The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell, Transcript 03/17/15

Dafna Linzer, Joy Reid, Jeremy Peters, George Mitchell, Rukmini Callimachi

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC: That does it for us tonight, we`ll see you again
tomorrow, now it`s time for “THE LAST WORD” with Ari Melber filling in
Lawrence, good evening Ari.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC: Good evening and happy Saint Patrick`s Day, thank you,

MADDOW: Indeed.

MELBER: A U.S. Air Force veteran from New Jersey is now accused of trying
to help ISIS.

A defiant Benjamin Netanyahu declares he is staying in power after a close
election night, and Attorney General nominee Loretta Lynch gains an
unlikely ally tonight in Rudy Giuliani. Seriously.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Illinois Republican Congressman Aaron Schock is
stepping down.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Was it the haters?

AARON SCHOCK, FORMER CONGRESSMAN: Haters are going to hate.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So decorators –

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Had his office turned into a set of daunting abbot –

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Or the ravish event possibly funded by tax payers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: An Illinois public official resigning under a cloud of
corruption. Shocking.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A tangled web of dysfunction is taking over Capitol
Hill –

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s time to vote on Loretta Lynch.

confirmed –

SEN. HARRY REID (D), NEVADA: Republicans really are out of excuses.

EARNEST: It would be an astonishing display of partisanship.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, Republicans, you won the elections, it`s time to
start governing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And a Jersey man and former U.S. Air Force mechanic,
he`s been indicted with trying to join ISIS.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Allegedly attempted to travel to Syria but was later
deported to the U.S.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He could have been a huge propaganda tool for ISIS.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is in the fight of
his political life.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The polls are now closed, the results beginning to
trickle in.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Even with the votes from today`s Israeli election still
being counted –

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Exit polls are neck and neck.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Netanyahu took to Twitter tonight to declare himself
the winner.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mitt Romney cruising for a bruising.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Romney is set to box former heavyweight champion
Evander Holyfield –

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now think they had to be in sport –

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: To raise money for charity of course –

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Will either be a very short fight or I will be knocked

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Happy Saint Patrick`s Day to all of you –


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Even politicians are seeing green.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Happy Saint Patrick`s Day.

Irish heritage.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Happy Saint Patrick`s Day to you all.



MELBER: Republicans have now held up any vote on Attorney General nominee
Loretta Lynch for 129 days, that is a longer wait than the last five A.G.
nominees combined.

And today, this endless Republican politicking proved to actually be too
much for a Republican known for his hardball politics, Rudy Giuliani.

Among conservatives, he is known for harshly attacking President Obama, you
may remember recently, when he said the President doesn`t love America.

But today, Giuliani urged Senate Republicans to knock off the delays and
just vote for Lynch.

“A President should be given the deference to choose his cabinet,” Giuliani
wrote in a letter here, “unless the nominee is unqualified to do the job,
has a history of unethical behavior or is so ideologically rigid as to be
incapable of making rational choices in the public interest.”

Lynch currently serves as a federal prosecutor in Brooklyn, Giuliani of
course was Manhattan`s top federal prosecutor for six years, so he knows
her, which he mentioned in discussing her strengths in this same letter

“I`ve always found her competent, honest and fair, I would vote to confirm
her if I were a member of the Senate regardless of my political
affiliation”, he wrote.

Joining me now to discuss this burgeoning controversy, Msnbc`s Joy Reid and
Dafna Linzer and the “New York Times” Jeremy Peters. Good evening to all of

Dafna, what does it take for congressional Republicans here to be failing
the Rudy standard?

DAFNA LINZER, MANAGING EDITOR, MSNBC.COM: That was my first thought –
was, if only Obama had been a prosecutor instead of a law professor, maybe
it wouldn`t have been so hard for Giuliani to come out and say something
good about the President too.

I think it`s really interesting. I mean obviously Rudy wants to protect
somebody of his own ranks, a prosecutor, show that prosecutors here in the
federal system are qualified to have a job like this.

He is a former federal prosecutor, perhaps he could be somebody`s A.G. one
day. You know, those are – those are easy junks for him to make here.

But I think the situation with Loretta Lynch is so out of control and so
surprising to so many people. I think the fact that he`s come out in
support of her really should be a pretty big wakeup call now.

JOY REID, MSNBC: Well, I mean, you know, and it is – it is nice to know
that Rudy Giuliani has finally found an African-American he doesn`t think
is incorrigibly criminal or a hater of their own country.

That`s good news. But I think it is something to do with a Rudy Giuliani
who is relentlessly ambitious, potentially thinking maybe he will be in a
position if there`s a Republican president to have the exact same job
Loretta Lynch is vying for.

But what I find puzzling is two things about what Republicans are doing.
Number one, you`re alienating African-Americans potentially, while at the
same time alienating women by holding her nomination up to an issue like

That is tailor-made to help Hillary Clinton in her run when she runs in
2016. And at the same time, you`re hanging on to Eric Holder, who is the
person –

MELBER: Right –

REID: That Republicans despise more than anyone other than Barack Obama.
None of this makes any sense.

MELBER: Yes, and I want to play something from Senator Reid here, because
it is fair to say that Republicans had a hard ball project going into the

It is harder to explain particularly in the upper chamber why this makes
sense at this point in time. Here is Senator Reid on this issue.


REID: Any attempt to hold a confirmation vote hostage because of this
abortion provision is a sham. Republicans really on Loretta Lynch are out
of excuses.

This Congress is barely two months old, and yet this is just the latest on
a growing list examples proving Republicans simply can`t govern.


MELBER: And Jeremy, you cover the politics here on the presidential side,
but looking at this Congress, what is the end game for Republicans when –
as I pointed out on this program, she was supported unanimously by most of
this caucus for a similar role as a prosecutor.

JEREMY PETERS, NEW YORK TIMES: And I think that`s what we need to not lose
sight of here, is that she is going to be confirmed.

Republicans will eventually confirm her. Right now, it`s just caught up in
as so many other issues are on Capitol Hill right now, a partisan

Mitch McConnell has said all along that he thinks that she would make a
fine attorney general. There are numerous Republicans on record who have
said the same thing.

So this is all just really a distraction at this point.

MELBER: Are you as optimistic Dafna?

LINZER: I could have gone to Joy`s point, I just don`t see what is to be
gained from all of this. I mean I think it makes them look again like
they`re not supporting a woman, they`re not supporting an African-American,
they`re keeping Holder in there longer.

I mean I just don`t see what is – what is the good upside here for
Republicans. And you know, it`s not just partisan bickering. I mean it`s
a Republican move here alone.

It`s not like two sides are arguing over Loretta Lynch, it`s just one side
that`s holding her –

MELBER: Well, it`s not – it`s not holding a vote Joy, I mean Senator
Lamar Alexander says here, “this is an opportunity within the Senate rules
to express my disapproval of the President`s abuse of executive authority,
an opportunity I intend to take.

That would be fine up until the point where the vote was held.”

REID: Right, and that`s not what they`re fighting about. I think there`s
not even an issue of substance that the base of the Republican party is
holding against Loretta Lynch.

In that, what you just read from Lamar Alexander, there are some
Republicans who have issues with what they see as her too permissive
attitude towards executive action on immigration.

All right, then have a fight about that. To make me holdup about something
completely extraneous that has to do with abortion, so you`re servicing a
completely different part of your base by holding her up.

Is nonsensical, it`s bad politics, it`s terrible optics and it doesn`t even
get to the substance of the base`s core fatigue about Barack Obama.

So it makes zero sense. And it – and I agree with Dafna, it`s not
bickering, it`s just political malpractice, let`s put it that way.

PETERS: I mean look, she`s going to be confirmed. We`re not going to be
talking about this in a couple of weeks, so I just really don`t see really
the need for Republicans to drag this out much longer than they have.

Because they know exactly how this is going to end up. And Democrats
obviously see an issue here right now in making this about Republican
obstruction, right?

I mean you heard Harry Reid, right there. He said Republicans, you`ve been
in charge now – instruction were actually, Republicans, you`ve been in
charge now govern already.

And that`s what they have been trying to hit Republicans on again and
again. Whether it`s this issue, whether it`s with any number of bills that
Republicans are kind of still baffled –

MELBER: Yes, maybe –

PETERS: To get through –

MELBER: That may be – that may be politics, but it`s precedential
politics, in the sense that most attorneys general and their both parties
haven`t had to wait this long for a confirmation.

PETERS: Right, well, it`s not like she`d be filibustered though. And
there have been other attorney generals that have been filibustered by
Republicans, so there for example.

MELBER: I want to do another big story today that some people find even
more fun and its obstruction, Aaron Schock resigning as we were just
showing in the open.

This comes six weeks after the news broke about his $40,000 downtown Abbey-
styled office and then questions about his official travel, showing
Instagram posts there; the photo sharing network.

Now here is what Schock said in a February 4th interview about all this
with “Abc”.


SCHOCK: And I posted Instagram photo of me with my friends, you know, you
know, as Taylor Swift said, haters are going to hate.


MELBER: Now Joy, that speaks to me because a good music “sometimes is the
best way to shake off a controversy.”


MELBER: Talk about what`s unpredictable in politics, I don`t think when he
was getting in trouble for posting what were essentially noncontroversial
photographs online and the office decoration –

LINZER: Right –

MELBER: That he was going to go down.

LINZER: Yes, you know, it`s interesting. I mean I have – I have
teenagers and they don`t talk like that. I mean it`s really interesting
this sort of language.

Yes, I mean who among us does not want to live like lady Mary Crawley.

So I understand him wanting to have a lovely Downton Abbey –


REID: I too would like to have a home decorated in that style. But I
think the fact that he so quickly gone down, leads me to ask whether or not
there was more coming.

I think that what we`ve already –

MELBER: You don`t think it was just a goofy photos?

REID: I think the goofy photos were embarrassing and they showed him to be
kind of the worst representation of – some articles have said a kind of
throw-away politics and this sort of new in the millennial style.

I guess they`re trying to say that Republicans, we`re young and we`re hip,
we – you know, know the lyrics to Taylor Swift`s songs. That`s not enough
to get the youth vote –

MELBER: Oh, yes –

REID: I think they thought he could help them on that score. But the fact
that this really is a substantive scandal too.

That he was actually spending tax-payer money in an avaricious way. Means
that it`s a legitimate, you know, sort of old-fashioned Illinois scandal –

PETERS: Well –

REID: A lot of –

PETERS: That`s the thing, you can resign, but that doesn`t stop the
investigations –

REID: Right –

PETERS: Now we don`t know exactly who is investigating him right now. If
the – I mean in the House Ethics Committee was going to, I don`t know if
that`s going to continue now if he`s resigned.

But what – I do think that aside of – from the comedy of all this, the
fact that there is this ridiculous Instagram account that a public official

It`s actually kind of a sad story. Because here you had a politician who
was a rising star, he`s bright, he was hopeful in a party that really
didn`t have a lot of young, shining new faces.

And he basically self-destructed, he self-destructed out of a need for
attention, it seems –


PETERS: And it was just also unnecessary.

REID: But let us also remember that there is a fellow Congressman from
Illinois named Jesse Jackson Junior, who is cooling his heels in prison for
having misspent and having used the public trust in an ill-gotten way.

So this is also a sort of supreme example of privilege. If he`s just
allowed to walk away with his selfies and his Instagram and not face the
same kind of judgment, real harsh judgment that`s going to send not just
Jesse Jackson Junior, but his wife to prison, then I think then we do have
a problem.

MELBER: Yes, and we don`t have all the facts yet in that case. There were
more sort of egregious spending habits that emerged, but it was much later
on, and there was a federal criminal investigation –

REID: Right –


MELBER: Here, what we know about Dafna is an investigation about misusing
apparently travel money.

LINZER: And you know what? We`re two months into the Republican-led
Congress now, and this is our second resignation from the Republican side
in two months.

Not a great way to start out here. And I think, you know, going to the
House of Representatives in your late 20s is not a good strategy if you`re
really just kind of into sort of wealth and bling and interior design.

Look, I`m just not sure that`s really the best place for you.

MELBER: Well, look –

LINZER: And I think definitely a left is –

MELBER: And Dafna, you have a well known bias against creative interior
design, and I just – I think that`s always been something you`ve been
unfair to politicians –


MELBER: You know –


MELBER: Both the – I mean Jeremy, that`s –

PETERS: Well –

MELBER: You know, the piece about the office –


The office – the office was a little weird in how it`s decorated. And the
“Washington Post” in trying to report on it, this was when the story –

PETERS: The stonewall –

MELBER: Where they –


MELBER: Were pushed back so hard by his political aides, his Congressional
aides that it became a bigger story. But for people at home going well,
that can`t just be it.

The judgment question comes in because there was the idea here not because
of youth, but because of financial choices, otherwise –

PETERS: Right –

MELBER: Where he was more into the trappings and the celebration –


MELBER: Of this lifestyle.


MELBER: Spending the money that was available to him by being in a
position of leadership, right.

And that`s a huge problem and the – who knows who is looking into this,
but if you get this the wrong way, it`s potentially illegal.

Now, what I do think again is kind of the tragedy of all this, is you have
a bright young Congressman who is now known for his tacky decorating taste,
his abs, and his ability to quote Taylor Swift lyrics.

And that is essentially what is going to be his political legacy at this
point. Instead of like some of his younger, brighter, younger kind of more
accomplished colleagues who actually have legislative records to point to.

MELBER: Yes, so if we – I mean Dafna, as your final thought, if we put
aside the fact that there are financial questions that have to be dealt
with, does the sort of selfie culture here show any downfall?

Because when I talk to, you know, aides on the Hill, they say well, we`re
always trying to find some way automatically to get our member on social
media more involved, they know it can help raise money and campaigns.

Is there a darker side to this?

LINZER: Yes, you know, I think it`s just about kind of being a grown-up
and being a little bit more responsible.

I think you know, social media, and you know, in anyone`s hands sure can be
– you know, can be a little bit of a trap sometimes.

Because it`s just enough – just enough rope to kind of hang yourself if
you`re not careful with the way you`re putting out a message or the
Instagram account.

But you know, you can – you can do it in far more responsible ways.

REID: Yes –

LINZER: I think –

REID: And the Republicans now can`t anymore try to use that talking point
against the President; that always taking selfie, they try to deride him
with things like that.

Well, you know what? The now, the two word answer is Aaron Schock.

MELBER: Well, and that – I mean in the – what`s been interesting by the
President`s strategy is every time they do one of these video or selfie
campaigns, it ties back to policy.

REID: To policy –


MELBER: Getting young people to sign the website –

REID: Exactly –

MELBER: For healthcare, I mean there`s a point Schock apparently was
operating often with a camera and no point that hurt him in addition.


MELBER: Well, panel stays, so we`ll keep you here, but we`re going to keep
moving, next we`re going to dig into John Boehner`s new tactic against
Hillary Clinton today while her ally say some new data.

Actually shows the media got that e-mail story all wrong. And later this
hour, how U.S. authority tracked a former Air Force veteran all the way
they say to the Turkish border where he was trying to join ISIS.

The Obama administration charging him with supporting terror tomorrow
morning in Brooklyn, we have the latest on that important case tonight.


MELBER: And the royals are here tonight, Prince Charles and his wife
Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall arrived in Washington for a trip celebrating
the special relationship between the U.S. and the U.K.

The Prince of Wales will meet with President Obama and Vice President Biden
in the Oval Office. Charles also will give a speech in Louisville,
Kentucky on health and the environment.

It is the 20th time that Charles has visited the USA in his official
capacity. Now you know. Up next, John Boehner rolled out for a new push
here to get Hillary Clinton`s e-mail today, and some Democrats are cheering
that. We`ll explain.


MELBER: Today, Speaker John Boehner made a new call for Hillary Clinton`s
e-mails, this is exactly one week after her press conference on why she
used a personal e-mail account while at the State Department.


The American people deserve all the facts about what happened in Benghazi.

And that`s why it`s so important for Secretary Clinton to turn over her
personal server to a neutral third party, now that I think this is the
fairest way to make sure that we have all the documents that belong to the
public and ultimately all the facts.


MELBER: Republicans clearly want to keep the e-mail issue alive, but the
public has now heard about this story, and hasn`t really shifted opinion of
Clinton much.

New poll here, showing her favorable numbers have barely moved at all, 53
to 44. And there`s a similar split on the specific question whether her e-
mail habits even matter, 52 percent saying they just aren`t relevant to her
character, 46 percent say they are.

Back with me at the table with their mobile devices for e-mail, Joy Reid,
Dafna Linzer and Jeremy Peters. I won`t quiz you guys on whether you have
two phones or not, and also you`re not in government.

So it doesn`t really matter. But Joy, the data here is something that
Hillary supporters are pointing to and saying, see, this was a non-
controversy, this was a made-up scandal, the public doesn`t care and a lot
of the political elite Bel-Air classes time was wasted on it.

REID: Well, you know, I think I have to tell you, I mean I spent most of
last week in Michigan and Detroit in the Detroit area.

I heard one or two people when I would be out to eat, sort of making snarky
jokes about Hillary and e-mail, didn`t get the sense that people are really
paying a 100 percent attention to it, unless they already didn`t like
Hillary for some reason.

And it`s added to their mistrust of her, I just don`t see this as an issue
that people are going to vote on if they`re not already inclined to dislike
Hillary Clinton.

I think what it does do is a couple of things, it sort of reminds people of
the eye-rolling nature of any coverage that has to relate to the Clintons.

That you get into these worm holes about their personalities and about the
things they do.

And I think the second thing is that it`s a reminder that the Republicans,
despite all of the findings of all of the committees, the myriad Benghazi
Committees, they`re not quite ready to let Benghazi go as an issue.

MELBER: Well, but Joy, look –

REID: And attempt to drag it back in –

MELBER: Benghazi –

REID: The same way –

MELBER: Was Mitt Romney`s closing argument in the third debate. So, you
can –

REID: Yes –

MELBER: Understand why they wouldn`t want to go back to this. This is –

REID: But their own committees have said –

MELBER: This is a winner for them.


All jokes aside, Jeremy, though, this was a big story by your paper, “New
York Times”, your paper has been criticized to some degree about it and
stood by it and said this is a subset of an important issue.

PETERS: Well, I mean, it`s a problem for what it evokes, right? It evokes
all of the stories of the Clintons being too legalistic, being too cute by
half, it depends on what the definition of “is” is.

And I think Joy is right, it`s very early in the campaign cycle at this
point. I mean, we`re nine months away from the first presidential primary,
so you know, people aren`t paying full attention.

But I think that the way that the Clintons continue to respond to the
questions that are inevitably going to keep coming up of this nature are
going to be key in how she positions herself to the electorate and whether
or not people say, you know what?

She actually reminds me of everything that I didn`t like about the `90s.

LINZER: I think, you know, the Benghazi thing is – has been in a way a
gift that keeps on giving. I mean they did kind of push and push and push,
it got them nowhere, and it didn`t – it didn`t matter at all.

And I think the e-mails gives new life to the Benghazi thing, it gives new
life to Trey Gowdy. He looks much more effective than Darrell Issa did.

Like he actually got something, which was evidence of a second e-mail
account and a server. So, I think, you know, it gives them a whole new
energy here to keep on going.

And look, she is the candidate they`re all focused on. There`s nobody else
emerging on the Democratic side right now, nobody looks as likely as she
does and so that`s where they`re going to be focused, they`re not –
they`re not stupid.

I mean that`s what they – that`s what they want to campaign against.

MELBER: Right. And they have that ammunition that is that quality here
that (INAUDIBLE) of other Clinton battles, which is –


MELBER: Both sides digging in and moving forward. I think as the Clinton
people feel that all said and done, they handled this just fine and they
got too much heat on it.

But as you know, it depends a lot on what happens. Another big story here
that is interesting and – you know, Joe Clancy from the Secret Service
talking about problems that continue to plague the service.

This is one of those stories where God forbid there ever is a true
disaster, people will look back on this period and say why were there so
many problems, why weren`t they dealt with?

Let me play some of Joe Clancy`s, talking about the alcohol problems among
members of this elite force that protects the president.


within our agency that does cope with the stresses that many of you have
mentioned today by using alcohol.

There`s no question we have that element. We also have other elements in
our agency that go to a different route. Some go to exercise, some go to
religion, some go to their family to cope with these stresses.

But we do have an element that goes to alcohol.


MELBER: Dafna, I mean these are – these are brave people who serve in
these jobs, but it still raises the question if there is a big alcohol
problem or a problem in behavior on the force, why can`t they fix it?

LINZER: Yes, today was not a good day for the Secret Service. And you
know what? To me, one of the biggest problems like aside from alcohol was
that it took five days for anyone to tell the head of the Secret Service
about this latest disaster with Secret Service agents driving into the
White House.

MELBER: Right –

LINZER: You know, crashing into something, perhaps they were intoxicated,
perhaps they weren`t, we`ll never know because nobody did a breathalyzer
tests on any of those agents, nobody discovered anything.

I mean he was brought in to clean up a Secret Service that, as you said, we
should all be really concerned about considering what`s been going on
through this entire presidency.

But to find out today that it took five days for anyone to even tell him,
and has he fired anyone as a result of that? Has he held anyone
accountable? I mean who were the people who were supposed to report to him
and why didn`t they tell him? –

MELBER: Yes, you talked about reporting, Jeremy, I want to read just that
statement he – also from Clancy, he says, “well, it`s possible people
don`t want to relay bad information, we have to prevent that.”

That seems to be the whole issue.

PETERS: Right, exactly. I mean the problem with that and the problem with
his statement about the drinking is that the Secret Service appears to be
just a rowdy boy`s club.

And that`s something that the agency entrusted with protecting the life of
the President cannot be.

REID: I mean, and you know, you have an agency that, you know, when Lyndon
Johnson first assumed the presidency, you know, in the worst possible way.

One of the issues that he was dealing with in those early months before he
officially was sworn in was, you know, the depths of Secret Service morale.

Very low morale and this was an important issue they had to deal with, and
yet you never heard stories of the Secret Service seeming to utterly fail
to respond and rise to the occasion.

Again, right, so now you have as a Secret Service – when you got the first
African-American president, and I knew more than a few people who were
afraid for Barack Obama to even run for president because of all the fears
of hate, of pure raw hatred.

The number of hate groups that are out there right now, the number of
dangers to him and his family for the Secret Service to be this flawed,
this systematically, consistently flawed is terrifying with this particular
president in office.

MELBER: I think that`s an important point and when you see new management
having the same problems as old management, it is really distressing.

Joy Reid, Dafna Linzer and Jeremy Peters, thank you very much for joining
us. Coming up, Bibi Netanyahu declaring victory before the official call
is made tonight.

We have former Senator George Mitchell here to talk about what`s at stake
in the Mid East peace process, now that Netanyahu seems to be painting the
peace process into a corner.


MELBER: “Breaking News” here. We have some breaking news in Israeli
politics tonight. After a race that was tighter than many expected, Prime
Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he is the clear winner.



TEXT: Against all the odds, we pulled out a big victory for the Likud.


TEXT: Standing on the things most important to all of us – real security,
fiscal responsibility, and the standard of living we all deserve.


MELBER: Now, that is the scene in Israel tonight. But, to be clear, the
electoral map has not established a new government yet.

And according to “The Jerusalem Post,” with 90 percent of the votes counted
in Israel, Netanyahu`s Likud Party has 30 seats, that`s six ahead of the
Zionist Union, and then Joint Arab List is in third with 13 seats.

Now, what does that mean. Well, experts say, Netanyahu has the inside
track here on building –


– a majority coalition. His strong finish came after he vociferously
withdrew his long-standing support for a two-state solution. That is the
basic premise backed by many conservatives and liberals alike, that the
Middle Eastern complex should be solved by ensuring Israelis and
Palestinians both have a state of their own.

In fact, here is how Netanyahu himself put it to NBC`s Andrea Mitchell.


NETANYAHU: We need to have a vision of peace with two nation states that
recognize one another. Israel is the nation state of the Jewish people,
the Palestinian State is the nation state of the Palestinian people.

MELBER: And that was the goal when President Obama sent his Special Middle
East Envoy George Mitchell to Israel in 2009. It was the goal when
Mitchell held high-level meetings in the region with Netanyahu and
Palestinian leaders.

It remained the goal in May, 2011, when Mitchell did resign that post.
But, let`s be clear, –


– after tonight`s election, the Israeli government`s goal officially no
longer matches that Obama administration and U.S. priority.

I`m now joined in the “Last Word” exclusive by the diplomat who led those
meetings, Former Special Envoy for Middle East Peace George Mitchell, the
Former Majority Leader of the U.S. Senate. Honored to have you here

having me.

MELBER: Your thoughts on that statement that Netanyahu made, which could
become now official, Israeli policy disavowing any two-state solution.

MITCHELL: It`s a very significant reversal of position by the prime
minister and, I think, will greatly complicate Israel`s position

The American commitment to Israel`s existence and security is unshakeable
and it runs, of course, to the people of Israel, not to any one –


– individual. And American presidents and prime ministers have had many
disagreements in the past. President Eisenhower forced Israel to reverse
its actions at Suez.

Prime Minister Begin was very upset at President Reagan when he announced
the Reagan plan for the region. President Clinton didn`t get along with
Netanyahu and neither did Obama.

But those really were not matters of policy. The real issue here, the two-
state solution, is a significant change and will greatly complicate the
situation for both Israel and the United States.


MELBER: And, Senator, you`ve spent time publicly, privately, in those
negotiating rooms. When you heard this announcement from Bibi Netanyahu,
did you read it as a revelation of how he has always felt, a political
statement, or something else.

MITCHELL: Well, I think, he had to do it to win, in his mind. The fact
that he did it on the last day suggests that he probably would have
preferred to win without it, but felt it was necessary.

It`s very painful for me because, –


– when I was in the region, I met with the leaders of nearly 20 Arab
countries. And almost to that exception, they did not believe his
statement when he made it in 2009, that he supported a two-state solution.

They said to me, very bluntly, “He`s not telling the truth, he`s not


I argued that he is the prime minister. He had set the policy. They
should take it as a positive and work to build on that on that policy to
try to get a two-state solution.

They`ll surely now going to feel vindicated in their position. And it does
complicate it very much for the United States.

You know, I recall very clearly that one of the most eloquent and forceful
and persuasive statements made in behalf of a two-state policy was made by
President George W. Bush when he visited Jerusalem in January of 2009.

And I thought it was a very good statement. President Obama has pursued
the same policy.

So, this is not a partisan issue in the United States, at least, it never
has been until now. And I hope it does not become one because I really do
believe that a two-state solution does represent the best hope for Israel`s
safety and security, as well as for the Palestinians seeking a state.

MELBER: And, Senator, you make the point that because this statement, this
policy shift came so late in sort of a conservative closing argument from
Netanyahu, that he may not have wanted to do it, what is your analysis to
having – knowing the politics of that country so well, of these election
results tonight in Israel.

MITCHELL: The results are strikingly similar to that of 2009, the election
when I was there, when Netanyahu was elected to second term. Actually, he
fell –


– slightly behind the then centrist party, Kadima, with 128 seats, Likud,
126. But the breakdown in the Knesset, where you need 61 out of 120 votes,
tends to favor the conservatives because many of the smaller and religious
and subtler parties are on the right.

And so, I think, the math this time, although I haven`t seen any official
figures, is likely to produce a similar result. Although during his 10th
time in office, Prime Minister Netanyahu tried to broaden the base, tried
to include centrist and left parties.

I think the difficulty he`ll have now is he`s relying increasingly on a
further and further right coalition that will make it extremely difficult
for him to move away from any policies of the extreme right, which
complicates Israel`s circumstance –


– in the international community. His support is very strong in the U.S.
Congress and, particularly, in the House of Representatives.

But, outside the United States, in Europe and Asia, it`s been declining for
some time. And Israel is increasingly isolated. And I fear this will
contribute to that, at least, for some period of time.

MELBER: And then, turning to Iran, a lot of Americans were most acquainted
with Bibi Netanyahu recently, when he spoke to the Joint Session of
Congress, focusing on trying to, essentially, scuttle President Obama`s
attempt at a diplomatic breakthrough there, to control Iran`s potential
nuclear capacity.

Your view on whether this victory affects that in any way, and whether the
conservatives in this Congress who`ve been quoting Netanyahu to stop or
thwart the President`s deal, should be celebrating tonight?

MITCHELL: No, I don`t think it affects that. I think the real issue that
affects that are the terms of the agreement.


There`s broad support in this country and, surely, around the world for
continuing these discussions. I think it`s only in the U.S. House of
Representatives and the prime minister and his supporters in Israel, who
strongly oppose these negotiations.

But the real test will be the verification provisions in the agreement, and
whether or not it will in fact have the effect of preventing Iran from
getting a nuclear weapon.

I think that`s going to be the most difficult issue of all.


I do think that if an agreement is reached, and the prime minister and his
allies in the U.S. Congress are able to prevent it from taking effect,
there will be real consequences for that.

But, I think, the real test first is the substance of the agreement itself.


MITCHELL: And we have to hope that we`ll get a good agreement.

MELBER: You mentioned trying to prevent it taking effect. Of course, most
Republicans, Senate caucus, some of whom, your former colleagues, obviously
already tried to directly intercede with the Ayatollah, do you think that
complicates this and was the wrong move?

MITCHELL: I think it`s unfortunate but I don`t think it`ll have a major
effect on it. I think the great fallacy made by the President`s
Congressional critics, and I`ve seen many of them on television, saying we
should increase the sanctions.

It`s the sanctions that got Iran into the table. And we should increase
the sanctions. That`s the prime minister`s position as well.

But that`s really a fantasy because the sanctions are effective, because
they are universal.

MELBER: Right.

MITCHELL: This is not just the United States negotiating with Iran. It`s
the United States and China, Russia, Britain, France and Germany.

And if they all reach an agreement, and it`s scuttled by the opponents, all
of those other countries are not going to increase the sanctions.

And the sanctions will go from being effective, because they are universal,
to unilateral sanctions, which will be ineffective. We could raise the
sanctions to the sky, as the Republicans in Congress would like. By
itself, –

MELBER: Right.

MITCHELL: – if it`s just the United States, they won`t be effective.

MELBER: Right. They don`t act that well alone. The other thing I want to
ask you before we let you go – with all the news here about the
President`s attorney general nominee, Loretta Lynch, Mitch McConnell, who
has your old job, so to speak, –


– has not been allowing her a vote. Do you think he is out of bounds in
his treatment of attorney general nominee, Loretta Lynch.

MITCHELL: Well, I think she`ll be confirmed. And, look, let`s face it,
every majority leader of every party has had to resort to tactics that
don`t strike people as quite fair, delaying, linking issues.

That`s what`s done by the opponents of the majority party. And that`s what
the majority party resorts to.

I don`t think this will be a very long delay. And I think she will be

MELBER: Former Senator George Mitchell, appreciate you joining us tonight
and sharing your expertise.

MITCHELL: Thank you.

MELBER: Coming up, the growing appeal of ISIS, including –


– inside the United States. We`re going to look at the case of a U.S. Air
Force veteran who, authorities say, tried to join ISIS.



Desperate Vanuatu residents are beginning to search for their families and
homes after –


– a massive cyclone slammed the Pacific Island chain over the weekend,
killing at least 11 people and destroying most of the country`s buildings.

NBC`s Miguel Almaguer joins one mother on her journey home to Tana, one of
the worst-hit islands there.


on long road home – 28-year-old, Fabi Nagay, on a desperate journey to
find her family.

FABI NAGAY, TANA RESIDENT: I don`t know what they are doing, if my home is
still there.

ALMAGUER: When the storm hit three days ago, she was with her husband in
Vanuatu`s capital, Port Vila. Her two-year-old son, her mother and her
grandmother were here on Tana, which took a direct hit from the storm.

She doesn`t know if they`re still alive. Heading to her remote village, we
sent up a drone for a better look.

This road wasn`t passable until now. Friends along the way speak of
neighbors who didn`t survive. But they have no word about her family.

After a hard 45-minute ride –

NAGAY: That`s my house there.

ALMAGUER (on camera): Still standing.

(voice-over): Nagay must go the rest of the way on foot. She finds her
grandmother in the very spot she saw her last.

NAGAY: (Speaking in different language).

ALMAGUER: But where was Nagay`s son.

NAGAY: (Speaking in different language).

ALMAGUER: For three awful days, she had waited for this moment.

NAGAY: (Speaking in different language). That`s my son. I`ve got my son

ALMAGUER: Moments later, Nagay is reunited with her mother. In the midst
of so much devastation, this family has found what matters most – each


Miguel Almaguer, NBC News, Tana, Vanuatu.



MELBER: And, coming up, what made this U.S. Air Force veteran allegedly
tried to pledge allegiance to ISIS.



As we`ve been reporting tonight, Loretta Lynch continues to face
obstruction from Senate Republicans. But the attorney general-nominee is
clearly hard at work in her current job as a top federal prosecutor in New

Today, Lynch announced the indictment of 47-year-old, –


Quote, “Pugh turned his back on his country,” Lynch said today, “and
attempted to travel to Syria in order to join a terrorist organization.”

The Obama administration has been aggressively –


– pursuing ISIS sympathizers here in the U.S., charging about 30 Americans
now for backing terrorism over the past year and a half alone.

Joining me now is Jonathan Dienst, Chief Investigative Reporter for NBC New
York, who`s been covering this story. And, Rukmini Callimachi, a reporter
for “The New York Times,” who covers al-Qaeda and Islamic extremism

Jonathan, you look at this kind of case, this is many people`s worst
nightmare, an American, a soldier, a veteran here, who is trying to help
our enemies.

converted to Islam in 1988. There was some suspicion back in 2001. Co-
workers, when he was working as a mechanic for American Airlines, –


– say he voiced support for Osama Bin Laden. No charges at that time. He
then took jobs overseas, in Kuwait, in Egypt, in the Middle East and,
apparently, became increasingly radicalized.

Investigators say they found over 180 ISIS-related videos on his computers,
on his hard drives. And that that, in part, is what they think led this
47-year-old to become increasingly radicalized.

And they say, back at the end of last year, into January, he allegedly
tried to travel to Turkey to cross into Syria to join with ISIS.


MELBER: Yes. And, , the Internet here was a tactic for him. And
investigators have put out evidence that`s showing him literally Googling
how to find the crossing points, who was in charge of Kobani.

I mean, this is self-help kind of terror training. And yet, there`s a
deeper radicalization that`s going on with some people here.

we`re seeing right now is that there`s actually a system for recruiting
these people. It`s become codified.

Right now, I`m studying a recruitment manual that was found by U.S. forces
in Iraq in 2009, belonging to al-Qaeda in Iraq, which is a precursor to

And that manual sets out so much of what we`re seeing today. These
recruiters are online. They`re trolling for people that are –


– seekers, you know, that are missing something in their lives. It could
be a variety of things. And they then approach them and essentially become
their bestfriend, their sympathizer, their online friend.

And, very slowly from there – not very slowly, actually through quite a
series of rapid steps, they then are able to radicalize –


– them by bringing them into the fold of radical Islam.

MELBER: And, Jonathan, we reported here this started in January, this
indictment, and arraignment now is tomorrow. What has been the secret
process the U.S. has been using over the past two months.

DIENST: You know, they arrested him on a criminal complaint. Egypt, after
he was kicked out of Turkey and sent back to Egypt, Egypt kicked him out
and sent him back to –


– the U.S., where he is from. He was born and raised on the Jersey Shore.
He`s an American citizen. And he was sent back here to the U.S. out of
Kennedy Airport.

The FBI basically followed him for one day, got a search warrant and, in
secret, picked him up, held him in custody. It was a sealed court hearing
when he was first picked up in January.

Apparently, the FBI was trying to turn to see what he knew, who else he
could talk about or, perhaps, he can cooperate. Apparently, that did not
happen in the end.

It`s now March, several months later, and he is now going to appear in
public, in court, for the first time tomorrow.


MELBER: So, you – just to be clear, you`re saying, we learned about this
all in public today. But, if you were in the secret FBI clearance, they`ve
been working on this for two months, it hasn`t leaked.

DIENST: At least. And, also, certainly, what else do the Egyptians and
the Turks know about him, leading up to his attempt to travel into Syria.

MELBER: And, Rukmini, what do you say to the counter-argument here that
some people make, which is that, often, you have authorities sweeping
people up before they join the battlefield, which may be a good security

But it raises the question whether these people are sometimes just
deranged, disturbed, perhaps, evil – harboring evil tendencies, but not
actually able to operationally become terrorists.

CALLIMACHI: I`m speaking to a young woman right now, who was about to join
ISIS and ended up pulling away just at the last minute.

And that`s exactly what she said to me, “I was going there to be a wife of
a fighter.”

MELBER: Uh-huh.

CALLIMACHI: “I was not going to be a fighter. So, what`s wrong with

CALLIMACHI: The FBI`s response to that is that the statute that they`re
getting them –


– on is material support.

MELBER: Material support, sure.

CALLIMACHI: Materialism. And material support is anything, including
yourself. You, as a human being, going over there and providing whatever
service you`re providing, is a material support.

Of course, some of these people are mentally disturbed. But it still acts
as helping their cause if they`re able to bring them there. And any
American is, I think, a big –


– prize for ISIS.

DIENST: I think not only a prize. But you`ve got to remember, this man
was in the military.


DIENST: He has aviation experience, training with electronics and,
perhaps, even with drones or aircraft. So, could have been an added value


DIENST: – for any terror group should he had made it there.

MELBER: You know, you can bet we would be hearing a lot more about him if
he did go as an American veteran and actually connect with ISIS.

Jonathan Dienst and Rukmini Callimachi, thank you both for your reporting.
And, coming up, a bold move that spoke –


– volumes. What made this rising NFL star decide to actually just up and
retire at the age of 24.



U.S. Secret Service is investigating a letter sent to the –


– White House that tested positive for cyanide. The Secret Service says
the First Family was never in any danger. And, the letter, now being
tested at another separate facility.

The envelope listed a return address for a man who has a record with the
Secret Service dating back to 1995. That`s according to the news site,
“The Intercept.”

And, coming up next, –


– one of the NFL`s top rookies retiring because he fears pro-football is
just too dangerous.


One of the NFL`s top rookies is retiring because of concerns over the long-
term effects of repetitive head trauma. Twenty-four-year-old linebacker,
Chris Borland, one of San Francisco 49ers, telling ESPN`s “Outside the
Lines,” he made the decision to retire from football after consulting with
experts and his family.

NBC`s Joe Fryer has more.


JOE FRYER, NBC WEST COAST CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Fresh off a breakout
rookie year, 24-year-old, Chris Borland, is ending his NFL career before
injuries do.

The linebacker cited growing concerns about the impact of concussions in an
interview with ESPN`s “Outside the Lines.”

CHRIS BORLAND, LINEBACKER, 49ERS: Individual health is – there`s few
things in the world more important than that. I just don`t want to get in
a situation where I`m negotiating my health for money.

FRYER: The announcement stunned 49er fans.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE 49ERS FAN: The sport is important but, being a sports
fan, it`s not more important than the individual players and their

FRYER: So far, this off-season, four well-known players, age 30 or under,
have retired, including another 49er, Patrick Willis.

PATRICK WILLIS, FORMER NFL PLAYER: Honestly, I pay attention to guys when
they`re finished playing, you know, walking around and they`ve got no hips,
and they can`t play with their kids.”

FRYER: Fellow players are largely supportive – “Guys deciding to walk
away from the game at a young age is a great reminder to us all that life
has a bigger picture.”

Though Seahawk Bobby Wagner tweeted, “No offense to anyone but I`m playing
until I can`t anymore. I love this game too much.”

DAN DIAMOND, FORBES.COM CONTRIBUTOR: One question has been, “Is this a new
era to the NFL?” And I don`t think we can know that yet. But it does seem
like it`s a new moment for the league.

FRYER: The NFL says, “Football has never been safer and we continue to
make progress with rule changes, safer tackling techniques, and better
equipment, protocols and medical care for players.”

But one young player is not willing to take the chance. Joe Fryer, NBC
News, Santa Clara, California.


MELBER: Very interesting story there. You have been watching THE LAST
WORD. I am Ari Melber. You can find me on Instagram or on

And, now, Chris Hayes is up next.


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