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Transcript: The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, November 18, 2020

Guests: Carolyn Bourdeaux, Josh Kaul, Michael Osterholm, Samantha Power, Robin Givhan


Interview with Georgia Democratic Congresswoman Elect Carolyn Bourdeaux. The Trump campaign wired $3 million to the Wisconsin Election Commission to pay for a recount of ballots in just two of the state's counties, the two most Democratic counties -- Milwaukee County and Dane County.


LAWRENCE O'DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: It was, and it shouldn't be surprising. You have to stay in shape as a lawyer, which he clearly hasn't.

It's good to see that Rachel is staying in shape and is ready to go as soon as she's clear of quarantine. Thank you very much for that.

ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST: That was great.

O'DONNELL: I have to thank you for something else because something very special just happened in your interview with Andrew Weissmann, and it shows us one of, I think, the benefits of the way this work has changed. Most things are worse because of the pandemic.


O'DONNELL: But one thing that I think is better is that the guests on these programs get to stay at home, which leads to --


O'DONNELL: -- questions like, is that an animal over your shoulder, which, ali, that's the best question -- that is the best question of the night here at MSNBC.

VELSHI: It's not going to get me an Emmy, Lawrence, but it was a fun question.

O'DONNELL: You got tonight's Emmy with that question, and I've got to say I've been doing this for a few years. I have yet to ask, is that an animal over your shoulder? So that was a first for me.

VELSHI: Have a good night, Lawrence. I'll enjoy the show.

O'DONNELL: Thank you.

Well, the breaking news of this hour is that two Biden transition officials are telling NBC News that a few current and former Trump administration officials have reached out privately to the Biden transition team.

Now, this outreach was described as not a big deal. Those were the words used "not a big deal," by Biden transition sources, and they stress that this outreach is not in any way a replacement for the national security and COVID briefings and other legitimate transition processes that the Trump administration is refusing to provide to the Biden/Harris transition team.

The Biden/Harris transition is not yet officially under way because Emily Murphy is lying. Emily Murphy has been lying every day for 11 days in a row.

Emily Murphy is the Donald Trump appointee who is now the administrator of the General Services Administration after serving in Republican-staffed positions in Washington for several years.

Emily Murphy is lying with her silence because it is Emily Murphy's sworn duty under law, under a law called the Presidential Transition Act of 1963, to sign her name to the document that officially begins the transition process to the Biden/Harris administration. The law orders the GSA administrator to sign that document as soon as there is what the law calls an apparent successful candidate in the presidential election.

The law specifies that, for example, every news organization calling the presidential election for Joe Biden is a more than adequate identification of an apparent winner to trigger the official beginning of the transition. And for 11 days now, Emily Murphy's refusal to sign the document authorizing the transition means that she is silently lying to this country and the world. Emily Murphy is telling the lie that there is no apparent winner in the presidential election.

On Monday, Joe Biden said that what Emily Murphy is doing means more people may die. Those were his words, "more people may die."

Today in a meeting with health care workers, President-elect Joe Biden said this.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: One of the problems that we're having now is the failure of the administration to recognize -- the law says that the General Services Administration has a person who recognizes who the winner is, and then they have to have access to all the data and information that the government possesses to be prepared. And it doesn't require there to be an absolute winner. It says the apparent winner, the apparent winner.

And we've been unable to get access to the kinds of things we need to know, and there's a whole lot of things that are just -- we just don't have available to us, which unless it's made available soon, we're going to be behind by weeks or months being able to put together the whole initiative relating to the biggest promise we have with two drug companies coming along and finding 95 percent effectiveness, efficiency in the vaccines, which is enormous promise. So I just want to tell you that that's the only slowdown right now that we have.

O'DONNELL: More people may die because of Emily Murphy. The first person Emily Murphy sent out to lie for her was her government-paid spokesperson, Pamela Pennington, who said three days after Joe Biden became the apparent winner, quote, an ascertainment has not yet been made, and its administrator will continue to abide by and fulfill all requirements under the law. That is a lie. Pamela Pennington lied for Emily Murphy, who is not abiding by and fulfilling all requirements under the law.

Emily Murphy is violating all of the requirements under the law, and Pamela Pennington is lying about that for Emily Murphy. No one else Emily Murphy has sent out to lie for her has been willing to have their names become public, and so hiding behind their status as anonymous sources, friends of Emily Murphy are now telling reporters lies like this.

Emily is a consummate professional, a deeply moral person, but also a very scrupulous attorney who is in a very difficult position with an unclear law and precedence that is behind her stance.

Every bit of that is a lie. The inspector general's findings about Emily Murphy prove that she is the opposite of a consummate professional. She is not a very scrupulous attorney because she is violating a federal law and should face possible disbarment proceedings for that. There is nothing unclear in the law, and there is absolutely no precedent for what Emily Murphy is doing.

And as to Emily Murphy being a deeply moral person, tell that to the many people who may die because of Emily Murphy.

Here's something else Emily Murphy's friends get to say under the cloak of anonymity to reporters now. She's doing what she believes is her honest duty as someone who has sworn true allegiance to the Constitution of the United States of America and the laws that govern her position. Emily Murphy did swear true allegiance to the Constitution, and she violates that oath every day.

Emily Murphy is refusing to say whether she's been in communication with Donald Trump about refusing to authorize the transition, an illegal act. But it's not up to Donald Trump. The law gives full responsibility and full authority to Emily Murphy to authorize the transition.

If Donald Trump is ordering Emily Murphy to not authorize the transition while the law is ordering her to authorize the transition, that choice is very, very easy for anyone who has ever lived by their oath of office.

When I worked in the Senate, I knew hundreds of people, including elected officials and staff members, including Democrats and including Republicans, who would know exactly what to do if they had to choose between an illegal order and their oath of office. They would do the right thing. They would follow the law.

They would do what Christopher Krebs did. Donald Trump fired Christopher Krebs last night because Christopher Krebs told the truth about this election and said it was the most secure election in our history. Donald Trump appointed Christopher Krebs to be the director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.

Christopher Krebs took an oath of office to do that job, and when he had to choose between what Donald Trump wanted and his oath of office, it was easy for Christopher Krebs, easy. He chose the truth. He lived by his oath of office, and I'm sure Christopher Krebs doesn't consider himself a hero tonight. I'm sure for him, it was an easy choice.

For heroes, it never feels like heroism because they don't think they have a choice. They think doing the right think is the only thing they can do. Emily Murphy works for Donald Trump. She's not supposed to. She's supposed to work for you, but tragically for this country and the world, Emily Murphy sees herself as someone who works for Donald Trump, and she's always been willing to do what Donald Trump wants her to do.

But for the last 11 days, Emily Murphy has become the most valuable player for a lot more people around the world than just Donald Trump. Just, just think about how pleased Vladimir Putin is with Emily Murphy tonight.

Here is President Obama's former national security adviser Susan Rice earlier today on MSNBC with Andrea Mitchell.


SUSAN RICE, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER, OBAMA ADMINISTRATION: This is the most irresponsible leadership during a transition that I think any of us have seen in our lifetimes, if not in the history of the republic. When you have the president of the United States daily, constantly discrediting the election, pouring doubt on the results, false doubt, false doubt, that not only misinforms a huge segment of our population and corrodes trust in our democracy and our institutions themselves, but makes us a laughingstock around the world and does great damage to the democratic model, which is why I'm quite sure that Vladimir Putin is doing a happy dance in Moscow as we speak.


O'DONNELL: Leading off our discussion tonight is Samantha Power, President Obama's former ambassador to the United Nations. She is the author of "The New York Times" best-seller "The Education of an Idealist", one of the most beautifully written memoirs of anyone who has served in government.

Samantha Power, Ambassador Power, thank you very much for joining us tonight. I want to begin with your reaction to what we saw develop with Christopher Krebs over the last 24 hours and him simply taking the principal stand which, for him I'm sure, felt like no choice, and then the result of that with Donald Trump.

SAMANTHA POWER, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: Well, I have been tracking the work of that office in the Department of Homeland security for some time and have been really struck and really impressed by its rigor, by its technical proficiency, by the fact, as you say, more recently in a more high-profile way by the fact that it plays it straight and just goes by the facts.

I've also been tracking it, wondering when the hammer was going to come down because when you have an agency that operates in those ways, you know, that hasn't gone down very well, whether it comes to the environmental protection agency or the state department or even president Trump's prior national security advisers. If you tell the truth, if you stand up to the president, if you depart from the latest tweets, often that means the end of your career in government.

And so credit Christopher Krebs, who throughout the pre-election period was reaching out to state election officials, was working with his FBI colleagues in order to try to keep state election infrastructure protected and to ensure that flares were raised when there were threats like those posed by Russia and Iran, which both men and their agencies brought forward.

And then when the misinformation and disinformation started, whether by foreign actors or by domestic actors starting with the president, Christopher Krebs and his agency played it straight, just as they would have if it had been disinformation planted by some other actor. That was their job to tell the facts as they saw them. And Krebs must have known based on the treatment of his administration colleagues and other areas that I mentioned that this was ultimately at some point going to mean his career, and that's what happened.

O'DONNELL: Let's pick up on the point that Susan Rice made earlier today and the way Vladimir Putin is looking at this transition now and the illegal delay in the orderly transition. What does it mean to people like Vladimir Putin out there and people who want to actively do harm to the United States, terrorist organizations, what are they seeing in this?

POWER: Well, I mean, this actually brings your two questions together, right, because Krebs, the FBI, state election officials, did such important work, such difficult work keeping the election safe, protecting the vote, ensuring that foreign interference didn't mar the results.

But let's bear in mind what Vladimir Putin was up to back in 2016 when he staged his massive foreign interference effort, his intention was to de-legitimate the democratic process. His intention was to cast doubt on what he thought would be the eventual winner, Hillary Clinton. Even he didn't expect Donald Trump would actually pull out a victory.

But his intention was to make us weaker by widening our divisions, taking advantage of our polarizations and making Americans doubt whether our elections were safe, whether they would and could be free of foreign interference.

Well, now, Putin was denied in this election by officials like Krebs, like the FBI, like by state election officials. And who does the legitimation, who does Putin's bidding, who seeks to achieve the very thing a foreign, nefarious actor sought to achieve in the last election and frankly in the foreign interference that has been staged, also to widen our divisions on social cleavages, because Russia has kept interfering since 2016, who does that bidding? The president of the United States. It is more outrageous than I can find words for.

O'DONNELL: What can you tell us about the national intelligence briefing that Joe Biden held with former national security officials like yourself? You participated in that. I know the discussion was closed to reporters, but how does it approximated in your experience, needs of a transition?

POWER: Well, first, it was just so refreshing to be in the presence of the president-elect with his vision for foreign policy, his deep curiosity about events happening beyond our borders as they relate to welfare of the American people first and foremost, his dedication to thinking through how to recover from the epidemic both from the public health standpoint and, of course, to deal with the economic fallout. And that's not going to be possible until the pandemic is dealt with elsewhere as well, given our trade lengths and our supply chains and support.

So, just to be with a person of such integrity, who was curious about the facts, wanted to dig in to a series of questions about various agencies, and their level of preparedness for the set of threats, that he recognizes very different from what was in his inbox on January 20th, the morning of January 20th, 2017, four years in Donald Trump years is not four years.

There is some dog years version of this, right? You have to multiply that four times (AUDIO GAP). He knows that.

And so, I think the briefing was immensely thorough. You know, people like Admiral McRaven who orchestrated the bin Laden raid (AUDIO GAP) commanded our troops in Afghanistan, intelligence professionals. I mean, it was people that he could engage with about what was likely to be coming down the pipeline.

But it was no substitute for the kind of information that people who are currently serving in the government have uniquely. There you could inform the president-elect about threats and dangers. What needs to be done to get to as many people as we need. That's the briefing he needs.

O'DONNELL: Ambassador Samantha Power, thank you very much for joining us tonight. We really appreciate it.

POWER: Thank you, Lawrence.

O'DONNELL: Thank you.

We have a programming note. At this hour tomorrow night, Jonathan Capehart will be here interviewing the author of a new book called "A Promised Land". The author is President Barack Obama. That's President Obama in discussion with Jonathan Capehart for the full hour here at 10:00 p.m. tomorrow night.

And Jonathan Capehart will join us after this break. Along with "Washington Post's" Robin Givhan who has written the best he is a about the president who is working on his golf swing while the coronavirus death toll goes over 250,000 and Joe Biden's winning vote total continues to climb.

Jonathan Capehart and Robin Givhan join us next.


O'DONNELL: On Saturday, November 7th, when news organizations called Joe Biden the apparent winner of the presidential election, Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger tweeted: Sofia and I extend our congratulations to Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. Our nation deserves two competing parties who can work together when possible, and compete honorably when not.

Today, Congressman Kinzinger explained why almost all of his Republican colleagues are refusing to admit that Donald Trump lost.


REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R-IL): It is just a matter of a lot of people waiting out until the president comes to terms with this.


O'DONNELL: And how is that for white privilege, asks Robin Givhan in a brilliant piece of writing in the "Washington Post" today where she writes: Trump's refusal to concede or at least stop obstructing a peaceful transition of power can be described as many things, delusional, childish, unpatriotic, dangerous, but above all else, it has been a tremendous display of the deference afforded to this man. As a man who also happens to be white and wealthy, he has been able to muster the breathless support of both men and women because he lays claim to the benefit of the doubt even when there is not a shadow of it.

White male privilege is powerful. It overrides facts. It excuses horrendous behavior. It exalts the unqualified.

And joining us now, the writer of that piece, Robin Givhan, senior critic at-large for "The Washington Post", and Jonathan Capehart, opinion writer for "The Washington Post" and MSNBC political analyst. Jonathan will be interviewing former President Barack Obama right here tomorrow night at 10:00 p.m. for the full hour.

But, Robin, let me begin with you with the way that you have focused our thinking about what we're looking at when we watch Donald Trump ride around golf courses, never speaking a word to the public, having conclusively and definitively losing the election and not being asked ever to admit that by any Republicans in Washington.

ROBIN GIVHAN, SENIOR CRITIC-AT-LARGE, THE WASHNIGTON POST: Yeah. You know, I think for me what was particularly striking was that white privilege obviously has benefitted the president before, the president has golfed before. But there's two things really seemed to be distilled and concentrated at a particular time when so many people, the crisis over the coronavirus pandemic has so intensified, and the president has essentially gone missing. The only times we really have seen him have been on the golf course.

And it also seems that the only reason he was being coddled, he was given so much deference and patience was not because of anything rooted in fact but simply because it was his privilege.

O'DONNELL: And, Jonathan, there's another line that Robin has that goes after this privilege and focuses it in a way that I think is so important.

She says: In truth, Trump doesn't even look like he is having a particularly good time golfing. He simply appears to be avoiding the dreadfulness of his responsibilities. Such is his privilege.

JONATHAN CAPEHART, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, that line and in fact the entire column is why Robin Givhan is one of the best political writers out there and why I tweeted it was a must-read column. Robin nailed it.

You know, I wrote down this note about Robin said about what the president is doing. He has given up on the charade of actually working. I mean, there have been lots of stories about how many times he has gone to his golf courses, how many times he's gone to Bedminster and Mar-a-Lago and traveling all over the country, sort of doing these big marked proclamations in the Oval Office while also watching television and live tweeting Fox News.

But now with the election over and being repudiated by the American people with President-elect Biden getting the largest amount of votes in American history, President Trump just decided, well, why bother even going through the motions of governing the country. The only thing he is doing is golfing and firing people, which doesn't take a whole lot of energy. This is -- the most important time between administrations in normal times.

The thing on top of it is a pandemic that that is running rampant, because the president isn't paying attention, isn't doing anything about it. And then the effects of that on the economy, we should have a president -- an outgoing president who is focused on handing the country over to his successor as stable as possible. And instead, he's on the back nine riding around on his golf cart.

O'DONNELL: And, Robin, his privilege is such, especially with Republicans in Washington, that it is not -- his inability to face reality and the coddling that he needs now, is not to be regarded as weakness. It is as if they regard it as some kind of strength.

GIVHAN: Yeah, they seem to have this attitude that he really needs to be -- that they need to stand out. There is a sense of his elevation. There is a sense of his entitlement.

It's not even so much that they are, you know, focusing on the trauma that he has lost. They seem mostly to be focused on simply his feelings. And, you know, he needs the space and he needs patience and he needs time.

So, it seems like they are allowing him to fill up this space, a space that really should be occupied by the president-elect, Joe Biden.

O'DONNELL: Jonathan, at this hour tomorrow night, I am going to be watching TV. You're going to be on TV in this hour with President Trump for the full hour. It's a book to take on. I don't know how you are going to cram it into the minutes you're allowed.

What are -- what are some of the angles you want to explore tomorrow night with the president?

CAPEHART: Well, with the president -- with President Obama tomorrow night, we are go to, you know, talk to him about, you know, just his reflections on his administration, particularly in this time that we're in.

And then also what's making this conversation so special, Lawrence, is that we're going to have three people from My Brothers Keeper Initiative. And this initiative was started in the White House when President Obama was in his second term. And then he formed the foundation so that he could continue in his post-presidency where the focus is in on young men of color, young men and boys and giving them the mentorship and training and other things that they need so that they can truly live out the American dream.

O'DONNELL: Jonathan Capehart, thank you very much for joining us tonight.

CAPEHART: Thanks, Lawrence.

O'DONNELL: Get back to your homework right now. Keep underlining those pages. I can imagine the pressure. I'm so glad that I'm just going to be watching.

Jonathan Capehart, Robin Givhan -- thank you both very much for joining us tonight. Really appreciate it.

CAPEHART: Thanks, Lawrence.


O'DONNELL: And coming up, it should have been a busy day for the Senate Ethics Committee with a complaint filed against Senator Lindsay Graham and with a Georgia Republican Senator violating Senates Ethic rules live on TV -- clear violation with the Senate Ethics Rules. We'll see if the committee investigates. That's next.


O'DONNELL: If the Senate Ethics Committee is doing its job, then today was a busy day. First Walter Schaub, the former director of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics and two other ethics experts filed a complaint with the Senate Ethics Committee asking for an investigation of Senator Lindsey Graham, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee after Georgia Secretary of State revealed that Senator Graham tried to pressure him in a phone call to toss out legally cast ballots in Georgia.

Walter Schaub writes in the complaint, "This alleged attempt by Senator Graham to throw the election for President Trump after the fact by encouraging the very fraud he purports to be investigating threatens the fabric of our nation by undermining the very thing that makes it a republic, our elections.

Also today, Georgia's Republican Senator Kelly Loeffler violated senate rules live on TV.


SENATOR KELLY LOEFFLER (R-GA): It is so important that everyone across the country get involved and can visit to chip in $5 or $10 and get involved, volunteer.


O'DONNELL: It is an absolute violations of Senate ethics rules to do any fundraising in a federal government building.

Kelly Loeffler was standing in the Russell Senate Office Building when she solicited money for her campaign today. That is an automatic ethics violations in the Senate and should be sanctioned by the Senate Ethics Committee.

Georgia will decide which party controls the senate in an election to held on January 5 for both of Georgia's Senate seats.

Here's Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff running against Republican Senator David Perdue.


JON OSSOFF, GEORGIA DEMOCRATIC SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: I'll work with Joe Biden to beat the virus, empowering medical experts to implement a national health strategy with free testing and vaccinations. To provide immediate financial relief for working families and small businesses and an infrastructure and jobs program that will jump start our economy.

And when we get this done, next year, it is thanksgiving with the whole family. To all who have given so much this year, thank you.

Joining our discussion now is now Congresswoman-elect Carolyn Bourdeaux. She is a Democrat who just flipped Georgia's 7th Congressional District. Congresswoman-elect, thank you very much for joining us tonight. What does your victory and Joe Biden's victory in Georgia tell us about what's going to happen in the Senate races on January 5th.

CONGRESSWOMAN CAROLYN BOURDEAUX (D-GA): Well, thanks for having me here, Lawrence.

There are a couple of things. One is that we have the votes to win, we just have to turn people out. We also ran a very, very vigorous campaign to really engage the many, many diverse communities across the northern suburbs of Atlanta and that was really where we were able to make such a big difference in turning Georgia's 7th Congressional district blue.

O'DONNELL: Is it wise for Democrats to focus on control of the Senate in these campaigns or is it better to focus on the merit of the individual candidates?

BOURDEAUX: Well, I think it is a bit of both. We have some really, really strong candidates in Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock. They are people who care deeply about the community, who care deeply about working families and issues that are important to them.

But also, if we are going to accomplish anything on behalf of the people of Georgia and the American people. Getting COVID under control. Getting our children back in school. Getting our economy back on its feet, addressing the health care crisis. We're going to accomplish things.

And it's very helpful for them to win these Senate races and for Democrats to have control of the Senate.

O'DONNELL: You began by are saying, it's all about turn out. Was your race in your congressional district a turn out campaign or a persuasion campaign, trying to turn voters or a combination of both?

BOURDEAUX: Again -- yes, it's a bit of both. We worked very, very hard on turn out. We had over 150,000 new registered voters in the 7th district. So to give you a sense of the scale, we went from about 400,000 registered voters to over 550,000.

We had a 150 percent increase in Asian-American voters in the district. And then we worked really hard to get these new voters, these people who are newly engaged to turn them out. And I think that's going to be the key to victory for Jon and Raphael.

O'DONNELL: Are you surprised at the way your secretary of state Raffensperger has responded to pressure by other Republicans, Lindsey Graham calling across state lines trying to get him to throw out ballots. Are you surprised by what we've discovered and what he -- what you're secretary of state has reported.

BOURDEAUX: It is pretty shocking. The efforts that the Republicans are going to to undermine the elections in Georgia and really undermine our democracy. It is really important for everybody listening to know that this is -- they are running the election. They are running the election with the rules that they established.

So Joe Biden was able to win. I was able to win. Even in a situation where they had kind of written the rules of the game around voting.

So it is very unusual for the Republicans to be challenging the system in that way. It is their system.

O'DONNELL: Congresswoman-elect Carolyn Bourdeaux, thank you very much for joining us and please come back and join us when you become a member of Congress.

BOURDEAUX: Good to be here. Thanks for having me.

O'DONNELL: Thank you.

Up next, the Trump campaign is paying for a recount in just two counties in Wisconsin. The Wisconsin attorney general joins us next.


O'DONNELL: Back in the 2016 presidential election, Green Party candidate Jill Stein spent $3.5 million on a state-wide recount in Wisconsin which then increased Donald Trump's total by 131 votes. Donald Trump called that recount a scam. He called on voters to accept the results of the election.

Today, the Trump campaign wired $3 million to the Wisconsin Election Commission to pay for a recount of ballots in just two of the state's counties, the two most Democratic counties -- Milwaukee County and Dane County.

Joe Biden beat Donald Trump in those counties by a total of 364,298 votes and Joe Biden beat Donald Trump in the state of Wisconsin by 20,565 votes.

Today George Christiansen (ph) and Scott McDonald (ph), the clerks for Milwaukee an Dane Counties said this about the recounts.


GEORGE CHRISTIANSEN, COUNTY CLERK: I'm not surprised that they selected Dane and Milwaukee Counties. They certainly didn't select them for irregularities. They selected them because they are Democratic strongholds. Of course --

SCOTT MCDONALD, COUNTY CLERK: It's so pressuring, you know. we're trained. And George and I trained for a year and a half or more for this kind of disinformation that come from the Kremlin. You know, that's what we were trying to figure out how we were going to mitigate that disinformation and point it out. A lot of these -- we never thought it would be coming from ourselves, from within the United States.


O'DONNELL: Joining us now is Wisconsin attorney general Josh Kaul. General Kaul, can you tell us what you expect in this recount process and whether it will lead to any possible election litigation trying to overturn the results?

JOSH KAUL, WISCONSIN ATTORNEY GENERAL: Well, first, the recount itself is virtually certain to confirm what we already know which is that Joe Biden won Wisconsin by about 20,000 votes. As you mentioned before, we had a recount four years ago and the change in net change for the candidates was about 131 votes.

We had one after 2011 state supreme court races and the kinds of (INAUDIBLE) state wide recounts are in the hundreds. Nothing even approaching 20,000 votes.

Now the Trump campaign does seem to be a little confused about how this process works because in the recount petition, they raised a variety of legal claims but the time for legal claims relating to the rules of the (INAUDIBLE) election is well before the election.

Even a doctrine that says can't file claims too close to an election because you need to have certainty about what the rules are. To now bring those arguments after voting has happened, after ballots have been cast and after about 20,000 more Wisconsinites voted for Joe Biden than voted for Donald Trump, it is too late for those kinds of challenges.

O'DONNELL: So will this delay the certification of results in Wisconsin.

KAUL: It shouldn't. Recount needs to be done by December 1st and that's the deadline for certifying the results. So absent some sort of court order or something else that interferes with the process moving forward, certification will have to happen on December 1st.

O'DONNELL: So it sounds like the Trump campaign believes that this is not just counting votes. But it's some kind of evidentiary discovery of some sort in which they might at the end of the process end up a legal claim. Is that it even possible if all we're doing is counting votes?

KAUL: That's what they're suggesting, you know. But that's not how the recount process works. As you said, a recount is about recounting the votes. It's about confirming that the numbers were accurate.

They may very well file a legal challenge as the recount's going on or at the end of that. but any kind of challenge like that is certain to fail.

You know, we've seen the Trump campaigns success in court post election and they keep losing case after case and the reason is because their claims have no merit. And if they would file challenge in Wisconsin. I'm confident that it would be swiftly rejected by the courts.

O'DONNELL: So Attorney General Kaul, knowing everything you know about this -- the vote count as it is, the recount process as it will work, Wisconsin's history with recounts, the likely numerical changes as a result of a recount. Would you say tonight that we know who the winner of the state of Wisconsin is?

KAUL: Yes, there's no question about who's won the state of Wisconsin. Donald Trump is basically in the equivalent position of somebody who had bought a lottery ticket but he's bought the ticket after the lottery has happened. It is over. And we know who had won this election.

O'DONNELL: That is President-Elect Joe Biden?

KAUL: That's right.

O'DONNELL: Wisconsin attorney general Josh Kaul, thank you very much for clarifying that and for joining us tonight. We really appreciate it.

KAUL: Thanks for having me.

O'DONNELL: Thank you.

Up next, Michael Osterholm, a member of the Biden transition coronavirus task force will join us as the spread of coronavirus continues aggressively in this country.


O'DONNELL: Here's President-Elect Joe Biden today in a meeting with health care workers on the day when the United States surpassed a quarter million deaths from the coronavirus with the new total of lives lost now at 251,353.


MARY TURNER, NATIONAL NURSES UNITED: I myself have held the hand of dying patients who were crying out for their family that they can't see. I've taken care of co-workers as they fight for their lives on a ventilator. I'm sorry, I'm so emotional.


TURNER: It's just --

BIDEN: You got me emotional.


O'DONNELL: The White House coronavirus task force warns in its latest weekly report that quote, "There is now aggressive, unrelenting, expanding, broad community spread across the country reaching most counties without evidence of improvement but rather further deterioration. Current mitigation efforts are inadequate and must be increased to flatten the curve to sustain the health system for both COVID and non-COVID emergencies."

Today, Pfizer announced their plans to submit within days its coronavirus vaccine to the food and drug administration for emergency use authorization. Pfizer said today the data show it's vaccine is now 95 percent effective and had no serious side effects.

Joining us now Michael Osterholm, he's the director of the Center for Infectious Disease and Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota. He is a member of president-elect Joe Biden's transition coronavirus task force.

Thank you very much for joining us tonight.


O'DONNELL: What is it -- how is it helpful for Joe Biden to have these discussions with front line workers, discussions that clearly Donald Trump has never had about what is happening today in this pandemic, in addition to all of the scientific information he gets from advisers like you?

OSTERHOLM: Well, one of the most important aspects of moving forward with this pandemic is recognizing the emotional toll as well as the physical toll.

And as you've heard me say before on this very show, what we need right now are more FDR-type moments. We need fireside chats that help tell us the story about how we're going to get from here to a vaccine this spring. And what we have to go through to get there.

And I think meetings like today with president-elect Biden really just shows his real concern, his humanness, his compassion that helps us understand that we will get there. But that it's going to take more than just the idea of it's coming.

We've got to listen and we've got to be able to communicate with those who are on the front lines who are in such pain and give them hope.

O'DONNELL: When I was just reading the language of the White House coronavirus task force today, it's clear with just over 60 days to go in the Trump administration, they have become much more free in speaking their real minds about this.

Dr. Fauci and others involved in putting out those statements about just how aggressively the coronavirus is moving.

OSTERHOLM: Yes, I think the statement actually was quite accurate. It really does depict the situation out here. We're in dire straits. As I've said throughout the last several weeks, I believe that we are in the most dangerous public health moment since 1918.

What we're seeing right now with this exponential growth is frightening in some regards. First of all just the cases, and what that means in terms of the serious illness and deaths.

But also what it's doing to our health care system is literally teetering right now. There are hospitals out there that literally are on the brink of being completely overwhelmed with a lack of staff support efforts.

So this is really a very critical moment. And I don't think the public hears that in voices from people like me and others. But hopefully, the front line workers like you saw today with that video with the president-elect will help convince people this is real.

O'DONNELL: You have been telling us that this is where we were going to be at this point in November all year. Even when, you know, we saw that early surge and then we saw the numbers start to go down in some places.

And you guaranteed us that we would see them go back up, especially at this time of year. It's happening, exactly as the way you told us.

What should we be doing, as individuals, and as communities, to get from here to the spring, possibly, where we might have access to a vaccine?

OSTERHOLM: Well, I think there's been a real sea change in our journey. You know, a few weeks ago I did a podcast where I talked about light inside the tunnel, not the end of the tunnel.

You know, with the results that we've seen over the past two weeks with these vaccines, it gives us all renewed hope that we can make a big difference in this disease. We just have hold out to get there.

So now instead of people having to just try to reduce case numbers for one more month, one more month, or one more month, we can say we need to get to the point of these vaccines arriving. And I think they're going to start arriving soon.

We won't have substantial amounts of vaccine until well into the first quarter and potentially into the second quarter of next year.

But now we can see a path out. And so we have a choice.

Do we want to continue to put ourselves at risk, swapping air with people, which we shouldn't be doing.

And getting to the point of developing immunity from natural disease, (INAUDIBLE) thousands of deaths, or can we do our best to hold out and get to those vaccines, and have a very, very different year next year?

O'DONNELL: Michael Osterholm, thank you very much for your guidance that you've been giving us consistently on this network since COVID-19 invaded our lives. We really appreciate it. Thank you very much.

OSTERHOLM: Thank you, Lawrence.

O'DONNELL: Thank you.

And a quick programming note, tomorrow night at this hour, Jonathan Capehart with President Barack Obama in conversation for the full hour. Do not miss it.

That is tonight's LAST WORD.



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