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Transcript: The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, September 14, 2020

Guests: Peter Strzok, Wade Crowfoot, Jena Griswold, Alex Padilla


In an interview with Jeffrey Goldberg of "The Atlantic", retired Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, who served on the national security team in the Trump White House calls President Trump Vladimir Putin's useful idiot. Donald Trump blamed the fires on forest management; in a briefing for the president, California's secretary for natural resources, Wade Crowfoot, confronted the president on climate science.



And we are going to have the California official join us tonight, who confronted Donald Trump about climate science today in California. The video of that has gone viral. It was an amazing moment as you know and he will be joining us later in the program.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, "ALL IN": Yeah. It's never a fair fight when one person in the argument is arguing with science and the other is arguing against science. And that happened in like eight seconds. It was like, oh, TKO.

O'DONNELL: Yeah, it's exactly what you see, and Donald Trump brought no ammunition to that argument, to put it mildly. Thank you, Rachel.


O'DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW: Thanks, Lawrence.

O'DONNELL: We begin tonight with another Bob Woodward tape. At this point, it's another day, another Woodward tape.

Actually today, Bob Woodward released two new audiotapes of his conversations with President Trump. Well, okay, three technically, but the third one included material that we have already seen in "The Washington Post's" first report of Bob Woodward's book last week. We saw that in print. We just got to hear the audio of it today for the first time.

The latest tape released tonight shows Donald Trump telling Bob Woodward something he has never said publicly about how deadly the coronavirus is.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This thing is a killer if it gets you. If you're the wrong person, you don't have a chance.


TRUMP: So this rips you apart.

WOODWARD: This is a scourge.

TRUMP: It is the plague.


O'DONNELL: Herman Cain was the wrong person. He was in the higher age group that's particularly vulnerable to the coronavirus. Herman Cain attended the last indoor Trump rally before the Trump campaign temporarily stopped having rallies. Herman Cain died of coronavirus six weeks later at age 74. Herman Cain didn't wear a mask at the Trump rally. People were not doing much social distancing at that rally.

Last night in Nevada when Donald Trump had his first indoor rally since the rally Herman Cain attended, most people were not wearing masks and most people were not socially distancing and they were doing that after Bob Woodward revealed last week that Donald Trump knows how deadly the coronavirus is and has always known how deadly it is and has never told those people at those rallies.

Bob Woodward's revelations so far seem to be having absolutely no effect on Donald Trump followers who risk their lives by gathering at Trump rallies without masks and social distancing. Donald Trump makes sure that he's the only person who social distances from everyone at Trump rallies.

He explained to a Nevada reporter why he doesn't worry about his rallies.


TRUMP: No, I'm not concerned. I'm more concerned about how close you are.

REPORTER: Sorry about that.

TRUMP: Because you know why? I'm on a stage. It's very far away and so I'm not at all concerned.


O'DONNELL: On a stage very far away. So he's safe.

In another tape, Bob Woodward released today of a conversation with the president, on august 14th, we hear that Donald Trump has no idea why he is losing to Joe Biden in every poll of the presidential campaign, including the latest Fox poll that shows Joe Biden at 51 and Donald Trump at 46. In their conversation about the presidential campaign, Bob Woodward tries and fails to get the president to see the relationship between controlling the coronavirus and rebuilding the economy.


WOODWARD: It's going to be a contest between you and Biden. It's going to be a contest between both of you and the virus. The virus is said -- because it's in real people's lives, you know? All those tens of millions of people who don't have jobs, who don't have --

TRUMP: I know.

WOODWARD: That in -- listen. I mean, you and I --

TRUMP: But nothing more could have been done. Nothing more could have been done. I acted early. I acted early.

WOODWARD: This will be the history that we start the first draft of. And it will continue and --

TRUMP: So you think the virus totally supersedes the economy?

WOODWARD: Oh, sure. But they're related, as you know.

TRUMP: Little bit, yeah.

WOODWARD: Oh, little bit? I mean --

TRUMP: I mean, more than a little bit. But the economy is doing -- look, we're close to a new stock market record.


O'DONNELL: Nothing more could have been done. Controlling the coronavirus and rebuilding the economy are not just related a little bit. They are the same thing. But Donald Trump can't see that.

And Donald Trump seems to make the mistake of thinking the stock market is the economy.

And so, Donald Trump doesn't know that half of the people in his hometown where the stock market happens to be located do not know how they are going to pay for their housing as the cold winter months approach -- winter months that could combine a second wave of the coronavirus with the seasonal flu.

Bob Woodward has never seen anything like it. He has seen every president since Richard Nixon in a way that no one else in American history has seen so many presidents. Bob Woodward has gotten inside of every White House since the Nixon White House and seen the president in action through the words of the people working most closely with that president and sometimes through the words of that president himself in interviews with Bob Woodward for his now 19 books -- most of them about the closed door deliberations of nine presidents in a row.

In his new book "Rage," Bob Woodward begins with a description of Donald Trump being told how deadly the coronavirus could be in a White House meeting on January 28th. The State of the Union Address was on February 4th, just days after the president was told how deadly the coronavirus would be and how it would be the most difficult challenge his presidency had faced.


WOODWARD: He gave his State of the Union Address to Congress, 40 million people watched it. He had an opportunity -- he's a very kind of -- not kind of. He said, well, we're doing everything possible.

At that moment if like Franklin Roosevelt after Pearl Harbor had told the American people the truth, a lot more could have been done. It is one of those shocks, for me, having written about nine presidents, that the president of the United States possessed the specific knowledge that could have saved lives. Historians are going to be writing about the lost month of February for tens of years.


O'DONNELL: It's not easy to shock Bob Woodward, who covered the Nixon presidency, remember. That was Bob Woodward on the "Today Show," expressing his shock that the president possessed specific knowledge that could have saved lives. And on the "Today Show", Bob Woodward expressed his surprise at how Donald Trump seems proud of how he gets along with cruel dictators and not the leaders of democratic societies.


WOODWARD: He decides and he has decided, oh, I'm going to get along with Putin. I'm going to get along with the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, MBS, but -- and I'm going to try to get along with Kim Jong-un, the leader of North Korea. But not South Korea. And he just smears South Korea time and time again in my interviews. He has -- he is the face of the United States to the world.


WOODWARD: And he has said, and there it is, hey, look, I get along with these bad guys but not the good guys.


O'DONNELL: Bob Woodward, who will join us on this program on Wednesday night, released this tape on the today show this morning of Donald Trump describing his relationship with President Erdogan of Turkey who crushes dissent in his country.


TRUMP: I get along very well with Erdogan even though you are not supposed to because everyone says what a horrible guy. But, you know, for me, it works out good. Io can tell you the relationships I have, the tougher and meaner they are, the better I get along with them. You have to explain that to me some day, okay? But maybe it's not a bad thing.

The easy ones are the ones I maybe I don't like as much or don't get along with as much.


O'DONNELL: In an interview with Jeffrey Goldberg of "The Atlantic", retired Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, who served on the national security team in the Trump White House calls President Trump Vladimir Putin's useful idiot.

President Trump should be considered to be a useful idiot and a fellow traveler, which makes him an unwitting agent of Putin. They may or may not have dirt on him, but they don't have to use it. He says, they have more effective and less risky ways to employ him. He has aspirations to be the kind of leader that Putin is, and so he admires him. He likes authoritarian strongmen who act with impunity without checks and balances, so he'll try to please Putin.

Vindman continues: In the Army, we call this free chicken, something you don't have to work for. It just comes to you. This is what the Russians have in Trump: free chicken.

Here's Alexander Vindman with Lester Holt tonight on "NBC Nightly News".


LESTER HOLT, NBC NEWS ANCHOR, "NBC NIGHTLY NEWS": President Trump suggested you are a Never Trumper. Are you a Never Trumper?

LT. COL. ALEXANDER VINDMAN, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL OFFICIAL: I joined this administration -- I joined the president's team. I jointed well into his administration with the hopes of being able to do my job, with the hopes of being able to advance national security interests.

I can say that I am now a Never Trumper. I was not a never Trumper before. I was nonpartisan. Regardless, I would try to do the best I could in the advanced national security interest. But I think as the president attacked and politicized me directly, in taking a very sober view of where this president is taking this country, the divisions, the catering to our adversaries, the undermining of national security interests that I am absolutely a Never Trumper.


O'DONNELL: Leading off our discussion is Peter Strzok, former FBI counterintelligence agent and the author of the new book, "Compromised: Counterintelligence and the Threat of Donald J. Trump".

Peter Strzok, thank you very much for joining us tonight. We really appreciate it.

And I want you to take up the question that Donald Trump just asked. We heard him ask it on audio of Bob Woodward's is explain to him why he's attracted to dictators instead of the leaders of Democratic societies, say, in Western Europe who have been our traditional allies.

PETER STRZOK, FORMER FBI AGENT: Well, that's a staggering statement, Lawrence. And, first, thank you for having me. It's great to be here.

When you look at the president, who is the leader of the United States, who should be, up until this administration, the beacon in the free world for democracy, for all the values that we hold as American values and to set that example for the world, to be saying something like that where he -- I think at some point, he may have said it's much tougher for him to get along with Theresa May or Angela Merkel, it's staggering. It should be the opposite.

We shouldn't have a president who is cozying up to dictators, to authoritarians and rather should be promoting American values rather than embracing those which are antithetical to our own.

O'DONNELL: What about Colonel Vindman's formulation of Donald Trump as the useful idiot, as the possibly unwitting agent of Vladimir Putin? No one knows more about Russian operations like this than you do. That was your specialty at the FBI.

STRZOK: Yeah. That has a lot of merit.

I mean, Look, I recruited people to work for the United States for over 20 years. I have worked against those who were trying to recruit those within the U.S., and there are a ton of motivations. I mean, the big categories of money, ideology, coercion or ego.

And the issue is when you look at our president, he has vulnerabilities in each and every one of those areas. So I certainly agree with Colonel Vindman's observations. And, look, this is coming from a man who fled the Soviet Union with his father and his two brothers who went into the Army for a career, who served in wartime, who was wounded in wartime. This is not a partisan statement.

Compare that to Senator Coats, the former director of national intelligence, a 16-year senator, a Republican senator from Indiana. This isn't a partisan issue. This is a national security issue, and all of us should be paying attention.

O'DONNELL: Let's listen to more about what Colonel Vindman told Lester Holt about his view of Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin.


VINDMAN: Some people have actually called it a kind of love affair. I think he's at minimum infatuated. And I think he's infatuated with Putin's power. He's infatuated with the power of authoritarian leaders that could -- that could govern with impunity.

As a king in former times, that was unaccountable to his people, unaccountable to any other checking force -- in our case, we have three branches of government purely to establish a balance between them -- and the president doesn't appreciate that. The president has a very strong authoritarian streak.


O'DONNELL: Peter Strzok, your reaction to that point, about the president's authoritarian streak, which we have all seen?

STRZOK: Well, I think it's absolutely valid. Again, it goes to the point of any professional intelligence services is going to try to find and exploit as many vulnerabilities as they can for any individual. So, again, when you look at President Trump's demonstrated behavior, the statements he made to Bob Woodward, he clearly has an affinity somewhere between his ego, or something that is drawing him to that behavior, on top of what I have written about and talked about extensively about his financial entanglements that also create a vulnerability for coercion.

So when you look at the totality of his behavior, from a counterintelligence perspective, that's an absolute nightmare, and it's something that, you know, that's not gotten better, has not improved with time, and represents a real threat right now as we sit here in 2020.

O'DONNELL: You were part of the Mueller investigation in the beginning. But -- and you weren't there at the end. But at the end, it turns out they did not pursue any real investigation of Donald Trump's finances, especially his foreign elements of his financing.

Was that something you expected at the beginning of the Mueller investigation would be investigated?

STRZOK: Well, I expected the FBI would investigate it. Special Counsel Mueller's mandate was very focused on violations of criminal law. And the team, the results speak for itself, when you look at the scores of charges, indictments, prosecutions, that stands alone. There was always, though, a need to do a counterintelligence look.

And when I was setting up the team and the FBI component of that, my feeling was that the FBI would absolutely dive into that.

Now, I don't know what happened after I left, after I returned to the FBI. It may be going on and it would be appropriate that we don't hear about it.

But I am concerned that there doesn't seem to be, if that had occurred, I would have expected to see a lot of fighting in courts to prevent the release of financial records. And I have some concern that the sort of robust counterintelligence look may not have occurred, and that concerns me.

O'DONNELL: Peter Strzok, the new book is "Compromised" by Peter Strzok -- thank you very much for starting us off tonight. I really appreciate it.

STRZOK: Great. Lawrence, thanks for having me.

O'DONNELL: Thank you.

And joining our discussion now is Ben Rhodes. He's a former deputy national security adviser to President Obama. He is an MSNBC political analyst.

And, Ben, another day and it turns out today, technically, three more Woodward tapes released showing Donald Trump saying this is a killer. He knew that long before he had Herman Cain sitting there at his last closed -- last door indoor rally before last night's indoor rally. He's known all this all along.

And here is the president still trying to downplay it saying in Nevada last night we have turned the corner on the coronavirus.

BEN RHODES, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yeah, Lawrence, the amazing thing in watching this whole Woodward book play out is that having been in the White House for a couple of Woodward books and back in the Bush administration, I was the source for a Woodward book. Usually, it's the reporting that he does around the president that generates the attention.

These are things Donald Trump said that he wanted to say. He felt no shame about saying these things. He felt no shame about saying that he was aware that this was a much more deadly disease than he was saying publically, but he didn't want to play it up. He wanted to play it down.

He had no shame about saying that in private to Bob Woodward this can be serious for young people and say publicly a very different thing. You know, time and again and now we hear him saying this is a killer in April. Time and again, what's astonishing here is that he believes it, he can say one thing publicly that is totally counter to the truth, including, as was said, a sense of impunity that there is no accountability for him not only to say extraordinary things like this, but to do nothing to try to save the lives of tens of thousands of Americans.

This is his own words. We don't need any of the background reporting there. It is right there in front of us to render a judgment as the American people and the American voter is concerned.

O'DONNELL: Ben, Woodward is going to be here Wednesday night. And when you mention having been a source in one of his previous books, I had that same experience being a source for Bob Woodward in a book about the Clinton presidency, the first year of the Clinton presidency when basically all the Clinton agenda had to come through the Senate committee I was working on.

Tell the audience what it's like when a White House is basically -- knows that a Woodward book is in progress and Bob Woodward is getting through and talking to just about everyone that has anything important to say about the story Bob Woodward is trying to find and basically how often goes on hyper alert and plans for the discussion with Bob Woodward as if it's going to be a Supreme Court argument because what you hear from Donald Trump is such a casual approach to this conversation which as Bob Woodward accurately puts it, is the first draft of history.

RHODES: Yeah, and, obviously, I was the source for the Obama Woodward books, too. I was helping to coordinate that effort. What I remember about dealing with Bob Woodward is he would focus like a laser on the president. He always wanted to understand the occupant in the Oval Office.

And he surely is mildly interested in some of the machinations around the president. But he really wanted to understand the nature of the president. And he was measuring against the sweep of history.

I think what is so glaring about this book is, look, Lawrence, we have to live in the new cycle and deal with these. Let's take a step back here. Imagine someone told you we would be sitting here talking about a president of the United States who did nothing to prevent the deaths of tens of thousands of people even though he knew that this was a deadly disease and he had been warned this would be the greatest crisis of his presidency. Imagine a president of the United States, as Bob Woodward said, who is the face of America to the world.

This is not just the face of America to American Twitter users, boosting about his affinity for dictators and suggesting that he's more comfortable with dictators than with our Democratic allies when we are supposed to be the leader of the free world. Because Bob Woodward has that focus on the presidency and he has this long view of history, of nine presidents, it is not about the new cycle. It is about why is this man president? How is he possibly fit for office if these are the things that he not only thinks but says out loud to a journalist like Bob Woodward?

And I think that's why the book is so clarifying, because it focuses directly not on the drama around Trump, not about whether Jared Kushner is getting along with Kelly Conway. No, this is the character and nature and competence of a man who occupies the same office that Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln occupied (ph).

And we as Americans have to absorb that and take it very seriously as we have 50 days left until an election.

O'DONNELL: And you picked two presidents who very carefully told the country the absolute truth of just how grave the danger was that they were facing in the civil war and in World War II.

Ben Rhodes, thank you both very much for joining us -- thank you for joining us, along with Agent Strzok who was with us at the beginning of the conversation. Thank you very much, Ben. I really appreciate it.

RHODES: Thanks, Lawrence.

O'DONNELL: When we come back, Neal Katyal will join us at the end of the hour tonight with new developments in the Roger Stone case reported exclusively by NBC News today.

But up next, Donald Trump was confronted by science today in California. The video of that confrontation has gone viral today. And the man who confronted Donald Trump in California will join us next.


O'DONNELL: Tonight, thousands of firefighters continue to try to contain the deadly wild fires that have burned more than five million acres of land in California, Washington and Oregon. At least 35 people have been killed as a result of the fires in these states and dozens more are missing. Today, Donald Trump visited McClellan Park, California, near Sacramento where a fire recently burned more than 363,000 acres.

Today, Joe Biden criticized President Trump's lack of leadership in combating climate change, which has led to increased temperatures in California that have fueled the fires. Joe Biden called Donald Trump a climate arsonist.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: If you give a climate arsonist four more years in the White House, why would anyone be surprised that we have more America ablaze? If you give a climate denier four more years in the White House, why would anyone be surprised when more of America is underwater?


O'DONNELL: Donald Trump blamed the fires on forest management. In a briefing for the president, California's secretary for natural resources, Wade Crowfoot, confronted the president on climate science.


WADE CROWFOOT, CALIFORNIA SECRETARY FOR NATURAL RESOURCES: As the governor said, we have had temperatures explode this summer. You may have learned that we broke a world record in the Death Valley, 130 degrees. But even in greater L.A., 120-plus degrees, and we're seeing this warming trend make our summers warmer but also our winters warmer as well.

I think one area of mutual agreement and priority is vegetation management. But I think we want to work with you to really recognize the changing climate and what it means to our forest and actually work together with that science. That science is going to be key.

If we ignore that science and put our head in the science and think it's all about vegetation management, we're not going to success together protecting Californians.

TRUMP: OK. It will start getting cooler. You just watch.

CROWFOOT: I wish science agreed with you.

TRUMP: Well, I don't think science knows, actually.


O'DONNELL: After that, Joe Biden tweeted: Science knows.

Joining us now is Wade Crowfoot, the California secretary for natural resources.

Thank you very much for joining us tonight.

When did you decide that that's what you wanted to say to Donald Trump today?

CROWFOOT: Well, I can tell you I woke up this morning not anticipating the day that I've had. You know, working for Governor Gavin Newsom out here, we wanted to make it clear that we are thankful for federal support through FEMA and other agencies, but we also wanted to be really clear about what's fuelling or driving these catastrophic, unprecedented wildfires, and that is climate change.

But as it relates to the interaction, that just sort of evolved.

O'DONNELL: So, if you'd had another minute with the president, because I know you had very limited time to speak to him, what more would you have said to him if he didn't cut you off and move on to the next person?

CROWFOOT: Well, I would have actually said that there is a path forward to actually tackle climate change, both to protect California communities and some things we need to do on wildfire, but also to transition to a low carbon economy. We're really proud in California that we're the fifth largest economy in the world that's largely decoupled our economic growth from our carbon pollution.

And I actually think that there is a strong story we all need to tell about the imperative to act on climate change but also the opportunities to act on climate change. But obviously I didn't have that opportunity today.

O'DONNELL: You cited some temperature data that I actually hadn't previously heard about what was happening. I think people when they hear Death Valley is at 130, they're not terribly shocked by that since Death Valley is routinely over 100. But Los Angeles, the Los Angeles area being at 120, I have lived there a long time. I never saw temperatures like that.

CROWFOOT: Oh, yeah. So it got up in the San Fernando Valley to 121 degrees. I live in northern California in our capital of Sacramento, well over 110 degrees, broke records there. Extreme weather across the state. Our coast, which is typically cool and foggy in the summer reached a 100 and what that means is that places in California that didn't typically burn in a catastrophic way are burning, including our coastal redwood forests that are typically very wet, damp areas and if you have a fire, at a very limited fire.

Well this summer we saw a major fire ripping through our old growth redwood forests. 1500 year old trees because of the severity of the summer - the summer temperatures as well as I should mention the winter temperatures because what that means is up in our mountains, we have less of our precipitation falling as snow which is problematic for a water supply because more runs off in the winter but it also means a drying forest.

So we have almost a perfect storm of conditions, driven by climate change that's creating these catastrophic fires.

LAWRENCE O'DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: What is a projection at this point of when you might get these fires under control?

CROWFOOT: Well, I have to say we're only partway through wildfire season in California and typically our most challenging time in the year for our wildfires is deeper into the fall. If you recall a couple of years ago, the tragic campfire that claimed the town of Paradise.

That happened in very late October so we've been working 16,000 men and women on the ground in California including firefighters from other states, trying to get these places under control. Many that started in late August are under control but others are starting and we have a lot longer ways to go in this fire season.

O'DONNELL: Wade Crowfoot, thank you very much for joining us tonight. I know you spoke for millions of people when you made that point to Donald Trump today, something that millions of people have been waiting for Donald Trump to at least be forced to hear, if not necessarily understand. Thank you very much for joining us.

CROWFOOT: Thank you very much for having me.

O'DONNELL: When we come back, a federal judge has stopped the U.S. postal service from sending out a misleading notice about mail-in voting. The Secretary of state of Colorado who succeeded in federal court in stopping the postal service mailing will join us next along with the Secretary of State of California who is in charge of administering the new mail-in voting rules in the largest state in the country.


O'DONNELL: Voters across the country have been receiving notifications from the U.S. Postal Service with a so called vote by mail checklist that says things like request your mail-in ballot often called absentee ballot at least 15 days before Election Day and recommended you mail your ballot at least seven days before Election Day.

The problem with that nationwide mailing is that every state has its own rules about mail-in voting. These instructions could be confusing. The voters in states like Colorado where no one has to request a mail-in ballot because every voter will be receiving a mail-in ballot automatically.

Those mail-in ballots do not have to be sent through the U.S. mail necessarily because Colorado will also have special ballot drop boxes all over the state to collect those ballots. This weekend Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold won an injunction against the U.S. postal service to stop such mailings in Colorado.

In his ruling, federal judge William Martinez said the harm caused to Colorado and it's residents implicate basic constitutional rights, namely Colorado's right to determine the time, place and manner of its elections as well as Colorado voters' fundamental right to have their votes counted.

Joining our discussion now is Jena Griswold, Secretary of State Colorado and Alex Padilla, the Secretary of State of California. Secretary Griswold, let me start with you. What was the problem, the biggest problems for you in Colorado with that postal service mailing?

JENA GRISWOLD, SEC OF STATE, COLORADO'DONNELL: Well, good evening Lawrence and thank you so much for having me on. You know the biggest problem is that the mailer could suppress votes. You know in the southwest part of Colorado where both of the tribes in Colorado are located, the mail often takes eight days.

So the U.S. Postal Service telling folks it would only take seven is a big problem. On top of that, urging all Coloradans to request the mail ballots just is not necessary because we mailed them to every registered voter. So unfortunately it added a lot of misinformation into this election already too full of too much misinformation.

O'DONNELL: Secretary but I - I think I told the story on this program that I mailed a birthday card in California to arrive three miles away from the post office where I mailed it, hoping it would arrive by August 1. I mailed it a week ahead of time. It took three weeks, it took three weeks to travel three miles in the mail in California from a post office.

What are your concerns in addition to that length of mailing problem, with this postal service mailing?

ALEX PADILLA, SECREATRY OF STATE (D) CALIFORNIA: Well, it's not the first issue we have with U. S. P. S. in recent months, right? President Trump has tried to undermine the U. S. P. S., threatening to withhold funding. There's new leadership in place that has been you know tearing out some critical infrastructure when it comes to sorting mail and that's what's led to some of the delay that you're referring to and now this postcard, right?

If you want to give them the benefit of the doubt and say it was well intended, maybe but as you said, every state has slightly different rules when it comes to elections in Colorado, California, several others the information provided as guidance is simply wrong and doesn't just threaten to confuse voters, it is confusing voters.

So if the postal service wants to be helpful, engage with elections officials to craft the language appropriately. In the meantime we have to work out extra hard to clarify issues with voters in our respective state so Californians that are watching, go to vote at

O'DONNELL: Secretary Griswold, 34 states require that mail-in ballots be received on Election Day or one day after Election Day but right within that 24 hour window basically of Election Day and so mailing, we now know with the way the postal service is mailing - is mailing things, mailing seven days before Election Day in 34 states. There's a very strong chance your vote will not be counted because it'll arrive too late.

GRISWOLD: Well Lawrence, I have to disagree with you on that point, at least for Colorado.

O'DONNELL: Oh good.

GRISWOLD: We have seen delays in other parts, we have seen it happens. We have seen the ladies in other parts of the nation but there are not delays in Colorado but sometimes in some parts of the state, it just takes longer. That's why in Colorado we tell people do not mail it back within eight days and instead, go to one of the hundreds of drop boxes we have across the state.

I've actually increased the number of drop boxes by 49 percent but I do think you're striking on a really important issue. This nation deserves voting rights for everyone. Every American should be able to have access to safe and accessible and secure elections. That's why I am so supportive of expanding vote by mail for all, early voting, a lot of the reforms that Colorado has so that all Americans have the access to the franchise that they deserve as citizens.

O'DONNELL: Secretary Padilla, I believe the California law is that you will count ballots that arrive as late as 17 days or so after Election Day.

PADILLA: Exactly. It's precisely for these reasons that California law says as long as your vote by mail ballot is postmarked on or before Election Day it can arrive up to three days after the election and still be counted but given the possible delays at this time, we're extending that deadline to 17 days after the election as long as the envelope is postmarked on or before Election Day.

It's also important to for voters to keep in mind inspired by reforms to Colorado, you have multiple ways through which you can return your ballot. You can mail it back. I still think it's going to be pretty reliable. California covers the return postage so you don't have to worry about stamps or you can return your ballot to any ballot drop box in your county, convenient to you in the weeks leading up to the election or you have the option of walking it in to any in-person voting location, both on or before Election Day.

So multiple options given COVID, given misinformation from this administration, given wild fires that are raging in our state, these multiple options to safely cast your ballot are more vital than ever.

O'DONNELL: California's Secretary of State Alex Padilla and Colorado's Secretary of State, Jena Griswold, thank you both very much for joining us tonight.

PADILLA: Thank you Lawrence.

GRISWOLD: Thank you.

O'DONNELL: Coming up Roger Stone is back and Neal Katyal is back to discuss the latest developments in the Roger Stone case reported exclusively by NBC news today. Neal Katyal is next.


O'DONNELL: Today NBC news' Julia Ainsley and Ken Dilanian reported exclusively that the Justice Department's office of the Inspector General has begun investigating the circumstances surrounding the sentencing recommendation for Roger Stone after being convicted of lying to Congress about Russia's interference in the 2016 election.

"One source familiar with the matter said comments made by Prosecutor Aaron Zelinsky during his congressional testimony triggered the Inspector General's office to open an investigation." Here is some of that testimony Aaron Zelinsky gave to the House Judiciary Committee on June 24.


AARON ZELINSKY. FMR. ROGER STONE PROSECUTOR: What I saw was that Roger Stone was being treated differently from every other defendant. What I heard repeatedly was that this leniency was happening because of Stone's relationship to the president, that the acting U.S. Attorney for the district of Columbia was receiving heavy pressure from the highest levels of the Department of Justice and that's its instructions to us were based on political considerations.


O'DONNELL: Joining us now is Neal Katyal, former Acting U.S. Solicitor General and an MSNBC Legal Contributor. Neal, interpret for us what this means that the Inspector General is investigating basically what Aaron Zelinsky had told Congress.

NEAL KATYAL, FORMER ACTING U.S. SOLICITOR GENERAL: It's a pretty big deal, Lawrence to have the Inspector General investigating the Attorney General so this all starts because Roger Stone was indicted for obstruction of justice and coordinating with Wikileaks and perhaps the Russians and he was found guilty by a jury of lying to Congress and things like that.

And he miraculously gets a lower sentencing recommendation after prosecutors like Zelinsky recommended a higher one because Barr intervenes and all career prosecutors then resigned and you have Mr. Zelinsky and others saying what they said.

Everything about this has been suspicious and stinky from the start and really for two big reasons. One is first, because the Trump's closeness to Roger Stone. There are few people who are closer. I mean in many ways you can think of Roger Stone as Donald Trump's spirit animal or something like that but it goes beyond just kind of a shared ideology.

I mean here's what Paul Manafort who was the head of Trump's campaign until he was indicted. Here's what Manafort said. He said, "Rogers relate - Roger Stone's relationship with Trump has been so inter connected, it's harder to find what's Roger and what's Donald. And so the question that's been asked repeatedly throughout all this is why all the - why did Stone lie and say he didn't have all these contacts and stuff. It's obviously to protect Trump but what is it that they're trying to protect.

That's number one and then the second big kind of concern and this goes to your report, the NBC report today about the Inspector General investigation is what is Barr's relationship - Bill Barr, the Attorney General's relationship in all of this because Barr says his actions are by the book but in July at the House hearing, Rep. Swalwell really nailed them on this.

He pummeled him with great questions. He said, did you ever interfere Attorney General, with anyone else's sentencing? He got Barr to admit there was only one time in which he ever had and that was the Roger Stone case.

And then Swalwell followed up and said, hey you intervened about Roger Stone. Isn't Roger Stone who Trump was literally tweeting about during the trial saying, have the guts not to testify and so on? - guts not to testify against Trump.

And Barr said, oh, I'm not familiar with those tweets even though those tweets were like all over the Mueller report. The same report that Barr claimed to have read so carefully so the whole thing is stinking from start to finish. I'm glad the Inspector General is looking into it.

O'DONNELL: You know quickly before we have to squeeze in a break, does the Attorney General have to submit to an interview from the Inspector General about this?

KATYAL: I think the Justice Department protocol is yes, absolutely. Now, Trump's solution in the past when this is happened has been to fire the Inspector General to try and cover up the truth and I suspect that's you know something of a possibility here as well given this you know president and his you know disregard for the law and protocol.

So we will see but I do think yes, the Attorney General should be forced to go and talk to the Inspector General and testify.

O'DONNELL: Neal, we have to squeeze in a final break here. When we come back I'd love to ask you about that resignation of the assistant U.S. Attorney last week who was working on Attorney General William Barr's investigation of the Muller investigation. We're going to be right back with Neal Katyal.


O'DONNELL: On Friday, the top assistant U.S. attorney to John Durham, the Connecticut U.S. attorney who is leading the investigation into the Mueller investigation resigned. The Hartford Current reports that Assistant U.S. attorney Nora Dannehy resigned at least partly out of concern that the investigative team is being pressed for political reasons to produce a report before its work is done.

Colleagues said Dannehy has been concerned in recent weeks by what she believed was pressure from Attorney General William Barr who appointed John Durham to produce results before the election. Neal Katyal is back with us. Neal, this sounds like another case for the Justice Department Inspector General.

KATYAL: It does and it's extraordinary Lawrence. I mean I served at the Justice Department twice. I've literally never heard of career prosecutors resigning because they think the Attorney General is acting politically.

It just never ever happens and yet it's happening here. It just - as we were talking about a moment before Roger Stone prosecutors there resigned as well and there are a lot of other cases that you and I don't - that you all don't hear about in the media but that I hear about because DOJ people call me on lower levels and say you know, this one person some told me recently, "I'm sick to my stomach about what's happening into the politicization of the Justice Department."

Last week you also had one of four President Trump's people on his Law Enforcement Commission resign because he said Trump had politicized that. You had a Department of Homeland Security professional - and say that Trump had and his Cabinet Secretary had ordered him to minimize the reports of election interference by the Russians.

I mean this is a very scary thing.

O'DONNELL: Now if the Inspector General initiates as we now know from NBC news reporting today, already has initiated an investigation into what happened in the Roger Stone case and if there was an investigation about what's happening here. That Inspector General investigation would cross administrations, wouldn't it?

If a new president was inaugurated on January 20, that Inspector General would just keep moving along in that investigation?

KATYAL: That's correct so you can have an IG investigation, you could have a House or a Senate investigation. You may even potentially have a criminal investigation, I don't know but there's a lot of stuff here and I think that when you have someone like Nora Dannehy, a very well respected prosecutor resigning because of politicization, everyone's ears.

All of those people, all those entities I think have to look into it because there's a commonality between what she's saying and what others who have become whistleblowers have said. There's really three of them. First is they're saying Trump is making executive branch powers his own and service at its own ends, that he's using the investigation time, the John Durham investigation to help his campaign. That's one commonality.

The second is, they're all saying that Trump is ordering his officials to minimize the threats we face and hide them as America - hide them to Americans, that minimizing the Russian threat is helpful to his narrative which is that he's a self-made man. That's always been false. From the silver spoon that you know he was born with in his mouth to you know the help he's been getting from the Russians but that's you know I think that's a big piece of this as well.

And then lastly that Trump is siding with their enemies at the expense of the American citizens, That's the commonality between Nora Dannehy and all the Roger Stone prosecutors, the DHS whistleblower, everything.

O'DONNELL: Neal Katyal gets tonight's Last Word.


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