The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell, Transcript 1/4/2016

Howard Dean, Rick Wilson, Richard Cohen, Ahmed Shihab-Eldin, Hillary Mann Leverett, Joy Fowlin, Victor Chinyama

Date: January 4, 2016
Guest: Howard Dean, Rick Wilson, Richard Cohen, Ahmed Shihab-Eldin,
Hillary Mann Leverett, Joy Fowlin, Victor Chinyama


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you guys, happy –




RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Reporters and editors doing the paper routes.
The new – distributor says it will be four to six months before the
delivery issues are resolved.

Tonight, “The Globe” says it`s considering bringing in a second
distribution company to help with the deliveries. Be grateful for your
local paper.

Be happy to have access to it, and if it shows up on your doorstep, you pay
to subscribe to it and you read it, maybe give a bigger tip than you`re
planning on giving this year.


More often than not, if a story is here on this show before it is anywhere
else really, it is in your local paper, support your local paper.

That does it for us tonight, we will see you again tomorrow, now, it`s time
for THE LAST WORD with Lawrence O`Donnell, good evening Lawrence.

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Hey Rachel, happy new year.

MADDOW: Happy new year!

O`DONNELL: Rachel, I have got a weird situation here.


O`DONNELL: The staff this afternoon asked me to hand over to them the last
blog of the show and it will just be a complete surprise to me.

And in my laziness, you know, the feeling that – oh great, I don`t have to
write anything for THE LAST WORD –


You know, I said, yes, OK, and now I`m like wicked nervous about what –
have you ever done anything like this, just you have no idea what`s coming
in your TV show?

MADDOW: I am – I am so controlling that I am now stressed about the fact
that that`s happening in your TV show. What are you going to do? Are you
just going to hide under the desk?

O`DONNELL: I don`t know if I stay in the room, I don`t know – it`s
theirs, the last blog is theirs. I do – I have no idea what`s going to
happen. You`re not involved, I take it.

MADDOW: No, you have an awesome staff, but that`s truly scary. I would
just leave. I would plug my ears and run out of the room screaming.

O`DONNELL: I can`t, you know, there will be a commercial break.


O`DONNELL: I can get up and just leave when I finish my stuff and that`s a


MADDOW: Good luck, my friend.

O`DONNELL: Thanks Rachel –

MADDOW: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Well, Donald Trump wants to campaign against Bill Clinton, but
today in New Hampshire, Bill Clinton refused to play Trump`s game.


have a right to meet at least one president in a lifetime and in New
Hampshire, your odds go way up.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Bill Clinton returned to the trail in the state that
famously made him –

CLINTON: The comeback kid.


I love this place, you know.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Donald Trump is still targeting Hillary Clinton via
Bill and his past with women.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: She`s got one of the great women
abusers of all time sitting at her house waiting for her to come home.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is not the fight that the Clintons want to have.

his alternative reality and I`m not going to respond.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s such odd cycle, you got a man that bankrupted four
companies is attacking a man that balanced four federal budgets. And so,
you know, that`s about what this is.

TRUMP: We have a revolution going on.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Armed anti-government protests taken over a federal

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The group wants local control of this federal land.

TRUMP: People are tired and they`re sick of the stupidity that we`re
seeing coming out of Washington.

AMMON BUNDY, CATTLE RANCHER: We`re actually not demanding anything other
than the government to adhere to the constitution.

constitutional right to use force and violence and a threat and force and
violence on others.

TRUMP: We`re not going to take it anymore, we`re not taking it.


O`DONNELL: In New Hampshire today, Bill Clinton did something that no
president has ever done before – campaign for his wife to become president
of the United States.


CLINTON: It`d soon be 45 years ago and a couple of months when we met.
And I don`t know, that`s – we fell in love. I thought she was the most
amazing person.

And there she was in that law school, she could have written her ticket to
go anywhere she wanted. All she was really interested in was providing
legal services to poor people.


O`DONNELL: Yesterday, the frontrunner for the Republican presidential
nomination welcomed Bill Clinton`s public support for Hillary Clinton`s
campaign this way.


TRUMP: She`s married to a person that`s a serious abuser, and I mean, at
the highest level. And she, you know, she`s not an innocent victim.

She was the one that would go along with him in this whole game that they
play. And you look at what happened with some of the people that he took
advantage of and then she gets involved.

So, she`s not like the innocent person sitting by the side and you know,
with tears in her eyes. She`s a person that was very much involved.


O`DONNELL: Andrea Mitchell caught up with Bill Clinton after his first
campaign speech today.


ANDREA MITCHELL, MSNBC HOST: How do you feel about the kind of campaign
Donald Trump is running, sir?

CLINTON: The Republicans will have to decide who they`re going to
nominate. How I feel is only relevant once they pick a nominee.


CLINTON: And we got to –


CLINTON: Win a primary, we got to win that primary.


O`DONNELL: Today in Iowa, a voter asked Hillary Clinton to respond to
another Trump attack.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am interested in your response to the Donald`s
comment that you and President Obama created ISIS.

CLINTON: I`ve adopted a new year`s resolution.


I`m going to let him live in his alternative reality and I`m not going to




O`DONNELL: Joining us now, Howard Dean, former governor of Vermont and
former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, he`s also an Msnbc
political analyst.

Rick Wilson; Republican media consultant and contributor to “The Daily
Beast” and “POLITICO”. And Joy Reid is here with us, Msnbc national

Joy Reid, the Clintons are not going near the latest round of Donald Trump

JOY REID, MSNBC NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it`s interesting, because of
course, the Clinton`s political pedigree or their political history is
that, you know, you hit them once and they deck you like in the face 18
times in response.

And that they have this sort of disproportionate response is what people
expect. They`re employing a very different strategy which is basically

They`re basically saying, let him go ahead and come at us, we`re not going
to give him any sound bites that he can then use in his next stump speech.

I think in this case, it`s the right thing to do.

O`DONNELL: But – and Howard Dean, I`m not sure if we see the full
emergence of a Clinton campaign strategy here yet.

But if Hillary Clinton won`t respond to Trump on issues like ISIS, does
that mean that their strategy might be to not respond to anything Trump
says, so that it won`t look like they`re just isolating the Bill Clinton
accusations as something they won`t comment on?

HOWARD DEAN, FORMER VERMONT GOVERNOR: I don`t really – I mean, I have no
way of knowing what the answer to that is.

But I do think what they`re doing is terrific. Because in order to become
president, people have to like you. And Donald Trump is really struggling
in terms of people liking him.

I mean, he may be saying things that appeal to people who are angry, but
liking somebody is different. And they really do want to like the

And so, I predicted a couple of weeks ago that this was going to blow up in
Donald Trump`s face. You know, he`s very good, Donald Trump.

But he`s got a terrific marketing personality. I don`t think you want to
take on the number one champion for the last 70 years, which is Bill
Clinton in something that you might be a little good at, but not very good

O`DONNELL: Well, he did give a lot of hints that he was going to talk
about Bill Clinton tonight in lower Massachusetts in his speech, which by
the way was one of the shortest he`s ever given.

I don`t know, maybe he`s got a headache or something. But instead, he
didn`t mention Bill Clinton at all. Tonight, he wanted to campaign against
Barack Obama. Let`s listen to that.


TRUMP: We don`t need four more years of Obama, and that`s what you`re
getting with Hillary, that`s what you`re getting.


No, that`s what you`re getting. And I believe it might be even worse if
you want to know the truth.


O`DONNELL: Rick Wilson, for Republican audiences, which of these things
that we`ve just heard Trump say are the most effective for Republican

the repetition of another term of Barack Obama is probably the most

Frankly, the Bill Clinton stuff is kind of baked in the Republican cake,
we`re not – it`s not new information, and Trump bringing it up isn`t going
to move a lot of Republican voters any further than they have been.

Everyone knows bad touch Bill Clinton. They understand that, they
understand that this is a guy who engaged in behavior over the course of
decades that would put most people in jail.

And so, that`s sort of – like I said, it`s baked in the cake. What it
does do is bring Democrats home to Hillary as we`ve seen in previous

In `12, and I believe back to 2000 when I worked for Giuliani in the senate
race, we saw in focus groups that when you brought it up, that Bill Clinton
was a bad actor in a million different ways.

What happened was, people said, yes, we like him still and we like her.
And so, you know, it`s a paradox and Trump bringing it up, you know, it
feeds the – it feeds the Republican base that loves to go to war

But it doesn`t necessarily get you to an end state that changes the field
all that much.

It makes Democrats a little stronger for her, it makes – reminds
Republicans that Bill Clinton is a guy, you know, who spent a lot of time
on Jeffrey Epstein`s sex slave island.

So, he`s a guy that, you know, all this stuff is already known quantities
about Bill Clinton.

O`DONNELL: So much to respond to here, Joy, that I`m not sure – go ahead.

REID: Known quantities, maybe if you read world net daily. Like a lot of
the stuff Rick Wilson just said.

But I think, you know, one important point, you know, in that Giuliani
analogy is, it also depends on who is making the attack.

Rudolph Giuliani would not have been the right person to make such an
attack, because he dumped his wife on like national television right at the
same time he was quitting his campaign.

And having run against Hillary Clinton and failed to succeed, you know, he
would understand that, I think that, the Clintons, you have to look at –

WILSON: Well, no, Joy, he did –


He left the race because of prostate cancer.

REID: OK, well –

WILSON: So, let`s be – let`s be very precise about that.

REID: At the same time that they – he was being hit on issues of police
violence and police abuse in which he had failed to respond, and has in
fact, responded in a way that got African-American New Yorkers –

WILSON: None of which polled –


The long story short –

REID: Really? Have you polled –

WILSON: I get it, I get –


REID: African-American New Yorkers back when Rudolph Giuliani was running
for president. The messenger clearly matters and Donald Trump has a very
similar problem.

In that if he`s going to invite the Clintons to reverse, litigate his own
history regarding women, he isn`t going to hold up very well.

So, it really isn`t helpful for him to be that messenger. But I think you
do make a good point that it also reinforces for Democrats the will to

And that`s what Hillary Clinton actually needs the most. Is for Democrats
to want to fight for her.

O`DONNELL: Let`s look at this latest poll matching Hillary Clinton to
Donald Trump, and it`s a pretty close one. This is a “Cnn” poll, Hillary
Clinton at 49, Donald Trump at 47 in a theoretical general election match

Howard Dean, they did not include Bernie Sanders in a matchup with Donald
Trump in that poll as so many polls just ignore Bernie Sanders when it
comes to the one on ones.

The last one we saw that did include Bernie Sanders, he had a much bigger
lead over Donald Trump than Hillary did.

But that one within the margin of error, 49-47, what do you make of that?

DEAN: As I say, I don`t make much of polls in the general election before
the primary, for either side has been concluded.

There`s going to be a lot of people coming home on both sides after the
nominee is decided, and there is a ton of people in the middle who have yet
to make up their minds.

And I think that`s where Hillary`s huge advantage is. Most people can see
Hillary as a competent president no matter which side they`re on.

It`s really hard to see Donald Trump and imagine him as a competent

O`DONNELL: All right, let`s –

DEAN: That`s what`s going to make the difference in the general election.

O`DONNELL: Let`s take a look at the first Trump campaign TV ad. They say
they`re going to spend a million bucks on this in Iowa and another million
in the New Hampshire market. Let`s take a look at this.


TRUMP: I`m Donald Trump and I approve this message.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The politicians can pretend it`s something else, but
Donald Trump calls it radical Islamic terrorism.

That`s why he`s calling for a temporary shutdown of Muslims entering the
United States until we can figure out what`s going on.

He`ll quickly cut the head of ISIS and take their oil and he`ll stop
illegal immigration by building a wall on our southern border that Mexico
will pay for.

TRUMP: We will make America great again.


O`DONNELL: Rick Wilson, the Trump campaign not content with what – the
way things really are on our southern border.

Did not actually use a shot of the southern border there –

WILSON: Of course not –

O`DONNELL: That I`m told – I`m told that`s Morocco. But it`s such an odd
ad because it`s filled with negative imagery on what is supposed to be a
positive ad for the candidate.

WILSON: Well, that`s because Donald Trump is a fundamentally negative
candidate. He is a guy who talks about the decline of America, about how
we suck in the world, how our leaders are all stupid.

How everyone takes advantage of us. This is a guy who wants to be the man
on the white horse, but he has to frame the world as fundamentally dark, he
has to frame America as fundamentally failing.

And frankly, even though that we`re in a – we`re in a phase where folks
are angry and pessimistic and they feel like that the government has failed
in a lot of ways.

The splash damage that happens from Trump doing this, it feeds the negative
perceptions of the factional folks that are involved in supporting him.

And it makes them feel, very – you know, engaged that somebody called it -
- Jerry Garritti(ph) from “National Review” called it doomsday

And he sort of feeds that message of that core group of folks. It doesn`t
get out beyond the – you know, 30 percent-35 percent of folks that are in
the Trump camp particularly.

And you know, it doesn`t sell a lot of new real estate here, it`s the same
message he`s been using. And in that regard, that`s the kind of ad that
Trump, you can expect from him.

He`s going to stick with themes that he`s comfortable with.

O`DONNELL: Howard Dean, quickly, before we close this segment, is that ad
going to get any more voters for Donald Trump in your neighboring state of
New Hampshire?

DEAN: It`s possible that it might. The sort of the anger vote is – can
be consolidated by Donald Trump, and I think that`s what he`s doing.

I agree with Rick`s analysis on this, you know, a 100 percent. But he does
have a vote and he`s going to get there. And this is about getting into
the polls.

And the problem for the Republicans, there`s three or four more moderate
candidates who have a much better chance against Hillary Clinton, and I
don`t think any of them are going to get more about 11 percent.

So, all he`s got to do is get 27 percent or 28 percent, and this wins New
Hampshire for him and he`s in business and a whole lot of other people

O`DONNELL: Howard Dean, thanks for joining us tonight, really appreciate
it. Coming up, the last time the Bundy family had a standoff on federal
land against the federal government, several Republicans seemed to be on
their side.

But what are they saying now?

REID: And you know, I know you`re about to go to break, Lawrence, and I`m
waiting to finish –

O`DONNELL: I am going to break, I just threw some stuff – what? –

REID: You threw the stuff on the paper –

O`DONNELL: Oh, no –

REID: But you know what?

O`DONNELL: Surprises is –

REID: There`re things happening –

O`DONNELL: Starting now –

REID: There are things happening. Now, I am going to –


REID: Jump in here –

O`DONNELL: Am so uncomfortable –

REID: Because the surprising begins right now. You cannot miss the end of
the show because –

O`DONNELL: What do you – what do you know that I don`t? You know
everything –

REID: All I know is that, there`s a big surprise waiting for you, Lawrence
O`Donnell, your staff has put it together –

O`DONNELL: I know that.

REID: Do you –

O`DONNELL: Do you know more than I know?

REID: Well, I can`t really comment on what specifically I know, I can only
tell you that the viewers must stay to the very end of THE LAST WORD –

O`DONNELL: I am with the nervous –

REID: To find out what it is, let`s go to break now.



O`DONNELL: Republican presidential candidates react to the latest right-
wing armed insurrection on federal land. That`s next.


O`DONNELL: In 1908, Republican President Teddy Roosevelt created a
National Wildlife Refuge that is tonight, the scene of the latest armed
insurrection by the Bundy family.

The same family that in 2014 rebelled against federal authorities in Nevada
over grazing fees on federal land. This time, the Bundy family claims to
be supporting the Hammond family.

Two members of the Hammond family were convicted of arson in federal court
for fires that spread onto the National Wildlife Refuge.

And that is the scene of the Bundy family`s latest terrorist action. But
the Hammond family wants nothing to do with the Bundy family – wisely.

They issued a statement today saying, “neither Ammon Bundy nor anyone
within his group organization speak for the Hammond family.”

Dwight and Stephen Hammond surrendered to federal authorities in California
to serve their prison sentences in that federal case.

They did that today. The Bundy gang invaded the federal buildings in the
Wildlife Refuge Saturday night when the refuge was closed and the buildings
were unoccupied.

How very brave of them. Today, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest
said this.


of the situation.

The FBI has indicated they`re working with local law enforcement officials
to resolve this situation. And we`re hopeful that that situation can be
resolved peacefully without any violence.


O`DONNELL: In an interview with Nbc News today, Ammon Bundy said this.


BUNDY: The only violence that if it comes our way, will be because
government is wanting their building back.

And that`s what it – that`s what it`d be about. We are putting nobody in
harm`s way. We are not threatening anybody. We`re 30 miles out of the
closest town.

We are here making this stand and we`re doing it peacefully and we`re doing
it for the right reasons.


O`DONNELL: Ted Cruz who was very sympathetic to the (AUDIO GAP 00:00:23-
29) –


CRUZ: Everyone of us has a constitutional right to protest and speak our
minds. But we don`t have a constitutional right to use force and violence
and the threat and force and violence on others.

And so, it is our hope that the protesters there will stand down peaceably.
That there will not be a violent confrontation.

Our prayers are certainly with those in law enforcement that are risking
their lives right now, that they be safe. But there is no right to engage
in violence against other Americans.


O`DONNELL: Joining the panel now, Richard Cohen, President of the Southern
Poverty Law Center. Joy Reid, a real change of tone for Ted Cruz on this

REID: Yes, indeed, because remember that the Bundy ranch standoff involved
members of that militia group pointing rifles at federal agents.

And I think part of the reason that we`re seeing them return to form here,
out of their own state, no less, against the wishes of the very family –


O`DONNELL: Now, this guy, this picture is one of the most famous pictures

REID: Yes –

O`DONNELL: From that Nevada standoff. He did not get arrested –

REID: No –

O`DONNELL: For that.

REID: No one did.

O`DONNELL: No one did –

REID: No one did. And the fact that they got away –

O`DONNELL: There was one – one arrest was on – someone had a – on a
minor gun charge, and there was another minor arrest, but not associated
with what they were doing.

REID: Right, not associated with threatening federal agents, threatening
federal law enforcement.

And I think the fact that they got away with that sort of emboldened this
group to go out of their own state against the wishes of the very family
they say they`re supporting.

And once again, in an armed standoff with the federal government. The
thing that`s incredible, the sheriff has asked them to go, the family has
asked them to go.

And I`m not sure what it is now that they`re trying to accomplish. Are
they seizing that federal land? And if so, for whom?

O`DONNELL: Richard Cohen, is this a reaction or – to the way things were
handled in Nevada?

absolutely right.

The Bundy family saw themselves as heroes. They were lionized by people
like Cruz, Trump, Carson and Rand Paul.

You know, Sean Hannity extolled their virtues every day. And when no one
was arrested, the militia world said, you know, courage is contagious.

And the number of militias in our country has grown considerably since that
time. So, you know, what we`re seeing now is really the predictable result
of the failure of law enforcement to crack down because of what happened at
the Bundy ranch in April of 2014.

O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to what Marco Rubio said about it today.


SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: You cannot be lawless. We have – we live
in a Republic, there are ways to change the laws of this country and the

And if we get frustrated with it, that`s why we have elections, that`s why
we have people we can hold accountable.

And I agree that there`s too much federal control over land, such we have
in the western part of the United States.

There are states, again, for like Nevada that are dominated by the federal
government in terms of land holding and we should fix it.

But no one should be doing it in the way that`s outside the law.


O`DONNELL: Rick Wilson, responsible commentary by Rubio and Ted Cruz`s
change of tone and content on this one, how do you read that?

WILSON: Well, look, I think that we`ve got to apply the rule of law evenly
across all the parts of the political spectrum.

And you know, conservatives were cheering for, you know, swift law
enforcement response to Ferguson and Baltimore and everything else.

And liberals are cheering, including some that have been calling for, you
know, these – the protesters to be shot by the federal government –

O`DONNELL: No one –


Rick, stop, Rick, stop. No one is calling for those guys in that Wildlife
Refuge to be shot –


WILSON: Jonathan Chait(ph) yesterday – Jonathan Chait(ph) yesterday
tweeted, he`ll take option two of shooting them.

So, people have – and so, I think it`s important to apply the rule of law
evenly across all parts of the political domain.

I think it`s important for – you know, I think it`s not a defense of the
BLM or the absurdity of the federal land holdings in the west of this

To say that if these guys want to change this, they need to go through a
series of political steps and not just at the point of a gun.

And they have a legitimate right to protest, they have a legitimate right
to air their grievances, but if this thing gets loud and they – and folks
die on both sides of this equation, it is not good for the Republic.

O`DONNELL: And Richard Cohen, what should law enforcement do in this

COHEN: Well, I think they need to wait-them-out. There`s no reason to
provoke a confrontation. The Bundy clan will eventually leave and when
they do, I think they should be arrested.

O`DONNELL: And Joy, that`s not what happened last time.

REID: And that –

O`DONNELL: Go ahead.

REID: Not only were they not arrested, but Cliven Bundy`s million dollars
that he still owed in back grazing fees, which was the reason that standoff

The federal government has still not even enforced that. I think that
there`s been a complete failure –

O`DONNELL: They`re pursuing it in civil actions in federal court –

REID: Correct –

O`DONNELL: They`re chasing it, but it`s like – they`re like a bill
collector chasing something –

REID: Exactly, and what lesson have they indeed taught the militia
movements which are multiplying throughout the country.

They simply taught them that there is like essentially a reward or at least
no penalty for literally threatening at the force of arms of the federal

One of the people that is involved in this standoff made – announced on
martyrdom video, telling his family, his wife and children that he was
prepared to die.

That`s the kind of language that`s been used here. And yes, they haven`t
actually committed any violent act.

But when you`re making videos, saying you`re prepared to die – imagine a
Muslim American, a Muslim group making that exact same statement on a

The federal government would have a completely different attitude toward
it. And I think people who are seeing a double standard here are not

They`re watching a double standard unfold on American soil.

O`DONNELL: Richard Cohen, it seems to be kind of a singular standard that
applies only to these kinds of guys when they pull something like this.

COHEN: You know, look, I think everybody realizes that black people in our
country are, you know, bear the brunt of excessive policing.

I don`t think there`s really any question about this. I`m not sure this
particular situation is very analogous to anything else.

I think the point that Joy made is accurate. On the other hand, I hope
that if black protesters took over a building, no one would come in and
start shooting them up when they could easily wait them out.

O`DONNELL: Richard Cohen and Rick Wilson, thank you both for joining us
tonight, appreciate it.

COHEN: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Coming up next, the fight against the Islamic State just got
much more complicated after Saudi Arabia executed a Muslim cleric who had a
strong following in Iran.



O`DONNELL: Saturday was mass execution day in Saudi Arabia. Forty-seven
people were executed by the government in various locations using various
methods, including beheading.

The most controversial victim of the mass execution was a prominent Shiite
cleric named Namir Al Namir. Yesterday in Iran, protesters sympathetic to
the Shiite cleric set fire to Saudi Iranian Embassy. Saudi Arabia then cut
diplomatic ties with the Shiite-nominated Iran Government.

And, now, three Sunni led countries have joined Saudi Arabia in taking
diplomatic action against Iran, Bahrain and Sudan said, they also had
several diplomatic ties with Iran. While the United Arab Emirates has
downgraded its representation with Iran. Today, the White House spokesman
said this.


JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUS PRESS SECRETARY: We do continue to be concerned
about the need for both the Iranians and the Saudis to deescalate the
situation in the Middle East. We are urging all sides to show some
restraint and to not further inflame tensions that are on quite vivid
display in the region.

And, Secretary Kerry has been in touch with his Iranian counterpart, U.S.
Diplomatic Officials in Saudi Arabia have been in touch with their
counterparts to convey this message.


O`DONNELL: Joining us now, Hillary Mann Leverett, former State Department
Middle East Specialist under President George W. Bush and Bill Clinton.
She is the CEO of STRATEGA. Also with us, Ahmed Shibab- Eldin, a producer
and correspondent for Vice. Ahmed, why did Saudi Arabia do this? They had
to know what the reaction would be to this execution.

is the right question to be asking. And, not only did they know. I think
this is another example of how Saudi Arabia is exploiting exploiting
sectarianism in the region in order to advance their own political game.

You know, a lot of people wonder, is this really about Sunni and Shia; of
course, it is to a certain extent. But, there is no denying that Iran and
Saudi Arabia, above being, these symbols of Shia and Sunni powers are two
powers that are vying for influence in the region and have been for

So, I think to your point, this was ill-conceived. It was poorly thought
out. And, I think it will prove to be very counterproductive, just like
the war in Yemen. And, I bring up the war in Yemen because in addition to
being critical of, you know, the Saudi Arabian government and the monarchy,
you know – was recently very critical of the war in Yemen, which Saudi
Arabia has been leading.

And, you know, specifically thousands of innocent civilians have died in
this war. And, I think to your point, Saudi Arabia may very well be trying
to galvanize Sunni support not just for the war but for Saudi Arabia`s, you
know, other endeavors in the region, and at the expense of the stability in
the region. I think it is again just Saudi Arabia being selfish and
perhaps not seeing things through.

O`DONNELL: Hillary, why do you think Saudi Arabia carried out this

Arabia – I think it is part of a broader strategy. I share Ahmed`s view
on this. I think it is part of a broader strategy. I think that Saudi
Arabia has a distinctive and for itself very effective national security

But, it is a strategy that involves arming, training and funding;
especially funding armed militants from Libya to Afghanistan, Yemen to
Bahrain throughout the entire region. It relies heavily on that kind of
strategy. And, using the United States, working with the United States to
implement that strategy.

It is a strategy that has worked incredibly effectively for the Saudis.
More people are starting to question whether this is effective or just
going reckless given particularly this mass e execution. But, I would not
underestimate the Saudis. They have pulled off the strategy effectively
for themselves for years and sustained one of the most dictatorial
autocratic governments the world has ever seen.

O`DONNELL: Let us listen to what Marco Rubio said about this today.


MARCO RUBIO, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Why is this president trying to
portray himself as a neutral arbiter between two countries that are being
in dispute? Saudi Arabia is not perfect but they are not an enemy of the
United States, at least not their government.

Now, there are things they do I am not in favor of and I have strong
problems with. But that being said, they have been a military ally of the
United States in that region. Iran has been our enemy.


O`DONNELL: Ahmed, here is an execution where the guy is killed for what he
has said.


O`DONNELL: Nothing other than words he has spoken and we cannot find a
republican candidate who has any strong objection to that.

SHIHAB-ELDIN: Yes. I mean that is not surprising. Again, you know, just
as we heard, you know, saying that Saudi Arabia is not our enemy. Our
enemy is our ally. You know, we have given them $100 billion in arms in
five years. And, it makes you kind of wonder and ask the question, “Well
how did this region really fall and succumb to all of these sectarianism?”

Of course, it is proceeded to Arab uprising. It is preceded the Iraqian –
the American invasion of Iraq. But, you know, I think we would be lying to
ourselves if we did not admit that Iran and Saudi Arabia are just as they
are in Syria and Lebanon and in many countries in the Middle East, now in
Yemen, are vying for power because there has been a security vacuum. There
has been political vacuum.

And, I think it is important to remember that it was the Iraqi war, the
invasion of Iraq that really allowed for a lot of these things to start to
grow out of control, and allow governments like Saudi Arabia and Iran to
exploit those divisions for their own national gain. You know, if you look
in the mid `80s, you know, the biggest conflict in the Middle East in the
`80s was between Iran and Iraq. Two Shiite powers.

You know, these are two Shiite Governments that at the time were, you know,
butting heads. And, you had Saudi Arabia assisting Iraq against Iran.
And, so, that kind of dispels this notion that everything in the region
should be seen through the secretary lines.

At the end of the day, I think that the reason you do not see republicans
saying that is the same reason you do not see democrats on the flipside
really addressing what the underlying causes are to all these instability
in the region; which I think at the end of the day is the fact that we have
allowed for better or worse knowing we are not for people, whether Abu Bakr
al-Baghdadi, whether the new Saudi King, who is prevalent to be much more
violent and aggressive than the previous King to take advantage of these

O`DONNELL: Hillary, Chris Christie was asked today if he could be in any
way sympathetic to the Iranian reaction to this, given that the man was
executed simply for things that he said. And, Chris Christie said he had
absolutely no sympathies for the Iranian side of this.

LEVERETT: Yes. And, unfortunately, I think that is across the board.
Unfortunately, not even just in the republican camp but among democrats
too. Iran has been so vilified in the American public that it would be
hard I think for most Americans to have sympathy.

But, I think the bigger concern is more of what Marco Rubio said. And, I
think that really is grounded in American love affair with militarism in
the Middle East. And, if we had to somehow have a normal regular
relationship with Saudi Arabia that was not pumping billions of weapons
into their pockets, a normal relationship not based on this militarism,
that would hurt a lot of people here in Washington.

And, we are attached to that to our peril. It was Saudi Arabia back in the
1970s and 1979 that with us started to arm, train and fund Mujahedeen
Afghanistan that brought us Osama Bin Laden and 9/11. So, holding on to
this idea that they are our ally – our military ally has only hurt us and
it will continue to hurt us as we double down on that strategy.

O`DONNELL: That will be the Last Word on it tonight. Hillary Mann
Leverett and Ahmed Shihab-Eldin, thank you both for joining us tonight.

LEVERETT: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, President Obama takes executive action on gun



O`DONNELL: Today, President Obama announced that he is going to take
executive action tomorrow on gun violence. The president made the
announcement in the oval office with Attorney General Loretta Lynch.


PRES. BARACK OBAMA, U.S. PRESIDENT: These are not only recommendations
that are well within my legal authority and the executive branch, but they
are also ones that the overwhelming majority of the American people,
including gun owners, support and believe in.

This is not going to solve every violent crime in this country. It is not
going to prevent every mass shooting. It is not going to keep every gun
out of the hands of a criminal. It will potentially save lives in this
country. And, spare families the pain and the extraordinary loss that they
have suffered.


O`DONNELL: The president will offer more details tomorrow.

Up next, a very, very big, and I mean big, announcement.


O`DONNELL: And, now, for the good news. On New Year`s Eve, David Hagberg
tweeted, “Third year donating to K.I.N.D. in lieu of spending money on
Christmas presents. Lawrence keep promoting. David gets it, helping kids
in need of desks is something that we are going to have to keep doing
because education is a never ending expense.

Through your generosity to the K.I.N.D. Fund, we have been able to double
the number of kids in elementary schools in Malawi, who now get to sit at
desks in their classrooms, but most kids in Malawi are still sitting on the
floor in their schools. We will continue to build desks at factories in
Malawi and deliver them to schools that need desks as long as you continue
to help.

There is no other source of funding for this project. It depends entirely
on the kindness of the last word audience. As most of you know the
K.I.N.D. Fund includes a tuition program for girls to attend high school in
Malawi, where public high school is not free and the girl`s graduation rate
is half the boy`s rate because the few families, who cannot afford to send
the kid to high school are more likely to send one of their boys instead of
one of their girls. T

There are hundreds of girls in high school in Malawi right now. Thanks
entirely to your kindness. You have met some of those girls here on this
show talking about their dreams of becoming doctors, lawyers, nurses,
teachers. Those dreams could never come through without your support.

You can always help by going to And, if you
cannot contribute anything, just tweeting that link or posting it on
Facebook would help. Tonight, I just want to say thank you. Thank you for
your extraordinary outpouring of generosity again this year.

The high point of my year is always my trip to Malawi to deliver desks to
schools and to meet some of the girls we are helping get through high
school. It is a week of long days and long trips throughout the country
and there is nothing quite like the joy of a truck full of desks arriving
at a school.


And, it has been a joy to work on our kind segments this season and I mean
that in more ways than one because they have all been produced by “Last
Word” producer, Joy Fowlin, who joins us now on her last day of service to
the team before she takes maternity leave for the second time. Joy,
fantastic to give us one more night before and it is like next week, right?


O`DONNELL: Its due date.

FOWLIN: On Wednesday is the due date.

O`DONNELL: On Wednesday. I wanted you to be here for the totals. We are
going to announce the totals of what we have done this season. The last
time we updated the audience on the totals was our last show before
Christmas. We were then at total for the program for this since we started
was $9,699,053. So, Joy, give us the update. What is the latest numbers?

FOWLIN: Well, I have them right here and I am going to hand them to you.

O`DONNELL: No. I want you to do it. I want you to have the honor.

FOWLIN: Absolutely, not. This is definitely for you to do.

O`DONNELL: Big secret. You have been hiding this – By the way, this is
why we did not do updates after Christmas because you would not tell me.
All right. The total now of everything we have raised. The scholarships
total is now $1,905,178. The desks tote since we began the program is now
$8,604,870, which brings are total – total – oh boy.

The total we have raised since we began this, $10,510,048. Joy you got us
across the $10 million line. You know, I never look up at goals on this
thing. But, I did not think we were going to make it to $10 million, but
you got us there this year.

FOWLIN: No. Our viewers got us there. They are awesome.

O`DONNELL: Well, you know, you just did a tremendous job of getting us
through this whole thing. We could not have done it without you. I do not
know how I do this show next week without you. Actually, I got to start
tomorrow without you.

FOWLIN: You will be fine. You did it before –

O`DONNELL: I am going to be calling you. I am going to be calling you.
Joy Fowlin, thank you for everything you have done this year. We are going
to be right back.

REID: We will be right back all right. We will be right back, all right.
And, congratulations, joy.


REID: Congratulations K.I.N.D. Fund. Congratulations, Lawrence. We
could not done celebrating; however, for all of you who have watched the
success and the impact of the K.I.N.D. over the years, you are going to
love the surprise. This was the surprise. You love this, right? You are
going to love the surprise that we have.

O`DONNELL: The joy conspiracy.

REID: The double joy conspiracy in full effect.

O`DONNELL: What is – I do not know what you guys are up to.



REID: All right. You have heard about the big news and the big surprise
that we have in store for, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: There has been a coup.

REID: You have been hearing about this – well, it has been a coup for
about 40 minutes. Now, I did surprise him with the news they was going to
be taking over the F block of this show tonight. I have seized control of
the situation just as you have been leaded out at 30 Rock, we are showing
the feds how it is done.

This is the takeover. Now, the suspense is almost over both for Lawrence
and for you at home. Up next, the very fitting way that we are going to
celebrate crossing that $10 million mark right here –

O`DONNELL: Do I stay here? I stay in this chair?

REID: – on “The Last Word” ostensibly with Lawrence O`Donnell.

O`DONNELL: I stay right here?

REID: You can stay.




REID: All right. Guys. It is finally surprise time on “The Last Word.”
Lawrence just announced the amazing news that the K.I.N.D. Fund, thanks to
your generosity at home, has crossed the $10 million mark over the
holidays. Now, it is well on its way to $11 million.

Lawrence has been to that Malawi almost every year since the show launched
but the most important trip was the first one that he took in the summer of
2010 right before “The Last Word” launched.

O`DONNELL: Is this greatest hits?

REID: It is the greatest hits real. potentially. Now, Lawrence went to
Malawi – He is still trying to take back over the show. Lawrence went to
Malawi with a vision to help students, but he was not sure what actually
could be accomplished.

And, there was someone else not sure what to expect either. Someone on the
ground in Malawi – these are your hints, Lawrence. Somebody who took you
Lawrence to the first school to meet the students and to meet the need.

It is someone who helped the K.I.N.D. Fund to make the ideas, to make these
ideas about these desks come true. And, it is somebody who help make the
desks and it is somebody who was there for the very first delivery.
Somebody who has seen this scene of celebration play out in countless

Let us bring out our special guest all the way from the African continent
here to help us celebrate more than $10 million in donations. And, here he
is, tonight`s “Last Word`” guest. Please be welcome, sir and sit down.

O`DONNELL: Thank you so much for coming. So, great that you are here.


O`DONNELL: There would be nothing –

CHINYAMA: It is my pleasure.

O`DONNELL: Absolutely – where are you stationed now? You are not in

REID: OK. Before we let Lawrence talk. Before we let Lawrence talk, it
is my honor to introduce to the “Last Word” audience, Victor Chinyama from
UNICEF. Victor, thank you for being here.

CHINYAMA: My pleasure being here.

REID: Congratulations.

O`DONNELL: There would be nothing without Victor. Nothing. I was in
Malawi for days and I had found – I found no way to have any desks made at
all. Victor took me to this place, what was then a little hardware store.
And, in the back room the Motion who was running that place –


O`DONNELL: – had one desk and one teacher`s desk.


O`DONNELL: And, I said to him, “Could you make me 30 of those?” It was
Wednesday afternoon.


O`DONNELL: “Could you make them by Friday for delivery?” And, he could.

CHINYAMA: Absolutely.

O`DONNELL: And, also the girls` scholarship idea was Victor`s idea.

CHINYAMA: Absolutely.

O`DONNELL: It was his idea. When we came back to do more when my daughter
came, you sat us down and said, “You know, it is time to think about how
you might want to expand” – I could go on and on.

REID: Yes. I want Victor.


O`DONNELL: We would have nothing. It is all Victor.

REID: Well, Victor, I would love for you to explain to those at home who
have not been following this, and of course this audience has been
following it so closely. Thanks to Lawrence.


REID: Explain why it is that people need to donate to get desks and also
to get scholarships for girls in Malawi.

CHINYAMA: Well, it all started with an e-mail, you know. And, then we had
our first meeting with Lawrence. And, we tried to explain what the
situation was in Malawi. Essentially, you had, you know, UNICEF
constructing schools. But we were buying desks, but they were not enough.

So, we said to him, “Look, we have got these schools that we are
constructing and we have got many other schools that in a deplorable
condition.” And, so, we said, “Would you like to see both schools?” And,
so, we went, you know, to a school that had a good classroom structure but
kids for sitting on the floor.

REID: Right.

O`DONNELL: Uh-huh.

CHINYAMA: And, then we went to another school where the roof had been
blown off and there was no concrete on the floor, kids were sitting on the
ground in the classroom, and they were also sitting under a tree.

O`DONNELL: Uh-huh.

REID: And, school is not even free.

CHINYAMA: It is not. Primary school you have to pay. The eight years of
primary school you have to pay. And, so, what happens, essentially, is
kids enroll. And, by the time, they reach 8th, which is like 8th grade,
you know, only one out of four will actually reach. So, they drop out for
many reasons.

But, even worse, very few go on to secondary school. And, it is secondary
school that you find. You know, they have to dig to their pockets to pay
for school fees and so on.

REID: Yes.

CHINYAMA: The challenges are completely huge, you know. And, we
understood very clearly that the desks were going to mean a lot to the
kids. You cannot travel through Malawi, go from school to school and not
see kids sitting under a tree, leaning under a tree.

REID: You know, sitting on the floor. And, they have to jump over
incredible odds. But you know what? They get up every morning, every
Monday through Friday, they are up, they are up going to school.

O`DONNELL: Walking miles, many of them.

CHINYAMA: Absolutely. 8 kilometers without shoes, you know.

REID: Yes.

CHINYAMA: And, sit in a classroom of about 100 other kids. So, it is huge

REID: And, I know that –

O`DONNELL: I am telling you, I would have accomplished nothing without
Victor, absolutely nothing.

REID: Yes.

O`DONNELL: It was his guidance got this whole thing started in the right
way. I had bad ideas about how to do this. He had the right ideas. And,
the girls` scholarship program was absolutely his idea.

CHINYAMA: But, it all incredibly come together. You know, because up to
that point UNICEF had been buying the desks. But, it was not the numbers
that we need. And, so, when Lawrence comes and says “Look, you know, we
can equip these schools with desks –

REID: Yes.

O`DONNELL: Thanks to this audience.

REID: Thanks to this audience.

CHINYAMA: We spoke to government officials and they said this is the
largest procurement we have ever done of desks to this very day.

REID: Yes. And, I have to say that, Lawrence, you know, you are not guy
who focuses a lot on yourself, but you inspired so many people, my family
included to get involved. So, thank you so much.

O`DONNELL: Thank Victor.

REID: And, congratulations, Victor.

CHINYAMA: And, I am here to say thank you to Lawrence.

REID: In deed.

CHINYAMA: And MSNBC and his viewers for their generosity.

REID: Thank you. All right. Well, thank you. $10 million, Victor
Chinyama, Lawrence O`Donnell, congratulations. Chris Hayes is up next.


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