The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell, Transcript 6/19/17 Kushner considers new Legal Rep.
Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL
Date: June 19, 2017
Guest: Rosalind Helderman, David Cay Johnston, Richard Blumenthal, Jon
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC: The most expensive congressional – the Democrat who
is running against her, trying to flip that seat from red to blue is Jon
Ossoff, who has proved to be not only a focus of national attention for
liberals and Democrats, but who has helped to make this the most expensive
congressional seat that has ever been run for in the history of this
Democrat Jon Ossoff on the eve of that crucial race is going to be a guest
with Lawrence O`Donnell coming up right now.
I`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: Rachel, I should give you the
list of all the guests on the show, so you can lead in so gracefully to
Pretty exciting to have Jon Ossoff –
MADDOW: Yes –
O`DONNELL: Here on THE LAST WORD to get his last word in this campaign
before the voting starts tomorrow.
And, boy, these special elections just get more and more tense. This is –
MADDOW: Yes –
O`DONNELL: The one that has had all of the pressure on it.
MADDOW: Yes, you know, and it`s interesting that South Carolina race is –
that was like a Trump plus 18 district.
And so that one feels like almost an impossible climb for the Democrats
there. But even in that race, even in the South Carolina race, you talk to
Democrats in South Carolina, they love their candidate.
They`re psyched for that race. They think there`s a chance that they will
definitely exceed expectations, maybe to even be in contention.
That – I mean, in a Trump plus 18 district, that`s remarkable enough. But
to have this race in Georgia where Trump won by less than two and where Jon
Ossoff has been such a good candidate and Karen Handel has been such a bad
candidate, that – I wouldn`t want to be dealing with the kind of pressure
that Jon Ossoff is dealing with tonight.
O`DONNELL: And there`s the Trump factor, that`s what we`ll –
MADDOW: Yes –
O`DONNELL: Tomorrow night, we`re going to be talking about – well, you
know, what did Trump mean here in this election?
And we may have a late night, this thing if it`s going to be very close.
It could be a late night of vote counting.
MADDOW: I know, I already canceled my plans for –
O`DONNELL: Yes –
O`DONNELL: Yes, me too.
MADDOW: Thanks, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel. As I said, we have Jon Ossoff joining us
tonight, he will get his last word as the campaign finally comes to a close
in that special election in Georgia.
The one that everyone has been watching this year. We will also be joined
by one of the senators who is participating in the Democrats` holding of
the Senate floor tonight to talk about the phantom Republican healthcare
bill that still has not been made public.
And why does Jared Kushner have much better lawyers than his father-in-law,
who has assembled the single worst legal team ever to defend a president
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, are you under investigation by the
JAY SEKULOW, LAWYER: And now he`s being investigated.
CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS: So he`s being investigated. You`ve now said that
he is being investigated.
WALLACE: You just said it, sir –
SEKULOW: No, he`s not being investigated –
WALLACE: You just said that he`s being investigated.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC: If you believe that lawyer, you`re crazy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If he didn`t want people to know that he`s under
investigation, why did he tweet I`m under investigation?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Clearly the president is being investigated for
obstruction of justice.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And tonight, the White House says it`s possible that
by the end of this week, we could get some clarity on whether any Oval
Office tapes or recordings exist.
JARED KUSHNER, SENIOR ADVISER TO DONALD TRUMP: This is technology week
here at the White House.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jared Kushner speaks!
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Kushner`s team is reaching out to criminal lawyers
about possibly representing Kushner in the Russia investigation.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kushner is both a witness to other crimes and
potentially has his own legal exposures.
JON OSSOFF, DEMOCRATIC NOMINEE FOR CONGRESS IN THE 2017 SPECIAL ELECTION IN
GEORGIA`S 6TH CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT: I think that`s the virtually
unprecedented level of chaos and dysfunction and the atmosphere of scandal
in Washington right now has raised everyone`s attention.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Donald Trump has the worst lawyers than any president under
investigation has ever had.
That is just fact. The reason he has these lawyers is that he is indeed
Let`s make no mistake about that. The new front-runner for the title of
worst lawyer to ever defend a president under investigation is Jay Sekulow,
whose mission yesterday was to go on the Sunday shows and say the president
is not under investigation.
Now, this was going to be difficult because the president had already said
twice that he is under investigation.
And then, of course, Sekulow himself said twice to Chris Wallace that the
president is under investigation before he changed that to the president is
not under investigation.
And when Chris Wallace called him on that, Jay Sekulow got indignant about
Chris Wallace putting words in his mouth.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEKULOW: Chris, let me be clear. You asked me a question about what the
president`s tweet was regarding the deputy Attorney General of the United
That`s what you asked me, and I responded to what that legal theory would
be. So I do not appreciate you putting words in my mouth when I`ve been
crystal clear that the president is not and has not been under
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Do not appreciate putting words in my mouth. OK, so here are
the words that Chris Wallace did not put in Jay Sekulow`s mouth.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEKULOW: And now he`s being investigated, so he`s being investigated –
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: It was going to be very hard for Jay Sekulow to outdo Donald
Trump`s New York lawyer, Marc Kasowitz, who got basic facts wrong in his
first public statement in defense of the president.
When he claimed that James Comey`s testimony was total vindication of
President Trump. Marc Kasowitz defended Donald Trump on the losing side of
the Trump University fraud case in which Donald Trump was forced to pay $25
million to the students he defrauded at Trump University.
A university whose very name was a fraud because, of course, it is not –
was not a university. Marc Kasowitz also led Donald Trump on some of his
most ridiculous, most frivolous, most impossible lawsuits, including suing
Bill Maher and suing Tim O`Brien who wrote a book about Donald Trump.
Marc Kasowitz and Donald Trump not only lost that lawsuit against Tim
O`Brien, but in the process, Donald Trump was forced to give an under-oath
deposition in which he was caught in lies 30 times.
And that deposition now lives after that lawsuit. And who can forget
Donald Trump`s in-house lawyer at Trump Tower, Michael Cohen, who
contributed this moment to the presidential campaign.
He`s the one who said, “you can`t rape your spouse. It is true, you cannot
rape your spouse, and there`s very clear case law.”
Michael Cohen has now had to hire his own lawyer because his contacts –
because of his contacts with Russians, if any, during the campaign are also
The only Trump lawyer who has not yet publicly humiliated himself in
defense of the president is the only one who has not spoken publicly in
defense of the president.
That is John Dowd. It may be that the only way for a lawyer to avoid
public humiliation in defense of President Trump is to simply remain
Meanwhile, special prosecutor Robert Mueller himself, a former FBI director
with impeccable legal credentials, has hired 13 lawyers all with experience
in criminal cases including investigations of the mafia, al Qaeda and
President Richard Nixon.
A spokesman for the special prosecutor`s office has told “Politico” that
Robert Mueller plans to hire several more attorneys.
And so as of tonight, the investigation of the president pits Robert
Mueller`s dream team against Donald Trump`s nightmare team.
Robert Mueller`s dream team of prosecutors against Donald Trump`s nightmare
team of lawyers who no other president under investigation would ever
consider hiring under any circumstances.
The president`s son-in-law, Jared Kushner is not as reckless as the
president in his choice of Washington criminal defense lawyers.
Jared Kushner was the first member of the Trump team to hire a criminal
defense lawyer last year during the transition.
He`s now reportedly considering hiring another high-powered Washington
criminal defense lawyer, Abbe Lowell.
Abbe Lowell has spent decades as a high profile Washington defense lawyer
representing former Senator John Edwards, former Speaker of the House Jim
Wright, former Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee Dan
Rostenkowski and lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
Abbe Lowell has experience in impeachment proceedings, having served as
counsel to House Democrats during the impeachment of President Bill
Abbe Lowell is exactly the kind of lawyer that Donald Trump needs and does
not have. We don`t know if it was Jared Kushner`s lawyers who advised him
to finally speak today, to finally let his voice be publicly heard by the
The people he is supposed to be serving in his White House position of
completely inexperienced Jack of all trades to the most inexperienced
president in history.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KUSHNER: Before I came to Washington, many warned me that the bureaucracy
would resist any change that we tried to implement. So far, I have found
exactly the opposite.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Inspiring. Inspiring just to hear that voice. Jared Kushner
did not say anything about how cooperative the federal courts have been.
That is perhaps because federal judges all over the country have (AUDIO GAP
00:04:25-26) Jared Kushner and the president have so eagerly tried to
And Jared Kushner said nothing about how cooperative the Congress has been
since it has passed exactly none of the Trump-Kushner legislative agenda
including Jared Kushner and his wife`s dream of ripping health insurance
away from 23 million people who will no longer be able to afford it if the
Trump-Kushner health care bill ever becomes law.
Joining us now, Lachlan Markay; White House correspondent for “The Daily
Beast”, Ed Dowd; former U.S. attorney for the eastern district of Missouri
and partner at Dowd Bennett.
He served as deputy special counsel in the Waco investigation. And also
with us, David Jolly; former Republican congressman from Florida.
And Ed Dowd, I want to just get your sense of the legal teams lining up
here at the line of scrimmage in this. I think there`s no question about
the quality that the special prosecutor is assembling and the experience
that he has on his side.
But I`ve never seen a legal team like this representing the president.
ED DOWD, LAWYER: I think there`s some good lawyers there. I think John
Dowd is an excellent lawyer.
And as you said, we haven`t heard from him yet. He has a great reputation.
Abbe Lowell, obviously, was a good choice for Jared Kushner.
Marc Kasowitz actually has a good reputation in some areas, in some areas
of law. It`s an interesting group.
And of course the last thing you want is to have your client contradicting
what you`re saying and to do so publicly is just not good for the
investigation, not good for your credibility.
O`DONNELL: David Jolly, we`ve seen the client, as it were, the president -
DAVID JOLLY, FORMER CONGRESSMAN: Sure –
O`DONNELL: Contradicting all of his representatives –
JOLLY: Of course –
O`DONNELL: Whether it be, you know, Sean Spicer or anybody. What was
interesting about this weekend`s contradiction with his lawyer is that the
president had pre-contradicted him.
The president had said, I am under investigation a couple of times and then
JOLLY: All right –
O`DONNELL: Sent him out to the Sunday show with the order of, say I`m not
JOLLY: Right, and that lawyer took an oath to the bar that he apparently
violated this weekend. Listen, why does Jared Kushner have better
attorneys than Donald Trump?
Because Jared Kushner is smarter than his father-in-law. That`s the bottom
line, right? Understand though, what Donald Trump is doing politically
right now, he`s trying to win the war day-to-day.
Why yesterday on Father`s Day, when we lose seven sailors as he tweet about
his poll numbers and fake news?
It is because he`s trying to hold his base desperately day-to-day. And
yes, maybe Mueller has not reached the president. I think he has, but he`s
Listen, Mueller`s authorization says anything arising out of the Russia
investigation. So one day it will, and when it does, President Trump will
say Mueller has too many Democrats working for him.
This is the president`s day-to-day fight and a long list of history he`s
going to lose.
O`DONNELL: And Lachlan, inside the White House, what is their feeling
about the president`s legal team at this point?
LACHLAN MARKAY, DAILY BEAST WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, there`s a lot
of frustration about the lack of, you know, at least publicly what appears
to be the lack of communication between the president and the folks who are
And the president has just been kind of a defense attorney`s worst
nightmare. You know, flying off at the hilt with – you know, on Twitter
and in public statements.
And you know, it`s gotten so difficult for a lot of these attorneys that
you have folks like Jay Sekulow going out, who are forced – who are sort
of backed into this hypothetical whereby he`s forced to concede that the
president is under investigation.
Obviously a major concession that he then tried to walk back. But, you
know, it`s just – it`s extremely difficult to manage this president.
And I think the reason that he`s picked the legal team that he has is less
– it has less to do with, I think legal competence or him being smart or
not as Congressman Jolly was suggesting than the fact that the president
prizes loyalty above all else.
And Marc Kasowitz especially has been very loyal to him over the years.
O`DONNELL: Robert Mueller is going to meet apparently, according to
“Reuters” report tonight, saying a special prosecutor Robert Mueller will
hold talks this week with senior Senate Judiciary Committee members to
ensure that there is no conflict between his investigation of potential
collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign and the panel`s probe.
Two congressional aides saying that. Ed Dowd, that`s a standard procedure
at this point, isn`t it?
DOWD: I think it is, and I think it`s really a good procedure, good thing
to do. On the Waco investigation, the Senate Judiciary Committee was about
to do an investigation of what happened at Waco, and Jack Danforth talked
to the head of the Senate Judiciary Committee and they agreed to wait until
we completed our investigation.
We didn`t want anybody giving immunity, we did not want people interviewed
before we had a chance to interview them and maybe take them in front of a
grand jury and really get to the bottom of it.
And we very much appreciated all inspectors(ph) and the Senate Judiciary
Committee cooperating with us in that regard.
O`DONNELL: Ed, take us inside that kind of meeting that`s going to happen
now with Mueller and the heads of the judiciary committee.
Will they ask him about timetable and how long will we have to wait?
DOWD: I think they will, and that`s a very tough thing to estimate,
although as you`ve mentioned, he`s already hired Bob Mueller, has already
hired 15 lawyers and is hiring more.
And they will be a tremendous group of lawyers. Bob Mueller, of course is
– you can`t have a better person than Bob Mueller to run this
investigation as special counsel with his background and experience.
And he`ll be able to put together the best possible team. They will move
fast, I`m sure. Senator Danforth in our investigation, one week into the
investigation came into my office and said, are we done yet?
And I said, no, but I get the point. And we finished that in 14 months
with 17 lawyers and 34 postal inspectors full-time.
Jack Danforth kept saying, I`m no Ken Starr, I want to be done, I want to
get to the end of this, I want to be 100 percent right and report it to the
American people and that`s what he did and what we did.
And I`m sure Bob Mueller will do the exact same thing, and he`ll move
promptly. But whether that takes eight months or a year and a half or
longer is hard to say.
O`DONNELL: And David Jolly, we`re getting a report tonight indicating that
there`s a trip that Michael Flynn made to Saudi Arabia that he did not
disclose, yet another item that he did not –
JOLLY: Right –
O`DONNELL: Disclose on the forms for his security clearance. And the
media just keeps digging these out about Flynn.
JOLLY: Right. So there are several lanes of investigation here, right?
Did Russia try to impact our elections? Were there Trump campaign
associates who actually either benefited from it or colluded with it?
Did Donald Trump try to obstruct justice with Comey? This investigation
begins and ends now with Robert Mueller, and his integrity is in place.
And guys like Newt Gingrich who came out and said Robert Mueller, his
integrity is beyond reproach, and now they`ve fallen in line because an
ambassadorship was given away to their wives or whatever the conflict of
interest might be.
The reality is Mueller is going to get this right. And on the left or
right or center, but as Americans, we will know at the end of the day that
Bob Mueller is somebody that can be trusted to get to the bottom of this.
O`DONNELL: And Lachlan, we`re discovering all these details about the
Mueller team, and pretty much every prosecutorial skill that you could ask
for is on this team, including one who is described as a specialist in
flipping people, turning people into the witness who turns against the
others within a group.
The kind of turning people into the John Dean of this case. That has to
worry everybody around the president.
MARKAY: Yes, you know, I think that`s probably a skill that a lot of
prosecutors strive for and have and, you know, learn over the courses of
But I mean to your larger point, the wide array of experts in various
investigative techniques, in types of crimes that Mueller is bringing on to
this team suggests that this sort of hydra of an investigation has branched
out into a lot of different areas.
And of course that`s the concern if you`re Donald Trump and you have a lot
of people on your team who have, say, been dealing in post-Soviet
developing countries for the past 20 years.
Is that you`ve had a lot of encounters with some very shady figures, some
possibly very shady financial flows, and all these sorts of things can
start to emerge once people are opening the books and looking back through
their records over the last 10, 20 years.
O`DONNELL: Ed, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse is a former prosecutor himself,
staring at this case has said publicly today that it appears to him just by
looking at the externals that we know publicly, that Michael Flynn is
probably already cooperating with the FBI and cooperating with this
When does that kind of information become public? Who is cooperating and
DOWD: You never know. A guy like Sheldon Whitehouse has a great
background for this. He was the U.S. attorney in Rhode Island.
I know him very well, we were U.S. attorneys at the same time. Generally,
as the prosecutor, as the investigator, you don`t want that public until
the last possible minute.
You don`t want the people you`re investigating to know what you have or
what people are saying to you or who`s cooperating.
I would be trying to keep that within our investigation. And if somebody
is cooperating, make it very clear to them that they`re not helping
themselves if they start making it public that they`re cooperating and make
it very clear to their lawyers as well.
I would definitely insist on that if somebody was cooperating.
O`DONNELL: David Jolly, quickly before we go. We`re going to have Jon
Ossoff on, special congressional –
JOLLY: Right –
O`DONNELL: Election. There`s a little bit of d‚j… vu in this for you
because you won –
JOLLY: Very much so –
O`DONNELL: In a special election in a nearby Florida district. What`s
your sense of where that race is tonight?
JOLLY: I think Ossoff wins it, I do. A couple of things we know. One,
all the commercials end tomorrow in Georgia and every voter is excited
One party is going to play down expectations Wednesday morning and say this
race doesn`t matter. But the bottom line is it does.
This race matters. Donald Trump won this by a point and a half is – are
Republicans coming home to stay there with him or are Democrats and all
this energy we`re seeing with resist, does it play out?
At the end of the day, though, Democrats have to win this race. If they
don`t, all of this energy in the last five months now comes into question.
But I think Ossoff wins it.
O`DONNELL: All right, we`re going to have to leave it there, Ed Dowd,
Lachlan Markay and David Jolly, thank you all for joining us tonight –
JOLLY: Yes –
O`DONNELL: Really appreciate it. Coming up –
DOWD: Thank you, Lawrence –
O`DONNELL: Thank you. We have breaking news from “The Washington Post”.
Why did Paul Manafort meet with a former member of the Russian army in the
Summer of 2016, right in the middle of the Trump campaign while he was
running the campaign and at the point where the Russian connections were
becoming public? That`s coming up next.
And later, Democrat Jon Ossoff will join us on the eve of that special
congressional election in Georgia.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, are you under investigation by the
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would like to – I would like to thank President
Trump for –
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, are you under investigation by the
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Last Summer at the height of the controversy involving Trump
campaign Chairman Paul Manafort`s connections to Russia, Paul Manafort had
dinner in New York City with Constantine Kilimnik who had worked for
Manafort in Paul Manafort`s Ukraine office.
Two weeks after that meeting with Kalimnik, Paul Manafort was forced to
resign from the Trump campaign because of his connections to Russia.
“The Washington Post” obtained a statement today from Mr. Kalimnik in which
he insisted that nothing improper was discussed at that meeting with Paul
Joining us now, Rosalind Helderman; political investigations and enterprise
reporter for “The Washington Post”.
And David Cay Johnston; Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and Trump
biographer who founded “D.C. Report.org”; and nonprofit news organization
that covers the Trump administration.
And Rosalind, it is your story in “The Washington Post” here that we are –
we are basing this – all of this reporting on.
It sounds like you had some interesting communications with Mr. Kalimnik,
he provided you a written statement and did that through Paul Manafort`s
ROSALIND HELDERMAN, WASHINGTON POST: Yes, that`s right, we became
interested in Mr. Kalimnik in part because we obtained a subpoena that was
issued out of the eastern district of Virginia this Spring that related to
Paul Manafort and mentioned Mr. Kalimnik`s name.
We tried to get a hold of Constantine directly. He as far as we know is
currently living in Kiev. We did not hear back from him.
But when we reached out to Mr. Manafort`s lawyer and asked a series of
questions about their interactions, he offered us a statement from
Constantine Kalimnik on the grounds and theory that they say that there was
nothing to hide here and no problem with this meeting that happened in
August of 2016.
O`DONNELL: And there`s some odd things that come out in your piece,
including that he won`t even say what his citizenship is.
HELDERMAN: That`s right. He was born in Ukraine, he grew up in Ukraine,
he moved to Moscow at the age of 17, which was in the late `80s, the Soviet
Union was still in existence.
And that`s when he attended an elite Russian army military academy. He was
in the Russian Army at the time of the dissolution of the Soviet Union, and
he declined to tell us whether he is currently a Ukrainian citizen, though
we do know he was born and grew up there.
O`DONNELL: David Cay Johnston, the – here`s Paul Manafort while all of
this is buzzing around him about his connections to Russia, his work
involving politics in Ukraine and how that would benefit the Putin view of
the politics in Ukraine.
All of this is happening, and he`s sitting down and having this dinner,
this meeting with this guy who used to work for him in Ukraine.
DAVID CAY JOHNSTON, JOURNALIST: Well, it`s not surprising per se that they
would meet together because of their business relationship.
On the other hand, you know, Rosalind and Tom Hamburger and the third
reporter at “The Post” did a fabulous job here, spotting this subpoena,
understanding its significance and working it out.
I think the thing we ought to focus on is why is it that every single one
of these roads leads back to the same place?
They lead back to the former Soviet Union. You don`t see a single thing
going on here around the edges of Trump that takes us to Chile or some
It`s Russia-Russia former Soviet republics. And even if there`s nothing
per se wrong with their meeting and they assert there is not, the fact that
they were meeting during the middle of this when Manafort knew that people
were looking at him over his connections to the pro-Moscow government in
Ukraine, suggests just a remarkable arrogance.
O`DONNELL: And Rosalind, this is I suppose kind of the stiffest form of
communication that you could have had given that it`s written and it`s
through Paul Manafort`s lawyer.
So it`s the safest possible communication that Paul Manafort and his lawyer
could have allowed with Mr. Kalimnik.
HELDERMAN: Certainly, I mean, we definitely asked to speak with Mr.
Kalimnik, we could have arranged a time to speak with him by phone from
We spoke with a number of other people from Ukraine for this story, and we
were not offered that opportunity.
What we were offered was written answers to some questions and then sort of
a biography that Mr. Kalimnik wrote about his life.
O`DONNELL: And David, I think we can see in that the Manafort side
thinking, OK, they know he exists because they found his name on the
How can we handle the public revelation of this in a way that we might be
able to get our side of this story out?
JOHNSTON: Right, and this also reinforces that Manafort is the principal
here and Kalimnik is his agent.
Manafort in all likelihood is or will be a key person who is going to turn
because they`ve got information.
And if they don`t, you know, there`s the Bridget Kelly syndrome, and you
certainly don`t want to end up in that situation.
O`DONNELL: And Rosalind, there`s a lot of reporting in your article about
Kalimnik`s history and basically, is he or he is not a Russian spy?
HELDERMAN: Right, and here`s what we know about that. First of all, he
vigorously denies that he has any connection with Russian intelligence.
We know that he was in the Russian army. We know that he attended a
particular military academy where he was trained as a translator in English
That is an academy that he says is not common for spies, but a number of
experts told us they believe, they`ve studied the matter and they think
it`s a common training ground for GRU. Russian Military Intelligence.
And we know that some people who knew Mr. Kilimnik in the `90s say that at
time that he was quite open about the fact that his early service in the
Russian Army as a young man had been with Russian Military Intelligence.
That doesn`t necessarily mean anything about what he was doing in the year
2016. But they say that he was open about that, about what he did for the
Russian Army in the early 1990s.
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC ANCHOR: Rosalind Helderman and David Cay
Johnston, thank you both for joining us tonight.
HELDERMAN: Thank you.
DAVID CAY JOHNSTON, JOURNALIST: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: Coming up next, Senator Richard Blumenthal is joining the
Senators, the Democratic Senators speaking out on the Senate Floor tonight
against what is now the secret Republican Health Care Plan in the Senate.
Senator Blumenthal will join us next.
O`DONNELL: That is a live shot of the Senate Floor in the fifth hour of
Senate Democrats holding the Senate Floor to discuss the invisible
Republican Health Care Bill that the Senate will apparently be voting on as
soon as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell decides to put it on paper
and make it public. Joining us now, Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat
from Connecticut, a member of the judiciary and Armed Services Committee.
Senator Blumenthal, we all keep saying we`ve never seen anything like this
in the legislative history of the senate, especially on something like
Health Care, especially something this important, this big. What can be
the Democrats do to force the Republican leaders simply to reveal what this
RICHARD BLUMENTHAL, UNITED STATES SENATOR: That`s really the question of
the hour. And what we`re doing right now is calling the American people`s
attention to the fact that this bill is invisible. It`s nonexistent
because the Republicans very simply are ashamed of what they do have, which
is the House Bill.
The President, who initially exulted in it, now calls it mean. And what we
have here is no hearings, no draft, no bill. And where they go from here
remains very much in question. But speed and secrecy are a very toxic
recipe for democracy. In fact, disaster.
O`DONNELL: Senator, tomorrow you have an announcement you`re going to be
making about the emoluments case that you are bringing against the
President. Could you tell us about that?
BLUMENTHAL: Very much like the Democratic process that is at risk in the
way the Republicans are proceeding here. What we`re doing is – 200 of us,
the largest number of Senators and members of Congress whoever brought this
kind of action, making sure that the President obeys the constitution. The
emoluments clause says he cannot accept any payments or benefits from a
foreign government of any kind whatever. Those are the constitution`s words
without the consent of Congress, also the constitution of the United
And we have a unique right and responsibility because the constitution in
this anti-corruption provision puts on us the right and responsibility to
prevent public corruption, the President compromising the national interest
for his own personal interest. And he is taking these payments and benefits
repeatedly and relentlessly from Saudi Arabia in the form of payments for
commercial and residential space, from China in the form of trademarks,
from India in permits, and even possibly from Russia.
He`s already received trademarks and possibly money pouring in. That`s the
way one of his sons described it. So there is a real risk to democracy but
also to the rule of law.
O`DONNELL: Some of these trademarks were actually granted the day after
the election. Senator, are all, are the Republicans - is Mitch McConnell
using all of the investigation stories, these emoluments stories, all of
these other stories about the President in order to run this secret
legislative agenda on health care through the senate? Is the scandal
coverage helping Mitch McConnell get that through?
BLUMENTHAL: Whether it`s helping or hurting, the scandals are certainly
damaging democracy. The emoluments clause, for example, is the
constitution. What we`re doing is seeking to compel the President to obey
the constitution, and there`s a real question whether the President is
putting his personal interest or the national interest first when he does
arms deals with Saudi Arabia. And they pay for residential or commercial
space, when he praises the dictators of Turkey or the Philippines in
cracking down on human rights.
And he has deals ongoing there. The credibility of our democracy is very
much at stake, and the rule of law, and the majority leader may be
capitalizing on all of the attention going to the Russian controversy and
the investigation ongoing there by the special prosecutor and elsewhere.
O`DONNELL: Senator, I want to go back a couple weeks to a hearing in
which you asked a question to Dan Coats, the question that changed our
understanding out here anyway of what we were dealing with. Let`s watch
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BLUMENTHAL: I`m not asking about your conversation with the President. i
don`t mean to be misunderstood. Have you talked about this issue with
DAN COATS, DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: That is – that is something
that I, would like to withhold that question at this particular point in
BLUMENTHAL: I`m going to assume that in withholding the question, the
implicit answer is that, yes, you have.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: And, Senator, of course you were asking about reports that the
President had asked Dan Coats and Admiral Rogers to intervene in the FBI
Investigation. What were you thinking in that incredibly long silence
before you got an answer there?
BLUMENTHAL: I was thinking, I know the answer to this question. He knows
the answer. And I wonder whether he`s going to be truthful. And as it
turned out, he dodged.
And I believe that there is a real question here, and it`s a word that has
really not been used much but the question of conspiracy. Who is involved
in Donald Trump`s possible obstruction of justice? Maybe initially
inadvertently, simply because he went to them and asked for their
assistance, maybe now purposefully but if he indeed is involved in an
obstruction of justice, he may be involving others.
And I think that long pause is sort of emblematic of a pause that a lot of
people perhaps in the Whitehouse and elsewhere in the government are
feeling right now because they know that they are dealing with someone who
is not only impulsive and reckless, but also is contemptuous of the law.
That`s what we see in his acceptance of these foreign payments and
benefits. He could avoid the question simply by divesting himself, selling
his ownership interest.
Instead he is blatantly and flagrantly violating the law, and that contempt
for the law, I think, comes across in the hesitancy expressed by Dan Coats,
who I know from his days in the Senate does have respect for the law.
O`DONNELL: Senator Richard Blumenthal, there are so many of you former
prosecutors that are in these hearings, Kamala Harris, you, Sheldon
Whitehouse, others. And when I watch the former prosecutors ask the
questions, I always find that it`s the most revealing moments in these
hearings. Sheldon Whitehouse, Senator Whitehouse tonight has said that just
from his external observations of what we publicly know, it seems to him
that Michael Flynn has already started cooperating with the FBI and with
prosecutors. Is that your impression from where you sit?
BLUMENTHAL: We have been talking for some time among ourselves about that
likelihood because very frankly and bluntly, Michael Flynn faces a ton of
legal culpability here. He has pretty clearly lied to the FBI, lied to
intelligence agencies on his disclosure form, the Defense Intelligence
Agency perhaps, and committed other serious falsehoods that put him in
serious legal jeopardy. And as you may know, the penalty for violating the
law prohibiting these false statements, which is 18 United States code,
1001, is five years in prison for each violation.
So the likelihood of his cooperation is very high. And whether he will be
truthful in cooperating, whether in fact he knows enough to justify some
kind of agreement with the prosecutors, I think will be told by time. But I
agree the likelihood of his cooperation is very high, if not right now, at
some point very soon in the future because of the very, very heavy legal
culpability and potential penalty that he faces.
O`DONNELL: Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, thank you very much
for joining us tonight, really appreciate it.
BLUMENTHAL: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, Jon Ossoff, the Democratic candidate in that
special election in Georgia, where the votes will be counted tomorrow
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SONNY PERDUE, UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF AGRICULTURE: I know some of
you out there. Some republicans may even be turned off by our president.
And I don`t think you are. I`m not because let me tell you – let me tell
you. I know his heart.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Might even be turned off by our president. That was former
Georgia Republican Governor Sonny Perdue trying to get Republican voters,
who are turned off by Donald Trump, to vote in the special election
tomorrow in Georgia`s sixth district for the republican candidate. The
latest poll from WSBTV in Atlanta shows Democrat Jon Ossoff at exactly 49
percent and republican Karen Handel at 48.9 percent, that is a tie.
Last November republican Tom price won that seat by 24 points, 62-38. This
year`s race has been the most expensive house race in history with more
than $56 million spent so far by both sides combined. Tonight President
Trump tweeted this about the Georgia race. Big day tomorrow in Georgia and
South Carolina, Obamacare is dead.
Dems want to raise taxes big. They can only obstruct, no ideas. Vote “R.”
President Trump also attacked Jon Ossoff earlier today, tweeting Karen
Handel`s opponent in Georgia Sixth can`t even vote in the district he wants
to represent because he doesn`t even live there. He wants to raise taxes
and kill health care on Tuesday. Vote Karen Handel.
Jon Ossoff will get his last word on this program next.
O`DONNELL: We`re joined now by Jon Ossoff on the democratic candidate for
congress in Georgia`s Sixth congressional district where the voting will
start tomorrow morning. Votes counted here tomorrow night. Jon Ossoff thank
you for very much for joining us on this your last night of campaigning.
I want to go to something that the president tweeted today when he tweeted
directly at you as it were. The first thing he said, the first point he
made is that you do not live in the district that you`re running in. Why
don`t you live in that district? And how far from that district do you
live? And what will you do if you win?
JON OSSOFF, CONGRESS CANDIDATE: God evening, Lawrence, thank you for
having me. I grew up in the sixth congressional district. I live about two
miles south of the line while my fianc‚ finishes medical school at Emery
University, she walks to work in the morning and we`re down there so she
can walk to work for early morning shifts at the hospital.
O`DONNELL: And has this been an issue as you talked to voters in the
district the fact that you are living two miles over the line.
OSSOFF: Actually think folks are pleased to understand that I`m supporting
my fianc‚ say. And I`m proud of the fact that I`m supporting her career
even if I take some political heat for it.
O`DONNELL: Let`s go to the second thing in the president`s tweet. He said
that Jon Ossoff wants to raise taxes.
OSSOFF: Yes, well I`m – I`m honored the president is so interested in the
race but he`s deeply misinformed about my priorities. And I would invite
him again as I`ve invited him in the past to check out my website
electJon.com if he wants an accurate accounting of my position on the
issues. I don`t support any tax increases.
What I support is an economic policy that will help Metro Atlanta become an
economic powerhouse that`s the envy of the rest of the country. It will
help us grow our high-tech biotech and medical research sectors and become
the Silicon Valley of the South.
O`DONNELL: And let`s complete - let`s deal with the president`s tweet in
it`s entirety. His final item he says about you is that Jon Ossoff wants to
“kill health care.”
OSSOFF: In fact what I want is some bipartisan action to make healthcare
and health insurance more affordable and to improve access. Unfortunately
what congress has seen fit to do is to pass a bill as you know that will
throw more than 20 million Americans off their health insurance. That will
gut essential protections for Georgians with pre-existing conditions. It`s
bad for women, it`s bad for older Americans.
And it`s a example of what happens when career politicians in Washington
are more concerned with partisan objectives than serving the public
interest. This bill which my opponent Karen Handel supports is deeply
unpopular in this district. And folks want to see the parties work
together on some solutions that are going to make health care more
accessible and more affordable.
O`DONNELL: What`s more important in this race? The health care the health
care as - the health care bill as an issue or President Trump?
OSSOFF: Well I think what voters are hungry for is fresh leadership that`s
not get in mired in grid lock in the partisan circus in Washington and with
this atmosphere of scandal and disarray and grid lock in D.C., with faith
in the administration continuing to decline. Voters are hungry for
representation. It`s going to be focused on improving their quality of
life by focusing on local economic development.
By focusing on access to health care particularly for women and those with
preexisting conditions, there`s so little happening in Washington right now
that serves the needs of people. And they want representation that will
work across the aisle to do that.
O`DONNELL: There`s been a lot of talk about Karen Handel`s association
with President Trump. She is saying that you are “hand picked by Nancy
OSSOFF: Well I started this campaign in my living room. And I think that
if that`s the best that my opponent can trot out then I`m feeling pretty
good about the outcome tomorrow.
O`DONNELL: JON Ossoff, what – do you think this is going to be an early
call tomorrow night? How long – these polls are basically showing a tie.
This could very late tomorrow night.
OSSOFF: It could very late. It is true a neck and neck race Lawrence.
It`s a nail biter. And that means it`s going to come down to turn out. I
just left a rally with about 300 volunteers who are going to be working so
hard to get out the vote for the next 24 hours. And it`s important if
you`re in Georgia and you`re watching to make your voice heard tomorrow.
You can find out where and how to vote at electJon.com/vote but it`s a
critical that everyone`s voice be heard. It`s going to be such a close
O`DONNELL: Jon Ossof, thank you very much for joining us on your last
night of campaigning really appreciate it. The polls close at 7:00 tomorrow
in Georgia. We will have live coverage of those voting results as they come
in tomorrow night. We`ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARCO RUBIO, UNITED STATES SENATOR: As far as the general theme of
Russia`s interference, look the president said he doesn`t believe it. I
believe it, not only do I believe it. I know it, almost everybody else
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: That`s the new Marco Rubio. That`s the Marco Rubio after last
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