The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell, Transcript 2/3/2016

James Pindell, Jonathan Alter, Michael Steele, Wendy Davis, Laurence Tribe, Asra Nomani, Mayor Virg Bernero

Date: February 3, 2016
Guest: James Pindell, Jonathan Alter, Michael Steele, Wendy Davis,
Laurence Tribe, Asra Nomani, Mayor Virg Bernero

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Lindsey Graham says – I don`t know the future
of the Jeb Bush campaign, neither do you.

There`s a good chance he`s still in it for the long haul, he is well-funded
for it if nothing else, and besides what else is he doing, he has no other

But if Jeb Bush does pack it up soon, if he`s toast as his friend who
endorsed him, Lindsey Graham says, at least he can get started on finding
some new friends and maybe that for him will be something worth applauding.





MADDOW: That does it for us tonight, we will see you again tomorrow for
debate night here at the University of New Hampshire.

Now, it`s time for THE LAST WORD with Lawrence O`Donnell, good evening

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Rachel, there`s going to be a lot of
Republican toast in New Hampshire Wednesday morning.


And it`s going to be Christie toast and maybe Bush toast. A lot of toast.

MADDOW: It is toasty up here already. We`ve got three political corpses
in the last 24 hours and we`re just looking for the next one.

O`DONNELL: Rachel, we`ve been collecting possible questions for you for
tomorrow night from Twitter. We`re going to play around with some of them
in the show tonight.

You decide though, it`s all up to you –

MADDOW: Oh, awesome, well done –

O`DONNELL: OK, thanks Rachel –

MADDOW: Thank you Lawrence, cheers man, thank you –

O`DONNELL: Well, two more Republicans dropped out of the presidential race
today and the most gracious and the shortest speech that Donald Trump has
ever given was his concession speech Monday night in Iowa.

And now even Donald Trump has forgotten about that speech.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s just in, now trending, Trumper tantrum.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS: You have tweeted that Senator Ted Cruz stole
the Iowa election.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It was disgraceful. It was a
fraud, I mean, come on, you`re not a baby, Greta –

commander-in-chief, not a tweeter-in-chief.

TRUMP: Actually, I think I came in first.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You`re a loser!


A loser.

TRUMP: Oh, that voter fraud, you know, these politicians are brutal.
They`re brutal.

CRUZ: He had another Trumper tantrum.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think if those two guys beat each other up enough,
they can create just an euphoria(ph) for one or more of the establishment
guys to rise up.

VAN SUSTEREN: So, are you team Trump or are you team Cruz?

BUSH: I`m on team Jeb. Please clap.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You are suspending –


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Suspending your –

SANTORUM: Our campaign as of this moment.

TRUMP: Oh, I love you –

SANTORUM: We decided to support Marco Rubio.

BUSH: Please clap.



O`DONNELL: The Iowa caucus continues to do its job of forcing the
candidates out of the presidential race.

Monday night`s results in Iowa forced Rand Paul and Rick Santorum to
finally come to grips with the fact that neither one of them is going to be
the next president of the United States.

They both dropped out of the presidential race. Today, Rick Santorum
endorsed Marco Rubio and Rand Paul still doesn`t know who he wants to be

Chris Christie has not yet announced exactly when he will announce that he
is dropping out, but it will probably be no later than the day after the
votes are counted in New Hampshire next week.

Now, we all knew Donald Trump was going to hate being a loser, and so we
were all very surprised at how gracious his concession speech was in Iowa
Monday night when he lost to Ted Cruz.

We were surprised to see Donald Trump delivering exactly the kind of
concession speech political professionals would have advised him to give.

For Trump watchers though, he performed it well. Donald Trump clearly
hated giving that speech.

The proof being it was the shortest speech of his life. He rushed off the
stage and out of Iowa as fast as he could.

But Donald Trump`s handlers cannot control his Twitter finger and today,
Donald Trump decided he just couldn`t leave Iowa behind him and started
attacking Ted Cruz for stealing the election there.

So, tonight, with less than a week to go before voters go to the polls in
New Hampshire, Donald Trump is still trying to win Iowa.


TRUMP: I think what he did is disgusting. He said that Ben Carson, who is
a fantastic guy, had dropped out of the race during the caucus, he had
dropped out of the race and vote for Ted Cruz.

All of those people, come and vote for Ted Cruz and many of them did. I
think it was a disgrace that he did it and I don`t think it should be even

I think those votes should be taken away and there were plenty of them.


O`DONNELL: Donald Trump used all of those appearance time on “Fox News”
tonight to remind people that he lost in Iowa.


TRUMP: No, it`s not a mistake. He did it on purpose. I mean, come on,
you`re not a baby, Greta.

He did it on purpose. And then he apologized after all the votes were

That`s thousands of votes that were taken away, which by the way would have
given me, in my opinion, would have given me the election.

Because you know, when the people went in, I won by four or five points.
Now, I was very happy in second place because a lot of people thought I
shouldn`t even go to Iowa and partake, and I came in second place.

But I`ll tell you what, I think what he did was a fraud and what he did
with the voter violation statement looking like it came from a government
was a fraud, and I think it`s a disgrace that he did it.


O`DONNELL: Remember, this is the same guy who said this 48 hours ago.


TRUMP: I want to congratulate Ted and I want to congratulate all of the
incredible candidates –


O`DONNELL: Ted Cruz is using Donald Trump`s latest tantrum as proof that
Donald Trump is far too emotionally unstable to be commander-in-chief.


CRUZ: We need a commander-in-chief, not a tweeter-in-chief. We need
someone with judgment and the temperament to keep this country safe.

I don`t know anyone who would be comfortable with someone who behaves this
way having his finger on the button.

I mean, we`re liable to wake up one morning and Donald, if he were
president, would have nuked Denmark. That`s not the temperament of a
leader to keep this country safe.


O`DONNELL: Joining us now, Michael Steele, former Republican Party
chairman and an Msnbc political analyst.

Wendy Davis, former member of the Texas State Senate, and Jonathan Alter,
Msnbc political analyst and columnist for the “Daily Beast”.

Michael Steele, can Donald Trump cry-baby his way to the nomination in your





Shortened sweet answer, Lawrence, no. Look, OK, so get it out of his

The reality is now I think hit Donald Trump that, yes, a lot of people play
for keeps in this sport and losing is a big part of it.

As we`ve seen candidates drop to the way side in just the last 24 hours.
So, he needs to get this out of his system and hopefully, the day is that
and focus on how he`s going to win.

Because polls are now beginning to show he`s losing ground in New
Hampshire, and Rubio and Cruz are tightening the noose around him.

So, this is a real test of whether or not he`s built to actually run for
the presidency or whether or not this was just a Summer fling that turned
into a fall fancy that, you know, was something that ended in Winter.

O`DONNELL: Wendy Davis, given that you`ve been watching Ted Cruz in Texas
longer than any of us have, how shocked are you that the Cruz campaign sent
out a lie saying that Ben Carson was dropping out of the race.

They sent out that message during the caucuses and then urged people within
the caucuses who would be Carson supporters to switch over to Cruz?

WENDY DAVIS, FORMER TEXAS STATE SENATOR: Not shocked at all. This is part
and parcel of the character of Ted Cruz.

In Texas, it`s a little bit on the opposite side trying to suppress votes
and using tactics that try to keep people at home.

But clearly here in Iowa, what he was doing was trying to make sure that he
forced as many people out as possible.

That mailer that he sent out misrepresented itself. It looked as though it
was something from the government.

It actually called people`s attention to a possible voter violation and
used intimidation to try to get people to actually show up.

I`m sure that he in his vast modeling had modeled those folks and
understood that they were likely his voters if he could get them to come.

He`s a very sly politician, and he`s going to use every trick in the bag to
be able to win this election.

I think that the mistake that Donald Trump made was to play right into his

And instead of letting third parties maybe point out these possible
violations, this possible voter fraud, he took it upon himself to begin to

And allowed Ted Cruz to do exactly what he`s doing right now, which is to
call into question Donald Trump`s temperament and his ability to actually
serve as president.

O`DONNELL: Jonathan Alter, Ted Cruz is the only campaigner who comes out
of Iowa being accused of unethical behavior on two counts.

One is this mailer that seemed to be threatening people that they had to go
and participate in the caucuses.

The other is what he did on Ben Carson with lying that he was dropping out
of the race.

Sometimes cry-babies are right. Sometimes the things they`re crying about

ALTER: Yes –

O`DONNELL: Are right. But –

ALTER: Right –

O`DONNELL: When it`s your top two candidates in a presidential race within
a party, is it possible that people hearing about what the cry-baby is
talking about think Cruz was a bad guy for doing that and they don`t like
Cruz and then, oh, they don`t like the cry-baby?

Are both of those results possible here?

ALTER: Yes, which would help Marco Rubio.


ALTER: I mean, that`s why I think the odds have kind of gone back to where
they were a couple of months ago, where Rubio I think is now the favorite
for the nomination.

Because he has a path you can see between these two vipers, and there are a
lot of, you know, more reasonable Republicans who think that both Trump and
Cruz have disqualified themselves from the presidency and they`re moving
now to Rubio.

So, you can sense that happening. But before we get there, Donald Trump is
not going to go down without a fight.

And next Saturday night, this coming Saturday is going to be great
television on “WMUR”, their debate in New Hampshire.

Because you know, Trump now has a blood feud with Cruz, because he feels
that Cruz really did him dirty.

And he will spend a tremendous – I think even though Trump is a cheap
skate, he will now spend a tremendous amount of money to do anything he can
to destroy Ted Cruz.

It`s not like Jeb having low energy or something.

O`DONNELL: Right –

ALTER: I mean, this is something where you – and also, he`s also going to
(INAUDIBLE) cog Rubio on immigration because Rubio isn`t the gang of eight,
and that`s where he`s vulnerable –

STEELE: Yes, but –

ALTER: From Trump, so they`re both those things on Saturday.

STEELE: Yes, I was going to say, the other thing to what Jonathan is
saying is not just what Ted Cruz or Trump does, specifically Trump.

It`s also what you see Chris Christie beginning to do, and what I suspect
you`ll see Kasich and Jeb Bush do as well.

They recognize – the three of them, that their pathway is blocked by
Rubio, and in order to disrupt this 3, 2, 1 strategy, coming in third in
New Hampshire, second –

ALTER: Yes –

STEELE: In – I mean, third in Iowa, second in New Hampshire and first in
South Carolina.

The Rubio strategy, they need to block him. So, you`re going to see a
whole lot of back and forth in this debate unlike anything I think we`ve
seen before, and it will be a real test to see how –

DAVIS: I think that`s true –

STEELE: They hold their temperament and how they –


STEELE: Expand on the noise.

O`DONNELL: Go ahead Wendy –

DAVIS: Right, I think that`s true. It`s fascinating to watch who the
victim of the week is going to be in this Republican primary, and clearly I
think we are going to see some real fireworks between Cruz and Trump here.

But we`re also going to see these other candidates jumping on board in a
very strong way, trying to suppress what they see as Marco Rubio`s rise and
the potential that he is going to be the nominee.

And their last ditch effort for those who are left in New Hampshire to try
to quash his popularity and try to move themselves forward in some way.

O`DONNELL: And Michael, it may be that this week, a bunch of these
candidates eliminate themselves from any future role in this Republican

Meaning, no speaking slot at the convention. If it`s a Rubio convention,
Chris Christie has already knocked himself out of that, just name-calling
against Rubio with this boy in the bubble imagery –

STEELE: Sure is –

O`DONNELL: And all this stuff. And some of the others might find
themselves in that spot.

I mean, certainly, Donald Trump could find himself in a position where they
just can`t have him at the convention based on what he has said about the

STEELE: Well, I think that depends on how far Donald Trump goes, and quite
frankly, I don`t think Christie cares one way or the other.

His goal is just going to be the guy who`s standing on the stage receiving
the nomination.

But I think you make a good point, but they`re not thinking about that
right now. This is – this is the blood and guts of getting to that spot
where you grab momentum.

Remember, these – none of these folks have really had any momentum for the
last nine months except for Rubio in the last couple of weeks.

So, this is the chance for them to really grab a spotlight that has eluded
them up to this point.

And right now, Rubio is in the way on one lane and Ted Cruz is in the way
on the other. Donald Trump has always been in the way, they haven`t figured
that out.

They`ll deal with that one later if he`s still there, but right now these
two obstacles have got to be dealt with by the governors.

ALTER: It`s just amazing to me that this is the party where Ronald Reagan
said the 11th commandment is –

STEELE: Oh, please –

ALTER: Do not attack –

O`DONNELL: There`s no commandment –

STEELE: Oh, Jonathan –

O`DONNELL: Anymore –

STEELE: Please –

ALTER: I mean, this is now gone – this is now gone –


From very vigorous speech, from – each roller derby –


ALTER: Now –

O`DONNELL: Commandments are gone –

ALTER: It is rough. We`ve never seen anything quite this rough in
presidential politics.

O`DONNELL: Michael Steel –

DAVIS: That`s true –

O`DONNELL: And Wendy Davis –

DAVIS: That`s true –

O`DONNELL: Thank you both very much for joining us tonight.

STEELE: You got it –

DAVIS: Thank you –

O`DONNELL: Appreciate it, thank you. Coming up, the Illinois Board of
Elections has just ruled on Ted Cruz`s eligibility for their presidential
primary ballot.

Harvard law Professor Laurence Tribe will join us. And we`re less than 24
hours away from the Msnbc Democratic debate, the first one-on-one debate of
the season.

Coming up, I`ll have the questions that you want Bernie Sanders and Hillary
Clinton to answer, the questions that you`ve sent us today.

Maybe we can get them into the debate tomorrow night. And the best
political speech today did not happen on the presidential campaign trail.

Senator Elizabeth Warren takes on America`s two legal systems.


O`DONNELL: A federal grand jury in Oregon has indicted Ammon Bundy and ten
others who participated in an armed takeover of a federal bird sanctuary.

The indictment is sealed, but federal prosecutors say the charges will be
made public later this week.

Bundy and many other participants were arrested January 26th, during a
confrontation with law enforcement in which LaVoy Finicum, one of the
protesters there was shot and killed.

Four occupiers have refused to surrender which makes this the 33rd day of
the standoff there. Coming up, the Illinois Board of Elections rules on Ted
Cruz`s eligibility to be on the presidential ballot.

The professor who taught constitutional law to Ted Cruz, Harvard`s Laurence
Tribe will join us next.


O`DONNELL: The Illinois Board of Elections has rejected a challenge to Ted
Cruz`s eligibility to be on the state`s presidential primary ballot.

That challenge came from Illinois lawyer on the grounds that Ted Cruz is
not a natural-born citizen as the constitution requires for eligibility to
be president of the United States.

The Illinois Board of Elections said the candidate is a natural-born
citizen by virtue of being born in Canada to a mother who was a United
States citizen at the time of his birth.

The Illinois Board of Elections decided that Ted Cruz fit the definition of
natural-born citizen because he “did not have to go through a
naturalization process at some point after birth.”

In January, the New Hampshire Ballot Commission rejected a similar
challenge to Ted Cruz`s eligibility, but recognized that the definition of
natural-born citizen is not settled law.

And said that the courts should settle the matter so that, “all election
officials and the American people know once and for all the definition of
natural-born citizen.”

Joining us now is Laurence Tribe, professor of constitutional law at
Harvard Law School.

And Professor, I feel I have to give you a political Miranda warning that
anything you say here can and may very well be used by a presidential
candidate out there in the field.

So, let`s –

a lawyer, too?


O`DONNELL: I think – I think you can go pro se and you`ll do just fine.
Professor, your reaction to the decision in Illinois?

TRIBE: Well, I think the Illinois Board of Elections doesn`t know what
it`s talking about.

Actually, I`ve read their opinion. They say that for a century, this issue
has been settled, there`s no problem, not even worth discussing.

Well, obviously, that`s wrong. Law professors and scholars all over the
country are discussing it, more and more are concluding that he is not a
natural-born citizen.

I simply said it`s unsettled. I think the New Hampshire guys were right
that a court really needs to settle it.

But when the Illinois Board of Elections just kicks this can of worms down
the road and ducks so that nobody can hold it to account the way they could
if they had ruled the other way.

It`s not showing much courage or much wisdom and certainly no legal

O`DONNELL: What options did they have, do you think?

TRIBE: Well, I think they could have basically set up a test case by
saying we will not allow him to be on the ballot, at least provisionally.

Then Ted Cruz would have had to come out of hiding and sue them to get on
the ballot and that would have set up a test case.

Or if they were to get to rule the way they did, they could at least have
been honest and said this is a serious question, but we`re doing the best
we can in resolving it this way.

But basically, you know, telling an untruth, saying that it`s clear,
there`s no problem, just move along, that really was duplicitous, and it`s
not worthy of a state election commission.

O`DONNELL: So, in your view, the New Hampshire board handled it in a
better way, saying, we`re going to allow him on the ballot, but this is
unsettled and we need guidance on this, we need the court basically to make
– to give us guidance on this?

TRIBE: That`s right, I mean, at least that was honest –


TRIBE: Somebody – some official at some point in this process may well
say that he doesn`t belong on the ballot, either during one of the
primaries or if he were to become the nominee in the general election.

And at that point, clearly, he or the Republican Party would have to take
that public official to court and it would end up in the Supreme Court of
the United States, where it could go either way.

I mean, this is not an open and shut question. That`s the one thing that`s
clear about it that it`s completely unclear.

Many law scholars have said we`ve studied it, I`ve studied it carefully,
and I`ve said that the irony is that if you are a very strict reader of the
constitution, you`ll probably go against Cruz.

So, if you are a reader of the constitution who views it really narrowly
the way Cruz says he does, then he`s not eligible.

If you read it more generously, like, you know, the way liberals like me
tend to read it, then you might well rule for him.

So, he is basically stuck in a catch-22. If his theory of the constitution
is right, he doesn`t belong in the presidency.

He`s not eligible. If his theory of the constitution is wrong when it
comes to basic human rights, gay rights, racial equality, gender equality,
privacy, if his theory is wrong, then maybe he does belong on the ballot.

He could take his pick.

O`DONNELL: Professor Laurence Tribe, thank you once again for giving us
your guidance –

TRIBE: Thank you Lawrence –

O`DONNELL: On this matter, really appreciate it.

TRIBE: My pleasure.

O`DONNELL: Coming up next, on the eve of Msnbc`s Democratic debate, your
questions for Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You mentioned the word debate. People need to be
debating the issues.

Are you going to be participating in the debate with Hillary Clinton
tomorrow night?

is yes, and you know that I have always wanted more debates and Secretary
Clinton in the beginning was not so interested in more debates.


O`DONNELL: And so, it`s on. At this hour tomorrow night, the Democrats
will be debating in New Hampshire right here on Msnbc.

The first one-on-one debate of the season, where it`d be either one of the
parties. Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders will be facing questions from
Rachel Maddow and Chuck Todd from 9:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. Eastern.

Back with us for a debate preview, Jonathan Alter also joining us, James
Pindell, “Boston Globe” political reporter.

Now, we solicited some questions on Twitter today, got some good ones.
Now, I want to use a couple to give examples of what I don`t like in debate
questions and what I like.

Melanie(ph) gave us a question that comes from a very nice place in her
heart, she says, “how will you unite the nation if you become president.”

That is exactly the kind of question I would never ask, because – no, it
just invites one of these sermons –

ALTER: Yes –

O`DONNELL: You know, of utter –

ALTER: Yes –

O`DONNELL: Totally empty –

ALTER: Yes –

O`DONNELL: And you just giving away the time to the –

ALTER: Yes –

O`DONNELL: And now, they would both do it. Here is one that I really

This one is, “ask Hillary if it were politically feasible, would you prefer
single-payer healthcare to Obamacare?”

In others words, Jonathan, would she prefer, you know, Bernie`s idea since
she`s always said going back 20 years, she does think that that`s the best
way to do it, it`s just politically impossible to do it.

ALTER: Right, and if you look back at what they call Hillarycare in 1994,
it more resembled a single-payer system.

Although it wasn`t the full Canadian system, she`ll have a good answer to
that, and then will relate to the fact that there`s not an appetite there
on the part of the American people to move to this.

And too many people would be thrown off the health insurance that they
like. Millions and millions of people would lose their insurance and then
would go on government insurance.

They don`t want to do that, it`s not politically possible, she`s the
candidate of what`s possible, not necessarily what`s ideal.

And, she would – that is an important theme for her is this in some ways a
theory of change discussion that Sanders and Clinton are having. And, she
has a more pragmatic theory of change and I think she would go to that on
her answer to that question.

O`DONNEL: James, what are you hoping to see in the debate tomorrow?

important moment in this contest. Bernie Sanders is clearly up in New
Hampshire, but it is the only state left that he is up in. He is up in,
basically, two states, Vermont and in New Hampshire.

I think what Jonathan said was very important. I mean, I think the key
questions here is not so much the heart and soul of the Democratic Party as
everyone has to say, but I think it is really about the Obama legacy. I
mean what do you think this Obama moment meant?

I mean you think that the Obama presidency was transformational, has moved
this country left and democrats are left with the choice. Do they think
that they need to lock down this Obama legacy, the Obamacare and a number
of other things and then maybe tweak them a little bit here and there?

That is the Hillary argument. Or do they need to make another step,
another big leap more to the left and push a little bit more. I think that
is really the context of this contest right now. And, I think that is
something we are going to see on the stage tomorrow night.

O`DONNELL: What is odd about this whole thing is I think as highlighted by
one of the tweet questions – tweeted questions we got today, tony tweeted.
Given Obama`s difficulties with the GOP, what makes Bernie feel will feel
differently. You can also substitute the word Hillary there, because I
have not heard either one of these candidates say a single thing that Paul
Ryan`s House of Representatives will even have a hearing on, never mind to
have a vote on.

ALTER: Yes, but I mean before you can get to the republicans, Bernie
Sanders is not a democrat. And, it is really hard to be an effective
president if you do not have your own party.

O`DONNELL: How do we not talk about a republican congress when we talk
about a democratic president?

ALTER: Well, you have to talk about that especially – Well, Hillary is in
a position where she can use some of her skills and her relationships to
build bridges across the aisle. Sanders did that on veterans, but in most
cases, he would not.

So, he is talking about a 10 or 15 year project to change the whole context
of American politics before anything would happen in a Sanders
administration. So, it is a little bit of a – your heart versus your head
question. But the challenge for Hillary is what are her big ideas, her
aspirational ideas?

People do not vote on experience. They do not vote on, “Oh, I will bring
you some incremental fixes”. They want to know where you are going to take
the county and what your vision of the future is. And, she is still too
focused on the past. She is too much of a 20th candidate and this is a
21st century campaign.

O`DONNELL: And, congress is all about compromise. Go ahead, James. Go

PINDELL: No. I was going to say, I hear something different. I do not
hear this – I agree with Jonathan, the fact that I do not hear her or you
talking about how they are going to compromise with republicans. I think
the argument right now from Hillary is, “I will fight with republicans”.

Bernie Sanders is giving an argument that is not even an argument. It is
not a way to fight with republicans. You hear her use the word fighter so
often here in New Hampshire and obviously you heard it in Iowa.

She has a credibility that you may not like me, that her poll numbers show
that you may not even trust me. But, with the one thing you do know about
me is that I will fight tooth and nail with republicans and the same
republicans who fought with tooth and nail with president Obama.

O`DONNELL: And, if republicans continue to control the legislative process
in either body, when she fights with republicans –

ALTER: They are going to have the house.

O`DONNELL: All right. Let us agree they are going to have the house.


O`DONNELL: So, what is Paul Ryan going to surrender to Hillary Clinton on?

ALTER: Well, you know, if you actually look at what has happened,
especially in lame duck sessions, but often at the end of the year over the
last seven years when there is not a lame duck, the democrats and
republicans have gotten a series of things done together as recently as a
month ago. You know, so there –

O`DONNELL: But, it is basic government maintenance. It is not anything
more than that.

ALTER: Right. But, I mean, you could envision them getting something done
on infrastructure, on certain kinds of public investments. I do not think
it is impossible to get anything done in eight years, but what we have to
look at is who can begin to move the ball down the field? And, I think
that is where Clinton has an advantage.

Sanders today said that you cannot both be a moderate and a progressive.
Well, almost every democratic president from Harry Truman to Barack Obama
has been both a moderate and a progressive. For him to say they are
mutually exclusive to set up that kind of, you know, dichotomy in the
Democratic Party that you cannot be both moderate and progressive, I do not
think that is going to sit well with democrats.

O`DONNELL: All right. We got to break it there for tonight. James
Pindell, thanks for joining us tonight. Jonathan and I will see you up in
New Hampshire this weekend.

ALTER: Good.

PINDELL: Thank you. See you then.

O`DONNELL: Coming up President Obama visited an American mosque today,
first time during his presidency. And, the house of representatives began
its investigation of the crisis in Flint, Michigan.




DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Donald J. Trump is calling for a
total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our
country`s representatives can figure out what the hell is going on.



O`DONNELL: Perhaps in response to that, today President Obama gave a
speech at the Islamic Society of Baltimore. It was his first visit to a
mosque in the United States during his presidency.


freedom of religion and I am speaking now to my fellow Christians, who
remain the majority in this country, we have to understand an attack on one
faith is an attack on all our faiths.


And, when any religious group is targeted, we all have a responsibility to
speak up. And, we have to reject a politics that seeks to manipulate
prejudice or bias and targets people of religion.


O`DONNELL: The president had this message for young people.


PRES. OBAMA: I want to speak directly to the young people who may be
listening. In our lives, we all have many identities. We are sons and
daughters and brothers and sisters. We are classmates. We are cub scout,
troop members. We are followers of our faith. We are citizens of our

And, today, there are voices in this world, particularly over the internet,
who are constantly claiming that you have to choose between your identities
as a Muslim for example or an American. Do not believe them. If you are
ever wondering whether you fit in here, let me say it as clear as I can as
president of the United States, you fit in here, right here. You are right
where you belong. You are part of America too. You are not Muslim or
American, your Muslim and American.



O`DONNELL: Joining us now, Asra Nomani, a co-founder of the Muslim Reform
Movement and the author of “Standing Alone: An American Woman`s Struggle
For the soul of Islam”. And, back with us, Jonathan Alter. Asra, I would
like to get your reaction to the president`s speech today.

actually watch the president`s speech as it was happening, because I was
standing outside on Johnny Cake Road by the police security barriers,
protesting President Obama`s presence at that mosque.

While his words are wonderful in theory, what he does not seem to
understand is that many of us as Muslim women try to go into these mosques
as places where we believe we belong, and we are told to go through back
doors and to go through back stairwells into basements and into balconies.

And, I am not speaking only hypothetically, because on Sunday I went to
that Islamic Society of Baltimore, I walked through the front door, asked
to go to the prayer hall. I was led to the third floor, where there is
this darkened space. It looks over the beautiful majestic space that you
can see President Obama speaking in.

All of those people who are there, are allowed entry on this special
interfaith day. And, women are unfortunately barred in two out of three
mosques in America when conditions that are separate and unequal.

And, on that Sunday what I witnessed standing at the doors of the main
prayer hall, which President Obama stood there today and spoke, I watched a
woman tell the girls to go pray in the gymnasium, in those darken space
below the basketball hoops. And, the boys got to go pray into that
beautiful space in which president Obama stood.

And, so, I think while his words are wonderful in principal, what they do
not reflect is the struggle that we are having within our own faith for the
soul of Islam. And, unfortunately, the President Obama has taken sides
with the hyper conservatives interpretation of Islam that then targets
liberals and mainstream and feminists within our own faith. And, that is
the real tragedy to me.

O`DONNELL: Jonathan.

ALTER: You know, with all due respect to my “Daily Beast” colleague, Asra.
I strongly disagree with what you just said as it applies to the
president`s visit. You know, I am Jewish. And, Orthodox Jews have the
same kind of separation in their synagogues. It is horrible. I think it
is a blight on my faith that they do that. But, that is not what the
president`s appearance was about.

NOMANI: I understand what you are saying.

ALTER: He spoke very eloquently to something that is important for non-
Muslims to understand. It was a message to non-Muslims as well as to
Muslims. He was not trying to settle various disputes within Islam. He
was trying to talk about what it means to be an American. And, this is
something we need to hear now very much. I think we are going to miss this
man when he leaves the presidency.

NOMANI: You may need to hear this –

ALTER: Not me.


ALTER: Other Americans need to hear it.

NOMANI: Well, I will tell you I am an American and I did not need to hear
that message, because I feel very comfortable in this country. I feel very
safe. But where I do not feel safe is going into my mosques. We are
afraid when we go into our mosques. We are afraid of walking into the
shadows of men who are going to scold us?

And, I am going to tell you something, Jonathan. If there was a church
that said that blacks had to pray in a balcony, and that there was a
president that went to that church and said that it was a never issue that
we need to discuss that is of greater importance, we would all be
disgusted. And, you even ironically called it a blight. For anybody to
then endorse a space in which we have such strong words as that, I think it
is a real tragedy.

ALTER: He was not endorsing space. He was not endorsing that gender
segregation. That was not the president`s discussion.

NOMANI: I can tell you that for those of us standing outside including my
83-year-old father, who has fought in our own Mosque in Morgantown, West
Virginia for the right of woman to have presence in those spaces, it was a
very great insult. And, I will tell you something else. To throw women
under the bus like that is a real tragedy.

And, to me, it is really ironic especially the time when the president is
pushing for equal pay and is pushing for greater benefits for women in the
military. This is the tragedy for all times for women. We are always
thrown under the bus.

We were the last to get the right to vote in America. And, today, I am so
sad to be hearing from you as a colleague the same kind of evaluation that
ends up saying, “You know what? Your values, your needs are not as
important as these greater needs.”

O`DONNELL: Asra, can I ask you quickly before – we are running out of
time. Could the White House have chosen a better location for a speech
like this?

NOMANI: Unfortunately, like I said two out of three mosques in this
country have these kind of blightful conditions as Jonathan just actually
put forward. We have some that are more liberal and more mainstream, if
you ask me. To values of Islam, it would have been very difficult, but I
think he could have found a better choice. And, you know what? Why not
just have a lovely potluck dinner anyway? Why do you have go to a mosque.

ALTER: He has done that in the past. He has done the potluck dinners in
the past.

NOMANI: You know what, that is great. Do it again. Do it again.

ALTER: I think this was an important message to send. It was also given
the political context in the attacks by the republicans. Donald Trump
today said he felt – Obama felt comfortable at the mosque.

NOMANI: It was a very tragic symbol.

ALTER: That is the level of rare attacks. And, I think he is trying to
say to them – he is trying to push back and say to all of them to the
entire Republican Party and the American people, Muslims are Americans too.

NOMANI: We know that. We know that we are Americans.

ALTER: You might know it, but they do not. Donald Trump does not know it.

NOMANI: You know what. We do not need to speak to Donald Trump in order
to find our agenda.

ALTER: You need to speak to his voters.

NOMANI: And, I find it unfortunate that we end up having to make political
calculations, especially when Islam is being battled on such a political
battle. We need to return to issues of faith and spirituality. And, this
ended up becoming just another political agenda. And what ends up coming -
- what becomes the issue at cost then? All of the noble efforts for reform
that many of us are fighting to do.

And, so tonight just hours after coming back, rain drenched from that
street on Johnnycake Road. What happened on Twitter now, I am being
attacked as the islamphobe and the anti-Muslim that this politics want to
try to generate. And, what we have to do is come back to a place where we
support reformers that want to pursue the progressive values of America.

O`DONNELL: All right. We are going to have to leave it there for tonight.
Asra Nomani, thank you very much for joining us. And, Jonathan Alter,
thank you for sticking with me with our show tonight. I appreciate it.

ALTER: It is my pleasure.

NOMANI: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, the best presidential candidate the democrats have
who is not running for president.



O`DONNELL: The most powerful political speech given today was not given in
New Hampshire or anywhere on the presidential campaign trail. It was given
by the most prominent senator, who chose not to run for president this


SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN, (D) MASSACHUSETTS: We have one set of law on the
books, but there are really two legal systems. One legal system is for big
corporations, for the wealthy and the powerful. The second system is for
everyone else.

In this second system, whoever breaks the law can be held accountable.
Government enforcement is not timid here. It is aggressive. Consequences
be damned. Just ask the families of Sandra Bland, Freddie Gray and Michael
Brown about how aggressive they are.


O`DONNELL: Senator Elizabeth Warren spoke this morning about a new report
issued by her office entitled, “Rigged Justice” about lax law enforcement
of corporate crime. And, she strongly objected to attempts by her
colleagues to sabotage bipartisan criminal justice reform for non-violent


SEN. WARREN: But now, all of a sudden, some republicans are threatened to
block a reform unless congress includes a so-called mens rea amendment to
make it much harder for the government to prosecute hundreds of corporate
crimes. Crimes from everything from wire fraud to mislabeling prescription

In other words, for these republicans, the price of helping out people
unjustly locked up in jail for years will be to make it even harder to lock
up a white collar criminal for even a single day. That is shameful.

The American people expect better from us. They expect us to straighten
out our criminal justice system and reform drug enforcement practices that
do nothing but destroy lives and communities. They expect us to stand up
against unjustified violence, but they also expect us to protect the
financial system and to hold Wall Street executives accountable when they
break the law.

They expect us to hold big companies accountable when they steal billions
of dollars from taxpayers when they rip off students or veterans or
retirees or single moms or when they cover up health or safety problems and
people get sick, people get hurt or people die because of it.

The American people know that we have two legal systems, but they expect us
to fix it. They expect us to stand for justice. They expect us to once
again honor the simple notion that in America nobody is above the law.


O`DONNELL: Congressman Elijah Cummings was outraged today at the House of
Representatives` first hearing on the crisis in Flint. That is next.


O`DONNELL: House democrats today objected that Michigan`s Governor Rick
Snyder was not invited to the first hearing on the Flint crisis.


REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS, (D) MARYLAND: I do not care whether it is EPA,
whether it is local, whether it is state, I want everybody who is
responsible for this fiasco to be held accountable. I am not protecting
anybody because that is not our job. We are the last line of defense. If
we do not do it, nobody is going to do it.


O`DONNELL: Joining us now, Virg Bernero, Mayor of Lansing Michigan. He
also ran against Governor Snyder in 2010. Mr. Mayor, republicans control
the witnesses at those hearings and the invitations to those hearings. For
some reason, the republicans did not want to hear from the republican

Cummings outrage did my heart good. And, I am sure it did to all the
residents of Flint and people of Michigan. The public confidence has been
breached to such an extent, Lawrence. You know, the old attitude about, we
are here from the government and we are here to help.

Literally, nobody believes that in Flint. They do not know who to believe.
They cannot trust state officials. They cannot trust federal officials.
The governor has said he takes responsibility. He said the bus stop with
him. If that is the case, let him go before the congress and explain
exactly what happened.

I think he owes that to the nation and to the citizens of Michigan. There
is a crisis in confidence in Michigan. There is so much to be done. There
is plenty outrage. The one thing about that hearing, I do not about you,
Lawrence, but I felt finally, that there was some by partisanship.

At least we can agree that people deserve clean water. At least, democrats
and republicans seemed to agree on that idea that people should not be
poisoned by the government in terms of water. That is progress, I guess.

O`DONNELL: And their job is to try to get at the lines of responsibility
including federal that they have a specific jurisdiction over there. And,
what they got was finger pointing of one group to another.

MAYOR BERNERO: Right. I mean the state – but clearly the state has
primary responsibility. And, again, yes, there is a little bit of finger
pointing, but it is clear the state was running the city through this
incredible emergency manager law in Michigan that gives kingly powers to
the governor.

The governor, through his appointee runs that city, just like he was
running the city of Detroit. So, clearly, the responsibility was there and
the responsibility for the clean water act and the lead regulations is with
the state department of environmental quality. And, so they owe – they
have to fix this. If you break it, you buy it. And, they broke Flint and
they got a lot to fix.

O`DONNELL: That is going to have to be the “Last Word” tonight. Lansing
Mayor, Virg Bernero, thank you very much for joining us tonight. I really
appreciate it.

MAYOR BERNERO: Thanks Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Chris Hayes is up next.


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