The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell, Transcript 10/20/15
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: And now, it`s time for THE LAST WORD with
Lawrence – enough to fit comfortably inside a Nissan Sentra.
Congratulations Lindsey Graham, you had the best day in all of American
politics today by far. That does it for us tonight, we`ll see you again
tomorrow, now, it`s time for THE LAST WORD with Lawrence O`Donnell, good
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening Rachel. We have one of those
Republican Freedom Caucus members who was in that meeting with Paul Ryan
MADDOW: Great –
O`DONNELL: We will find out if he thinks he heard enough of Paul Ryan.
MADDOW: Excellent, good luck –
O`DONNELL: And one way or the other –
Whether he`s for him or against him because of what he heard.
MADDOW: Thanks, Lawrence –
O`DONNELL: Thanks, Rachel. We`re covering the breaking news tonight that
Paul Ryan has agreed to serve as speaker of the house, if and only if
Republicans in the house unify to support his candidacy by the end of this
Republican members of the house met behind closed doors for an hour tonight
listening to Paul Ryan. A member of the Freedom Caucus who was in that
room will join us and tell us whether he`s satisfied with what he heard
Paul Ryan say.
After that meeting, Paul Ryan held a short press briefing in which he laid
down his four conditions for being speaker. Only one of which is actually
substantive update house rules.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), CHAIRMAN, HOUSE WAYS AND MEANS COMMITTEE: First, we
need to move from an opposition party to being a proposition party.
Second, we need to update our house rules and it needs to include fixes
that ensure that we do not experience constant leadership challenges in
Third, we as a conference should unify now and not after a divisive speaker
election. Last point is personal. I cannot and I will not give up my
But I pledge to try and make up for it with more time communicating our
vision, our message. What I told members is, if you can agree to these
requests, and if I can truly be a unifying figure, then I will gladly –
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining us now, Republican Congressman Morgan Griffith of
Virginia, he`s a member of the House Freedom Caucus.
Congressman Griffith, thank you very much for joining us tonight. You`ve
been in the two most important meetings of the night; the meeting of the
full group of house Republicans with Paul Ryan and then later a Freedom
Let`s start with that meeting with Paul Ryan. Did you leave that meeting
ready to support Paul Ryan as speaker?
REP. MORGAN GRIFFITH (R), VIRGINIA: Well, this is an important decision
not only for the house conference, but for the United States of America.
And while I heard a lot of good things from Paul and particularly some
rules changes that I think are important, I want to sleep on it, and I want
to take time to give it a mature consideration.
Certainly, Paul said some very good things and I appreciate that, but I do
need to sleep on it. I always used to tell clients when I was practicing
law, go home and sleep on that before you make a final decision.
So, that`s what I`m going to do this evening, take some time to think about
it and mold it over.
O`DONNELL: And how did the discussion go in the Freedom Caucus meeting
after the Paul Ryan meeting. Did he get support in that meeting?
GRIFFITH: Well, there`re a lot of questions, and I think most of the
members are more concerned about process than they are any individual. We
want to make sure the process is working fair.
And so, I think a lot of us are going to take some time to think about it
and sleep on it as well. But this is something that we`ll have to sort out
this week and you`ll see us taking action in that regard.
O`DONNELL: Well, process is actually – as I put it out, the only
substantive thing Paul Ryan said in those four conditions. He said, we
need to update our house rules.
One of the things he wants to change is your ability to challenge the
authority of the speaker of the house, and in effect move to vote – to
have a vote to remove the speaker at any time.
Is that a condition that you are willing to accept?
GRIFFITH: Well, I think we need to take a look at it in a broader sense.
We have to take a look at a lot of the rules.
Obviously, if there`s some things that takes some power away from a speaker
candidate, whomever that might be, then, now, that`s something you have to
take a look at.
I do believe that a speaker is elected for a term which is no longer than
two years. And if that person should not be removed from that office
without some good cause or without a significant vote.
That being said, right now, the speaker has so much power, it`s one of the
few ways that average members can have an impact on the process. So, I`ll
be looking for some other rules changes as well.
O`DONNELL: OK, so, in other words, you`re saying, you`d be willing to give
Paul Ryan that rule change if he gives you a rules changes you would like
to see, procedurally that affect your ability to impact legislation.
GRIFFITH: Well, I think that`s correct. Now, understand, I`m speaking for
myself and not for the Freedom Caucus when I say that, but I do think from
my perspective, that is correct.
Most of the members of the Freedom Caucus are very concerned about making
sure that we have a process that everybody agrees is fair and that it`s not
isolated in the upper echelons of leadership.
And I think Paul Ryan is in favor of that, we just have to make sure we
work that out in the next few days.
O`DONNELL: Mo Brooks was on this program last week and he agreed, he
basically saying something similar to you.
Which is, what matters to him most is process and he would go along with –
he would just agree to disagree with Paul Ryan on several policy issues as
long as Paul Ryan is willing to compromise with the Freedom Caucus on at
least some, maybe all, but certainly some of your process issues.
Could you give us what you would say are the three top process issues that
matter to the Freedom Caucus?
GRIFFITH: Well, I think, first, do we have a process that everybody agrees
is fair, that things don`t just happen in the – in the back room with a
handful of leadership members, and then all of a sudden we`re told this is
what we`re going to do.
And you all need to be a part of the team. I think we need a more
inclusive process that works within our conference. And there`s a number
of ways to accomplish that.
And that`s probably the number one overarching principle, is that, we want
to make sure there is more inclusiveness, that people of both, you know, on
our left and on our right within the conference are heard in the conference
and not just decisions being made in the backroom by a handful of leaders.
O`DONNELL: Would some of the rules changes you`re talking about actually
open up legislative opportunities to Democrats, minority party with the
minority be allowed a free-your-hand for example, an amendments in the
house of Representatives?
GRIFFITH: Well, I think if you open it up, and you open up that amendment
process for members in general, that would include the minority party.
And I think that is part of this. Now, whether that`s one of the rules
that ultimately gets changed, that`s yet to be seen.
But I do think that it`s a process that would be fair for all parties,
whether they happen to be members of the Democrat Party, independents or
O`DONNELL: And what about the so-called Hastert rule which was really a
practice, not so much a rule, in which a Republican speaker should not
bring anything to a vote that doesn`t already have a majority of the
Republican Caucus voting for it.
Is that something you`re going to demand from Paul Ryan?
GRIFFITH: Well, I don`t know that I`d call it a demand, it`s certainly
something we want to see folks working towards whomever the candidate might
But we definitely want to make sure there`re more conference discussions
where we can find out whether or not there`s a majority of the conference
members in favor of something before suddenly it`s thrown on the floor, and
we`re told, here it is, vote for it.
O`DONNELL: OK, so then, you could conceivably live with a situation in
which the speaker and the leadership go to members, they find out that they
do not have a majority of house Republicans.
Let`s say they find out they have 45 percent of house Republicans, 35
percent something like that. And then, they move out to the other party to
see if they can pick up support on the Democratic side. That`s the kind of
thing that has been done for generations in the house.
Are you saying that as long as they try, first of all, to have open
communication with the Republican membership and really poll the Republican
membership, find out how much support there is that they would then in your
view be free to do business across the aisle with Democrats.
GRIFFITH: Well, I think if you have a more open process that may happen in
and of itself, but I don`t know that the leadership should necessarily be
I think it would be unsavory if they only had 35 percent of the Republicans
to go over to the Democrats.
But if you`re talking about, you know, the house Republican conference
being almost evenly split 49-51, then you know, after discussion within the
conference, you may be able to work something out.
But more of those discussions need to happen, that has not been happening
over the last four or five years. And that`s the kind of process that
needs to occur in our house.
More discussions within our conference, trying to get it worked out within
the conference, and then you have to cross certain bridges when you get to
But most members of the Freedom Caucus would say that you have to stick
with the Hastert rule.
O`DONNELL: But –
GRIFFITH: And so, we`ll have to see how that works out.
O`DONNELL: OK, but what is – what is unsavory about majority rule in the
House of Representatives?
GRIFFITH: Well, you know, if you`re a leader of the Republican conference,
it`s unsavory for you to be working more with the Democrats than you are
with, say, members of your own conference.
Even if you like the Democrats better, you ought to be working with the
people who you`re philosophically aligned with, and that would be members
of your own conference.
O`DONNELL: Well, what if that happens, say, two or three times a year out
of 300 or 400 times a year?
GRIFFITH: Well, I`d love it if we had 300 or 400 substantive votes. That
has not been occurring as often as it should. But I look forward to that.
I look forward to having more votes on a lot of bills, on the major bills,
it ought to be driven by the Republican conference and not be driven by the
Democrats conference led by Nancy Pelosi, and that`s what we`re saying.
O`DONNELL: Congressman Griffith, did you hear – did anyone in the Freedom
Caucus meeting tonight make a case for supporting Paul Ryan?
GRIFFITH: You know, I`m not at liberty to discuss all the discussions that
have been had by various members of the Freedom Caucus.
But we will be hashing this out over the next few days, and obviously Paul
did a nice job this evening, so, one could infer that, but I`m not at
liberty to discuss those private conversations.
O`DONNELL: When do you think the Freedom Caucus as a group will make a
GRIFFITH: Well, Paul said he wanted to know by the end of the week, so I
think that you can expect some kind of a decision will be made before the
end of the week.
O`DONNELL: And have you and the Freedom Caucus made an agreement that you
want to reach a unanimous decision by the Freedom Caucus?
GRIFFITH: No, that has not been determined nor – our general rules
require 80 percent for us to take a position.
So, we wouldn`t be looking for unanimity unless there`s a change in our
rules which I don`t think you`ll see this week.
O`DONNELL: OK, and just final before we go. If you can`t reach an 80
percent agreement in the Freedom Caucus, does that mean, each member of the
Freedom Caucus is then allowed to go out and vote as he or she sees fit?
GRIFFITH: That will be correct, yes sir.
O`DONNELL: And you`re going to sleep on it.
GRIFFITH: Yes, absolutely.
O`DONNELL: All right –
GRIFFITH: Always make big decisions after a good night sleep.
O`DONNELL: OK, Congressman Morgan Griffith, long day today, sleep on it,
and if you have a decision tomorrow, please, come back and tell us.
GRIFFITH: All right, will do.
O`DONNELL: Thank you very much. Joining us now, Sam Stein, a senior
politics editor at the “Huffington Post” and an Msnbc contributor.
Also with us, Robert Costa, national political reporter for “The Washington
Post”, and joining us from Capitol Hill, “Nbc News” Capitol Hill
correspondent Luke Russert.
Robert Costa, what`s your reading about what`s going on in the house
Republican caucus tonight and in the Freedom Caucus?
ROBERT COSTA, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Ryan is
moving forward, he made that very clear. He just wants to do it on his
terms with the hard liners on his side, the moderates on his side.
He`s setting the pace of this entire discussion, but he is moving towards
running for speaker, no doubt about it.
O`DONNELL: And is he going to have to run for speaker or is he just going
to stand there, Robert, as he said tonight, and have them come to him?
COSTA: It`s not about whether he has the 218 votes he needs, his advisors
tell me he already has that locked down. It`s about getting to that number
closer to 247, the number of house Republicans in Congress.
He wants to get 235, 240, so those hard liners who don`t vote for him are
on the fence, they`re on the sidelines.
O`DONNELL: Luke Russert, Robert Costa is telling us that team Ryan
believes they have the votes now.
LUKE RUSSERT, NBC NEWS CAPITOL HILL CORRESPONDENT: I think that`s right.
I think they believe that Paul Ryan had an outstanding performance tonight
in front of his house GOP conference colleagues.
I would just caution you, Lawrence, that, the one thing that has been true
since the house GOP came back into power in 2011 is nothing is agreed to
until everything is agreed to.
We`re hearing some drip from the Freedom Caucus members that they do not
necessarily like all of the demands that Paul Ryan placed on them.
One specifically, a demand to get rid of the “vacate the chair motion”.
Well, that`s insider baseball. His own spokesperson said that there was a
weapon that speakers can`t have pointing at them in order to operate
So, I think that`s something we`re going to have to look at between now and
Friday. I can tell you, though, I spoke to one member, who has been around
here a while, who said to me that if the Freedom Caucus kills off Paul
Ryan, then the conference as a whole is utterly useless.
You`re going to see a rallying cry by establishment folks, by conservative
folks who respect Paul Ryan and people who see that they can`t keep going
on in this chaos to really try and push him forward.
Considering that he is sacrificing himself in a sense for this job,
O`DONNELL: Sam Stein, the last question that Paul Ryan was asked as he was
leaving the room was the only one that he refused to answer.
And that was what are these rule changes that you`re talking about? And
that is the essence of the negotiation with the Freedom Caucus.
And we saw it with Congressman Griffith and we`ve seen with others that
they are willing to compromise somewhat on exactly what they`re asking for
in rules changes.
SAM STEIN, SENIOR POLITICS EDITOR, HUFFINGTON POST: Yes, it`s from my
reading of it, Congressman Ryan has not so much put on demands as created
a deal with the Freedom Caucus.
The deal is this: In exchange for agreeing not to pursue comprehensive
immigration reform – although that really wasn`t going anywhere anyway,
he`s asking them to hand over their ax, which is this motion to vacate the
And so, that sort of the subtle arrangement that`s happening here. But to
say that, that`s the one problem that these members have, I think would be
to understate some of the criticism that`s coming in right now.
I`ve been a little bit surprised and I guess, personally discouraged, but
one of the things that he`s being criticized over is, his demand that he
gets time to go see his family on the weekends.
Congressman Huelskamp of Kansas have said, that, that sort of an
irresponsible demand for a party leader to make. Laura Ingraham, the
conservative radio host has almost mocked him on Twitter over it.
And you know, on the one hand, they make a point that speaker needs to
fundraise, he needs to be out there, he needs to be campaigning.
But you know, for them to be pointing at that as an unreasonable demand
says a lot about some of the hurdles he still has to clear.
O`DONNELL: All right, a quick break, when we come back, some house
Republicans say that they are considering retiring, just quitting if Paul
Ryan doesn`t become the speaker of the house.
And the Republican establishment finally taking Donald Trump seriously,
worried that he could go all the way to the nomination.
Now, they`re trying to figure out how to assemble an attack ad team against
him. And Vice President Joe Biden offers a different recollection, a new
recollection about whether or not he supported going after Osama Bin Laden.
As the Vice President continues to consider whether he should run for
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He`s a master
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: A master what? Bill Clinton is going to have to be much more
careful about what he says about his old friend Donald Trump, the guy whose
third wedding he attended.
The guy who he encouraged to get into the Republican campaign for
president. Because Donald Trump has now taken Bill Clinton`s compliments
about him and artfully cut them into a Trump Instagram video.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: He`s a master brander, and he`s the most interesting character
out there. And there`s a macho appeal to saying, I`m just sick of nothing
happening, I make things happen, vote for me. And I like him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Coming up, John Boehner is getting ready to do some of the
dirty work for Paul Ryan if Paul Ryan is going to become speaker.
O`DONNELL: John Boehner wants to get some of the dirty work done for Paul
Ryan before Ryan becomes speaker.
Here is Boehner saying tonight on “Fox News” that he intends to get a
repeal, another repeal of Obamacare through the House of Representatives.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: That bill can be on the
floor, it could be on the floor as early as this week.
If not, it would be on the floor next week.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, you`re going to do it?
BOEHNER: And we`re going to repeal as much of Obamacare as we can through
the reconciliation process, the budget process.
Which isn`t all of it, but you can basically gut Obamacare, which is what
the house bill will do.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And you`re going to move that forward?
BOEHNER: We`re going to move it forward.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Back with us, Luke Russert, Sam Stein and Robert Costa. Robert
Costa, the – there`s the speaker who people forget is still speaker.
And there`s a few things he wants to clean up there in the house, or just
demonstrate for house members that they`re trying to do it.
And this reconciliation process could actually make it through the house of
representatives. It could conceivably make it through the Senate.
It might be the only way to get Obamacare repeal legislation of any kind to
the President`s desk for a veto.
COSTA: It certainly happening. Boehner allies believe, one, it could help
unite conservatives during this leadership election.
And Boehner wants to get things done before at least at the end of the
month including perhaps moving on the debt limit and maybe even looking
ahead to government spending.
O`DONNELL: And Luke Russert, in the – was there any discussion of this
tonight? What they want to see in the remainder of John Boehner`s days
before Paul Ryan takes office?
Does any Republican caucus talk about that?
RUSSERT: Well, I can tell you that folks close to the leadership are very
much aware that hanging the debt limit, which comes due on November 3rd
around the neck of Paul Ryan, if he is to get this job by the end of the
week would be disastrous.
Because he`d be faced with a very difficult challenge right out the gate,
becoming speaker the next week at the election date, so if it stays the
So, expect John Boehner to try and help him out on that. Whether you`re
going to see a big bipartisan budget deal before the government is said to
run out of money December 11th and during the last remaining weeks of
Boehner`s term, I would probably say not as of right now, but who knows?
In this latest Obamacare repeal attempt, we`re numbering now to 50s, this
is a way of the leadership to try and throw some meat to the more
But quite honestly, I think at some point, they`ll get blamed for this,
too, because this will not have gone far enough. You`re hearing from house
conservatives, they want to see the filibuster rule change.
That`s not even conservatives, that`s the number two, Kevin McCarthy who`s
basically been advocating over at least the last few weeks, get rid of the
So, until that happens, I don`t think anything would really resonate with
these guys, they`re insatiable.
O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to what Harry Reid said this afternoon about Paul
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MINORITY LEADER: I`m a Paul Ryan fan, I don`t
agree with him on much of what he does. I think what he`s done with
Medicare and Medicaid, what he`s wanted to do, I disagree with.
But generally speaking, I think that he`s been – we`ve been able to work
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Harry Reid is a Paul Ryan fan. Sam Stein, Harry Reid obviously
trying to kill the Ryan candidacy –
For speaker of the house.
STEIN: It`s quite possible, yes. I think this is all relative, right? I
mean, what are the other – I think Harry is looking at the rest of the
options available to congressional Democrats and freaking out a little bit.
Because as Luke pointed out, the debt ceiling is coming through, we have a
highway trust fund that needs to be funded, the budget bill that was just
passed, it`s a short term bill end of December.
So, there are big, meaty things that Harry Reid realizes have to get done
and Paul Ryan is probably the last potential partner to get them done with
Keep in mind, we`ve lived the last two years with a budget deal that was
negotiated by Paul Ryan and Patty Murray which alleviated some of the
Conservatives hate that. But it is something that was done with Paul Ryan
and Senate Democratic leadership. So, it is workable from Reid`s
perspective, but still not ideal.
O`DONNELL: Luke, I got to come back to this seriously, congressional
leadership, experienced congressional leadership; house and Senate, know
that every word they say matters.
RUSSERT: Sure –
O`DONNELL: Harry Reid knows that if he really wants Paul Ryan to be the
next speaker of the house, he should not say a word –
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Anything –
O`DONNELL: About Paul Ryan.
I mean, Robert Costa, he – Harry Reid saying, I`m a Paul Ryan fan, we`ve
been able to work with him. That is the most damaging thing Harry Reid
could possibly have said today about Paul Ryan`s candidacy.
That is something –
COSTA: Certainly –
O`DONNELL: You say if you want to leave the House of Representatives in
COSTA: And when I have spoken to house Democrats today, they say they`ve
been grabbing buckets of popcorn, they enjoy the chaos and to see Ryan play
a hardball with his own conference, that has startled Democrats.
You have to watch right now what the Freedom Caucus is going to do. I just
spoke with the leaders of the Freedom Caucus a few minutes ago, and they
know they can`t really beat Ryan.
Their own candidate Dan Webster from Florida, former state house speaker,
he doesn`t have much of a chance. So, it`s not about beating Ryan at this
moment, it`s – can you edge him out of the race?
Can they stand together as a block and say we`re not going to be unified
with you and does that force Ryan out? That`s their play it seems at the
O`DONNELL: And now we have some moderate Republicans grumbling that they
might just retire if Paul Ryan doesn`t get the speakership.
The stakes couldn`t be higher this week. I`ve got to take another break
here, Luke Russert, thank you very much for joining us.
Coming up, a group of Republicans are now so worried about Donald Trump
getting the Republican presidential nomination that they have finally
decided to go on the attack against Trump.
O`DONNELL: Well, Donald Trump entering his 100th day at the top of the
Republican presidential polls. The Stop-Trump movement in the Republican
Party is still just trying to get started.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Republican establishment for the first time saying
off the record, this guy could win. I have heard that from everybody.
There – I don`t hear anybody saying he can`t win the nomination anymore.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: “Nbc News” Perry Bacon Junior reports today, “former South
Carolina Republican Party Chair Katon Dawson is beginning discussions with
GOP donors to start raising money for a new Super PAC to take on Donald
Trump in his home state.”
The “Washington Examiner” reports that the Conservative Club for Growth
hopes to run attack ads against Trump in Iowa.
Club for Growth President David McIntosh is looking for donors to fund an
anti-Trump campaign that would hit hard in the month before voting begins.
It might be a Club for Growth production or it might be a combination of
efforts. There is no other group that has decided to do it, says McIntosh.
There are a large number of donors and political activists who want to do
it. The Club for Growth spent $1 million running negative ads against
Donald Trump in Iowa in September and early October.
Here is a sample.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Which presidential candidate supports higher taxes,
national healthcare –
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST OF “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL”
PROGRAM: There is a large number of donors or political activists who want
to do it. The “Club for Growth spent $1 million running negative ads
against Donald Trump in Iowa in September and early October. Here is a
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE SPEAKER (voice-over): Which presidential candidate
supports higher taxes, national health care and the Wall Street bailout?
It is Donald Trump.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: In many cases, I probably
identify more as a democrat.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Trump wants us to think he is
“Mr. Tell It” like it is, but he has a record, and it is very liberal. He
is really just playing us for chumps. Trump, just another politician.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining us now, Jonathan Allen, Chief Political Correspondent
for Vox. Also with us Robert Costa and Sam Stein. Jonathan Allen, what
took them so long?
JONATHAN ALLEN, VOX, CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, they tried
it before, it did not bring Trump down at all. I think they have been –
you know, there is the establishment is the David against the Donald Trump
I do think it is interesting the “Club for Growth” is getting in here at
Katon Dawson, South Carolina, starting to – trying to put together a Super
PAC. You know, the “Club for Growth” is – there is a lot of overlap
between that group and the donors for the Koch brothers.
So, it will be interesting to see if they get engaged or if they sort of
sit this one out and let the republican nomination move forward. But, this
is going to be as interesting and as exciting or at least close to as
interesting as exciting as the Paul Ryan run for speaker.
O`DONNELL: Yes. Now, the “Club for Growth” has its own polling in Iowa
and they say that their ads there have pushed Trump down to below Ben
Carson. They, actually, have the most recent poll in Iowa at October 4th.
They showed Trump at 16. Carson at 21. Rubio at 11. Jeb Bush at 10.
But, we are going to have to wait for some more reliable polls about that.
Robert Costa, if the Koch Brothers do not want Donald Trump, if the massive
world of republican money does not want Donald Trump, why has all that
money, all that activism, all that power been sitting on the sidelines and
holding their fire on negative ads.
ROBERT COSTA, POLITICAL WRITER AT “THE WASHINGTON POST”: Because so many
of these candidates` Super PACs do not want to spend the money at this
moment in the race, hoping Trump will implode. I spoke to a Trump ally
today. He said the Trump campaign is most concerned about Jeb Bush`s Super
When does that $100 million machine turn against Trump. Trump`s decision
in this race is when does he actually spend his own money on the airwaves.
At the moment, per people close to him, Trump`s thinking is better to run a
grassroots campaign and focus on the air. But, he is leaving it as an
option in January and February.
O`DONNELL: Sam Stein, the Jeb Bush Super PAC now has the record of being
the most patient Super PAC in the history of presidential campaigning.
When your candidate is sinking, that is when the Super PAC is suppose to go
SAM STEIN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, correct. Although, I give them some
credit. They have spent some money. It has done very little, in fact it
has not done anything. He has gone lower in the polls since then.
But, to go back on what Robert was saying. One of the reasons these
candidate, Super PACS, have not gone after Trump is that they need to spend
the money propping up their own candidate. If you are Jeb Super PAC
affiliates, and you are looking at the situation, why would you spend $5
million to $10 million taking out the frontrunner when your guy is sinking.
You need to lift him up, make his numbers better, so that he can benefit
for when Trump declines. And, there is no indication right now that Jeb
would actually be the primary beneficiary if Jeb decline. It could be
anyone from Rubio to Kasich to even Christie.
O`DONNELL: Jonathan Allen, Donald Trump`s candidacy has done a great job
of breaking political rules. One of the political rules is that negative
advertising works, that is why people spend so much money on it.
But, when I look at that negative ad from the “Club for Growth,” it is all
about his past. It is all about – well, you know, he used to say this
and, you know – But it seems to me that what matters for Trump – what
matters for Mitt Romney with republican primary voters is, what is he
You know, they all knew. They all knew that Mitt Romney used to be pro-
choice. He used to be in favor of a woman`s right to choose her own
reproductive – to make her own reproductive decisions. And, he changes
mind about that. They know – they may know Trump changed his mind about
that. The present tense seems to be the only thing that matters with
republican primary voters.
ALLEN: Well, it is amazing when you get a Washington-based group, the
“Club for Growth,” running ads saying – that sound like typical political
ads saying that Donald Trump is a typical politician, when he is anything
but the typical politician.
It is pretty easy for him to refute the idea that these are the guys that
are truly with the grassroots and the outsider energy that is in the
campaign right now. So, I think it is hard to go after him. When you hit
him, the group that supports them, that 25 percent of the Republican Party
roughly that has been with them all along, it just gets more solid it
O`DONNELL: The control room tells me we have a hot off the presses new
sound bite from Donald Trump on Fox News tonight talking about negative ads
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: You just hope when people are watching these phony`s ads, you know,
all of these phony ads that are going to be put out, that they are going to
understand. It is not the candidates. It is all of these special
interests, Sean, that want to not have a guy like Trump because they are
going to be out of business.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Robert Costa, OK, there we go. That is going to be his counter
to the negative ads.
COSTA: It is. And, Trump really believes he can continue to run as a
political outsider. And, the attacks from the “Club for Growth” and other
groups do not harm his campaign.
Trump`s whole play right now is to be in it with the long game. Build an
organization in Iowa, New Hampshire. Look to those southern primaries on
March 1st. Prepare for the March primaries and be ready to win and just
hope others fall away.
O`DONNELL: Trump also tonight on Fox eliminated all conceivable question
of possible independent run by him. Talking about, “What would he do if
Jeb Bush became the nominee. Let us listen to that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS CHANNEL`S HOST OF “HANNITY” PROGRAM: If Jeb wins
the nomination, will you support him?
TRUMP: Absolutely, yes. I would absolutely support him. He is a good
person. He is a good man. I would support him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Sam Stein, so much for the renegade. That is the textbook
republican candidate answer.
STEIN: Yes. When he had signed the pledge, I did not think he was
particularly interested in keeping the pledge, but I guess he is. And, I
supposed it is ironic a bit that he calls Jeb so low energy. And, saying,
he would vote for him. But, yes, I guess Trump is a team player now.
O`DONNELL: And, Jonathan Allen, the Trump campaign, is the reluctance to
go after Trump with negative ads the notion that, at some point we are
going to have to get the Trump voter?
And, by the way, is not that what the Super PAC is for? They go after
Trump with negative ads and that does not get associated with Jeb Bush`s
campaign or some other campaign?
ALLEN: Well, I think everybody is hoping that somebody else will be the
one that spends the money and takes the risk of going after Donald Trump
with Super PAC money. And, look, there are really two campaigns that have
the ability to do that.
One is Jeb Bush`s campaign, his Super PAC with its tens of millions of
dollars in the bank. And, then the other one is Ted Cruz. Ted Cruz is a
candidate who is hoping that Donald Trump goes away. He gets all of those
Donald Trump voters or the lion`s share of them.
So, Ted Cruz is not going to do it. And, basically, I think Jeb Bush does
not want to spend all that money on Donald Trump. I think Sam was saying
earlier, maybe it was Robert – basically if you are going to spend that
Super PAC money for Jeb Bush, you are going to try to raise yourself a
little bit before you go after someone else.
O`DONNELL: And, Robert Costa, these are highly informed voters, and I
assume, in Iowa and New Hampshire. If Jeb Bush`s Super PAC does that, the
Super PAC is not going to say, “This ad paid for by the friends and
supporters of Jeb Bush, but we are.” And, everyone in Iowa and New
Hampshire is going to know that.
COSTA: That is exactly right. When I sat down with Trump, I said “How are
you going to deal with this barrage of ads that is certainly going to come
in the winter and early next year?”
And, he said, “My whole game plan is, if they come at me with an ad at an
early state or nationally, I will go on any television program and counter
it.” He thinks he can overwhelm the race with liveliness and counter
anything that comes at him. It is a different paradigm. He has changed
the whole way these campaigns are run by candidates.
O`DONNELL: Sam Stein, Robert Costa, and Jonathan Allen, thank you all for
joining us tonight.
ALLEN: Thank you, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, the head of Planned Parenthood Cecile Richards and
the former Texas State Senator, Wendy Davis will join us to discuss the
latest move by Texas State government to try to shut down Planned
Parenthood in that state.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JIM WEBB, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I am withdrawing from any
consideration of being the Democratic Party`s nominee for the presidency.
Though, I am not going away, I am thinking about all my options.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: When Jim Webb considers the option of running for president as
an independent, he will discover that it is more expensive and more
organizationally challenging than running an underachieving campaign for
the democratic presidential nomination. And, he will no doubt return to
the pleasures of private life.
We are in the 12th week of active speculation about Joe Biden running for
president. There are the off the record rumblings we are hearing this week
that his decision could be announced soon, maybe in the next few days.
But, today, the Vice President offered a new version of the advice he gave
President Obama about executing the raid to get Osama Bin Laden.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, CURRENT U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: I told him my opinion, that I
thought he should go but follow-his own instincts.
(END VIDEOC LIP)
O`DONNELL: In 2012, “The New York Times” quoted Joe Biden saying, “Mr.
President, my suggestion is do not go. We have to do two more things to
see if he is there.” Now, maybe they did those two more things. And, then
Joe Biden said “Go.” We will surely hear more about this, when and if Joe
Biden becomes a candidate for president.
Up next, Planned Parenthood`s President Cecile Richards and former Texas
State Senator Wendy Davis will join us.
O`DONNELL: Texas State health officials believe they have found a new way
to drive Planned Parenthood out of Texas. The Inspector General of the
state`s health services commission has sent a letter to Planned Parenthood
in Texas saying, “Planned Parenthood is no longer capable of performing
medical services in a professionally competent, safe, legal and ethical
The letter cites videos of Planned Parenthood facilities that were secretly
recorded and edited in an attempt to show how Planned Parenthood profits
from the sale of fetal tissue to medical research facilities. Other
states, Georgia, Indiana, South Dakota, Massachusetts have studied those
same videos and have found no evidence that Planned Parenthood has profited
by the transfer of fetal tissue research or broken the law in any way.
None of the Planned Parenthood facilities in Texas preserve any fetal
tissue for research purposes. The last time Planned Parenthood clinics in
Texas provided fetal tissue for research was in 2010 when it partnered with
the University of Texas Medical Branch for a study on miscarriage. The
University of Texas Medical Branch is, of course, a state-run university
funded by the government of Texas.
Joining us now Cecile Richards, the President of the Planned Parenthood and
Wendy Davis, a former Texas State Senator, who in June 2013 made national
headlines by filibustering a bill restricting access to abortions in Texas.
Cecile Richards, this is the latest shot at Planned Parenthood in Texas.
And, it reads to me, what they are trying to do is prevent Planned
Parenthood from normal Medicaid reimbursements for all of the services it
provides for Medicaid patients.
CECILE RICHARDS, PRESIDENT OF THE PLANNED PARENTHOOD: Correct.
O`DONNELL: That if that happens, does that drive planned parenthood out of
business completely in Texas?
RICHARDS: Absolutely not, Lawrence. And, again, this is just the latest
in the series of political moves by both the legislature and the governor
to try to end women`s access to health care in Texas. Planned Parenthood,
we see about 150,000 patients every single year.
We just opened up new health centers in Dallas and in San Antonio. And, we
are going to be there. I think what is really distressing about this move,
this political move by the governor is, it is basically saying to women who
are on Medicaid, “You cannot go to Planned Parenthood for cancer
screenings, for birth control, for STD testing and treatment.
And in many areas of the state, we are the best provider that exists.
Again, I think we have seen in Texas the danger of putting politics ahead
of women`s health care access.
O`DONNELL: Wendy Davis, do you expect that the health commissioner – that
they will actually effectuate this? They will be able to deny Medicaid
reimbursement to all Planned Parenthood facilities.
WENDY DAVIS, FORMER TEXAS STATE SENATOR: I think they are going to attempt
to do that. I think in the long-term, they are going to find that they are
going to meet a roadblock in the law. Because when you look at this
particular order, it is basically the governor and the health and human
services commission playing judge and jury.
On trumped up videos that, of course, we know have been proven to be highly
manipulated to try to show something that indeed has not happened and is
not happening in any clinics in Texas. And, they are doing it obviously
for political reasons. As Cecile said, the real tragedy here is that women
in Texas are going to be hurt, women who are on Medicaid.
And, this is a pile on of years of an assault against Planned Patient Hood
in the state of Texas, added to the 2011 clinic closures, the family
planning clinic. Not abortion clinics, but the over 70 family planning
clinics that were closed in Texas. This is insult to injury in a way that
has very real impact on women`s health in our state.
O`DONNELL: And, Bobby Jindal`s administration in Louisiana tried pretty
much the same thing and Planned Parenthood in Louisiana was able to go into
federal court and stop it at least temporarily.
RICHARDS: Right. I mean that is the irony of this. And, this shows the
political nature. This is, literally, the day before, a federal judge have
said, “You cannot cut women in Louisiana off of the ability to go to
Planned Parenthood for preventive care.” That is what this is about. He
said, it would cause harm to women.
And, the next day, without missing a beat, Governor Abbott announces this.
This is clearly a political move in his effort, frankly, to end Planned
Parenthood. That is not going to be successful. The only folks that are
really going to get hurt are the women of Texas who need access to
O`DONNELL: And, Wendy Davis, one of the things that these Texas governing
authorities keep saying is, “We do not need Planned Parenthood. We have
plenty of other clinics. People have access all over this state to plenty
of other clinics.”
DAVIS: You know, what we saw, again, going back to 2011 when there was an
assault on Planned Parenthood and a wholesale withdrawal of women`s health
program funding for family planning clinics in Texas was that, over 50
percent of women are now reporting at least one barrier in accessing
reproductive care in our state.
In that period of time, 25 percent fewer patients were served in family
planning centers in our state, because there really is no safety net.
There is really not an abundance of other clinics available for women to go
to, particularly women in West Texas and South Texas, where there are very
few reproductive, or any kind of health care clinics for women to be able
O`DONNELL: Cecile, Planned Parenthood is now the honor of becoming kind of
the next Benghazi style committee target in Washington. We are going to
take a break. I will come back to talk to you and Wendy Davis about that.
Coming up, Cecile – we are going to find out about this house committee
that is going to design to investigate Planned Parenthood. That is coming
(BEGIN VIDEO CLP)
REP. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN, (D) MARYLAND: Mr. Chavitz just announced the
results of all the hearings on Planned Parenthood. No violation of the
law. And, so what do you do when you do not get the answer you want? Let
us spend more taxpayer money on another special committee.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: That was Congressman Chris Van Hollen reacting to the new
republican-led special committee that will investigate abortions and fetal
tissue procurement. Back with us, Cecile Richards and Wendy Davis. Cecile
Richards, everyone is saying this is basically the Planned Parenthood
RICHARDS: Well, I assume that it will be. It is incredible that they are
now five committees in congress investigating Planned Parenthood and
abortion. E, in Planned Parenthood, we have provided thousands of pages of
We have completely cooperated with everything, and as we have seen, they
said they found no wrongdoing, and yet it continues on and on. You would
think congress would have something better to do with their time.
O`DONNELL: Wendy Davis, one of the political phenomenon that we are
noticing now in the polling is that the candidacy of Carly Fiorina in
polling has collapsed. The big bubble that she had has disappeared. She
has dropped about 10 points in the last round of polling.
And, one of her star turns, big attention-getting things was actually lying
about what she says she saw in a video of one of these surreptitious videos
of Planned Parenthood. Whatever she saw was not in a video done by any of
the people involved in the Planned Parenthood secret videos. Do you
suspect that basically being kind of caught that way on that subject would
have hurt her with republican voters in these polls?
DAVIS: I absolutely do. I think she got caught lying. I mean, they made
a video to try to disprove that she was lying, but the video itself was a
fraud. And, people came to see that very clearly. And, thankfully, the
press really pushed her on it and held her accountable to it.
And, I think that, that is the danger that many of these politicians are
not yet really aware of or seemed to be cognizant of. The danger that they
are going to push so far – and I think the American people are waking up
to what this is. It is a witch hunt against Planned Parenthood leading to
a desire to ultimately end abortion in this country.
But, this is a constitutionally protected right, just as other
constitutionally protected rights are. And, in the process, what I think
people waking up to and certainly it is happening in this state and
elsewhere, very real women, very real women, are being hurt by this. These
are politicians that are literally willing to put women`s lives at risk, so
that they can score political points.
And, I certainly hope that we are going to see more and more of the
response that we saw to Carly Fiorina and the assertions that she was
making by the American public, who I hope is going to sit up and say, “We
are tired of this. We see through it. We want real leaders, who are going
to represent all of the people in this country and the myriad of needs that
they have and not be so concerned about political posturing, that they are
willing to literally put people is lives at risk for it.”
O`DONNELL: Cecile Richards, it looks like your organization is going to be
subject to this special committee investigation. What is it like to be in
that chair? You have been in that committee hearing witness chair.
It is kind of an iconic position now in our television coverage of
Washington, the person in that difficult moment in that chair. Was it like
– I mean you have been in for hours the last time around.
RICHARDS: Look, I am always proud to represent “Planned Parenthood.” And,
I was frankly glad to be there to try to give voice to the millions of
women who come to Planned Parenthood every year for health care services.
I was dismayed in how little interest there seemed to be by members of
congress about the actual – our patients and the services that we provide.
But, I will go anywhere, anytime to be able to actually give voice to the
needs that women have in this country for affordable health care.
I think what is important, too, Lawrence, that folks understand, all of
these efforts, they are not really just against Planned Parenthood, they
are really attacking the 2.7 million people who come to us every single
year for health care.
And, what congress is doing is really trying to end access for women in
this country to go to the best, most affordable provider that they choose
to go to and for 2.7 million of them, that is Planned Parenthood.
O`DONNELL: Well, whenever they do not let you finish your answers, you can
always come here.
RICHARDS: I appreciate the time. Yes. Ask the question and answer it.
O`DONNELL: Cecile Richards and Wendy Davis, thank you both for joining us
RICHARDS: Thanks, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Chris Hayes is up next.
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