The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell, Transcript 5/23/2016

Peter Hart, Charlie Sykes, Howard Dean, Wendy Davis, Anne Gearan, Cornell Belcher, Jim McLaughlin, Perry O`Brien, Alexander McCoy


Date: May 23, 2016

Guest: Peter Hart, Charlie Sykes, Howard Dean, Wendy Davis, Anne Gearan, 

Cornell Belcher, Jim McLaughlin, Perry O`Brien, Alexander McCoy

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST:  That will do 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:  So, Rachel, a tiny footnote occurs to me 

in the impeachment thing, it`s – I think I`m sure, it`s absolutely true 

about no one in the administration.

But they have impeached some federal judges.  That`s – 

MADDOW:  Yes – 

O`DONNELL:  How they remove federal judges.  And so, I remember seeing, 

actually seeing one or two of those.

MADDOW:  Oh, yes, judges get impeached and usually for really juicy stuff. 

O`DONNELL:  Yes, they have to go some to get – to get – 

MADDOW:  Nobody – 

O`DONNELL:  Impeached.  

MADDOW:  When it comes to members of the administration, you got to go back 


O`DONNELL:  Right – 

MADDOW:  To 1876 which hey, they`re going for it. 

O`DONNELL:  Yes, the feeling has been, I assume, that wait, don`t we hold 

the boss responsible for all of this? The President, if we`re going to 

impeach someone? 

MADDOW:  I think it`s telling that the IRS commissioner isn`t bothering 

himself to show up for his own hearing, but we`ll see –  

O`DONNELL:  I think that`s what you call confidence. 


Thank you, Rachel – 

MADDOW:  Thanks, Lawrence.  

O`DONNELL:  So, the businessman candidate is now teaching the professional 

politicians in the Republican Party how to run for president. 

Republican Party officials are actually saying now that Donald Trump has 

taught them that their big campaigning mistake is that they just haven`t 

been nasty enough. 


HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  The last thing we need is a 

bully in the pulpit. 

LESTER HOLT, NBC NEWS ANCHOR:  Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump in a 

virtual dead-heat.

JOHN OLIVER, COMEDIAN & TELEVISION HOST:  Donald Trump, America`s walking-

talking brush fire. 

CLINTON:  He could bankrupt America like he`s bankrupted his companies. 

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST:  Independents are now for Trump.


people, I really do.

CLINTON:  I do not want Americans to start to believe that this is a normal 

candidacy, it isn`t. 


together, we will prove love trumps hate. 

TRUMP:  You know, they`re dirty players, they`ve been dirty players 


CLINTON:  We are going to unify the Democratic Party and stop Donald Trump. 


campaign is a far and away stronger against Trump. 


MATTHEWS:  Come the end of July, will the Democratic Party be united after 

the convention?


SANDERS:  Donald Trump is not going to become president of the United 




O`DONNELL:  The polls are coming out fast and furious now.  It`s only 

Monday and we have two new national polls and at first glance they each 

look different, but they`re actually fundamentally the same. 

And here`s why? Last week, a “Fox News” poll came up that showed a 

tightening in the race between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton that we had 

not seen before. 

And the most shocking part of the poll was that it showed Donald Trump 

ahead of Hillary Clinton. 

The “Fox News” poll came out with Hillary Clinton at 42 percent, right 

there, 42 percent, with a three-point margin of error. 

Now, what that means is, this number 42, could be three points higher or it 

could be three points lower, all the way down to 39. 

And then yesterday, an “Abc News”-“Washington Post” poll comes out showing 

Hillary Clinton at 44 percent, 44.

That was right inside the margin of error that the “Fox News” poll had.  

The “Fox News” poll in effect predicted the “Abc News”-“Washington Post” 


The “Fox News” poll already told you if you included the margin of error, 

that Hillary Clinton might be at 44. 

And so the “Abc” poll is not in conflict with the “Fox” poll on that 

number, and the “Abc” poll has about a three-point margin of error. 

Which means “Abc`s” 44 could be as high as 47, could be as low as 41.  And 

then also yesterday, an “Nbc News”-“Wall Street Journal” poll came out 

showing Hillary Clinton within the “Abc” margin of error at 46 percent.

And so, the way you should look at these polls is never that they are 

reporting to you a precise number the way a nurse does when she takes your 

temperature, 98.6. 

Or they`re reporting to you – they`re reporting to you a band of 

possibility.  It is as if the nurse says to you, your temperature may be 

anywhere from 95.6 to 101.6. 

These three polls represent that band of possibility.  Each one predicts 

the next one reasonably well. 

Meanwhile, in those same polls, Donald Trump was at 45 percent in the “Fox” 

poll last week with the three-point margin of error.

Then in the “Abc News” poll, Donald Trump was at 46 percent which of course 

is within the margin of error of the “Fox” poll and the “Nbc News” poll, 

Donald Trump was at 43 percent which was within the margin of error of both 

the “Fox News” and the “Abc” poll.  

And so, all of these polls are not really disagreeing with each other, they 

are actually verifying each other within the margin of error.

And each of the polls shows a separation between the candidates that is 

within the margin of error. 

The “Fox News” poll shows Donald Trump with the highest number.  The “Abc 

News” poll shows Donald Trump with the highest number, higher than Hillary 


The “Nbc News” poll shows Hillary Clinton with the higher number, higher 

than Donald Trump.  But that`s all I call it, the higher number. 

Because what is true about all of these polls is that they are reporting a 

statistical tie, and so, they should not really be reported as one 

candidate leading the other. 

And so, if you`re a Trump supporter who sees a poll with Donald Trump three 

points higher than Hillary Clinton, what you`re seeing is a tie in that 


And if you`re a Clinton supporter who sees Hillary Clinton three points 

higher than Donald Trump in a poll, what you`re actually seeing is a 

statistical tie.

And when the campaigns see a tie in the polls, that`s when they sharpen 

their attacks against each other. 


CLINTON:  My campaign is not going to let Donald Trump try to normalize 

himself in this period. 

I do not want Americans and you know, good-thinking Republicans as well as 

Democrats and independents to start to believe that this is a normal 

candidacy.  It isn`t. 


O`DONNELL:  Here`s what Hillary Clinton said to a union audience today in 



CLINTON:  He could bankrupt America like he`s bankrupted his companies.  I 

mean ask yourself. 

How can anybody lose money running a casino? Really? When Donald Trump 

talks about deporting 11 million immigrants, he`s talking about ripping 

apart families like Carla`s(ph).

He`s talking about sending a deportation force to schools, work places and 

homes to round up moms, dads, grandparents, even children. 

We need a president who will use the bully pulpit to stand up for working 

families, but the last thing we need is a bully in the pulpit. 


O`DONNELL:  Joining us now Peter Hart; founder of Hart Research and a 

pollster for “Nbc News” and the “Wall Street Journal”.

Also with us, Charlie Sykes, radio host in “WTMJAM” in Milwaukee and an 

editor-in-chief of “Right Wisconsin”, he`s a leader of the “Never Trump” 


And Howard Dean is with us, former governor of Vermont, former DNC chairman 

and a Hillary Clinton supporter. 

He`s also an Msnbc political analyst.  Peter, needless to say, I was very 

nervous explaining polls with you listening, the details there. 

But is that the way you see it that these polls now are basically 

supporting each other within the margin of error? 

PETER HART, FOUNDER, HART RESEARCH & POLLSTER:  Yes, exactly, Lawrence, and 

you explained it well.  Indeed, every poll has a margin of error and all of 

these polls are showing the same thing.

And that is the race is, if not dead-even, at least very close and what we 

try and do is look beyond just who`s ahead and who`s behind into the 

dynamics of what`s happening and why it`s happening.  

And that`s really the basis of what polling should be doing. 

O`DONNELL:  Yes, that`s why I resist when reporting these polls, I try to 

resist using words like in the lead or winning or – I just try to make the 

description of these numbers as neutral as possible.  

But let`s take a look at one number, Peter, in your poll, in the “Nbc News” 

poll that is way outside the margin of error.  

That`s Bernie Sanders versus Donald Trump.  He is now at 54, Donald Trump 

at 39.  

Now, that`s a – that`s a 15-point lead, that`s way outside the margin of 

error and that`s what polling looks like when it`s outside the margin of 


Peter, there`s a lot of talk about that number, saying that there`s 

something mythical about it, it`s the one number that people insist should 

not be believed in any of these polls. 

What is your judgment of that particular polling number? 

HART:  Well, I think you have to believe the number, but you have to put it 

into a perspective.  And the perspective is that basically, Senator Sanders 

has not been sort of judged in the same way. 

Yes, he`s doing well in the campaign, but most of the voters know him only 

in general and not about his specifics. 

And when it comes to the specifics, he hasn`t had the same scrutiny as 

Senator Clinton or Secretary Clinton and that`s the big difference. 

So, all numbers are not even or equal in this kind of situation, not 

diminishing his strength, but it really tells you more about Donald Trump 

than it does about Senator Sanders. 

Let`s listen to what Hillary Clinton said yesterday on “Meet the Press”. 


CLINTON:  I think in the course of this campaign, we are going to 

demonstrate he has no ideas. 

There`s no evidence he has any ideas about making America great as he 

advertises.  He seems to be particularly focused on making himself appear 


And as we go through this campaign, we`re going to be demonstrating the 

hollowness of his rhetoric.  


O`DONNELL:  Charlie Sykes, you`re never Trump, you don`t want to see Donald 

Trump in there.

But maybe that if Hillary Clinton gets the nomination, she`s who`s standing 

between Donald Trump and the presidency. 

What do you – what do you make from your perspective on how the Clinton 

campaign is handling the Trump campaign at this point? 

CHARLIE SYKES, RADIO HOST:  Well, I think the most striking thing about 

these polls is how, you know, how many voters are going to go to the polls 

in November, you know, with fear and loathing.

The negatives for both of these candidates are through the roof.  We`ve 

never seen anything like it, and this is the problem for Hillary Clinton. 

Is that – and I`ll tell you, you know, as I`m watching the polls, you`re 

seeing conservatives not listen to me. 

Conservatives and Republicans coalescing around Donald Trump.  And that`s 

because every time you bring up Donald Trump`s demagoguery, his serial 


The fact that he`s a con-man, the various things he`s said.  What you hear 

from people is, yes, but Hillary Clinton is worse. 

The toxicity of Hillary Clinton among conservatives cannot be overstated.  

I mean, think about it.

There`s really been 20 years of anti-Clinton stories and rhetoric that have 

been marinating out there. 

And I think that what you`re seeing here is right now is that Donald Trump 

because he is the non-Hillary – 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Exactly, great – 

SYKES:  It`s almost he`s become immune among Republicans to all of these 

criticisms because, you know, I will lay out one thing after another.

Donald Trump has ties to the mob, yes, but what about Hillary? Donald Trump 

lied about this, yes, but what about Hillary? 

And that`s going to be the real challenge for the Clinton campaign. 

O`DONNELL:  Howard Dean, how should the Clinton campaign meet that 

particular challenge? 

HOWARD DEAN, FORMER VERMONT GOVERNOR:  Well, actually not worried about 

that because we were never going to get those voters anyway. 

I do think that Donald Trump has brought the Republicans home.  The reason 

Hillary hasn`t been able to do that yet is we still have an active primary.  

She`s going to win it, but you know, a primary is a primary.  When you have 

somebody attacking you, that prolongs the agony. 

I actually think it`s going to come down to turnout.  Can we get the Obama 

coalition back on track as we did in 2008 and 2012? 

If the answer to that is yes, we win, if the answer to that is, no, it`s 

going to be very close all the way to the end. 

O`DONNELL:  Howard Dean, everyone says that, you know, Bernie Sanders` 

background hasn`t been studied, hasn`t been exposed. 

What are the deep, dark secrets in Vermont that you people know about 

Bernie Sanders that we don`t know yet? 

I mean, Donald Trump has called him a communist.  He`s thrown everything 

out on – that he could come up with rhetorically, and that didn`t hurt 

him, is there something else? 

DEAN:  No – 


DEAN:  I mean, I think his – there isn`t really any – that I know of 

after 40 years.

But we don`t really play that kind of politics up here.  There – he was 

red-baited by a Republican who was about to lose to him and the guy lost by 

about 25 points instead of – or maybe 20 instead of six or eight.

I mean, you can`t do those kinds of things in Vermont and get away with it.  

We`re still a civilized place here. 

O`DONNELL:  The “Fox News” poll showed Gary Johnson, the libertarian 

candidate polling 10 percent, which would be a record for the libertarian 

candidate if that happens. 

But it still showed Donald Trump with a higher number, 42-39. 

But that`s again the tie within the margin of error.  Peter Hart, did it 

surprise you in that poll that with a libertarian in there, the libertarian 

did not draw more from the Republican than from the Democrat? 

HART:  Well, I think at this stage of the game, there`s still a lot to be 

played out and what it really comes down to, and we saw it in our poll, 9 

percent of the voters said –  volunteered were voting for neither of the 


So, it`s a long way – 

O`DONNELL:  Wow – 

HART:  For the voters to be able to transgress over to Donald Trump or to 

Hillary Clinton.

And as the stakes get higher, I think the difficulty for Trump is to get 

across to the independents and to younger voters which he has not done well 

so far. 

O`DONNELL:  Peter, let me just – unreliant for a moment.  You`re saying 

that 9 percent of respondents in the “Nbc” poll voluntarily suggested to 

you that none of the above, we won`t vote for either one of them.  

And that, how strange is that in your polling experience? 

HART:  Well, it`s so rare that we almost never see it. 

O`DONNELL:  Wow – 

HART:  You certainly don`t see it on a presidential race and it underscores 

the point that Charlie Sykes made, which is the negative feelings towards 

both candidates is huge. 

Much larger than we`ve seen in any poll than we`ve done over the last 25 


O`DONNELL:  So, Charlie, it`s going to be – it could be a battle over 

those people trying to fight over those 9 percent to try to pull two or 

three of them back into your side. 

SYKES:  Exactly, whatever my side happens to be.  I mean, one of the polls 

though through Mitt Romney`s name and he polled 22 percent which I do think 

is an indication that, you know, beneath all the happy talk from the 

establishment, the Republicans who are genuflecting to Donald Trump.

That there are a lot of people who want an alternative.  I just think that 

those negative numbers though are going to affect the turnout. 

I mean, Howard Dean is absolutely right.  If you can reassemble the Obama 

coalition, Hillary Clinton will win. 

But do you sense the kind of enthusiasm, the kind of support for Hillary 

Clinton that Barack Obama had.

I actually wonder what`s going to happen if in November you have a Donald 

Trump with a 70 percent disapproval rating, Hillary Clinton with a 60 

percent disapproval rating. 

What does that actually do to turnout, and how does that affect all the 

down-ballot races?  Nobody has any idea at this point. 

O`DONNELL:  Go ahead, Howard. 

DEAN:  I have a question, if we have time for Peter, one of the most 

fascinating things about these national polls is of course, there is no 

national race. 

We`ve got 50 races, plus the territories, and so, you know, is it possible 

that Trump has built up an enormous lead in places like Alabama and 


They were not going to win anyway, and that the other states that are the 

swing states are actually in favor of Hillary by a much narrower margin? 

HART:  Well, we`d love to believe that.  But the fact of the matter is, it 

pretty well mirrors election after election, where we stand and what`s 


And the question of turnout is absolutely key and it`s going to be a 

question of do African-Americans, do Hispanics and do millennials turn out 

for Hillary Clinton.  

And for Donald Trump – 

DEAN:  And Asian Americans. 

HART:  And Asian Americans have them right in.  And for Donald Trump, it`s 

going to be a question, can he appeal to the moderate Republicans?

For now, he stands OK, but the stakes are going to grow and that`s the big 


O`DONNELL:  Peter Hart gets the last word on the polls tonight, as he 

always should.  Peter Hart, Charlie Sykes – 


Howard Dean, thank you all for joining us, really appreciate it. 

DEAN:  Thank you – 

O`DONNELL:  Coming up, Republican Party officials say Donald Trump has 

finally taught them that thing they just couldn`t ever figure out on their 


They have to just be much more nasty to win the presidency.  And some 

veterans went to Trump Tower today to protest candidate Trump. 

Former Marine, Alexander McCoy(ph), one of the members of that troop 

protesting today will join us. 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Donald Trump has acted like a fraud and we`re calling 

on him to apologize to American veterans and to live up to his commitment. 



O`DONNELL:  So, there was an awkward moment on “Fox News” earlier tonight.  

Bill O`Reilly, kind of, sort of almost disagreed with Donald Trump – 


What could they possibly disagree over? Answer, just how nasty to be in 

this campaign against Hillary Clinton.  That`s next.  


O`DONNELL:  Republican Party officials say they have learned something 

about campaigning from Donald Trump. 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Republicans have been accused in the past and to some 

degree, rightly so of not tearing the bark off our opponents. 

And sort of, just this year, Donald Trump has made it very clear that we 

are going to be aggressive, we`re going to do what it takes to win. 


O`DONNELL:  Not tearing the bark off our opponents.  That`s Republican 

Party official Sean Spicer saying that Republicans just haven`t been nasty 

enough in the presidential campaigning. 

He seems to have forgotten that Republicans went to prison for what they 

did in their campaign to re-elect Richard Nixon in 1972.

And that President Nixon himself resigned in disgrace over the crimes 

committed in his name in that presidential campaign.

President Nixon resigned only after he was convinced that he would be 

impeached and removed from office if he did not resign. 

And immediately, upon President Nixon`s resignation, his successor, 

Republican Vice President Gerald Ford announced that he was pardoning 

suddenly former President Nixon for all the crimes he may have committed. 

And so, the criminal investigation of President Nixon was stopped by 

nothing less than the power of a presidential pardon. 

The pardon of President Nixon meant that we might never know just how nasty 

Republicans really got in presidential campaigning. 

One nasty category that Donald Trump is teaching Republicans how to use is 

the collection of things in Bill Clinton`s private life that he was accused 

of in the 1990s.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I was very nervous.  No woman should be subjected to 

it.  It was an assault. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  He starts to bite on my top lip and I try to pull 

away from him. 



O`DONNELL:  Today, Hillary Clinton`s campaign spokesman Brian Fallon 



UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I assume you`re aware of the instagram video that 

Donald Trump posted today with picture of President Clinton? –  


watched it. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You`ve watched it, what did you think of it? 

FALLON:  This is just the latest in his Roger Stone developed strategy to 

try to distract from an issues-based campaign, which is what we intend to 

run here. 

And you know, to be honest, I think it`s bad strategy.  I`ve seen smart 

Republican operatives go on television and say that they actually have 

tested some of these lines of attack and they actually alienate independent 

voters, especially women. 


O`DONNELL:  Joining us now Anne Gearan; political correspondent for the 

“Washington Post” who covers the Clinton campaign. 

And Wendy Davis, former Democratic member of the Texas State Senate who 

supports Hillary Clinton. 

Senator Davis, how do you fight an Instagram video like that? 


intends to fight an Instagram photo like that.

She understands that the American people want to talk about what this next 

president is going to do for this country.

And clearly, Donald Trump has not been able to communicate in any way shape 

or form how it is he intends to make America great again. 

This is also a part of a process that has been shown by Republican 

strategists as Brian was mentioning on the clip that you played earlier, 

that fails. 

They`ve tested these messages against her.  They don`t work against her.  

And in fact, they tend to dig him even deeper with women voters where we 

know he`s already got a tremendous problem there. 

So, all the way around, it`s about strategy.  In the meantime, Hillary 

Clinton is going to continue down that lane of talking about issues and 

what she`s going to do for women and others in this country while he 

continues to dig this hole on the other side. 

O`DONNELL:  This Instagram video created what may be the biggest 

disagreement yet between Donald Trump and Bill O`Reilly. 

Which is to say, they almost disagreed.  Let`s look at this.


BILL O`REILLY, FOX NEWS:  On the internet, you put up some stuff about 

Hillary Clinton and Bill Clinton and it`s kind of tawdry stuff. 

And I`m not sure that this is a good thing to do that. 

TRUMP:  You`re talking about what I`m doing.  Well, I`m only responding to 

what they do. 

They have – they`ve been nasty, she`s been very nasty, and I said, I`d 

like it to be on policy, Bill, I`d like it to be a straight right down the 


O`REILLY:  I understand the Clinton attack machine, I got it, and I think 

it has to be dealt with somewhat. 

But I think maybe caution – 

TRUMP:  Bill, I don`t like doing that, I don`t like doing that, but I have 

no choice.  When she hits me on things, I just have no choice, so, you have 

to do it, it`s unfair. 

And you know, they`re dirty players, they`ve been dirty players 

historically and I have to fight back the way I have to fight back. 


O`DONNELL:  Anne Gearan, he has no choice.  I mean, there`s just absolutely 

no choice, but to do that. 

It`s – I mean, I think the challenge here for a campaign is quite 

literally that we`ve never seen anything like this and none of Hillary 

Clinton`s senate campaigns or past presidential campaign did she ever have 

to contend with anything like this. 


absolutely true.  

And every day that you see the Clinton campaign sort of grasping to figure 

out how to respond to that great void and unknown. 

That – I mean, they didn`t know at 9:00 this morning that this sort of 

insane but also incredibly watchable video was going to turn up and 

basically blow up their whole campaign day. 

I mean, she gave a pretty rabble-rousing speech to a union audience in 

Detroit today and she`s starting a big California swing and talking about 

policy and talking about the things that Brian Fallon referred to earlier 

in terms of sort of being the grown up in the room.

And the day`s debate is about an internet video about Bill Clinton`s 

infidelities and that is going to be, in some measure, the way every day is 

for the campaign from now until the election.

And they still haven`t quite figured out what to do about that. 

O`DONNELL:  Let`s listen to Bill Clinton today in California. 


CLINTON:  The Republicans have been really mean to Hillary.  They liked her 

when she was Secretary of State, they liked her when she was a senator, and 

they liked her when she was first lady.

She got more done with Republicans than anybody I ever saw.  But then when 

she got out, they said, oh, we don`t want to run against her, so they 

started beating up on her. 

People beat up on you, it works, even if what they say isn`t true. 


O`DONNELL:  Wendy Davis, it seems that part of the Trump strategy is to 

stop him from being on those stages, saying those things. 

He doesn`t want Bill Clinton out there being an effective surrogate. 

DAVIS:  He`s a great surrogate obviously, and Hillary is doing an 

incredible job, I think of steering this race exactly where it needs to go. 

For every ounce of trouble that Bill Clinton has in terms of things he said 

– I`m sorry that Donald Trump has in terms of things that he`s said about 

immigrants and things that he has said about women.

She`s making sure to lay out a policy that talks about how she`s going to 

help advance the interest of people in this country and break down those 

barriers that are keeping people from realizing the opportunities that they 

want to see here. 

O`DONNELL:  Anne Gearan and Wendy Davis, thank you both for joining us 

tonight, really appreciate it.  

DAVIS:  Thank you, Lawrence.  

GEARAN:  Thank you. 

O`DONNELL:  Up next, in tonight`s war room, the struggle for the hearts and 

minds of independent voters who just might be the ones who care the most 

about Donald Trump`s tax returns. 


CLINTON:  Her opponent who never tires of telling us how much richer he is 

than the rest of us won`t release his tax returns. 


Do you really think he`s going to be a force in raising working people`s 





O`DONNELL:  Time for tonight`s war room.   The Clinton war room will be 

looking at a new poll showing Hillary Clinton basically trailing Donald 

Trump with independent voters.   The new “ABC Washington Post” poll shows 

Donald Trump ahead of Hillary Clinton by 13 points among independents, 48 

to 35.  

That same poll conducted in March showed Hillary Clinton leading Donald 

Trump among independents by nine points.  Both of those were outside the 

margin of error.  Yesterday, on “Meet the Press” Hillary Clinton attacked 

Donald Trump on an issue that she hopes will resonate with independents.  


HILLARY CLINTON, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I think he needs to release 

his tax returns.  The only two we have showed that he has not paid a penny 

in taxes.  And, if you have somebody running for president who is afraid to 

release his tax returns because it will expose the fact that he pays no 

federal income tax, I think that is a big problem.  I do not think we know 

enough and that is why he should release his tax returns.  Prove that he 

actually has the level of success he claims to have.  


O`DONNELL:  The Clinton war room has a polling reason to believe that the 

tax return issue can help Hillary Clinton with independent voters.  “The 

Washington Post,” ABC Poll shows that 59 percent of independents say Donald 

Trump should release his tax returns before the November election.  

With just 169 days to go for the campaign war rooms.  Joining us tonight in 

“The Last Word” war room are Cornell Belcher, a veteran of the Obama 

presidential campaigns and Jim McLaughlin, a veteran of Bob Dole`s `96 

campaign and Fred Thompson`s 2008 campaign.  Cornell, I am a little 

surprised that the independents care so strongly about the tax returns and 

it looks like the Clinton campaign knows it.  

CORNELL BELCHER, FMR. POLLSTER, OBAMA, 2008:  Well, couple things.  One is 

you got to understand the context here.  Given all the craziness that we 

have seen in this political year, frankly, there is lot of numbers that are 

not far out liars from what the continuum has been over the last couple 


I mean Obama, on his way to winning back to back majorities lost 

independent voters by 12 points and she is losing them by 13 points.  Now, 

you cannot have that grow, but certainly democrats have not necessarily 

been, at least under Obama, we have not necessarily been winning 

independent voters.  I think my old boss, Howard Dean, was spot on.  It is 

about, you know, can she hold that Obama coalition together?  

But, what I will say about the tax issue and independent is, you know, it 

is a way to hammer at him on this question of trustworthiness.  Now, we 

talked a lot about trustworthiness over this campaign cycle and certainly, 

you know, she is struggled with it and he is struggled with it.  

ABC`s post poll is basically a toss of it and she is plus two on the area 

of trustworthiness.  But if she – if that Clinton campaign cannot – and 

there is not a silver bullet.  But they can use this as a way to chip away 

at his trustworthiness, if he has got something to hide, he is not 


O`DONNELL:  Let us see how the Clinton Super PAC is going after Donald 

Trump on the taxes.  



“Free Advice From The Donald On How To Hide You Tax Returns.”

“Step 1:  Avoid The Question.”



HUGH HEWITT, HOST OF THE HUGH HEWITT” SHOW:  That you would release your 

tax returns, would you go back on your –

DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  first of all, very few people 

listen to your radio show.  That is the good news.



“Step 2: Shift the Focus.”



TRUMP:  Mitt Romney did not file his return until September 21st of 2012.  


“Step 3: Make More Excuses.”



TRUMP:  I cannot do it until the audit is finish.  



“Step 4: Act Superior.”




TRUMP:  It is none of your business.  



O`DONNELL:  Jim, one of the things distracts me in there, if you are going 

to site a candidate who did not release his tax returns until late, you 

might want to pick one who won.  Here is my losing model, Mitt Romney.  But 

to the tax returns, imagine yourself in the Trump war room over the tax 


There is a big problem in the Trump war room.  There is no one in that room 

who can walk out in that room down the hall to Donald Trump and say, “You 

know what?  We have decided you must release the tax returns.”  It is him.  

There is no one else who is going to make that decision.  


it is going to be him and probably his lawyers and his accountants.  And, 

you know, that is always a tough situation whenever you are involved in a 

campaign like that.  Because a lot of times, you know, those things are out 

of your purview, but Donald Trump has also said he plans on releasing his 

tax returns and I think he is going to go do that.  

O`DONNELL:  But, Cornell, he is hiding behind the notion of an audit.  And, 

I just want to keep saying this, there is zero evidence that he is actually 

having an audit.  The IRS sends you an audit letter.  He could just hold it 

up, show it to us that there is an audit letter.  He has not done that and 

I doubt he ever will do that.  

BELCHER:  I think Jim has got to agree with me here is that, him pushing it 

back and flip-flopping around on it.


BELCHER:  If he is going to release it, he is not helping himself.  If he 

is going to release it, he should release and figure it out.  But him sort 

of dodging the question, it makes him seem untrustworthy, which I think is 

a real problem.  

O`DONNELL:  That seems to be what he has gotten caught up on, Jim.  When 

you look at that video that they were able to put together, boy, does not 

he wish tonight that he had just given one answer for this?  

MCLAUGHLIN:  But, you know what?  I think what it has proven again, Donald 

Trump is different.  He is not your typical politician, and that is his 

greatest strength at this point.  Because the thing is, if you are Hillary 

Clinton, Hillary Clinton over six out of ten Americans say they do not 

trust her.  They do not think she is honest.  

Now, she is trying to use this issue to go back on Donald Trump on that.  

But, I think it is a mistake on her part, because she has got the email 

scandal.  She has got Benghazi.  She will not release her transcripts from 

the Wall Street speeches.  So, I think she has got to be really careful 

about this issue.  And, you know, if there is one thing Donald Trump has 

proven, he is not afraid to punch back.  

O`DONNELL:  Cornell, the Clinton team is saying their strategy is to try to 

campaign against him on the issues, which is to say look into these polls, 

see the issues the polls are saying, he is most vulnerable on and lean on 


Is that the best way for this war room to approach these campaigns?  I mean 

since Trump is so unpredictable and weird in such a strange force to deal 

with, maybe you just stick with the most basic thing there is and work 

those issues.   

BELCHER:  I think the dynamics of a campaign regardless of whether you are 

running for president or you are running for dog catcher, some of the 

dynamics are the same.  In that is in the end, you know, people tend to 

vote for candidates that they like and they trust and they think represent 

their values. 

And, there are issues that you can use to undermine a candidate in those 

places.  I do think the taxes are a big deal even when you have republican 

leader Mitch McConnell coming out, you know, hitting him or saying, “This 

might be a problem.”  I think it does undermine his trustworthiness and 

people tend to not vote for someone as commander-in-chief that they do not 


And, when you look at his numbers also in that ABC Washington Post Poll, 

you know, representing values.  I mean that is something that republicans 

have always sort of killed us democrats on as the party and the candidate 

who represents their values and you see Hillary running ahead there.  

And, even on security and being a strong leader, I mean he does not have – 

he is not running away with a sort of advantage that you typically see in 

some republicans with.  You know, say what you will about George Bush.  

Americans at one point thought he was a strong and decisive leader and that 

really hurt democrats going after him.  

Donald Trump does not have those advantages right now and the Clinton 

campaign is smart to undermine that and really undermine the overall 

republican brand that he is trying to hold up.  

O`DONNELL:  Jim, quickly before we go.  When the Trump war room stares at 

these polls, they see Donald Trump scoring significantly better on dealing 

with the economy.  Well, you know, he is at 47, Clinton is at 36.  I mean 

it is not one the biggest leads in there, but it may be the single most 

important thing that you want to lead on in these policy categories.  

MCLAUGHLIN:  You are exactly right.  You saw that in those swing state 

polls in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Florida.  On the two most important issues 

of the day, the economy and national security, Donald Trump was winning on 

those issues.  And, what that is telling me is, he wants to get this 

campaign issue focused.  And, as long as he is winning on those two issues, 

he has probably got a good chance of winning in November.  

O`DONNELL:  Cornell Belcher and Jim McLaughlin, the pros, the veterans of 

the real war rooms.  Thank you very much for joining us in our war room 


BELCHER:  Thank you.

O`DONNELL:  Coming up.  What did Trump do with all that money that he says 

he raised for veterans?  Some veterans want to know, which is why they were 

protesting at Trump Tower today.  One of those veterans will join us.



O`DONNELL:  Some veterans got together today in New York City.  They went 

to Trump Tower with protest signs and spoke from the heart about why they 

never want to see Donald Trump become commander-and-chief.  That is coming 

up.  But first, here is how it looked today on the campaign trail.  


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: Senator Bob Corker, Donald Trump, we are here 

at Trump Tower, what a meeting.  



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER:  Did you see I know you have come out against 

it, was that part of the conversation at all?  


bigger picture really relative to foreign policy.  



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER:  His office released a statement saying 

Senator Corker had a good meeting today with Mr. Trump.  



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER:  You are the highest ranking republican 

leader to actually visit Donald Trump on his home turf.  It is certainly 

setting off the vice presidential rumors.  



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER:  There is Corker addressing kind of the other 

big elephant in the room.  



SEN. CORKER:  I have no reason whatsoever to believe that I am being 

considered for a position like that.  



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER:  Corker`s answer right there from the same 

thing he told me a few weeks ago back on Capitol Hill.  



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER (voice-over):  For Hillary Clinton, it is 

another week with two opponents, not just Bernie Sanders but Donald Trump.  



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER:  The Clinton campaign have always said, “He 

is going to be a tough competitor.”



UNIDENTIFIED MALE VOTER:  I like Hillary but I mean things might change 

when it comes to election.  







BERNIE SANDERS, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Donald Trump is not going to 

become president of the United States.  




UNIDENTIFIED MALE SPEAKER:  Bernie Sanders is a much stronger candidate in 

the general election than secretary Clinton.  



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE SPEAKER:  She applauded senator Sanders for challenging 

her the way that he has.  



SANDERS:  Yesterday`s NBC Poll had us on 15 points ahead.  


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER:  She spent most of the time going after 

Donald Trump.  



CLINTON:  How can anybody lose money running a casino?  Really?  


O`DONNELL:  A group of military veterans went to Trump tower today on 5th 

Avenue to protest candidate Trump.  


PERRY O`BRIEN, U.S. ARMY VETERAN:  I served in Afghanistan with the 82nd 

Airborne Division and I am here with so many of my fellow veterans because 

this most recent revelation about the missing funds from the fund raiser 

that was supposedly designed to benefit veteran`s charitable organizations.  

For us, it is part of a long and disturbing pattern of Donald Trump using 

veterans as political props both for his own self advance and to advance an 

agenda of bigotry and hate.  This does not represent the opinions of the 

military or veterans at large.  In Afghanistan, I served with Muslims.  I 

served with women.  I served with Latinos.  I served with immigrants. 

All groups that Donald Trump has maligned and insulted.  These are folks 

who put their lives on the line, who died in the uniform to serve on 

Asian`s military.  Donald Trump has never served as far as those of us who 

gathered here at TT.  Donald Trump only sees interest in serving himself.  


O`DONNELL:  U.S. Army Veteran, Perry O`Brien explained what he fears most 

about Donald Trump as commander-and-chief.  


O`BRIEN:  I think many of us gathered here feel that Donald Trump as 

commander-and-chief would put American lives at risk and particularly put 

our fellow U.S. troops who are still serving overseas in greater danger.  

He is shown to be reckless, impulsive and combines inexperience with 

bravado and confidence, which is a deadly combination, as many of us who 

have served overseas knows.  It is guys like that would get people killed.    


O`DONNELL:  Also speaking for the veterans protesting Donald Trump was U.S. 

Marine Corp Veteran, Alexander McCoy.  


ALEXANDER MCCOY, U.S. MARINE CORPS VETERAN:  Donald Trump skipped one of 

the debates and instead held a fund raiser claiming that he was raising 

money for American veterans.  At that event, he said that he had raised $6 


It turns out according to a Washington Post report that he did not actually 

raise that money, that he lied to American voters.  And, we are calling on 

him to apologize for doing so and to actually live up to his commitment.  


O`DONNELL:  It looks like our coverage of this tonight has provoked some 

tweets from Donald Trump.  Alexander McCoy will join us to discuss that, 

coming up.



MCCOY:  I served in the Marine Corps.  The Marine Corps core values are 

honor, courage and commitment.  Donald Trump made a commitment and failed 

to keep it.  He is not showing the courage to admit his mistake and to 

apologize to American veterans for trying to use them as props. 

And, he has not shown any honor in his actions or his policies.  He would 

make a reckless and dangerous commander-and-chief.  And, as Americans, we 

would be fundamentally less safe with Donald Trump as president.  Donald 

Trump has acted like a fraud.  And, we are calling on him to apologize to 

American veterans.


O`DONNELL:  Joining us now, Marine Corps Veteran, Alexander McCoy.  

Alexander, we have showed a little clip of you earlier in the show.  After 

that, Donald Trump started tweeting.  And, so, he has said, first tweet of 

the night was, during this program, “While under no obligation to do so, I 

have raised between $5 million and $6 million including $1 million from me 

for our veterans.  Nice.” I am not sure what documentation we have for any 

of that.

MCCOY:  Well, that is exactly the problem.  There has been no transparency.  

There has been no accountability.  The numbers that they have been quoting 

had been going all over the place.  At the fund raiser, he claimed for 

certain that they had $6 million raised.  


MCCOY:  Now, the campaign was saying $4.5 million.  Now, 4 to 6?  How much 

money?  We do not really know.  Where is it going?  They will not really 

tell us.  We have news organizations having to trying to track it down.  

And, what is disturbing to me is not whether he is raising money for 

veterans or not. 

It is the way he is doing it.  It is the fact that he is using it to 

distract attention from his flaws as a candidate.  He is using it to try to 

take advantage of the good will that American voters have for our men and 

women who served in uniform and tried to ride their coat tails and avoid 

any kind of criticism.  

And, the fact that we have not gotten a straight answer from Donald Trump 

on this makes me very concerned about what kind of president he would be.  

And, we need to hold him accountable and demand that he show some 

transparency and that he lives up to the commitments that he has made.  

O`DONNELL:  Yes.  I mean, you know, to say something a number is between $5 

million and $6 million is just completely unacceptable in any kind of 

charitable enterprise.  It is very easy to keep a day to day accounting of 

exactly how much money is there and a real number should be revealed and 

documented, which he has not done. 

Another of his tweets tonight, “Much of the money I have raised for our 

veterans has already been distributed with the rest to go shortly to 

various other veteran groups.”  What do we know factually demonstrated 

about where this money has gone?  

MCCOY:  One of the interesting things is the way that they picked 

charitable organizations for this funding was often by which had a direct 

connection to his campaign.  And, if we think of what kind of president he 

might be, if this is the way that he runs his campaign, how will he run his 


Is he going to be distributing federal handouts to people who happen to be 

his friends?  What concerns me is that he is not approaching this from the 

genuine desire to help veterans and to try to make a difference.  He is 

trying to do it in a way that will get him the most political capital and 

that is why we protested today.  

O`DONNELL:  Alexander McCoy thanks for joining us.  It is really an honor 

to meet you.  Thanks.

MCCOY:  Thank you for having me on the show, sir.  

O`DONNELL:  I really appreciate it.  Alexander McCoy gets tonight`s “Last 

Word.”  Chris Hayes is up next.   


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