IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Transcript: The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, October 12, 2020

Guests: Dahlia Lithwick; Melissa Murray; State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta (D- PA)


Dr. Anthony Fauci is objecting to the Trump campaign using video of him in a Trump campaign ad. Dr. Anthony Fauci said that the Trump campaign should take down that ad that includes his comment. Pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson a clinical trial of a coronavirus vaccine. They announced that they are pausing clinical trials for a COVID vaccine over a patient illness. A federal judge in Pennsylvania has dismissed a lawsuit filed by the Trump campaign challenging Pennsylvania's poll-watching law which does not allow anyone to be an observer in a polling place if they don't live in the county where that polling place is located.


MADDOW: One last important note before we go tonight, Wednesday night, two nights from now, vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris is going to be here with me live for the interview day after tomorrow, Kamala Harris. That will be my first interview with Senator Harris since she became the Democratic nominee as vice president of the United States. I could not be more excited and nervous about that interview.

Again, that's Wednesday night. But I'll see you again tomorrow.


Good evening, Lawrence.

LAWRENCE O'DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Wednesday night, we will all be watching, as usual, and we were all watching when Malcolm Kenyatta appeared on your show. That's where I discovered him, along with millions of your viewers.

He's going to join us in the end of the hour. We're going to get an update on the fight against Republican and Trump voter suppression in Pennsylvania where a federal judge ruled this weekend that -- against a Trump maneuver in court. So, we'll hear from him, and, Rachel, this story tonight in California about these Republican planted boxes that look like the place where you're supposed to put your early ballot if you don't want to put it in a mailbox is clearly against any reading of California law.

So, this -- that cannot continue.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Yeah, it reminds me of those voter suppression robocalls and flyers that you used to see, where they'd say if you are going to vote Republican, the deadline to vote is election day. And if you're going to vote Democratic, the day to turn up to vote is the day after election day.

But it's almost exactly the same thing, they're basically telling people, oh, here's your official drop box. Give -- you know, drop it here, it will be fine. The cease and desist letter from the secretary of state and attorneys general hopefully is going to kibosh that. But we'll see.

O'DONNELL: Well, if the Democrats had boxes like that, the Trump campaign would be in court right now saying all of the ballots that have been put on those boxes must be disqualified right now. So, it is a wild situation. It's really -- we'll be watching it.

MADDOW: Yeah, indeed. Well done, my friend. Thank you.

O'DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel.

Well, for 1,361 days now, the majority of Americans have spent every day in indignant disapproval of the assault on decency, the assault on sanity, the assault on the rule of law and the out of control, bizarre of corruption that is the Trump presidency.

No presidency in the country's history has visited such a staggering emotional weight on a majority of the population every single day for 1,361 days in a row, and tonight, there might only be 22 days left in that ordeal. And that is why Donald Trump went to Florida today with 22 days left in the presidential campaign, because if Joe Biden wins Florida on election night, which he is currently on track to do in the latest polling of Florida, with a four-point lead, then we will know for a virtual certainty on election night that Donald Trump's days and the presidency will end officially on January 20th.

Florida is one of the states that will have most of its early mail-in ballots counted on election night, and so, we might have a clean winner Florida on election night. Donald Trump's desperate attempt to win Florida, took a super spreader event that he held in an airport in Florida tonight, with people packed in, close together, mostly not wearing masks as if there is no COVID-19 in Florida.

The Trump team is doing what losing campaigns do in October. Leaking quotes to the news media about all the mistakes being made inside their campaign by other team. Axios reports tonight, the Trump campaign is more worried that ever, that seniors, a crucial voting bloc, are abandoning Trump over his handling of the pandemic.

He really F'd up with seniors when he said not to worry about the virus and not to let it control your life, one Trump adviser told "Axios". There are so many grandparents who have gone almost a year without being able to see grandchildren, and so many of those grandparents live in Florida.

In a new national poll of likely voters by "The Washington Post" and NBC News, Joe Biden leads Donald Trump by 12 points, 54 to 42. Fifty-eight percent of voters in the poll disapprove of Donald Trump's handling of the coronavirus outbreak. Joe Biden is ahead in the polls of states that Donald Trump won by less than 1 percent of the vote last time.

In a Michigan poll of likely voters, Joe Biden is now eight points ahead of Donald Trump, 48-40. In Wisconsin poll of likely voters, Joe Biden is 10 points ahead of Donald Trump, 51-41. In a Pennsylvania poll of likely voters, Joe Biden is 7 points ahead of Donald Trump, 51-44.

"Axios" is reporting that candidate Trump wants to have a rally every day between now and November 3rd. Last week, Minnesota health officials said that nine people who had contracted the coronavirus reported attending a Trump rally in Minnesota last month. Two of those people were hospital hospitalized.

Before today's Trump rally in Florida, two Florida business owners spoke to "The Daily Beast". One local business owner who asked to be quoted anonymously over fears of hurting their business told "The Daily Beast", no person in their right mind would do this and risk so many people.

Another local business owner called the planned rally crazy. Do I think it's safe to have this rally? No, I don't, they said.

Am I kind of just over it all? Yes. Am I worried that it's not for our community health wise? Yeah, I don't think it's good for our community.

Today, Jake Tapper asked Dr. Anthony Fauci how worried he is from a public health perspective about the Trump campaign rallies.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: Put aside all of the issues of what political implications a rally has and just put that aside and look it purely in the context of public health -- we know that that asking for trouble when you do that. We've seen that when you have situations of congregate settings where there are a lot of people without masks. The data speak for themselves.


O'DONNELL: Joe Biden is following all CDC guidelines and state guidelines in his campaign appearances, as Joe Biden campaigned in Ohio state, which is a must-win state for Donald Trump, because no Republican has ever won the presidency without winning Ohio where Joe Biden is now polling one point ahead of Donald Trump, which is a statistical tie, within the margin of error.

Joe Biden told Ohio voters today that Donald Trump told Bob Woodward just how dangerous the coronavirus was on February 7th but Trump did not tell the people of Ohio or anyone else in the country.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Ask yourself why didn't he tell us? Why didn't he warn us? He said nothing.

He told Woodward he didn't want to panic the American people. That's why he said nothing. We don't panic! America doesn't panic.

But Trump panicked. His reckless personal conduct since his diagnosis has been unconscionable. The longer Donald Trump is president, the more reckless he seems to get.

As a consequence to his once overwhelming lying and misleading, irresponsible action on the part of Donald Trump, how many empty chairs were around your breakfast table this morning? Someone you love, someone you cared about. Someone you knew, a family member, a neighbor. Missing, missing. And why? Because of negligence.


O'DONNELL: Whenever the Trump presidency ends, Trump enablers will be coming out of the woodwork to tell us all about all the crazy things that they heroically talked Trump out of doing, from possibly starting a nuclear war with North Korea, to wearing a Superman costume. "The New York Times" is reporting tonight, in several phone calls last weekend from the presidential suite at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Mr. Trump shared an idea he was considering.

When he left the hospital, he wanted to appear frail at first when people saw him, according to people with knowledge of the conversations, but underneath his button down dress shirt, he would wear a Superman t-shirt which he would reveal as a symbol of strength when he ripped open the top layer. He ultimately did not go ahead with the stunt.

Someone is going to be taking credit for that some day. I'm the guy who talked Trump out of doing the Superman thing.

After 1,361 days of unrelenting Trump madness, I for one am left speechless about the Superman thing, which is why Eugene Robinson is our first guest tonight because Pulitzer Prize winners are never at a lost of words.

Leading off our discussion tonight is Eugene Robinson, associate editor and Pulitzer Prize winning columnist for "The Washington Post". Also with us, David Plouffe, former campaign manager and White House senior adviser to President Barack Obama. He is the host of the podcast, "Campaign HQ". Both are MSNBC political analysts.

And, David, forgive me, but you are a mere technician. Yes, a brilliant campaign technician, who has risen to those heights where you are breathed that thinner air of presidential campaign victory twice. But it takes a poet, it takes a big thinker to consider Donald Trump in his hospital bed thinking about the Superman t-shirt, thinking about what shirt, what tie combo he would wear over the Superman t-shirt.

And for that, I return to you, Eugene Robinson, to start tonight's discussion. And, Gene, is that eternal question, is it the steroids or the stupidity? I hand it to you, Gene.

EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Thanks so much for the buildup, Lawrence, because what can I say? What can I tell you? This is -- one of the craziest things we have heard in the entire length and breath of the Trump presidency, and that is saying a lot.

But it could be the dexamethasone speaking. Or it could be Trump's desperation. It is, you know, certainly, one aspect of it. And this I'm sure, it would have been a buffo episode, in his mind, a buffo episode of the Trump show. The bailey reality show that he produces.

So, you know, in that day's episode, he would be Superman and the next day, he would have to do something else. I mean, this is -- this is what we're reduced to. This is what we're reduced to in the presidency of the United States. I never thought I would be here. But here we are, 22 days.


ROBINSON: Let's get it over with.

O'DONNELL: You get the easy ones, Gene.

David, you have had to hold two presidential campaigns together with your steadfast airline pilot-like calm, especially on these turbulent days, the 22 days that are left. Take our audience through the polling numbers, through the numbers that you see, and if it's possible, throw in a parenthesis about what you think the Superman t-shirt would have done to tonight's polling numbers.

DAVID PLOUFFE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I'm not sure Trump can go much lower, Lawrence, but I think (INAUDIBLE)

So, you know, he may not have worn a Superman t-shirt under his shirt but he is proudly wearing a super spreader shirt, OK?

So, the event today in Florida, if he's going to be out there every day, I guarantee you the Biden campaign would pay for him to do these rallies. He's losing the race. You just went through the polls.

So, for him to win, he has to win the turnout battle almost in historic numbers. He's got to win every undecided, there's not many left, and then a bunch of people who now say they're voting for Joe Biden, he has to pull up. But the rallies underscore one of the chief arguments that voters have against Trump, which is he's been reckless.

So, he is out without a mask. The governor of Florida is running around, high-fiving, nobody in the crowd has a mask. What he says today, he is talking about running out to the crowd and kissing everyone. It's bizarre behavior.

And the other thing that is important about these polls, Lawrence, we talked about this. Biden is not leading at 44. He is leading in battlegrounds, 49, 50, 51.

The other thing is, people are voting now in numbers we've ever seen. We are north of 10 million votes today. By the end of the week, my guess is that's going to be close to 20 million. There are some states that have already cast a quarter of the vote.

So, you are behind in the race, and votes are coming off the table, you have to be at your best. And so, these rallies to me set back the Trump cause, in a way you never seen.

And when you close a presidential campaign, Lawrence, I've been there, you -- every minute, every day, every word, every visual, you take enormously seriously. And we are seeing the counter from Trump, because these events right now I think are adding vote to Joe Biden as opposed to helping Donald Trump.

O'DONNELL: And, Gene, when you hear David talk about what a campaign is supposed to be doing in these final 22 days, that's exactly what we're seeing Joe Biden do.

Every word counts. He makes every word count. He doesn't waste any. He doesn't throw them around recklessly, and then you cut to the Trump campaign, and it's like 2016 or it's like any over day in the Trump presidency.

ROBINSON: That's absolutely right and you see where Joe Biden is. Joe Biden was in Ohio. Ohio, a state that President Trump absolutely has to have. You can't give Ohio to Joe Biden and expect to win the presidency. That's not just because no Republican has won the presidency without Ohio. It's just the math doesn't work without Ohio for Trump yet.

He's got -- Trump has to play defense. Ohio, he has to play defense in a lot of states that he carried the last time.

You know, David is absolutely right, that these rallies are not helping his cause but one thing they are doing is getting him free media or earned media in -- out no these states where he doesn't have the money to compete on the airways with Joe Biden. Joe Biden has got a lot more money.

And so, one of the reasons why Trump wants to be on the campaign trail every day I think is not just to satisfy his own ego. It's to make up in part for the money advantage that Biden has going down the stretch.

O'DONNELL: David, a state like California which is going to deliver the most votes of any state, they probably won't have its final count for about 15 days at least after Election Day. I think we know how that is going to turn out, where those electoral votes are going to go.

But Florida might actually have a declared winner on election night. If that winner is Joe Biden on election night in Florida, what does it tell us?

PLOUFFE: Well, honestly, Lawrence, it kind of drives me crazy. The way the system works, if you get enough votes, you get the Electoral College, you are the president.

In the way, we're playing Donald Trump's game, which is, you know, Biden is going to win by a lot, he's going to win early.

That being said, if he wins Florida from an electoral college standpoint, that's check mate. Voters in Florida don't behave dramatically different from voters in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Michigan. So, if those states are not able to be called that night, we have a lot of mail in ballots, you're going to make a demographic assumptions.

Eugene just talked about Ohio. Ohio counts their ballots ahead of time, as does the state of Arizona. So we're going to know. The experts at NBC, at Fox, at CNN, the data analysts who look at where the election is on election night and what's likely to come in, unless it's razor close, are going to know.

But there's no doubt for the country's sake, if Joe Biden were to win Florida and Ohio, let's say, and some other states can't get called, then I think that night, you may not be able to declare all the states but you might be able to declare Joe Biden the president.

But Florida to me is important just because it's a back breaker. I mean, it's 29 electoral votes off the table. Michigan looks quite good for Biden. I think the most important state in terms of over the last 30 days has been Wisconsin, which looked really close. Now, Biden has opened up a pretty lead there.

So, I feel very good about those two states right now. So, Florida is just essential and right now, Biden has the lead because of the strength of seniors amongst other factors.

O'DONNELL: My personal tip for voters out there dealing with emotions of the next 22 days, stay calm and listen to David Plouffe. David, thank you very much for joining us. And, Eugene, I can never thank you enough for taking on the burden of the Superman thing tonight. Thank you, Gene.

ROBINSON: Any time.


O'DONNELL: And when we come back, Donald Trump has already told us that he expects, has essentially demanded that his Supreme Court nominee overturn Roe versus Wade, overturn the Affordable Care Act, and overturn the election results if Joe Biden wins.

Dahlia Lithwick and Professor Melissa Murray will join us next to discuss the Supreme Court confirmation hearing that is already unlike any we have ever seen.


O'DONNELL: Senator Kamala Harris has a Secret Service detail protecting her life 24 hours a day now, now that she's the vice presidential candidate of the Democratic Party.

And Senator Harris chose not to risk her life by going into a room today in the Hart Senate Office Building with more than 50 people in it with at least two people who have contracted the coronavirus. One is Donald Trump's nominee for the Supreme Court, Judge Amy Barrett, who was reportedly infected with COVID-19 this summer, and the other is the ultra reckless Republican Senator Mike Lee who was foolishly hugging people publicly on camera without a mask in the White House Rose Garden at what Dr. Anthony Fauci has called a super spreader event where Judge Barrett's nomination was announced.

Mike Lee who may still infectious maintained his reckless ways today by taking off his mask to speak, and we say in this shot, not social distancing when privately speaking with other people in the room, like Chairman Lindsey Graham who has refused to take a COVID test to prove that he does not have COVID-19 and is not infectious.

Senator Harris made her open remarks remotely from her Senate office.


SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: This hearing should have been postponed. The decision to hold this hearing is reckless and places facilities workers, janitorial staff, aides and Capitol police at risk. Not to the mention that while tens of millions of Americans are struggling to pay their bills, the Senate should be prioritizes coronavirus relief and providing financial support to those families.


O'DONNELL: Every Democrat on the committee accused Republicans of rushing the nomination so that Judge Barrett can join the Supreme Court before a November 10th hearing when the court will consider declaring the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional.


SEN. SHELDON WHITEHOUSE (D-RI): This Supreme Court nominee has signaled in the judicial equivalent of all caps that she believes the Affordable Care Act must go and the precedent protecting the ACA doesn't matter. The big secret to influences behind this unseemly rush see this nominee as a judicial torpedo they're firing at the ACA.

So, I hope the Republicans consider what is at stake for the many people who depend right now on this pandemic on ACA health coverage.


O'DONNELL: When she was a law professor, Amy Barrett sharply criticized Chief Justice Roberts in a law review essay about the Roberts opinion upholding the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act.

She wrote: Chief Justice Roberts pushed the Affordable Care Act behind its plausible meaning to save the statute. You'll be hearing many references to that statement when the questioning of Judge Barrett begins tomorrow in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Joining us now, Dahlia Lithwick, senior editor and legal correspondent for and host of the podcast "Amicus", and professor Melissa Murray of the New York University School of Law. She is a MSNBC contributor. She served as a law clerk to Judge Sonia Sotomayor at the U.S. Court of Appeals in the Second Circuit.

And, Dahlia, let me begin with you on the question of the Affordable Care Act. I assume, tomorrow, we will be treated to Judge Barrett kind of pretending she never said what she said and the Roberts opinion and/or what she said about it does not tell you how she is going to rule on it.

DAHLIA LITHWICK, SENIOR EDITOR AND LEGAL CORRESPONDENT, SLATE.COM: Hey, Lawrence. I think that is fair. If I were to be perfectly fair-minded, I tell you it's a different case. It raises slightly different issues, and so, maybe she will be able to plausibly say, oh, I was critiquing that particular appeal, this one is different.

But I think we're going get an awful lot of her making claims that every single thing I ever wrote in any law review, any speech I ever gave, any statement I ever made is null and void because as of today, I'm a brain in a vat, balls and strikes all the way.

And I think you're right to flag this is a nominee who actually has a copious, copious written and spoken record on a lot of issues. She is not a mystery, and so, I think to sort of make the claim that all bets are off because either now it's the Supreme Court or because I'm just fair now I think is really what we're going to get.

O'DONNELL: Now, in the today's United States Senate, history begins wherever you want it to begin. Let's listen to the way that Senator Blackburn describes the tensions that exist in the Senate over Supreme Court confirmations.


SEN. MARSHA BLACKBURN (R-TN): It was the Democrats who took an ax to process in 2018 when they dropped last minute unsubstantiated sexual assault allegations against Justice Kavanaugh. We still don't have the full story about their level and manner of coordination with activists and mainstream media outlets. But what we know is that they turned that confirmation into a circus. And on that note, it is hard to take seriously their complaints about moving too quickly.


O'DONNELL: Professor Murray, Senator Blackburn apparently doesn't remember what happened in the last year of the Obama presidency.

MELISSA MURRAY, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, it does seem that timeline is now 2018. I thought this is a remarkable moment in the hearings this morning to have the specter of the Kavanaugh confirmation resuscitated essentially in what was an introduction to the American people for Amy Coney Barrett. So, this is a surprising move and I think one that as you say completely disregarded anything that came before in 2016 with that failed nomination of Merrick Garland.

O'DONNELL: Now, the Republicans are desperate hoping that someone will do something that no one has ever done in the Senate, which is attack the Catholic religion of the nominee. They didn't come close to it. They hadn't said a word like that, but some of them managed to hear it what you say. Let's listen to Senator Hawley.


SEN. JOSH HAWLEY (R-MO): Now, I just heard my colleague Senator Coons make a reference to an old case, the Griswold case, which I can only assume is another hit at Judge Barrett's religious faith, referring to the Catholic doctrinal beliefs. I don't know what else it could be, since no one has challenged this case. It's not a live issue, and hasn't been for decades.

This is the kind of thing I'm talking about and this is the sort of attacks that must stop.


O'DONNELL: And Dahlia, the Griswold case being interpreted that way is something I for one have never heard before and just for the record, Senator Coons' wife is Catholic.

DAHLIA LITHWICK, PODCAST HOST, "AMICUS" : It was a really odd move, Lawrence. Griswold, as you'll recall, was the foundation on which Roe was built. What it protected was a right of a married couple who used contraception in the privacy of their own home and their own marriage.

So I think the notion that Senator Hawley thinks this is something like -- to speak the words, Griswold versus Connecticut is to make some kind of anti-Catholic claim was so strange. Although I think in a weird way, it does send up a flare about the ways in which Judge Barrett, who has written or signed a letter saying life begins at fertilization, who seems to have a lot of problems with where life begins in terms of this conversation around Roe.

I think to signal that maybe contraception is in play, maybe IVF, maybe surrogacy, maybe all of those things are both on the chopping block and not to be discussed. I think it's a really, really, bad, bad play for Senator Hawley.

O'DONNELL: Professor Murray, we have a president who has said he needs the ninth justice in over to overturn the election results for him if Joe Biden wins. He has said, we need the ninth justice to throw out the ballots.

This is something that has never occurred, nothing like it in the history of these confirmations. And normally what the president has said to the nominee is not part of the testimony. But it couldn't be more relevant this time.

MELISSA MURRAY, PROFESSOR, NEW YORK UNIVERSITY: Yes, that is certainly the case. We have never heard anything like that. We have never had a president to sort of signal that any justice that he put on the court would be ruling in the president's favor. So this is all very unusual.

Ostensibly Judge Barrett knows that. She avoided making any explicit reference to President Trump today. She referred to him only as the president when she thanked him for the nomination. But otherwise, he didn't make any other references. So I think she's doing a studious job to avoid associating with the president in that particular way. And she's going to sort of focus on the record.

But that was an alarming statement for the president to make and certainly unprecedented as you said.

O'DONNELL: Dahlia Lithwick and Professor Melissa Murray -- thank you both for joining us tonight. Really appreciate it.

And when we come back, Dr. Anthony Fauci is warning the Trump campaign to not do it again. And he threatened what he called backfire, if they do.


O'DONNELL: We have breaking news tonight from the pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson about a clinical trial of a coronavirus vaccine. They announced that they are pausing clinical trials for a COVID vaccine over a patient illness. Johnson and Johnson has released a statement saying, "We have temporarily paused further dosing in all our COVID-19 vaccine candidate clinical trials including the phase three ensemble trial due to an unexplained illness in a study participant. The participant's illness is being reviewed and evaluated by the ensemble independent data safety monitoring board as well as our internal clinical and safety physicians.

Dr. Anthony Fauci is objecting to the Trump campaign using video of him in a Trump campaign ad. This weekend Dr. Fauci issued a written statement saying, "In my nearly five decades of public service, I have never publicly endorsed nor do I now endorse any political candidates. The comments attributed to me without my permission in the GOP campaign ad were taken out of context.

The Trump company edited the video in such a way that it appeared that Dr. Fauci was talking about Donald Trump when he said quote, "I can't imagine that anybody could be doing more." Dr. Fauci says that that was a statement he made months ago about the efforts of federal public health officials, not Donald Trump, who on the same day, Dr. Fauci first objected to the campaign ad said this about the coronavirus.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's going to disappear. It is disappearing.


O'DONNELL: That's Donald Trump on Saturday and it is not disappearing anywhere in the United States. 32 states and Washington, D.C. have reported an increase in coronavirus cases over the last two weeks. That includes Pennsylvania where Donald Trump is planning to hold a rally tomorrow.

Earlier tonight, Donald Trump held what looked like a super spreader event in Florida, where no one in the crowd was social distancing, and most people were not wearing masks, including the governor of Florida.

This graphic shows that the states with the most coronavirus cases per capita since June are states that have voted Republican in at least the last two presidential elections.

Today, Dr. Anthony Fauci said that the Trump campaign should take down that ad that includes his comment.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASEE: I think it's really unfortunate and really disappointing that they did that. It's so clear that I'm not a political person. And I have never either directly or indirectly endorsed a political candidate. And to take it completely out of context statement and put it in which is obviously a political campaign ad I felt was really very disappointing.


O'DONNELL: When Jake Tapper told Dr. Fauci that the Trump campaign might be creating another ad using Dr. Fauci, Dr. Fauci warned that the Trump campaign not to do it and said it could quote, "backfire on them", end quote if they did use him in another campaign ad. Use of the word "backfire" indicates Dr. Fauci might be considering something much stronger than a written statement if the Trump campaign does it again.

Joining our discussion now, Dr. Ashish Jha, the dean of the Brown University School of Public Health. And Dr. Jha, before we get in the breaking news about the vaccine tonight, which I would like to discuss, I just want to show this ad put out by Republicans against Trump. This is Olivia Troye who used to work in the coronavirus task force. And I want to show it before we get into our discussion because I don't want to drag you into the politics of this. Let's take a look at this.


OLIVIA TROYE, FORMER WHITE HOUSE AIDE: I'm Olivia Troye. I worked on the coronavirus task force from day one, side by side with Dr. Anthony Fauci. I witnessed Donald Trump and senior White House officials routinely sideline and discredit Dr. Fauci both privately and publicly.

And now the Trump campaign is putting Dr. Fauci's words in their campaign ad for their own political gain. It's gross and upsetting. And typical of a White House that has no regard for the truth.

For Donald Trump, it's always about him. For Dr. Fauci, it's always been about serving the American people.

Join me as a Republican and former Trump administration staffer who is voting for Joe Biden.


O'DONNELL: Dr. Jha, going back to that breaking news announced at the beginning of the segment, Johnson & Johnson suspending vaccine trials. What is your reading of that?

DR. ASHISH JHA, DEAN, BROWN UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: Yes, Lawrence, first thank you for having me on.

My reading of that is, you know, this is how clinical trials ought to work especially for a vaccine. If you see something that seems unusual, you should stop the trial, you should investigate. You should find out is this a one-off, is this even related to the vaccine. Or is this a more systemic problem before you continue to the trial.

It's just a reminder of the kind of absurdity of some political leaders, specifically the president, asking that a vaccine be ready by election day. It's just not how it works. We have pauses like this. They are very normal and in fact to me they are reassuring that the process by which we are developing a vaccine is working.

O'DONNELL: I want to listen to something that the president said tonight in Florida and get your reaction to a COVID patient saying something like this, talking about how that he feels immune. Let's listen to this.


TRUMP: I went through it. Now, they say I'm immune. I can -- I feel so powerful. I'll walk into that audience. I walk in there, I'll kiss everyone in that audience.


O'DONNELL: I will walk in there and I will kiss everyone in that audience. Doctor, that harkens back to behavior we heard about in the 2016 campaign with Donald Trump. But what do you make of the message that the president is delivering there?

DR. JHA: You know, Lawrence, really from day one, the president has underplayed and downplayed this virus. We don't know if he is immune. We don't even know for sure whether he is contagious or not.

And the idea that he would joke about a virus that has killed 210,000 Americans and talk about going in and kissing people, I mean it's not funny. In my mind, it's not in good taste and most importantly it sends all the wrong public health messages about how we all need to be behaving as we want to get through this pandemic.

O'DONNELL: Dr. Ashish Jha, thank you very much for joining us again tonight. We always appreciate it.

DR. JHA: Thank you, Lawrence.

O'DONNELL: Thank you.

Up next, the early votes are pouring in all over the country at levels unlike anything we have seen before. Today was the first day of early voting in Georgia and the lines looked like people were voting as if their lives depend on it. And a Trump campaign attempt at voter suppression has been struck down on a federal court in Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania state representative Malcolm Kenyatta will get tonight's LAST WORD.


O'DONNELL: Today Donald Trump mocked the size of the audiences that Joe Biden speaks to on the campaign trail because Joe Biden is observing CDC guidelines and state rules and deliberately not assembling big crowds.

But Donald Trump did not mock the size of this crowd assembled today in Georgia for the first day of in-person early voting. Georgia's deputy secretary of state tells "The Washington Post" a record-setting 120,000 votes were cast today as socially-distanced voters waited hours in lines wrapping around polling locations.

There were technical issues causing delays in at least two polling locations. Here is what one Georgia voter said after waiting in line today for four hours.


DR. CHERRY ESTELHOMME, GEORGIA VOTER: We knew what to expect. I mean, we knew for early voting, we knew that, you know, like the slogan is saying, we have to vote like our life depends on it.


DR. ESTELHOMME: This election is for real.


DR. ESTELHOMME: Like it doesn't matter how long it's going to take. Even as intimidating as the line looks, we also know it's our duty to be here.


O'DONNELL: According to U.S. Elections Project at the University of Florida, more than 9.8 million votes have already been cast in the 30 states that make the data available. At this time four years ago, only 1.4 million votes had been cast.

In the nine states that report election returns by party registration, Democrats have returned more than 2.3 million ballots by mail. Republicans have returned less than half of that 956,000 ballots.

In Florida, Democrats have returned 850,000 ballots and Republicans have returned 487,000 ballots.

In Pennsylvania, Democrats have cast 300,000 ballots while Republicans have cast 56,000 ballots. A federal judge in Pennsylvania has dismissed a lawsuit filed by the Trump campaign challenging Pennsylvania's poll-watching law which does not allow anyone to be an observer in a polling place if they don't live in the county where that polling place is located.

Pennsylvania state representative Malcolm Kenyatta has been leading the charge against Republican voter suppression in the state of Pennsylvania. And he will get tonight's LAST WORD after this break.


O'DONNELL: Donald Trump won Pennsylvania by less than 1 percent four years ago. In a poll released today Joe Biden is seven points ahead of Donald Trump in Pennsylvania, 51 to 44. Here's Joe Biden in Erie, Pennsylvania on Saturday.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: You've got to go out and make sure you vote because the only way we lose this is by the chicanery going on relative to polling places. This whole idea -- not a single, solitary, reasonable person in either party has said mail-in ballots are corrupt -- no evidence. But he's trying to make it sound that way.


O'DONNELL: Joining us now is Pennsylvania state representative Malcolm Kenyatta. Thank you very much for joining us tonight. We really appreciate it.

We all discovered you --


O'DONNELL: -- on Rachel's program recently and I've been dying to talk to you since. What is the latest state of play on getting out the vote in Pennsylvania in a fair way and overcoming the voter suppression challenges that you have already faced?

KENYATTA: I think -- and thank you, Lawrence, it's really a pleasure to be with you. And it couldn't be on a more important topic.

You see the president focusing on Pennsylvania, both campaigns really because this is going to be the decider of this election. The president has engaged now, his campaign has involved in multiple lawsuits against our democracy trying to come up with all types of reasons to cast doubt on the process and to make it more difficult for people to vote.

But that's not really a surprise with someone like Donald Trump who spent his entire career engaged in frivolous litigation. And so he's engaged in litigation. He's lying to the American people. He's doing everything but leading in a moment when we truly need a president to lead.

O'DONNELL: Now, a federal judge threw out the Trump case this Saturday. Is that the end of litigation as of now or is there more?

KENYATTA: Unfortunately, it is not. They're appealing that case yet again. And also, you know, members of the Republican caucus are also party to lawsuits and litigation that they're trying to get heard before the U.S. Supreme Court.

And so we're only about 21 days away from the election, and they're doing everything in their power to disrupt the vote. I mean it really is absurd.

You know, when a president is sworn in and they take the oath of office a part of what they're swearing to do is to protect this country. And there's nothing more central to America than our democracy. A president should be fighting to protect every single person's vote not just the people he thinks are going to vote for him.

O'DONNELL: What the Trump campaign was fighting for in that case that the federal judge threw out and now appealing, is that they want people to be able to go in and become polling observers in polling places in counties where they do not live. So that could be someone from a rural Pennsylvania county going into a Philadelphia polling place and standing there and in some cases trying to stand there, you know, with their assault weapons observing the polling place activities. That's what the Trump campaign is fighting to allow.

KENYATTA: No, that's absolutely right. And a part of the reason we don't have that is because of consent decrees that the Republican Party over many years has been party to because of their intent on trying to intimidate voters.

Listen, everybody wants certified poll watchers, you know. There will be Democratic poll watchers on election day, and there's nothing wrong with having Republican poll watchers. But there is a process by which people can become poll watchers and to do so, you know, by using all the processes that are available. Not just showing up to polling places trying to create confusion and chaos.

And the president is intent on doing that, and the Republican party is happy to help him. Because his entire career has been about perpetrating frauds and scams on people, on vulnerable people. And now the latest scam is trying to commit fraud against our democracy. And I think it's disgusting and disgraceful to watch so many Republicans at the national and state level who are happy to help him.

Are Philadelphia officials, government officials ready with a plan to defend, protect Philadelphia voters from people who are trying to interfere with their right to vote?

KENYATTA: Philadelphia knows how to run an election. They know how to do it fairly. What people need to do if they want to stop this madness is vote. You can vote early. Make sure you use that secrecy envelope so your ballot isn't thrown out with this naked ballot process which I hope people are hearing a lot about.

But people can stop this. We need to vote. But I say all the time, every issue that faces us is not going to be solved in the Oval Office, and so we need to make sure that we're electing folks at the state and local level particularly here in Pennsylvania that we're doing everything we can.

Listen, just pick a state house or a state senate race here in Pennsylvania and get to work, making phone calls, giving whatever you can because this is how we're going to stop what the president is doing.

O'DONNELL: Pennsylvania state representative Malcolm Kenyatta gets tonight's LAST WORD.

Thank you very much for joining us tonight. We really appreciate it.

KENYATTA: Thank you so much, Lawrence.



Content and programming copyright 2020 MSNBC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Copyright 2020 ASC Services II Media, LLC. All materials herein are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content.