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Transcript: The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, September 10, 2020

Guests: Eric Swalwell, Amy Klobuchar, Joel Benenson, William Weld


Interview with Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA). Interview with Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN). Vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris was campaigning today in the crucial swing state of Florida where, as of tonight the Biden/Harris campaign is ahead by two points in the latest poll. Joe Biden said Donald Trump's failure to deal honestly and effectively with the coronavirus has cost lives. Joe Biden is maintaining a lead in every national poll of the presidential campaign.



Thank you for another compelling episode of book talk with Rachel Maddow. This was really, you know --



O'DONNELL: There are so many things I just want to grab you about before you go, beginning with the end of the discussion about Mike Flynn. That scenario that maybe Michael Flynn lied to the FBI in a way that surprised them so much because he knew these questions were coming, maybe he did that because he was directed to do that by someone. Who could that someone be? Donald Trump.

That's a scenario I had not considered before hearing it here tonight.

MADDOW: And it puts a whole new cast on the gymnastics that the Trump administration and now Bill Barr are going through to try to get Flynn protected. I mean, he did cooperate to a certain extent with the Mueller investigation. And then he stopped. And then he was going to go to prison.

And then they intervened to make this thing go away so he doesn't have to go to prison. If he was lying to the FBI because he was protecting the president from being exposed for his secret communications with the Russian government during the transition -- I mean, that's a -- that's a whole different thing. That would also put a very different cast on any effort by the president to pardon Mike Flynn because even though the president's pardon power is absolute, you can't pardon somebody to protect yourself, at least arguably.

So, it's just -- the Strzok book is I think, really, quite important.

O'DONNELL: And that would also have possibly included some kind of communication to Michael Flynn that there is a pardon. There is something coming. We're going to help you work your way out of this. Pull out of that guilty plea.

Because we saw the most dramatic change of legal strategy by a defendant that I have ever seen, a guy who makes it very clear a couple times under oath, yes, I committed these crimes to then changing lawyers suddenly and making another claim that had no legal meaning whatsoever to anyone other than Attorney General William Barr.

MADDOW: Yes. And the interrogation of that process is going to happen in open court in the federal district of D.C. on September 29th, the day of the first presidential debate. That judge gets to interrogate this bizarre unheard of process that they went through to try to snatch Mike Flynn from the jaws of defeat.

And I -- the fact that all these things are happening at the same time and the prospect that Strzok is raising what Michael Flynn could be covering up for, this is hot stuff.

O'DONNELL: Yes. Listening to Mr. Strzok who he spent his lifetime studying these kinds of questions and has gathered a lifetime of information in an arena that you would think would give him some real insight into what is the grip that Vladimir Putin appears to have on Donald Trump.

And it turns out that where we are now is he seems to be in the same place as all of the people out there in the country who have just had the feeling that it must be financial. It's Donald Trump. It is some kind of grip. It must be financial.

But he doesn't know definitively anything more than we do because that investigation was never really conducted.

MADDOW: And while he was never -- he was setting up that investigation, right? So we know who he was enlisting in terms of FBI fire power for that investigation. We know that they had initial leads set up to do that investigation such that they knew they had to put together what he described as a 60-person team to go after this stuff. He references President Trump's financial ties to Russia and Russians going back to the '80s. I mean, he gives you a lot of the ends of the threads here.

Obviously, anything that's related to an ongoing investigation or something that might be an ongoing investigation he can't talk about. But the implication between this and what Mike Schmidt just reported in his book in "The New York Times" within the last two weeks is that the financial investigation into the president and what leverage they have, they might have over him has never been done, even though it was started and set up, it has never been carried out as far as we can tell.

You know, and then we've got good old Michael Cohen of all people saying in his new book and telling me two nights ago that when, you know, President Trump was doing deals during the Obama administration, he completely believed, not through some sort of esoteric analysis, but completely believes that the tens of millions of dollars he was m making and those inexplicable real estate transactions during the Obama administration was Vladimir Putin paying him.

So you put these things together and you see the Russian effort to try to re-elect him, and it's just -- it's all in the open. It is just a question of whether we're going to fight it.

O'DONNELL: Rachel, something you just said that I didn't quite understand. You said Michael Cohen was on your show two nights ago. Why does that feel like two weeks ago? Is that just this news week? That was two nights ago. Wow.

MADDOW: I have realized that time ceases to follow any linear cascade when you don't sleep between days, and so that's what I think I have been doing wrong.

O'DONNELL: Uh-huh. Rachel, we have Eric Swalwell joining us. That means we're going to have tonight on MSNBC, two people, including you, two people who have read the Strzok book. We're also going to ask him something I know you are concerned about, the California fires. He represents the congressional district in California. I want to ask him what the situation is there and what he expects to see there in the next couple of weeks. It is a really grim situation out there.

MADDOW: My parents live in Congressman Swalwell's district. And they live in a house that I grew up in there, and we have all been in my entire family, we're all riveted by that news and very concerned. So I am glad you have got him on about that.

O'DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW: Thanks, Lawrence.

O'DONNELL: Let's go to straight to Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell of California. He's a member of the House Intelligence Committee, House Judiciary Committee.

And, Congressman, you were one of the lucky ones who's been able to read Peter Strzok's book already. What -- first of all, what did you hear in Rachel's interview tonight that struck you?

REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA): Well, thank you for having me back, Lawrence.

I am concerned that we don't know what we need to know about Donald Trump to protect the country from what Russia has on him. We have deep suspicions and all of the arrows continue to point in the same direction.

When I was a prosecutor, each new witness that I interviewed, you would always chart out whether the information they're giving you points more toward guilt or if it points toward innocent. And actually in the law, you are told that if you can draw a reasonable conclusion that information may point in both directions, you're to give the suspect the benefit of the doubt and say that it points towards innocence.

Here, everything we learn in these books from Michael Cohen or Peter Strzok, or Michael Schmidt's reporting, or even Bob Woodward's book, it all points toward guilt. It points to a compromised relationship that the president has where he continues to act in their interest, and we don't know exactly what this is because he blocks us at every effort to try to find out what the financial relationship is.

O'DONNELL: Well, and Peter Strzok's identified basically a lie Donald Trump told publicly in 2016 when he was campaigning for president about the financial relationship.

Let's listen to what Peter Strzok said about that with Rachel in the last hour.


PETER STRZOK, FORMER FBI OFFICIAL: I think that the places that he has exposure, the places where somebody like Russia can place leverage over him, some of those examples, many are classified still, but some have become public and some of those points to exactly the sort of financial coercion, things like his lies, frankly, on the campaign trail in 2016 that he had no financial relationship with Russia that clearly isn't the truth.


O'DONNELL: Congressman, we all remember that very clearly, him saying, no, no, no. No financial ties whatsoever. Michael Cohen now telling us, oh, yes, we were trying to work out a Moscow deal during the presidential campaign.

SWALWELL: That's right, Lawrence. And when you put the president in different scenarios, you don't have to do hypothetical scenarios. We have seen him standing next to Putin.

Who does he choose, America or Russia? He chooses Russia for who is responsible for interfering in the election and takes their side.

You look at what happened with Skripal, the poisoning in Britain back in 2018. Other countries are asking him to condemn Russia and who does he choose? He says, I would rather follow than lead on this, which is to benefit Russia.

You look most recently at Vladimir Putin's opponent who was just poisoned. What does he do? He chooses the Russian side by saying we haven't yet seen all of the evidence.

This is not a hypothetical, theoretical example of somebody being compromised and acting as an agent. He actually does it in every scenario, real life scenario that he's in.

O'DONNELL: What are those important points that you found in Peter Strzok's book?

SWALWELL: Well, I think his faith in the men and women at the FBI that they are still going to do their job if they're allowed to is reassuring. The problem, though, that I see is that even if you have good-natured, hardworking people with integrity, if they don't have leadership at the top -- meaning from the president and other folks -- they are going to do their job and keep most of this private and confidential and away from the American people. And we have to make decisions in the next 54 days about who our leader will be.

And so, it really is going to take whistleblowers to come forward, Lawrence, through the legal channels as we just recently saw with the Department of Homeland Security if the person people will truly know the rot that is happening at the very top of the Trump administration.

O'DONNELL: Congressman Swalwell, we have a couple minutes left. And I don't want to run out of time to discuss the California fires, and we may even have some time to come back to this, but you represent a congressional district, Rachel was just saying where she grew up, in northern California.

What is the situation in California tonight and in your district tonight?

SWALWELL: Thank you for asking that, Lawrence. I was at home yesterday and back in Washington now.

And it's an orange glow in the Bay Area. It's an ominous warning that we have to act on climate.

So, first, thank you to the firefighters who are on the front lines. Tomorrow, it's 19 years since September 11th and we saw the bravery of firefighters there, and we have thousands right now fighting these fires.

In my district, we have an all-clear right now as far as evacuation warnings. But we know we're at the beginning of fire season, not at the end.

And, Lawrence, what's disturbing is, you know, people say, wow, I can't remember a fire season that has been this hot or this smoky, but I'm afraid that this may be the least hot and least smoky fire season in the next hundred years if we don't act on climate, that each year will be not as bad as the year to come.

So, it really is a flashing visual warning for us that we have to act.

O'DONNELL: Congressman Eric Swalwell, thank you very much for starting off our discussion tonight. We really appreciate it.

SWALWELL: My pleasure. Thank you, Lawrence.

O'DONNELL: Wait until you hear what Donald Trump did last night instead of leading the country in the fight against the coronavirus. That's next.


O'DONNELL: Today, clinging to the wreckage of his presidency, Donald Trump confessed why he has no idea how to be president of the United States.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I watch some of the shows. I watch Liz McDonald. She's fantastic. I watched Fox Business. I watched Lou Dobbs last night, Sean Hannity last night, Tucker last night, Laura. I watched "Fox and Friends" in the morning.

You watch these shows, you don't have to go too far into the details. They cover things that are -- it's really an amazing thing.


O'DONNELL: Last night, the president of the United States watched five straight nonstop hours of Fox lunacy, and then he started his day today by watching three more hours of the same stuff, and he admitted that today in a press conference where he was trying to recover from the things that he admitted on tape to Bob Woodward, and Bob Woodward's new book "Rage."

Donald Trump is always the most damning witness against Donald Trump as he was today when he told us what he was doing last night for five hours, instead of reading the Harvard School of Public Health's new report on the impact of coronavirus on households in major U.S. cities. The Harvard report studied America's four largest cities and says half or more households in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Houston report facing serious financial problems during the coronavirus outbreak, with issues ranging from depleting their savings to serious problems paying rent.

Donald Trump doesn't know that because he spent five hours last night watching Fox, and three hours this morning as he does every night and every morning. When Donald Trump went to the White House briefing room today to try to rescue his re-election campaign from being swamped by the Bob Woodward book, he finally faced a first question that should have been the first question to Donald Trump every time he has submitted to reporters questions since he became a presidential candidate and then president of the United States.

We had to wait until the end of the fourth year of the Trump presidency for the first question to Donald Trump to finally be: why did you lie to the American people?


REPORTER: Why did you lie to the American people? And why should we trust what you have to say now?

TRUMP: That's a terrible question in the phraseology. I didn't lie. What I said is we have to be calm. We can't be panicked.

REPORTER: This is worst than the most strenuous flu.


REPORTER: And then you went on to say it's just like the flu.

TRUMP: What I went on and said is very simple. What I went on and said is very simple. I want to show a level of confidence and I want to show strength as a leader.


O'DONNELL: For Donald Trump, showing confidence and strength always means moving his hands very strangely and lying, because he has no confidence and he has no strength and he never has had either of those things.

Donald Trump now stands accused in the court of public opinion of being personally responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of people who would not have died if Donald Trump had told America what he told Bob Woodward on February 7th.


TRUMP: It goes through air, Bob. That's always tougher than the touch. You know, the tough, you don't have to touch things, right?

But the air, you just breathe the air, and that's how it passed. And so that's a very tricky one. That's a very delicate one.

It's also more deadly than your, you know, even your most strenuous flus. You know, people don't realize we lose 25,000, 30,000 people a year here, who would ever think that, right?

BOB WOODWARD, JOURNALIST: I know, it's much forgotten.

TRUMP: I mean, it's pretty amazing. And then I say, well, is that the same thing?

WOODWARD: What are you able to do for --

TRUMP: This is more deadly. This is five per -- you know, this is 5 percent versus 1 percent and less than 1 percent, you know. So this is deadly stuff.


O'DONNELL: If on February 7th, Donald Trump had told the American people it goes through the air. You just breathe the air. That's how it's passed. It's also more deadly than the flu. It's pretty amazing. This is deadly stuff.

If he had said that to the American people on February 7th, thousands of people who have been killed by the coronavirus would be alive today.

That's why -- that's why Kristin Urquiza said this last night.


KRISTIN URQUIZA, LOST HER FATHER, MARK, TO COVID-19: I don't know if this is the coronavirus any longer or if it's the Trump virus.


O'DONNELL: Kristin's father died of coronavirus in June. Kristin says his only pre-existing condition was believing Donald Trump.

Today, Joe Biden said this.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: He acknowledges that you breathe it. It's in the air, and he won't put on a mask. He's talking about it's ridiculous to put on masks. What do you need social distancing for? Why have any of these rules?

It was all making sure the stock market didn't come down, that his wealthy friends didn't lose any money, and that he could say that, in fact, anything that happened had nothing to do with him.

He waived the white flag. He walked away. He didn't do a damn thing. Think about it. Think about what he did not do. And it's almost criminal.


O'DONNELL: Almost criminal.

What do you call a president who doesn't even know that more Americans are unable to pay their housing costs than at any time in his lifetime? He doesn't even know that. There is not a single Republican in elected office who is trying to help those people who cannot pay for their housing in America.

The family of our next guest has been hit by the coronavirus, Senator Amy Klobuchar's house tested positive in March and has recovered. And her 92-year-old father tested positive in June and has also recovered.

Joining us our discussion now is Senator Amy Klobuchar, Democrat from Minnesota.

Now, Senator Klobuchar, first of all, I want to get your reactions from what you have learned from the revelations in Bob Woodward's book so far.

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN): I think for anyone in America, and that is a whole lot of Americans who have had this in their family where someone has gotten really sick and now we know 190,000 Americans have died. By the way, all of this is coming out the day we hit the 190,000 mark. That's today.

And when you have someone in your family that got as sick as my husband did and was -- had severe pneumonia and you think that the president was out there right when he's telling Bob Woodward and probably others, oh, this is deadly. He knows it's airborne, right around this time he's telling the American people around Valentine's Day, he actually said, this will be okay. It's going to disappear with April, you know, with the warm weather. He's saying things like, oh, it's going to be okay.

He is not being straight with people. And he, in fact, is undermining people who are trying to do the right thing.

Remember those tweets back then against the governor of New York, against the governor of Michigan, against the governor of Minnesota, putting out things to liberate states when, in fact, they were trying to do the right thing.

And with all the knowledge that the president of the United States we now know had, he kept it from the American people and worse yet he undermined people that were trying to do the right thing. And as a result, people died.

So, for me, this is very personal because it didn't have to get to where it is today.

O'DONNELL: Let's listen to two things that were said today. One by Donald Trump. The other by Dr. Anthony Fauci.


TRUMP: We're rounding the final turn. Now, we're doing the opening, and there won't be any more shutdowns.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: We need to hunker down and get through this fall and winter because it's not going to be easy.


O'DONNELL: I don't hear Dr. Fauci saying we're rounding the final turn as Donald Trump said.

KLOBUCHAR: No. And I think people have to be realistic. I've been with parents and teachers. One of my staff members, little first grader, had to learn how to use the mute button this week.

And some schools are trying to be hybrid, open in our state, and we're trying to do everything right. But we have to be realistic and follow science and whatever is safe.

So as people are struggling, as you noted, Lawrence, with the rent, as people who never thought they would be out of work are still out of work, as restaurants, small restaurants are just holding, trying to hold on -- you don't tell people, oh, it's going to be better tomorrow.

No, you say, we're making progress on a vaccine, yes. You say we're going to wait until that vaccine is safe and make sure we get it safe for people. And then we're going to do everything in our power to get it out to everyone.

But in the meantime, we are doing all we can to keep people safe and make sure that more people don't die.

That's what a president does. That's how a president leads.

You talk about masks and you talk about things that will make you safer when you go out. Instead, he tries to undermine safety because he's just looking for the next tweet and what will make him popular that day.

Well, I think that Woodward book, it sounds like it all caught up to him because he thought he could get by with making up lies in one day, but now it's all coming out. And it's coming out when people are still hurting.

O'DONNELL: Senator, keeping people safe means keeping people safe in their homes. How do we keep people in their homes when they have -- they're unable to pay their rent, they're unable to pay their mortgages?

KLOBUCHAR: Well, exactly. And you think about the fact that just today, the Republicans once again put up a skinny band-aid of a package that would not have helped the people that we need to help, that wouldn't have helped the cities, that wouldn't have helped the small restaurants I just talked to, that wouldn't have helped the way they should with testing.

And that's why we want them to pass the HEROES Act. The HEROES Act passed the House. It's been sitting on Mitch McConnell's desk. We are continuing to push them.

And the president has done nothing to help us to get that HEROES Act done. He should do it now, no matter what happens to him. If he wants to save lives of Americans and save their livelihoods, he should get that HEROES Act passed.

O'DONNELL: Joe Biden is scheduled to come to your state of Minnesota next week, at the end of the week. Are you going to be there?

And does Joe Biden need to come to Minnesota now? Does the campaign need to pay attention to that state in order to win it?

KLOBUCHAR: Well, the campaign is paying attention to every state in the country, in particular, of course, in the middle of the country.

And Minnesota was very close in the Hillary Clinton election. We did go Democratic, but it was very close. And Joe Biden wants to make sure that he wins big in our state.

And I'm so excited he's coming. He's been ahead in every poll, Lawrence.

Jill came. I was with her Tuesday. I planned to be with the vice president next week when he comes to our state, and we're just excited that he's going to be there.

Donald Trump keeps talking a big game about Minnesota, but literally, Joe Biden has been ahead in every single poll by good numbers.

O'DONNELL: Senator Amy Klobuchar, we're so glad that your husband and your 92-year-old father managed to come through the coronavirus.


O'DONNELL: We're very, very happy for you and your family.

KLOBUCHAR: All right. Thanks, Lawrence.

O'DONNELL: Thank you, Senator.

And when we come back, Senator Kamala Harris was on the battleground state of Florida today, making sure that voters there know that Donald Trump has lied and people died. Zerlina Maxwell and Jelani Cobb will join us next.



SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: We continue to have examples of the fact that this is an individual who is not concerned about the health, safety and well-being of the American people. And is, frankly, engaged in a reckless disregard of the lives and the health and well-being of the people of our country. I find it so outrageous.


O'DONNELL: Vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris was campaigning today in the crucial swing state of Florida where, as of tonight the Biden/Harris campaign is ahead by two points in the latest poll.

Senator Harris held a discussion with African-American community leaders in Miami today. Florida has been one of the states hit hardest by coronavirus with more than 12,000 confirmed deaths as of now.

Today Joe Biden said Donald Trump's failure to deal honestly and effectively with the coronavirus has cost lives.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: This caused people to die. Why in god's name didn't he move quicker on the Defense Production Act to provide PPP (SIC), you know, the protective equipment for doctors and first responders? Why didn't he do that?

Ok. He says he didn't want to panic people. But at least make sure everybody has the equipment they need.


O'DONNELL: Donald Trump is not campaigning for re-election on his record. The Trump reelection campaign message is delivered in the final frame of the campaign's latest video ad with a picture of Joe Biden kneeling in a black church with a voiceover saying, "you won't be safe in Joe Biden's America".

Joining us now is Zerlina Maxwell, senior director of Progressive Programming at Sirius XM radio and Professor Jelani Cobb, staff writer for "The New Yorker" and professor of journalism at Columbia University. Both are MSNBC political analysts.

And Zerlina, let's start with the end point there. Donald Trump has a video ad showing pictures of things that are happening while Donald Trump is president ending with, "You won't be safe in Joe Biden's America."

ZERLINA MAXWELL, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. It's really funny because it's literally the opposite of reality. Normally Donald Trump may lie by tweaking one part of his narrative to fit the reality that is in his own head. But in this case, this is Donald Trump's America.

And the fact of the matter is, Lawrence, Joe Biden makes the most important point in that clip you played. Donald Trump, regardless of whether or not he was telling us the truth, or regardless of whether or not he was telling Bob Woodward the truth in private, he didn't have anything stopping him from getting the appropriate PPE equipment and activating all of the federal levers of power to ensure that it could take care of the pandemic in terms of the actions of his job.

What he said is actually a whole separate conversation and equally problematic, but he could have done his job, and he did not do that. And that is, I think, the key point. This is Donald Trump's America, and he is the one failing.

O'DONNELL: Professor Cobb, it's striking to see vice presidential candidate Harris in Miami today and meeting with black community leaders there because in the numbers of black voters who didn't vote four years ago in Miami, there are enough to get a higher vote count for Joe Biden than Donald Trump for the state. You can win that state by turning out that vote in southern Florida.

JELANI COBB, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Sure. And I think that there are lots of Republicans in southern Florida who are aware of that. And I think that's one of the reasons why we're seeing the kinds of legislation that we have seen as of late.

As you saw the referendum that was held at the end of last year about whether or not to allow people who have formally had convictions to be re-enrolled and be registered and be eligible to vote. And that was passed only to see the legislature and the fact that we have been in a poll tax, saying that people have to pay all the financial calls and make restitution to the state before they are allowed to register to vote.

So I think we're seeing all these mechanisms that go to essentially (INAUDIBLE) of the electorate to try to offset that possibility.

O'DONNELL: Zerlina, yesterday we learned from excerpts from Bob Woodward's book when he asked Donald Trump this exchange about do you feel you should work to try to understand, as Woodward put it, do you feel you should work to try to understand the anger and the pain particularly black people feel in this country. And Donald Trump says, "No. You really drank the Kool Aid, didn't you? Listen to you. Wow, no. I don't feel that at all."

What was your reaction to the way Donald Trump answered that question?

MAXWELL: He's telling the truth, which is a rarity for Donald Trump. And so, I think that it's refreshing for Donald Trump to say how he really feels. I mean it was in private with Bob Woodward. He does not care about the pain and suffering of black people. He does not care about the pain and suffering of any Americans frankly, and that is not an opinion at this point. He has demonstrated that through his actions.

Mary Trump has a quote in her book, Lawrence, that when I got to it I stopped in my tracks. She said that she said if he can in any way profit from your death, he will facilitate it and then he will ignore the fact that you died.

And I can't stop thinking about that quote as we sit here this week with these new revelations because Donald Trump, his behavior is what cost people's lives and his failure to do his actual job.

So it's clear he doesn't care about the pain and suffering of black Americans because he's demonstrated he doesn't care about the pain and suffering of anyone.

O'DONNELL: Professor Cobb, what I was struck by in that exchange was the ease, the comfort, and I have seen this my entire life -- the ease with which white people, especially white men Donald Trump's age, will very comfortably and easily say racist things to another white man with the assumption that that is a completely acceptable thing to say.

COBB: Sure. And I think that what Trump has done, and we have seen this from the outset, that he has appealed to people who have really just kind of vicarious (INAUDIBLE) through him, be willing to say things they wanted to say in public, they're going to be said and echoed among like-minded people.

That started from the moment, he referred to Mexicans as rapists on the first day of his presidential campaign. And so there is a linear connection from that first statement to the statement now that -- surrounded by a group of black people he won't be safe in America or telling people that he wants to reduce the percentage of minorities in suburbs. He's using language of housing projects and so on.

And so I think that while we looked at this initially and were aghast and thought that all rules of politics would apply that this would be fatal to a political campaign, what we did not anticipate was the extent to which people have been yearning to just kind of you know go to your window and shout those kinds of things out loud to the public. And he allows people to do that through him.

O'DONNELL: Yes. Zerlina, what I have seen from the start with Donald Trump as a campaigner is that he has one of the strongest connections you can have with the kind of voter who supports him, which is he hates the people who they hate. They have shared hatreds. And that is as powerful a connection as people like that can have.

MAXWELL: Absolutely, Lawrence. And it reminds me of the week during the campaign where he was having a lot of rallies in 2016, in Chicago was an infamous rally where there was a lot of protesters. And he was, you know, harkening back to an ugly period in American history in terms of his rhetoric. And I remember thinking at the time, there were a lot of colleagues of mine on Hillary's campaign thinking about the fact that he was normalizing overt expressions of racism again. That he was making it ok, to Dr. Cobb's point, that people now felt fine with expressing overt bigotry out loud and in public with no threat that they would be held accountable for that behavior at all.

And that's what Donald Trump has done. It has dangerous consequences. It is not just impolite words. As we have seen very recently, it can lead to real world violence. And so that's why it's so important for us all to call it out every time.

O'DONNELL: Zerlina Maxwell and Professor Jelani Cobb, thank you both for joining our discussion tonight.

MAXWELL: Thanks, Lawrence.

COBB: Thank you.

O'DONNELL: And when we come back, we're going to take a quick look at six new battleground state polls of the states that will decide the winner of Electoral College. We'll be joined by Joel Benenson, who worked for Hillary Clinton's campaign as a pollster four years ago and was the pollster for Barack Obama's successful presidential campaign.

That's next.


O'DONNELL: Joe Biden is maintaining a lead in every national poll of the presidential campaign. The latest being today's Monmouth University National Poll showing Joe Biden ahead 51-44. But the polls that matter the most are the polls of the individual states that will decide the outcome in the Electoral College.

Joe Benenson worked as a pollster in both of President Barack Obama's winning presidential campaigns and in Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign four years ago. Today he released new polls that he has conducted of some of the important battleground states showing Joe Biden ahead in Michigan 50-43; Joe Biden ahead in Wisconsin 50-45; Joe Biden ahead in Pennsylvania 49-46; Joe Biden ahead in Florida 48-46; Joe Biden ahead in Arizona 48-47; and Joe Biden tied in North Carolina at 48.

Joining us now is Joel Benenson.

Joel, some of those I said ahead, but they're within two points, so those are really functional ties within the margin of error. How do these numbers in these states compare to four years ago for Hillary Clinton?

JOEL BENENSON, CEO, BENENSON STRATY GROUP: Well, thanks for having me, Lawrence.

You know, we have to remember these states are called battleground states for a reason. These aren't slam dunks for either side. And we learned that the hard way in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan in 2016 when the Clinton campaign, I think, underestimated the potential for those to be swing states.

The truth is it was a total of 77,000 votes across those three states that tilted the Electoral College to Donald Trump.

Now, an important thing about these polls, my partner Amy Levin at Benenson Strategy Group and Greg Strimple a Republican at GS Strategies conducted these polls. So you had a Democrat and a Republican working on these polls together for a third party client here, AARP.

And so I think we're looking at what we would expect with less than 55 days to go here, which is these battleground states are going to be the terrain on which this campaign is going to be fought.

I think the one difference we see here is in 2016 Donald Trump got to 307 electoral votes when he did win Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin. But it looks right now like Joe Biden can keep the Trump campaign on defense in states like Florida, Arizona and North Carolina.

You know, if I look at the numbers and I say Donald Trump wins Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan again but loses Florida and Arizona, he won't get to the 270 votes he needs of the Electoral College. So the math is slightly different. The dynamics are somewhat the same. You have to be very smart strategically and know where your paths to victory lie.

O'DONNELL: Which explains why we saw Kamala Harris in Florida today.

Joel, what about that giant prize that Democrats cast an eye on every four years, wondering when it's going to go their way. The state of Texas. We have seen some remarkable polling there, including some polls once in a while showing Joe Biden with a small lead in the state of Texas.

BENENSON: Yes. And I think you have seen the incremental changes that are happening in Texas there, Lawrence. You have got some suburban congressional districts around Houston and around Dallas that are very likely to switch from Republican to Democrat. We have seen Republicans, very popular Republicans like Kenny Marchant in a plus nine Republican district, Will Herd, a rising star in the Republican Party decide not to run for re-election again.

There is something definitely happening in Texas. I don't think anybody could predict with certainty that this is going to be the year Texas turns blue. But Democrats have been working at it. And the more we make the Republicans play defense there, that strengthens our hand across the rest of the map as well.

O'DONNELL: And Joel, if Texas goes blue this time, that pretty much -- that would blow away any kind of worries about the Electoral College for the Democrats, wouldn't it?

BENENSON: Yes. You throw that into the mix. Again, that's a huge number. And it would also reflect the sea change that I believe is happening in this electorate, vis-a-vis the Republican Party, which is that they have massively alienated a lot of suburban voters across this country.

Most of the polls I look at, including polls form Fox News as well as others, show that Donald Trump is really underwater significantly with suburban voters. And you have to remember that in 2016 nationally he carried suburban voters by four points. Right now we're seeing numbers where his approval rating among suburban voters is underwater by what we think double digits, somewhere between 12 and 16 percent more, you know, disapprove of Trump than approve of him.

O'DONNELL: Joel Benenson, thank you very much for sharing your insights on these polls with us tonight.

BENENSON: Thanks for having me, Lawrence.

O'DONNELL: Thank you.

And when we come back, Bob Woodward's new book "Rage", has left one reviewer wondering who's worse: Donald Trump or his Republican enablers in the administration and in Congress. A Republican opponent of Donald Trump, the former governor of Massachusetts, William Weld, will get tonight's LAST WORD next.


O'DONNELL: There would be no President Trump in the White House tonight without complicity -- the complicity of Republican senators who refused to vote to remove him from office and the complicity of the Trump cabinet, who we now know from Bob Woodward's book considered as Secretary of Defense James Mattis put it, that they might have to take collective action, which is apparently a reference to using the 25th amendment to remove the president from office and make the vice president the acting president.

But no one appointed by Donald Trump has taken any action against this presidency other than speaking to Bob Woodward.

A "New York Times" review of Bob Woodward's book says, of "Rage" says, "What if the real story about the Trump era is less about Trump and more about the people who surround and protect him, standing by him in public even as they denounce him or talk to Woodward in private? A tale not of character but of complicity?"

Joining our discussion now is Bill Weld. He's the former Republican governor of Massachusetts. He's a member of the group Republicans and Independents for Biden.

Governor Weld, thank you very much for joining us tonight.

I want to get your reaction to both what we've learned from Bob Woodward's book and that point raised by "The New York Times" review about the complicity of Republicans in this presidency.

WILLIAM WELD (R), FORMER MASSACHUSETTS GOVERNOR: I'm not buying that for a minute, Lawrence. Thank you for having me. But you can't blame the parasites and not the host. You know, it's Donald Trump who wants to engender civil strife so that there will be a possibility of outright, you know, people shooting each other if he loses the election.

It's Donald Trump who -- who regularly tells untruths to the American public. Dick Nixon got drummed out of office because he told one untruth to the American public, and Donald Trump does it on a regular basis as we've seen not only in the example of what he said in February to Bob Woodward about the coronavirus, but in many other issues of vital importance to the United States.

I can't get out of my head the other story from today, from the Department of Homeland Security, about the acting head and the acting number two there, on orders from the White House, telling the chief intelligence official in the Department of Homeland Security, for pity's sake, not to talk about Russia, not to talk about white supremacists, quote, "because it makes the president look bad", closed quote.

And this is something that the chief national security officer of the Department of Homeland Security felt were issues of national security. I mean how do you figure that?

I also can't get out of my head the image of Ambassador Kislyak of Russia and foreign minister Lavrov of Russia in the Oval Office alone with Donald Trump and TASS, not "The Washington Post", not "The New York Times", not even "The Los Angeles Times" or "Fox News", but TASS, the Soviet house organ.

What kind of image -- what kind of message does that send? There's something drastically wrong with this picture.

O'DONNELL: Yes. And that was in the first year of the Trump presidency, which was when Michael Flynn lied to the FBI and was fired by the president basically because of that. Now the president pretends that never happened.

I want to listen to a discussion with Rachel Maddow in the previous hour with Peter Strzok, the FBI agent who Michael Flynn lied to. Let's listen to this.


RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Do you know why he was lying? Do you have any insight into what happened there given how weirdly this has gone in the months since?

PETER STRZOK, FORMER FBI AGENT: Well, that's the key question that we had. It wasn't so much why General Flynn wasn't telling us the truth. It was whether or not he was doing that because of somebody, particularly the president, having told him or directed him to do that.

We now know that prior to our being -- prior to our interview with him, he had spoken to the president, who told him to kill the story that was in "The Washington Post", the David Ignatius column talking about these conversations. He had had a conversation with his deputy, K.T. McFarland about them.

So this wasn't a surprise when we walked in. I can't explain why he didn't tell us the truth. And obviously he pled guilt to not one but two different judges, orally and in writing.

And so I don't understand why now the Department of Justice is seeking to withdraw this plea.


O'DONNELL: You're a former Justice Department official. What's your reaction to that?

WELD: It could have been Russia again. You know, back to your first point, though, Lawrence, I do think it's not Mitch McConnell's Secretary of Homeland Security who's telling someone not to talk about Russia or white supremacists because it might embarrass the president. It's not Mitch McConnell who is saying let's delay the election as Trump was musing aloud about.

O'DONNELL: Governor Bill Weld, thank you very much for joining us again tonight. We really appreciate it.

WELD: Thank you, Lawrence.

O'DONNELL: Bill Weld gets tonight's LAST WORD.


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

Day 1,330 of the Trump administration.


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