The Last Word With Lawrence O’Donnell, Transcript 3/21/2017

Guests:
Ken Vogel, Peter Wehner, Robert Doherty, Frank Rich, Christopher Dickey
Transcript:

Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL
Date: March 21, 2017
Guest: Ken Vogel, Peter Wehner, Robert Doherty, Frank Rich, Christopher
Dickey

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC: The disappearance of the U.S. State Department in
this administration. It has shrunk, it has gone silent in the Trump era.

As a part of that, we have documented the steadfast efforts of the intrepid
Andrea Mitchell to try to get off a question to the Secretary of State at
his many silent photo op, only to get more stone-cold hand-shaking silent
before she gets pushed out of the room.

Today, there was progress. She got seven words from the U.S. Secretary of
State. Ask and you shall finally receive seven words. It`s a start.

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, HOST, THE LAST WORD: It is fun watching Andrea get
those words up on the board, finally a total of seven.

But – so, Rachel, Rex Tillerson is accustomed to having exactly zero
reporters in his life. Yes, he as the head of Exxon, and here he is with
Andrea Mitchell, that`s way more than he`s prepared for.

MADDOW: Andrea Mitchell will be a barnacle on him like he has never seen
before in his life. There`s no way he will ever shed her ever. It`s one
thing I have complete confidence in Andrea about.

O`DONNELL: She`s going to get the biggest Tillerson word-count of anyone.
Thank you, Rachel –

MADDOW: Thank you, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Well, Donald Trump, big, scary Donald Trump. Every Republican
member of Congress was supposed to be afraid of crossing Donald Trump, of
disagreeing with Donald Trump because he would tweet them to death
instantly.

Or if necessary, fly into their district in Air Force One and terrify them
into voting any way Donald Trump wants them to vote. That just isn`t
working for Donald Trump.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We had a great meeting and I
think we`re going to get a winner vote.

REP. DAVID BRAT (R), VIRGINIA: I`m not sure. I don`t think they ought to
vote.

TRUMP: We`re going to have a real winner, it was a great meeting.

REP. THOMAS MASSIE (R), KENTUCKY : I`ve personally spoken to 29 of my
conservative colleagues who are no on this.

BRAT: So it`s a problem right now.

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER, UNITED STATES HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES:
The president was really clear, he laid it out on the line for everybody.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you worried Mr. Meadows that you`ll lose your
seat like the president said if you vote no.

REP. MARK MEADOWS (R), NORTH CAROLINA: You know, I served at the pleasure
of the people of western North Carolina.

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think there`s going to be a
price to be paid but it`s going to be with their own voters.

MASSIE: On Thursday, reality is going to come crashing down.

TRUMP: I think we`ll get the vote on Thursday.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You say – but you always say –

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But Mr. president, you`re under FBI investigation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Trump especially after this week, after
yesterday, he needs points on the board.

TRUMP: We`re going to start winning again.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The post-Trump presidency honeymoon looks to be over
as stocks have their worst day of the year.

TRUMP: You`re going to be so sick of winning, folks, oh, you`re going to
be so angry at me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: So Donald Trump flew to Kentucky yesterday for a rally to pass
his health care bill, and he did not pick up one vote from the Kentucky
congressional delegation.

A delegation that is causing him problems. He already has Senator Mitch
McConnell, Kentucky senator on his side, but he does not have Kentucky
Senator Rand Paul, who is still opposed to the bill.

And he did not pick up Kentucky`s Republican Congressman Thomas Massie who
told Greta Van Susteren tonight he is a heck no on Trumpcare.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MASSIE: I`m a heck no on this and I think they`ve got problems with the
vote. I`ve personally spoken to 29 of my conservative colleagues who are
no on this as of today, and we`re not even counting the moderate
Republicans who are a no.

So, I think they`ve got a lot of arm twisting to do between now and
Thursday if they`re going to pass this bill in the House.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Does he sound scared to you? Because Congressman Massie was in
the room today when Donald Trump came to the House of Representatives to
urge Republicans to vote for the bill.

Here is how Congressman Massie describes tough guy Donald Trump threatening
and pushing around all those Republicans who oppose the bill.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MASSIE: He was very charming. There was some light-hearted jabs at his
opponents in the room but it was all in good fun.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Light-hearted jabs, that ought to do it. That`s what tough guy
Trump is delivering to Republican opponents of his bill.

Thomas Massie doesn`t claim to be a tough guy the way Donald Trump does.
But he certainly doesn`t sound afraid of the tough guy. And to listen to
Congressman Massie, no Republicans are.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MASSIE: He`s been to Kentucky once, and Vice President Pence has been to
Kentucky once and it`s still not changing Senator Rand Paul`s mind or my
mind.

So, I`m not sure what else they can do to get the votes they need.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: President Trump reportedly told the Republican members of the
House that if they did not vote for the bill, they would face primary
challenges in their districts.

Again, Congressman Massie is not worried.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MASSIE: Now, to your point about being in electoral trouble over this
vote. Before I came over here to speak with you, I counted my call log, I
have 275 constituents who asked me to oppose this bill and only four who`ve
asked me to support it.

This is an unpopular bill whether you`re liberal or conservative.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: See, that telephone call log still matters to these guys.
Congressman Massie is opposing Donald Trump`s bill from the right. He`s
opposing it because it`s not conservative enough.

So who is going to run against him in a Republican primary over his health
care vote? Someone who wants a more liberal form of Trumpcare?

Congressman Massie is right not to be worried about a Republican running
against him because of his opposition to this bill.

And here`s one of the leaders of the conservative Republican vote against
the Trump health care bill, Congressman Mark Meadows.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you worried Mr. Meadows that you`ll lose your
seat like the president said if you vote no?

MEADOWS: You know, I served at the pleasure of the people of western
North Carolina. And when you serve at their pleasure, it`s only those
750,000 people that can send you home and it`s a temporary job and I`ve
known that from day one.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Mark Meadows won his last election with 64 percent of the vote.
Mark Meadows knows how to calculate his re-election chances in North
Carolina better than the president from Trump Tower.

Joining us now, Ken Vogel; chief investigative reporter for “Politico” and
Peter Wehner; Senior Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. He
worked in the last three Republican administrations and was a senior aid to
President George W. Bush.

Ken, this is looking very difficult for Paul Ryan and Donald Trump in the
House of Representatives now. And what I`m struck by is no one who comes
out against this bill seems even slightly intimidated either by the speaker
or the president.

KEN VOGEL, CHIEF INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER, POLITICO: Yes, there`s a couple
of reasons for that, Lawrence, I think. First of all, in this house
freedom caucus, you have folks who are just personally predisposed to
opposing the leadership, we`ve seen that time and again.

And so I don`t think that either having a leadership or Donald Trump lean
on them is necessarily the ticket to getting them on board. Additionally,
there`s really no evidence that Trump would be able to leverage the kind of
tactics that he used so successfully in his own presidential campaign.

To actually go after GOP house members in primary. These are district by
district battles, not national media based advertising wars or air wars.

And you know the – as you cited in the run-up there, the health care bill
is not particularly popular. So these folks are not going to face
challenges from the right necessarily, let alone ones where Donald Trump
would necessarily be a major factor in whipping up support for a primary
challenger.

O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to what Congressman David Brat, conservative, told
Katy Tur today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KATY TUR, NBC NEWS: Do you believe this vote is going to happen on
Thursday?

BRAT: Right now we`re aiming for it.

(CROSSTALK)

TUR: Aiming for it, sounds like you`re not very confident that you`re
going to have it.

BRAT: I`m not sure. I don`t think there are the votes. I think there`s
20 or 30 conservatives, and I was just talking to some colleagues, there`s
10 or 20 moderates and folks in tough races up in the northeast corridor –

TUR: So now –

BRAT: That have coverage issues, right? So, it`s a problem right now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Peter Wehner, what does it mean to the Trump presidency if the
president loses his first big vote in the House of Representatives?

PETER WEHNER, SENIOR FELLOW, ETHICS AT PUBLIC POLICY CENTER: It would be
huge, it`d be enormous. You know, I was thinking about listening to Trump
make this case of not being able to persuade Republicans.

And I thought back to Ronald Reagan when he got his legislation through in
the first year. And he had to apply pressure, but that was because he had
to convince Democrats, not Republicans.

And what you`ve got here is a weak president and an unpopular bill. And
they`re just having tough sledding. And to see a Republican president with
a Republican Congress 60 days into his presidency have this amount of
difficulty is extraordinary.

But of course it`s an unprecedented presidency. We`ve never seen a
president this weak and he`s being devoured by all sorts of issues,
including the FBI investigation.

O`DONNELL: Yes, Peter, talk about that and how that crosses the border, as
it were, into the health care debate. A president with a record low
approval rating by Gallup that we`ve never seen in a two-month presidency.

Thirty seven percent is just a stunningly low number. Also the first
president to have an FBI director tell a congressional hearing that, no,
president was completely wrong, interpreted by many as the president was
lying according to the FBI director in congressional testimony.

Those two things happening in the same week when the president is trying to
get his first big legislative vote in the House of Representatives.

WEHNER: You know, this is enormous. And again, this is supposed to be the
easy part. This is the first 60 days of a presidency in which he has
control of the House and the Senate. And yet, there`s tremendous blowback.

But the reason is that these are self-inflicted wounds by Donald Trump. He
is a corrupt president and a corrupt man and is catching up to it.

And it`s not just the corruption, it`s the ineptness. And I think it`s not
just the FBI investigation, and it`s the trouble with the health care bill.

It`s the sense that this is a man with a disordered personality that just
isn`t up to being president. And day after day and week after week, we`re
seeing more and more evidence of that.

And I think it`s unnerving Republicans. I`m not sure that they want to be
associated with him, I don`t think they`re afraid of him.

O`DONNELL: And Ken, there`s some speculation today that the drop in the
stock market is related to what Peter was just saying that Wall Street is
now getting that same kind of impression of this presidency, that he is
unbalanced, incompetent.

And now, if you can`t get this first big vote, what votes can he get? What
does that mean for the big tax bill that Wall Street is hoping for, and
what does that mean for all the deregulation that Wall Street is hoping
for?

VOGEL: Yes, that`s a very valid question, Lawrence. I mean, they kind of
painted themselves into the corner a little bit on health care by
committing to doing it as the first bill out.

It`s just a super complicated issue though. Obama found that Trump
famously said. He`s surprisingly so complicated, who would have guessed?
Well, Obama certainly would have guessed.

But additionally, that it wasn`t necessarily the one that he or the folks
in his administration, in his inner circle, felt the most strongly about.

They did feel more strongly about this tax overhaul and the – some of the
deregulatory measures. Even the infrastructure spending though was one
that they felt a little bit more committed to.

Nonetheless, I think they felt like they had to come out and take one
health care because – both because the members of Congress for six years,
the Republican members of Congress had campaigned against Obamacare.

And because – you know, Trump gave it his imperatorial a little bit. And
I think even though our folks – I mean, my sources tell me that there are
folks inside the administration who say that they wouldn`t mind seeing this
fail because they would see it as of – as sort of a failure for Paul Ryan,
who they believe put them in this position.

Nonetheless, I agree with Pete, it would be a huge defeat for Trump and it
would really set back his entire agenda because some of these other
priorities would be forced back – would be forced to the back burner as
they sort of try to reconfigure and re-roll out the health care push.

O`DONNELL: Peter, a quick last word on what you think if this bill either
fails in the vote or if the speaker has to just take it down and not go to
the vote on Thursday, the potential damage to Paul Ryan.

WEHNER: Oh, I think it would be a big blow to Ryan. I mean, he – this is
his bill. He set it up. He`s pushing it. And Trump has in a sense hinged
– you know, connected himself to Ryan, to that wagon.

And if it crashes into the side of a hill, that`s going to be very bad for
Ryan. But it would be bad for Trump and it would be bad for the entire
Republican Party.

Because what it would signal to voters is that they`re not ready for prime
time. They`ve got the Senate, they`ve got the House, they`ve got the
presidency and they can`t govern.

They can`t pass what is essentially the marquee bill, the signature
achievement the Republicans have been promising for eight years.

And you know, politics, victories build on themselves and so do defeats.
And so if this goes down, this isn`t the only issue that are going to go
down on.

O`DONNELL: And there`s one more nightmare scenario for House Republicans,
and that is that they take this tough vote, they give this tough vote to
the president and to Paul Ryan, it passes and then the Senate kills it.

And then those Republicans who voted for it and compromised themselves in
the House will have done that for nothing, trying to get them to do that
once again on any other bill is going to be pretty tough, too.

Ken Vogel, Peter Wehner, thank you both for joining us tonight, really
appreciate it.

VOGEL: Thanks, Lawrence.

WEHNER: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, leader of a physician`s group tells us he has never
seen legislation that would do more harm to health care in the United
States than the Trump and Paul Ryan health care bill.

He will join us next. And also today, the theater of the confirmation
hearing of the United States Supreme Court, a relatively new tradition.
Most Supreme Court Justices never had confirmation hearings.

What exactly is at stake in that confirmation hearing today?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID CAMERON, FORMER UNITED KINGDOM PRIME MINISTER: I happen to disagree
with her about Donald Trump. I think his remarks are divisive, stupid and
wrong. And I think if he came to visit our country, I think he`d unite us
all against him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: That was David Cameron two years ago when he was the British
Prime Minister. Luckily for Donald Trump, he is no longer the British
Prime Minister.

But David Cameron was in Providence, Rhode Island, yesterday and had more
to say about Donald Trump. We will have that later.

Up next, how the Republican health care bill is the worst legislation that
has ever been presented in Congress concerning health care, according to a
physician`s group, that`s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: Yesterday, Robert Doherty tweeted this: “In 38 years advocating
for doctors, patients, I`ve never seen a bill that will do more harm to
health than AHCA bill being voted on Thursday.”

Robert Doherty is a senior vice president at the American College of
Physicians, the country`s second largest physician group.

Today, after he saw the changes in the bill that the Republicans announced
last night, he said this: “Version 2.0 is even worse. Medicaid block
grants, work mandate, ban on further expansion will harm the most
vulnerable.”

And joining us now, Robert Dougherty. Robert, thank you very much for
joining us tonight. I want to start first of all with what you see as the
differences in this 2.0 version that the version of the bill that was
hastily written yesterday and released late last night.

ROBERT DOHERTY, SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT, AMERICAN COLLEGE OF PHYSICIANS:
Sure, Lawrence, and thank you for having me. The original bill was bad
enough because it targeted the most vulnerable people in our society;
poorer and sicker people, particularly those on Medicaid.

In an effort to “make sweeteners to attract more votes”. What leadership
did is make it even worse for those people, by putting a block grant option
for Medicaid, which means that stay together, it`s lumps amount of money
that will cost more than that to take care of the old that get sicker,
poorer people in Medicaid, maybe suck holding the tap.

And that would be to drop coverage to millions across the country. And
then they made this work require – what they essentially said you`ve got
to prove to us that you are able – that you`re looking for work or have a
job or safe to have the option of denying you coverage.

And we believe the mitochondria physicians of health care are right and
people shouldn`t be forced to prove that they are able to work in order to
have coverage.

O`DONNELL: And I want to go to something that Donald Trump said about
physicians specifically and their reaction to the Affordable Care Act.
Let`s listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Many of our best and brightest are leaving the medical profession
entirely because of Obamacare. Obamacare has been a complete and total
catastrophe and it`s getting worse and worse by the day.

And yet you watch the fake media, the fake news and they try and build it
up. It`s a disaster, fellas. It`s a disaster.

(BOOING)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Your reaction to that, Robert?

DOHERTY: Well, physicians have frustrations with red tape and things like
that. But that has nothing to do with the Affordable Care Act or
Obamacare.

The physicians I represent internal medicine doctors, the largest specialty
in the United States are strongly committed to the idea that their patients
should have access to Affordable health care.

But what we know is that the bill that will be going to the House on
Thursday would roll back coverage for millions of people, and again,
particularly the most vulnerable.

And that really sticks in our craw. A value – a society should put its
greatest attention to supporting those who need the help the most. Which
are the poor kids on Medicaid, the elderly in nursing homes on Medicaid.

Adolescent people – and mental health disorders who get their coverage
through Medicaid, and the idea of going after those people and taking the
coverage away. To our members and to the mitochondria physicians, it`s
simply unconscionable.

O`DONNELL: You are getting some lobbying help from Michigan`s Republican
Governor Rick Snyder who sent this letter to his Congressional delegation
including Republicans in it, saying altogether there are 1.75 million
children, seniors, pregnant women and disabled individuals served by
traditional Medicaid in Michigan and roughly 104,000 of them reside in your
district.

He wrote to U.S. Representative Tim Walberg in a letter saying that this
legislation will adversely impact them. It seems that that`s not something
that`s understood by a majority of the Republicans in the House.

DOHERTY: Well, maybe so far. We`re still hopeful that the bill will not
pass the House on Thursday or that Speaker Ryan will reconsider moving
ahead and rushing this legislation through.

But clearly, there are Republican governors, Governor Kasich is another,
who understand that Medicaid is crucial to the health of their residents.

And that Medicaid expansion states like Michigan, Ohio, terminating that
program would have terrible consequences for vulnerable people,
particularly older and sicker people who are covered by Medicaid right now.

So, I think there are more and more Republicans who are getting it,
certainly within the governors, more and more are getting it.

But I do think you see more members of Congress, you have members of
Congress up to the Senate that are having strong reservations at least with
the plan that`s being put forward for a vote on Thursday.

O`DONNELL: Yes, I think from your experience, you know that when you see
this kind of trouble getting through the house, it`s probably even more
trouble trying to get the same bill through the Senate.

Robert Doherty, thank you very much for joining us tonight, I really
appreciate it.

DOHERTY: Well, thank you, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

DOHERTY: My pleasure.

O`DONNELL: Up next, the Senate confirmation hearing of a Supreme Court
Justice. What you should be looking for in that hearing, that`s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: If the founding fathers visited the Senate Judiciary Committee
hearing room today, they would not have understood what anyone in that
room was doing.

The founding fathers never contemplated confirmation hearings for Supreme
Court Justices when George Washington selected John Jay to be the first
Supreme Court Chief Justice.

The Senate confirmed John Jay unanimously without a confirmation hearing.
And within four days of that, the Senate confirmed four other justices
without Senate confirmation hearings.

That`s how the founding fathers thought the process would work. It was
there to weed out any truly terrible appointments like criminals or con
men.

We have television to thank for the modern Supreme Court confirmation
process, and of course politicians` hunger to be on television.

The modern process has not produced better justices than John Marshall or
Oliver Wendell Holmes, both of whom did not have confirmation hearings.

Both of whom had not been subject to FBI background checks because the FBI
had not been invented yet. The first Senate confirmation hearing for
Supreme Court Justice was at the beginning of the 20th century when
President Wilson chose the first Jewish nominee Louis Brandeis.

The supposed gentleman of the Senate then were taken aback by a Jewish
nominee and decided we better slow this thing down and ask a few questions.

And so they had their first confirmation hearing. Louis Brandeis was then
confirmed and went on to become one of the great figures in American
jurisprudence.

There were only two more confirmation hearings before the television age
and both of those would address suspected scandals, both of those nominees
were then confirmed.

William O. Douglas was the longest-serving member of the United States
Supreme Court and possibly its most influential and its most liberal.

Most liberal member ever. He lived a romantically scandalous life for his
era as a Supreme Court Justice. He was married four times while serving on
the Supreme Court.

Excerpts of an article he wrote appeared in “Evergreen Magazine”, which was
considered a mildly pornographic magazine in the “Playboy” magazine
category.

It is impossible to imagine the longest serving justice in the history of
the United States Supreme Court getting through a Senate confirmation
hearing today.

And luckily for William O. Douglas, he didn`t have to. Douglas reportedly
sat outside the Judiciary Committee`s meeting room on the day he had heard
his nomination was going to be discussed privately among the members.

And he passed a handwritten note to the chairman, saying, “do you have any
questions for me?” That note came back to Justice Douglas with the
chairman`s handwritten one-word reply “no.” And the republic survived and
the Supreme Court survived. And William O Douglas consistently lead the
liberal side of the argument within the court.

Justice Douglas wouldn`t recognize what went on at the judiciary committee
today. It is a game, steeped in a relatively short tradition that the
press mistakenly thinks is a long tradition of judicial nominees refusing
to comment on anything that you would ever expect a candidate for the
United States Supreme Court to be able to discuss. Like, say, the single
most famous case of the modern era, Roe v. Wade.

They pretend that cannot be discussed. The game in the judiciary committee
for most nominees is to pretend that you don`t have an opinion on the case
that everyone has an opinion about. Here is Clarence Thomas in his
confirmation hearing in 1991 telling Senator Patrick Leahy that even though
Roe v. Wade was decided when he was in law school, he never talked about
it, never forms an opinion about it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PATRICK LEAHY, UNITED STATES SENATOR: Have you ever had discussion of Roe
v. Wade other than in this room? In the 17 or 18 years it`s been there?

CLARENCE THOMAS, ASSOCIATE JUSTICE OF THE SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED
STATES: Only I guess the senator, in the fact in the most general sense
that other individuals expressed concerns one way or the other and you
listen and you try to be thoughtful. If you`re asking me whether or not
I`ve ever debated the contents of it, the answer to that, no - is , no,
senator.

LEAHY: Have you ever, other gatherings or otherwise, stated whether you
felt that it was properly decided or not?

THOMAS: Senator, in trying to recall and reflect on that, I don`t
recollect commenting one way or the other. There were, again, debates
about it in various places but I generally did not participate. And I
don`t remember or recall participating, sir.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Judging by Pat Leahy`s follow-up question, he didn`t actually
believe that answer. And that was the moment when I decided that Clarence
Thomas was willing to say anything to get confirmed and that was before
Anita Hill came forward to accuse him of sexual harassment. Today it as
Neil Gorsuch`s to play the game. In one exchange he was at least willing
to describe the basic elements of Roe v. Wade.

But of course he couldn`t possibly offer his opinion about the case because
of that meaningless and false and relatively short senate confirmation
tradition that says you can`t possibly be a fair Supreme Court justice if
you`ve ever thought about any case that may come before you in any form.
Of course exactly the opposite is true. Presidents are looking for highly
educated lawyers who have already been through the senate confirmation
process at least once and sometimes twice as federal judges and appeals
court judges.

And that they`re the kind of people who think about this stuff every day.
But in the senate confirmation hearings, they have to pretend they haven`t.
And then they have to pretend that there is absolutely no hypothetical
questions that you could ask about a case or any point of law that they
could ethically answer in their conformation hearing because then no one
would believe that they could be fair. If a case resembling in anyway came
to the Supreme Court.

Here`s Neil Gorsuch today playing that game.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LEAHY: Is a blanket religious test. Is that consistent with the first
amendment?

NEIL GORSUCH, AMERICAN FEDERAL APPELLATE JUDGE: Senator, we have a free
exercise clause that protects the free exercise of religious liberties by
all persons in this country. If you`re asking me how I`d apply it to a
specific case, I can`t talk about that for understandable reasons.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: No. There`s nothing understandable about those reasons. And
to prove it, Gorsuch himself later actually did talk about a hypothetical
case, as senator Leahy persisted with his line of questioning about
religious tests.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LEAHY: Let me give you an example be, should there be a religious test to
serve in the military.

O`DONNELL: Senator that would be inappropriate, yes. That`s against the
law. It`s against the law.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: See? Pat Leahy actually got a Supreme Court nominee to take a
hypothetical position on a hypothetical case that could now easily come to
the Supreme Court. President Trump could easily decide that the solution
to the massacre at Fort Hood by Army Major Nidal Hasan is to ban Muslims
from serving in the military. That is not far fetched in Trump world.

And Neil Gorsuch has already ruled on it right there in the judiciary
committee today. But that doesn`t mean that he would not give a fair
hearing to all of the details of a particular case, that a Trump ban of
Muslims in the military would present to the Supreme Court because fairness
as a judge does not mean that you have no opinions. Fairness as a judge
means that as a human being you are full of opinions, political and
otherwise, but fairness as a judge means that you limit your judicial
findings and your judicial rulings to what the constitution intends.

Being a fair judge means that the controlling law in the case is more
important to you than your own opinions or prejudices it doesn`t mean that
you don`t have opinions or prejudices. And so - so Neil Gorsuch got
nothing wrong on his side of the game today in the judiciary committee.
Very, very few Supreme Court nominees ever do get anything wrong because it
such a simple game. They don`t even get things slightly wrong according to
the rules of that game.

Democrats in the senate along with republicans unanimously voted to the
justice that Neil Gorsuch is nominated to replace, Antonin Scalia, who was
the most right wing conservative judge in the modern history of the court.
He got the unanimous vote of democrats and republicans because the
tradition then enforced that vote. The tradition was simply is the nominee
qualified to be a judge. Not do I agree with this nominee.

That`s the new standard, do I agree with this nominee. And it is just as
will the as the old standard because the constitution gives no guidance to
what senators are supposed to consider. The standards are all based on
tradition and now we see that that tradition changes over time. Senator Al
Franken disagrees with Judge Gorsuch`s position on a case involving a truck
driver who was fired by a trucking company after disregarding his
supervisor`s order, unhooking his trailer and driving to a gas station to
get out of the freezing cold.

The truck driver, who had been in his unheated truck for hours in subzero
temperatures said he was numb and his speech was slurring and by the time
he left the broken down trailer, here`s what Senator Al Franken said about
this case today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AL FRANKEN, UNITED STATES SENATOR: It is absurd to say this company is in
its rights to fire him because he made the choice of possibly dying from
freezing to death or causing other people to die possibly by driving an
unsafe vehicle. That`s absurd. Now, I had a career in identifying
absurdity. And I know it when I see it. And it makes me, you know – it
makes me question your judgment.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Senator Franken thinks it`s absurd that Judge Gorsuch ruled for
the trucking company against the truck driver. That alone is a perfectly
legitimate reason for Senator Al Franken to vote against Neil Gorsuch. But
there is another bigger reason that has never been present before in the
senate confirmation process for any Supreme Court justice in history, and
that is Neil Gorsuch is the only nominee ever selected to fill a stolen
seat on the United States Supreme Court.

We`ll discuss what the senate should do about that next with Frank Rich.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GORSUCH: I`m heartened by the support I have received from people who
recognize that there`s no such thing as a republican judge or a democratic
judge. We just have judges in this country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Except of course the judges who actually run for office in
states that elect judges. And of course the judges who are selected for
the Supreme Court of the United States who in recent times anyway have
already been clearly identifiable by the presidents who chose them, like
Neil Gorsuch, as democrats or republicans. Joining us now Frank Rich
writer at large for “New York Magazine” and an Emmy Award winning executive
producer of HBO`s “VEEP.”

Frank I want to go quickly to one of my favorite moments of this hearing.

FRANK RICH, WRITER AT LARGE FOR NEW YORK MAGAZINE: Sure.

O`DONNELL: Which is the imaginary moment in the one-on-one with Donald
Trump when Donald Trump asks Neil Gorsuch a question that he disapproves
of, Lindsey Graham sets the stage for us. Let`s watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LINDSEY GRAHAM, UNITED STATES SENATOR: In that interview, did he ever ask
you to overrule Roe v. Wade?

GORSUCH: No, senator.

GRAHAM: What would you have done if he`d asked?

GORSUCH: Senator, I would have walked out the door. It`s not what judges
do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: And there is the perfect execution of the theater of the
confirmation hearing performance by a Supreme Court nominee.

RICH: Didn`t it looked rehearsed?

O`DONNELL: Yes, it did. And also I don`t believe a word of it. I believe
if that moment happened, he would have said to himself I`m dealing with the
most ignorant president in history who doesn`t even know the public
tradition that we`re not supposed to discuss this and I will tell the most
ignorant president in history I can`t comment on that now, I don`t have –
he would have given his confirmation hearing answer to the question, which
is I can`t talk about that.

RICH: Right, although the way Lindsey Graham, who is after all a lawyer
framed that question, there was a lot of wiggle room anyway. He just asked
him – if he asked you would overturn - he said would he - if he has to,
would he overturn it. The question could have been what do you think about
Roe v. Wade and Gorsuch could have told him the truth and still he could
have given that answer to Graham under oath today.

O`DONNELL: Right. So the democrats have a very tough set of choices in
front of them. They - they first of all have this issue of the stolen seat
which, who it is. There`s no question that there`s the asterisk on this
seat for the rest of time that the republicans stole this seat from the
democratic president, Barack Obama. There are many Democratic supporters
out there who want them to all vote against Gorsuch just on that issue
alone.

RICH: Yes. I mean I can see doing it. It will not make a difference so.
But I can understand the political desire of the democratic base to want it
because it was a stolen seat and it an outrage. And that`s a good way to
protest it and it`s not outrageous to cast that vote as supposed to what
Mitch Mcconnell did to Merrick Garland. I mean and also could be the
theater of this the fact that we`ve been told 15 times or told every other
day that Gorsuch called up Garland to say this seat should have been yours.

You know it`s like Lassie come home, you know,

O`DONNELL: We agree with that (INAUDIBLE).

RICH: Yes, yes, but anyway so I think the Senator should be free to do
what they want.

DONNELL: But there`s also this tactical question of do all - should all
the Democrats oppose moving to the vote? In other words, filibustering
it because that risks the possibility that Mitch Mcconnell will then say,
okay, no more 60-vote threshold on Supreme Court Justices and then what are
you going to get in the end of that anyway?

RICH: Nothing good if -

DONNELL: I would not know how to advise a Democratic Senator on this.

RICH: And given that Harry Reid and the Democratic will set this precedent
anyway about breaking rules like this, that`s not good and that could come
back to haunt them, particularly if there`s another – obviously if there`s
another Supreme Court vacancy.

DONNELL: Yes and there`s the list of Gorsuches just goes on and on. I
mean they had a dozen off the top of everybody`s head in Washington that
the list that Gorsuch was on.

RICH: Right and they`re all sort of youngish. They`re all presentable or
most of them are presentable. I mean really this guy, I`m sure he`s a
lovely man and smart. But really, if he wanted to cast, you know, in an
hour drama you wanted to cast this person, this is from central casting.

DONNELL: Yes, and I mean, the question – I guess one of the questions
that`s being calibrated is how far from Scalia is he? Where is he in terms
of a replacement in that seat? What does he do to the balance of the
court?

RICH: Well, there was The Washington Post I think had a story, the
political scientists have looked at every single opinion of his say he`s
considerably to the right of both Clarence Thomas and Alito. So I think we
have the answer to that question.

DONNELL: That would be the – that`s the Scalia seat.


RICH: Maybe he`s even in the right of Scalia. I don`t know.


DONNELL: Only person ever to the right of those guys.

RICH: Yes.

DONNELL: Frank Rich, welcome back from Hollywood. You`ve wrapped on Veep,
I take it.

RICH: Yes.

DONNELL: That`s why you`re here. OK. We need to see more of you. Thank
you Frank.

RICH: Thank you.

DONNELL: Coming up, the world was watching when the FBI Director told
Congress that the President of the United States was not telling the truth.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: Breaking news. The White house has just announced Donald
Trump`s First foreign trip as President. The Whitehouse says the President
will travel to Brussels in May for meetings of heads of state with NATO
member countries. The President looks forward to meeting with his NATO
counterpart to reaffirm our strong commitment to NATO.

The President will surely be asked there by reporters why he has said that
NATO is obsolete. We`ll have more on NATO`s view of President Trump next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: The whole world was watching yesterday when the Director of the
FBI effectively said that the President of the United States is a liar.
The world had never seen anything like it. Foreign newspapers understood
the most important revelation in yesterday`s hearing. Most of them carried
a variation on the headline in the Times of London saying FBI confirms into
Trump links with Russia.

Former British Prime Minister David Cameron spoke at Brown university in
Providence Rhode Island yesterday. He made a joke about the Trump
Whitehouse suggestion that President Obama got the British to wiretap
Donald Trump for him. The Providence Journal Reports that David Cameron
said one of the advantages of leaving office is I don`t have to listen to
anymore to wire taps of Donald Trump`s conversations. Cameron then said
just to be clear that`s a joke.

In fact, the British government took the Trump Whitehouse lie about them
very seriously. The British and governments around the world are now
wondering how reliable an ally the United States of America is, something
they have never had to worry about before.

Christopher Dickey will join us next from Paris with Europe`s view of the
most unstable, chaotic American presidency in history

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The more the president angers our closest allies, the
more he weakens our ability to deal with the threats that we`re facing in
the world.

O`DONNELL: Joining us now from Paris is Christopher Dickey, world news
editor for The Daily Beast and MSNBC contributor. Christopher, what was
the European reaction to that extraordinary hearing yesterday?

CHRISTOPHER DICKEY, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think the first reaction
was to report the facts that the FBI Director is essentially saying
President Trump hasn`t been telling the truth about all kind of things and
that the investigation about the Russian involvement is still under way.
But I think also the reaction was why is Trump tweeting in the middle of
all this?

Why is Trump going on and on about this on Twitter when there`s a very
solemn hearing going on in front of the U.S. Congress? I think people here
are very confused watching this administration, and I think they just don`t
know what to do when they look at Trump`s Presidency. So one of the things
they`re doing is they`re starting to turn more toward Russia.

Were hearing a lot here in France, even from presidential candidates about
the need for closer relations with Russia because Russia somehow is a more
traditional ally, is a more stable country. It`s absurd to think that that
would be the case, but that`s what we`re hearing.

O`DONNELL: It`s such a strange turn of logic, if we can even use that
word, Christopher, but is that just part of just how disorienting the Trump
phenomenon is in Europe?

DICKEY: Well, I think so. I mean, I think Trump is going to – in May
he`s going to the NATO summit, well, that`s great. But the fact is people
here just don`t have much confidence in the United States to back them up
anymore. And as Chancellor Merkel suggested in only slightly veiled
language, there`s real questions now about whether the United States shares
the values of Europe or at least of mainstream politicians and leaders in
Europe is the United States really supporting democracy?

Does it understand how serious the problems can be if you embrace Russia?
You know, so what they do is they say where can we look for stability? And
if we`re not going to get the kind of backing we need from the United
States, we better start looking to cut better deals with Russia.

O`DONNELL: and how did the Markel visit play in Europe, especially the
moment of Donald Trump refusing to shake her hand on camera where everyone
could hear it?

DICKEY: I think people were appalled. I think Merkel understood and I
think many Europeans understand that the policies of the Trump
administration are deeply hostile to the European Union and in many in many
respects to NATO. the – Merkel when she was standing there next to him
kept trying to call him out very quietly saying, you know, we believe in
Europe and you don`t seem to be supporting that idea, you want bilateral
negotiations.

O`DONNELL: Christopher Dickey, thank you very much for joining us tonight.
I really appreciate it. The 11th Hour with Brian Williams starts now.

END

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