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Transcript: The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, September 9, 2020

Guests: Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA); Kristin Urquiza


Joe Biden went to Michigan today to remind an audience of auto workers how the Obama/Biden administration saved the auto industry and saved their jobs and to explain his plan to preserve and expand manufacturing in the United States. But he began with his reaction to the revelation in Bob Woodward's book "Rage" that Donald Trump knew on February 7th just how dangerous and deadly the coronavirus really is.


LAWRENCE O'DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel.And do you find yourself capable of ranking the enormity of the different revelations of the Bob Woodward book?

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, "TRMS": The thing that I think that pushes the COVID stuff to the top is the unexpected fact that the president did understand the public health risk of COVID. It has been easy I think for those of us who have been extra creditable for the president's response to assume that he did not get it. To learn and hear that he did get it and he deliberately lied to the American people, while understanding how big of a lie he was telling.

That just -- I mean, very -- I -- it is hard to shock me in the Trump era, but I am legitimately shocked by that.

Learning about what Dan Coats thought about the president is shocking, too.


MADDOW: But the COVID stuff and hearing him do it in his own word is worse than Nixon's Oval Office days in terms of what the president is admitting because it is tens and thousands of American lives on his hands.

O'DONNELL: Yeah, we're going to approach it from many angles tonight. Chairman Adam Schiff is going to be with us, former CIA Director John Brennan, Susan Rice. We're going to concentrate on some of these national security revelations in here, including the secretary of defense worried about the possibility of nuclear war and, of course, that revelation that you talked about that apparently is a new nuclear weapon system that no one knows about that has been tipped by the president to Bob Woodward. I mean, yeah, that's in the category of speechless but I got some people who can speak about it, luckily, because it leaves kind of speechless.

MADDOW: Go, Lawrence, go. Go, Lawrence, go.

O'DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel. Thank you.

MADDOW: Thanks, Lawrence.

O'DONNELL: Well, Bob Woodward has done it again, and once again, we can marvel at how he did it. He's written another book that takes us inside the conversations of the White House that only he can document. And Bob Woodward did it two years after Donald Trump condemned Bob Woodward's first book about the Trump White House entitled "Fear."

Here's what Donald Trump tweeted about that book: The Woodward book is a scam. Bob Woodward is a liar.

In a note about sources in that book, Bob Woodward wrote, President Trump declined to be interviewed for this book.

And that was then. For Bob Woodward's new book entitled "Rage," Donald Trump submitted to 18 taped interviews with Bob Woodward, the man who two years earlier Donald Trump had a liar. But Bob Woodward never gives up on a possible source, especially if that source is the president of the United States and Bob Woodward is our greatest expert at coaxing information out of people who work in the White House including the presidents.

When Woodward gets inside the White House, he doesn't know what he's going to find, but he always brings enough patience and rope for his interview subjects to hang them or saves themselves in the eyes of the reader. Many readers would feel rage. And Bob Woodward's title, the rage in that title, when they read this book and see that lives, thousands of lives could have been saved if Donald Trump had publicly told the truth about the coronavirus.

One of those people who already feels that Donald Trump is the cause of her grief for the loss of her father will join us at the end of this hour.

Kristin Urquiza told the audience at the Democratic Convention that death before her father died from coronavirus, his only preexisting condition was believing Donald Trump. Tonight, she conceived for the first time in Bob Woodward's reporting how deliberate Donald Trump deception of her father was, a deception that led to her father's death.

The story Bob Woodward tells in "Rage" is a political story, a governing story, and a human story, a human story of life and death in the age of Donald Trump, including the 191,000 deaths this country has already suffered from the coronavirus. The book's conclusion is, quote, "Trump is the wrong man for the job."

No reporter or author in history has had a more powerful effect on the American presidency than Bob Woodward, beginning with his reporting with Carl Bernstein on a myriad of scandals and crimes in the Nixon White House, which ultimately led to that day in the summer of 1974, when Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein watched the president of the United States resigned the presidency after a congressional committees and a prosecutor fully investigated the leads that were first developed in the reporting by Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, reporting that changed the course of history.

Bob Woodward's new book about the Trump presidency could change the course of history, with the first excerpts of that book appearing today, 55 days before Election Day. In an interview with the "Associated Press" today, Bob Woodward said that it was important to get this story out before the election. And so, with 55 days until election day, America is learning tonight that Donald Trump has admitted to playing down the seriousness of the coronavirus pandemic and that he has made that admission on tape, which Bob Woodward released to "The Washington Post" today, the Woodward tapes have Donald Trump on February 7th, after a phone call with China's president describing how deadly the coronavirus was before any of us knew how bad it could be


BOB WOODWARD, JOURNALIST: And so, what was President Xi saying yesterday

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, we were talking mostly about the virus. And I think he's going to have it in good shape, but, you know, it's a very tricky situation it's --

WOODWARD: Indeed it is.

TRUMP: It goes through air, Bob. That's always tougher than touch. The touch, you don't have to touch things the air, you just breathe the air and that's how it's passed. And so, that's a very tricky one. That's a very delicate one.

It's also more deadly than your -- you know, even your strenuous flus. You know, people don't realize, we lose 25,000, 30,000 people a year here, who would ever think that, right?

WOODWARD: I know, it's much forgotten.

TRUMP: I mean, it's pretty amazing. And then I say, well, is that the same thing?

WOODWRD: What are you able to do for --

TRUMP: This is more deadly this is five per -- you know, this is 5 percent versus 1 percent and less than 1 percent, you know? So this is deadly stuff.


O'DONNELL: This is deadly stuff. Donald Trump has still, to this day, never said anything like that publicly. On February 7th, there were 330 million Americans who needed to hear that, and Donald Trump told exactly one of them, Bob Woodward.

There are people who are dead tonight who might be alive if they heard Donald Trump say that on February 7th or March 7th or April 7th or May 7th or on August 7th, people are still dying because Donald Trump is still refusing to say that publicly, and he's downplaying the dangers of the coronavirus.

Nineteen days after Donald Trump told Bob Woodward this is deadly stuff, this is what he told the American people about what the coronavirus would do to this country.


TRUMP: When you have 15 people and the 15 within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero, that's a pretty good job we've done.


O'DONNELL: Here is Donald Trump on march 19th telling Bob Woodward something he has never said in public, that the coronavirus is dangerous to young people and admitting that he simply does not tell the truth about COVID-19 to the American people.


TRUMP: Now it's turning out it's not just old people, Bob, but just today and yesterday, some startling facts came out. It's not just old, older people.

WOODWARD: Yeah, exactly.

TRUMP: Young people. It's plenty of young people.

WOODWARD: So give me a moment of talking to somebody, going through this with Fauci or somebody who kind of, it caused a pivot in your mind because it's clear just from what's on the public record, that you went through a pivot on this to, oh, my God, the gravity is almost inexplicable and unexplainable.

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

WOODWARD: Sure. I want you to be.

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

WOODWARD: Yes, sir.

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


O'DONNELL: I still like playing it down. He said that on March 19th and he still likes playing it down today as the country approaches 200,000 deaths from the coronavirus.

If you are one of the millions of Americans who believed that Donald Trump is unfit to serve as president of the United States, you are now supported in that belief by Donald Trump's second secretary of defense, General James Mattis, who is quoted by Bob Woodward saying that Donald Trump is, quote, dangerous. He's unfit. quotes a passage of Bob Woodward's book saying that General Mattis resigned as secretary of defense, quote: When I was basically directed to do something that I thought went beyond stupid to felony stupid.

"The Washington Post" quotes Bob Woodward's presentation of a conversation between Secretary of Defense Mattis and the director of national intelligence, Dan Coats, with Mattis telling Coats, the president has no moral compass to which the director of national intelligence replied, true to him a lie is not a lie. It is just what he thinks. He doesn't know the difference between the truth and a lie.

Another passage in the book refers to the director of national intelligence having deep suspicions about the president's relationship with Vladimir Putin. Coats saw how extraordinary it was for the president's top intelligence to harbor such deep suspicions about the president's relationship with Putin, but he could not shake them.

Leading off our discussion tonight is John Brennan, the former director of the CIA. He is a senior national security and intelligence analyst for MSNBC and NBC News.

John Brennan, I just want to give you an open shot here at everything you have taken in today from these Woodward revelations and how you rank their importance

JOHN BRENNAN, MSNBC SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY AND INTELLIGENCE ANALYST: Well, I think we're still going to find out a lot more when additional excerpts come out. It is not as though the American people needed any more evidence of Donald Trump's incompetence, his dishonesty, his callousness, and his narcissism. But he decided to provide Bob Woodward chapter and verse.

And so, there is so much in this book so far we have heard that is really quite disturbing in terms of his talking about nuclear weapons, his reveling in an account that Kim Jong-un, the leader of North Korea, told about Kim Jong-un's killing of his own uncle.

The fact that he held from the American people information about COVID -- there is a big distinction about not causing panic and providing appropriate warning to the American people about the serious health issue that COVID presents.

And so, again, we have seen on a daily basis Donald Trump's incompetence over the last nearly four years. He is a deeply disturbed, broken individual who only looks at life through a prism of what's going to advantage Donald Trump. And I think every single American, especially those individuals whose families, whose friends have been ravaged by COVID, should be absolutely outraged by what Bob Woodward has revealed about Donald Trump's knowledge and his intentional deceit of the American people.

O'DONNELL: There is a passage about a nuclear weapons system that's quoted saying, Donald Trump saying, I have built a nuclear weapons system that nobody has ever had in this country before. We have stuff that you haven't even seen or heard about. We have stuff that Putin and Xi have never heard about before. There is nobody. What we have is incredible.

If such a system exists, it would have been in development certainly during your time in government. What can you tell us about that? What is your reaction to hearing the president say that?

BRENNAN: Well, I'm not going to talk about anything related to something that might be classified and that deals with this country's defense systems.

But I shudder to think what Donald Trump has said to other individuals, not just reporters. What has he said to foreign leaders? What does he say to Vladimir Putin when they're alone together?

I was always concerned from the first day of this administration about what he might share, either willingly or inadvertently with foreign leaders that could reveal the sensitive and very important capabilities that this country has, whether it be on the intelligence front or the military or national security front. And so, again, I think Donald Trump was never fit for this office. He never should have been in the White House and he is somebody who holds our futures and the futures of our children in his hands.

And so I think in the next 56 days or so, it is incumbent upon all of us to be able to speak to the dangers that Donald Trump poses as he continues in this office and as he seeks his re-election because the damage he has done so far, I think will be -- will pale in comparison to what he could do over a second term.

O'DONNELL: There is a scene in the book of Secretary Mattis going to Washington's national cathedral and praying when he was worried that at any moment, there could be -- Donald Trump could order a nuclear attack on North Korea. The book says that he slept in his clothes during that period of time. This is an unthinkable scenario under any -- in your own experience in government, what's your reaction to that?

BRENNAN: Well, I thanked Jim Mattis for trying to contain Donald Trump's impulses on the military front. And I'm sure that it was very, very disconcerting to someone like Jim Mattis who has been in war, who has led our military troops around the globe and to see somebody like Donald Trump who has the nuclear code at his fingertips. And so, you know, it's really just a shame.

And I'm sure the women and men in the U.S. military today are wondering who is it that is supposed to be the commander in chief. What is he going to do that will put this country at risk. So, I think we will find out more things in this book that will make us shake our heads. When I think about the people in the cabinet and the congressional Republicans who continue to ignore and apologize and to make excuses for Donald Trump, that is unconscionable. They enable him, and it is on their watch that this all is happening.

O'DONNELL: John Brennan, thank you for joining us tonight. And I have to say that everything we know about the Woodward book so far confirms everything that you have been telling the American people about this president. So, thank you for joining us tonight. We appreciate it.

BRENNAN: Good night, Lawrence. Thank you.

O'DONNELL: And joining our discussion now is Susan Rice, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, and a former national security adviser in the Obama administration.

And I want to begin with a scene in the Woodward book where we have the national security adviser telling the president that the coronavirus is going to be the biggest national security challenge that he faces as president of the United States, and that's in January, exactly when he should have been told that. And then we see the revelations in the February 7th tape with Bob Woodward and more.

So, it's very clear that the president was told what was coming very early.

SUSAN RICE, FORMER U.S. AMBASSAFOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: Which is extraordinary, Lawrence, because the storyline from the White House has tried to tell until now is that the president really wasn't briefed. He didn't have the information that he needed. It wasn't a big deal. He wasn't expecting it to become anything of particular seriousness.

On one level, I'm reassured to know that the national security adviser actually understood the gravity of a global pandemic. On the other hand, I'm quite concerned to learn that the president knowing that wittingly did nothing to prepare, and worse, he lied to the American people about its severity.

Now, really, what we learned today, Lawrence, is that by his own admission, by lying to the American people, we now know that Donald Trump surely has the blood of tens of thousands of Americans on his hands.

O'DONNELL: The scenes in the book where the president is downplaying it, he seems to think as he's explaining it to Bob Woodward that he is absolutely right to be downplaying it. That's what the president should do.

RICE: What the president should do is tell the American people the truth, even the hard truths that they need to know if it is necessary to keep us safe. You know, the president says he didn't want to create a panic. Today, he said he didn't want to create a frenzy.

Well, nobody in their right mind should believe that coming from Donald Trump, the man who was more than happy to send into panic what he calls suburban housewives with images of the thought that somebody looking like Cory Booker might move into their neighborhoods. He was more than happy before the 2018 midterm elections to try to use the specter of caravans of immigrants crossing our borders in droves to scare the American people.

So he has no problem with panicking people when he thinks it serves his political interest. Here was a case when he chose not to give the information that we absolutely all needed to have for our health, for our economy, for our kids to go to school because he wanted to preserve his political posture.

O'DONNELL: You know, he was a kid. He was probably close to college age, I guess, when President Kennedy went through the Cuban missile crisis, and the country knew that this country was under a nuclear threat, that nuclear missiles were aimed at this country from just 90 miles away in Cuba. And there was nothing that the White House did to try to deceive the American people about the gravity of that crisis.

RICE: Of course not. I mean, I can't think of a time in our history, Lawrence, where we faced a grave and mortal threat from some kind of adversary, in this case a virus or, you know, the Germans in World War II, or the Japanese when they bombed Pearl Harbor, and we have a president who refuses to share the severity of the challenge with the American people and then prepare to deal with that challenge and summon us to come together in common purpose to defeat it.

This president has lied. He has failed to prepare, and he's sought to divide us, and make us far less capable of countering this threat collectively. So on every level, his failures have been colossal and now today we learn he knew what he was doing. He was willfully lying to the American people, putting us all at grave risk, costing tens of thousands of lives, only so he could keep the stock market up and preserve his trade deal with China and keep his own political prospects on more solid ground which, of course, was folly.

O'DONNELL: Susan Rice, thank you very much for leading off our discussion tonight. We really appreciate it.

RICE: Good to be with you, Lawrence.

O'DONNELL: Thank you

RICE: And when we come back, Bob Woodward's book shows Donald Trump's first director of national intelligence being very worried about Trump's relationship with Vladimir Putin. And now, today, there is a new whistle-blower complaint from inside the Trump administration about Donald Trump and Russia.

The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff, joins us next.


O'DONNELL: Bob Woodward's new book "Rage" reports that Donald Trump's owned director of national intelligence, Dan Coats, was mystified with Donald Trump's relationship with Putin and could never stopped trying to figure out the truth of that relationship.

Bob Woodward reports that Secretary of Defense James Mattis told Dan Coats, quote, there may come a time when we have to take collective action since Trump is dangerous. He's unfit.

Dan Coats and James Mattis both resigned their positions before taking any action against the president. And so, the president continues to try to downplay not just the coronavirus but also Russia's interference in our election.

The news broke today that a senior Department of Homeland Security official says he was told to stop providing intelligence analysis on the threat of Russian interference in the 2020 election because it, quote, made the president look bad.

The official, Brian Murphy, who until recently was in charge of intelligence and analysis at the Department of Homeland Security said, in a whistleblower complaint, that on two occasions he was told to stand down when reporting about the Russian threat. The complaint asserts that in mid-May, 2020, the Trump acting secretary of homeland security, Chad Wolf, quote, instructed Mr. Murphy to cease providing intelligence assessments on the threat of Russian interference in the United States and instead start reporting on interference activities by China and Iran.

Mr. Wolf stated that these instructions specifically originated from White House national security adviser Robert O'Brien. Mr. Murphy informed Mr. Wolf he would not comply with these instructions as doing so would put the country in substantial and specific danger.

Joining our discussion now is Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff of California. He's chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.

And, Chairman Schiff, we're reading Bob Woodward's description of the director of national intelligence studying the Trump/Putin relationship and fearing for what might be the truth of it, and now you have this whistleblower complaint with orders from the White House saying no more -- no more analysis, no more reporting on what Russia is trying to do in this election.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): There is such a consistent pattern here, Lawrence, of the president not wanting to hear any information that contradicts his narrative, being willing to lie to the American people and over time bending these agencies to his will, to the point now where intelligence officials like this former head of intelligence for the Department of Homeland Security are told, stop producing reports on what Russia is doing to interfere in the election because, since Russia is helping Donald Trump, it makes the president look bad.

It also -- this whistleblower complaint outlines how they were, the analysts, we're told, to promote the Antifa narrative the president wanted, to downplay the significance of the domestic terror threat from white supremacy, to inflate, dramatically inflate the number of terrorists who might be crossing our southern border. Time after time, these analysts were given instructions basically to censor, politicize, adapt, conform their analysis to what the president wanted to hear and, of course, that's dangerous because we need the Congress and the country informed about the risks from Russia or the risks from coronavirus.

In the case of the coronavirus, we already have seen the president's malevolent behavior has just caused tens of thousands of Americans to lose their lives.

O'DONNELL: is reporting a passage of the Woodward book this way, saying Dan Coats continued to harbor the secret belief one that has grown rather than lessened, although unsupported by intelligence proof that Putin had something on Trump. How else to explain the president's behavior? Coats could see no other explanation.

And I think you know, Chairman Schiff, I'm sure you have spoken with enough voters out there, there are -- there are millions of people who view this exactly the same way. They stare at it and they believe that Putin must have something on Trump. To see the highest ranking intelligence official in the government, in the Trump administration, thinking exactly the same thing, not having the evidence, not having the proof, but not being able to see any other reason for the Trump behavior in relation to Putin.

SCHIFF: I mean, it is really striking and, remember, this is a former Republican senator from Indiana. And -- but, you know, it is inexplicable why the president has this, you know, not only fondness for Putin but the unwillingness to criticize, excuse me --

O'DONNELL: Take your time, Chairman.

The other thing I want to raise about this is the way that this interacts with where we are in the presidential campaign right now. Vladimir Putin has huge stakes in this campaign as far as we can tell with his interest in Donald Trump winning and there is the president of the United States basically now banning the collection of information about that

SCHIFF: Well, that's right. And, you know, that scene in Helsinki where the president is taking Putin's side over his own intelligence agencies, I'm sure that is part of why Dan Coats couldn't explain, what do the Russians have on this guy. But it is such a consistent pattern when you look at the allegations of Russian bounties on the heads of U.S. troops that was reportedly in the president's daily brief but couldn't be told to him.

The briefer couldn't tell him about this and the reason is so apparent, because anyone raising Russian maligned activities with him is given the back of the president's hand.

He doesn't want to hear it. He's not going to take action to protect the country against it. And for Dan Coats to say, you know, what do the Russians have on this guy shows you the level of concern among nonpartisan intelligence professionals, among his own closest advisers who recognize what a danger he is.

And what better proof, Lawrence, than the fact that he knew the virus was capable of killing people in the United States like the pandemic, the last pandemic of a century ago and he lied to the country about it. It's just so shocking and yet so consistent with this abusive president.

LAWRENCE O'DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Chairman Adam Schiff, thank you very much for joining our discussion on this important night. We always appreciate it.

SCHIFF: Thanks, Lawrence.

O'DONNELL: Thank you.

After this break, we'll get Joe Biden's response to the revelations in Bob Woodward's new book about Donald Trump.


O'DONNELL: Joe Biden went to Michigan today to remind an audience of auto workers how the Obama/Biden administration saved the auto industry and saved their jobs and to explain his plan to preserve and expand manufacturing in the United States. But he began with his reaction to the revelation in Bob Woodward's book "Rage" that Donald Trump knew on February 7th just how dangerous and deadly the coronavirus really is.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: He had the information. He knew how dangerous it was. And while this deadly disease ripped through our nation, he failed to do his job on purpose. It was a life and death betrayal of the American people.

You know, his failure has not only cost lives. It sent our economy in a tailspin. It cost millions more in American livelihoods. This is a recession created by Donald Trump's negligence. And he is unfit for this job as a consequence of it.


O'DONNELL: Joining this portion of our discussion is Ron Klain, a former senior aide to Vice President Joe Biden and President Barack Obama. Also with us Eugene Robinson, associate editor and Pulitzer-Prize winning columnist for "The Washington Post". He is an MSNBC political analyst.

And Ron, I'd like to start with you, with your experience working to contain the ebola virus when that crisis emerged. The president today defended his comments to Bob Woodward about downplaying the coronavirus so as not to cause a panic. He believes that that's a completely defensible thing to have done.

RON KLAIN, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF TO JOE BIDEN: Yes. So it's obviously untrue, Lawrence. We should start there, right. He wasn't trying to prevent a panic. He was trying to prevent the government from responding. Recall the weeks after (INAUDIBLE) in February, Donald Trump -- the senior official at the CDC who handles respiratory illness, Nancy Messonnier gave a press conference where she spoke the truth about what we're facing as a country.

And Trump tried to have her fired. He certainly had her silenced. You haven't seen her in public at all since then. He didn't use the warnings he had to prepare testing kits. We didn't really have testing in this country for months after he knew about the virus. He didn't order protective gear for our health care workers, didn't order equipment for our medical system.

In fact the same day that he did that interview with Bob Woodward where he said, hey, I know this is going to be bad, he actually allowed (INAUDIBLE) to be shipped to China in early February.

So this isn't just about what his public statements were and whether he was encouraging or not encouraging panic. He was deliberately wrecking the federal response to this pandemic for an act of politics and trying to, you know, play down the virus as he admitted on tape.

O'DONNELL: Gene, I want to give you a kind of open mic here for how you would prioritize the revelations in Bob Woodward's book for you. What hit you the strongest?

EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, what we have been talking about -- the strongest, the fact that he actually did understand the nature of the coronavirus threat. He understood how deadly it was. He understood how transmissible it was. He understood how it was transmitted. He understood just a little bit later in fact that it affected young people, not just older people.

He understand it all and yet he lied, and of course, Donald Trump lies. It's hard to see a headline (ph) at this point but he lied in a way that cost tens of thousands of lives. Tens of thousands of lives were lost. Had he done his job, had he moved earlier, tens of thousands of lives could have been saved.

That is just an astonishing, jaw-dropping revelation, and a dereliction of duty that -- there are not words really, for that.

And then beyond that, the -- you know, the babbling about some secret U.S. weapon to Woodward in the middle of the night that no one is supposed to know about but now the Russians and Chinese are certainly trying to find out about. The fact that General Mattis and the other adults were so frightened that this power was in the hands of this man, that Mattis was going to the National Cathedral regularly to pray that he didn't blunder us into some sort of nuclear holocaust.

Woodward gets the goods, and these goods are absolutely shocking.

O'DONNELL: And he covers a lot of ground in his 18 interviews. We learned today about some of the discussion of race that Bob Woodward had with Donald Trump. And there is a long piece where Bob Woodward talks to Donald Trump about how white privileged men like himself and Donald Trump should work to understand the conditions of black people, the views of black people in America.

He asks Trump if he agrees with that and Trump says, "No, you really drank the Kool-Aid. And he says, "Listen to you, wow. I don't feel that at all." But then having said that, let's listen to their discussion about institutional racism in this country in which Donald Trump strikes a different note. Let's listen to this.


BOB WOODWARD, AUTHOR: Do you think there is systemic or institutional racism in this country?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I think there is everywhere. I think probably less here than most places or less here than many places.

BOOBWARD: Ok, but is it here in a way that it has an impact on people's lives?

TRUMP: I think it is and it's unfortunate, but I think it is.


O'DONNELL: Gene, your reaction to that.

ROBINSON: But he doesn't care. I mean this whole exchange, both those exchanges are probably the least surprising, I think, revelations in the Woodward book to me it is not surprising to me that he would say to Woodward, "Oh, you drank the Kool-Aid. You're not hanging tough with white privilege which we deserve."

Yes, we have it and we deserve it. And that's actually consistent with what he said later which is that, yes, there is systemic racism, but so what? That does not surprise me at all.

O'DONNELL: And Ron Klain, Donald Trump knows that this kind of racism exists because he and his father were charged with it in their own rental practices in the real estate business.

KLAIN: Yes. I mean obviously there is sadly a family history of racism in the Trump world. There is Donald Trump's own practicing of racism, his continued belief that the Central Park Five were innocent should be executed for a crime they didn't commit. The fact that he's turned a blind eye to the impacts of COVID on African-Americans right now in this country.

But you know, I think what he said about systematic -- systemic racism is the same thing that he said about the virus, which is I know there is a problem and I'm going to do nothing about it.

And you know, that's what four years in the Trump administration -- that's what we've seen. We've got a lot of problems in this country. The president used to say, hey, no one could have seen this coming. No one could have known. Turns out he did know, and he just didn't want to do anything about it. And that is in my view, much more damning than the other position.

O'DONNELL: Ron Klain, Eugene Robinson, thank you both for joining our discussion. Thank you.

ROBINSON: Thanks, Lawrence.

KLAIN: Thanks, Lawrence.

O'DONNELL: And after this break, William Barr has apparently decided that American prosecutors have prosecuted enough accused rapists. Now it's time for the Justice Department of the United States of America to defend one Donald Trump.

Neal Katyal will join us next.


O'DONNELL: Last year E. Jean Carroll emerged publicly as the latest convincing accuser of Donald Trump, accusing him of raping her in New York City in the 1990s. She was ready for Donald Trump's denials and attacks on her and she sued Donald Trump for lying about her and defaming her when he replied to her accusation.

And now E. Jean Carroll is making legal history by getting William Barr to disgrace himself and disgrace the Trump/Barr Justice Department by intervening in the Carroll versus Trump civil suit to defend the accused rapist, Donald Trump.

This is the first time that the government of the United States of America has ever stood in defense of an accused rapist in a court in this country.

Joining us now is Neal Katyal, former acting U.S. solicitor-general and an MSNBC legal contributor. And Neal, it strikes me that William Barr chose to make this legal history on behalf of an accused rapist who has publicly confessed on video and audiotape to sexual assault on the Access: Hollywood video. That's the accused rapist William Barr has chosen to defend.

NEAL KATYAL, MSNBC LEGAL CONTRIBUTOR: Yes. That's right, Lawrence. And I think the most important thing is that what's happened in this Barr maneuver is not simply intervening to kind of help out the president. He's actually gone in and said the U.S. government is actually the defendant in this case, not Trump.

And in order to pull off that legal maneuver, which relies on the Westfall Act, he's got to be able to say that Trump is acting in his official capacity.

So, Lawrence, I never thought in my life I would hear the hallowed Justice Department argue that a president is doing his job as president, that it is part of his official duties to call someone who alleges rape a liar. But that's the argument that Barr has now filed.

And here is what it means. It means not just that you and I as taxpayers are paying now for Trump's legal defense, it means a lot more because you can't sue the U.S. government for defamation which is what this lawsuit is about.

So really, this legal maneuver is a bid to try and end the lawsuit altogether. And the reason for that -- it's not going to work, but this is all about delay. Basically, the president was going to have to give his DNA pretty soon. And so he asked the Justice Department to pull off this legal maneuver, which will fail, but might buy him enough time before the election because evidently he's more afraid of his DNA results coming out than his tax returns.

O'DONNELL: Neal, the disgrace of William Barr has many facets to it but I have to say in future law school classes, this one -- this one sounds like the absolute craziest one that will leave law school students leaving the classroom in complete befuddlement.

KATYAL: I agree, Lawrence. You know, that's right. and the Supreme Court when you argue a case, the justices ask you a hypothetical and also they say well, what if we change the facts from your case so the person did x or y or something, does your position still hold? But what they are trying to do is test out the logical implications of your position.

And there is a way in which Barr maneuver yesterday is really that absurd hypothetical because Trump for years has been saying everything he does is in his official business capacity. He fires Jim Comey; he's just doing his job. He's digging up dirt on Hunter Biden, oh just doing his job even though it involves, you know, dealing with the Ukrainians in all sorts of ways.

I mean these claims are as mistaken as they are laughable but it shouldn't surprise anyone now say that the president now says, you know, when he says it's about Jean Carroll, she's not my type, but that is part of his official duty.

And there is one more way Lawrence in which kind of demonstrates the absurd hypothetical of this administration because when you make stuff up as this Justice Department has been wont to do, one at least would hope they would be consistent about it, but they can't even do that.

It's malevolence tempered by incompetence. And here is the best example of that. This Justice Department has asked the Supreme Court in the Twitter case to say when Trump blocks people on Twitter, he's not acting as president. They say when he tweets on Twitter, he's not acting as president even though he like fires and hires people on Twitter. But that's not official conduct.

But now they're saying when he denies knowing someone who accuses him of rain, that's him acting in his official capacity. This is just gobbledygook, to use the legal term. It won't stand. And, you know, he may buy himself a little bit of time but his day is coming. And the court's got his number.

O'DONNELL: I really have to say, E. Jean Carroll has done a remarkable job of exposing Donald Trump and exposing William Barr to history and history's judgment.

Neal Katyal, thank you very for joining our discussion tonight.

And when we come back, Trump lied and people died. Trump lied and people died. Bob Woodward now has the proof of that in Donald Trump's own words on tape.

We'll be joined next by a woman who says that before her father died of coronavirus, his only preexisting condition was believing Donald Trump.



KRISTIN URQUIZA, FATHER DIED OF COVID-19: Hi. I'm Kristin Urquiza. I'm one of the many who has lost a loved one to COVID.

My dad was a healthy 65-year-old. His only pre-existing condition was trusting Donald Trump and for that, he paid with his life.


O'DONNELL: Joining us now is Kristin Urquiza. Her father, Mark Urquiza, died from coronavirus in June. She's the co-founder of the organization Marked by COVID.

And Kristin, thank you for joining us once again tonight. I wanted to get your reaction on Bob Woodward's reporting of Donald Trump with the audio tape. We've heard Donald Trump saying how dangerous coronavirus is and how it moves through the air. You can just breathe it in the air.

Donald Trump saying it's so deadly and then saying, you know, this is deadly stuff.

What if your father had heard Donald Trump say that on February 7th or on March 7th?

URQUIZA: The betrayal is crystal clear now. My dad, as well as tens of thousands of additional Americans would most likely be here today had the president not lied to the American public about the severity of the crisis and had not chosen a strategy that in his own words were downplaying.

O'DONNELL: You had conversations with your father trying to get him to be more cautious. If you could have said to him, Donald Trump says it's deadly stuff. That, I guess, would have helped your side of that conversation.

URQUIZA: Absolutely. My dad believed in the virus. It really was whenever the state started to reopen and the president, as well as his mouthpieces like governors like Doug Ducey, said that we were on the other side of the pandemic and that it was safe. That my dad really started to believe that we were on the other side of the pandemic. That was late May, early June when cases started to spike here in the United States.

O'DONNELL: What was your view prior to today of whether Donald Trump was just wrong about the coronavirus and wasn't paying attention to the scientific briefings and didn't understand it or that he did know and that he was lying about it? Did you have a view of that?

URQUIZA: Before today, I was open to the fact that the president was just, you know, casual about the information. But today it is crystal clear that the president knew and that he decided to lie to the American public day after day, month after month and now we have 200,000 people who have died because of his leadership and his policy decisions. I don't know if this is the coronavirus any longer or if it's the Trump virus.

O'DONNELL: Kristin Urquiza, thank you very much for joining us tonight. And again, Kristin, I'm very sorry for your loss. I'm sorry we're having this discussion because your father died.

URQUIZA: Thank you.

O'DONNELL: That is tonight's Last Word.



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