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Transcript: The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, September 15, 2020

Guests: Jon Tester; Laura Helmuth, Eric Swalwell, Stacey Abrams


On August 6th, Montana's Democratic Governor Steve Bullock, who's now running for United States Senate, gave all counties in the state the option to conduct the November election entirely by mail, as they did for the June primary. As of tonight, 46 of Montana's 56 counties have opted to automatically send ballots to their registered voters. Hurricane Sally is expected to make landfall early tomorrow morning in Alabama, bringing historic rainfall and flooding to the Gulf Coast. There is a threat of powerful winds and tornadoes along Hurricane Sally's path. Donald Trump's rejection of science has led "Scientific American" to do something the magazine has never done in its 175 years in print -- endorse a presidential candidate. The magazine's editors feel compelled to break that tradition and endorse Joe Biden for president.



Stacey Abrams is going to join us a little later in the hour tonight about voting, of course, and she's producer -- she's a producer of a new documentary about voting and all the struggles involved in voting now with voter suppression. And the title, listen to this title. The title of her documentary is "All In."

I'm not sure why they just didn't call it "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW". Can -- does Chris Hayes have anything --


O'DONNELL: Did they check with Chris? I mean, can you just pull that title right off of Chris Hayes' screen

MADDOW: Now you have something to fight with Stacey Abrams about. It would be a contentious interview.

O'DONNELL: It would be petty, wouldn't it be petty for me -- maybe during the commercial break, Stacey Abrams and I can discuss that

MADDOW: We're on TV, nothing is petty for people like us, Lawrence

O'DONNELL: There you go. There you go. Rachel Maddow sets the bar.

Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW: Thanks, Lawrence.

O'DONNELL: Well, Bob Woodward will join us for the full hour tomorrow night, where his new book "Rage" in this week where his new book has overwhelmed the Trump White House.

And because Bob Woodward has tapes of Donald Trump, Donald Trump cannot claim that Bob Woodward is misquoting him or making up quotes and attributing them to him. So this morning on Fox, President Trump decided his best defense, his very best defense against the Bob Woodward book is to call it boring.

Now, thousands of people all over the country tonight already have purchased this book, it went on sale today they have it at home. And they know that the one word you cannot apply to "Rage" is boring. You have to be very careful when you choose to pick up this book, because you won't be able to put it down. So make sure you have enough time before you start reading about relentless dysfunction of the Trump White House, what Bob Woodward's former reporting partner Carl Bernstein calls the president's homicidal failure to not tell the country the truth about the coronavirus, the pained resignation of Trump cabinet members who believe they were protecting the country and the world from Donald Trump, what Donald Trump thinks about on golf courses, what Dr. Anthony Fauci thinks about Donald Trump and what Donald Trump's seemingly worshipful son-in-law actually says about Donald Trump behind his back.

And that son-in-law, Jared Kushner, today appeared on the "Today" show and disputed a passage in Bob Woodward's book. Here is that passage on page 264.

"And by the way," Kushner added, that's why the most dangerous people around the president are overconfident idiots. It was apparently a reference to Mattis, Tillerson and former White House economic adviser Gary Cohn, all had left.

If you look at the evolution, we've gotten rid of a lot of the overconfident idiots and now he's got a lot more thoughtful people who kind of know their place and know what to do.

Utterly lost on Jared Kushner is the irony that other members of the Trump administration portray him as one of the overconfident idiots working for Donald Trump in the Woodward book


SAVANNAH GUTHRIE, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: So you were not referring -- I just want to be clear, because you just said -- Woodward says you were referring to General Mattis, Tillerson and Gary Cohn, an economic adviser. You're saying that's not who you meant?

JARED KUSHNER, WHITE HOUSE SENIOR ADVISOR: No, that wasn't clear. And again, he's got tapes of everything. I have tapes of everything. So that was never implied in that regard. But I will say is that the president -- President Trump now has phenomenal people around him, people who agree with his agenda


O'DONNELL: Here's how Bob Woodward responded that today on "Washington Post" live


BOB WOODWARD, JOURNALIST: I'm quite interested in -- when Jared says he has tapes, I have tapes, I taped him with his permission. I suspected he was taping me. He did not extend the courtesy to me that he was taping the conversation, that's fine. And I report accurately what he said in the book and there are some much more important quotes from him quite frankly.


WOODWARD: Among the more important quotes from Jared Kushner is his assessment, Jared Kushner's assessment of how many people in the Trump administration spend their day trying to save the world from Donald Trump.

On page 262, and I'm giving page numbers because I know viewers out there already have this book, and you can flip to this page.

In the beginning, Kushner told others, referring to the first years of the administration, 20 percent of the people we had thought Trump was saving the world and 80 percent thought they were saving the world from Trump. Now I think we have the inverse. I think 80 of the he's saving the world and 20 percent, maybe less now, think they're saving the world from Trump.

On "Washington Post" live, Phil Rucker asked Bob Woodward about the possible existence of another set of tapes


PHIL RUCKER, WASHINGTON POST LIVE: Did you ever learn -- did the president ever tape his end of the conversations that he had with you or were any staff listening to those phone calls that you knew about?

WOODWARD: I don't know. A couple of times the White House operator would come on and say, Mr. Woodward, the president, and there would be a beep, I think that's a suggestion that they're taping I would assume that they would do it. But in the residence, I started thinking of him as the night prowler.

That I believe -- it's true he doesn't drink, he has a great deal of energy and engagement. He likes to talk with people at night. And he's walking around the White House and he'll pick up the phone and call me and say, how are you doing? I just wanted to check in.


O'DONNELL: We had a vivid preview earlier tonight of how Donald Trump is going to handle the Bob Woodward book in the presidential debates, because this book will be an exhibit in those debates.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If you believe it's the president's responsibility to protect America, why would you downplay a pandemic that I known to disproportionately harm low income families and minority communities?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Yeah, well, I didn't downplay it I actually, in many ways I up-played it, in terms of action.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you not admit to it yourself saying --

TRUMP: My action was very strong.



O'DONNELL: Will a debate moderator do what Ajani Powell just did when Donald Trump lied? She came right back him and said, as he was talking over her, did you not admit to it yourself, saying that?

When Donald Trump denies that he downplayed the coronavirus, will the debate moderators play Donald Trump's words to Bob Woodward?


TRUMP: Well, I think, Bob, really, to be honest with you --

WOODWARD: Sure, I want you to be.

TRUMP: I wanted to -- I wanted to always play it down. I still like playing it down --

WOODWARD: Yes, sir.

TRUMP: -- because I don't want to create a panic.


O'DONNELL: Leading off our discussion tonight, Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell of California. He's a member of the House Intelligence Committee and the House Judiciary Committee.

Also with us, Eugene Robinson, associate editor and Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for "The Washington Post." He is a colleague of Bob Woodward's at "The Washington Post" and he is an MSNBC political analyst.

Congressman, let me start with you and what we saw, Ajani Powell, student in Philadelphia, do tonight to the president, using the president's own word to the president and she got to stand there and watch him lie to her and deny that he used that word. Downplay, downplay the coronavirus, as we heard him say to Bob Woodward.

REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA): Gives you a lot of faith, Lawrence, in America's future. And I'll have to say, Zooming into a lot of different high school and middle school classes as of late, the best questions come from the next generation. They don't really have an agenda but they are able to call B.S. because they're digital natives and they know exactly what you said and you saw that on display tonight.

This president, as you know, though, he has downplayed the effects of the virus. He has not played at all when it comes to coming to Congress and working with us to collaborate to address the testing, the tracing and, of course, the funds that are needed in our communities. We have the HEROES Act in the House. And he has up-played inciting violence.

And so, he's playing this all the wrong way. And I think you just saw tonight that the next generation, if they show up in force on November 3, he's going to pay a real price for trying to play down.

O'DONNELL: Page 354, for viewers out there who already have the book. This is Dr. Anthony Fauci talking about --

SWALWELL: Feel like I'm back at church.

O'DONNELL: That's right.

Dr. Anthony Fauci talking about President Trump. Dr. Fauci says, the president is on a separate channel, Fauci later told others. Trump's leadership was rudderless.

Gene Robinson, Dr. Fauci has been very careful but he has said enough that Bob Woodward, being the reporter that we know he is, was able to pick that up and deliver it and that is, of course, what we have assumed from our distance that Dr. Fauci thinks about President Trump, that he is just rudderless.

EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, because who wouldn't think that, watching the president's response to the pandemic. I mean, we saw it unfold in real time, really it's -- what Bob does with this book is tell a story that we kind of knew but he really gets inside, which is, you know, I've known Bob Woodward for 40 years. Bob Woodward was the local news editor at "The Washington Post" who hired a young reporter named Eugene Robinson to cover a mayor named Marion Barry ions ago.

And I have watched him over the years. He is the cleverest, most relentless, most resourceful reporter I've ever known, and that's always the problem with a Woodward book, and it's certainly the problem with this book, he always has the receipts. He has the tapes. He has everything nailed down.

So, you know, I think -- I suspect President Trump knows that Dr. Fauci, that's the way he really feels about his leadership. He probably doesn't like seeing it in print. I suspect he knows a lot of -- most of what's in the book or what people thought of him and he's just going to have to live with it, including in the debates.

And hopefully, at the polls on November 3rd, as well.

O'DONNELL: Gene, before I go back to Congressman Swalwell, let me go to the issue that's being debated, not just among people in the news media, but people out there asking the question, should Bob Woodward have revealed earlier what Donald Trump really knew about the coronavirus and revealed earlier than this book does, that the president was actually not telling the public the truth about what he knew about just how deadly and dangerous the coronavirus was?

ROBINSON: Well, you know, my feeling, and maybe it's affected by the fact that I know Bob this well and have such great respect for his work but my feeling is let Woodward be Woodward. He puts these facts together in context and he needs time to do that and he actually does that at a remarkably telescoped period of time, these are recent interviews that are -- that are forming the heart of this book, and it's out now before the election.

So I -- you know, he didn't have the context for all of the president's remarks when the president told him back in February how deadly the virus was, that it was airborne. Bob really had no way of knowing whether or not that was true, which is, I think, one of the -- one of the problems with reporting on Donald Trump is that you don't know if what he tells you was true or not. You've got to report around it to figure that out

O'DONNELL: And Congressman Swalwell, we heard Anthony Fauci say Donald Trump is rudderless. His own son-in-law says exactly the same thing using different language and Bob Woodward has it on tape. His own son-in-law says he doesn't know where he's going pretty much all of the time. And therefore, you know, we never know where he's going to end up.

His son-in-law also says, when Donald Trump says yes, that is what Jared Kushner calls a soft yes, because the next person who comes in the room is going to convince him of something else. And so, this portrayal of Donald Trump as rudderless in Anthony Fauci's word is something that Jared Kushner himself supports fully in everything he is quoted as saying about his father-in-law.

SWALWELL: And, Lawrence, what do we get out of a rudderless leader, we've only seen death when it comes to the coronavirus. And as a parent of two kids, a couple weeks into the school season, so many of us are asking, imagine what country we could be in right now if we had a North Star rather than being rudderless. Imagine if he commanded this great country and our manufacturers to produce the protective equipment and the testing so that our teachers and students could be tested once a week and our kids would be in-person learning right now.

But we have a rudderless president, we have no idea when our kids can go back into their classrooms and we have no idea when we're going to come out of this pandemic. So, again, he may be rudderless and Kushner may think that's a benefit, but what has any parent or family in America gotten out of that -- nothing.

O'DONNELL: You know, when you talk about the families of kids going back to school and we think about the teachers going back to school, and we think about, let's say, the teachers gathered in a teacher's room somewhere during a break, socially distancing, what if one of them sneezes? Will they all behave the way Donald Trump behaves when someone sneezes in the Oval Office?

Let's listen to Bob Woodward's tape of Donald Trump describing that


TRUMP: And, Bob, it's so easily transmissible, you wouldn't even believe it

WOODWARD: I know, it's --

TRUMP: I mean, you could -- you could be in the room. I was in the White House a couple of days ago, meeting of ten people in the Oval Office and a guy sneezed -- innocently, not a horrible --


TRUMP: -- you know, just a sneeze. The entire room bailed out, OK, including me, by the way.


O'DONNELL: Gene Robinson, there's an alternative to the entire room bailing out, and that is, of course, having many fewer people in that room, socially distanced and wearing masks.

ROBINSON: And wearing mask, of course, he wouldn't do that.

And it's fascinating. This is what we saw at the rally the other night, when that reporter asked him about, you know, having a rally at this time and he said, oh, he wasn't at all concerned, because he's way up on the stage and he's away from the sort of Petri dish of infection he had created out there in the crowd, so he wasn't worried at all.

It's all about him. It's all about -- it's all about Donald Trump. It's not about anybody else.

And that's the tragedy. That's what has led to the loss of nearly 200,000 lives, and this enormous disruption in our economy and in our lives. I mean, think of the small businesses that you used to frequent, that I used to frequent, that have just gone away and that will not come back and that didn't have to happen

O'DONNELL: Congressman Swalwell, did you attend the last State of the Union Address that the president delivered?


O'DONNELL: The Rush Limbaugh State of the Union Address.

Bob Woodward makes the point in his book that in that State of the Union Address, which is days after Donald Trump is telling Bob Woodward how deadly the coronavirus is, that Donald Trump spent more time talking about Rush Limbaugh than he did talking about the coronavirus or warning anyone of its dangers.

Bob Woodward will be here tomorrow night and we'll hear from him about it.

Congressman Eric Swalwell, Eugene Robinson, thank you both very much for starting us off tonight.

SWALWELL: My pleasure, thank you.

O'DONNELL: Thank you.

And when we come back, Stacey Abrams will join us. She has been fighting voter suppression since before anyone heard of the coronavirus, but the pandemic has made her job much, much harder.

Stacey Abrams will talk -- will discuss what she's doing to make sure people can vote safely and make sure that their votes will actually be counted in November.


O'DONNELL: Stacey Abrams is one of the producers of a new documentary, now on Amazon called "All In: The Fight for Democracy."


ANNOUNCER: Ladies and gentlemen, Stacey Abrams.


STACEY ABRAMS, FAIR FIGHT ACTION: When I started running for governor, we anticipated voter suppression was going to be instrumental in Brian Kemp's campaign, and we were right. I knew something had gone horribly wrong. The system that's supposed to protect our democracy didn't work the way it was supposed to.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Things like new voter ID laws, purging. You're knocked off the role.

ABRAMS: In the United States, the right to vote is the only right you can use simply for not using it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We got a lot of work to do.

ERIC HOLDER, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: Unless we fight for the right to vote, our democracy is put at risk.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The fight over voting rights is ultimately about power.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The states have figured out how to stop African-Americans, Hispanics, Asian-Americans, the young, and the poor from voting. The vote matters

ABRAMS: You belong. You have value.


O'DONNELL: Joining us now is Stacey Abrams, the former Democratic leader of the Georgia House of Representatives and a founder of the voter protection PAC Fair Fight Action. She's also one of the producers of this new Amazon documentary, "All In: The Fight For Democracy".

Stacey Abrams, thank you very much for joining us tonight.

And just a quick note, Rachel and I were wondering, did you check with Chris Hayes about the title "All In" and did he say okay with me?

ABRAMS: I would say we did a global Google search and it was not protected. So we went with it.

O'DONNELL: That's right. I'll never forget when I discovered you cannot copyright titles. You can copyright pretty much everything else.

So the documentary is telling the story of where we are in terms of degree of difficulty. Does it also give us a road map of what to do between now and Election Day?

ABRAMS: Absolutely. The point of the documentary was to meet people where they are. But to also give them context for what we face, and that means understanding the history of voter suppression, knowing what it used to look like so we understand and recognize what it looks like today.

But we're so proud of the film and the social impact campaign, which is also a call to action, telling people what they need to do to meet this moment to protect their right to vote and to protect that right for others.

O'DONNELL: The film gives a context for people who might get the feeling that this is something new. I think there are younger people who might think voting was going along smoothly and then starting somewhere around when Stacey Abrams was running for governor, the Republicans started to get really tricky about this. This gives people the real historical view, and the present day view.

ABRAMS: Absolutely. I wrote a book earlier this year called "Our Time is Now". It's a little bit longer than the film. And for me, the issue was making sure that we tell the story of the history of voter suppression in multiple media, but that we also tell people how we can address it.

So, in addition to the film itself, we have a website called where you can get all the information you need to fight voter suppression now. But to your point, I had a young person who worked in my campaign in '18, and in offhand comment said to me, they need to come up with a sexier way to describe poll taxes, I don't really understand the point.

And that really cemented for me the fact that we need younger people to understand what has been done before so we understand that we did make progress. We may not have defeated voter suppression, but we have made it through voter suppression before and we can make it through in 2020.

O'DONNELL: What can you do about the Postal Service this year, and making sure the mail moves fast enough since that's under Donald Trump's postmaster general's control?

ABRAMS: First of all, we need folks not to panic, and then we need them to make a plan to vote early. If you want to vote by mail, and most states, you can vote by mail early enough that you can get it in, get it counted or you can go to a drop box. We do know that the Republicans are suing in states like Pennsylvania and Ohio to block use of drop boxes, but we also have good people who are fighting to make those boxes available.

And then there's the ability to vote in person. So, I tell people make a plan to vote by mail, make a backup plan to vote in person early, and at the last minute, if you can't, make sure you have a backup to your backup so you can vote on election day on November 3rd.

O'DONNELL: I know you're out there when you can, in the ways that you can, campaigning for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, for the ticket. And I said earlier in this hour that we saw a preview of what the presidential debate was going to be when Ajani Powell, a student in Philadelphia, asked Donald Trump about his own words that we've heard on Bob Woodward's tape saying that he likes to down may the coronavirus.

Donald Trump immediately denied ever using that word. This is what Joe Biden is going to be facing. How do you handle that on the debate stage? I'm not sure what the moderators are going to choose in their role in a moment like that when Donald Trump is clearly lying about words we know he's used, but that will surely happen when Joe Biden is on that stage.

ABRAMS: What we tell people about the fight against voter suppression and this information applies here -- number one, don't repeat the lie. Make certain, because when we repeat the lie, we actually make it sound like truth. Instead, replace the truth with an actual truth. Stick with your truth and repeat that.

And so, if I'm Joe Biden, when I face a lie from Donald Trump, which will take up a good 80 percent of the debate, then I would simply use my time to tell the truth, not to chastise and to chide say, yes, that was a lie and then move immediately to the reality, because people are hungry for truth. They're hungry for knowledge about what is and what will be and they want to see leadership that is willing to say yes, you can trust the evidence of your own eyes

O'DONNELL: What do you find is the biggest challenge in activating the vote? We know what the challengers are in terms of suppression. We know the challenges are that you're talking about. What about inspiring turnout?

ABRAMS: One of the ways I think you best inspire turnout is being honest about what voting is and what it's not. Voting is not a magic pill. It's not going to solve every challenge. And we don't elect saviors.

But it does give us progress. It does move us forward. And so, when I'm talking to young people who are protesting in the streets, I validate their protests, but then I encourage them to protest at the ballot box, because that's how you take your demands and turn them into policies and protest at city hall and protest in your meetings, because that's how you make certain you hold them accountable.

But the second is, we have to connect the dot. Instead of lecturing people on why you should vote, ask them what their concerned about, what their needs are. And then you activate voters by connecting their concerns with the political solution that can help move them forward. When we connect action to need, we get activated voters who are willing to turn out and brave the challenges of voter suppression, because voting in this election will work.

O'DONNELL: Stacey Abrams, thank you very much for joining us tonight. The new film produced by Stacey Abrams on Amazon has the unforgettable title "All In," and Chris Hayes has nothing to do with it.

Stacey Abrams, thank you very much for joining us.

ABRAMS: Thank you, sir.

O'DONNELL: When we come back, can the Democrats really win another Senate seat in a red state like Montana that Donald Trump easily won four years ago. Democratic Senator Jon Tester did it. He won it. He won his Senate seat in Montana and he'll tell us how Democrats can win another Senate seat in Montana, next.


O'DONNELL: On August 6th, Montana's Democratic Governor Steve Bullock, who's now running for United States Senate, gave all counties in the state the option to conduct the November election entirely by mail, as they did for the June primary.

As of tonight, 46 of Montana's 56 counties have opted to automatically send ballots to their registered voters. Montana's first all-mail primary in June set the state record for votes in the state primary, 13 percent higher than the last presidential primary election.

In the 2018 midterm elections, 73 percent of the votes cast were absentee ballots. That's when Montana's Democratic senior senator, Jon Tester, won reelection for his third term by a 3.5 percent margin 17,913 votes.

Senator Jon Tester's new memoir is "Grounded: A senator's lessons on winning back rural America". Senator Jon Tester writes in the book, "From the rural community I still call home, I learned that the worst thing a politician can do is to abandon authenticity and hard work and to take anything or anyone for granted in Montana, character and authenticity matter.

Leaders who lack good character are usually shown the door by the voters who expect it.

It's how I won a third term in a red state after voting against Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, and after the president and kid, and the vice president tried their damnedest beat me."

So, I know what you're thinking if character matters, then how did a reality TV performer from New York City easily beat Hillary Clinton in Montana four years ago after the "Access: Hollywood" video came out?

We have the perfect person here to answer that question.

Joining us now is Senator Jon Tester of Montana.

And Senator, let's begin there on the character point, because the way you described the way Montana voters see politicians is the way I always though they did back when I was working in the Senate with the Democratic Senator from Montana Max Baucus. Those are the voters who elected the legendary Mike Mansfield to the United States Senate. They vote for you. And please explain to me why so many of your own voters vote for Donald Trump.

SENATOR JON TESTER (D-MT): Well, because he showed up. And I think that's the first rule of politics, Lawrence, as you know, is you have to show up if you're going to get their support.

The other thing is Democrats need to talk about what we stand for. Affordable, accessible health care; making sure we have quality public education; making sure that Medicare and Social Security is going to be around; making sure that we have infrastructure whether it's roads to get our products to market or whether it's good, clean water and sewer systems or whether as this pandemic has showed us, that we need more broad band. And veterans.

Look, the list is long. And I think that the values of the Democratic Party line up well with people in rural America but we've got to talk about those values. We've got to talk about those issues that are so important to us. And we have got to show up.

And I think that's what is really important. There's no secret sauce here other than being authentic, showing respect. You have two ears and one mouth, act accordingly. Listen, listen hard, and then come back and talk to them about solutions we have, whether it's for health care, education, infrastructure, Social Security, Medicare -- whatever it might be.

O'DONNELL: So President Trump's been attacking mail-in voting exactly the kind of voting you're going to be using in Montana. He's been attacking it relentlessly. And so there's a very -- still a very good chance Donald Trump will win Montana. I don't expect to hear him complaining about how mail-in voting works in Montana.

SENATOR TESTER: Look, I think mail-in -- first of all the governor has done a great job, and I think the counties have done a marvelous job in adopting the mail-in voting models. I think we're going to see the same kind of turnout in November that we saw in the June primary where it's going to be record turnout.

I think that the bottom line is, I don't think Donald Trump likes mail-in ballots because he doesn't want people to vote. He only wants his people to vote and I think mail-in ballots give a better opportunity for everybody to vote.

And to put on top of that, we're in the middle of a pandemic. This is a time to utilize mail-in ballots so that people can keep themselves safe from this virus that is very real. And by the time fall gets here, it's going to be even more real, I believe, which is very unfortunate.

But nonetheless, the governor has put forth some good policies and the county clerks have adopted them, as you said in 46 of 56 counties. And I think that's a positive step for people to build a vote in this very, very important general election in November.

O'DONNELL: So you've gotten elected and re-elected as a Democrat in Montana. Steve Bullock has been elected as a Democrat, statewide governor. He's now running for Senate as a Democrat. Does the political dynamic change for a Democrat? Is it more difficult for a Democrat to win a Senate seat than to win the governorship of Montana?

SENATOR TESTER: You know, I don't know, because I've never run for governor but it's pretty hard to win a Senate seat in Montana. You have to work hard at it. We have got a hard-working governor that is working hard, and I think that -- I think Steve Bullock is going to do very, very well in this election. I think there's still a lot of time before election. 50 days is an eternity as you well know in politics, Lawrence.

But the bottom line, if we talk about what's been accomplished by the governor versus what's been accomplished by the incumbent junior senator, Bullock should win this thing all the way (ph).

O'DONNELL: And Senator, the fires in the northwest, what is the effect in Montana? Because we're seeing tonight that some of the effects in the farther north you go are really shockingly bad.

SENATOR TESTER: Well, look, Montana has had its share of fires this year, but nothing compared to what California, Oregon and Washington have gone through and are going through. Forest management is always a big issue in the west. I don't care if you're in Montana or south or west.

And I will tell you that there are some things that we can do that can address this problem. And I've worked with collaboratives in our state. These are folks on the ground. These are folks with chainsaws in their hands. These are environmentalists, conservationists, recreationists that all sit down at the table and they discuss what the challenges are and what the solutions can be. And they have come up with some pretty darned good collaboratives.

I have one -- we're going to have a hearing on tomorrow called the Black Clearwater Stewardship bill. But the bottom line is, if you can bring people together, which is something this president has never done, by the way, but if you can bring people together and unite them, get them at the table and talk about solutions, you'll find out in short order, they have far more in common than they have in difference. And you can come up with some pretty darn good solutions. And I think that is the key to solving the fire problems in our forests in the west.

O'DONNELL: Senator, how lonely is it for you among Democratic senators when you're trying to talk about appealing to rural voters? And I want the audience to remember that some of the senators who represent the biggest states in the country, the California senators, the New York senators, have a lot of rural voters themselves. They have big, big tracks of rural voters.

And I've seen New York senators pay an awful lot of attention to rural voters upstate. But do you find that there's a difficulty in getting your Democratic Senate colleagues to understand what it's like to be out there talking to those voters?

SENATOR TESTER: You know, I think that they want to get out and do it. You know, Max Baucus taught me something early on. He said, you've got to start early because every minute you waste early you never get back in a campaign. And I think that's the challenge.

It's about getting as many votes as possible, so you tend to go to the more populated areas but the bottom line is people in rural America really appreciate it when you show up. They want to hear what you have to say, but they also want to tell you what's on their mind, too.

And I think if Democrats did that more, I think we'll have better results in rural America. I think it's critically important. As I said earlier, I think it's really, really important, because Democrats line up with rural America much better than Republicans do. We just don't talk enough about it.

O'DONNELL: Senator Jon Tester, who is now the bravest person in the book-publishing field because his book "Grounded" is landing in bookstores today on the same day that Bob Woodward's book is landing in bookstores. Good luck with that, Senator Tester.

SENATOR TESTER: Thank you, Lawrence. It's a pleasure to be with you. And we'll give them heck. There's plenty there for everybody to read.

O'DONNELL: Thank you very much, Senator. Really appreciate you joining us.

We'll be right back with breaking news as residents of the Gulf Coast brace now for Hurricane Sally.


O'DONNELL: Tonight, we're tracking another hurricane. Hurricane Sally is expected to make landfall early tomorrow morning in Alabama, bringing historic rainfall and flooding to the Gulf Coast. There is a threat of powerful winds and tornadoes along Hurricane Sally's path. Hurricane Sally is one of five named storms currently in the Atlantic -- something that has happened only once before in history.

And joining us now is MSNBC's Ali Velshi in Orange Beach, Alabama in the path of Hurricane Sally. Ali, what is the situation there tonight?

ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST: Well, it's very unusual, Lawrence because we've had this kind of wind and rain for several hours right now, and we are many, many hours away from landfall. In fact, this is a remarkably slow-moving storm. It's moving at about -- a forward motion of about two miles an hour. So you could easily walk faster than this storm.

And one of the problems when a storm moves that slowly is that it dumps a lot of rain for a long time so that even if the winds don't get up back to category 1, you've been getting this water soaking into the ground, allowing trees and poles to fall more easily with sustained winds.

The other issue, of course, is that some of these things are water issues, and some of these are wind issues. We may end up getting a Category 1 hurricane when it makes landfall, probably by the way either right over us or just a few miles to the west of us, between us and Mobile, Alabama.

But as you mentioned, there have been five -- there are five Atlantic storms. And one of the things about the warming of the earth is that the warming of the ocean is taking place. And that allows storms, which are quite routine, I mean going on for all of history, to gain strength. So that is one aspect of climate change that affects these things.

The other one is that the prevailing winds end up creating a pattern which allows these storms to build.

And then the third issue is earlier this afternoon, way before there was a lot of rain, we started seeing drains backing up. So you see in even warm weather, sunny weather and dry weather, you have less drainage as water levels increase.

So this area is dealing with all of it. This was devastated around here in Hurricane Katrina in 2005. There's still things that haven't been rebuilt since then. And those who have rebuilt have had to do so with an eye towards a stronger building code putting things on stilts.

So I'm here at the Tides Hotel in Ocean Beach. The lobby is on the fourth floor of this hotel. There's parking structure below because everybody's gotten wise to this. You could see the lit-up pier behind me and the waves that are crashing into that pier that should be about 20 feet above the top of the water. So extreme weather in this region, it's not something that they're not used to around here, but you really never get accustomed to the fact that these hurricanes come in and do as much damage as they're doing.

So we're in it now for the next several hours. It may be another 12 hours before we see landfall. This thing is moving very, very slowly up the Gulf Coast. And then it will move inland and make a right turn and head toward the Carolinas after it hits us, Lawrence.

O'DONNELL: The amazing Ali Velshi. Stay safe, my friend. Thank you for joining us.

VELSHI: My pleasure, Lawrence.

O'DONNELL: I know that looks hard, what Ali Velshi was doing. It is much, much harder than it looks.

Donald Trump has made history once again, this time it is both political history and science history. That's next.


O'DONNELL: Donald Trump has made history once again. Donald Trump's rejection of science has led "Scientific American" to do something the magazine has never done in its 175 years in print -- endorse a presidential candidate. The magazine's editors feel compelled to break that tradition and endorse Joe Biden for president, writing, "The evidence and the science show that Donald Trump has badly damaged the United States and its people. it's time to move Trump out and elect Biden, who has a record of following the data and being guided by science."

Another scientific journal has a reaction to the reporting in Bob Woodward's book that Donald Trump lied publicly about the real dangers of the coronavirus after telling Bob Woodward on February 7th that it is deadly stuff.

In an article for "Science Magazine", Holden Thorpe refers to what Bob Woodward has reported this way. "This may be the most shameful moment in the history of U.S. science policy.

Joining our discussion now is Laura Helmuth, the editor in chief of "Scientific American". Laura, thank you very much for joining us tonight. And welcome to politics.

I know you've stayed out of it for about 175 years actually when you consider the publication you're working for but when was the point where you decided "Scientific American" had to say something?

LAURA HELMUTH, EDITOR IN CHIEF, "SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN": Well, we started talking about this editorial a few months ago. And of course, it's a big deal. You know, 175-year tradition, you don't break that lightly. So we took the decision very seriously, but it was unanimous and it was immediate.

The Trump administration has been so bad for science, for public health, for the environment, for international collaborations, for basically all the things that make life good and that give us a chance of getting out of this pandemic.

And so we really felt like it was our responsibility to show what the evidence shows about, you know, Trump's just incompetence on science and his willful misrepresentation of reality and endorsed Joe Biden, who has a much better record and we think is really the way to restore our safety and our scientific enterprise.

O'DONNELL: Was it the president's handling of the coronavirus that was the determining factor here?

HELMUTH: Yes. I mean that's just the most recent part, and obviously it's the most deadly. It's the most terrible. But his record on climate science is also deadly. I mean if you look at the hurricanes and the wildfires that we're seeing this week, you know, climate science is urgent. It's going to be with us throughout our lifetimes. It's so important for us to take it seriously, to mitigate it, to prepare people, and to share just real information rather than conspiracy theories about it.

But that's -- you know, just throughout the Trump administration, he's been dismantling scientific expert advisory boards, pulling us out of international agreements, and just spreading conspiracy theories and misinformation. And the whole purpose of science and scientific journalism and journalism is to share what we actually know about the world.

So in all these ways, he's just contrary to our mission at "Scientific American".

O'DONNELL: What was the reaction when you saw the president in California at a briefing from officials there in California about the fires, and the secretary of natural resources explained, just did 30, 40 seconds explaining to him the dramatic increases in temperature that California has been suffering under that have been fueling the fire, to which the president of the United States just said, it's going to get cooler -- meaning winter is eventually coming?

HELMUTH: It's -- it's just breathtaking. You know, every time you think he can't be more wrong, he finds a way to be more wrong than he was before and saying that, you know, science doesn't understand wildfires or science doesn't understand climate -- you know, climate change. I mean it's just not true.

You know, there are all these things we know to be true based on good evidence, and he -- he just denies them or says the exact opposite and, of course, you know, the worst is throughout the pandemic he's been -- you know, instead of sharing accurate, trustworthy information, he's been stoking racism and xenophobia and sharing conspiracy theories.

And just every day there's -- you know, there's less reality and more misinformation from this administration.

O'DONNELL: Laura Helmuth, who really doesn't want to be here tonight. Laura Helmuth, thank you very much for joining us with the history made by "Scientific American" today. We really appreciate it.

HELMUTH: Thank you so much.

O'DONNELL: Laura Helmuth gets tonight's LAST WORD.

Tomorrow night, Bob Woodward for the full hour.



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