The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell, Transcript 1/14/2016
Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL
Date: January 14, 2016
Guest: Eugene Robinson, David Frum, Jonathan Allen
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: I don`t know if hope – starting tomorrow. So,
I don`t know if hope springs eternal for the convicted governor.
But hope definitely does have a little more spring in its step than it used
to for Bob McDonald.
This is a case we have followed since the beginning, tomorrow may very well
be the biggest day in this case yet.
Watch this space. 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 evening Lawrence –
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening Rachel, thank you, I`ve been
watching the debate, we`re going to talk about it now.
O`DONNELL: The Republican frontrunner for the presidential nomination had
to wait 19 minutes to speak his first word in the debate tonight after the
moderators called on six other candidates before they finally asked Donald
Trump a question about refugees.
But the debate really started at 9:26 p.m. when Ted Cruz was asked about
being a natural-born citizen.
Joining us now, Kasie Hunt, Msnbc political correspondent who`s at the site
of that Republican debate in North Charleston, South Carolina.
Also with us, David Frum, senior editor for “The Atlantic” and Eugene
Robinson, Pulitzer Prize-winning opinion writer for “The Washington Post”
and an Msnbc political analyst.
Kasie, that seemed to be the ignition for this debate tonight, is when that
subject came up, natural-born citizen to Ted Cruz.
And the back and forth with Donald Trump and Cruz went on for at least ten
minutes it seems.
KASIE HUNT, MSNBC POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It went on for quite some time,
Lawrence, and I`m sure it`s going to, no matter what happens in the
remainder of this debate dominate many of the headlines that we`re going to
Cruz in some ways taking this attack to Donald Trump in a stronger way than
we`ve seen some other candidates who tried to go after him on stage.
The back and forth between them showed Cruz standing in many ways, kind of
seeming like an equal to Trump, which has been the main challenge of this
all the way along.
But Trump, you know, at the end of the day made this seem like, you know, a
big overarching issue that he wasn`t necessarily raising himself.
But you know, pointing to lawyers and others who say this might be just,
you know, simply raising the question.
And I think, you know, Trump acknowledged that the reason he`s doing this
now is because Cruz is rising in the polls.
There`s a chance that Cruz might actually do well against him. I think in
a normal election cycle, voters might be put off by someone acknowledging
they`re doing something for nakedly political reasons.
But quite frankly, this cycle has been complete acceptance of that. I
wouldn`t be surprised that that`s perceived as, in fact, a little bit of
honesty from Donald Trump.
O`DONNELL: Ted Cruz tried to once again say that this was a matter of
settled law. And Donald Trump cited Laurence Tribe; a constitutional law
professor at Harvard Law School who was Ted Cruz`s constitutional law
Laurence Tribe first started speaking publicly about this on this program
where he raised doubt about the question of whether Ted Cruz is actually
meeting the qualifications of natural-born citizens to be president of the
Professor Tribe gave us a statement tonight in reaction to what Ted Cruz
said about him on the stage.
Ted Cruz said that he`s not surprised that Laurence Tribe is doing this
because, as Ted Cruz put it, Laurence Tribe is a huge Hillary supporter.
He dismissed all of Laurence Tribe`s scholarship on this matter, simply by
the notion that he`s a huge Hillary supporter.
Here is Professor Laurence Tribe`s response to what he heard on the debate
“I endorsed Obama over Hillary in 2008 and haven`t endorsed anyone for
2016. Cruz is just making things up.
Truth seems to be beyond his reach – very sad.” Eugene Robinson, that`s
Laurence Tribe`s response to what he heard.
How do you think it played in that debate?
EUGENE ROBINSON, COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, Lawrence, I think
basically that any minute spent talking about Ted Cruz`s eligibility on a
debate stage is a good minute for Trump and a bad minute for Cruz.
Cruz is standing there having to explain why he is eligible to be where he
is standing and why he is eligible to run for president.
I don`t think that is good for the Cruz candidacy at all. You know, they
went back and forth.
You could grade the witticisms any way you want. I just think the whole –
the extended discussion probably played better for Trump than for Cruz.
O`DONNELL: David Frum, you have the cross border perspective on this,
being from Canada yourself.
The audience there seems to have been equally divided amongst supporters of
Because in the first round of questioning, every single answer by every
candidate seemed to get the same amount of wild cheering applause.
DAVID FRUM, SENIOR EDITOR, THE ATLANTIC: Right –
O`DONNELL: And on this issue, as it was going back and forth between Trump
and Cruz, there was some booing, there was some cheering.
There was – it was hard to read the crowd. But read for us the Republican
politics of this outside of that debate hall tonight.
FRUM: Well, you had it exactly right. That what Donald – if Donald Trump
wins Iowa and wins New Hampshire, this theory that has been dominating the
party that he`s simply going to melt away somehow.
That becomes very hard to sustain. The great question mark has been, maybe
he won`t win Iowa.
Maybe someone who appeals to the more traditionally religious voters of
Iowa. But maybe Ben Carson of the past, now Ted Cruz.
So, all Trump has to do is shave off a certain number of those from Ted
Cruz. Two percent, four percent, six percent, I forget what it is, it`s
just the moment, it depends which poll you look at.
But he doesn`t have to crush him, he doesn`t have to damage him, he just
has to shave him.
And if he can do that, if he – if Trump wins Iowa, and then I think it`s
pretty generous who will go on to win New Hampshire.
How does this race recover from that. From the point of view of any of the
other Republican candidates.
And Trump, although, I think Cruz was dominant and correct and witty, Trump
continued to sow the seeds of doubt while denying that he was doing it.
O`DONNELL: And Kasie Hunt, does the Cruz campaign point to – if they can
pull out a win in Iowa, where do they point on the electoral map to their
HUNT: South Carolina, Lawrence. Like right where we`re standing tonight.
I mean, the question, I think that overrides a lot of this is if Donald
Trump does in fact lose to Ted Cruz in Iowa, how does Trump personally
react to that?
He isn`t, you know, someone who typically takes well to losing. However,
if he`s able to go in, you know, to New Hampshire in the position that he`s
in now and potentially do well.
The fight is going to come down here. I mean, we`ve seen historically Iowa
doesn`t necessarily make the deciding – be the deciding factor here.
South Carolina has a much stronger history of anointing eventual nominees.
And the reality is that, you know, Trump is pretty strong here, but Cruz
has also, you know, appealed to some of the evangelicals.
He`s also appealing to many of the more libertarian-focused voters that
there might be out there.
And there`s a lot of them actually in South Carolina. Especially if Rand
Paul tends to fall off.
You know, and then from South Carolina, you`ve got Nevada, and then you`re
on to the SCC primary states.
And that`s a place where Cruz has focused a lot of his energy. So, I have
to say, the Republicans are also meeting here.
The RNC is having their meeting in Charleston. And I was over there
earlier today talking to folks.
The discussion has almost come down to, if Trump and Cruz are our choices,
who do we think is more palatable?
I mean, there`s almost – there`s so much less discussion in trying to
figure out who is this establishment guy going to be that we can all get
behind, you know, and try to unite our party.
I think, you know, that could also happen here in South Carolina. The ad
war is extraordinarily intense.
It was a very tough ad from the Jeb Bush Super PAC calling Marco Rubio a
weathervane on immigration.
I was watching the local news last night, I saw it three or four times in
about half an hour, forty five minutes.
So, that may at the end of the day not benefit Jeb Bush, but it could help
take down Marco Rubio potentially for Cruz if he can manage to stay in a
strong position as far as here.
O`DONNELL: The reason we`re talking about South Carolina is that, in the
polls at the moment indicate that Donald Trump doesn`t seem to have any
real problem in winning New Hampshire.
Something is going to have to change there before there`ll be someone else
on top in New Hampshire.
And so Gene Robinson, we`re looking at your home state. We`re looking at
ROBINSON: Yes –
O`DONNELL: Carolina as the one that tells us, you know, who might have two
wins by that time.
Or you know, and as we frequently do, those first two have their own ways
of settling things in Iowa, in New Hampshire.
And then we always turn to South Carolina? How do you handicap a Republican
race when it turns to South Carolina?
ROBINSON: Well, you know, right now, Trump is obviously way ahead
according to the polls.
There hasn`t been a lot of polling – you know, a lot of frequent polling
in South Carolina.
I`m not quite sure, but there`s another interesting moment in tonight`s
debate when Trump was asked in a somewhat chastising tone – are you really
angry like Nikki Haley the governor says, seem to say you are.
And Trump said yes, I`m very angry, the country is being run horribly and
I`m angry about it.
And I point to that because remember what happened four years ago in South
Carolina, the distinguishing characteristic of the Republican electorate in
South Carolina four years ago was anger.
To the surprise of the establishment in South Carolina, and the state ended
up voting for Newt Gingrich, largely on the basis of a very angry anti-
Obama speech and debate performance he had had quite – just a little bit
before the primary.
And so there is this sort of hard edge that South Carolina can sometimes
adopt when it comes to election day.
Again, I think that was another moment that I would say was probably pretty
good for Trump.
O`DONNELL: All right, a quick break here. Kasie Hunt, thank you very much
for joining us from South Carolina tonight, really appreciate it.
HUNT: Thanks Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, Jonathan Allen will join us. He`s going to talk
about why some Democrats are now worried that Donald Trump might be a
tougher candidate than they thought to be in a general election if that`s
what it comes to.
And Tavis Smiley will join us to talk about the little dust-up he had this
week or big one with Donald Trump.
O`DONNELL: In the House of Representatives, how long do you think 15
minutes is? Well, usually, it`s about 30 minutes.
Yesterday, the house was voting on a bill that would limit President
Obama`s ability to lift sanctions on Iran.
And Paul Ryan, speaker of the house, closed the vote at 17 minutes, even
though 130 members of Congress still had not voted.
The bill passed, but house Republicans have scheduled another vote for next
week. Paul Ryan, trying to enforce the 15-minute clock in the house.
Good luck with that, Mr. Speaker. Coming up, why some Democrats are
worried that Donald Trump could be a pretty tough candidate to face in the
O`DONNELL: Joe Biden is not the only Democrat who thinks the unthinkable
is now thinkable, is now possible.
But he is the highest-ranking Democrat who has said that, yes, Donald Trump
could win the presidency.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Yes, I think it`s
possible. And I hope that if were that – were to occur – I hope it
doesn`t because I have fundamentally different views than he does.
I hope that he gets a lot more serious about the issues, a lot more serious
about gaining knowledge about how this nation functions and foreign policy
and domestic policy.
But look, that`s a long way off.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: In “Roll Call”, Jonathan Allen writes, “for a long time,
Democrats seemed content to watch Trump wreak havoc on the Republican
Now, though, it`s clear they`re alarmed at the possibility he could win the
Jonathan Allen joins us now along with Eugene Robinson and David Frum.
Jonathan Allen, I`m starting to hear exactly what you reported, that the –
and look, let`s just concede.
The attitude on Trump across the board with all of us, Democrats,
Republicans, operatives, pundits, has changed over time.
It has had to change over time. The facts on the ground have changed over
But Democrats who used to think what a gift, how lucky could we be to run
against Donald Trump aren`t so sure about that anymore.
JONATHAN ALLEN, POLITICAL REPORTER, VOX.COM: Yes, I think it`s a double-
barreled concern. Number one, they see him as somebody who could win the
presidency in terms of the political map.
And then number two, they`re worried about what he would actually do if he
became president of the United States.
O`DONNELL: And Gene Robinson, there`s a fear among Democrats that Donald
Trump is willing to throw punches that no one else would even think about
throwing or even know how to do.
I mean – and as he came out of the gate talking about Bill Clinton`s past,
Bill Clinton, they`ve never, ever – or Hillary Clinton have never had to
campaign directly against a candidate raising the accusations about Bill
ROBINSON: Right, and look, if Donald Trump – no one should ever say, oh,
no, he`ll never go there, right?
Because he will go there. He has shown – he goes there every time.
And if you look at where he was when he started his candidacy and no one
took him seriously and no one thought he would – he would do particularly
well, look where he is now.
I think anyone who underestimates him as a politician, as someone who has
figured out this sort of disintermediated world perhaps better than other
politicians have, and a way to get his message through.
You know, anybody who underestimates him I think is nuts.
And again, when he gets to the general election, if he does indeed get to
the general election, does anyone thinks for a minute that he will feel
particularly bound by what he said in the primary?
I actually don`t. I think he won`t just sort of slide to the center. I
think he`ll go all over the map wherever he needs to go.
O`DONNELL: Andrea Mitchell raised this with Nancy Pelosi this week. Let`s
listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS: Trump accused by Hillary Clinton of sexism. He
then tweeted out, watch out, if you go there, I`m going to go there.
And then he goes after Bill Clinton and Bill Clinton`s past. And we saw a
noticeable change in Clinton world.
I was out on the campaign and the pulling back, you know, by both Hillary
and Bill Clinton.
It`s a new caution out there, because obviously Donald Trump is a volatile
adversary. How fraught is this with risk for the Democratic Party and for
Hillary Clinton`s candidacy?
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER, UNITED STATES HOUSE OF
REPRESENTATIVES: Well, I believe that Hillary Clinton wants to talk about
the issues that affect people and their everyday life –
MITCHELL: But on the issue of sexism and –
The issue of Bill Clinton`s past, is that fair game? And –
PELOSI: It would be if he was running for president. But he isn`t.
Hillary Clinton is running for president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: David Frum, I have the feeling that Donald Trump isn`t going to
play by Nancy Pelosi`s rules.
FRUM: He`s not going to play by anybody`s rules. We just saw the
Republican candidates on the stage dig themselves in on – hey, 50 caliber
machine guns on for them.
On mega clips of ammunition for that personal flame thrower. I`m locking
myself here on national television.
But Donald Trump has an ability to pivot. For example, on the issue of
healthcare, every other Republican on that stage is committed to – in one
way or another taking healthcare coverage away from millions of people who
have it now.
Donald Trump is capable of saying almost anything. And it`s not just – I
think actually the Clinton sexual issues are – that`s misdirection.
The mother lode of pain and damage is on the financial scandals. The
Clinton Foundation, how the Clintons got so astonishingly rich at a time
when Mrs. Clinton was Secretary of State and likely next president of the
That is – that is – that is the kind of thing that Donald Trump delights
in talking about. He delights in talking about the corruption of the
American political system.
Which the Clintons unfortunately do exemplify. And so that it is – I`ve
forgotten now whose line it is, campaigning against Donald Trump.
It was like driving in a NASCAR race where one of the drivers is drunk.
But he`s not drunk.
He`s just willing to take risks that nobody else is willing to take.
O`DONNELL: Jonathan Allen, if Donald Trump wants to get into talking about
complex financial transactions involving the Clintons, he`s got an awful
lot of complex financial transactions.
He`s got involvement with the mafia and others in building buildings in New
York City. It seems to me that, that would be an area where he would be
happy to have a truce with the Clintons.
ALLEN: I think his strategy is always whenever he`s got a vulnerability to
attack the other side, the other – you know, his opponent for whatever
similar vulnerability they might have to get out there first on it.
And so far, it seems to be pretty effective. Obviously, there`s a lot to
dig into on Donald Trump.
If he makes a general election, I think you`ll hear a lot more about those
But for right now, he`s on the attack so much, I think it`s hard for the
reporters that are covering his campaign to spend a little time digging in
on him because every five minutes, there`s a new tweet making news.
O`DONNELL: Gene Robinson, to the point that Andrea Mitchell was raising,
which was – which was an observable Clinton campaign retreat away from
engaging in any kind of combat with Donald Trump.
Do you have any sense of disappointment among Democrats, among Clinton
supporters who were eager?
Oh, they can`t wait for Bill Clinton to get out there, can`t wait to see
what he has to say about Donald Trump, to discover that Bill Clinton is not
willing now to say anything about Donald Trump.
ROBINSON: You know, to tell you the truth, Lawrence, what I detect from
the Clinton camp right now is paying more attention to Bernie Sanders –
O`DONNELL: Yes –
ROBINSON: Than to Donald Trump.
O`DONNELL: A good reason, yes –
ROBINSON: And you know, they`ve got a primary campaign on their hands now
to seven points in the latest national poll.
You know, and they got to try to win Iowa and New Hampshire or they`re not
going to get the chance to go after Donald Trump.
O`DONNELL: And the electability argument, David Frum, has become complex
for Hillary Clinton since we showed Bernie Sanders actually outperforming
her, and specifically in the matchup with Trump.
He does significantly better than she does.
FRUM: Yes, again, I worry a little bit about polls that ask people
questions they really haven`t thought about until the pollster called them.
And my guess is also the Democratic vote coalesces and that Hillary Clinton
and Bernie Sanders would run more or less the same as (INAUDIBLE) terms.
The real question for Democrats is, mobilization. The Democratic vote
dropped by a little over 3 million votes, between 2008 and 2012.
The Republican vote went up by only 900,000. They didn`t – those voters
did not leave Barack Obama for anybody.
They just weren`t inspired in 2012, they were – in the way they were in
2008. And I think even Hillary Clinton`s best friends will say she`s not
as inspiring a figure as Barack Obama.
O`DONNELL: Gene Robinson and David Frum, thanks for joining us tonight,
really appreciate it.
FRUM: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: Up next, the race, Bernie against Hillary, it could not get
much closer, and it is definitely getting angrier.
And coming up, a report from Mexico about how prison officials are trying
to prevent El Chapo from escaping again.
O`DONNELL: In New Hampshire tonight, Bernie Sanders reminded pundits just
how bad some of us can be at predictions.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D), VERMONT: We were running against a candidate who
was deemed by the media and the establishment as the inevitable nominee.
It turned out that what was considered to be inevitable may not be quite so
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Iowa poll from the “Des Moines Register” and “Bloomberg
Politics” show a tie within the margin of error for Bernie Sanders and
Secretary Clinton is at 42, Bernie Sanders is at 40. Today, Bernie Sanders
released this TV ad that will run in Iowa (AUDIO GAP 00:02:56-59).
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SANDERS: Rules for regulating Wall Street. One says it`s OK to take
millions from big banks and then tell them what to do.
My plan, break up the big banks, close the tax loopholes and make them pay
their fair share.
Then we can expand healthcare to all and provide universal college
education. Will they like me? No.
Will they begin to play by the rules of our president, you better believe
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joe Benneson(ph) of the Clinton campaign told Chuck Todd today
that that is a negative ad.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What we`ve had is Senator Sanders said he wouldn`t run
a negative ad. He`s running them now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining us now Joy Reid; Msnbc national correspondent, back
with us, Jonathan Allen. Joy Reid, there is a higher level of sensitivity
JOY REID, MSNBC NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes –
O`DONNELL: To the definition of negative ad.
This is like the menu at the restaurant. Chicken is doing a negative ad
against steak by saying the two of us are here –
REID: Yes –
O`DONNELL: It`s up to you.
REID: Yes, it`s up to you. You know, it is weird. I find it odd that the
Clinton campaign is running against Bernie Sanders like he really is Barack
Obama in 2008.
The same sort of hyper awareness of his rides, the kind of fear that he`s
going to win Iowa.
And when I think – if you really look at Bernie Sanders and look a what
he`s doing, he`s a lot more like Jesse Jackson in 1988.
He is a candidate who is running on an idea. He is not so much running on
what Barack Obama was running on in `08 which was the audacity of hope.
I, as a basically run-of-the-mill Democrat, left of center, but against the
war, which most Americans at that point were.
Not proposing any radical new ideas, not saying that we`re going to have
I, Democrat Barack Obama, who is just black, that`s my only difference, I
couldn`t win. This could happen.
That is a hope that the base Democratic voters could latch on to. Because
they could also see the realism of it as he won – after he won Iowa.
O`DONNELL: But where would he – where–
REID: Sanders is more like Jackson, he`s –
O`DONNELL: Where would the Obama candidacy have gone if he had not been
recorded as being against the Iraq war.
That was the single –
REID: Right –
O`DONNELL: Biggest governing decision difference –
REID: In fact –
O`DONNELL: Between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. And it was also the
biggest issue of the decade.
REID: And, it was an issue that the democratic coalition and a lot of
republicans and independents turned foursquare against the war at that
point. Finally, the reality of there not being WMD kicked in for the
majority of Americans. And, he was on the side of the majority of
I think Bernie Sanders is too. I think the difference is there is not
stark a difference. She was for Iraq. He was against it. That was a
stark difference. Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton are both running to
the left on economic issues.
REID: It is just that I think for Bernie, the reason I liken him more to
Jesse Jackson is that he is running on a wholesale radical change. And,
just the way we do everything in this country when it comes to economics,
which is super attractive if you are a liberal, but it is not necessarily -
- I do not know. I think people have to get over that hump of whether that
could actually get him elected as President of the United States.
O`DONNELL: Jonathan Allen, it is my impression that Clinton campaigns,
when they are running scared, do not know how to look like they are not
JONATHAN ALLEN, COLUMNIST, ROLL CALL: I see a blip on the radar and they
go running for the nuclear codes.
ALLEN: It is unbelievable. And, you know, look, I do not have any
reporting on this, but I assume that there are people inside the Clinton
Camp that are saying things like, “You know, maybe, we ought to not
overreact to what is going on here.” But, what I do know from a gut level
in having reported heavily on the Clintons before is that this decision is
coming from the top.
O`DONNELL: Let us take a look at what Hillary Clinton said tonight to
Rachel Maddow. And, I got to say, Hillary Clinton is the one person in the
Clinton campaign who to me does not give off the air of running scared.
Let us listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I mean, basically, it is also
a very direct criticism of President Barack Obama who, as you might recall,
took a lot of money from the financial industry when he ran in 2008.
That did not stop him from fighting for the hardest regulations on Wall
Street since the great depression. It is a funny kind of charge. It is
sort of a pox on all your houses for all the democrats. And, I think that,
that is what raised some eyebrows.
(END VIDEO CLIP0
O`DONNELL: Joy, she handles this situation, I think, better than the
campaign around her does.
REID: Yes. She has an air of calm, and that is another difference with
2008. You could feel the alarm and fear and discombobulation in the
Clinton campaign all the way up to Hillary and Bill Clinton in 2008.
REID: Because they were in a place they did not feel comfortable,
essentially running against African-American. They did not even know how
to do it. They were clearly freaked out, particularly when he won Iowa.
And, you could see it and feel it. This time she is running with a calm.
She actually has around her own person, a sort of calm and kind of a
confidence that is actually working but her campaign is behaving as if it
is def-com one.
O`DONNELL: Yes. She is a very confident person especially about things
she has done before.
O`DONNELL: And, in this case, run for president.
O`DONNELL: Bernie Sanders picked up a very local and very important
endorsement in New England from Paul Kirk. Paul Kirk, this is as – this
is one of the versions you can get in this campaign of Ted Kennedy speaking
from the grave.
Paul Kirk was the appointed senator who took Ted Kennedy`s seat, lifetime
friend of Ted Kennedy. Former Chairman of the Democratic Party. Lifetime
Massachusetts resident. Here he is endorsing Bernie Sanders today.
FMRO. SEN. PAUL KIRK, (D) MASSACHUSETTS,DNC CHAIRMAN: Of all the
Presidential candidates, Bernie Sanders is that one voice speaking
consistently, courageously, passionately, and credibly about what he and I,
and I suspect most Americans believe, and that is that the core value of
our democracy have been seriously endangered and need to be renewed by this
I am here tonight to join in this untiring effort. And, as a former
chairman of the National Democratic Party to proudly endorse Bernie Sanders
for our party`s nomination for President of the United States of America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Jonathan Allen, part of the brain trust of the Kennedy machine
with that endorsement.
ALLEN: Well, certainly, the left has fallen in love with Bernie Sanders.
I think what will be interesting to see is – and I think this has been the
issue for Bernie Sanders all along is, is he going to be able to pick up
people of color? Is he going to be able to pick up votes of women in the
You know, Iowa and New Hampshire are very, very white states. And, I think
his support group has been that. I mean this week we saw an endorsement of
Hillary Clinton by Eric Holder, not only the first black attorney general,
but I think a lot of people will argue the attorney general who has done
most for African-Americans and looked out most for African-American
interests during his time, certainly since Bobby Kennedy and probably of
You know, I think that is going to be the challenge for Bernie Sanders.
Can he win Iowa? Can he win New Hampshire? And, then can he start to pull
in a more diverse base?
O`DONNELL: We got to leave it there for tonight, because Joy we got Tavis
Smiley coming in.
REID: Oh, all right.
O`DONNELL: All right. Jonathan Allen and Joy Reid, thank you both for
joining us tonight.
Coming up, we will hear once again from Tarpman, one of those insurgents up
there in Oregon at the bird preserve. And Tavis Smiley will get the “Last
Word” tonight, and it will probably be about Donald Trump.
O`DONNELL: Tomorrow will mark two weeks since armed anti-government
protesters took over a federal bird sanctuary in Oregon. And, tonight, we
have an update from Tarpman. On this program on January 5th, MSNBC
Reporter, Tony Dokoupil scored an interview with one of the armed
protesters. And, Tarpman instantly went viral.
SETH MEYERS, LATE NIGHT SHOW HOST: As you see, OK – in the background,
there is a blue tarp. Now, you might be thinking, “What is under that
tarp?” Supplies? Some firewood? No, the answer is so much better than
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TONY DOKOUPIL, MSNBC NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Over my shoulder is a man
under a blue tarp sitting in a rocking chair with a rifle over his lap.
O`DONNELL: So, there is a guy under that tarp there?
DOKOUPIL: He is a 55-year-old rancher from Arizona named LaVoy Finicum.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MEYERS: That is right, lawman. LaVoy Finicum is under the tarp and I
ain`t ever coming out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Today, MSNBC`s Tony Ddkoupil spoke by phone with LaVoy Finicum,
also known as Tarpman.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
DOKOUPIL (via phone): How do you think the standoff is going? Are we
anywhere near a resolution?
LAVOY FINICUM (A.K.A. TARPMAN), OREGON PROSTESTER (via phone): Well,
remember, there is a specific thing we are trying to accomplish until we
can standoff successfully. We are talking to the Harney County residents,
and the most important thing is that the federal government does not come
back into this building. That is very important that that does not happen.
So, when Harney County residents can come in here and use this facility and
make it theirs and not be under the threat of the federal government and
that is one of the steps that determines how quickly we can get out of
DOKOUPIL: And, if they try to arrest you, is your intention still to
FINICUM: Well, again, I just go back to same setting is that, let us just
do not point guns at each other and let us just – There is no need to go
there. And, this is about not about the tenth amendment. This is about
the states and the counties exercising their rights over their own
DOKOUPIL: There are people who think what you, guys, are doing is a crime
and that you are criminals. What would you say to people who think that
FINICUM: Let us consider who is the real criminal, who is the law abider,
who is the lawbreaker. The federal government has no rights to control
one-third of the land mass with complete legislative authority. That is
repugnant and against the intent of the constitution. So, be clear, they
are the law breakers, not us.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Tony Dokoupil also had the Tarpman how he is enjoying his 15
days of fame.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
DOKOUPIL: What do your wife and your kids think about your newfound role
as a televised celebrity?
FINICUM: Well, you know, people are out there calling me, he is the
Tarpman. I do not know if you heard that.
DOKOUPIL: I have.
FINICUM: And, so, all my kids call and say, “Dad! Dad, that is great.”
They say, “Can we roll with that? Can we make some T-shirts? You are
going to be, you know, like Spiderman, Batman, Superman, Tarpman.”
And, so, I said, “No, I do not want that.” “No, we really want to do it.”
“OK.” So, they are making t-shirts with Superman, or Tarpman. So, I am
known as a super action hero figure. The only difference is I am actually
(END AUDIO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Hollywood, get up there now. You can get the rights to Tarpman
pretty cheap, especially as long as he is still under the tarp.
Coming up, how Mexican officials are trying to keep El Chapo from escaping.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PETER ALEXANDER, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: The most dangerous cartel leader in the
world, head of a notorious Mexican drug operation, responsible for the
majority of drugs smuggled into this country. And, for the second time he
just staged a spectacular escape from prison. Tonight, an international
manhunt is under way for walking Guzman, nicknamed El Chapo.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Tonight, El Chapo is back in the same prison outside of Mexico
City that he escaped from last July. NBC`s Jacob Rascon is in Mexico with
how Mexican authorities plan to keep El Chapo behind bars this time.
JACOB RASCON, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Lawrence, it is one of the great
questions in this story. What is Mexico going to do to make sure that what
happened last July, El Chapo`s elaborate, dramatic and embarrassing escape
does not happen again? We sat down with Mexico`s prison boss, the
commissioner, who said that since the escape, the entire federal prison
system has been upgraded.
Among those upgrades, El Chapo Guzman is being watched physically and
electronically 24 hours a day. He is never left alone. There is no longer
any blind spot in his prison cell. In fact, all blind spots from all
prison cells have been eliminated. There is no privacy, and he does not
stay in one cell either.
El Chapo Guzman has been moved eight times already in a week, nd he will
continue to be moved. And, that is not just true for El Chapo, but for
many of the 23,000 prisoners across the prison system. In addition, the
prison boss tells me that there are now infrared cameras that are connected
to motion sensors on the floor that will help a lot, especially if there is
any thought of building another tunnel, which is how we now El Chapo
escaped lat time .
In addition to that, there are extra personnel and some of the towers.
There are extra vehicles inside. There are extra medical detectors and
drug detectors. A lot of new technology. This prison boss, who sat down
with us exclusively, was put in to his position only months after the last
prison escape, specifically to fix the security problem. He said he did
it. His last words to me were, “I am confident that this will not happen
O`DONNELL: Jacob Rascon, thanks. Coming up, tonight`s “Last Word” goes to
Tavis Smiley, who has had a few words this week about Donald Trump.
O`DONNELL: As Ben Carson is in the middle of the debate, talking about how
he would handle the finances of the United States of America, his National
Finance Chairman for his campaign, Dean Parker, resigned this morning.
Dean Parker has been facing criticism for lavishly spending campaign money
and paying himself $20,000 a month.
“The Wall Street Journal” reports that Carson campaign documents show the
campaign has less than $10 million on hand now, even though they have
raised $43 million over the last six months. Ben Carson is fourth in the
new NBC News Wall Street Journal” poll released tonight. Tavis Smiley will
join us next for tonight`s “Last Word.”
O`DONNELL: Unfortunately, there is nothing but political pundits respect
more than rising poll numbers for candidate. And, so, they tend to give
respectable reasons for rising poll numbers for candidates, reasons that
include the skills of the candidate, the mood of the voters.
And, so, most pundits attribute the astonishing rise of Donald Trump to
anything but race. Tavis Smiley is not a political pundit and so his view
is not clouded by the conventional wisdom of the Sunday shows.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TAVIS SMILEY, “THE COVENANT WITH BLACK AMERICA TERN YEARS LATER”: What
troubles me, though, is that Trump is still to my mind at least, an
unrepentant, irascible, religious and racial arsonist. And, so, when you
talk about how Donald Trump is rising in the poll, you cannot do that as
per the kind of campaign he is running, the issue that he is raising. And,
for us to just say, Donald Trump is rising in the polls and not connect
that to the base message that he is putting out there, I think dismisses
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Donald Trump responded on Twitter saying, “Why does this week
with George Stephanopoulos allow a hater and racist like Tavis Smiley to
race good airtime. NBC can do much better than him.” The “Last Word”
cannot do much better than him.
And, I am proud to say that Tavis Smiley joins us now from Washington. His
new book is “The Covenant With Black America - Ten Years Later.” Tavis,
thank you very much for joining us tonight,
SMILEY: Thank you for the opportunity, Lawrence. Good to be on with you.
O`DONNELL: And, welcome to the honor roll of those attacked by Donald
Trump, lied about by Donald Trump. Is this your first public run-in with
SMILEY: It is. I have met him a number of times. I have never had this
kind of situation. I lack a better word. It kind feels like being on
Nixon`s interview list, Lawrence. So, I am just trying to handle it.
O`DONNELL: Yes. And, anyone who is publicly commenting on the campaign,
who has not made the Trump hate list –
O`DONNELL: I do not think is quite doing the job right. And, I want to
get to what you were talking about on Sunday. I think it is so important.
And, that is, the way the political class especially in the media is trying
to describe this rise of Donald Trump.
One of the principles I think they all begin with, and I do not know
whether this is subconscious. I think it might just be built in, in a way
that they are not quite aware is, what I would call an excessive respect
for the voter.
O`DONNELL: We must never say anything about the voter that is
uncomfortable to hear, that is negative. And, so, I have not heard any of
the discussions, you know, except the one you were in was very good. You
were very good at – it was kind of dynamic.
But, every discussion I have been in about this, I always begin with and do
not have much more to say than 66 percent of Trump`s supporters believe
that President Obama is Muslim. And 60 percent of Trump`s supporters
believe he is not an American citizen and an illegitimate candidate.
And, so, if you take those away, Trump would be polling down around 10
percent. But you cannot take those away because that is the heart and soul
of his support.
SMILEY: Yes. I could not agree more. Put another way, it is one thing to
be uninformed. And, there are plenty of uninformed voters. Again, we do
not want to politically correct way of behaving in this medium. We do not
want to demonize the voter, but I think we have to be honest about it,
It is one thing to be uninformed. It is another thing, Lawrence, to be
misinformed or disinformed. What Donald Trump continue to do is to
misinform and to disinform. So, I could not agree more with your thesis.
Let me add something else, though. I was talking to friends earlier today,
Lawrence. I think I had an epiphany when I was in New York.
I am in Washington, obviously, tonight. But, for the past few days I have
been in Washington – I mean New York, that is on book tour. And, I say
that respectfully, but I think that for all my friends in New York, who are
covering Donald Trump, and I did all the network shows when I was there
It occurred to me that for those who know Donald Trump in New York City and
see this kind of bluster and bullying and bravado all the time, I think to
some degree, Lawrence, they see Donald as just being Donald. And, they
have not made the connection yet, but this is not a fight with Rosie
This is not “The Celebrity Apprentice.” This is not another construction
site he is arguing about, another property he wants to buy. And, so, when
you start bullying and you put that bravado out there and the kind of
bluster and then you add to that this religious and racial animosity, this
is a race for the White House. This is about being the leader of the free
world. And, so, to keep passing this off as Donald being Donald, because
they are sort of used to that, number one.
And, number two, because they come in contact with him in celebrity
circles, they are not doing their job, I think, the way they ought to be
doing it. So, I have said before, I will say it again. It is not just
about covering him. It is about challenging him. Not just about covering
him, but condemning him when he engages in this kind of xenophobia.
O`DONNELL: Yes. You know, Tavis, last week we had on this program, George
Wallace`s 1968 Presidential Campaign Manager, Tom Turnipseed, who said
Donald Trump is George Wallace. This is the George Wallace campaign.
Everything about it stylistically is the George Wallace campaign, has
exactly the same spirit. \
Tom Turnipseed completely turned against what we would call Wallacism of
that era. He became a civil rights lawyer himself, very changed man. But,
I do not remember anybody, you know, where I come from, who was even
slightly confused about why people were voting for George Wallace in 1968.
Nobody tried to make up any fancy explanations for that.
SMILEY: Yes. I do not think, frankly, Lawrence that our colleagues in the
industry, the broadcast business, the news business, I do not think they
are confused either. I think what is happening here is we got a horse
race. And, the media loves covering the horse race. If I can use the
other metaphor, they love covering the cat fight.
I mean, who knew a few weeks ago, a few months ago that the republican
nomination might be decided before the democratic nomination. Everybody
thought that Hillary had this thing locked down. And, so, we may end-up
getting republican nominee before. We get a democratic nominee, but we
love this fighting.
We love the fact that there has been accident on the establishment highway.
We love the fact that we got some outsiders. Trump is entertaining. Let
us be honest, we are getting ratings off of this. We are selling
newspapers. Covering a folk that making a bunch of money.
So, nobody wants this thing to end so quickly because it is entertaining.
It is exciting for us. It is not the same boring ride that we normally
get. As you well know, a lot of folk do not even cover the political
conventions anymore, because they are so predictable. So, this is exciting
to those of us in this industry.
But, we ought to just say that rather than acting like Donald Trump is
doing something miraculous and not connecting the dots to how and why he is
rising in the polls so swiftly.
O`DONNELL: TAvis, quickly, before you go, you run the most thoughtful talk
show in Los Angeles. You have a lot of people from show business come
through. Once again, today, Oscar nomination come out –
O`DONNELL: And it is pretty much an all white show once again.
SMILEY: This is why on those rare occasions when they celebrated as the
year of the black film or the black filmmaker or the black actor or
actress, you cannot get caught up in that hype because one year you got a
few films made, the next year you disappear. We got to get around to
having folks green light projects, who look like America.
O`DONNELL: It is a crime that “Beasts of No Nation” was blocked out of the
SMILEY: I could agree.
O`DONNELL: I want to know about this. Tavis Smiley, thank you very much
for joining us tonight. I really appreciate it.
SMILEY: Thanks, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Chris Matthews is up next live with “Republican Debate
Dokoupil Scored An Interview With One Of The Armed Protesters, And Tarpman
Instantly Went Viral; Mexican Officials Are Trying To Keep El Chapo From
Escaping; Ben Carson`s National Finance Chairman For His Campaign, Dean
Parker, Resigned This Morning; Dean Parker Has Been Facing Criticism For
Lavishly Spending Campaign Money And Paying Himself $20,000 A Month;
Tonight`s “Last Word” Goes To Tavis Smiley, Who Has Had A Few Words This
Week About Donald Trump>
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