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tv   The Last Word With Lawrence O Donnell  MSNBC  February 24, 2021 10:00pm-11:00pm PST

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i feel like so much of today's busy news day was basically an on-ramp toward later tonight and tomorrow. we're expecting that important ruling on the minimum wage. we're expecting potentially the intelligence community's declassified report on the murder of jamal khashoggi. there's a lot going on tonight and still ahead, too. but that does it for me. i'll see you again tomorrow night. now it's time for the "last word" with lawrence o'donnell. good evening, lawrence. >> good evening, rachel. and i guess your sound, your audio is working okay tonight. >> indeed. >> yeah, you can really hear me. rachel, imagine yourself in a house hearing with the likes of jim jordan. that's where jerry connolly found himself today and he just kind of couldn't take it anymore, and he really let
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loose, and he's going to join us later tonight. because it's going to be part of his decompression to come on this show. >> that moment was so incredible. and it was so clear that he was just like, his exasperation was just, like, exploded in a burst of ad-lib expression. i absolutely want to know what he's thinking. and now that he's had time to put it all together instead of just exploding in that moment, i'm looking forward to hearing you talking to him. >> and here's the worst part of it for jerry connolly. it's not the last time he's going to be in a hearing with jim jordan. this is going to be a recurring problem in his life. >> he'll be good at it. he'll be good at it forever. well done. >> thank you, rachel. >> thank you, lawrence. we have breaking news tonight about the minimum wage increase in the biden covid relief bill. it's all up to the senate parliamentarian. that is what white house chief of staff ron klain said earlier tonight on msnbc.
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and that was not necessarily the way this was going to go, but once again tonight what that means is an important change in american law that will improve the lives of tens of millions of people is all up to someone whose name has never been on a ballot and who has a job that most people have never heard of, senate parliamentarian. elizabeth mcdonough did not ask for the power she has over your life. elizabeth mcdonough does not want the power to decide whether you get a raise if you're a minimum wageworker. the united states senate gave that to her in effect in a complex set of rules that apply to budget reconciliation rules in the united states senate. the parliamentarian in the house of representatives does not have the kind of superpowers the senate parliamentarian has because the house has its own less complicated set of rules.
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today in a private meeting elizabeth mcdonough listened to the most authoritative debate anyone will ever hear on whether a minimum wage increase can be included in a budget reconciliation bill. and of course we were not allowed to hear that debate because it was behind closed doors. the most authoritative voice in that debate was bill dauster who bernie sanders hired as the chief counsel of the budget committee. it's a job bill dauster has held before. he was chief counsel to the budget committee 30 years ago when he literally wrote the book on the budget process. he was also chief counsel to the senate finance committee. bill dauster served as counsel to senate majority leader harry reid. he made the argument that an increase to the minimum wage does fit within the budget reconciliation rules because it
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does have a significant effect on the federal budget. the nonpartisan congressional budget office issued a report the increase in the minimum wage would have a $54 billion net effect over ten years on the federal budget. the republican senate staff argued that is a relatively small amount of money over a ten-year period and that the budget effect is all the result of indirect economic effects of raising the minimum wage to $15. and therefore it would be a violation of the senate's so-called byrd rule to include a minimum wage increase in the biden covid relief bill, which will be passed as a budget reconciliation bill. elizabeth mcdonough is expected to reveal her parliamentary ruling on this piece of legislation before the bill is brought to the senate floor. elizabeth mcdonough is a fully respected senate parliamentarian. she was hired -- appointed to
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that position by harry reid. the senate majority leader can fire her at any time. mitch mcconnell kept her in that position. chuck schumer is keeping her in that position. she has the full respect of the senate. and we now know it really is all up to elizabeth mcdonough because of breaking news delivered on msnbc tonight by joy reid in her important interview with white house chief of staff ron klain. >> well, as you know, we're all waiting on baited breath for a ruling from the senate parliamentarian at least when i walked over which had not yet come down. her ruling is going to have a big impact on the future of that provision. the president believes we should have a $15 minimum wage. if it is ruled in order then obviously that would allow it to move in this package. if it's ruled out of order we're going to have to find other ways to get it done. >> but if in theory the parliamentarian were to rule against the plan, can't the vice president override the parliamentarian?
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hasn't that happened in the past? >> not sure if it's happened in the past. certainly that's not something we're going to do. we're going to honor the rules of the senate and work within that system to get this bill passed. this is a $1.9 trillion package that is vital to getting this country in a position to crush the virus, in a position to get people vaccinated, in a position to get the schools open, and to help all those people that you talked about at the start of this show. we are going to get this package passed. that's our highest priority. we want the minimum wage as part of it. that's what the president proposed, but we're going to work with the senate to get this package passed. >> joy reid is right. the vice president as the presiding officer of the senate could overrule the senate parliamentarian, but ron klain said we're going to honor the rules of the senate. so senate democrats are going to abide by the parliamentarian's ruling and not have vice president kamala harris in her role as president of the senate overrule the parliamentarian, which the vice president as joy
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reid said is entitled to do but almost never does. chris hayes asked a crucial follow-up question to chairman bernie sanders tonight. what happens if the minimum wage increase is not included in the senate budget reconciliation bill? >> i do wonder if it wasn't in this package, do you think it could win a floor vote on it? if you just said up or down -- >> oh, no. >> you couldn't, okay. >> no, no. you could not -- as of now there's not one republican who will support a $15 an hour minimum wage. >> you can't -- >> i'm sorry, i didn't mean to -- >> what you're saying just to be clear here is if you were in a filibuster world and you needed ten republican votes you're saying there's not ten republican votes to raise the wage? >> let me be very clear about this. the only way that we are going
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to raise the minimum wage is through reconciliation or ending the filibuster. >> there is one other way. the way the minimum wage was raised last time in 2007. in 2007 the minimum wage in the country was $5.15, and republicans opposed an increase from $5.15 to $7.25 phased in over two years. republicans said that would be an impossibly high minimum wage, and so democrats put the minimum wage increase in a defense spending bill, and that bill passed the senate with 80 votes. leading off our discussion tonight, democratic congressman ro khanna of california, a member of the progressive congressional caucus. and the former deputy chief of staff to majority leader harry reid.
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and he is the author of the important new book "kill switch, the rise of the modern senate and the crippling of american democracy." if you read one book about the united states senate make it adam's. congressman khanna, you are once again in the position that members of the house of representatives often find themselves. on the edge of your seat waiting for a ruling from the senate parliamentarian to decide what is ultimately possible in legislating this budget reconciliation package. >> lawrence, you started out perfectly. there is no provision in the constitution that says that the senate parliamentarian has any power. and ron klain is a brilliant constitutional lawyer. he knows that the vice president has this decision. and in 1975 vice president rockefeller disregarded the advice of the senate parliamentarian when they actually lowered the threshold on the filibuster from 67 votes to 60 votes. and robert dove, a senate parliamentarian who i know you
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respect because you served in the senate, has said many times that people have disregarded the parliamentarian's ruling. so we should just be honest. if there are political reasons that the white house doesn't want to disregard the parliamentarian for whatever reason, then just come out and say that. but no, this is the decision the white house has, the vice president has every power to disregard that decision. >> i just want to stipulate for this conversation that elizabeth mcdonough is one of the great senate parliamentarians. and she didn't ask to be put in this position. adam, how did it come to this in the senate, that these are the kinds of hurdles that the senate has but the house doesn't? >> well, reconciliation is a function of the budget act that was passed in the 1970s and up dated in 1985. with the byrd rule which is really the issue here, it makes the reconciliation process
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restrictive and hard to use to pass things like the minimum wage. so it's that series of first along the '70s and then the update in the '80s that has brought us to where we are today. but really the main factor here is the filibuster. because if the senate had -- it was still the majority rule institution it was for the first 200 years of its existence, you wouldn't be trying to force big policies like the minimum wage through reconciliation. you'd simply be bringing them to the floor and having a simple up or down vote and letting it pass or fail on a majority vote basis. reconciliation is a way to get around the filibuster. and what it's become today, from the sort of talking filibuster of the jimmy stewart washington days. >> congressman khanna, there is a fascinating thing about republicans and the minimum
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wage. they always support the minimum wage increase that you did last time over their opposition. they all now support $7.25 as the minimum wage. and they always condemn any number that you pick as the increase in the minimum wage as something that's going to be hugely destructive and harmful. and yet they always find themselves some years down the road defending that number that they used to oppose. >> you're absolutely right, lawrence. so they had the same two tired arguments each time. they say, well, this is going to hurt rural communities, small town communities. and here's what i never understand about their argument. are they saying they want amazon or target to pay $15 to people in my district, but people in rural america or small town communities that are working for the same big corporation should get less? that makes no sense to me. why should you have companies for the same work pay people in
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communities the same amount what they're actually adding in value? the second thing they say is, well, this is going to hurt small business in these communities. well, there's an economic paper actually that says in communities that have the most economic concentration, which is often small communities, increasing the minimum wage actually increases jobs because people have monopoly power there and they're underpaying workers and increasing the wage will add jobs. so it's not based on any economics, and that's why ultimately they end up supporting it after the fact. >> and adam, i want to not exactly defend the byrd rule so much as explain why it seemed like a reasonable idea at the time when robert byrd brought it into senate budget process. first of all, parties were not obstructionist, were not trying to block every single thing the other party was doing. and it did seem as though the budget process needed its own
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rules, as did for example international trade legislation. it made a certain sense at the time. and i was working for the senate when robert byrd was on the floor himself personally enforcing it against both parties when they tried to put things in bills he didn't think should be there. but now in today's senate it carries a completely different effect than what was intended for that completely different senate than it was written for. >> yeah, that's right. it was written in a senate where it didn't take 60 votes to pass everything. most legislation passed on a majority vote in the '70s and '80s when these rules were developed. it's just really important to underscore that for your viewers, that we've come to accept the senate as a place where it takes 60 votes to pass things. but that's a really recent development. in the senate where most things pass or fail on a majority vote the bird rule and the process for reconciliation made sense as a special process for budget and budget related issues.
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but in a senate where it takes 60 votes to pass everything today, and it's nearly impossible to get 60 votes even for something as broadly popular as president biden's covid relief plan, which is pulling in the 70%, 80% range, it doesn't make sense to have to force reasonable policies through this process called reconciliation that it was never designed for. the easiest way to do this if this gets struck out of this package is to bring it to the floor, bring other popular policies to the floor. and if they're blocked by republicans, which they probably will be, senate democrats in the white house should get serious about reforming the filibuster so we can get things done. >> my personal favorite tv moment of the night was bernie sanders literally laughing out loud of the idea of republican votes for an increase in the minimum wage, something that is supported by 57% of the public. but of course is just a laughable thing to senate republicans. congressman ro khanna, adam
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jentleson, thank you both for starting us off tonight. really appreciate it. >> thank you. >> thank you. and when we come back, what happens when the trump-appointed postmaster general comes to testify to the house of representatives with lying republicans on the committee? democrats get gloriously angry at the lies flying around the room. and in the process you are left with absolutely no doubt about how congressman jerry connolly feels about democracy deniers like jim jordan. the honorable jerry connolly joins us next. it's either the assurance of a 165-point certification process. or it isn't. it's either testing an array of advanced safety systems. or it isn't. it's either the peace of mind of a standard unlimited mileage warranty. or it isn't. for those who never settle, it's either mercedes-benz certified pre-owned. or it isn't. the mercedes-benz certified pre-owned sales event.
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tempers flared in a house hearing with the trump appointed postmaster general louis dejoy today after republican congressman jody heist of georgia defended the postal service's, quote, almost perfect delivery of ballots in the previous election. those were his words.
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democrat steven lynch made his boston constituents proud with this mild-mannered retort. and of course i mean mild-mannered by boston standards. >> let me quote the gentleman from georgia. the almost perfect delivery of ballots in the previous election. given that fact, would you say it was unconscionable that someone would -- would dispute and vote to undo the results of that almost perfect delivery of ballots in the previous election? let me just recount the facts. the gentleman from georgia voted to undo the elections in two separate states. and so he has just spent about five minutes reminding us in his own words that the delivery of
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ballots was almost perfect by the united states postal service in that election that he voted to undo. >> after insurrection inciter and democracy opponent jim jordan tried to blame a lack of confidence in the postal service on democrats, our next guest congressman jerry connolly said this. >> all the gaslighting that we just heard does not change facts. it was donald trump, the republican nominee, who was planting the idea, aided and abetted by disruptive changes proposed by a new postmaster general and a compliant board of governors that actually eroded the public confidence in the ability to vote by mail. that wasn't a democratic narrative. that was a republican narrative by the president of the united states and enablers.
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and, oh, by the way, inconvenient fact, mr. heist would have you believe it was partisans on this committee and he quoted a number of democrats -- by the way, admitted democrats. for the record i'm an admitted democrat and damn proud of it. i didn't vote to overturn an election, and i will not be lectured by people who did about partisanship. >> joining us now democratic congressman jerry conolly of virginia. he's a member of the house oversight committee. and congressman connolly, thank you very much for joining us tonight. you are now a virginian, but i must for the record claim you for boston. because you are from boston. and a lot of fans in boston who are very proud of you today. i just have to ask you. rachel and i were talking about it at the beginning of the hour. what is it like? what is it like to be sitting in that hearing room with the likes of jim jordan and have to deal with that stuff?
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>> i don't want to disparage a colleague, but i do think there is a toxicity in relationships that did not exist before. when you look at somebody who joined in the purpose of the mob on january 6th, and that purpose was to stop, to prevent the validation of joe biden and kamala harris' election by the electoral college, normally a ceremonial event. after all of the violence, after five deaths, we reconvened and 144 of them voted to overturn the elections in two states. duly valid, audited, reviewed
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election results. and that means you may come with the crowd that was violent, premeditated insurgency and that led to five deaths. and so i think you look at people differently after january 6th than you did before. they're not just political adversaries. they're people who align themselves consciously with a violent mob that meant to do harm to you, your staff, the vice president of the united states, among others. >> i have to say when you put it that way, which is the way we see it, which is the reasonable frame on what you experienced and what you experience on a daily basis, it is astonishing. it is just astonishing how you and congressman lynch and others are able to maintain the civility in that room the way you do. i just -- i just don't know how you do it. it's literally something we kind
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of don't know how you can do it. >> well, i believe in the power of truth and facts. and i believe calling out their fabrications, their alternate reality that is delusional and deliberately designed to persuade people to believe what they say, not what they see and know -- which is called gaslighting -- i think the power of words and the truth still remains. and i believe in it, and i think it's my duty and steve lynch and others to propound that truth to make sure the public hears it and sees it. >> can you explain to our audience why donald trump's selection of postmaster general still has that job and what will happen to change that? >> so the postmaster general is technically hired -- not technically. he is hired and reports to the postal board of governors.
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the postal board of governors last summer was entirely appointed by donald trump. and the white house clearly put pressure on them to consider a candidate who had not been on the original list of candidates for postmaster general. and that was a big republican donor and trump supporter named louis dejoy. and he had no qualifications for the job other than he had political connections through fund-raising. and so they actually installed him as postmaster general. he immediately set out on a series of what he called organizational efficiencies, a euphemism for actual disrupting of the postal service. all of which was clearly designed to disrupt the reliability of the mail service in order to affect voting by mail for the november 3rd election. and although they didn't really succeed in that because of brave
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post workers and/or federal court rulings that called them out -- and i read one of the opinions in the record this morning at the hearing -- actually fingering them for political motivation. that they were doing this with malice and forethought. this wasn't just organizational efficiency. nonetheless, they succeeded mentally in planting a lot of doubts in the public's mind about whether my ballot would be secure, whether it would arrive in time on mail day. so in a sense they won the war while losing the battles. and that was a tragedy for america because although record numbers of americans voted, i believe there are probably tens of millions that would have voted had they had confidence in the mail. >> congressman jerry connolly, thank you very much for joining us. really appreciate it. >> my pleasure, lawrence. thank you for having me. >> thank you. thank you. well, it is called the biden relief package because it is legislation that originated in
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the white house but is now under the control of congress. white house veteran jennifer palmieri will join us on how difficult it is to legislate from the white house while trying to get cabinet members confirmed and managing foreign policy and everything else that a president and vice president have to do. that's next. ♪ hey now, you're an all-star, get your game on, go play ♪ ♪ 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.
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or class sizes that allow for social distancing, and classrooms close back down. a successful reopening requires real safety and accountability measures. including prioritizing vaccines for educators. parents and educators agree: reopen schools. putting safety first. what we need to do is pass the american rescue plan so we can get those $1,400 checks to folks, so we can save our small businesses, so that we can pass the child tax credit, so that families can lift half of american children who are living in poverty out of poverty. let's extend the unemployment benefits. let's do all of these things, partnering together so that we can get through this moment of crisis. because i'm telling you i have faith. i believe in our ability to get through this and to be better on the other side. if we all work together to lift
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folks up and to lift ourselves up when we have the opportunity. >> while congressional democrats are trying to pass legislation to improve the lives of americans suffering through the health and economic consequences of the pandemic, republicans are trying to pass hundreds of laws in state legislatures that will restrict the right to vote. here's what ron klain told joy reid about tonight. >> we know that there are people in our country who are trying to suppress the right to vote. we know that we need to fight that at the federal level, at the state and local level. and so obviously standing up for democracy is what the biden campaign was about. >> joining us now, jennifer palmieri. jennifer, i juxtaposed those two pieces of video the vice president and the white house chief of staff to show the range of urgent concerns in the white
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house while this white house is trying to pass a giant piece of legislation through the congress. and how do you do that from the white house when you know in the end it's all up to members of the senate, members of the house? >> you know, i talked to kate bedingfield today. i talked to her for "the circus" and she said there's a sort of calm at the white house because there's such a clarity of purpose between having to get nominations through, having to pass the covid relief bill, getting vaccinations going, and then still working on an infrastructure package for congress later down the road. and i think they're focused and they're calm. and they didn't get a honeymoon, right? congress spent the first three weeks sort of focused on the insurrection and impeachment of donald trump. so i think the white house looked at that and said we're going to go outside washington,
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do a lot of local news interviews. i know cedric richmond at the white house worked hard to get businesses, mayor, republican mayors and governors behind the package. and it has been very successful in getting the public behind the package. and i know when they're looking for bipartisanship they're looking for it out in the country. you know, the republicans on capitol hill are some of the few republicans in the country that actually oppose the covid relief bill because so many republicans out in america support it. 7 out of 10 americans, even a majority of republicans. so i think they've done a really good job in selling the package on how big it has to be. and, you know, it'd be great if republicans voted for it. but i think if you're sitting in the white house what you're really worried about is i want to get the bill passed and are republicans able to make an effective critique of the bill that might hurt us electorally or hurt our ability to pass something else? and thus far republicans really
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have not launched an effective critique against the bill. >> yeah, it really is astonishing what the biden/harris communication about this in the campaign and in the white house has done. 76% support. jennifer, i don't know that i've ever seen 76% support for major complex legislation like this. it's really astonishing. 60% of republicans support this legislation. >> and, you know, you saw -- i think part of the republicans problem is what is an ideologically -- what does an ideologic republican argument on this bill look like? and trump himself promised -- trump himself was for a $2,000 bonus for families suffering from covid. so how can you launch an ideological argument against this? and then when they do get
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something together and we saw today the house republican caucus did a press conference to show, to lay out arguments against the bill, and there were some relatively compelling arguments that they offered. but we didn't hear any of them because all of the coverage was of liz cheney and kevin mccarthy fighting about trump at the end, right? donald trump hasn't said anything publicly in days, but still the house republicans can't get out from under his shadow to even make an argument against what biden has put in the covid relief bill. >> ron klain made more news tonight with joy reid about the neera tanden confirmation. he said if neera tanden is not confirmed she will not become budget director because there's no process by which they could make her acting budget director. but he did say we'll find a place for her to serve in the administration that doesn't require senate confirmation. what was your reaction to that? >> well, i just want her to be omb director.
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there's all the focus on neera and her tweets and we're all familiar with republican hypocrisy and being concerned about some of these mean tweets. but moreover let's talk about a great budget director neera would be. if you're a senior official in the administration you want a good budget director. and she would be great about that. and if it doesn't work out i'm glad she would serve in some way. but i think the biden team is right to keep fighting for her. >> jennifer, thank you very much for joining us tonight. thank you. well, the year of defendant trump could produce more than one trump defendant as investigations continue into the trump businesses. and what might we discover about donald trump in further investigation of the planning of the insurrection at the capitol? that's next.
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the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. the district of columbia attorney general put donald trump jr. under oath for a deposition in a civil case about misuse of funds by the trump organization and the trump presidential inaugural committee. in a court filing the d.c. attorney general said that donald trump jr.'s testimony at his february 11th, 2021, deposition raised further questions that require the pursuit of more evidence in that case. the daily beast reports that investigators with the manhattan district attorney's office have been expanding their criminal probe into trump's business empire, asking questions and grilling witnesses as recently as in the past few days not only about trump but particularly about his eldest son, don junion, and alan weisselberg, one of the former president's most trusted officers. this underscores the resources and the gravity that new york prosecutors are devoting to the investigation.
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joining us now is frank figliuzzi, former assistant director for counterintelligence at the fbi. he is the author of "the fbi way: inside the bureau's code of excellence." he's an msnbc national security analyst. frank, this first case i mentioned is a civil matter in washington, d.c., involving donald trump jr. and the use of funds at the inauguration. is there a way that could slip across into being a criminal matter? >> indeed it could. i believe there is criminal exposure here, and i believe there's been reporting to that effect, lawrence. look, this is a reminder that the former president and his family members can no longer seek shelter behind the oval office. and i think there's some beauty here in pursuit of these cases is they're not directed -- connected or directly related to his powers or decision making as president. that means he can't attempt to make -- successfully attempt to make claims of presidential privilege.
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nor can his family members claim, hey, i did this in my capacity as an adviser or employee of the president. they're exposed here. and it bears further watching. >> frank, as you watch the investigations unfold in the congress and senate the other day about what happened on january 6th, what are the questions that they should be asking? >> yeah, i was wholly unimpressed with what i heard in the first hearing. and i realize it's likely just a prelude to what's to come. but here's the bottom line. try as i might, lawrence, i cannot make sense out of the security failure that occurred on january 6th. and here's why. even when i factor in the very real civil liberty concerns and legal constraints on what law enforcement can and can't do in monitoring social media and collecting intelligence on u.s. persons, i get that and i factor it in. even when i factor in the possibility of political intervention in the planning and later response to the
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insurrection, and that needs to be investigated. even when i do that i still am faced with a conflict here. we have former chiefs of police and sergeants at arms saying the intelligence available to them did not indicate a threat in their professional mind. yet we know that the intelligence was crystal clear that people were violently going to target the capitol, and the target -- the capitol was the center of the action that day. so here's my conclusion. we seem to collectively have a problem in this country, writ large and in the law enforcement community, with seeing people who look like us as threats even when the threats and intelligence are staring us in the face. and i want to be clear i'm not saying these officers, former executives in law enforcement are lying. i'm saying that would be something we could deal with. we have laws against lying to congress. i'm saying it's more disturbing than that. they're telling us the truth, that when they look at the available intelligence,
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intelligence that i saw sitting at home of what was being planned and what was going to be executed, they say that wasn't a threat to them. and i'm saying collectively the hard question here is why, why not? and when you contrast that on the flip side and say look at the deployment and security presence for black lives matter protests where there was little to no intelligence indicating a threat, you see that disparity. and you you're left with the conclusion i write about in my article released today that we've got a problem seeing ourselves as a threat, and we find it much easier to find people who don't look like us as a threat even when they're not. >> so what's an example of the way the congress should focus its questions going forward? >> so we're going to hear next week, i believe it's on tuesday. we're going to hear from the federal side. we're going to hear from active duty fbi and other federal agencies. so we're likely to hear very
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valid lessons that we all need to listen to about what they can and can't do on social media. this myth that big brother government is listening to and monitoring everything is simply not true, and we don't want that to be true. but we need to ask those folks why is it that you find these other groups a threat yet the intelligence was so unapparent to you that you just send it casually in an e-mail? we need that answer. >> frank figliuzzi, thank you very much for joining us tonight. >> sure. >> you can read frank's new article about the questions congress should be asking about the attack on the capitol on msnbc daily. coming up, a new single dose johnson & johnson vaccine is getting closer to approval, but we are still facing challenges about how to get the vaccine to people who need it. congressman raoul ruiz, who is a physician, who will be making vaccinations himself, will be joining us. will be
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one year ago today donald trump tweeted, the coronavirus is very much under control in the usa. he lied. as of today at least 506,588 americans have died from the coronavirus. documents released show the johnson & johnson vaccine is safe and 86% effective against the most severe outcomes of the illness. an fda panel will meet on friday and they are expected to approve the johnson & johnson vaccine for emergency use. once approved, the company said it will be able to provide 20 million shots by the end of next month with an additional 100 million doses over the summer. the biden administration announced today it will send more than 25 million cloth masks to community health centers and food banks around the country for low income americans. earlier today a plane with 600,000 vaccine doses arrived in ghana as ghana became the first of 92 low to middle income
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countries to receive the vaccine through an initiative known as covax. the covid-19 vaccines global access, unicef is providing syringes for those vaccine doses. today henrietta ford said today marks the historic moment for which we have planning and working so hard. joining us now is democratic congressman raul ruiz who represents california's 36th district. he is a physician in the chair of the congressional hispanic caucus. congressman, thank you very much for joining us tonight. you plan to be administering vaccines yourself, don't you? >> i do, lawrence. i've been administering tests in the hardest to reach communities, the farm workers and the homeless since the summer, really taking a community-based approach, working with free clinics, nonprofits and other volunteer health care providers to really
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go out there and overcome the barriers that are hard to reach and highest risk community members face in getting tests and also vaccines. >> what are you finding in terms of those barriers? how much of it is reluctance? how much of it is lack of access? >> you know, that is a very important question, lawrence, because a lot of people on the other side of the aisle want the blame to be minority populations and say they simply have hesitancy, and that's why we see the disparities. but i can tell you firsthand from practicing years in the emergency department and as a public health expert in emergencies that the number one driver here is systemic inequalities with access to the resources that these community members need. as a doctor, i'm very privileged to have a very intimate conversation with patients and my constituents while i'm doing the tests or out there in vaccination clinics and i hear their stories. they don't have internet to make the online appointments at the vaccination centers.
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they have to work at the high-risk essential jobs so they don't have hours to spend on the phone waiting for somebody to pick up and give them a chance. and they're very concerned if they get the test, if they test positive, that they won't be able to go to work. i have a 55-year-old woman who told me that she didn't want the test because she couldn't miss working because she would miss out on the $300 a week that she's relying on to pay the food, to purchase food for her child. >> the latino population of california is 39%, and yet they have 55% of coronavirus cases. 46% of coronavirus deaths. how do you get the vaccine delivery fast enough in this situation? >> well, lawrence, you know, first you need to prioritize equity, which means that the
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resources should go to those that are at highest risk. and hispanics are at high risk not only because they usually work the high risk essential jobs, but also there's disparities in the chronic health illnesses like diabetes, asthma, and other cardiopulmonary illnesses that render them more at risk of dying. furthermore in at risk areas they're at risk of not getting the resources they need to protect themselves, and many of them who speak primarily spanish aren't getting the information in a language they get. so first you need to prioritize the risk factors that put hispanics at high risk of getting sick. second, you have to allocate the resources, the vaccines, into those communities. but then finally the thing that most people forget is that public health is practiced on the ground by people who administer the vaccine in the arms of other people.
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and you can send vaccines to a county, but if they're not sending them or directing them to the right places and working with the right people on the ground to administer them to the hardest-hit communities, then you're setting yourself up for failure. so what we need is, we need local partnerships with nonprofits, local leaders, community health workers, usually people from the community who are paraprofessionals helping the physicians and nurses to educate the community. you need to do a massive public health educational campaign in both english and spanish in radio, in mailers. you can knock on doors. and then you have to do these clinics to really get the trust and build public confidence to get them done. we are so fortunate that we have a president -- promotes equity, has an equity task force, has $25 billion in the rescue plan for these communities and
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focusing on sending vaccines into the retail pharmacies. >> congressman and dr. raul ruiz, thank you very much for joining us tonight. i really appreciate it. might r the classy things about the transition from the last president to this one and i mean classy with a "k," one of the real nice things is that the transition didn't really happen. everywhere from the pentagon to the parts of the government dealing with the vaccine rollout, the outgoing trump administration just refused to do normal transitional things that would have allowed them to know what they were walking into. what remained to be done and needed to be picked up by the new team. the trump folk has no interest in helping keep the government going. by helping the new administration hit the ground

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