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tv   The Last Word With Lawrence O Donnell  MSNBC  February 22, 2021 10:00pm-11:00pm PST

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that is going to do it for us tonight. i will tell you tomorrow is going to be a big news day particularly in washington. second day of confirmation hearings for merrick garland. today's first day of hearings was very newsy, tomorrow should be a big deal. also hearings for javier beccera, and deb holland. she would be the first native american in history if confirmed. i'll see you again tomorrow night. now it is time for "the last word" with lawrence o'donnell. good evening, lawrence. >> as you know, beto o'rourke is one of the texans who did not go to cancun when the crisis hit, and he's going to join us at the end of this hour and tell us
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what he's been doing, including with alexandria ocasio-cortez, who showed what a little new york energy could do for texas over the weekend. katie porter will also join us as the covid relief bill speeds towards passage in the house this week. nine committees, nine committees have almost invisibly, although they did it publicly had markups of this bill and voted on it. but, you know, because there was a senate impeachment trial going on, we didn't really pay much attention to that. and now it's pretty much ready to go through the full house at the end of the week. so that will be where we end up at the end of the week. >> it is on the move, and the biden administration has successfully marketed it to the american people so that there is massive super majority support for it among democrats, independents, and republicans. so all this drama in the sort of beltway press as to what
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republicans will do in terms of their vote here, the only implication is how much of a price they will pay for defying their own voters in voting against it when democrats are able to pass it even without their support. >> so, rachel, three consecutive democratic presidents in a row start off with their first thing being a form of stimulus of some kind. bill clinton, his first move was a stimulus package. it was defeated. it didn't even pass. then, you know, president obama comes along. he's faced with a similar challenge, and he has to do one. we saw what a struggle it was, what a kind of incredible struggle it was to get any version of it through. this thing, this thing is moving through in full. no one in congress is pulling anything out of it. it's just moving -- i have never seen a bill like this, of this complexity, certainly of this size move through as flawlessly as this has gone so far. >> in part because the biden folks learned the lessons of those previous democratic administrations.
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>> yeah, yeah. >> and what the other side and even the lily-livered parts of their own side were able to do to slow it down, stop it and strip it of everything effective by delay and delay and other tactics, and they have learned just not to let that happen. and i don't know -- they won't be able to do that with every bill, but for covid relief in this stimulus up front, they learned the lesson and are doing it without letting it get watered down. and credit to them for learning the lessons of the past few years. >> and they also have a new discipline that i have not seen among democrats legislatively in the house and senate before. it is really something to watch. i'm learning lessons from this, rachel. >> we're all learning lessons from you on this stuff all the time. don't sell yourself short. >> thank you, rachel. thank you. well, merrick garland was
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supposed to be one of the supreme court justices who today ordered donald trump to hand over his tax returns to the manhattan district attorney, but republicans refused to grant merrick garland a hearing five years ago when president obama nominated him for the supreme court, garland appeared before the judiciary committee today for a confirmation hearing today to become the person who will decide whether to prosecute donald trump for any federal tax crimes that might be found in donald trump's tax returns. merrick garland brings 23 years of experience as a federal appeals court judge to the job of attorney general, to which he will surely be confirmed. and he brings prior experience as a federal prosecutor. in 1995 he was sent from the justice department in washington to oklahoma city to oversee the prosecution of white supremacist terrorist timothy mcveigh, who murdered 168 people when he bombed the federal building in oklahoma city, hoping to begin an overthrow of the government.
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timothy mcveigh murdered 19 children that day who were in the day care center in the federal building. merrick garland carried the names of those 19 children and everyone else who was murdered that day in his briefcase every day that he was prosecuting timothy mcveigh. merrick garland recognizes the straight line link between timothy mcveigh's hope to overthrow the government through murder and the people who attacked the capitol on january 6th and murdered a police officer. merrick garland said that that investigation is his top priority as attorney general. >> my first priority will be to have a briefing on where we are, if i'm confirmed, with the investigations, which from the outside appear quite vigorous and nationwide and to find out what additional resources we need.
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but that is just a focus on what happened in the capitol. we also have to have a focus on what is happening all over the country and on where this could spread and where this came from. >> senator dianne feinstein reminded the forgetful republicans on the committee of how donald trump corrupted the justice department. >> over the last four years, the independence of the attorney general has been repeatedly attacked. for example, president trump once told "the new york times," quote, "i have the absolute right to do what i want to do with the justice department, end quote. do you believe that, in fact, the president does have the absolute right to do what he wants with the justice department? >> the president is constrained by the constitution, as are all government officials. the issue here for us are the
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set of norms and standards to which this president, president biden, has agreed that he will not interfere with the justice department with respect to its prosecutions and investigations, that those decisions will be made by the department itself and by -- led by the attorney general and that they will be without respect to partisanship, without respect to the power of the perpetrator or the lack of power, without respect to the influence of the perpetrator or the lack of influence. >> every republican senator on the judiciary committee came to today's hearing cloaked in the disgrace of their full support of donald trump's corruption of the justice department and endless attempts to continue corrupting the justice department. but some of them, even while cloaked in that disgrace, asked for assurances from merrick garland that he would not operate like a trump attorney general.
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>> i can assure you i do not regard myself as anything other than the lawyer for the people of the united states. and i am not the president's lawyer. i am the united states' lawyer. and i will do everything in my power, which i believe is considerable, to fend off any effort by anyone to make prosecutions or investigations partisan or political in any way. my job is to protect the department of justice and its employees in going about their job and doing the right thing according to the facts and the law. >> merrick garland's jewish grandparents fled russia during a wave of vicious and violent anti-semitism. when senator cory booker closed his questioning by asking why he decided to give up a lifetime appointment to the circuit court of appeals to take on the
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relentlessly demanding job of attorney general of the united states, merrick garland said this. >> so, you know, i come from a family where my grandparents fled anti-semitism and persecution. the country took us in, and protected us. and i feel an obligation to pay back. and this is the highest, best use of my own set of skills to pay back. and so i want very much to be the kind of attorney general that you're saying i could become. and i'll do my best to try to be that kind of attorney general. >> leading off our discussion
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tonight is senator richard blumenthal, a member of the senate judiciary committee. thank you very much for joining us tonight. you were one of the few senators who got into technical questions with the nominee, including the flash of latin here and there. but for the most part, it was a more general discussion. were you surprised at how, i guess the word is, how easy it was for merrick garland to face the republican side of the committee today? >> knowing merrick garland as i have for about three decades, he and i met as young prosecutors. when i was u.s. attorney, the chief federal prosecutor in connecticut and he was in the main justice department, i was really unsurprised because he is such a thoughtful and even-handed, very reflective but strong, really determined person. and i think what came across in that answer that he gave about
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his grandparents and the profoundly moving moment that it evoked was his authenticity. that was merrick garland speaking from his heart, and it was a very remarkable moment in a congressional hearing. but his experience was in some ways very typical. many of us in that room share an immigrant's story. my own dad came to this country in 1935, spoke no english. had not much more than the shirt on his back, knew no one. and this great country gave him a chance to succeed and it is the reason i feel the same way merrick garland does. so i was really unsurprised by how adroitly he handled the republicans because that authenticity, i think, completely disarmed them. >> what was it like, senator, to sit in that room today five years late, five years late for that committee to be hearing
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from merrick garland, who was nominated by president obama for the supreme court, and never even allowed to enter that room? >> great question, lawrence. a lot of thoughts went through my mind. first of all, as i said to him, he's been tested by adversity, living through that experience was one tough time in his life. second, how great a supreme court justice he would have been. and, third, what a great attorney general he's going to be and how he is going to truly meet this moment. when the united states department of justice needs to be restored, its morale internally and its trust and credibility and faith to americans and the outside world and what went through his testimony, very compellingly, is his fierce determination to protect the independence and the rule of law. the independence of the department of justice, the respect to the rule of law and
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to listen to those line prosecutors, the career guys, the professionals who will call these cases as they see them, following the facts. and the united states of america deserves to be represented by that kind of attorney general. >> in oklahoma city in 1995, it did not take an invasion of the building. all you had to do, as timothy mcveigh did, was park a truck on the street in front of the building because there was no restricted access in those days to federal buildings in a situation like that. that truck blew up with 7,000 pounds of explosives in it. and here we are today dealing with what happened on january 6th. the inheritors, many of them, in invading the capitol, inheritors of timothy mcveigh's belief that this government could be overthrown by force. >> and those violent extremists are more dangerous today, much more so than they were then, as
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merrick garland said today in his testimony. and the resources and the powers to cause havoc are not only the bats and firearms and flag posts that they brought to storm the capitol but also the cyber attacks they could launch. they could paralyze our water, our electricity, our utilities as much as texas was paralyzed by that storm. so the threats are even more alarming. and, of course, terrorism from outside the united states. but you're absolutely right, lawrence. today we face white supremacists, domestic extremists, the mob that donald trump brought to the capitol is still out there, and more dangerous than ever, and it could be mobilized and harnessed by another would-be tyrant like donald trump. >> and senator, quickly before you go, merrick garland could
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find himself in a position of having to decide whether to initiate a federal prosecution of donald trump based on what is revealed in his tax returns that are being handed over to prosecutors in the city of new york. if those prosecutors in new york find federal crimes in those tax returns, would you expect them to refer that to the justice department and in effect refer it to merrick garland? >> i would expect cyrus vance, the d.a. in new york, to make them available and make a referral to the department of justice if he finds violations, federal tax violations right now. reportedly he's looking into possible financial fraud and misstatements of the values of trump properties and more, potential other kinds of financial wrongs. but if there are federal violations absolutely the grand jury material can be referred by court order that cyrus vance
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could seek. and one point that is absolutely clear from today's testimony, donald trump should be afraid, very afraid, of a determined, fierce, thoughtful, and resourceful prosecutor like merrick garland. and he will follow the facts. he will follow the money. he will follow the law. >> senator, thank you very much for starting us off tonight. really appreciate it. >> thank you. >> thank you. and coming up, with 500,000 deaths from coronavirus in this country as of tonight, house democrats are speeding the biden covid relief bill to a vote by the end of this week. congresswoman katie porter will join us next.
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as congresswoman katie porter will tell us when she joins us in a moment, the old story of how a bill becomes a law is little more complicated when it is a budget reconciliation bill. although it is a public process. most of the work on the biden covid relief bill in the house of representatives has been ignored by the news media because a bigger story got in the way. while donald trump was on trial for incitement of insurrection in the senate, nine legislative committees in the house of representatives were busily at work writing and voting on president biden's covid relief bill. the house ways and means committee as usual did most of the work since it has jurisdiction over half of the bill.
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each of the nine committees on a party line vote passed their parts of the bill by february 12th and sent that work to the house budget committee, which then simply assembled the work of the other committees, the nine committees into a single 591-page stack of paper that the house budget committee passed today on a party line vote. that bill will now go to the house rules committee, which usually just sends the bills to the house floor on a party line vote without changing anything in them. the bill is likely to pass the house at the end of this week. and here is what chairman john yarma of the budget committee had to say when he brought the bill to a vote in the budget committee today. >> we have been thorough, but this has been by no means a normal reconciliation process. yes, we have followed all the house rules and proper procedures, but we have done so knowing the devastation that is happening in and to our communities every day.
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this february an american has died of covid every 32 seconds. we are in a race against time. aggressive, bold action is needed before our nation is more deeply and permanently scarred by the human and economic costs of inaction. >> joining us now is democratic congresswoman katie porter representing the 45th district of california. she's a member of the house oversight committee. thank you for joining us tonight. so now you have done in your committee your first budget reconciliation bill. i believe this is the first one that you new democrats have had a chance to have a hand in because now that you have democrats in the senate you can actually do a bill like this. >> absolutely. it's a new experience and a chance to learn some new rules and some new procedures. but, you know, at the same time, it's very familiar, which is that we're trying to address the needs of the american people and the harms caused by this pandemic.
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so the kinds of things we're trying to do, many of them are very familiar. help make sure that the very smallest businesses can get relief. help people who have children. make sure we're providing for public health. so the process is different, but the goal to help the american people through this pandemic remains the same and the urgency has only grown. >> it is a huge piece of teamwork. i know people think they know a lot about reconciliation. because we throw the term around a lot. but as you have discovered, it is kind of in the house a nine-layer sandwich of stuff, of sandwich meat from nine different sources. your committee had about $350 billion of input into this bill. but there is plenty of times, i'm sure, when you want to reach over into house ways and means and say, hey, what about this piece? but you are kind of stuck within your own jurisdiction. >> well, there is an element of that, certainly, that they would like us all to, you know, keep making the sandwich and not have
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interruptions. but we also want to make sure we get this right. so in addition to the nine-hour markup that we had in the oversight committee to get relief to state and local governments, i have been talking with the ways and means committee and the staff trying to change an aspect of the proposed expanded child tax credit. the proposal that they made would give less tax credit and less money to kids who are living in single parent households. i think of that as a single parent penalty, and i don't think it should exist. so i'm trying to get parity so that any child, no matter whether their parents are married or single, whether cared by a grandparent or another guardian, that child gets the same additional benefit. so they can have nutritious food, good child care, and good housing. >> it helps to have single mothers in the house of representatives to actually offer some guidance on this
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because so often these kinds of distinctions within -- especially within tax pieces, and this is technically, even though it's an expenditure, it is a tax expenditure, so that side of the law is filled with things that have different definitions for married couples than for single people. >> absolutely. and when i first raised this, actually, was several months ago when we were working on stimulus checks on student disaster checks. they said you get this much if you are single. you get this much if you're married. i thought, what about me? my tax filing status is head of household. there is a lot of people who take that tax filing status. i began to ask questions, and the committee staff was just wonderful in helping me dig into this and understand this, and i said, why is it this way? they said, you know, nobody ever really asks about it. so here i am. i'm asking about it and we're having a debate about it and really proud to be leading this effort with my colleague ayanna pressley, who was raised by a single mom. she knows what it's like to be a kid and not have some of the
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things you need to succeed. >> the bill now is headed to the house floor. it looks like it is going to pass on a party line vote. all of the votes in the committees have been party line votes leading up to this. and you will be sending it into the senate. by the way, constitutionally, this bill must pass the house before it is taken up by the senate because it does have tax provisions in it and so, that is actually a constitutional rule about that. and so the sequence here seems to be working smoothly. the senate doesn't seem to have really fallen behind because of the senate trial. >> no. they're absolutely up to speed. the fact that the house is going first, as you said, reflects the fact that we're honoring the constitutional process, which gives those decisions about spending to the house first and foremost. but as we're trying to wrap this process up, people like me are reaching out to folks in the senate, trying to identify any place that we think we can strengthen this bill. we want to make sure the bill is as good as it can be.
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the american people have already waited too long. >> can you stay with us across this break because today was the day where joe biden with a moment of silence marked the 500,000 milestone in deaths due to covid-19 in this country, and i know you lost your grandmother to covid-19. and if you just stay with us, we're going to see what joe biden had to say about that after this break. >> of course. >> thank you. hey, mercedes? how can i help you? the 2021 e-class. motortrend's 2021 car of the year.
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as the sun set today in the capital of a country that has now lost 500,000 lives to covid-19, the president of the united states said this. >> and those who have lost loved ones, this is what i know. they're never truly gone. they will always be part of your heart. i know this as well.
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and it seems unbelievable. but i promise you the day will come when the memory of the loved one you lost will bring a smile to your lips before a tear to your eye. >> the president's and vice president's solemn commemoration of the 500,000 lives lost to covid-19 included a moment of silence. president biden spoke directly
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to the millions of people in this country who are grieving a loved one lost to covid-19. >> for some of you, it's been a year, a month, a week, a day, even an hour. and i know that when you stare at that empty chair around the kitchen table, it brings it all back no matter how long ago it happened, as if it just happened that moment when you look at that empty chair. the birthdays, the anniversaries, the holidays without them. the everyday things, the small things, the tiny things that you miss the most, that scent when you open the closet, that park you go by that you used to stroll in, that movie theater where you met, the morning coffee you shared together, the bend in his smile, a perfect pitch to her laugh.
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>> as of tonight, the united states has suffered 502,268 deaths to covid-19. one of the lives lost to covid-19 is the 94-year-old grandmother of congresswoman katie porter, doris kathleen porter died on december 13th. back with us is congresswoman katie porter. congressman porter, your reflections today when joe biden offered that commemoration to the lives lost, including your grandmother. >> it is really meaningful to have a president who is empathetic, who speaks to the pain of the moment, doesn't try to deflect or pretend that we aren't going through this, but instead acknowledges it and really offers from a place of deep personal experience his thoughts that the pain will pass, that the memory of the person you have lost will comfort you. and i think it's really powerful
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that he's taking this time to mark this moment even as we are a full court ahead working hard trying to stop further deaths and trying to deal with this pandemic. >> if we could talk to your grandmother tonight, what would she tell us about her granddaughter katie? >> oh, i think she would say that i got this somewhat ill-behaved curly hair from her. i think she would share a lot of memories of how we used to cook together. you know, president biden mentioned kind of being reminded of the person and some of these things that remind you. for my grandmother, you know, it's some of the items from her kitchen that she passed along to me. the other day i made cookies and put them in her -- even her tupperware, and it reminded me of her and those times we had together. >> it is not so long ago that you lost your grandmother. it was just in the month of december. joe biden talks about that
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moment when you will smile first. you will smile before the tear comes. do you feel yourself getting close to that moment? >> yeah. to some extent. i think it's very helpful that i know that she was taken care of and loved in her final moments, that the hospital staff, the nurses, everybody there was providing her comfort, even as we weren't able to be with her. i really do -- i'm so grateful to those people and i really do feel blessed that they were there with her being angels to her as she passed on. so i just want to acknowledge and thank all of those people who are doing that work each and every day of helping people in their final moments. >> congresswoman katie porter, thank you very much for joining us tonight. >> thank you. >> thank you. up next, time is up for donald trump's tax returns. the supreme court ordered donald trump to hand over his tax returns to the manhattan district attorney. this could be the final piece of
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the puzzle that prosecutors need before bringing criminal charges against donald trump and possibly members of his family. former federal prosecutor andrew weissman joins us next. ns us net guard, your clothes can repel pet hair. look how the shirt on the left attracts pet hair like a magnet! pet hair is no match for bounce. with bounce, you can love your pets, and lint roll less. liberty mutual customized my car insurance, so i only pay for what i need. what a great day! what an ok day. what a messed up- only pay for what you need. ♪ liberty. liberty. liberty. liberty. ♪
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♪ hey now, you're a rock star, get the show on, get paid ♪ ♪ and all that glitters is gold ♪ applebee's $1 boneless wings with any handcrafted burger. the reason i always thought that donald trump would never run for president is that presidential candidates have to release their tax returns. well, donald trump managed to run for president without releasing his tax returns, but today the inevitable caught up with him and the supreme court ordered the trump tax returns handed over to the manhattan district attorney cyrus vance. in response, cy vance released a three-word statement, the work continues. that work is an investigation into hush money payments sent to stormy daniels, tax fraud, and insurance fraud. michael cohen has been
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interviewed by cy vance's office five times and one more time recently. michael cohen said this tonight to joy reid. >> cy vance, who is politically astute, did not bring in the likes of an individual like mark pomeranz, an incredibly well known and prolific attorney when it comes to this area of significant financial crimes as well as complex financial crimes. they didn't bring him in. not for -- not to bring an indictment. and i suspect the indictment will probably be sooner than later. >> joining us now, andrew weissman, former federal prosecutor who investigated donald trump in the mueller investigation. he's an nbc news and msnbc legal analyst. andrew, you and i have been wondering what was the delay with the supreme court on the tax returns. they could have issued this basically denial of hearing the case, refusal to hear the case. they could have done it a while ago. do you have any theory as to why it took so long?
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>> so, it was fully briefed and ready to go by middle of october. and you could understand why the court might have delayed until after the election, but you really get the sense that this fell behind the radiator because it wasn't done, you know, between, you know, the election and january 20th. and then you'd think it would at least would have happened very shortly after january 20th. in other words, i don't know if it was -- they were responding to the increasing media drumbeat about what on god's green earth is keeping them, but, you know, it clearly wasn't sort of contested deliberations because the supreme court ruled today in a summary order. in other words, this wasn't a long, drawn-out opinion. it basically just had one word, denied. so this means that donald trump
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will now have to turn over and cannot object to his accountants turning over all of the accounting records that the manhattan district attorney's office is seeking. >> and technically the subpoena is not to donald trump. it is to this accounting company and they're professionals. their lawyers are professionals. they're not trump crazy lawyers. they're just going to hand this stuff over, right? >> absolutely. they're third parties. they were just waiting for the go-ahead from the court. this reminds me very much of the situation we were in when we got the accounting records from paul manafort's accountants. just so your viewers understand, the reason this is so important is that the government is going to need to show not only that tax returns or bank loan applications were wrong, in other words, that the amounts were erroneous, but they then need to show that donald trump
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or whoever they are focusing on knew they were wrong and filed them nevertheless intentionally. and accounting records can be a gold mine in terms of proving all that, that not only were they were wrong but it was knowingly so and they can put the lie to a particular person, so they can end up either showing that, you know, donald trump himself knew and did this intentionally or they can use it to flip people who were used to prepare these documents. so this is really going to be a wealth of information for the manhattan district attorney's office. >> andrew, i have never seen tax returns of this size. few people have. in your experience as a prosecutor, being dumped this massive amount of information, how long will it take a team of prosecutors to figure out what they have here? >> so, you know, people keep saying that, but if you look at the -- let's just take the mueller investigation in the manafort case. we started really looking at
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that in june or july of 2017. and manafort was under indictment in october of that year. now, we had an incredible group of fbi agents and analysts, but it is not a long process. the hardest part is not reviewing the documents. it is interviewing people about those documents and scheduling those interviews. but, again, that gives you a sense of the time frame. and paul manafort had, you know, dozens and dozens of corporations all across the globe and that, again, only took a few months to go through. >> and what's the procedure for a local district attorney who is holding evidence that they feel might include federal crimes? >> great question. so what a local attorney can do is refer that to federal prosecutors to look into. obviously, the federal prosecutors don't have to. by the same token, you have seen
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examples of federal prosecutors when they see state matters, they can refer that to the state and then it is up to the state to decide what to do. so this could work as a two-way street, as your question suggests. >> andrew weissman, we could have no better guide for what feels like the year of defendant trump. thank you for joining us tonight. we really appreciate it. >> thanks. and coming up, beto o'rourke has been working nonstop to help the people of texas survive the disastrous power failure that has left them without heat and without water. beto o'rourke joins us next. are you tired of clean clothes that just don't smell clean? what if your clothes could stay fresh for weeks? now they can! downy unstopables in-wash scent boosters keep your laundry smelling fresh way longer than detergent alone. pour a cap of downy unstopables into your washing machine before each load and enjoy fresher smelling laundry. with 6 times the freshness ingredients,
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well, texas' junior senator was jetting off to cancun to flee the devastation in texas, our next guest, beto o'rourke, was working hard to help people who senator cruz left behind.
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we was quickly joined by alexandria ocasio-cortez, who raised funds to help organizations like the houston food bank, with sheila jackson lee and sylvia garcia distributing on saturday. now texans know where their junior senator is, but they are left to wonder where is greg abbott? he is the republican governor of texas who tried to blame the green new deal which hasn't even come to a vote in the congress for the failure of the texas electrical power system which is run by something that calls itself the electric reliability council of texas. beto o'rourke will explain to us how the word reliability got into the title of that entity. the texas electrical power system designed by republicans has created the possibility of texans being bankrupted by their utility bills with people being
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charged thousands of dollars a day to heat their homes that normally cost a few hundred to heat for the entire winter. a 63-year-old army veteran from outside of dallas spent his savings paying for a bill totaling $16,847.35. also missing in action is the texas attorney general, who escaped to utah during the crisis instead of staying in texas and protecting people from price gouging on their utility bills. joining us now is the former democratic congressman beto o'rourke of texas, a founder of powered by people, a grassroots organization designed to elect democrats across texas. thank you very much for joining us tonight. i have on my notepad the words electric reliability council of texas. because all of our texas guests kept saying ercot, and it took
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me a long time to learn it. it is weird to see the word reliability in their title. >> and even more strange that here we are in the energy capital of north america and yet we couldn't power the homes and lives of millions of our fellow texans. millions more unable to get reliable, clean drinking water, and as you unfortunately know far too many have lost their lives to a very unnecessary disaster. meaning that if we had not deregulated and if we had instead connected to the rest of the national electricity grid, if we had required weatherization, which means investing more in people instead of profits, and if we allowed for excess capacity for moments of need like these we would not be in this position. furthermore, if we had people in positions of public trust that believed in science and understand climate change, we would know we will have more
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weather events like this, just as severe or worse or just as deadly or worse. so this moment calls for leadership. we don't have it on a statewide level. you do see it in people in neighborhoods, knocking on each others doors, making wellness check-in phone calls or just being there for each other in this critical moment of need. i think that is the one positive thing i can say for what we are seeing in texas right now. >> i want to get to these electrical bills for a moment. they are stunning to all of us that live in regulated markets. there is an article in the texas tribune about someone with a $10,000 bill on the utilities, it's a public school teacher and it's a direct withdrawal from her checking account. that particular utility is connected directly to your checking account and takes the money straight out before you even know the bill is there. and so people are being devastated. you will have, it seems, massive
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bankruptcies because of this. >> you are seeing bills for $10,000. for $17,000 on these variable rate programs where all of the detail is in the fine print. and i don't know about you. but when i am paying my electric bill, i don't read the pages of fine print to know i could be charged $17,000 for something that is not my fault. and that school teacher, if she is like half of school teachers in texas is working a second or even a third job to make ends meet because we don't pay our public school educators half enough for the work they do in order to put food on the table and in this case to pay their electricity bill. we need desperately change in our electricity grid, in our leadership and where we place our priorities in texas. thankfully there are volunteers going out there and doing the job, public leaders.
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alexandria ocasio-cortez, sheila jackson lee, and others who are trying to fill in for the gaps of leadership that we're missing from others, who literally are not in the state that they purport to represent right now. that's where we have to turn right now. we have been to san antonio. we were in rosebud, texas, today meeting with the mayor there. they are working their hearts out to serve their constituents and make sure they come through for them at this moment of need. let's learn from this and improve the electricity grid we have here and put people in positions of power that care for those they represent and swear they serve. >> you have been through an experience you have not been before in dealing with this. what have you learned? what are the lessons that you take away that you learned from some of the victims of it who don't have heat or water, can't pay their bills, or some of the public officials or some of the people involved in
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delivering electricity, who have revealed to you things you didn't know about this crisis? >> you know, not unlike covid this crisis reveals some of the underlying systemic problems that were there all along. problems of poverty, failure to invest in infrastructure. inequality or failure to address equity in our community. in raines county, there is a small community called point there. folks on third street in point haven't had water for seven days. visiting with, talking to, and listening to the folks there, they have long-standing issues and challenges for service, resources, and just, you know, having the rest of the state know that they exist. that is part of the reason we went up there today. the same reason we are going down to the rio grande valley, a part of the country that does not get the attention and the focus that it deserves and need. we want to be there and rally the other volunteers to do the wellness checks and making sure that folks are okay.
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so these inequalities laid bare at the same time that you see extraordinary everyday people stepping up and checking in on one another and taking care of their neighbors. that is the lead that we have to follow. when our public servants are not getting it done, then the people are the lead. and we have to make sure that we follow that example. we are trying to do our best as we travel the state of texas to help those in need and get the care that they deserve. >> beto o'rourke, thank you very much for joining us, and thank you very much for your service to the people of texas. >> grateful to you. thank you so much. >> thank you. beto rourke gets tonight's last word. "the 11th hour" with brian williams starts now. good evening once again, day 34 of the biden administration. tonight, to mark the sorry occasion of our nation's loss of
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over half a million souls to a controllable virus, the president and the vice president did something that we have not seen from an american leader in the full year since this pandemic took hold of our country. they took note of the devastating toll with a moment devastating toll with a moment of silence and a candlelight ceremony to honor the dead. moments earlier as joe biden spoke of the need to remain vigilant against the virus he acknowledged the enormous loss. >> that's more americans who've died in one year in this pandemic than in world war i, world war ii and the vietnam war combined. that's more lives lost to the virus than any other nation on earth. as we all remember, i also ask us to act. to remain vigilant. to stay socially distanced. to mask up.

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