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Transcript: The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, September 23, 2020

Guests: Marq Claxton, Karine Jean-Pierre, Eric Swalwell, Eddie Glaude


A curfew has been in place in Louisville, Kentucky, since 9:00 p.m. tonight after Kentucky's Attorney General Daniel Cameron announced that a grand jury returned no criminal charges against two Louisville police officers that shot and killed Breonna Taylor. Joe Biden and Kamala Harris reacted to the Breonna Taylor case today.



And we're going to begin tonight the way you begun your hour. We'll be going to Cal Perry in Louisville where the situation as you reported is tense. As you reported, a confirmation of apparently two police officers in Louisville being shot tonight.

There is going to be a press conference there very soon, so we may be going to that live. That might be what's coming up here, but it is another one of those nights, Rachel, where we're watching the protest developments in a situation that began with police use of deadly force on Breonna Taylor.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, "TRMS": That's right. Just another one of those nights when it just feels like such a snapshot of everything all at once in America. Things just as dire as they could be in a lot of different fronts. Serious times.

O'DONNELL: Yeah, thank you, Rachel.

Well, a curfew has been in place in Louisville, Kentucky, since 9:00 p.m. tonight after Kentucky's Attorney General Daniel Cameron announced that a grand jury returned no criminal charges against two Louisville police officers that shot and killed Breonna Taylor. The grand jury did return a charge of wanton endangerment against a third officer who was outside of Breonna Taylor's apartment building when he fired ten shots that luckily hit no one.

Cal Perry is covering the situation for MSNBC tonight on the streets of Louisville, and he will join us in a moment.

What happened to Breonna Taylor during the police raid of her apartment that left her dead from a police bullet was enough to get one of the officers involved fired three months ago. It was enough to force the city of Louisville to agree last week to pay a settlement of $12 million to Breonna Taylor's family for what the city agrees was the wrongful death of Breonna Taylor, but it was not enough to bring criminal charges against the two officers who shot Breonna Taylor, according to Kentucky's attorney general, Daniel Cameron who today revealed the findings of a grand jury that was guided in those findings by the attorney general.

What happened when police fired their guns that night is what happens most of the time when police fire their guns in the line of duty. They missed their target. Most police bullets miss their targets most of the time. And sometimes that's a good thing. And sometimes that's a tragic thing.

In this case, it was actually both. The police were aiming at whoever fired a gun at them when they burst through the apartment door in the middle of the night. Breonna Taylor's boyfriend says they didn't identify themselves as police officers and in the dark he grabbed his gun and fired.

His bullet hit and wounded Officer Jonathan Mattingly. When Mattingly and Officer Miles Cosgrove fired in the direction of that gunshot, they missed Kenneth Walker. They fired 22 bullets between them, between the two of them, and they missed their target.

Every one of those bullets missed their target. But six of those bullets hit Breonna Taylor. One of the bullets fired by Officer Cosgrove is the bullet that killed her according to an FBI crime lab analysis made public by Kentucky's attorney general today.

Everything about the police work I just described to you was judged to be wrong by the city of Louisville and that is why the city settled the wrongful death lawsuit brought by Breonna Taylor's family last week for $12 million. The city of Louisville in that settlement also promised police reforms to Breonna Taylor's family.

That is a formal legal statement by the city of Louisville, the killing of Breonna Taylor was wrong. But was it criminal? That was the question for the grand jury.

We don't know what evidence was presented to the grand jury as of today. We only know that the grand jury did not find a crime in the killing of Breonna Taylor. But they did find criminal conduct at the scene by a third officer.

The best description I have heard of what Officer Brett Hankison did is on "The New York Times" podcast "The Daily" which describes what he did after he ran out of the apartment building and was actually out in the parking lot outside of Breonna Taylor's apartment.


RUKMINI CALLIMACHI: And he begins blindly firing through Breonna's window and her patio door, both of which were covered with blinds so he had no way of seeing inside. The bullets from Brett Hankison's gun we believe are the ones that ripped not just through her apartment but also through one of the apartments that was in the back where a young woman who was pregnant and her five-year-old child were asleep in separate bedrooms.


O'DONNELL: And he got fired for that. And those were the shots that when they missed their target that was a good thing, a very good thing because they didn't hit anyone. Ten police bullets fired into an apartment building where they could have killed a five-year-old child. Ten police bullets that could have killed that child's pregnant mother. And those ten police bullets luckily missed everyone in that apartment building.

Today, a grand jury decided those ten police bullets were criminal. A grand jury charged Officer Hankison with the felony of wanton endangerment. Kentucky law says a person is guilty of wanton endangerment when under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life, he wantonly engages in conduct which creates a substantial danger of death or serious physical injury to another person. And that according to the Kentucky attorney general and the grand jury he empanelled is the only crime that was committed when 32 police bullets were fired after Louisville police broke into Breonna Taylor's apartment in the middle of the night.

Leading off our discussion, professor Eddie Glaude, chairman of the African-American studies department at Princeton University. He's author of the new book "Begin Again: James Baldwin's America and Its Urgent Lessons for Our Own."

Marq Claxton is with us. He's a former New York City police detective and director of the Black Law Enforcement Alliance.

And MSNBC correspondent Cal Perry is joining us live from the streets of Louisville, Kentucky.

Cal, what is the situation there now?

CAL PERRY, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Listen, the streets are mostly clear, Lawrence. I'll tell you it was just about 30 minutes before curfew that we got word that two police officers had been shot. We don't know their conditions. It happened about a mile from here.

We know there were protesters in the area, but, again, we don't have details on what happened and we don't have their conditions. Once that happened and once word spread and this is a city that has been focused on one story alone for 195 days, as the Breonna Taylor story, the streets really did clear. There was a little bit of violence before that, water bottles thrown at police, police using tear gas.

All of this it seems as though the city was relatively well-prepared for. There is a ring of steel in a ten block radius of dump trucks that prevented vehicles from coming in. It has not prevented some militias from showing force on the streets and it has not prevented those clashes and it has not prevented two officers from being shot.

Before I could get back to you, though, I want to tell you what Breonna Taylor's family has been saying. Breonna Taylor's put out the following statement. They said that the grand jury decision was, quote, outrageous and offensive to her memory, a documented and clear cover-up, and the death of an unarmed black woman who posed no threat and living her best life.

And then her sister put on Instagram, sister: you were failed by a system that you worked hard for and I am so sorry. I love you so, so much.

Breonna Taylor was a front line health worker and the people here who have taken to the streets tonight, the majority of whom have done so peacefully, believe that the law has been written her in Kentucky in a way that does not protect black people that did not protect Breonna Taylor. Three police officers were involved in that shooting that left her dead 194 days ago, and none of them, including Detective Hankison was charged in actually shooting Breonna Taylor. That has this city, as you can tell, not only on edge but angry.

The police behind me of course now are entrenched in their own positions. Two police were shot. As Rachel said, we have the intersection of all of these stories. And Louisville now is another one of those American cities where we are going to have a conversation here about what kind of country we want to be going forward -- Lawrence.

O'DONNELL: Cal, thank you for that report. We will be coming back to you through the hour as the situation develops.

I want to go to Marq Claxton.

Marq, with your experience as a New York City police detective, police officer, I want you to give us your reading of the evidence in this case as we know it now.

MARQ CLAXTON, FORMER NEW YORK CITY POLICE DETECTIVE: I think it's pretty clear that based on the information that came out this afternoon during the press conference and also the A.G.'s statement, that there was really a focus on the execution of the search warrant when there should have been, quite clearly, a focus on who was responsible for the execution of Breonna Taylor.

The prosecutors have a wide range with which to conduct these type of grand jury investigations, and that is why many people have been saying for many years that this process should be opened up and made public. The devil is in the details. Right now, we don't have information as to exactly how this case was presented to the grand jury, but we have the evidence that was presented. And now we have to rely solely on the perception in the opinions of the attorney general because there is a federal investigation right now that it would be compromising evidence to release specific detailed evidence.

That grand jury decision didn't speak to the life of Breonna Taylor. It didn't speak to the humanity. He didn't even speak her name. What it did do is speak for the culture of toxic police culture, and it told toxic police culture to keep doing what you are doing because the system is working just as we hoped it word.

O'DONNELL: Professor Glaude, your reflections on the developments today and what is happening in Louisville tonight.

EDDIE GLAUDE, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, first of all, I would agree with what brother Marq just laid out. And one of the ways in which we respond to what he just described in this particular instance is a kind of general distrust, distrust of a system that repeatedly, repeatedly denies justice to black folk who have offered at the hands of the police. So, not only is there distrust of police and how they move about in their communities, but there is a distrust of the criminal justice system as it repeatedly shows the second D, and that is a disregard for the life of black folk.

Here we see very clearly in the grand jury's verdict vis-a-vis one police officer a complete disregard for Breonna Taylor, and it is that general disregard, Lawrence, of black life that animates our relationship to the criminal justice system, to policing in this country. In fact, that general disregard flows from, I believe, this value gap, this belief that white people matter more than others. And that belief animates our practices, our social arrangements, our economic relations and so that's where we are, distrust and general disregard and that -- those are the ingredients for a powder keg in my view.

O'DONNELL: Professor Glaude, now we will go to Louisville and pick up this press conference.

POLICE OFFICER: Investigate what was going on, at first on Broadway, shots rang out and two of our officers were shot. Both officers are currently undergoing treatment at university hospital. One is alert and stable. The other officer is undergoing surgery and stable.

We do have one suspect in custody. That's all the information I currently have. I'll take any questions briefly.


POLICE OFFICER: So if I understand your question correctly, how concerned am I about the officers and citizens safety.

I am very concerned about officers safety. Obviously we had two officers shot tonight and that is very serious. It's a dangerous condition.

I think the safety of our officers and the community we serve is of upmost importance.


POLICE OFFICER: To my knowledge they are both nonlife threatening. That's about as deep as I can go right now.


POLICE OFFICER: We're not releasing the names of the officers at this time.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you, guys. Thank you, guys. Thank you, guys. We appreciate it. Thank you, guys.

O'DONNELL: And, so, we now know that the two officers shot tonight in Louisville are in nonlife threatening condition at the moment. One officer is in surgery and stable, according to what we just heard. The other officer is in treatment and stable and there is one suspect in custody.

Marq Claxton, that is what we were hoping to hear. We would hope to hear they were injured even less seriously than that, but both stable -- one in surgery, both nonlife threatening cases at this point and one suspect in custody.

CLAXTON: Right. And, Lawrence, what we should also address is the danger associated with the failing justice system. You see the risk, the increased risk and the danger. It's not just to the population. Yes, there is an increased danger as far as we can see to black and brown people at the hands of (AUDIO GAP).

But a dysfunctional government response to injustice places police officers at additional risk as well. That's why it's imperative that we begin to have discussions and beyond discussions, movement towards correcting or perfecting this broken system because until we do that, of course, it's black and brown people who bear the brunt of the danger that's out there. But residually police officers, our front line workers, our first responders that we claim to care so much about are placed in high-level danger as well.

O'DONNELL: And, Professor Glaude, we see that police officers are by far the most expensive public employees in America when you see judgments being agreed to of $12 million in a case like this. And, yet, cities continue to put officers out there with inadequate training. They continue to not take seriously what -- the full dimensions of what this problem includes.

But there is also a fiscal dimension to this with strained budgets. Can you really afford to have $12 million police raids of apartments that turn up nothing and kills an innocent person?

CLAXTON: Absolutely, and particularly in a moment in which a global pandemic is wreaking havoc on our communications and leaving our economy in taters. We still see cities and townships having to address this particular -- this particular reality.

You know what, Lawrence, Sherrilyn Ifill made mention of this earlier on this network about the officer that was, in fact, charged, that what followed him from Lexington when he was released was a report that he refused to be supervised, that he was, in fact, a problem officer. Yet he was hired in Louisville.

So part of what we have to do is address the underlying conditions, not only the toxic culture of policing in this country but the way in which we insulate the police from being held accountable and being held responsible. When you combine a refusal to hold the folk who have deadly force with general disregard of particular populations, we're going to be in this situation over and over again where we will have to say the name of someone like Breonna Taylor again and again and again.

O'DONNELL: And, Marq Claxton, I want to go back to those two police officers shot tonight, non-life threatening according to the police spokesperson we just heard from.

Do members of the department recognize the point you just tried to make, which is the increased danger that these kinds of situations create for all members of the police department?

CLAXTON: I think generally speaking, no. And that's part of the problem. I think police officers are insulated and protected from the outside world.

Part of police culture itself is to protect and insulate groups of police officers. We're different than they are, whoever they are outside of policing. So the short answer is, no, they don't recognize and realize that the broken system that they think works to their benefit is actually placing them in increased harm's way.

Until we get to the point where that understanding is clear, these type of incidents will continue to occur. And then finally we have to realize that the most significant parts of any reform that I have seen are those that deal with exposing police officers to further punish them, getting rid of qualified immunity, for example. But those things that increase accountability for officers are the most substantive and significant portions of reform. And the things we really should be focused on.

O'DONNELL: Marq Claxton, thank you very much for leading off our discussion tonight. Professor Glaude, please stay with us for more discussion later in the hour.

At the end of the hour tonight, the last word, as we monitor the situation, we'll go to Reverend Al Sharpton.

Up next, we will hear what Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have to say about Breonna Taylor today. Karine Jean-Pierre, the chief of staff to vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris will join us next.


O'DONNELL: Tonight, Joe Biden said this about Breonna Taylor.

A federal investigation remains ongoing, but we do not need to wait for the final judgment of that investigation to do more to deliver justice for Breonna. We know what is necessary. We need to start by addressing the use of excessive force, banning chokeholds and overhauling no knock warrants.

Earlier today, Joe Biden said this.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: My heart goes out to her mother. Do not sully her memory or her mother's by engaging in any violence. It is totally inappropriate for that to happen. She wouldn't want it, nor would her mother. So I hope they do that calmly.


O'DONNELL: Kamala Harris said this about Breonna Taylor as she walked into a closed door Senate Intelligence Committee meeting.


SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: There is no question that Breonna Taylor and her family deserved justice yesterday, today and tomorrow.


O'DONNELL: And yesterday in Detroit, Kamala Harris said this.


HARRIS: When we look at this election, there are some very clear differences. Donald Trump will never use the term Black Lives Matter.

It is outdated. It is wrong headed thinking to think that the only way you are going to get communities to be safe is to put more police officers on the street. What we have to do, and what we will do is reimagine public safety and the way that you understand, you want a safe community, you have to invest in the health and well-being of that community.


O'DONNELL: Joining us now is Karine Jean-Pierre, the chief of staff to vice presidential candidate, Senator Kamala Harris.

And, Karine, I just want to clarify, you are that campaign chief of staff, not the Senate chief of staff. Going to keep those roles clear.

KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, CHIEF OF STAFF: Yes, you have to have clarity.

O'DONNELL: I want to get your reaction to what Senator Harris is thinking tonight about this case. As a former prosecutor herself, she has by now I assume gathered a grasp of some of the evidence in it.

JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah. First let me say, Lawrence, that we have to continue to support Breonna Taylor's mom. We have to certainly continue to say Breonna Taylor's name.

And here's the thing. Yes, we have to ask for justice, but we also need change. We need to change the system. A system that continually kills black boys, black girls, black men, black women who are being murdered and no accountability for their murders is happening at all.

So that's something that we have to continue to do, is ask for change. And you saw that in Joe Biden's statement saying what is it -- what does police reform look like? What does reimaging police reform? And that is banning choke holds, really addressing excessive force and, you know, talking about no knock warrants in a way that we can change that.

And, so, that is we have to meet the moment that we're in. And what Kamala Harris was laying out was the contrast, the contrast between Joe Biden, Kamala Harris and Donald Trump.

Look, Lawrence, when the sun rises tomorrow, we will be 40 days away from this election. And I know this sounds cliche and I know people may think it is hyperbole, but this is truly, truly the most consequential election of our lifetime really in generations because, yes, we are in this pandemic of health care and this economic crisis, but also as we were just starting, as you started your show, this civil rights movement really in this moment, the largest civil rights moment in generations.

And you see a president that just continues to divide us and just divides us with hate. So that is what is at stake. Everything is at stake on this election. So, yes, we have to continue to ask for justice, but we also have to have change.

And that is something Joe Biden has been talking about from the beginning of this uprising that we are seeing in the street that has been mostly peaceful because we need to hear that message, which is we have to uproot systemic racism. That is incredibly key in trying to change what is happening.

And, so, you have to start doing that. And that's what Joe Biden and Kamala Harris is putting forth.

O'DONNELL: I want to listen to what Senator Harris said yesterday in Detroit to the question of what keeps you up at night. Let's listen to this.


REPORTER: What keeps you up at night?

HARRIS: I want to make sure everybody votes. And that they vote early, whoever you vote for. It is your constitutional right. It is the right of citizenship.

It is about an expression of our voices and it is about upholding one of the most important structures of our democracy, which is free and open elections where we have a peaceful transfer of power in our government.


O'DONNELL: Karine, as you know, Washington is abuzz today with Barton Gellman's reporting in "The Atlantic" about the army of Republican Trump lawyers who are going to descend on the battleground states before election day, during election day and after election day to try to suppress the vote, especially the mail-in vote for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.

Do you and the Biden/Harris campaign have an army of lawyers that big that's going to show up to fight this fight?

JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah. We're in the middle of a pandemic, as you know. So COVID-19 is changing this whole process as well. And then we have voter suppression on top of that, which has existed for some time, as you know, Lawrence. I know you have talked about it on your show.

And, yes, we are going to be prepared. We are making sure that we're educating our voters, making sure that we're supporting local localities who are dealing with the different type of, you know, obstacles that Donald Trump has put in front of voters. And that is key here, and it's clear that we have to continue to educate our voters, making sure they know that their rights to vote and how to make sure that their vote is counted for.

As I mentioned, 40 days left. So there is so much to do and so one of the things that we tell voters all the time is make sure that you have a plan because there are so many different rules out there, things have changed because of COVID-19. Go to and make sure you know exactly, exactly how you can vote in your state and that's the job that we have to do as a campaign, is continuing to educate our voters.

And, yes, we will have an army. We will make sure that votes are counted, people's votes are protected because that's what a democracy looks like. And what I was saying earlier, so much is on the line. Our democracy is on the line in this election because of what we're seeing, what Donald Trump has been doing and how he's just been debasing the office that he holds.

So that's what we have to continue to focus on, continue doing the contrast, continue to educate and getting our message out there and earning every vote.

O'DONNELL: Karine Jean-Pierre, the campaign chief of staff for vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris. Thank you very much for joining us tonight and please come back as the campaign continues.

JEAN-PIERRE: Thank you Lawrence.

I will.

O'DONNELL: Thank you very much. Thank you.

JEAN-PIERRE: Thank you.

O'DONNELL: And when we come back, a new national poll out tonight shows Joe Biden with a double digit lead. That poll comes on the day, as I just mentioned, where "The Atlantic's" lead story describes a nightmare scenario that Donald Trump and his army of lawyers can try to create if the election is close enough. That's next.


O'DONNELL: The latest national poll shows Joe Biden with a ten-point lead over Donald Trump. That is outside the poll's margin of error. The Quinnipiac poll released today shows Joe Biden at 52 to Donald Trump's 42.

That poll is unchanged from Quinnipiac's poll released on September 2nd. A ten-point win by either candidate would be a landslide by today's standard. And according to the cover story in "The Atlantic" today, Joe Biden might need a landslide to win the Electoral College.

In an article titled "The election that could break America", Barton Gellman describes all the ways that Donald Trump's army of lawyers and Republican supporters and state governments around the country might try to throw the election to Donald Trump no matter what the voters say.

If Joe Biden is leading Donald Trump in the key battleground states when the first election results are reported on election night, then when the mail-in ballots are counted Joe Biden's winning margin will probably significantly increase because polls show that more Democrats plan to vote by mail than Republicans.

But if Donald Trump is ahead in the early vote counts on election night, Barton Gellman reports that there are Republican lawyers poised to try to stop some key states from counting their mail-in ballots because Trump lawyers are convinced they will heavily favor Joe Biden.

Barton Gellman reports the Trump lawyers' plan is to flood the battleground states with legal challenges to stop counting votes. And if those challenges drag on for over a month and the deadline is looming for states to report their results to the electoral college, in a nightmare scenario some states might ignore the results of the election and send electors to the Electoral College who will vote for Donald Trump.

Here's Barton Gellman describing that scenario to Chris Hayes tonight.


BARTON GELLMAN, "THE ATLANTIC": It's in the constitution --


GELLMAN: That eight legislators can appoint electors for president in any manner they choose. And the Supreme Court ruled in Bush v Gore in 2000 that state electors -- state legislators can take back that power from the people any time they want.

So we're accustomed to voting by popular vote for who is going to represent our state in state electors, but the constitution doesn't guarantee that. And the idea that some Trump people are discussing, not saying they have a plan to do it, but I know that it is coming up and they have discussed it also with the Republican Party in Pennsylvania, a crucial swing state, is that they would ask Republican legislators who control both chambers in Pennsylvania and in fact in all six of the most closely contested battleground states to name Trump-friendly electors notwithstanding the popular vote, regardless of the popular vote that it will be a claim that the counties had finished or that it was corrupt or that it was rigged or that there are still legal disputes and so just appoint some Trump people.


O'DONNELL: How are the Democrats going to fight that? They have an army of lawyers to go. We'll ask Congressman Eric Swalwell when he joins us to describe how the Democrats will fight those legal challenges. That's next.


O'DONNELL: For two days in a row now Donald Trump has said publicly that he wants the woman who he will nominate as a Supreme Court justice to be on the court in time to rule on the legal challenges that Donald Trump plans to bring over an election he clearly expects to lose in the voting booth and then win in the Supreme Court.

If Donald Trump is saying these things publicly, just imagine what he's actually saying in his meetings, private meetings, with the women he will announce on Saturday as his choice for the Supreme Court.

Here is the way Donald Trump said it today, which is almost word for word what he said yesterday.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This scam that the Democrats are pulling, it's a scam. The scam will be before the United States Supreme Court and I think having a 4-4 situation is not a good situation, if you get that. I don't know that you get that. I think it should be 8-0 or 9-0, but just in case it would be more political than it should be, I think it's very important to have a ninth justice.


O'DONNELL: Joining our discussion now is Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell of California. He's a member of the House Judiciary Committee and the House Intelligence Committee. And professor Eddie Glaude is back with us.

Congressman Swalwell, do the Democrats have an army of lawyers ready to go as Barton Gellman reported today the Republicans have with the intention of bringing to Donald Trump's Supreme Court a challenge to an election that they expect Joe Biden to win?

REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA): Yes, but not only an army of lawyers who beneath the surface are working to ensure access to the ballot box. But we have an army of voters, women who marched the day after the inauguration, the March for Our Lives generation who came out of parkland. The people who gave us the midterm election, who won in Virginia in the off year, who won in Kentucky.

We have an army of voters. And so the best way out is to overwhelm the ballot box because Donald Trump is a coward. And he will vanish if the result is so overwhelming. But we're also not helpless in the House. If he's going to play games and encourage people not to send electors, well, the House of Representatives then would determine who the president is. And as long as we win in the house, we can also counter Donald Trump's corruption.

Lawrence look, this is what a democracy looks like when you have a president who will go to jail or likely face criminal charges if he's not reelected. He's going to test us and it's up to all of us to not let ourselves be paralyzed by fear but to move to register to vote, to show up and vote, and then have agency and make sure we hold our leaders accountable after the election.

O'DONNELL: He calls mail-in voting, which is the way Donald Trump himself votes, he calls that a scam, pretends that it was created by Democrats. It's been with us forever, and of course, it's going to be used extra heavily this year because of a pandemic where people don't want to go up and go to the polls.

He says this scam will be before the United States Supreme Court. And Professor Glaude, that's the president of the United States saying I will litigate this to the United States Supreme Court in order to block the counting of mail-in ballots. And I want the woman I'm talking to right now, whoever she is, to be on that Supreme Court.

Wouldn't he, when he's talking to that woman, be telling her exactly this, this is what I want from you on the Supreme Court?

EDDIE GLAUDE, CHAIRMAN, DEPARTMENT FOR AFRICAN AMERICAN STUDIES, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY: Well, I think so. I mean, he's doing it again. He's speaking the silent parts out loud. What we do know is this, Lawrence. It's that Donald Trump is capable of anything. We know this.

We know that he's going to cheat. It's clear, right? And we know what the Republican Party is capable of. We saw what they did at North Carolina when they lost. We saw what they did in Wisconsin when they lost. Right.

So what we need to understand is that November is not going to settle everything, right? In fact, we're going to experience perhaps one of the most fundamental challenges that the republic has ever faced.

And I think Representative Swalwell was right on point. That it's going to be in our hands. It is not just these power hungry -- power hungry people who are corrupt and unethical. But we're going to have to assert that this is a government of the people, by the people, for the people. It's going to be in our hands but we need to understand that Donald Trump is capable of doing anything.

And what Barton Gellman has proven to us is that he's thinking about doing specific things as well. So we need to be prepared.

O'DONNELL: And Congressman Swalwell, one of the things that emerges in Barton Gellman's reporting is that if the Democrats win the Senate, the Trump plan will be frustrated. And it makes it much more likely that the election cannot be denied to Joe Biden if he wins the most votes in the Electoral College states.

REP. SWALWELL: And Lawrence, we have good reason to believe that we're going to win the Senate, not just Arizona, Colorado and Maine. The three where we're ahead in the polls and ahead in the online fund-raising. But we're seeing in Alaska. Alaska of all places.

Dr. Al Gross, commercial fisherman running as an independent. He's tied 43-43 with the freshman incumbent Dan Sullivan. So the math is expanding in our favor.

But speaking of the Senate, Lawrence, I just want to say Mitt Romney expressed outrage earlier about what President Trump said this evening. And to Mitt Romney, I would say, while many Americans may feel helpless right now about what the president is doing, Mitt Romney could actually leverage his vote respectfully and say, Mr. President, I'm not going to give you a Supreme Court nominee vote before the election if you are going to do this. If you can't promise to peacefully transition power in our country.

So it's really incumbent on people like Mitt Romney and others. Hopefully they can be honorable and recognize they actually have power and leverage over the president.

O'DONNELL: Well, it's such a good point Professor Glaude, because there is the president publicly trying to corrupt the Supreme Court justice who he wants to nominate by saying I need the ninth one who I'm going to name to rule for me.

GLAUDE: Right. He's speaking again the silent part out loud. And our expectation, to be honest with you, that these folks who have enabled him will be honorable, maybe outsized, right. It might not be reasonable.

We know that Donald Trump is not singular. He has been enabled by a wide range of folk, particularly those Republicans in the Senate. It would be wonderful if Mitt Romney would be consistent in this moment. I wouldn't hold my breath, though, Lawrence. I wouldn't hold my breath.

O'DONNELL: Congressman Eric Swalwell, Professor Eddie Glaude -- thank you both for joining our discussion tonight.

GLAUDE: Thank you both.

REP. SWALWELL: Thank you.

O'DONNELL: Thank you.

And up next, tonight as we follow the situation in Louisville where a grand jury returned no criminal charges today against the police officers who shot and killed Breonna Taylor, Al Sharpton will get tonight's LAST WORD. That's next.


O'DONNELL: Here is Kentucky's attorney general, Daniel Cameron, today.

DANIEL CAMERON, KENTUCKY ATTORNEY GENERAL: According to Kentucky law, the use of force by Mattingly and Cosgrove was justified to protect themselves. This justification bars us from pursuing criminal charges in Mis. Breonna Taylor's death.

Justice is not often easy. It does not fit the mold of public opinions. And it does not conform to shifting standards.


O'DONNELL: Joining us now is Reverend Al Sharpton, host of MSNBC's "POLITICS NATION". He is author of the new book "Rise up: Confronting a Country at the Crossroads" which will be available Tuesday.

Reverend Sharpton, your reaction to what the attorney general had to say and what has unfolded tonight in Louisville.

REVEREND AL SHARPTON, MSNBC HOST: Well, my reaction is that certainly it is not surprising but still alarming to see that a grand jury -- and grand juries usually are totally framed by what the prosecutor puts before it because that's the only lawyer in the room -- to come back and say that we will charge an officer for all of the violence that he did cause and the danger he caused for those surrounding an area of an apartment that he killed someone, shows an outrageous and unbelievable kind of justification for doing nothing around the death of Breonna Taylor. Breonna Taylor was not even mentioned in the indictment. If anyone wants to know why we say black lives should matter, they are clearly saying in Louisville today, it did not matter.

For that attorney general to even attack those of us that supported the family at the family's request saying that the celebrities and the influence and the activists are not welcome in Kentucky or should not be there to give their views when we are welcome there to watch horses run around the track. But Louisville -- Louisville, Kentucky Derby but we're not welcome there to stand up for the life and value and worth of a black woman whose only actions that night is she went to bed in her own home, committing no crime, involved in no criminal activity.

That's why we continue to march. That's why we should vote and we should use the fact that we can vote in November even in Kentucky. Even though we couldn't vote in the grand jury, we ought to send Mitch McConnell into retirement as a deposit on the justice we want for the Breonna Taylors of Kentucky.

O'DONNELL: Yes. I want to let the audience hear what you were just referring to. The Kentucky attorney general, who is a Republican talked today about activists from out of state who don't live in Kentucky as if they have no right to talk about this. Let's listen to that.


CAMERON: There will be celebrities, influencers and activists who having never lived in Kentucky will try to tell us how to feel, suggesting they understand the facts of this case and that they know our community and the commonwealth better than we do.

But they don't. Let's not give in to their attempts to influence our thinking or capture our emotions.


O'DONNELL: It sounds like he was talking about you.

SHARPTON: Talking about me and many others and many that are right down on the ground from out of state. But let me remind people that all of the activities of me and others, Attorney Ben Crump, was at the invitation of a family who wanted justice.

And you know, it's an old playbook calling people outside agitators. Martin Luther King Jr. and John Lewis who were far greater than us were called that. That will not in any way stop a movement that has gone on all over this country.

And the way to deal with this is we must permanently change the laws. And one way to do that is to change the lawmakers. We must turn our pain into power and vote in November. But we must continue to nonviolently march to keep these issues alive. Breonna Taylor mattered. Her life matters and we don't have to be a citizen of Louisville to say that and many citizens in Louisville are saying that as well.

O'DONNELL: And just last week, the right thing did happen on the civil case which the city settled with the family for $12 million. And you know that settlement never would have happened without you and others bringing national attention to this case.

SHARPTON: Well, absolutely. And why would you settle for that record amount of money if there was no wrong that had been done? And one of the reasons that we marched by the tens of thousands in Washington just three weeks ago and Breonna Taylor's mother spoke at that march is because we clearly need this George Floyd policing and justice that passed by the Senate and passed by the House and it would also make it where officers if they commit a crime are subject to the lawsuits. And personally have to deal with it.

Taxpayers keep paying for what individual officers do and are not held accountable for. We need to change the laws by changing the lawmakers.

O'DONNELL: Reverend Al Sharpton, please come back next week after your book is actually available for purchase so we can talk about it. The audience is going to want to hear about it. It is -- there is a lot of life and protest, that's between the covers of that book. We're going to hear about it next week.

Thank you very much for joining us tonight.

SHARPTON: Thank you, Lawrence.

O'DONNELL: Al Sharpton gets tonight's LAST WORD.



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