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Transcript: The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, September 21, 2020

Guests: Cecile Richards; Jaime Harrison; Steve Schmidt, Amy Klobuchar, Nina Totenberg


Here is something that's never happened before upon the death of a Supreme Court justice. "The New York Times" reports Democratic donors shattered records on Act Blue, a donation processing site. The Lincoln Project is a group of Republican campaign professionals who are doing everything they can to save the country from another four years of the Republican presidency of Donald Trump. The Lincoln Project is now using Republican senators' words from four years ago against them.



I'm so glad you began with a former clerk of Justice Ginsburg, Lisa Beattie Frelinghuysen, because she was so lucky. She was so, so lucky. I think that's what we were all thinking it, she was so lucky to have that job, to have that proximity to justice Ginsburg, to have that experience to know her so well.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, "ALL IN": I also just feel like we're obviously and for totally understandable reasons with what's going to happen with the succession on the court, and the vacancy on the court that's created by Justice Ginsburg's death. But for all of the mourning of her passing, one way to honor her legacy is to make sure that we understand it. And the people who were involved working shoulder to shoulder with her when she was writing her most important opinions and doing her most decisive and long far sided thinking about the Constitution I think have stuff to tell us that we should learn from in terms of how to approach this moment and how to be strategic.

There is a lot in her legacy that could help us right now and I feel like I'm not ready to stop talking about that side of it.

O'DONNELL: Right, I think, though, we can also see the glow, just the glow that she feels just thinking about justice Ginsburg and just thinking about that experience of being lucky enough to work with her. I have my own little highly tangential Ruth Bader Ginsburg moment, Rachel, and it came during her confirmation hearings. She used to use my office at the Senate Finance Committee as her hide-out during the confirmation hearings because there's a kind of secret back door passage way from where my office was into the other buildings from Dirksen into the Hart Senate Office Building where her big TV hearing was going on.

And Senator Moynihan from New York, who was my boss, the tradition is the senator from your home state introduces you and Senator Moynihan guided her through that process in his way and it was his idea to park her on my sofa which she did for a few hours at a time, and that was kind of magical. Senator Moynihan had recommended her to the president as did Joe Biden which was even more important because he was judiciary chairman and even more important than that Hillary Clinton had recommended her.

So she came to the president with very, very strong recommendations.

MADDOW: I also now feel like we need to create -- you know like flat Stanley? We need to create a flat Ruth Bader Ginsburg, like a life size cutout, and park her on your couch --


MADDOW: -- now that we know you earned that by actually loaning her couch space at one point in your professional life. You can claim that.

Like if I did that, that would be creepy, but you could actually legit do it.

O'DONNELL: And the effect it has, Rachel, is I'm on my best behavior if she's in the room.


MADDOW: All right. I'm going to Kinko's right now. I'm going to go figure this out.

O'DONNELL: OK. Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW: Bye, Lawrence.

O'DONNELL: Thank you.

Well, four years ago, Senator Lindsey Graham said you can use my words against me. And tonight, every Democrat in Washington has been using Lindsey Graham's words against him. But the most important Democrat in America who is using Lindsey Graham's words against him is Jaime Harrison, who is the Democratic nominee for Senate in South Carolina running against Lindsey Graham.

The latest polls show Jaime Harrison tied with Lindsey Graham in South Carolina, and Jaime Harrison will join us here later in this hour tonight. And don't be surprised if he uses Lindsey Graham's words against him.

And at the end of the hour, tonight's last word will go to Steve Schmidt who is outraged at what Mitch McConnell is doing to the Supreme Court confirmation process and no one but no one brings more eloquence to outrage than former Republican presidential campaign strategist Steve Schmidt.

I want to begin tonight with two things. The first thing is the only way the Democrats can block the confirmation of a Supreme Court justice this year to replace the honorable Ruth Bader Ginsburg. And the second thing is the name of the person Donald Trump is most likely to nominate to the Supreme Court at the end of this week.

Let's start with that first thing and with the parliamentary lay of the land in the United States Senate. A lot of people think the Senate is filled with complex rules that can be used to block anything or almost anything moving through the Senate and it is true that there are many obscure rules to Senate procedure, but most of them apply to budget issues, but you can't raise a budget point of order against a Supreme Court nomination. For days now, you've heard Democratic senators say they're going to use every procedural maneuver they can to block the nomination, but you haven't heard any of them, any of them specify what those procedural maneuvers might be.

And when you hear a Democratic senator say they are going to hold Republicans feet to the fire as I have heard more than once, that's not parliamentary language. I worked in the Senate for years and I don't know what they're talking about. Senators aren't allowed to use their fireplaces in their offices anymore.

There is only one way. There is only one way to block this nomination, to stall it, to slow down the United States Senate. There is only one way for Democrats to seize control of the calendar of the United States Senate and throw up a roadblock to this nomination in the Senate, and this parliamentary maneuver is not something that the Democratic leader of the Senate Chuck Schumer can do. It is not something any Democratic senator can do.

There is literally nothing Democratic senators can do to block this nomination. But the House of Representatives can do something. The Democratic House of Representatives can actually seize control of the calendar in the United States senate. Speaker Nancy Pelosi can do that, and she knows that she can do that and she was very, very careful when she was asked about it yesterday by George Stephanopoulos who before he worked in the Clinton White House was on the staff of the Democratic leadership in the House of Representatives.


GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS HOST: Some had mentioned the possibility if they try to push through a nominee in a lame duck session that you in the house can move to impeach President Trump or Attorney General Barr as a way of stalling and preventing the Senate from acting on this nomination.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Well, we have our options. We have arrows in our quiver that I'm not about to discuss right now.


O'DONNELL: If Nancy Pelosi delivers articles of impeachment to the United States Senate, Senate rules say upon such articles being presented to the Senate, the Senate shall at 1:00 afternoon of the day Sunday excepted following such presentation or sooner if ordered by the Senate proceed to the consideration of such articles and shall continue in session from day-to-day, Sundays excepted, after the trial shall commence unless otherwise ordered by the Senate until final judgment shall be rendered and so much longer as my, in its judgment, be needful.

Today on the Senate floor, Chuck Schumer said there is only one way. Those were his exact words, there is only one way. He didn't say he had arrows in his quiver, just one arrow, and it's not in his quiver.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): There is only one way, one way for this chamber to retain its dignity through this difficult chapter. There is only one way for us to have some hope of coming together again, trusting each other again, lowering the temperature, moving forward. And that is for four brave Senate Republicans to commit to rejecting any nominee until the next president is installed.


O'DONNELL: Two Senate Republicans of questionable bravery, Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski have said they are opposed to noting until after the election.

Republican Senator Mitt Romney has remained silent so far. The three front runners for the nomination on the Trump short list for the Supreme Court are all federal appeals court judges.

Allison Jones Rushing of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia. She was confirmed to that court in the first year of the Trump presidency, 53-44. Amy Coney Barrett was confirmed 55-43 in the first year of the Trump presidency to the Seventh Court of Appeals in Chicago. And Florida state Supreme Court Judge Barbara Lagoa was confirmed to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals just last year by a vote of 80-15.

And that makes Judge Lagoa the most likely choice for this nomination. Barbara Lagoa is from Miami. Donald Trump will see her Cuban heritage as helpful to his campaign in the must-win state of Florida. And she went through her FBI background check for her current job just last year, so a new background check for Judge Lagoa would be completed faster than possibly any other nominee.

And most importantly for the politics of the Senate, Barbara Lagoa was confirmed just last year with 27 Democratic votes. Most Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee voted for Barbara Lagoa just last year. Among the Democrats on the Judiciary Committee who voted against the confirmation of Barbara Lagoa last year, Senator Kamala Harris and our lead-off guest tonight, Senator Amy Klobuchar.

We're joined now by Senator Amy Klobuchar. She's a senior Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Senator Klobuchar, first of all, I want to dispense with some theories out there about what might happen.


O'DONNELL: Let's begin with impeachment because one very important clause inside that rule that I wrote, which sounds good, sounds like impeachment articles control the calendar of the Senate and immediately have to be heard beginning 1:00 p.m. the next day. But inside there, it says unless ordered otherwise by the Senate. Isn't it true that the impeachment process can, in effect, be derailed by 51 Republican votes, pretty much at anytime, including kind of an immediate not guilty vote?

KLOBUCHAR: You appear to be quite the expert on these rules, Lawrence, and first of all, that is my understanding. But I'd want to look at it again. But I would like to say this. Right now, our focus is on the heart of what you just said, and that is four Republicans.

We already have two. Two more with nearly all of them that were here in 2016 made it very clear the precedent that they set and the precedent that they set was that the people should vote and pick the president and the president picks the Supreme Court justice. Just like Abraham Lincoln did in the only incident next to this one when a just died so close to the election and that's when I will one up you on facts.

Justice Taney, the author of the Dred Scott opinion unfortunately, died close to the election. And Abraham Lincoln waited. He did get re-elected and that's when he decided to nominate a justice.

So, my point here is that whatever all these rules say and, yes, there are things that we can look at going forward especially, but right now the best way to do this from our country and to bring our country together is for those Republicans, and I put it on them, to make this call and to follow their own precedent.

O'DONNELL: What would be the case that you would make to a Republican who thinks the president's nominee is the right person for the job who agrees with all of the known judicial philosophies of the Republicans of the president's nominee? What is the case you would make to that Republican senator?

KLOBUCHAR: Sure. I'd make the case that this is about our democracy, that our country is at this moment, this boiling point where, first of all, we need a president that brings them together. That is Joe Biden. But that secondly, it's our job to kind of put all of this aside.

They are not beholden to Mitch McConnell. They are beholden to the people of this country. And 62 percent in the Reuters poll, 62 percent this weekend of the American people said that the next president should pick the Supreme Court justice. Five out of 10 Republicans said it.

So I think in the end, the voting that's going on, the motion that's out there, about the Notorious RBG, and everything she did and what she stood for, and that anything and everything was possible and that she never gave up when people told her she shouldn't go to law school. She graduates number one in her class. And they say she shouldn't make the arguments for equal protection, a man should. She goes in and does it and wins. When she gets to the court, she becomes an icon in her 80s. Anything is possible.

So those are the arguments I'm going to make to my colleagues because we are at a moment where Americans are voting in droves. They are voting big. Joe Biden is ahead in states we never imagined.

You just mentioned Jaime Harrison, who I can't wait to see on your show, coming up. These races are going in a direction that the people want them to go in. So I believe in the end that our colleagues, at least a few of them have to listen to that regardless of where they are on any nominee. And it is our democracy that's at stake.

O'DONNELL: Well, it sounds like Mitch McConnell's worried about that, the possibility of those two votes because he sent out that letter to all of his Republican colleagues kind of as fast as he could because he didn't have time to kind of call them all individually. And as you know, he included that phrase that leaders include when they don't have the votes.

He said, I urge you all to be cautious and keep your powder dry until we return to Washington. And, of course, in Senate leadership speak, that means I'm very afraid of what you might do with your powder. So just shut up and don't say anything until you get back here.

KLOBUCHAR: Yeah. Like I said, they are -- they are accountable to the people that sent them to Washington. They're accountable to our country and patriotism and democracy. Mitt Romney has many times stood up for our democracy over the last year or two.

And then the other thing that's going on here is they also understand the issues at hand. Health care is not only on the ballot. It's going to be on the Supreme Court docket on November 10th when they will be deciding that critical case out of Texas about whether or not people are going to be able to keep their health insurance if they have pre-existing conditions, over 100 million Americans could lose their health insurance.

They know as we see the smoke on the West Coast that the environmental protections that so many people hold dear are eventually going to be on that court docket.

Money that's been flooding into the elections where you have such a conservative court time and time again with the Citizens United case on down which a lot of people that aren't just Democrats don't like that, and that's a case we need to make to the American people. Not only because they need to vote like their life depends on it, to quote the great Michelle Obama, but also because they have to understand the significance of this Supreme Court justice.

It's not Donald Trump that could make this decision. It is literally in their hands right now as they go to the ballot box.

O'DONNELL: Senator, quickly before we go to a break here -- 27 Democrats voted for Barbara Lagoa just last year. You were not one of them, but most of your colleagues on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Democrat colleagues, did in fact vote for her.

What do you say to them if she comes up as the nominee? They voted for her to be confirmed to the court just one level below the Supreme Court. What do you say to the Democrats who have to now in effect reverse themselves on this judge?

KLOBUCHAR: The Supreme Court is a whole other ball game. First of all, you have old arguments already made that you want to get a justice that is -- would do -- would make Ruth Bader Ginsburg proud, would make her family proud.

You look at her last fervent wish, those are her words, my most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed, despite the fact that Donald Trump is now undermining her own family after she's died by questioning whether or not she said that. And, of course, as you know her, she would use the word fervent in her closing days.

And then the second argument is when you are picking judges for the Supreme Court of the United States, it's a whole different standard. It's a whole different ball game.

O'DONNELL: Senator Amy Klobuchar, I know how much Justice Ginsburg meant to you and that she was an inspiration. A lot of people talk about what an inspiration she was to little girls around the country, some of whom have grown up to go to law school, but she was also an inspiration --

KLOBUCHAR: And some of whom became senators.

O'DONNELL: Yes, exactly right. An inspiration to United States senators -- Senator Amy Klobuchar, thank you for joining us once again tonight. We always appreciate it.

KLOBUCHAR: Thanks, Lawrence.

O'DONNELL: Thank you.

After this break, Justice Ginsburg's dying wish, as the senator just said, was to have the winner of the next presidential election pick her replacement. As you just heard from Senator Klobuchar, Donald Trump is lying about that now.

NPR reporter Nina Totenberg was the reporter who revealed Justice Ginsburg's dying wish. She will join us next.

And at the end of the hour, as I said, Steve Schmidt will get tonight's last word in his first television discussion since the death of Justice Ginsburg.


O'DONNELL: Ruth Bader Ginsburg has four grandchildren. She dictated her dying wish to one of her grandchildren, Carla Spera, who released that statement from Justice Ginsburg to our next guest, Nina Totenberg, who reported it Friday night.

Quote: My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.

This morning, Donald Trump who knows nothing about life on the Supreme Court told this lie. He said I don't know that she said that, or was that written up by Adam Schiff and Schumer and Pelosi.

Tonight in a radio interview with the BBC, Justice Ginsburg's granddaughter said this.


CLARA SPERA, RBG'S GRANDCHILD: I asked her if there was anything she wanted to say to the public, to anyone that wasn't already out there. And she said there was. And I pulled out my computer and she dictated the following sentence to me.

She said, my most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed. And I read it back to her. She was very happy with that.

When I asked her, is that it? Is there anything else you would like to say? She said, the rest of my work is a matter of public record, so that was all she wanted to add.


O'DONNELL: Joining our discussion now is NPR's legal correspondent Nina Totenberg.

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

I know you were a close friend of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, so I am sorry for your loss. And I want to get your reaction to the president, what he actually said this morning basically calling Clara Spera a liar and just your reaction to it.

NINA TOTENBERG, NPR LEGAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I don't make a habit of commenting on my opinion of presidents, this president or any other president. I only know that that's what Clara read to me, and then I confirmed it with others who were in the room who were not family members, including her doctor who was there and presumably understood that Justice Ginsburg knew what she was doing and was fully competent to make that statement.

I think somebody in the room suggested at some point, did she want to dictate some sort of a message like John Lewis did that appeared after his death, and she said, no, that this is what she wanted to say. She dictated it, and that was it. That was very Ruthian.

O'DONNELL: Nina, what is your sense of the likelihood of senator confirmation. Let's just presume it for a second, that if there is a justice who is rushed through at this point, and what would you expect that to do to the court?

TOTENBERG: Well, it wouldn't be good for the court. It wouldn't be good for the country. It wouldn't be good for anybody, and it probably wouldn't be good for Republicans in the short return and Democrats in the long run because as you have noted, I'm sure, Lawrence, the wings of both party, the left and the right -- on the left is the woke, and on the right it is the freedom caucus. It's whatever.

They have an enormous amount of influence because they are the base in a very polarized time. And what almost certainty would happen is that eventually either if Joe Biden were to win or at some other future time the Democrats would be under enormous pressure then to add a couple of justices to the court.

And Justice Ginsburg was very clear that she thought that was a bad idea because it would just keep flipping back and forth between who won the most recent election. It's not that it hasn't happened in our history but it hasn't happened in over a century. And Chief Justice Rehnquist who was a very conservative member of the court and chief justice was fond of saying that the crown jewel in the American judiciary is independence.

And this would just abolish it, I think, and that would be the long-term effect. And I have talked to very conservative Republicans who like Trump appointees who actually think this is bad for the court.

O'DONNELL: Let's listen to the way Donald Trump talks about the independent judiciary. Here he is at a rally in North Carolina on Saturday.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Now, we're counting on the federal court system to make it so that we could actually have an evening we know who wins, OK, not where the votes will be counted a week later or two weeks later.


O'DONNELL: So there he is basically saying counting absentee ballots is suddenly wrong. But apparently, there could be a big litigation stream initiated by the president that would then end up possibly in this Supreme Court.

TOTENBERG: Uh-huh. And you would have the very person who has just been confirmed, along with other, you know, Trump appointees and Democratic appointees, saying -- deciding what was the appropriate outcome based on the law as they saw it. And, you know, even if you assume goodwill by every member of the court, the court would have lost the trust of the American people. That's the problem.

O'DONNELL: Nina, what do you think Justice Ginsburg would advise, say, a President Biden for the characteristics that he should look for in a Supreme Court justice?

TOTENBERG: You know what? Ruth Ginsburg was one of the smartest, if not the smartest people I have ever known. One of the things she taught me over time was to keep your mouth shut when you ought to, and I'm not putting words in her mouth.

O'DONNELL: I completely understand that position, Nina. I have been doing the same thing with Senator Moynihan's memory for many years now. I can't duplicate what he said.

Nina Totenberg of NPR, thank you very much for joining us tonight. And again, Nina, I'm very sad for your loss.

TOTENBERG: I am, too. But I am so glad that I knew her for 48 years and that she taught me not only about the law but how to live.

O'DONNELL: Thank you, Nina. I really appreciate it.

TOTENBERG: Thank you.

O'DONNELL: See, that's what I mean about the glow of people who were lucky enough to know Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Millions of people now are turning loss into action, political action. Cecile Richards joins us next on what the Supreme Court vacancy means to the presidential campaign.


O'DONNELL: Here is something that's never happened before upon the death of a Supreme Court justice. "The New York Times" reports Democratic donors shattered records on Act Blue, a donation processing site giving more than $6.2 million in the hour after Justice Ginsburg died. By noon Saturday donations had topped $45 million. In the 28 hours after her death, Act Blue had raised a record setting $91 million in donations. That number is now, tonight, over $160 million.

Joining our discussion now is Cecile Richards, cofounder of the women's political group SuperMajority and the former president of Planned Parenthood. And Cecile, I just want to begin with your memories of Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

I would assume that as president of Planned Parenthood you might have been in the room in the Supreme Court chamber some time seeing Justice Ginsburg in action.

CECILE RICHARDS, COFOUNDER, SUPERMAJORITY: Absolutely, Lawrence. And -- but I remember I had really just started Planned Parenthood when there was a major abortion rights case before the court. And at the time, Justice Ginsburg was the only woman on the court.

So you can imagine this barely hundred pound, five-foot woman sitting there with all these men representing an entire gender and basically carrying us all on her shoulders. And of course, she was more than up to the task. But it was really extraordinary to hear men talking about the most intimate personal details of women's private medical decisions.

And Justice Ginsburg, of course, we lost that decision and she wrote a scathing dissent. She was amazing. And of course, it was great to go back and see her on the court with Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. The three of them were a fierce trio and they made all the difference.

O'DONNELL: Cecile, I've spent every year on this program trying to get people to concentrate on the Supreme Court as a reason to be voting for president. This is a tragic way to get that focus. But it seems the focus has finally arrived, especially on the Democratic side.

We have new polling showing that more Democrats now than four years ago believe that it is very important, a very important issue. It is up to 66 percent of Democrats and fewer Republicans. It has dropped as an important issue for Republicans. It's gone from 70 percent down to 61 percent.

So the sense of urgency on this issue seems to be on the Democratic side this year, possibly for the first time.

RICHARDS: I agree, Lawrence. And of course at SuperMajority we have been totally focused on women voters. And it's -- you know, it's hard to imagine women were already on fire about the total failure of this administration to deal with a pandemic, about the fact that they can't send their kids back to school. They have been on the front lines providing care as health care workers.

But now the loss of Justice Ginsburg and actually the treatment that Mitch McConnell, you know, didn't even miss a beat by immediately moving to talk about her replacement, the disrespect that's been shown by this United States Senate leadership, women are so on fire. It's amazing.

And of course, we were already seeing polling that women, sub suburban women are against Donald Trump by more than 30 points and they understand what's at stake on the Supreme Court. Not only, of course, the right to safe and legal abortion, which with 17 cases coming up to this court; but a week after the election, five days after the election, this court will be hearing the case that would essentially overturn the Affordable Care Act and potentially 20 million people in this country losing their health insurance.

Women understand that and they are organizing and they are voting and they're going to be the dominant voters this November.

O'DONNELL: Cecile, I believe that one of the reasons Mitch McConnell rushed his statement about this was because he was worried that he didn't have the votes. And he had to alert his Republican members, make that declaration, we're going to be voting on this.

RICHARDS: That's right. Now -- look, he doesn't have the votes yet, so I don't want to acknowledge that a couple of the women in the United States Senate on the Republican side have said they won't vote for a replacement, that it should be for the next president.

But this is extraordinary, to see when you have a senate that hasn't dealt with any of the problems that people care about now, rampant record unemployment, lack of health care access, this pandemic and yet they can rush back just to fill a Supreme Court vacancy. The hypocrisy is rank and women see it.

O'DONNELL: Cecile Richards, thank you very much for joining us again tonight.

RICHARDS: Good to see you, Lawrence.

O'DONNELL: Thank you.

Well, Lindsey Graham says we should hold his words against him and who better to do that that the Democratic nominee for Senate in South Carolina who is running against Lindsey Graham. Jaime Harrison joins us next.



SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): If there is a Republican president in 2016 and a vacancy occurs in the last year of the first term, you can say "Lindsey Graham said let's let the next president, whoever it might be, make that nomination," and you could use my words against me and you would be absolutely right.


O'DONNELL: And now Senator Lindsey Graham says this, "I will support President Donald Trump in any effort to move forward regarding the recent vacancy created by the passing of Justice Ginsburg."

Now, I'm not going to hold Lindsey Graham's words against him. I'm going to leave that job to my next guest, Jaime Harrison, the Democratic nominee for Senate in South Carolina running against Lindsey Graham.


JAIME HARRISON (D-SC), SENATORIAL NOMINEE: I'm Democrat Jaime Harrison running for senate to unseat Lindsey Graham. I rose out of poverty, made it to Yale on scholarships and kept my word to come back home and help.

But Lindsey Graham's word.

GRAHAM: Trump is a race baiting, xenophobic, religious bigot.

No, I don't think he's a xenophobic race-baiting, religious bigot.

HARRISON: We can beat this guy. The latest poll has the race tied. But I need your help. Donate now at to join our campaign.

I'm Jaime Harrison and I approve this message.


O'DONNELL: Joining our discussion now is Jaime Harrison, Democratic U.S. senate candidate for South Carolina, running against Senator Lindsey Graham.

And Jaime Harrison, the latest Quinnipiac poll now shows these numbers higher. It shows Graham at 48 percent, Harrison at 48 percent holding in a tie in South Carolina.

We just talked about the fund-raising surge that some Democratic organizations have seen. Have you experienced any extra fund-raising surge over the weekend?

HARRISON: Well, Lawrence, we have gotten tremendous support, and we really appreciate it. And, you know, folks can continue to help us go to But what we are doing, Lawrence, is focusing on the issues here in South Carolina.

You know, Lindsey Graham is too busy trying to be important, trying to get in front of all the cameras so that people can see how great he is, how he doesn't keep his word.

But I'll focus on the issues that people care about here, the things that people are suffering with in this state. Because he's not doing his job, I need to do it for him. And I'm focusing on those issues right now here in South Carolina.

O'DONNELL: So four years ago when Lindsey Graham was running against Donald Trump, he said things like I think Donald Trump is a con man. I think he would destroy the Republican Party.

There is just a long list. I could just keep reading them. I don't want to use your time that way.

How does he explain his complete reversal, complete flip-flop on all of those statements in South Carolina?

HARRISON: Well, you know, the answer to everything for Lindsey Graham is Brett Kavanaugh. That is his go-to answer. He thinks that is his greatest moment --

O'DONNELL: Let me just stop you there for a second. He flip-flopped on Donald Trump and was playing golf with him long before Brett Kavanaugh.

HARRISON: Well, Lawrence, you know, one of the things that my grandfather told me is that a man is only has good as his word. And I would not use those type of descriptive adjectives to describe anybody unless I actually meant it. And if I meant it, then I probably would not be golfing with that person the next day.

And it just shows you that Lindsey Graham is only focused on his own relevance and his own political power. He does not care about the things that people in South Carolina are dealing with on a day-to-day basis. And that's why we need to send him home. It is far time for South Carolina to have a senator who's going to fight for her instead of fight against her.

But Lindsey Graham is just focused on, you know, touching the emperor's cloth (ph). And we just need somebody who's going to roll up his sleeves and do the work that the people in South Carolina sent him in Washington to do.

O'DONNELL: What is the single most important issue you are trying to talk to South Carolina voters about?

HARRISON: It is about health care. You know, here in my state, we have about 250,000 people who don't have health care here because Republicans like Lindsey have refused to expand Medicaid. Four of our rural hospitals have closed over the past few years, you know.

Even just two years ago, 14 of our 46 counties had no OB/GYN and there are grave health care disparities all across the state.

And then you've got Lindsey who came up with this bill, Graham/Cassidy, which doesn't protect folks with pre-existing conditions when almost a quarter of the state has pre-existing conditions.

This guy is just -- he's the worst, and that's why we need to send him home.

O'DONNELL: And Senator Graham, Chairman Graham of the Judiciary committee is going to try to send to the Supreme Court a new justice who will vote against and eliminate the Affordable Care Act.

HARRISON: Well, what I find disturbing, Lawrence, is that Lindsey Graham took off for almost all of August. He went golfing. He even got a tan. But now he can find the urgency.

One, he's betraying his commitment to the people of South Carolina because he committed to not taking up a nominee in an election year, but he's doing that. And now he can find the urgency to rush a Supreme Court justice nomination through his committee and to the floor of the U.S. Senate, but he can't find the urgency to address another COVID relief act.

In this state, we let 3,000 people to die. There are a number of small businesses there on the verge of closing. And Lindsey said, over our dead bodies, will we rely on extension of a federal unemployment benefit.

Again, we need a senator who is going to fight for us and not fight against us. And Lindsey Graham has exhausted his time in Washington, D.C. He needs to go home to Seneca or he can go to Mar-a-Lago or somewhere but he has to stop representing the state of South Carolina.

O'DONNELL: You know, in the old world of polling, and I'm not sure it still holds these days, when an incumbent was running below 50 percent, the conventional wisdom was the incumbent will lose because the undecided voters will go to the new choice.

Lindsey Graham has been polling under 50 percent consistently. He's now up at 48 percent with you. You're tied at 48 percent. That's a very, very, very bad poll for an incumbent in the time left in this campaign. Do you believe you have the resources and the campaign team and the ground troops you need in South Carolina to actually pull this off?

HARRISON: Lawrence, the momentum is on our side. You know, right now I'm living rent free in Lindsey Graham's head right now because he understands that the people of South Carolina want something different. It's been consistent in our polling that 57 percent, 58 percent of folks want somebody new to be their U.S. Senator. And they're going to get somebody who is going to focus on them and fight for them.

Lindsey just wants to sit with Sean Hannity every night or fly around on Air Force One or golf with the president. I want to do the work for the people here in South Carolina.

O'DONNELL: Jaime Harrison, Democratic candidate for Senate in South Carolina, thank you very, very much for joining us tonight. We really appreciate it.

HARRISON: Thank you, Lawrence. Take care.

O'DONNELL: Thank you.

And after this break Steve Schmidt's first TV discussion since the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. It will be Steve Schmidt's turn to hold Lindsey Graham's words against him in tonight's LAST WORD next.


O'DONNELL: The Lincoln Project is a group of Republican campaign professionals who are doing everything they can to save the country from another four years of the Republican presidency of Donald Trump. The Lincoln Project is now using Republican senators' words from four years ago against them.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's up to the American people in this next election to make the nomination for this important seat on the Supreme Court.

SENATOR TED CRUZ (R-TX): For the last 80 years, the Senate has not confirmed any nominee nominated during an election year, and we should not do so this time either.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're not going to nominate a Supreme Court justice until the people have spoken.

SENATOR MARCO RUBIO (R-FL): There's going to be an election, and then the new president will have an opportunity to nominate someone and the Senate to confirm them.

SENATOR CHUCK GRASSLEY (R-IA): The people deserve to be heard, and they should be allowed to decide through their vote for the next president the type of person that should be on the Supreme Court.


O'DONNELL: THE LAST WORD tonight goes to Steve Schmidt. He is a former Republican strategist and co-founder of The Lincoln Project. And Steve, I've been watching this stuff a long time. I've seen a lot of things. I have never seen anything like this reversal by these Republican senators over these four years on this very same issue.

STEVE SCHMIDT, COFOUNDER, THE LINCOLN PROJECT: The hypocrisy is unspeakable, but it is what it is.

But let's talk about why this is so terrible. The injured party to this action here is not the Democratic Party. It's the United States of America. And I think it's important for everyone to understand that what fuels a democracy is faith and belief in the legitimacy of the system.

In particular, the legitimacy of the system through the eyes of people who are in the minority. And I don't mean minorities. I mean politically the minority. That they understand that the system has rules, that we elect our representatives, that the person who gets the most votes wins. If you lose an election, you get them the next time.

And so we've seen four years of Donald Trump whacking at our institutions with a baseball bat, hitting the pillars on the rule of law, assaulting the Justice Department, the intelligence agencies, burning it all down.

And so now look what we see here. We see all of these Republican senators. It's so breathtakingly dishonest. And what they're doing is hurting the country because the faith and belief that we need to sustain our democracy is bleeding out of the system.

This is a moment that calls for wisdom, calls for restraint. Restraint is an underappreciated virtue in the functioning of a democratic republic like the United States. Just because you can do it, doesn't mean that you should.

And by forcing this forward, if they can get the votes, they will break utterly the institution of the United States Senate, shattering what was once known as the world's greatest deliberative body.

And they'll break the Supreme Court as an institution. It will become just one more profoundly distrusted institution that the American people look at and think that it was constituted unfairly.

And so it's a terrible moment. The principle-less (ph) application of raw politics in the moment is going to cost the Republicans their majority in the Senate, and I think it's going to put the final nail in Trump's coffin.

This is politically terrible for Republicans but they're willing to do damage to the country in this moment obviously to get the pick through on the court.

O'DONNELL: Steve, when I was working in the Senate trying to round up votes for Democratic legislation, which sometimes by the way, included Republican votes that would support it, one of the things I would encounter once in a while was a senator saying to me, look, I'd love to be with you on this. But in my campaign, I said x, therefore, I can't reverse myself now.

This doesn't -- that just doesn't seem like a factor in the lives of Republican senators anymore.

SCHMIDT: No. Look, at the end of the day, you need look no further than the Republican platform, Lawrence, right? Every idea, every principle, every policy was stripped out of it. It's a cult of personality.

At least they're being consistent with regard to the platform. What the platform requires these senators to do is to be loyal and obedient to Trump, and that's what they're doing. Their word means nothing.

The principle-less position that they have on this is just astounding. And it is amazing to see all of them and what they said, just how fundamentally dishonest it is. And the truth of the matter is, is that Trump was always a symptom of our broken politics.

But these are all the people who broke it. These are the type of people who are breaking it now and making it worse. And we're not going to be able to restore the faith and trust of the American people in government with politicians like these. It's just so staggeringly dishonest, there's almost no words for it.

O'DONNELL: No and I know some of these Republican senators, Grassley, McConnell for that matter. And when I was working there, if you had told me that they were capable of these kinds of reversals, I just would have argued. I would have said absolutely not. No, no, no. They have real lines that they believe in.

And Donald Trump's done everything to remove any sense that they ever seemed to have of what they believed in.

SCHMIDT: For sure. And I don't know what else you can say about it other than these are the same people. Every one of them knew that Donald Trump was lying to the country about COVID. They also, every one of them, knew that Donald Trump knew how deadly COVID was. Not one of them took the floor of the Senate. Not one of them went to the Oval Office.

They are supine. They are weak. They are cowards, and they are a huge part of the reason that this country is in such precipitous decline tonight.

O'DONNELL: Steve Schmidt, thank you once again. Steve Schmidt gets tonight's LAST WORD.



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