way that made sense and they knew something about. It was just refreshing, Lawrence. It was, you know, you can almost forget the last four years, but you can't.

O'DONNELL: Yep. Let's listen to some of what Gene was just referring to. This is Joe Biden, president-elect Joe Biden, describing how he expects the process to work with the vice president and integrating the vice president into his work using the example of the way he worked with President Obama.


BIDEN: Whatever the most urgent need is that I'm not able to attend to, I have confidence turning to her. It wasn't that Barack said, you know, Joe, we're going to have the stimulus, I want you to handle it, it was we got to get this stimulus passed, I'm working on this, look, Joe, you take it, OK? This is what I want you to do.

So unlike the previous portfolio where Al, Al Gore said, look, let me take care -- let me do environment, let me do -- when was asked a question, when I asked her a question, I'll do whatever the urgent need is at the moment.


BIDEN: And that's how it's going to work. That's how -- look, there's not single decision I've made yet about personnel or about how to proceed that I haven't discussed it with -- with Kamala first.

HARRIS: That's true.


O'DONNELL: Renee, he hasn't made a decision yet without consulting his vice president-elect.

RENEE GRAHAM, COLUMNIST AND ASSOCIATE EDITOR, "THE BOSTON GLOBE": And that's the way it should be. You know, I think we've had this situation the last four years we've had this sort of endless display of one man doing everything and deferring to no one else. He didn't need anyone else's advice.

And now we're seeing what it's like when two capable adults can work as a team. It's like, you know, Gene said, working as a unit. That's what the country wants to see.

You know, they're tired of the circus. They want something that works at this extremely crucial moment in this country's history. I think it was very important that both of them reiterated, wasn't like she was saying they were full partners. He was saying well, no, we're going to -- no, no, no, they're full partners. They're going to be in this together to get this country back on track.

O'DONNELL: We know Senator Bernie Sanders would like to be labor secretary. He has said as much out loud. We know that there's been talk of Senator Elizabeth Warren joining the cabinet.

Joe Biden addressed that not using any names, but he talked about the difficulty now of taking someone out of the Senate to the cabinet. Let's listen to that.


BIDEN: What I think people are saying is, a lot of people are saying, am I going to pick some very, very prominent and well-known progressive who sits in the House or the Senate right now? As close as everything is in terms of the House and the Senate, they are tough decisions to make. To pull somebody I'm going to badly need out of the Senate and we now don't re-elect or have an appointment of somebody who is a Democrat.

And so it is -- I think people are going to see not only at the cabinet level, the subcabinet level, there's already people we've appointed and we will appoint many more, but it's not -- again, I understand the push. I truly understand the push.


O'DONNELL: Gene Robinson, if anyone can handle the strains and crosscurrents of that, it's Joe Biden.

ROBINSON: Yeah. He can. And -- and, you know, what he said there has the adage of being true. I mean, you can't give up a Democratic Senate seat and so, unless you're certain that a Democrat will be named to replace the senator you plucked to be in your cabinet.

Then you're really defeating yourself and, you know, I mean, you might be giving up control of the Senate depending on what happens with Georgia.

So, these are, you know, he's right, but he expresses it in a way that also has the advantage of giving him maximum flexibility and giving him a reason because he might or might not actually want Bernie Sanders in his cabinet, you know, and -- and he has a legitimate reason, perhaps, for not choosing him if he chooses, that's not where he thinks Bernie could be most useful to him.

O'DONNELL: Renee Graham, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris both spoke in detail to Jake Tapper in response to Jake Tapper's questions about how do you keep education open, how do you keep schools open, and they both insisted that it's not a choice of combating public health or opening the schools, that niece things s these things can be done at the same time but it takes money.

Joe Biden listed exactly how much money he would need to have schools operating safely and al the additional safety precautions those schools have to take cost real money so that becomes an obligation he sees as the federal government's obligation, but that's not an obligation that Republicans in Congress seem to think they have toward schools.

GRAHAM: They don't think they have the responsibility at all. I mean, that's part of the problem. They simply haven't done enough to make this system work. You know, teachers have a right to be concerned about their safety in the classroom. You know, families have a right to want their kids to get the best education they can. And they've gotten no real guidance whatsoever from the federal government.

So that is one of the tasks that's going to be facing this incoming administration, which how to thread the needle. Vice President-elect Harris is correct, it's not an either/or choice. You can do both, just have to be fully committed to making that happen.

One of the things that the Biden administration are trying to create a federal plan where there hasn't been one for nine months. So, they're trying to restart the clock when we're already nine months into this catastrophe, really.

So, I think that's the thing that has to be understood, that to get this right, it's going take planning. It's going to take money. It's going to take the initiative and the guts to really be willing to do what needs to be done to get this under control and satisfy this sort of different factions.

O'DONNELL: Renee Graham, and Gene Robinson, thank you both for starting us off tonight. Really appreciate it.

ROBINSON: Thanks, Lawrence.

O'DONNELL: Thank you.

GRAHAM: Thanks.

O'DONNELL: And when we come back, we're going to answer the question, can the president pardon himself? We have the answer. We have the person who can give us the answer. Harvard's constitutional law professor, Laurence Tribe, will join us.


O'DONNELL: Once again today, the United States set a new record for the highest number of coronavirus cases reported in a day at 210,161, at the same time that we have the highest number of coronavirus hospitalizations on a single day, 100,667.

And yesterday, we set a record for the largest number of deaths in a single day in this country from coronavirus at 2,777.

President Obama said that he would help lead the way on taking a vaccine as soon as possible.


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If Anthony Fauci tells me this vaccine is safe and can vaccinate, you know, immunize you from getting COVID, absolutely, I'm going to take it. I may end up taking it on TV or having it filmed just so that people know that, you know, you know, I trust this science.


O'DONNELL: Former Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton also said they would publicly take the coronavirus vaccine.

Here's President-elect Biden's reaction to that tonight.


BIDEN: I'd be happy to do that. My three predecessors have set the model as to what should be done, saying once it's declared to be safe, and I think Barack said once Fauci says it's clear, that's my measure, then, obviously, we take it and it's important to communicate to the American people it's safe, it's safe to do this.


O'DONNELL: Joining us now, Dr. Nahid Bhadelia, an infectious disease physician and medical director of special pathogens unit at Boston Medical Center. She's an MSNBC medical contributor.

Doctor, I first of all want to get your reaction to Joe Biden's announcement tonight in the interview with Jake Tapper, that not only has he spoken with Dr. Fauci, that he wants Dr. Fauci to say in his current position, he wants to add to his jurisdiction being an active medical adviser to the president of the United States.


I've known Dr. Fauci for quite a few years from a distance, you know, he's a mentor to many of us in infectious diseases. I think this is the right decision not just because of his brilliance or his experience, which, you know, has helped us through the pandemic so star, but also his compassion. You know, if you remember during the Ebola epidemic, I was an Ebola responder, and the one of the things you saw was this outpouring and fear. What did Dr. Fauci do when one of the nurses who got Ebola came out of the hospital and recovered, Dr. Fauci hugged her.

That is the sign of a public health leader who leads not just with his brain, with his brilliance, but with compassion. That's what we need right now, Lawrence. You know, you said, we had almost 3,000 deaths yesterday. That means yesterday, every two minutes, someone in America someone died of COVID-19, and we need to exemplify that compassion and need to exemplify that sense of community and I think Dr. Fauci is going to be the right man for the job.

O'DONNELL: What is your reaction to the former presidents and the president-elect saying they are absolutely willing and eager to take the vaccine, do it in public, do it on camera?

BHADELIA: I think that's a good move. I mean, I think when we get the FDA to come through and look at that data and with their indent independent committee, share the data Moderna, Pfizer, has shared, is holding up. We do need that kind of public-facing intervention, because we are seeing because of the politicization a great amount of hesitancy among Americans to take this vaccine, or small percentage of Americans take this vaccine. So, that's important.

But the other thing President-elect Biden said today is part of this is going to be putting the trust in the science again. The other is ensuring the logistics of it, the distribution, the last mile from when the vaccines are making them arms of people, need to make sure resources and funding is available. He pointed to the fact that states have asked for resources to be able to do that and think that that's where we need to put our energy now as well.

O'DONNELL: Let's listen to something Vice President-elect Harris said to Jake Tapper tonight about schools, about the challenges of facing schools.

I guess we don't have the sound for it. Jake Tapper asked her about do you defer to the public health experts or teachers unions? Apparently, the control room thinks they have it now. Let's listen to what Vice President-elect Harris says.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Will the Biden/Harris administration defer to the health experts or to the teachers unions when it comes to elementary schools?

HARRIS: Look, honestly, Jake, I think it's a false choice. Both. Both.

The public health experts, of course, must be leaders in this conversation because we're having the conversation because of public health epidemic, a pandemic. So they must help inform the decisions but our educators are our educators.


O'DONNELL: Your reaction to that, doctor.

BHADELIA: A reasonable statement, you know, for once, we sort of have to drive home what I think most everybody in public health has been saying, that this is not a zero-sum equation. It's not economy versus health. We need to have the cooperative and scientifically based policy that sort of looks at all different sides of the problem.

And part of this is we want that kind of input. Public health experts want that input from people on the front line to be able to make those changes. Beyond that, right, there are 100,000 people who are hospitalized. They're hospitalized currently with COVID-19.

And, Lawrence, some of them are hospitalized because they had to continue to go to work in jobs that were not safe because they couldn't afford to stay home because our government hasn't passed a stimulus package that they should have. Some of them got sick because their family members didn't take the steps, they could to keep them safe. Others were misled by misinformation and thought this couldn't happen to us, right?

And all of that takes communication, and it takes -- public health, it's humility, and that's what I saw in that statement, listening to all sides of the problem.

O'DONNELL: Dr. Nahid Bhadelia, thank you very much for joining us tonight. We appreciate it.

BHADELIA: Thank you, Lawrence.

O'DONNELL: Thank you.

And the answer to the big question is next, can the president pardon himself? Harvard's constitutional law professor, Laurence Tribe, will join us right after this break with the answer. You should be taking notes. This is a free Harvard law school class right here on THE LAST WORD, next.


O'DONNELL: Donald Trump spent the presidential campaign attacking Joe Biden's son and we now have multiple reports that Donald Trump is considering pardoning his own sons along with the rest of his family and himself.

Here is what President-Elect Joe Biden said about that in Jake Tapper's interview tonight.


BIDEN: It concerns me in terms of what kind of precedent it sets and how the rest of the world looks at us as a nation of laws and justice. Our Justice Department is going to operate independently on those issues that, how to respond to any of that. I'm not going to be telling them what they have to do and don't have to do.


O'DONNELL: Today, is reporting that the White House has been holding multiple pardon meetings since the election involving the White House counsel's office and other staff.

The meetings include a list of potential pardon cases to be considered and ideas of who else should be included. Here's what Donald Trump said about pardoning himself two years ago.


PETER ALEXANDER, CORRESPONDENT: On the pardon power, do you believe that you're above the law if you could pardon yourself?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No, I'm not above the law. I never want anybody to be above the law. but the pardons are a very positive thing for a president. I think you see the way I'm using them. And, yes, I do have an absolute right to pardon myself.


O'DONNELL: Joining us now is Laurence Tribe, university professor of constitutional law at Harvard. He has won 35 cases, at least, in the United States Supreme Court. Professor Tribe, thank you very much for joining us tonight.

The table is set, and I just want to read for the audience the actual language of the pardon clause in the constitution, so we'll all have that going into this discussion.

It simply says, "He shall have power to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States, except in cases of impeachment." And, Professor Tribe, I'm leaning strongly toward the idea that this president can pardon himself because this clause does not say that he cannot. And the majority conservative justices on the Supreme Court, most of whom think of themselves as what they call originalists, would look to that language and find nothing in that language that bars the president from pardoning himself.

So, that's where I begin on this subject. Now I'm taking notes because now I'm going to get a free Harvard law school class.

LAURENCE TRIBE, PROFESSOR, HARVARD LAW SCHOOL: Well, the justices would begin there just as you would, but they wouldn't stop there. They would also notice that in the very next section of Article 2, Section 3, it says, explicitly, "The president shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed." It doesn't say except the criminal laws. It doesn't say except when he chooses to violate the criminal laws.

Now, if it were true, as Donald Trump said in the little segment you played, that the president has the absolute power to grant himself a power of pardon -- to grant himself a pardon, which would be an odd way for the framers to have put it, you grant things to other people. If he had the absolute power to grant himself a pardon, and if he knew that throughout his presidency, and if all presidents knew it, what would follow is that presidents do not have to follow the law. They can't be, according to the Justice Department, indicted while they're in office, and if at any time they could pardon themselves, it could be a secret pardon, stick it in the Resolute Desk, or the very last hour of his presidency he could say, oh, by the way, I hereby pardon myself for any federal crime I might have committed from the moment I took the oath.

If that were the case then the president would not be below the law, he'd be above it. He couldn't be prosecuted criminally even if, let's say, he took Steve Bannon's advice when Bannon, a month ago, posted a video on Facebook recommending that we behead the head of the FBI, Christopher Wray, and that we behead Tony Fauci.

The president, you know, has said he could just shoot someone on 5th Avenue and get away with it. This would make that literally true.

There would be no limit. Every president would know from the very moment puts his hand on that bible and takes the oath that whatever he does or she does during the four-year term of that presidency, could not be criminally prosecuted, either during the presidency or ever in the future because the pardon would cover everything that president had done.

Now, we know that the framers didn't bother saying that the president cannot grant himself a pardon because no one in their right mind would have imagined otherwise.

They talked in the constitutional convention and in the federalist papers about the danger that the president might pardon his cronies, the people who might help him get away with impeachable offenses. They debated whether he should be able to do that. They concluded that they would not put any language in the pardon power itself to prevent that, but there wasn't a whisper of a suggestion that the president could simply make himself immune to the criminal laws of the United States.

On the contrary, they had just fought a revolution in the wake of George III exercising extraordinary power, but even he didn't have the power to murder people and get away with it during the time that he was the king.

Magna Carta set the baseline in the year 1215 that nobody is above the law. Now, why hasn't the Supreme Court yet spoken on it? Easy answer. No president has dared try it, but let him dare try it. The Supreme Court, even a really conservative court reading the language the president can grant pardons, and looking at the history and looking at the centuries-old history that people aren't to be their own judges, would have to conclude that either presidents can get away with murder, literally, during the presidency and forever after because they can pardon themselves. Or we have to look at Section 3, which says the president must faithfully execute the law and treat that as limiting what Section 2 says about the pardon power.

The constitution has lots of powers that don't contain their own limits within their four corners, but you look at the whole constitution and its history and the history of the American revolution to understand what it means.

That's why I think any argument the president can grant himself a pardon would be incoherent, incompatible with the history of the constitution, with the language of Section 3, and with the principle that no one is above the law.

And even the president, himself, in that segment you quoted, said, oh, I'm not above the law, except I am because I can pardon myself. He can't have it both ways.

O'DONNELL: Professor Laurence Tribe, as far as I'm concerned, the case is now settled here at the LAST WORD. On this show, the president can't pardon himself. We'll find out next year if the Supreme Court has to make a decision about that.

Professor Laurence Tribe, thank you very much for joining us tonight. I learned a lot, as I always do.

TRIBE: Thanks, Lawrence.

O'DONNELL: Thank you.

And when we come back, did Senator Lindsey Graham commit a crime when he called the Georgia secretary of state about throwing out ballots?

A former United States attorney in Georgia is now demanding an investigation into possible crimes committed by Senator Graham. That former U.S. attorney will join us next.


Michael Moore wants Senator Lindsey Graham investigated. No, not that Michael Moore. Michael J. Moore who served as a U.S. attorney in Georgia appointed by President Obama. He sent a letter today to Georgia's state election board asking for investigation of Lindsey Graham's phone call to Georgia's secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger.

Michael Moore cites multiple Georgia state laws that could have been violated by that phone call. Michael Moore's letter says, "Based upon the public reporting of Senator Graham's telephone call including interviews given by Secretary Raffensperger and his staff it appears that this was an effort by the current chairman of the United States Senate Judiciary Committee to potentially disenfranchise Georgia voters.

Here's how Georgia's Republican secretary of state described that phone call.


BRAD RAFFENSPERGER, GEORGIA SECRETARY OF STATE: When Senator Graham called, I just assumed he was calling about the two runoffs for the senators so I called him back. And then during our discussion he asked if ballots could be matched back to the envelope, the absentee ballots be matched back to the envelope. I explained that process. After it went through two steps of signature match, at that point, they were separated.

But then Senator Graham implied for us to audit the envelopes, and then throw out the ballots for counties with the highest frequency error of signatures.

I tried to, you know, help explain that that's -- because there's a signature match, you couldn't tie the signatures back any more, you know, to those ballots, just like if you voted in person, my name is not on my ballot and so it can't be tied back to me.

It's really something that's been around for over 100 years, the secret ballot.


O'DONNELL: Joining us now is Michael J. Moore, former U.S. attorney in Georgia. Attorney Moore, what did you hear, when you heard that description from the secretary of state, knowing the law of Georgia as you did, as you do -- it sounds like possible crimes were clicking off to you in your head and that's what I'm reading in your request for an investigation.

MICHAEL J. MOORE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY, GEORGIA: Yes, I'm glad to be with you, Lawrence, and thanks for having me. I tell you that when you listen to the secretary of state, it's pretty clear that he felt that there was a strong implication that he should discard ballots.

And it's not just one interview that he gave but in a number of interviews he's given to newspapers and other news outlets. He said things like, I really felt like he was asking me to get rid of as many ballots as I could and try to count and see how I could get rid of ballots and that's a problem.

That's the classic disenfranchisement of the voter and an attack on Georgia's voters and the votes that they cast in the election. And I think the people of Georgia have a right to be protected in that. It's a sacred right to vote.

And it seems apparent to me that Senator Graham was sort of meddling in the Georgia voting process and the counting process.

O'DONNELL: In my -- I read your letter to them requesting this investigation. You cite specific Georgia law including that it's against the law to try to entice someone to commit some kind of voter fraud. You don't have to do it with your own hands.

MOORE: That's right. It's pretty clear as well in the conversation and what we know from the public reporting that there was a call made to the secretary that the secretary then talked to Senator Graham about the election and about the counting process.

And it really sounded like he was getting an inordinate amount of pressure. What's particularly troubling is that his staff confirms the call.

And then you have a Republican secretary of state who comes out and says I'm feeling pressured by the Republican chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee to throw out good votes and that in and of itself, that effort to affect ballots, that effort to commit some type of election fraud, that encouragement to do that, those can constitute crimes in the state of Georgia.

So what I've asked is that state election board simply look into the case, to use their authority to do that. Secretary Raffensperger is the chairman of that board. I assume that because he's also a witness, that someone else will step in as chairman and hopefully they'll do an investigation that will builds some confidence in the voters and then they'll turn the results of that over to the attorney general who then I hope as well will take a look at the case.

The problem is, frankly, that over the last five years we real sort of seen the customs and norms and decency leave our political discourse. And we are in a time when tensions are high. And regardless of who you voted for, regardless of your political party, everybody has a right to have those votes protected.

And here the losing candidate is at odds with his own party because he felt like he should win and now apparently has allies on his behalf seeing if they can't put their hands on the scale to change those results in some way.

I found that both troubling and offensive, both as a former law enforcement prosecutor, but also as a voter in the state of Georgia.

O'DONNELL: What are your concerns for the senate election in Georgia on January 5th? The issues for Lindsey Graham are even more stark there. He could fall out of the majority in the United States Senate if the Democrats win.

MOORE: Well, you know, this is a classic case of somebody trying to cover something up and they talk too much. In an interview that Senator Graham gave, he said I really wasn't calling about President Trump's election. I was really trying to talk more about what to do about the upcoming senate runoff. And so I'm concerned that there may be some concerted effort to disenfranchise the voters or to somehow come in and see if there's not a way that they can throw out perfectly good ballots.

We're literally sort of in the belly of the beast down here right now as you can probably guess from the senate runoffs. I think you got to remember, too, this is not like getting a call from somebody in Ludowici, Georgia -- this is a powerful man in the United States senate calling, putting clearly putting pressure, at least the Secretary feeling pressure about doing his official duties.

O'DONNELL: Former Georgia U.S. Attorney Michael J. Moore, thank you very much for joining us tonight. We really appreciate it.

MOORE: My great pleasure. Thank you, Lawrence.

O'DONNELL: Thank you.

And once again, it was the job of a Georgia Republican today to tell Donald Trump the truth about who won the presidential election while every Republican in Washington remains afraid to say it out loud.

Stuart Stevens, who used to run Republican presidential campaigns will join us next. His extraordinary book is titled "It Was All a Lie, how the Republican Party became Donald Trump".


O'DONNELL: Here's more of President-Elect Biden tonight on CNN.


BIDEN: There had been more than several sitting Republican senators who privately called me to congratulate me. And I understand the situation they find themselves in. And until the election is clearly decided in the minds where the electoral college votes they get put in a very tough position.


O'DONNELL: Once again today with Washington Republicans led by the most cowardly congressional leader in history, Mitch McConnell, remaining locked in fear of Donald Trump and Trump voters, it fell to a Georgia Republican to tell the president and the country the truth. Republican Gabriel Sterling is Georgia's voting system implementation manager.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Any evidence whatsoever of widespread fraud?



STERLING: Nothing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you can get the president's attention today, what will you tell him?

STERLING: Mr. President, you lost the state.


O'DONNELL: Joining us new Stuart Stevens who was chief strategist for Mitt Romney's 2012 presidential campaign. He's the senior adviser to the Lincoln Project and author of the remarkable book "It Was All A Lie: how the Republican Party became Donald Trump".

Stuart, to hear Joe Biden say more than several Republican senators have been calling him desperately afraid that anyone knows that they're calling him. But at the same time they know they can trust Joe Biden not to out them because he's old school about this stuff. And yet they live in fear of Donald Trump and Trump voters and can't say anything out loud about it.

STUART STEVENS, SENIOR ADVISER, THE LINCOLN PROJECT: I mean it's really extraordinary situation. You know, I finished this book about, I don't know, a year ago. It's a pretty bleak picture of the Republican Party.

But man, I've got to admit I was just way too optimistic. I never thought that Republican senators -- Republicans will not admit who won the presidential race of the United States of America. This is not a close race. It's over 7 million votes.

Trump fell under 47 percent today. I mean Mitt Romney got 47.2 percent and lost in 2012. And the fundamental tenet of democracy is that somebody has to be willing to lose. That's what Republicans are calling in and challenging here. It's the most disgraceful, cowardly display of anti-American cinema that I can remember.

O'DONNELL: Let's listen to this local video that was obtained of a Florida lawyer encouraging Floridians to commit voter fraud and somehow get an address in Georgia so they can vote in this senate election.


BILL PRICE, FLORIDA LAWYER: We have to do whatever it takes, and if that means changing your address for the next two months, so be it. I'm doing that. I'm moving to Georgia, and I'm going to fight. And I want you all to fight with me.


O'DONNELL: So that's a Republican lawyer in Florida saying "I'm going to commit the crime of voter fraud and I advise you all, the rest of you to do the same thing".

STEVENS: Yes. I mean, look I'm not a lawyer but don't they call that a conspiracy?

O'DONNELL: Yes, they do.

STEVENS: You know, where is this attack on basic democracy coming from in the Republican Party? And look, you know, underneath all of this, this is deep, deep racism. Because when Donald Trump talks about legal votes he's really talking about white peoples votes. And there's no mistake when he talks about Wayne County and these other areas where there are concentrations of nonwhite voters are the ones that they in Wisconsin, the ones that they get recounts in, the ones they want to disqualify in Georgia.

This is nothing new or novel or particularly interesting. It's just straight up Jim Crow politics attempt by a president of the United States, Republican, backed by the majority of the Republican Party to disenfranchise mainly African American voters. That's what it is.

O'DONNELL: Politico is reporting tonight on something that they say Washington Republicans are opposing Donald Trump considering preemptively pardoning as many as 20 aides and associates before leaving office, frustrating Republicans who believe that these pardons could backfire.

And Stuart, this is the kind of thing that I've had in mind whenever I hear people telling us how powerful of a figure Donald Trump is going to be in the Republican Party. He's going to be a criminal defendant in New York state next year most likely. He's going to be pardoned, self-pardoned, all of his family is going to have pardons which are declarations of previous criminal conduct. It's going to be a different world for them next year.

STEVENS: Look, the Trump campaign from the very beginning has been a large criminal enterprise. You've never had a number of campaign managers -- it's sort of like the third person in al-Qaeda. They all seem to get arrested or sent to jail.

This is not an action. These are people who rose in that organization by their ability to demonstrate to Donald Trump that they have no limits other than serving Donald Trump. They have no moral compass. They have no allegiance to the rule of law. So, it's a gang.

The other guy who runs the gang named Donald Trump who's attempting the enviable position of being able to pardon his gang members. As a plan, I would have loved (ph) that.

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

STEVENS: Thank you.

O'DONNELL: Stuart Stevens gets tonight's LAST WORD.



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