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Transcript: The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, September 22, 2020

Guest: Cory Booker


Cindy McCain endorses Joe Biden for president. U.S. Democratic Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey is interviewed. As the country crosses the grim threshold of 200,000 deaths from coronavirus, Donald Trump continues to downplay the coronavirus while he carefully social distances himself from everyone at his lethally-dangerous rallies. Today "The Washington Post" reported on a new CIA intelligence report and quoted this line from the report, "We assess that President Vladimir Putin and the senior most Russian officials are aware of and probably directing Russia's influence operations aimed at denigrating the former U.S. vice president, supporting the U.S. President, and fueling public discord ahead of the U.S. election in November."



And you used the word "obsessed" before this last break, that basically kind of apologizing to your staff for being obsessed with this subject. Speaking for the audience, let me thank you for your being obsessed with what's been happening, both in the meatpacking plants and at the CDC.

And your reporting tonight is the essential kind of reporting we rely on THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW for and I'm hoping the various organizations that consider awards for the work done in this field are watching, because this is -- this is as important as anything that this network has done this year.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Lawrence, you are very kind, and you're going to get verklempt. I'm just going to go now. Thank you very much.

O'DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel.

Well, the breaking news of the night is that the widow of former Republican presidential nominee, Senator John McCain, is breaking with her husband's party and endorsing Joe Biden for president of the United States.

Cindy McCain tweeted: My husband John lived by a code, country first. We are Republicans, yes, but Americans foremost. There's only one candidate in this race who stands up for our values as a nation, and this is Joe Biden.

Joe and I don't always agree on the issues, and I know he and John certainly had some passionate arguments. But he is a good man. He's a good and honest man. He will lead us with dignity. He will be a commander in chief that the finest fighting force in the history of the world can depend on because he knows what it is like to send a child off to fight.

Joe Biden announced the news of that -- of the Cindy McCain endorsement at a fund-raiser today, earlier today and he said that Cindy McCain was going to endorse him tonight because of what Donald Trump said about people serving in the military being losers and suckers.

And reporting in "The Atlantic", Jeffrey Goldberg quoted several sources saying they've heard Donald Trump call American soldiers who were killed in action losers. Joe Biden will surely be bringing that up at next week's presidential debate, which might or might not provoke Donald Trump to attack John McCain once again for being captured and tortured as a prisoner of war in Vietnam.

Or maybe this time, Donald Trump will attack Cindy McCain. Donald Trump has never stopped attacking John McCain, even after his death two years ago. And because that kind of poisonous bile constantly erupts from Donald Trump, we can expect that exactly one week from now, at this very minute, the presidential debate should be completely off the rails and out of control.

One week from tonight, at this very moment, we will all be doing the same thing, watching the presidential debate, which will have just crossed the one-hour mark, and we now have an outline of how the first debate is supposed to work. And we know that outline will be impossible, because Donald Trump.

The Commission on Presidential Debates released a statement today headlined: Moderator announces topic for presidential debate. It says: the format for the first debate calls for six 15-minute time segments dedicated to topics announced in advance in order to encourage deep discussion of the leading issues facing the country. Chris Wallace, moderator of the first 2020 presidential debate, has selected the topics for that debate. Subject to possible changes because of the news developments, the topic for the September 29 debate are as follows, not necessarily to be brought up in this order: the Trump and Biden records, the Supreme Court, COVID-19, the economy, race and violence in our cities, the integrity of the election.

All debates start at 9:00 p.m. Eastern Time and run for 90 minutes without commercial interruption.

What are the chances that the timed 15-minute segments thing will be working by the time we're an hour into the debate? Does anyone really think Donald Trump is going to stop talking about race and violence in our cities? Whatever that means?

If the candidates do get around to discussing the integrity of the election, we know that Donald Trump will simply lie about mail-in ballots, while Joe Biden will probably try to stress today's breaking news about a CIA assessment that says Vladimir Putin is probably actually directing the Russian interference in the presidential campaign to hurt Joe Biden and help Donald Trump, and Vladimir Putin is doing that himself.

We'll discuss that later in the hour with Malcolm Nance. And with the death toll now clearly above 200,000, will Donald Trump try to down play the coronavirus in the debate as he told Bob Woodward he likes to do? And as he did at his campaign rally last night, where Donald Trump, as usual, was the only person at his rally who was taking real coronavirus precautions by social distancing himself from everyone there.

And when the candidates debate the Supreme Court, they will have the name of Donald Trump's choice to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the court. Donald Trump said today he will announce that name on Saturday. Senator Cory Booker will be questioning that nominee in a Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing. Senator Booker will join us tonight with the latest on the Supreme Court battle in the Senate and how he would advise Joe Biden to discuss the Supreme Court in the presidential debate.

Joe Biden continues to lead Donald Trump in all national polls and today, Joe Biden is showing surprising strength in two states Donald Trump won easily four years ago. Joe Biden is tied with Donald Trump in Georgia, Georgia, at 47-47. And Joe Biden is tied with Donald Trump in Iowa at 47-47.

Leading off our discussion tonight, Zerlina Maxwell, a senior director of progressive programming at Sirius XM Radio, and Yamiche Alcindor, White House correspondent for "PBS NewsHour". She's one of the moderators of the sixth Democratic primary debates, both are MSNBC political analyst.

And, Yamiche, as the only presidential debate moderator among us this evening, what is your reaction to what you see as the hoped for outline of the presidential debate a week from tonight?

YAMICHE ALCINDOR, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I think that the topics are robust and timely and critical. I also think that President Trump is going to be, of course, trying to deflect on a lot of these topics in particular, someone who has questioned him a number of times. When you ask the president about race and about black people being killed at higher rates than white people, he does not want to answer that question.

I saw the integrity of the election on there. The president has time and time again talked about the fact that he's done all that he could to protect the elections while also saying in the same breath that mail-in voting isn't safe when we know that there is no evidence that there's any sort of mass mail-in voting.

So I think it's going to be an interesting thing. I would say for Joe Biden, he's going to have his work cut out for him, because we know that President Trump is someone who is a dogfighter. He's pointed, he's brash. He has no real kind of limits on where and how personal he will get in these debates.

So I can imagine him going after Hunter Biden, going after Senator Harris. I was just looking at a story today talking about some of the racist attacks that Senator Harris has had to weather when it comes to people falsely questioning her birthplace.

But I think overall, the big issue that Chris Wallace is going to have to deal with is how to contain these two people and how to make it so that there's a flow to this debate. I think this is an ambitious outline. But as you said, the president, 15 minutes in, could be -- all of this outline could be thrown out the window because the president says something and won't stop on one topic.

Also, the president, of course, has really been running on the idea of fear and race and critic also say racism. And as a result, there's also this idea that all of these things are connected. So it's going to be really interesting to see how the president will use them together to make the case he should be re-elected.

O'DONNELL: Zerlina, what was your reaction to that potential outline for the 90 minutes?

ZERLINA MAXWELL, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: My first reaction was, what is race and violence in our cities as a topic for presidential debate? Because up until Donald Trump started talking about it nonstop, I wasn't aware that, you know, Portland was on fire. I'm sure the people in Portland are like, what are they talking about?

We're talking about small pockets in some cities where there is unrest after there is a police killing of a black person. And there is no accountability. So, it's a reaction to the violence committed by the police.

And if Donald Trump is willing to have a conversation about that, then I think that could get interesting. But I don't think that's the way Chris Wallace is planning to frame it.

Additionally, I think it's important for Joe Biden to really hit hard the point that 200,000 Americans have died. The Republicans, during the Obama administration, had 33 hearings and beyond the Obama administration, 33 hearings about Benghazi. Four Americans died in Benghazi. 200,000 Americans have died up to this point. And the proper PPE and testing is still not in place.

And so, the curve still does not look like it is going to come down. And so, Donald Trump is continuing to fail. Biden would do well by hitting that point over and over and over again.

O'DONNELL: Yamiche Alcindor, Cindy McCain's endorsement tonight is a very big Republican name for Joe Biden to have on his side. We are patiently awaiting Donald Trump's reaction to that.

ALCINDOR: I think we're all in some ways bracing for his reaction, because we know that Donald Trump has been someone who has attacked John McCain long after the late senator has died. And so, I think that we're imagining, and I think he's going to lash out once again at the McCain family.

I do want to touch on what Zerlina said about race and violence in the cities. I'm hoping, as a former debate moderator, that Chris Wallace is going to be talking about violence against a lot of people of color and black people in this country, because protesters will say that the violence that we have seen a lot of times in the streets has been perpetuated by police killing black people on camera and the president has been connecting those two.

I think, again, when it comes to Joe Biden talking about Cindy McCain endorsing him, he's going to be talking about the fact that he's a good and decent person and that there are Republicans who should look to him who has a steady hand for this next election. I think it's going to make a lot of people also a bit nervous, frankly.

When I talk to very progressive advocates, they're saying Joe Biden, they don't want Joe Biden courting too many Republicans. But there is this issue, of course, of the fact that the military is a big part of the Republican Party, and that if Joe Biden can kind of really take some of those people away from President Trump with this Cindy McCain endorsement, that that might work in his favor.

O'DONNELL: Yeah, Zerlina, to go back to that item in the debate outlined race and violence in our cities, I have just hand rewritten it on me sheet to say, police use of deadly force. Because that is the governing policy that you would debate if you're debating what precedes every one of the demonstration that have turned destructive in certain places around the country. Every single one of those protests and then administrations was in reaction to either the police killing of George Floyd or another police killing of an unarmed American.

MAXWELL: Absolutely. I think that, you know, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris frankly in the vice presidential debate will be able to speak to their specific policy proposals to reform the police departments.

Now, Joe Biden is not for defunding police departments but he is for systemic reforms that would afford folks accountability. Now, there's a lot of reforms that need to be implemented in order to prevent police killings, because often times I think, you know, when we're talking about training, I don't know what kind of training would prevent the police killing in a situation like George Floyd, for example.

But I do think that there are reforms that can be put into place, and Biden can lay that out. The bottom line in the debate for me, Lawrence, is the fact that essentially at this point, so close to election day, with elections already started because early voting has begun in some states, that Joe Biden needs to do the debate as a platform for a turnout message as well to ensure that his folks are registered and turning out and submitting their absentee ballot applications. You can make the case for why you will be the best person to govern after Trump, but make sure your people are getting to the polls, so that after Election Day on November 3rd, you're not looking in the rear-view mirror and wishing you had higher turnout like we did in 2016.

O'DONNELL: Yamiche, with Cindy McCain's endorsement being at least partially based on Donald Trump's quotes that have been reported calling Americans killed in action war losers, suckers, that sort of thing, we can certainly expect Joe Biden to refer to that in the debate. It's not in any of the categories that we see so far in the outline of the debate, except possibly the Trump record part of the debate.

But Donald Trump does not seem to have done any preparation yet about how to address that.

ALCINDOR: It's going to be very interesting to see how President Trump addresses that issue, because it is such a problem for him. Even among supporters, to call Americans who gave their life in service to the United States losers, to try to suggest that they're not deserving of his respect and of his physical appearance at their graves, is remarkable for a sitting president to do.

And it also is remarkable, of course, that he is a president who has former generals who used to work for him denouncing him on all fronts. Again, when you go back to the idea of race and violence, part of that is connected to the military. He used a show of military force to move peaceful protesters out of the way to stage a photo-op in front of a church.

So I think he's going to have his work cut out for him. It's going to be up to Joe Biden to pull out these moments where he can say look, you told Bob Woodward that you were trying to down play the coronavirus. What about that? You told protesters that they were anarchists, but in fact, they're not. You told people that service members were losers. What do you say about that? You're the commander in chief.

So it's going to be up to Joe Biden to really make those moments. Chris Wallace as a moderator is going to be posing those questions, but I think as a debate moderator, your goal is to get the candidates to interact with each other and have that robust conversation.

O'DONNELL: Yamiche, let me squeeze that in before you, since you're actually done this. Do you think the debate moderators should be fact checking since we know Donald Trump is going to lie? There's a guarantee he's going to lie.

ALCINDOR: I think it's the obligation of journalists and debate moderators to at least put some fact checks in. I understand there's going to be a time limit and you can't fact check everything, and frankly on the Republican side with President Trump. But there should be times, if president Trump says, I never downplayed the virus, someone has to say, actually you told Bob Woodward on March 19th that you did it on purpose so you wouldn't panic the American people.

If he starts saying that that cities are engulfed in flames and that black people and protesters have taken over all over and that suburbs are going to be abolished, there has to be someone to say, Mr. President, that's simply not true.

O'DONNELL: Yamiche Alcindor is not moderating the first presidential debate this year, unfortunately. Yamiche, thank you for joining us.

Zerlina Maxwell, thank you for starting us out tonight. Really appreciate it.

And when we come back, Senator Cory Booker, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, where he's voted against the confirmations of every one of the federal judges Donald Trump is considering promoting to the Supreme Court. Senator Booker joins us next.


O'DONNELL: A poll released yesterday by "Reuters" and Ipsos conducted after Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died found that 62 percent of Americans agree the winner of the presidential election in November should be able to appoint the replacement for Justice Ginsburg.

Yesterday, Joe Biden said this in Wisconsin.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: I taught constitutional law for over 20 years. The Constitution suggests that the public gets one chance to decide what the court looks like that's when they elect a president and when they elect a Senate.

We're in the middle of an election. By the time that vote comes up, if it comes up, there will have been close to 40 percent of the people already voted. It's a violation of the spirit of the Constitution to suggest that he should not wait until the outcome of the election.


O'DONNELL: Senator Cory Booker voted against all of the judges who are on Donald Trump's short list for the nomination, including federal appeals court Judge Amy Coney Barrett, who reportedly was at the White House two days in a row now.

Senator Booker will be questioning the next Supreme Court nominee whenever Chairman Lindsey Graham schedules the Judiciary Committee's confirmation hearing for that nominee.

And joining us now is Senator Cory Booker, Democrat from New Jersey, member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Senator Booker, thank you very much for joining us tonight.

What is the latest state of the strategic approach to this nomination by the Democrats in the Senate, and do the Democrats have a unified approach to this?

SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ): Well, right now, Democratic senators (AUDIO GAP) speaking about persuasively in my opinion passionately (AUDIO GAP) the fact that we shouldn't move forward. There are six senators that still have not told us which way they're going to go.

But there's still an outside chance, a very long shot that we actually persuade some senators to take a John McCain-like action to turn his thumb down. If that happens, we end up going into hearings.

Donald Trump seems to be meeting somebody this weekend. The Judiciary Committee, we already talked, we're going to have to come together and decide with our strategy and we have a lot of options for us.

O'DONNELL: I want to listen to something that Donald Trump said today about this nominee.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We need nine justices. We need that. With the unsolicited millions of ballots that they're sending, it's a scam, it's a hoax. Doing it before the election would be a very good thing.


O'DONNELL: Senator, he's saying that he needs this new Supreme Court justice, that he's not yet named, he needs that person confirmed, in order to rule in the Supreme Court on appeals he will be bringing about the election.

BOOKER: Well, this is a person that has so attacked our democracy that he already said that he loses the election, it is therefore rigged. So, we know, he's telegraphing to us that he's going to try to delegitimize any election outcome unless he is the winner that. And that's very dangerous.

And, again, the hypocrisy of saying that we need nine justices, when the last time the situation was, when Obama put forth Merrick Garland, they left it open, there were eight judges on the Supreme Court, and they were comfortable with that. So this is hypocrisy and layered upon that is a sinister desire to delegitimize the republic.

This is exactly, as someone who is on the Foreign Relations Committee and has access to intelligence documents, this is exactly what the Russians want to have happen to our democracy, is for demagogues like him to further delegitimize the institutions that are important, and the process of elections be safe, fair elections.

And voting by mail is a safe and fair way to do it. For him to question that process will undermine what has been one of the most noble traditions of our democracy from its very founding, which is the peaceful, orderly transfer of power. And that really worries me.

O'DONNELL: Senator, if that's the way Donald Trump is talking about this, outside in the driveway, outside of the White House, we can only wonder the way he's talking about it in interviews with potential nominees.

Is he saying to them, it's a hoax, mail-in balloting are a scam, are they nodding when he says? Are they agreeing with him when he says that? Is he telling them that he needs them, and he needs their vote in his appeals of this election that will come to the Supreme Court?

It seems like you're questioning and the committee's questioning about what the president has said in those interviews is more important than ever.

BOOKER: Well, we have no way of knowing for sure what he's saying. But we do know for sure that this is a president who does not follow norms or propriety or even I believe the law. He was impeached because of the kind of inappropriate and wrong things he said to a foreign leader soliciting support for his election.

So he's willing to do that with a foreign leader, God knows what he's been saying to people who've been coming before him for this position. But there's something even more certain than this. What we do know is he's going to find a judge that will do his bidding on issues of a woman's right to control her own body, Roe v. Wade is in jeopardy with this pick, as well as the ACA, which he said, let it fall was his desire, specifically his desire.

And as his Justice Department moves forward with a Supreme Court case, heading towards the Supreme Court, if he gets this justice, you can be assured that they will upend the Affordable Care Act, thus thrusting millions of American's health care in crisis -- people with preexisting conditions, people who have urgent needs for Medicaid expansion, and more.

This is a real moment of crisis for the health care and well-being of many Americans.

O'DONNELL: So Congress has made a deal on funding the government tonight. Nancy Pelosi has agreed with Mitch McConnell on how to go forward with that. So that's not going to be one of the things that could slow this down.

Let's listen to what Chuck Schumer said about the possibility of slowing this down in the Senate.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MINORITY LEADER: We have tactical options to slow them down. We will use every tool in the tool kit. Now admittedly, McConnell has changed things, changed the rules, so we have fewer tools and they're less sharp, but every tool we have we will use.

To slow it down is to give us more time to convince the American people, and I don't believe it's a fait accompli.


O'DONNELL: Senator Booker, I know of no tool that can really, in a significant way, slow down a nomination like this. The tools you have for legislative matters are more varied, especially budget matters and budget points of order, but none of that stuff applies here. It seems the Republicans have enough days left on the calendar this year to get this done. If that means keeping you in over Thanksgiving or whatever it takes.

But in the slowing it down, it sounds like Senator Schumer's hope is that the debate that will be heard in the slowing it down will have an effect that could then somehow change the outcome of this.

BOOKER: Lawrence, I know very well that you know the rules of the Senate, and one of the many mastery -- areas of mastery, you know what tools we have in the toolbox, is varied with the way that Mitch McConnell is running the Senate, the toolbox has got very few let's say magic wands in it that will do any good, and you know that. So we have a difficult challenge.

But you put it right. We still don't know what the response of the American people is going to be. And just like health care, health care would have been torn down had not the American people stood up, spoke up, rose up.

Marches, demonstrations, appeals to senators' conscience, and eventually that changed the way. This is the possibility that we have before us. And you saw it with the polling you just showed is that most of America doesn't want this. The majority of Americans do not want this.

They think, that just like Ruth Bader Ginsburg in her final public appeal, they actually agree with her. That it is right to wait until the next president, because so much is on the balance -- in the balance here. Let the people speak is what she wanted, and I think that's what the majority of the American people want.

Let me just say one final thing. Don't lose sight of that. Perhaps the biggest influence all of us could have is in this election season. In fact, we preserve a host of options to undo any damage, even if he's successful in putting this person on the Supreme Court.

We have a lot of options to reverse the damage that's being done only if we win the presidency and win the United States senate back. We've got to keep our eyes on that ball. There is an urgency now to this election.

We already thought this was the most important election of our lifetime. But now it's gone to a whole different level and stratosphere of importance for an election. So I'm hoping if anything, this activates -- people need to use their time, energy, resources invested in this election.

In many ways with health care in the balance, the ability to control your own body, the ability to organize in unions as we saw with that in push back, voting rights, civil rights, LGBTQ rights. All of these things are now in the balance.

Please, with all your urgency now, we need people to animate and really invest themselves in the election in November.

O'DONNELL: Senator Booker, I'm so glad you made that point, because we are -- if Joe Biden wins the presidency, if the Democrats win the Senate, then where we are tonight is at the beginning of a story about the Supreme Court that will not be completed until at least next year, and possibly after that.

And so that is -- it's possibly -- when we discuss this again, Senator, that's where we're going the begin. That's the most important point to take out this.

Senator Cory Booker, thank you very much for joining us again tonight.

SENATOR BOOKER: And I have to say this -- amen, hallelujah to your last point. Thank you.

O'DONNELL: Thank you Senator.

And when we come back, as the country crosses the grim threshold of 200,000 deaths from coronavirus, Donald Trump continues to downplay the coronavirus while he carefully social distances himself from everyone at his lethally-dangerous rallies.


O'DONNELL: As of tonight, this country has passed the grim milestone of 200,000 deaths from coronavirus. As of tonight, the number is 201,801 deaths. The country has suffered 6,919,050 reported cases of coronavirus. But Donald Trump is still doing what he told Bob Woodward he likes to do, downplaying the coronavirus.

Here is what he said last night at a rally in Ohio.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We now know the disease, we didn't know it. Now we know it. It affects elderly people, elderly people with heart problems and other problems. If they have other problems, that's what it really affects. That's it.

You know, in some states, thousands of people, nobody young, below the age of 18, like nobody. They have a strong immune system. Who knows? You take your hat off to the young, because they have a hell of an immune system. But it affects virtually nobody. It's an amazing thing.


O'DONNELL: He is lying, of course. Many, many young people have died from this disease. Today, Donald Trump was asked why he has not said a word -- not a word about 200,000 dead.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why haven't you said anything about the U.S. hitting 200,000 deaths?

TRUMP: Go ahead, anybody else?


O'DONNELL: That is Donald Trump's favorite technique with questions he can't answer this week -- simply turn away. But he will not be able to do that on the debate stage one week from tonight.

He did the same thing with a question about the poisoning of a Russian leader of the opposition to Vladimir Putin. Donald Trump could not make it more clear that the two subjects he's most afraid of in next week's debate are Vladimir Putin and COVID-19.

Joining us now is Dr. Vin Gupta. He is a pulmonologist, a global health policy expert and affiliate assistant professor at the University of Washington Medical Center. He is an MSNBC medical contributor.

And Dr. Gupta, I want to get your fact-check reaction to what we just heard Donald Trump say about it really just affects elderly people, people with heart problems, other problems. Young people don't have anything to worry about.

DR. VIN GUPTA, CNN MEDICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Thanks, Lawrence, for the opportunity.

You know, 200,000 people died, and what we think is that 70 percent of their lives could have been saved if Donald Trump and his administration had taken appropriate actions early.

What does that mean, Lawrence? That means in early March, two weeks earlier, shutting down the country so we could start -- reopen the economy more quickly. We could have schools reopen now here in the fall instead of doing what we're doing now, which nobody likes.

We could have actually had N-95 masks, people getting the masks they deserve, not just being told to put a cloth mask in front of their face, but well-fit masks that they deserve. That he had the ability to produce at scale if he had planned ahead.

Just like he knew on February 7 from the Woodward tapes, that this disease was airborne. If we had enough of these, we wouldn't have lost 140,000 lives at least. So that's number two.

So the fact check here, we can continue on, but I'll tell you, Lawrence, people want to know, hey, doc, should I go home for the holidays? What's in store for the next few months with seasonality and colder temperatures? What about air pollution, just given the small care (ph). What does that mean for me with respect to COVID?

We don't hear the surgeon general, we don't hear the assistant secretary of health. We don't hear anybody talking about issues that matter to everyday Americans and that's (AUDIO GAP).

O'DONNELL: Dr. Gupta, we have a bit from Olivia Troye, who was on the coronavirus task force working specifically on Mike Pence's staff. She was interviewed by Andrea Mitchell today. Let's listen to what she said.


OLIVIA TROYE, MEMBER OF MIKE PENCE TASK FORCE: He was really focused on public image, messaging, and it was really more about, you know, his personal agenda than really the agenda of the task force at hand, which was how are we going to save and protect Americans.


O'DONNELL: Dr. Gupta, that's the way it all looked to us from the outside. But to hear it from someone on the coronavirus task force working for Mike Pence takes it to a new level.

DR. GUPTAS: Well, Lawrence, I'm going to add to that. And I'm speaking on behalf of my respiratory therapist, my ICU nurses and everybody in public health right now. when I say the CDC, sitting there on a Friday acknowledging airborne transmission of COVID-19, and then on a Monday erasing it, plays into the narrative of this president, who basically wants his science establishment to cover its tracks -- his tracks. His tracks of failure.

That's why we're not acknowledging airborne transmission, because you know why, Lawrence. We don't have enough of these guys. That's why. If they acknowledged it that this is airborne transmitted, then the next question is, where is the N-95 masks for the teacher in the classroom that's vulnerable for the older 65 individual on the West Coast inhaling smog and exposed to COVID.

They would have to be accountable if they acknowledged the truth. And that's why you're seeing this first person account, this whistleblower accounts of what actually happened. They're worried about public image and trying to deceive the American people, not telling us the truth.

O'DONNELL: Dr. Gupta, I believe that Joe Biden can correct everything that's going wrong at the CDC on the afternoon of inauguration day. And, in fact, there will be a lot of corrections made if Joe Biden wins, even before inauguration day, because they will no longer -- the administrators who are living in fear of Donald Trump will no longer be living in fear of Donald Trump after the election.

DR. GUPTA: I think you're right, Lawrence. I can check off a few things I hope to see in a future Biden administration, if that would come to pass. Rapid point of care testing that's high quality for everybody, not just those who can afford it. N95 masks for everybody, especially those that need it that are not ICU doctors like myself, but teachers, grocery store clerks. Those are things I would want to see absolutely.

And then I would want to see people -- the people get messaged accordingly. Hey, maybe you should be wearing, if you're a teacher, a face shield or eye shield or eye protection in addition to a mask because that's what emerging data suggests you should be doing to protect your self.

So we need not only the right leadership at the top, we need public health messengers who know what they're doing and are saying the truth, even if that means they get fired. And right now, the surgeon general specifically, but the assistant secretary of Health and others are complicit in all of this.

So those are things I would love too see on day one of a Biden administration.

O'DONNELL: Dr. Vin Gupta, thank you for joining us on this grim day, marking the 200,000 dead from coronavirus. Thank you very much, Doctor.

Dr. Gupta: Thank you.

Today, "The Washington Post" broke this story. Secret CIA assessment: Putin probably directing influence operation to denigrate Biden. NBC News has confirmed that story. That's next.


O'DONNELL: Here's Donald Trump being asked about Vladimir Putin poisoning the Russian leader of the opposition to Vladimir Putin.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who do you think poisoned Alexey Navalny in Russia?

TRUMP: We'll talk about that at another time.


O'DONNELL: He's not going to be able to do that in the debate next week. But maybe if Joe Biden gets lucky, Donald Trump will say what he says about Vladimir Putin at his lethally dangerous rallies.


TRUMP: I like Putin, he likes me. You know, we get along. Wouldn't you say it's smart to get along? Ok. Smart.


O'DONNELL: Of course the president of the United States has to deal with murderous dictators around the world, but Donald Trump is the first president to say he likes them -- Russia's murderous dictator, North Korea's murderous dictator.

Here is a preview of what Joe Biden will be saying at next week's debate.

"It is absolutely clear who Vladimir Putin wants to win this election because Donald Trump's foreign policy has been a gift to the Kremlin."

Today, "The Washington Post" was the first to report on the existence of a new CIA analysis of Russia's interference in our election going on right now. That reporting has been confirmed by NBC News. "The Washington Post" reports Russian president Vladimir Putin and his top aides are probably directing a Russian foreign influence operation to interfere in the 2020 presidential election against former vice president Joe Biden, which involves a prominent Ukrainian lawmaker connected to President Trump's personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, a top secret CIA assessment concluded, according to two sources who reviewed it.

After this break, the man who always gets to say, "I told you so" will join us. Malcolm Nance has been warning us for years that this is exactly what Vladimir Putin was going to do in the 2020 election. Malcolm Nance is next.


O'DONNELL: Today "The Washington Post" reported on a new CIA intelligence report and quoted this line from the report. "We assess that President Vladimir Putin and the senior most Russian officials are aware of and probably directing Russia's influence operations aimed at denigrating the former U.S. vice president, supporting the U.S. President, and fueling public discord ahead of the U.S. election in November."

And when I read things like that, I want to talk to Malcolm Nance. Malcolm is an MSNBC counterterrorism and intelligence analyst.

Malcolm, you've been telling us that this was coming for years. It's happening pretty much exactly the way you said it would. And now the CIA is saying Vladimir Putin is hands on. He is probably -- they have the word probably there -- probably hands on in this effort.

MALCOLM NANCE, MSNBC COUNTERTERRORISM AND INTELLIGENCE ANALYST: I think that that was a very careful assessment in order not to infuriate Donald Trump, his number one patron. So, you know, Vladimir Putin determined that he was going to attack the United States in 2014. That is the first time we received positive indications that the Russian Internet Research Agency was stood up in September of 2014 and started hiring English linguists and carry out influence operations against the NRA, American evangelicals, and co-opted Donald Trump at the Miss Universe pageant.

So for them to finally come out and say, hey, we believe Vladimir Putin directed the activities related to 2020, that's pretty easy call because you do not attack the entire American electoral process without the leader of your country ordering you to do it.

O'DONNELL: Let's listen to what Senator Kamala Harris said about this tonight.


SENATOR KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: I serve on the Senate Intelligence Committee. And I will tell you please believe everything that has been published. Russia interfered in the election of the president of the United States in 2016, and they will do it again.

In 2016, they targeted black voters. It's part of the report. And you know why? Because they -- they knew that they could try and tap into a righteous distrust of the system.


O'DONNELL: Malcolm, your reaction to that.

NANCE: You know, Russia is not the country that you think sprung up out of the ground in 1989, the Russian federation. Prior to that, they had an intelligence agency called the KGB, which for 70 years used all of its deep academic studies and analysis of the United States to determine how they would move forward in propaganda and political warfare.

The Russian Federation just adopted all of that information through its spymaster in chief, Vladimir Putin, an ex-KGB officer.

Now, what that means is they know us. They know us deeply. They understand the fault lines of America with great detail. And so we dither and argue and try to compromise over how we're going to carry out intelligence activities. They direct and attack directly.

So Kamala Harris is right. They understand the incendiary nature of racism in America, and they attack that fault line. But now that they have their own guy in the White House to a certain extent, certainly rhetorically, they don't have to do anything. The president actually does all the legwork for them.

O'DONNELL: Let's listen to what the FBI director, Christopher Wray, said about this on September 17th.


CHRISTOPHER WRAY, FBI DIRECTOR: We certainly have seen very active -- very active efforts by the Russians to influence our election in 2020 through what I would call more the malign foreign influence side of things, social media, use of proxies, state media, online journals, et cetera, in an effort to both sow divisiveness and discord and -- and I think the intelligence community has assessed this publicly -- primarily to denigrate vice president Biden.


O'DONNELL: And the next day, Donald Trump said, I didn't like his answers yesterday, and I'm not sure he liked them either. I'm sure that he probably would agree with me, which is the most psycho-possible response. He doesn't just say that the FBI -- I disagree with the FBI director. He then says that the FBI director doesn't really mean what he says, and he secretly really agrees with me.

NANCE: You know, I find it fascinating because Vladimir Putin was a human intelligence officer. His job when he lived in Dresden -- and I've been to his office in Dresden, very interesting -- was to turn people who came into east Germany into spies through manipulating their human foibles and their personal or financial challenges.

Vladimir Putin must find Donald Trump an absolutely easy mark to manipulate because Trump will lie in the same sentence, the same breath, that he will attempt to manipulate the words of another person with a stature like the FBI director.

So what that does is that sets your own country up, the United States, for absolute failure. Anything that is injected through foreign malign influence into the information sphere that's the Internet will always be amplified by Donald Trump and will benefit the Russian federation.

O'DONNELL: Malcolm Nance gets tonight's LAST WORD. Thank you, Malcolm.



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