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Transcript: The Rachel Maddow Show, 12/28/21

Guests: Jon Ralston, Andy Slavitt, Ashish Jha, LaTosha Brown, Chuck Schumer

Summary

Former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has died at the age of 82. The CDC is making a big update to how much of the coronavirus in this country is actually the new omicron variant. Statewide GOP officials in Georgia are pushing election fraud conspiracies.

Transcript

[21:00:05]

ANAND GIRIDHARADAS, JOURNALIST: And I think there`s something dangerous and scary in thinking about what is a presidential model of a John Roberts look like? The smile, the fake institutionalism while eviscerating everything that is good about this country.

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: One of the weirdest developments of my life is that the model in Republican politics right now is to be a jerk ostentatiously, which is a very strange way to approach politics, but has sort of become the way people think about it.

Anand Giridharadas, Linda Chavez, Eli Mystal, thank you all. That was great. Appreciate it.

All right. That is "ALL IN" on this Tuesday night. Condolences, of course, to Harry Reid`s family. We`ll be thinking about them tonight.

THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now with Ayman Mohyeldin in for Rachel.

Good evening, Ayman.

AYMAN MOHYELDIN, MSNBC HOST: Hey, good evening, Chris. Thank you so much.

And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. Rachel has the night off.

And we start tonight with that very important breaking news. You know, one of the things that was almost most surprising about the former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was just how quiet he was. In fact, during interviews, it was not uncommon to be almost unable to hear him. That`s how soft-spoken he actually was.

But there was another side to Harry Reid in all of this. In fact, in the late 1970s, Harry Reid was the chair of the Nevada Gaming Commission, overseeing the state`s very important casinos.

This is the story of a man who tried to bribe him from a New Yorker profile back in 2005. In part, it reads: In July of 1978, a man named Jack Gordon, who was later married to LaToya Jackson, offered Reid $12,000 to approve new gaming devices for casino use. Reid reported the attempted bribe to the FBI and arranged a meeting with Gordon in his office. By agreement, FBI agents burst in to arrest Gordon at the point where Reid asked, is this the money?

Although he was taking part in a sting, Reid was unable to control his temper. The videotape shows him getting up from his chair and saying, "You son of a, bleep, he tried to bribe me", and attempting to choke Gordon before startled agents pulled him off. I was so angry with him for thinking he could bribe me. He was quiet except when he wasn`t.

Senator Reid died today at the age of 82. He spent 30 years in the U.S. Senate, eight of them as majority leader. He spent another five years in the House before that. And he earned a reputation as a gritty, determined, behind-the-scenes fighter in the Capitol.

Now, that reputation was never more deserved than when he managed to steer President Obama`s landmark healthcare bill through the Senate in 2009 over unified Republican opposition, possibly his greatest legislative achievement. But Harry Reid was also -- will also be remembered for presiding over the Senate during a time when Republican reached new heights under President Obama who Reid had encouraged to run for president.

I actually had the opportunity to speak to Senator Reid last year on election day. Here`s what he had to say about the Republican Party now.

Do you feel that the Republicans have adequately resisted in any way, shape, or form what the president has done and said to try and paint this electoral system as rigged?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FORMER SENATOR HARRY REID (D-NV): The United States is a country that people look to with envy because of our two-party system. It`s worked out well. I believe in the two-party system. The Republican Party, the Democratic Party is good for this country.

Donald Trump has ruined the brand of the Republican Party. That`s why you have the Lincoln Project and many other Republicans who are outwardly saying, we can`t have Trump again, we got to get rid of him because he`s running the Republican Party. And that is true.

I`m so -- I think that where we`ve seen in the Senate, my colleagues in the Senate, I think they`ve been very disappointing to me. They should not put up with what Trump has done. He`s done so much damage to the institution of the Senate and the country that Republicans, except for Mitt Romney, nobody will speak out against him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOHYELDIN: And, as you can imagine, reaction is pouring in. In fact, Harry Reid`s successor, as the Democratic leader in the Senate, Chuck Schumer, put out this statement tonight.

It reads: Harry Reid is one of the most individuals I`ve ever met. He was caring and compassionate and always went out of his way quietly to help people who needed help. He was a boxer who came from humble origins. But he never forgot where he came from and used those boxing instincts to fearlessly fight those who were hurting the poor and the middle class. He was my leader, my mentor, one of my greatest, dearest friends.

[21:05:03]

He is gone, but he will walk by the sides of many of us in the Senate every single day.

Chuck Schumer, of course, is now majority leader of an evenly divided 50/50 Senate. The last time that happened, the last time the Senate was split 50/50, Republican Senator Jim Jeffords of Vermont switched parties and handed control of the Senate to the Democrats. The man who he did that switch happen was Harry Reid.

Reid even gave up his committee chairmanship to sweeten the deal and get Jeffords to make that leap. But, of course, Harry Reid was not just a Senate leader. He was a senator from Nevada, Searchlight, Nevada, to be precise. And so, of course, he left his mark most especially on his home state and his constituents.

In fact, just two weeks ago, Las Vegas renamed its airport in Reid`s honor. Travelers to Vegas will now fly into Harry Reid International Airport.

Joining us now is Jon Ralston, CEO of "The Nevada Independent" and the dean of Nevada political reporting. He was the first to report the news of Reid`s passing tonight.

It`s great to have you with us. I know it`s such a sad night for your state and certainly for people across this country.

Let me start by getting your reaction and the reaction of people you are talking to in Nevada tonight, the family and the constituents of that great state.

JON RALSTON, THE NEVADA INDEPENDENT CEO: Well, you know, it is a sad night no matter how you felt about Harry Reid. He was a remarkable figure in Nevada`s history. I`m writing a book about Reid, and it`s been clear to me for a while and even more so after the research I did that he is the most influential, most important public figure in the history of Nevada, and obviously because of his time in the U.S. Senate, one of the most influential of the last quarter century or so.

And you mentioned a lot in your intro of what makes him such a fascinating figure. One who doesn`t lend himself to the social media clips of today, and you`re already seeing the pro and the con. He was a very contradictory man. He was ruthless as any person I ever covered, and yet also there are so many stories of private kind gestures to people high and low of Harry Reid.

I mean, all of the lore that you hear about Harry Reid, the son of a hard rock minor who grew up in abject poverty, who lost one Senate race, then ran for mayor of Las Vegas and got crushed and should`ve disappeared from the political firmament resurrected by a governor, was the gaming regulatory chief, and, by the way, there is so much about his time there that is not known, including the story that you told about Jack Gordon and Reid wanting to strangle him after the bribe attempt. There`s a lot more to that, too.

He is just one of those politicians who doesn`t fit into some easy description on Twitter or Facebook. And there are so many stories that I know and have been told since I began to research this book. He truly is one of a kind, was one of a kind.

MOHYELDIN: Yeah, and I want to speak to you a little bit about his legacy and how he changed our national politics, for good or for bad. I want to go back to the point you were talking about, and that is his humble beginning. His legacy in Nevada really began all the way back with his tangling with the mob when he was the head of the Nevada gaming commission.

But, undoubtedly, it must`ve shaped his world view, his politics coming from such humble beginnings to the height of American legislative power. Talk to me a little bit about this and his early legacy before he entered national politics.

RALSTON: Yeah. You`re right on both of those things that you mentioned, the time in the gaming commission, but especially when his character, I believe, was forged in this tiny speck of a town in Nevada called Searchlight outside of Las Vegas where he lived most of his early life. He had to hitchhike to get to school. He had to learn to swim in a swimming pool at a brothel.

All of those stories are true. But he really lived in horrific poverty with his family with an alcohol father who would later commit suicide, and Reid then committed himself to some legislation on suicide. And there`s a lot more that he did.

But that toughness, that grit, that no patience for anything or anyone except to continue moving forward in his life was forged in that tiny town of Searchlight. And it certainly came out during his time as the state`s chief gaming regulator when not only was that bribe attempt a part of history but his car, a bomb was planted in his car.

[21:10:15]

And only by happenstance did that not blow up, and he told very poignantly of his little 5-year-old son peering out the window when law enforcement came to diffuse that bomb in his car.

There is a famous video clip, I urge everyone to go see it, of Harry Reid confronting the mobster or mob front Frank Rosenthal during a gaming commission meeting. It is a fascinating piece of video. Frank Rosenthal, to make him more accessible, was the person of Robert de Niro`s character "Casino" was based on. It is really worth watching that clip to see the toughness of Harry Reid.

MOHYELDIN: And, Jon, I mean no disrespect to the state of Nevada and to the residents of that great state. But he also managed to get Nevada to punch above its weight in our national political discourse. Because even after his retirement, Harry Reid continued to play an extremely important role in Nevada politics and the way that Nevada politics impacted our national politics, his endorsements were key in the early Nevada presidential primaries. Everybody knew where to stop after Iowa, and what happens after this, I guess, is really up for grabs.

How does it change Nevada Democratic politics? And who`s in line to take his place?

RALSTON: Yeah, that`s a great question. There will never be another Harry Reid. And his dominance of Nevada politics as a gatekeeper, as a person whose ring needed to be kissed, and even if you kissed his ring, he still might slap your face with his hand and say he`s not going to support you.

He was absolutely ruthless in that role as well. But he was a tremendously polarizing figure both nationally and in the state because of the way he just had no patience for the niceties, as his famous hanging up on people without saying good-bye from President Obama all the way to some person that a friend of his who might`ve called him. There`s no one who was going to replace Harry Reid.

His machine is still intact, and the gears are still being oiled by the same people he put in place. But it`ll never be the same. And, again, I`ve used this word way too often and I`ll use it again I think for the third time in this interview. His ruthlessness was part of what defined him. But he always thought he was being ruthless in service of what he thought was the right goal, including, by the way, if I may say, his going nuclear in 2013, I believe, which many Republicans now rejoice that he did, saying he`s responsible for those three Supreme Court justices under the Trump administration.

When I interviewed him for the book, and I have 24 zooms on this computer with Harry Reid, which is more than he talked in almost his 35 years of service, he has no regrets, and I mean no regrets for doing that. But it`ll be one of the things he`s remembered for and not so favorably by members of his own party for many, many years.

MOHYELDIN: And, listen, two things. One, make sure you back up the hard drive on that computer because we are going to want to see every minute of those 24 Zoom interviews you did with him because there is a lot of insight in those interviews, I`m sure.

But I`m curious to get your thoughts on this, Jon. When you look back at whether the way he changed or impacted the filibuster, his ability to pass the Affordable Healthcare Act, the Obamacare bill, whether or not -- his views on doing away with the filibuster now that he wrote about as recently as September of this year. What do you think Harry Reid`s legacy will be? What will he be remembered for on the national stage?

RALSTON: Well, I think some people will remember him for that and not in a good way. Some people will blame his leadership style for the beginning of the degradation of the legislative process, the polarizing partisanship.

But you can not take away from him what his legislative genius was. Barack Obama would never have passed the healthcare bill that bears his name Obamacare without Harry Reid. President Obama would acknowledge that, and so would everyone else around him -- his tenacity, his legislative skill, his essential legalized bribery of some of his colleagues to get their votes, Ayman.

[21:15:02]

I wrote back at the time and I believe now even having collected more data and reporting on what happened during then, it should be called Reid-care as much as it should be called Obamacare. And maybe only Harry Reid possessed the skills that he honed over all those decades in public life and his dedication to knowing everything about the Senate, only he could have gotten that done.

MOHYELDIN: Jon Ralston, I couldn`t think of a better person to speak to tonight on the life and legacy of Harry Reid.

Jon Ralston, CEO of "The Nevada Independent", thank you so much for joining us on this sad night for your state. Greatly appreciate it, Jon.

The breaking news that we mentioned earlier --

RALSTON: I appreciate your having me. Thanks so much.

MOHYELDIN: Absolutely -- out of Nevada, longtime Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid passing away this evening at the age of 82.

When we come back, a big update from the CDC about the new omicron variant of the coronavirus. It`s leading to a lot of questions, and we will get some experts to try and answer those questions for you.

But first, unfortunately, one more thing to share in addition to news of Harry Reid`s passing. Sad news tonight for football fans around the world. John Madden, the legendary coach and broadcaster, died today at the age of 85. Madden, of course, rose to fame by winning the Super Bowl in 1977 as coach of the Oakland Raiders at the time, he then embarked on a decades- long career as the league`s signature broadcaster.

In fact, Madden called 11, 11 Super Bowls between 1979 and 2009. He also became the face of the popular Madden video game franchise for younger generations. Tonight, in a statement, the NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said there will never be another John Madden. We will all be indebted for what he did to make the NFL what it is today.

Hall of Fame coach and broadcaster John Madden was 85.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[21:21:02]

MOHYELDIN: So, today, the CDC is making a big update to how much of the coronavirus in this country is actually the new omicron variant. Last week, the CDC estimated that omicron made up more than 73 percent of the previous week`s COVID cases.

This week, though, they`re actually saying that they overestimated, and they overestimated by a lot. They revised last week`s reported number down from 73 percent to about 23 percent.

Now, as for their update this week, they say omicron now accounts for about 59 percent of circulating COVID cases in the U.S. and it`s important to note here that those are pretty significant changes.

But here`s the bottom line in all this. It is that omicron is now the dominant strain of this virus in this country. Those changes also tell us that tracking a virus that is rapidly spreading and mutating is actually really hard work. It`s even harder work to do in real time.

The CDC can only provide estimates based on the data they have available. And when they have new data, they react accordingly. That is what the CDC has been trying to do as we all work to combat this pandemic with the ground constantly, constantly shifting underneath us. That is the job.

Yesterday, the CDC published another update, this time to guidance for people who test positive for COVID, specifically on how long they have to isolate themselves. Now, the CDC now says that as long as you are not showing any symptoms of COVID-19, you only have to isolate for five days after you test positive. That is actually down from the original ten days that the CDC was recommending.

But that recommendation and the caveats, they include, you know, for people who are vaccinated, people who are boosted or unvaccinated, that actually has sparked a lot of confusion. It has sparked criticism, and, as you can imagine, it also has raise someday praise as well. We have a lot of questions and we want to get those answered for you tonight.

Joining us are: Andy Slavitt, the former senior adviser for COVID response for the Biden administration and President Obama`s former acting administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Also with us, Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of Brown University School of Public Health.

It`s great to have both of you with us.

Dr. Jha, I`d like to start with you here for a moment. We know that you have been advocating for a shortened isolation period for some time now. I follow you on Twitter. I know a lot of people in this country do as well.

You also recommended that people that test negative at the end of those five days should leave isolation. But your key point was testing negative at the end of five days. We also learned that some airline CEOs wrote to the CDC last week to ask them as well to shorten the isolation period to five days, and they also asked for a negative test to end isolation.

You obviously know that the CDC did not make that specific recommendation. What do you make of the CDC`s decision yesterday to shorten isolation to five days without requiring a negative test at the end of it?

DR. ASHISH JHA, DEAN, BROWN UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: And thanks for having me back.

I do think a shorter isolation period makes sense for a lot of reasons. Ten days is unnecessary for a vast majority of people. And it`s pretty disruptive to people`s lives. People can`t get back to their families and their kids. So there`s a lot of good reasons to shorten it.

I really think a negative antigen test at the end of five days helps a lot. Now, the CDC obviously decided not to use that, and instead what they`re saying is people should mask up for another five days. If people actually complied with that and had a high-quality mask, I think that`d be a reasonable alternative. I just worry about how much people will follow it. And I think a negative test would`ve been much more effective.

MOHYELDIN: Mr. Slavitt, are we unable to require a negative test to release people from isolation after five days because there are still not enough tests in this country? Is that a public health failing on the part of this administration?

[21:25:03]

I`m curious to get your thoughts as to why the CDC did it this way? Because I know there is reporting that the Biden administration dismissed a planned pitch back in October to ramp up at-home testing ahead of the holidays. So the need to increase rapid testing seems to be at least a known concern for officials.

ANDY SLAVITT, FORMER SESNIOR PANDEMIC ADVISORT TO PRESIDENT BIDEN: Yeah. And I can speak to that story because I was actually a part of that call. The "Vanity Fair" reporter actually didn`t get it quite right.

But be that as it may, the CDC has balanced a number of things when they make these decisions. Unfortunately, there are no perfect decisions that this pandemic presents. You have to essentially make judgments that are going to be the smartest and soundest judgments.

And as Ashish just said, you have -- you know, even if 5 percent of people are infectious, slipped through the cracks because they leave too early, there are also 95 percent that were staying home, not going to work, not seeing their families if they were being isolated for too long.

So saying that you can leave isolation after five days if you have no symptoms, and I agree with Ashish completely, ideally you take a test and show a negative result, is data driven response from the CDC. There`s going to be people that are going to criticize them at all times on both sides. And I think -- but they just have to continue to put their heads down and do their jobs, like they`re doing.

MOHYELDIN: And you have such a unique perspective because you are on the inside of that decision-making process. I know that there have been several public health experts who have been saying that publicly that this decision is based on science that is a year old and actually excludes data on the omicron variant, which is the dominant strain in this country, as we were just saying there based on the CDC.

If that is true, and tell us if it is not true, but if that is true, is this guidance a bit of a gamble? Why make the change now before we have more data on how long people who have omicron are in fact contagious?

SLAVITT: Well, Dr. Jha can talk a little bit about the difference between omicron and delta and whether that has any bearing. What I can say is that the CDC makes its judgments on their own with their own scientists based on the best data that they have, and then they adjust as they go along. And the White House for sure when I was there, and I think this continues, really doesn`t meddle in the science. We may make policy based on what the science tells us and interprets, but if the CDC believes that the vast majority of people aren`t going to be infectious after five days, they view it`s their obligation to say so.

Whether or not they`re going to get criticized or praised doesn`t enter into the situation. Whether or not an airline CEO feels one way or another doesn`t enter into the situation. The CDC doesn`t run a popularity contest. They do the best they can with the data. When they`re wrong they end up admitting it.

And I think, as we know in this with this pandemic, it`s always better -- there`s no one thing that works perfectly in this pandemic, whether it`s a vaccine, whether it`s a test, whether it`s anything else, a mask. So, I think smart people always suggest you do layered activities.

So if you`re going to leave after five days, isolation, then taking other steps makes a lot of sense.

MOHYELDIN: Dr. Jha, to Andy`s point, he had an interesting point about, you know, how people, if 5 percent slip through the crack and perhaps interpret things differently, and it had me thinking here for a moment because we know that isolation is meant to minimize the spread of the virus by changing a person`s typical behavior after they test positive. We know many people are already misinterpreting the CDC`s guidance because we know that a lot of people will not be wearing masks, certainly not, you know, after the five days of mandatory quarantine. They may not be wearing scientific masks or high-quality masks like N95. We know that anti-vaxxers are unlikely to participate in other mitigating factors.

But the issue of the, you know, asymptomatic or mild symptoms seems to be so subjective. Because a lot of people in this country are going to say, well, I feel like this is a mild symptom for me, not knowing that they could still be contagious. Will this isolation guidance as the general public will apply to it their behavior, work?

SLAVITT: That`s a great question. I have two thoughts on that. First of all, you have to remember, if you have a ten-day isolation, that also creates a disincentive for people who have mild symptoms or feel pretty well to even bother getting tested because they know if they test positive, they`re isolated for ten days.

So anything we can do to lower the barrier puts more people into isolation, and if the first five days are the really contagious time, anything we can do to get more people isolated for those first five days is critical.

Now, on the issue of whether people -- what their behavior will be, I think this is pretty variable. In my mind, will there be people who after five days not wear a mask?

[21:30:01]

You bet. A lot of those people probably weren`t isolating anyway. And to the extent that they do, they may not.

But as Andy said, there`s a balancing act here because what you do is you create incentives for more people to get isolated. And, second, you allow people to get back to their families and lives who are not contagious, much, much faster. And that has real benefit as well.

MOHYELDIN: Dr. Jha, there`s a new study that is out from South Africa that actually indicates that people with omicron, especially the vaccinated, develop enhanced immunity from the delta variant, which was the dominant strain just before we got hit with omicron. And according to this study, this actually could have a silver lining. It means that the omicron variant could or will push out the delta variant.

What are the implications of this if this is true for the country?

JHA: Yeah, it`s preliminary data from a really high-quality research group, the Segal Lab. They`ve done fabulous work on this. And what you basically find -- what they find is that people who got infected with omicron generate a vast number of different types of antibodies, including one that works against delta.

Look, this is obviously good news. This is not how we want to generate antibodies by getting omicron, it`s better to do it through vaccine. But if you`ve been vaccinated, you may get a boost against delta. You`ve been not vaccinated, you may get quick sick, but if you recover, you`ll have some protection against delta as well.

Overall, I see this as part of one of the few silver linings of getting infections. But let`s be very clear, getting infected with omicron is a pretty tough way to generate those antibodies. Vaccines are much better.

MOHYELDIN: Yeah.

And, Andy, I wanted to ask you about this op-ed that you wrote in the "Washington Post." You make the case for why we need to have boosters certainly mandatory. And you write, in part, businesses, sports leagues, colleges, hospitals and schools should require anyone who risks exposing others to have that third shot. Protocols such as this that keep up with the latest evolving science should be routine and without much controversy at this point in the pandemic.

Obviously, we have not reached that stage yet in this country. Why do you think we have not seen many booster mandates yet? And do you expect to see that in the near future?

SLAVITT: I think they`re starting to happen, they`re starting to come in much more broadly from sports leagues, from schools. And I think the evolving science suggests that if you want to have an environment which is safe for people who are compromised to come in and where people don`t have to worry about getting COVID, that there needs to be a higher level of antibody response than you just get from two doses.

I think it will remain to be seen whether or not the Supreme Court is going to allow, as we think they should, hospitals and employers to keep safe workplaces, to keep places that are safe for patients to come in, but certainly employers don`t have to wait for the Supreme Court. They`ve got all the ability, everybody out there has the ability to decide for themselves whether or not their space is going to be a where people are going to be able to get COVID or not. And they should take every step according to the latest science to make sure that that happens.

In some cases, it`ll mean a little bit more aggressive steps like a third boost. In other cases it`ll mean less aggressive steps like the CDC today says people don`t need to isolate for as long. So, I think a lot to keep up with. But if you want to keep a safe space that you control, that`s the way to do it.

MOHYELDIN: Andy Slavitt, the former senior adviser for COVID response for the Biden administration, President Obama`s former acting administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and, Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health -- gentlemen, thank you so much for answering some of our questions tonight. Greatly appreciate your time this evening.

Still ahead here tonight, we`re going to be joined live by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer in a few minutes to get his reaction to the passing of former Majority Leader Harry Reid.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[21:38:11]

MOHYELDIN: Kentucky`s Republican Senator Rand Paul is creating a stir with his latest bonkers tweet, describing sinister motives to Democrats the standard and perfectly legal get out the vote tactics in Wisconsin last November, citing an article about how Biden won the Badger State in 2020.

The Kentucky senator made sure to add this qualifier, first. He writes, quote, how to steal an election. Paul then quoted from the article, seating in area heavy with potential Democratic votes with as many absentee ballots as possible, targeting and convincing potential voters to complete them in a legally valid way, and then harvesting and counting the results.

I mean, targeting and convincing voters in a legally valid way? As one Georgia law professor put it plainly, quote, this is what we call, wait for it, voting.

Of course, Georgia has become the epicenter for the fight for political power in this country after delivering Democrats the White House and control of the Senate last cycle. All eyes will be on Georgia once again next year with a critical Senate race, governors race, and several House seats in play. And Georgia Republicans are pulling out every trick, every trick in the book to dismantle recent Democratic gains.

You`ll remember that Rachel covered the absolutely mind-boggling story out of Georgia where the Republican board in Lincoln County, a small very rural county with no public transportation and how they are seeking to shut down six of the seven polling places in that one county. That was made possible after the Republican-controlled Georgia general assembly passed legislation earlier this year, disbanding that county`s board of elections.

Thanks to another bill, Republicans have purged black Democrats from county election boards, all in the name of the so-called election integrity fight that they have been waging.

[21:40:07]

Here was the headline from "The Atlanta Journal Constitution" yesterday. Alleged dead Georgia voters found alive and well after 2020 election. In part, it reads, false claims that there were thousands of ballots cast in the names of dead Georgia voters can now rest in peace. Election investigators found just four absentee ballots in the 2020 presidential election from voters who had died, all of them returned by relatives.

In case you didn`t hear me, it was four ballots across the entire state of Georgia, not the 5,000 that Trump claimed that was definitive proof that he had in fact won Georgia, but now nearly all Republicans running for statewide office in Georgia, including the governor who refused Trump`s -- to save the 2020 election was fraudulent last time have embraced the former president`s obsession with voter fraud, almost every single one of them. To win Georgia, Republican candidates are running on the lie that widespread and out-of-control voter fraud exists, while Republican are actually simultaneously stripping away voting rights from the citizens of that state.

Joining us now is LaTosha Brown. She`s the co-founder of Black Voters Matter, a group that`s been campaigning to get Georgia-based businesses to come out against this wave of state legislation to restrict voting rights.

Ms. Brown, thank you so much for being here with us tonight. Greatly appreciate your time.

How can proponents of voting rights fight back against this wave of restrictive voting rights that we`re seeing Republicans pass in your state this year? Is there a way to out-organize this or a way to fight this? Or is this going to require some type of intervention from the federal government?

LATOSHA BROWN, CO-FOUNDER, BLACK VOTERS MATTER: I mean, I think it`s going to require a bunch of things. I think that there are levels of ways that we need to address this. The first thing, I think there are four things that come to mind. The first is we need to repeal the bill that with this legislative session coming up, there are going to be organizations and groups and people like myself that are actually calling for repeal of S.B. 202.

We can`t just let that stand. Here is a bill that was passed to punish voters because of the way they voted or who they voted for. So there has to be a push and a movement here in Georgia to repeal the bill.

The second thing is we need new leadership. The governor was the leader in chief to lead these efforts and to sign and bring this bill forward to punish the voters of Georgia. And there`s a governors election coming this year, and I think that the best message to send is we have to send them home. There have to be serious consequences to what he has done as well as Republicans in this state.

The third thing is every single Republican, I don`t think just in Georgia, but all across this nation should be challenged on the local, the state, and the federal level. We have to literally let people know how serious we are around voter suppression and that we`re not going to allow that.

And then the fourth thing is we`ve got to continue to push for federal legislation. We can not out-organize this. What we can do is out-organize ourselves and put pressure points. But it`s like a death by a thousand cuts. They brought many tools to actually suppress the vote so we have to bring many tools to the table because they brought many tools to actually suppress the vote.

MOHYELDIN: Ms. Brown, I know your organization, others that have been tracking this, do you think that these voting restrictions in Georgia will have the effect of depressing Democratic turnout? Or will they actually motivate more Democratic voters to go to the poll? What do you think the net effect will be based on what you have seen so far?

BROWN: Listen, let me say -- and we`ve said this from the beginning -- that this is going to be an uphill battle. The challenge is, you know, I think one of the things that the Republicans constantly do is they underestimate the power and the resiliency of black voters in this state. And I think what you`re going to see in the state of Georgia I think we`re going to see a historic turnout again.

That does not mean that it`s going to be a walk in the park. Because here we are dealing with circumstances that our voters are more vulnerable, that we`re dealing with circumstances that the Republicans have done everything they can to not only marginalize and make it harder to vote but also to take over the administrative process, to weaponize that in a way that if they don`t like the results they can actually challenge or turn over the results.

So I think it is really important this year, I think it`s going to be an impact overall around literally making it harder to vote and putting additional pressure on organizations to actually turn out the vote. But I also think that it also has another impact that what I have been talking to black voters, they are frustrated, they are teed off at this particular moment. I think we`re going to see a historic turnout next year.

MOHYELDIN: All right. LaTosha Brown, co-founder of Black Voters Matter, greatly appreciate your time tonight. Thank you for joining us.

BROWN: Thank you for having me.

MOHYELDIN: Up next here tonight, we`re going to have here on the passing of former Senator and Majority Leader Harry Reid.

[21:45:03]

We are going to be joined live by the current Senator and Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.

That`s next.

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MOHYELDIN: Tributes continue to pour in tonight for former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who has died at the age of 82.

Former President Barack Obama writing tonight, in part: Here`s what I want you to know, you are a great leader in the Senate, and early on you were more generous to me than I had any right to expect. I wouldn`t have been president had it not been for your encouragement and support, and I wouldn`t have got most of what I got done without your skill and determination.

Most of all, you have been a good friend, as different as we are, I think we both saw something of ourselves in each other, a couple of outsiders who had defied the odds and knew how to take a punch and cared about the little guy. And, you know what, we made for a pretty good team.

[21:50:01]

The Nevada Democrat spent 30 years in the Senate including eight years as majority leader. His successor is Democratic leader is the current Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.

Tonight, Leader Schumer announced that flags at the Capitol are being lowered to half-staff in Reid`s honor. Schumer says in a statement, quote: He was my leader, my mentor, one of my dearest friends.

Joining us on the phone is the current Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, who took over for Reid as top Democrat in the Senate following Reid`s retirement.

Senator Schumer, it`s great to have you with us. Sir, thank you so much for your time.

I know that Harry Reid was towering figure during his time in the Senate. He was a personal friend of yours. Talk a little bit about how his years in Washington changed Washington as majority leader.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MAJORITY LEADER (via telephone): Well, I think Harry real had such strong conviction, and courage of his convictions.

You know, he came from very poor beginnings and was a boxer. You know the story of how his father, he used to call him a hard-scrap miner, died of alcoholism. How his mom would take in laundry from the brothels to -- because that was legal in Nevada in those days, and now is still, to pay for things. He`d hitchhike 40 miles to go to high school.

He was -- you know, he was brought up -- he never forgot where he came from. So he had a deep abiding affection for the little guy, for middle class. And when in Washington, that was clear to everybody. He just was who he was.

He never wavered from who he was. He never forgot his origins. He never -- he was a tough guy, a tough in a very caring and compassionate way.

And when he felt something was wrong, he would speak about it. He gave speech after speech about the Koch brothers and helped define the bad things they had been doing to America in a very strong and courageous way.

There was also a few words -- you know, I was very close to Harry. So he never said goodbye on the phone. He`d just hang up when he thought he had said what he had to say and you had said what you had to say.

I would get call after call from members. Is Harry mad at me? I said, well, what makes you think that? Well, he just hung on me. I said, no, no, no. That`s Harry.

So, you know, he was just incredible. He always told me -- I mean, he looked out for me. He, you know, we had different strengths, and we relied on each other all the time. We`d spend countless hours talking about things.

He`d interrupt the conversation. Oh, did you see this movie? Did you read this book? He was very well-read and a great deal of knowledge.

But he was always telling me I got to get better shoes, I got to get better suits, even though he came from poor background, Harry always had his shoes shined, he always had his haircut.

He looked out for people. He just looked out for people. He had a deep love for Landra. In the last few days I would call every day, and he couldn`t get on the phone. But, you know, I`d speak to Landra. He called her his sweet little Landra.

When she had a car accident, was in real trouble, that was the only time I literally saw him in tears. You know, he was not that emotional on the surface, though he had deep emotions inside. And they had an amazing marriage, a 62-year marriage where they depended on each other and he would rely on her for advice as well.

So he was an amazing person. He was truly generous. You`re never going to meet another person like Harry Reid with the strengths he had, with the compassion he had, and with the fighting spirit that he had to make the country better and to help people who needed help.

MOHYELDIN: Right.

And he undoubtedly left his mark on Washington. And one of the things, as we saw earlier in the program, Senator, was how he left an imprint on the rules and procedures of the Senate. And you certainly know this better than anyone as former majority leader, Harry Reid was one of the most important voices to call for an end to the Senate filibuster, which again, as you know, is getting a lot of attention these days.

(CROSSTALK)

SCHUMER: He saw what was happening to the senate.

MOHYELDIN: Right, yeah.

SCHUMER: And there was a group of people on the hard right who gained ascendancy on the other side of the aisle, and they decided to tie it in a knot. And he said that wouldn`t -- that shouldn`t happen. And they did by blocking, you know, all kinds of legislation that had always been bipartisanship before.

And his views evolved. And, you know, he was a strong advocate of changing the rules of the Senate, which I hope we carry with us forward in the next few weeks.

MOHYELDIN: Yeah, that`s a very important point. And you also talk about the personal relationship you had with him. As we also noted in this program, Reid was known as a mentor, not just to you, but to other important political figures over the years. Elizabeth Warren -- Senator Elizabeth Warren, President Barack Obama, yourself.

How would you say his role has -- as an elder statesman of the Democratic Party shaped the Democratic Party?

SCHUMER: Well, when Harry saw somebody that he thought had real merit, he would try to elevate them.

[21:55:04]

He did that for me. Barack Obama. He and I visited Barack Obama and said you ought to run for president. It was one of the first times it was suggested.

Harry and I had discussed it earlier in the week. And you know, I said I think this guy could do it. And Harry said I think so too. Let`s talk to him about it. We did.

He saw that Elizabeth Warren had amazing talent when she just got to the Senate. He got some criticism from some elevating her to the leadership team. But when he saw talent, he raised it.

And contrary, if he thought that a senator wasn`t being a straight-shooter, he didn`t mind people having different views. His views had evolved. But when he saw that someone was not telling the truth or would go back on his word, he`d remember that, and in ways that that senator might never know, Harry would remember. Let`s put it that way.

MOHYELDIN: And let me just ask you finally, how are you going miss him? What are you going to miss the most about him?

SCHUMER: Well, you know, I lost my father a month ago, and Harry, as I said, was such a friend and a mentor to me. But when you lose someone that is that close to you, they`re always with you. And I believe that Harry will continue to walk by my side and the side of many senators every day so he`s gone physically, but his legacy, his spirit, who he was is going to be with us every day. Every day.

MOHYELDIN: Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, I appreciate you, sir, joining us this evening on short notice and -- for this unfortunate news. Thank you so much for your time, sir.

SCHUMER: Thank you, Ayman. Bye-bye.

MOHYELDIN: We`ll be right back.

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MOHYELDIN: That does it for us tonight. We`re going see you again tomorrow.

Now, it is time for "THE LAST WORD." Jonathan Capehart is in for Lawrence tonight.

Good evening, Jonathan.