Fact-Checking Trump border claims. TRANSCRIPT: 1/8/19, The Last Word w/ Lawrence O’Donnell.
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel. And thank you for
doing that summary of all the new investigation developments today because
I was thinking that in this hour, we weren`t going to be able to get to it.
But since the president said nothing tonight, we just – we just might have
time for it coming up.
I want to get more of your reaction to what the president said. Here he is
asking the entertainment networks to preempt their programming tonight.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Yes.
O`DONNELL: So that he can make an important address to the nation in which
I listened to every word, all thousand words, Rachel. I didn`t hear him
say a single sentence he hasn`t said before.
MADDOW: No. This was his greatest hits on immigrants are terrible. And
we need a wall. It was version of a – of campaign speech lines that he
hash been issuing since the very – since the very first day that he
announced that he was running for president. I was talking with Nicolle
Wallace and Chris Hayes here moments ago about the fact that his litany of
horribles, the list of violence crimes that he ascribes to immigrants
changes a little bit. He updates that all the time to make sure the gore
stays fresh when he talks about immigrants as murderers and rapists.
But he`s been doing that from the very beginning. It`s the core of his
presidency and I think now the question is, why he felt like he needed to
take that campaign rhetoric into the Oval Office and do it in this big
picture way without anything new to add to what he`s either offering or
O`DONNELL: I`m glad you said campaign rhetoric, Rachel, because when I was
listening to it when we got to the end of it, I believe what I had heard
was President Trump`s first nationally televised speech of his re-election
campaign, because that is the only purpose of that speech that I could see
him delivering tonight. He did not make one move, didn`t make any offer to
solve the government shutdown over the border wall that he wants.
And so, I saw nothing but a campaign speech or someone just lifted the
first couple minutes of the State of the Union Address and said, why don`t
we do that tonight?
MADDOW: Yes, yes. But, you know, it`s interesting, I didn`t know what to
make of the request by Pelosi and Schumer to rebut the president tonight,
as if tonight was a State of the Union. I thought that was – I didn`t
quite know what to expect.
But it was interesting, the substance of their remarks, they engaged with
him a little bit in terms of his anti-immigrant rhetoric and what he`s said
about the wall, but really what they both said was, Mr. President, whatever
it is you want having to do with border security or the wall or any of
these other things you`re talking about, we can talk about that. We can
have a policy fight about that. Why don`t we re-open the government? And
then we can talk about whatever you want.
And for them to take that line on it today, they`re giving a lot of
Republicans a very wide door to walk through to join the Democratic take on
this issue, which is whether or not you`re persuaded by the president w
saying the same thing over and over again about terrible immigrants, how
about we don`t shut down the government for any longer? And I think a lot
of Republicans will accept that invitation from the president because the
Democrats aren`t asking Republicans to take any serious issue with the
president and any of his remarks. They`re just asking them to ignore him
and get the government working again so Americas can go back to work.
O`DONNELL: And as of tonight, my count is there are three Senate
Republicans who are willing to do what Chuck Schumer says they should dodo.
That would bring a Senate vote to 50/50 if one more moves across, then you
have the 51 that the Democrats would need in order to get this done but
it`s still Mitch McConnell, they`d be in that struggle with Mitch McConnell
to actually allow that vote to occur.
And that`s why I thought senator Schumer`s very clear outline of here`s how
we can move forward was so simple and important, easy to follow.
MADDOW: What do you think that Mitch McConnell will do here, Lawrence? I
mean, McConnell is, you know, relatively good at getting things to work out
the way he wants them to. He has not necessarily committed himself on
policy one way or the other. He said he`ll only bring up something that
the president will sign and he doesn`t want any political stunts. It`s all
sort of – sort of process talk.
What do you think is actually going to happen here? Because presumably,
McConnell is not as comfortable as the president with the idea of a
shutdown that goes on for years.
O`DONNELL: Well, Mitch McConnell said, emphatically, there would be no
shutdown. So everyone knows that Mitch McConnell doesn`t want a shutdown
and these are the situations, Rachel, in which for a Senate leader, it
might be more important what he doesn`t do. Is Mitch McConnell working the
phones tonight trying to hold the Republican Senate together or is he
staying silent on that?
And his members understand it immediately. If they don`t hear from him,
they know that they are set free in terms of his perspective, anyway, any
of them who want to go out and turn against this Trump shutdown, it seems
to me are being allowed to do that and it could even get to the point where
they are secretly being encouraged to do it. Mitch McConnell never wants
to be perceived as the person who turned against President Trump in a
situation like this. But if a dozen of his members move that way, what can
he do, Rachel, what can he do?
MADDOW: It`s just that he has to overtly do something even at that point.
He does have to let something come up for a vote. I mean, he can go on
vacation, he can pretend it`s not him but ultimately, everybody knows that
he controls what comes up for a vote.
O`DONNELL: Well, there is a parliamentary hole in that so if you get
enough momentum on the other side, there is a parliamentary hole that could
bypass anything, any theoretical block that Mitch McConnell might want to
pretend that he`s actually doing. So, yes, generally, it`s up to the
majority leader what moves on the floor, but not entirely. There`s a way
MADDOW: This is why it`s very, very good you have a television show,
Lawrence, because you know these things, my friend.
O`DONNELL: By the way, very few senators know that. But enough do that
there are ways to maneuver through it and McConnell, himself, if he wants
the shutdown to happen, there` a way for him to look as if he`s on the
president`s side right through every minute of the process as the United
States is voting against the president. He knows how to do that.
MADDOW: Anybody out there who has Mitch McConnell`s cell phone number,
please text him right now and tell him to watch Lawrence O`Donnell for the
next hour here on MSNBC. It might help.
O`DONNELL: Rachel, if you need more time to talk about –
MADDOW: I`m good.
O`DONNELL: – the president who said nothing tonight –
MADDOW: Yes, I`m good.
MADDOW: Thank you, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Thank you very much, Rachel. Appreciate it.
Well, in this hour, we have important analysis and necessary fact
correction and checking of the president`s address from the Oval Office
tonight. And even though it was empty in terms of any new comments by the
president or any news made by the president, it was an extraordinary event
in and of itself and it must be analyzed in terms of what it means to our
politics and our governing.
We will also consider the speeches made in response to the president`s
address tonight by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Democratic leader
of the Senate, Chuck Schumer. We will be joined by Democratic Senator
Chris Van Hollen and Congressman Adam Schiff, the chairman of the House
Intelligence Committee. We will be joined by a former acting director of
Immigration and Customs Enforcement to help us fact-check the president`s
speech. And we will be joined by a panel of analysts who have seen and
analyzed many presidential addresses from the Oval Office but none quite
In the president`s 9-1/2 minute speech tonight, he managed to say not one
new thing that he hasn`t said before. It was as if after watching Senator
Elizabeth Warren make her first presidential campaign speeches in Iowa this
weekend, the president decided to make his first presidential re-election
campaign speech from the Oval Office tonight.
Before – and before making that speech today, the president`s campaign
sent out a fraudulent e-mail to Trump supporters saying, friend, I will be
addressing the nation tonight at 9:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on the
humanitarian and national security crisis on our southern border. We need
to raise $500,000 in one day. I want to know everyone who stood with me
when it mattered most so I`ve asked my team to send me a list of every
American patriot who donates to the official Secure the Border Fund.
Please make a special contribution of $5 by 9:00 p.m. Eastern Time to our
official Secure the Border Fund to have your name sent to me after my
That was all a lie. In the finer print of the e-mail, it says the
contributions are to the Trump Make America Great Again Committee. That is
the president`s re-election committee. The president lied to his
supporters in that e-mail today, telling them their contribution would be
to an official Secure the Border Fund.
Immediately after the speech, the president then sent out another fund-
raising e-mail saying: Friend, President Trump just finished his speech
addressing our national security crisis on the southern border and
explaining why he will not cave to the Democrats. We sent him a list of
all patriots who donated to our official Secure the Border Fund and he
noticed your name wasn`t on the list. Since you`ve been such a strong
supporter and one of our greatest advocates for the wall, we have decided
to extend your deadline to get on the list.
And that, that is what the president`s request for network broadcast time
tonight was all about. He used it to raise money for his re-election
campaign, pretending to his supporters that the money they would contribute
would be used to secure the border and he did not say one new thing in that
speech that he read from that teleprompter in the Oval Office tonight.
Here`s the essence of the president`s speech.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My fellow Americans,
tonight, I am speaking to you because there is a growing humanitarian and
security crisis at our southern border.
As part of an overall approach to border security, law enforcement
professionals have requested $5.7 billion for a physical barrier. At the
request of Democrats, it will be a steel barrier rather than a concrete
This barrier is absolutely critical to border security. It`s also what our
professionals at the border want and need.
This situation could be solved in a 45-minute meeting. I have invited
congressional leadership to the White House tomorrow to get this done.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Leading off our discussion now, Steve Schmidt, a former
Republican strategist, and MSNBC political analyst.
Steve, many reasons why I want you to lead off tonight. But as a former
presidential campaign strategist, I don`t know if you have the feeling I
did when I saw the president complete his speech tonight. But I believed I
was watching the first Trump nationally televised re-election campaign
STEVE SCHMIDT, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I think you`re certainly right
about that, Lawrence. I was struck, though, by the venue, the Oval Office.
I thought about FDR and Churchill in the early hours of the Second World
War in that space, inches from where Trump addressed the nation, plotting
to save democracy and Western civilization.
And you consider that speech, what a powerful argument it makes against the
theory of evolution. As we look at the continuing debasement of the office
of the presidency of the United States. We saw from Trump today the
typical lying, the racial demagoguery, the nonsense, the spinning of crises
out of whole cloth.
But what was most apparent was the degree in which he appears to be an
utterly defeated and broken man, somebody who feels the walls closing in on
him. It was the low-energy speech. I suspect the political consequence of
it will be that Republicans are going to crack. They`re going to take a
walk in the serious way for the first time during the Trump presidency.
They`re going to start to lose their fear of him.
What they saw in 2018 was 40 Republicans lose their seats. They saw the
House flip to Democratic control in the map. In 2020, it`s a map that is
very favorable to the Democrats unlike this map in 2018. So, this is a
Of course, Trump claimed full credit for it, celebrated it, said he would
be proud of the shutdown. And so, we see now Republicans living with the
consequences of having an inept lying, incompetent, racially demagogic
president talking about this issue.
And last thing, Lawrence, there is a humanitarian crisis at the border. We
have children in internment camps and we have two minor children, the last
one a 7-year-old little girl who died in the custody of federal authorities
of the government of the United States. It stains our national honor and
disgraces this administration.
O`DONNELL: Steve, your reaction to the president, using tonight`s network
preemption of entertainment programming to basically launch a speech that
was bookended by fund-raising appeals. Fund-raising during the day saying
we desperately need your contribution by 9:00 p.m. that`s the deadline.
And then, of course, after the speech, telling the very same people out
there who had not yet contributed, that we`re going to extend the deadline
That struck me as a classic Trump salesmanship.
SCHMIDT: Of course. You describe them as supporters earlier, Lawrence,
and I don`t mean to quibble, but they`re less supporters than there are
marks. The only thing that was missing from the e-mails was that, hey,
I`ll throw in a case of Trump wine and a couple Trump steaks and a master`s
degree from Trump University.
This is a con man at work. And what we`re seeing here is that the wizard
has been exposed. At rally after rally, what did he say? Many billions of
times the Mexicans would pay for the wall. Where are the pesos?
He`s talking about $5 billion when he told the American people over and
over again that there would be a wall, a wall paid for by Mexico. There is
no wall. There will never be a wall. No wall will ever be funded.
And he has denied this central victory against all the racial demagoguery
we saw from the moment he descended the escalator at Trump Tower. It`s all
becoming undone. And that desperation, I think, was on full display today.
And of all the things you could say about Trump until tonight, the one
thing you really couldn`t say is that he`s boring. He was just boring
tonight. The shtick is getting old. It was to some degree like the
episode when Fonzie jumped the shark tonight, coining that famous
phraseology. I think tonight was a speech where Trump jumped the shark.
O`DONNELL: Steve, I need to hear more from you as a Republican expert
about the possible movements in the Senate on this. We`ve seen Senator
Lisa Murkowski now defect from the Trump side of this. She has now joined
so there are officially three Republican senators who have publicly said
they want to go forward the way Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi want to go
How long will it take for more to join them?
SCHMIDT: I don`t think very long. There`s no upside to this. I think
that a lot of the senators, a lot of the surviving Republican members of
Congress, watched a lot of their colleagues go over the cliff like
lemmings, to painful and agonizing political deaths. I think a lot of
these incumbents looking ahead to 2020, looking at the news that broke
today, for example, with collusion between the Russians and the campaign
which becomes more and more apparent every day.
I think that from a – if you were looking at this from an investment
perspective, I think increasingly, Republican senators are going to say,
let`s short the Trump stock. Let`s – we`ve lashed ourselves to the mesh
here, how do we cut the ropes? How do wee get out of this?
And so, I don`t think it`s going to be more days. Not too many more days
after the first missed paycheck before you start to see the real cleaving
of Republican support away from Trump. This won`t last, I suspect, too
much longer because Republicans so long as the Democratic leadership holds
the line, they will defect and they will join the Democrats. They will re-
open the government.
And at that point, what will become clear is that even the Republican
minority in the House, the Republican majority in the Senate, will have
joined every world leader, most of the American people, as a group who do
not take this man seriously at all. They look at him as a joke, a clown,
and a farce. When you look at everybody from the prime minister of Turkey,
to the Canadian prime minister, the British prime minister, the list of
people who both fear Trump and take him seriously is getting smaller and
smaller every day.
O`DONNELL: Steve Schmidt, thank you very much for leading us off tonight,
really appreciate it.
And we are joined now by Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen of Maryland.
He`s been ranking member of the Budget Committee and the chairman of the
Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
Senator Van Hollen, your reaction to the president`s speech tonight.
SEN. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D), MARYLAND: Well, I have to agree with Steve,
that this is a continuation of the degradation of the Oval Office by the
president of the United States. This time, using the tradition of Oval
Office speeches that are usually reserved for major statements, instead,
for a tawdry political speech.
I mean, usually it takes the president 55 minutes at a rally to get out all
those lies and false statements. This time, he crammed it into eight
minutes by reading a teleprompter. I don`t think it advanced his case one
a bit, Lawrence, in terms of the wall. In fact, a lot of the facts he used
don`t make sense in connection with the wall.
For example, when he talks about drug interdiction. We have a drug
interdiction problem. Senate Democrats and Republicans have worked to try
to provide more – more efforts targeted there at the points of entry,
right? A 2,000-mile-long wall doesn`t have anything to do with trying to
slow it down at ports of entry.
So, this is why it`s important that Senate Republicans get together with
Democrats and pass those two House bills to open the government.
O`DONNELL: And, Senator, when you – when the president talks about hero
addiction, and the drug addiction in this country, much of this begins with
opioid addiction which begins legally through the prescription process.
There has been no attempt by this administration to do anything about that
part of this devastating drug addiction that this country has and has had
for many years. That has nothing to do with the southern border.
VAN HOLLEN: Well, that`s exactly right. And Congress on a bipartisan
basis has passed some legislation to try to expand treatment for it, but
we`ve also, and ironically, in the homeland security bill that the
president is now holding up, there are additional funds to screen for drugs
that are coming across the border. As you say, a lot of the opioid
addiction crisis is a totally homegrown crisis, but to the extent we have a
problem with drugs coming across the border, they`re coming across the
ports of entry and we have provided additional funds in the bill that the
president has said he will not sign to address that particular issue.
And I have to say, Lawrence, that every day that goes by as you and Steve
were talking, is another day where Senate Republicans are complicit with
the president in this shutdown. And that`s why it`s important they join
Senate Democrats s in passing the bills that are on the Senate calendar
right now, right? One, that would open the Homeland Security Department
until February 8th so we can continue any discussions the president wants
to have, one that would re-open eight of the nine closed departments of the
federal government, along the same lines that Senate Republicans have
So they`ve got no excuse to be an accomplice with Donald Trump in the
O`DONNELL: Senator, what`s happening with Republicans? Your Republican
colleagues in the Senate. We`ve seen Lisa Murkowski moving your way today,
joining Senator Collins.
So, you`ve now got at least three Republicans. Are there more coming?
VAN HOLLEN: I do believe there are more coming. And, Lawrence, that`s why
this evening in the Senate, Senate Democrats said that the first order of
business has to be to pass these two House bills that are the keys to re-
opening the government.
Let the president decide what to do with them when they get to the desk,
but Mitch McConnell should not be AWOL in this – in this debate. And so,
we blocked consideration of the legislation that Mitch McConnell will want
to take up SB-1, and said the priority has to be solving this government
shutdown and the way to do that is to vote on those two houses bills then
we can ha a conversation about the most effective way tout secure our
Securing our border has never been the issue. You know that. The issue is
not wasting taxpayer dollars on an ineffective wall that Mexico is supposed
to pay for.
O`DONNELL: Senator Chris Van Hollen, thank you very much for joining us
tonight. Really appreciate it.
VAN HOLLEN: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: We`re now bringing in our panel. Eugene Robinson is an
associate editor and Pulitzer Prize-winning writer for the “Washington
Post,” George F. Will is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for “The
Washington Post.” Maria Teresa Kumar is the president and CEO of Voto
Latino. All are MSNBC contributors.
And, Gene Robinson, your reaction to the president`s speech.
EUGENE ROBINSON, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, it was, I
think, Steve Schmidt said it was low energy. It certainly was that. He`s
not very good at the teleprompter thing.
You know, I heard two things – two nuances that were new. One, it`s now a
physical barrier. It`s not a wall. It`s not the big beautiful wall he
promised, of course, paid by Mexico. It`s as physical barrier. I don`t
know, a hedge or something, that he wants.
And there was a new lie which is that it`s the Democrats who insist that
the physical barrier, not wall, be made of steel rather than concrete. I
don`t know where he got that. That`s invented.
It was – it was almost as if he were just sort of writing an excuse for
failing to get the wall. An excuse to his base for failing to deliver on
this ridiculous promise that never could be fulfilled in the firs place.
It was an absurd idea.
And he seemed to have no idea of how to get it, of how to get where he
promised to get and to actually build this thing. And so, he just – he
wanted to blame it all on the Democrats. The Democrats made me do it.
O`DONNELL: Maria Teresa, your reaction
MARIA TERESA KUMAR, PRESIDENT AND CEO, VOTO LATINO: Well, I think once
again we saw the president do double speak. He started by saying all the
crimes that are committed and I think that everyone could agree that any
family that suffers at the hand of – any loved one that gets hurt, we`re
all against that. But he did double speak when said that he wants to make
sure that there`s a wall on the southern border because there`s a
humanitarian crisis because of an unaccompanied minors that are right now
at the hands of a coyotes.
Well, guess what, he exacerbated this issue because last year, the
president zeroed out CAM. It`s a program for Central American minors who
can seek asylum safety in their home countries. It was established by the
Obama administration after the last time we saw humanitarian crisis back in
2014. So, the president is directly involved in this crisis because he
literally allowed for this program to be zeroed out and now he wants to
create a wall when in reality, we don`t, and unfortunately he`s trying to
do it at the backs of individuals, of federal workers who are trying to
basically put money – food on the table, living paycheck by paycheck.
It was a charade. The fact he tried to do a fund-raising e-mail before and
after is a classic Trump. But more importantly, he`s doing it at the cost
of the American people and sadly, increasingly at the cost of minors and
children who are trying to basically seek a better life.
O`DONNELL: George Will, you`ve seen many television addresses by
presidents from the Oval Office. So, I don`t think you`ve seen one
preceded by a fund-raising letter and then followed by a campaigned fund-
raising letter by the president. The president who promised that he would
do the shutdown, himself, and he would never blame the Democrats tonight
said the federal government remains shut down for one reason, and one
reason only, because the Democrats will not fund border security.
Your reaction to what you saw, George.
GEORGE F. WILL, COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, you said a little
bit earlier that it was an empty speech, and, Lawrence, that`s the news
tonight. We`re all familiar with the Sherlock Holmes story in which the
crucial clues, what didn`t happen, it`s the dog that didn`t bark. What
happened tonight was the president did not fulfill his threat, which still
loiters there of declaring a national emergency.
The president is already under statutory authority imposing steel and
aluminum, tariffs and quotas on countries, including countries that are
military allies of the United States, in the name of national security.
This is because Congress is under control by both parties have given
presidents of both parties enormous discretion to wield executive power in
the name of national security, so perhaps we have not heard the last of
In 1944, in the Korematsu case, the disgraceful case wherein the Supreme
Court ratified the president`s – President Roosevelt`s internment of
100,000 some people of Japanese extraction, most of them American citizens.
In writing about that case, Justice Robert Jackson said, emergency powers
are like a loaded weapon laying there waiting for someone to pick it up.
It`s still laying there.
And the president could very well say, I tried in this speech tonight the
soft approach. Now I have to resort to the powers that I have.
And I think people would be astonished if they understood the vast
discretion that Congress has rashly, in my judgment, often from sloth,
often from inattention, have given to executives of all powers – of all
O`DONNELL: And, Gene, it seemed to me, given George`s warning about the
emergency power that the president might invoke is still there, it felt
like a retreat tonight. It just seemed like such a quiet inconsequential
nine minutes of Trump time that it felt like this was someone who was
pulling away from doing anything dramatic.
ROBINSON: Well, that was the tone that I thought I was hearing in that
speech, Lawrence. You know, an Oval Office address is a big deal. And so
you could suspect that maybe he had some big announcement or something new,
at least, and he had neither. I take George`s caution that we may not have
heard the last of this, but he certainly did not sound like a man who was
leaning forward into this anymore. He seemed almost his back heel and
almost looking for a way out of this, to my ear.
O`DONNELL: George, the best strategists we`ve ever seen in the White House
when it comes to a government shutdown, there are very few tools that they
have. No one involved in any previous government shutdown actually wants
then shutdown. Each side is always doing everything they can to avoid it.
And so, it`s not surprising that the man who`s least equipped to do this
job is sitting in the oval office apparently without any tools to get out
WILL: Yes. Generally, presidents win the shutdowns because presidents
speak with a single voice and Congress speaks with 535 voices and one
trumps 535 in politics. In this case, the president in that famous episode
in the Oval Office, what, a week or so ago, when he proudly took ownership
of this, he played into the hands of Mr. Schumer and Ms. Pelosi.
So, the president said he owned it, but, again, mark my words, tonight, hey
was very soft. He began in his first sentence he described this as a
humanitarian and security issue. Humanitarian first. He went on to talk
about a cycle of human suffering. This was, believe it or not, the kinder
or gentler Mr. Trump.
But there is Justice Jackson`s metaphorical loaded weapon there. And if he
chooses to pick it up and use it, do not count on courts considering this
something they want to intervene in.
O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to what Nancy Pelosi said in response to the
president in what she described as the humanitarian challenge.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), HOUSE SPEAKER: The fact is that women and children
at the border are not a security threat. They are a humanitarian
challenge. A challenge that President Trump`s own cruel and
counterproductive policies have only deepened. And the fact is President
Trump must stop holding American people hostage, must stop manufacturing a
crisis and must re-open the government.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Maria Teresa, your reaction to what Speaker Pelosi had to say.
KUMAR: Well, I think that everybody could agree that we have a
humanitarian crisis at the border and it`s perhaps one of the few times
that I will agree with the president. What he`s doing, though, is trying
to pull the wool over the American people`s eyes and trying to say, “Look,
I still need my wall to keep you safe.”
That is not the issue right now with the American people. The majority of
federal workers are trying to do their job and many of them are just trying
to do it to keep them – keep it safe.
But one of the reasons I believe, Lawrence, that we saw the president use
low energy is that he feeds off crowds. He feeds off other people in the
room. He feeds off the energy of cameras, lights, and action. And all we
saw is a lonely man today speaking directly to the camera.
And that is – he wasn`t getting the energy that he needs in order for him
to actually feel that hype. And I believe that that is in part why we may
t not see the end of this story.
One of the reasons is that right now, he`s probably looking at his Twitter
feeds, he`s tuning into us, he`s tuning into “Fox News” trying to get the
feedback. And I can`t imagine him being very happy with the reactions.
O`DONNELL: Maria Teresa Kumar, George Will, Eugene Robinson, thank you all
for joining us with your analysis tonight.
And when we come back, we`ll be joined by Congressman Adam Schiff who is
the chairman of the Intelligence Committee in the House. He will discuss
both the president`s speech tonight and new developments in the Russia
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I will have Mexico pay for that wall. Mark my words.
Mexico will pay for the wall. Believe me.
And who`s going to pay for the wall?
TRUMP: Mexico, 100 percent. Hundred percent.
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: My fellow Americans, we address you
tonight for one reason only. The president of the United States having
failed to get Mexico to pay for his ineffective unnecessary border wall,
and unable to convince the Congress or the American people to foot the bill
has shut down the government.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining us now, Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff. He`s the
chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.
Congressman Schiff, I want to get your reaction to what the president had
to say today, and what you just heard Chuck Schumer say, which is we`re
here because the president promised Mexico would pay for this wall but now
he wants American taxpayers to pay.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), CHAIRMAN, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Well, my
predominant reaction watching it was sad to see the office of the
presidency brought so low. When you think about other people who have
occupied that office and the addresses they have given to rally the country
together, to rise in the face of some national challenge, then to watch
that display was just painful.
And Chuck Schumer is exactly right. The reason we are where we are tonight
is the president promised his supporters over and over and over again that
Mexico was going to build this big, beautiful wall. And that was a
fraudulent promise, but nonetheless, he made it. Kept repeating it.
Now he can`t deliver it and he`s asking the taxpayers to pay for it. Well,
they don`t want to pay for it. Congress doesn`t want to approve it. The
American people don`t support it. And so we have this rather pathetic
We need to re-open the government. We can continue this debate over the
president`s wall. But not do it at a time where he`s effectively holding
the American people, federal employees, those who do business with the
government, those who need government services, hostage to this broken
O`DONNELL: As I revealed earlier, the beginning of this program, the
president also used tonight as a fundraising event for his re-election
campaign. And in the e-mail that he sent to his supporters, telling them
it was a 9:00 p.m. deadline for their contributions, he lied to them very
clearly fraudulently represented the contributions as being money that they
would contribute to him to secure the border.
Then this being Donald Trump after the speech, he sent out another e-mail
to supporters who had not yet contributed by the 9:00 p.m. deadline and
extended the deadline for them to contribute. And so it seems,
structurally, and including the content of the speech tonight, this was
from beginning to end a Trump campaign event including a public fundraiser.
SCHIFF: Well, that may very well be. And perhaps next time it will have
operators standing by, and a phone number across the bottom of your screen.
But, look, this is how the president operates.
It`s all about him. It`s all about now his re-election, re-election, and
the suffering that he`s imposing on hundreds of thousands of people who
aren`t going to get their paychecks, who can`t pay their bills. Well,
that`s just too bad.
And, you know, we are going to be sending bill after bill to the Senate,
Senate-passed bills to re-open the government. I think the pressure to do
so is going to become overwhelming on the Republicans. And as you say,
we`re seeing defection after defection now. It`s my hope that we can break
this impasse soon.
O`DONNELL: Congressman, I want to get your reaction to the developments in
the Paul Manafort case today. Discovered that the special prosecutor has
found that Paul Manafort was in contact with Russians, sharing polling
information and other Trump campaign information with Russians.
It raises the question, was that information that Paul Manafort, that
polling information, that Paul Manafort was supplying to the Russians, did
the Russian hackers then who were operating in the United States, did they
then use that to try – use that polling information to try to influence
the vote in the ways that could turn the electoral college in Donald
SCHIFF: Well, that`s a profound question. And at this point, we simply
don`t know the answer. What did a Russian-affiliated intelligence person,
at least in the view of the special counsel, want with Trump polling data?
And one explanation may be, look, they`re in the midst of a social media
campaign to help Donald Trump win the presidency. And it`s useful to have
some of the campaign`s information on their polling numbers and where
they`re polling well and who they`re polling well among and who they need
to make up ground.
It also could be something very different. It could be an effort by the
Trump campaign to show that the president or the candidate then was doing
better than the other polls suggested. We just don`t know, but we
certainly need to find out. It goes, I think, to the very issue of
whether and to what degree and how Trump campaign personnel may have been
either colluding or conspiring with the Russians.
O`DONNELL: And what do you see today in the indictment of Natalia
Veselnitskaya that happened today and this was outside of the special
prosecutor`s jurisdiction? This was the U.S. attorney in Manhattan
bringing this indictment.
She was the woman who helped arrange that meeting and attended that meeting
at Trump Tower in which she was promising basically dirt on Hillary Clinton
from the Russian government. She`s indicted in an unrelated case to the
campaign. A case that pre-existed the campaign. But could there be some
SCHIFF: Well, one thing that it certainly shows, Lawrence, that is
relevant to the Trump Tower meeting and the issues at the heart of the
Mueller investigation, and our own work in the Intelligence Committee, is
that this claim that she had made that she`s not a government attorney, she
has really little or no affiliation with the Russian government, is bogus.
The reason that she was indicted for obstruction of justice in that
Prevezon case is that she put forward a pleading that she said essentially
that she had no part in producing, a statement of the Russian government
absolving the Russians of complicity in this money laundering scheme when
we would later find out that, in fact, she wrote this in combination,
working in coordination with the Russian government and the Russian general
So it certainly now is a consistent portrait we`re getting of Veselnitskaya
that that meeting at Trump Tower, her work on the Magnitsky Act, her effort
to do away with the sanctions that we`ve imposed on the Russians, this is
being done on part of her work on behalf of the Russian government. And
that, of course, raises the stakes for that meeting in Trump Tower.
O`DONNELL: Congressman Adam Schiff, thank you very much for joining us
tonight. Really appreciate it.
And when we come back, a former director of Immigration Customs Enforcement
will join us with his own fact-checking of the president`s speech tonight.
And what about the Democratic response from Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi?
We will hear more of that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCHUMER: Most presidents have used oval office addresses for noble
purposes. This president just used the backdrop of the oval office to
manufacture a crisis, stoke fear, and divert attention from the turmoil in
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining our discussion now, Jon Meacham, presidential
historian, and an MSNBC contributor. Ron Klain, former chief counsel to
the Senate Judiciary Committee and former senior adviser to Joe Biden and
And Jon Meacham, I want to start with you for the historical framing of
this particular oval office address. I`ve already reported that it was
used as a fundraising event both before and after for the Trump campaign.
But also, this is the first time I`ve seen an address from the oval office
requesting the preemption of entertainment programming on the broadcast
networks for a president to simply announce his negotiating position in a
legislative struggle with Congress in which there is a bipartisan support
for the opposite position, from the president`s position.
This was both a campaign event and simply an announcement of normal kind of
legislative interaction that the president used this time for.
JON MEACHAM, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: How many times, Lawrence, has this
something been the first time you`ve seen something in the past two years
or so? There are a couple of thoughts here.
One is, basically, it seems to me both the president and to some extent the
Democrats by responding in kind have violated a fundamental principle of
negotiation. Something that when President Kennedy was Senator Kennedy and
running in 1960, he reviewed a book by Basil Liddell Hart, a British
military strategist, in September of 1960 who`d written a book saying, you
never let your opponent get into a corner from once they cannot find any
possible escape route.
And what struck me about this is there was no oxygen for compromise, there
was no proposal that might actually move this Madisonian system of give and
take forward. The other thought is, you know, Friday will mark the 30th
anniversary of when Ronald Reagan sat in that office and delivered his
farewell address to the nation.
It was one where the puration (ph) was about his vision of what Reagan
called the shining city on a hill. Only Ronald Reagan could improve on
Jesus who used city on a hill. And he talked about how the city if it had
to have walls, there had to be doors in those walls and it had to always be
open to all the pilgrims from all the lost places who had been hurtling
through the darkness toward home.
And that`s the kind of rhetoric we tend to expect to hear from the
epicenter of power. We didn`t hear that tonight.
O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to what another Democrat said tonight after the
president`s speech. This is Beto O`Rourke in El Paso, Texas, where he`s
lived his whole life at the border. This is Beto O`Rourke`s, in effect,
video response to the president tonight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BETO O`ROURKE: We`re literally on the border, you know, you don`t have a
wall or a fence around your house.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.
BETO O`ROURKE: I really believe that if people came to El Paso,
experienced it, if they could live here for a little while, even better,
all of this preoccupation and consternation and fear, so much of it founded
in paranoia, and perhaps the purposeful anxiety that the president seeks to
stoke and instill. I think all that would melt –
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
BETO O`ROURKE: – away. You just have to be here, see it, believe it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Ron Klain, the president talked about people having walls
around their private homes. There`s Beto O`Rourke in El Paso with someone
whose home is literally on the border and he doesn`t need a wall.
RON KLAIN, FORMER CHIEF COUNSEL, SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: No. Look, I
kind of wonder where the real Trump was tonight because I think that was,
like, the animatronic robot from Disney`s hall of presidents Delivering in
a robotic way canned lines that he`s delivered over and over again for the
past three years.
Just the same old lies, the same old rhetoric over and over and over again.
Delivered in an incredibly boring and flat affect, to no political or
legislative impact whatsoever.
You know, I think that Jon Meacham a second ago said that you can`t have
negotiators in a corner. What you saw today was Donald Trump in an oval
office stuck in a corner of a round office unable to find his way out of
it. No path forward. No solution.
And I think as your guests have said tonight, Lawrence, we`re going to
gradually see House and Senate Republicans melt away from the president,
join with the Democrats, re-open the government, and then have a
conversation about what the best way is to secure our border.
O`DONNELL: Jon Meacham, you tweeted something earlier that really struck
me and I`d like the country to consider it. We`re going to put it up as I
You said “America should build a wall of steel, a wall as high as heaven
against the flow of immigrants. Georgia Governor Clifford Walker, at a
1924 convention of The Ku Klux Klan, then a powerful force at a time of
strain for the white working class.”
And Jon, the anti-immigrant wall concept has been around for a while.
MEACHAM: It sure has. Walker was a Georgia politician who had not been a
member of the Klan, had lost a gubernatorial election so he joined the Klan
and he won. He gave that speech at a Klanvocation they called it in Kansas
City in `24.
Remarkable period. 1924, as you know, was the Democratic national
convention. It drove the convention to 103 ballots because there were
something like 327 members of the Klan who were delegates to that
convention and they couldn`t vote for this radical figure, Al Smith. Why?
Because he was an Irish Catholic.
And there was this ferocious anti-immigrant sentiment. Goes all the way
back to 1978 when we passed the Alien and Sedition Acts. Anti-immigrant
sentiment ebbs and flows. Right now, it`s flowing.
The interesting question is, to what extent is it genuinely flowing beyond
the fevered free precincts of the president and his base? And that`s going
to be the fascinating question as you and Ron were just saying when we see
if there is a resolution, this particular moment.
Will there be Republican politicians who will realize that, in fact, the
“Fox News” world in which so much of the right-wing lives is not, in fact,
where the country is in 2018, `19?
O`DONNELL: Jon Meacham, Ron Klain, thank you both for joining us. Really
And when we come back, we`ll be joined by a former acting director of
Immigration and Customs Enforcement. We`ll get his reaction to what the
president had to say tonight.
O`DONNELL: Joining our discussion now is John Sandweg. He`s the former
acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement under President
John, I want to get your reaction to what the president had to say tonight,
especially what he said about the criminal element at the southern border.
JOHN SANDWEG, FORMER ACTING DIRECTOR, IMMIGRATION AND CUSTOMS ENFORCEMENT:
Well, obviously, a lot to cover here. I think the president,
unfortunately, engaged in a number of real distortions about what`s going
on at our southern border.
Our border`s never been more secure. You know, just 15 years ago, we had
over a million people being arrested with only 5,000 border patrol agents
there to stop them. Today, we have over 22,000 border patrol agents facing
the lowest numbers of border apprehensions we`ve had, you know, in decades.
So this kind of notion that with this border is out of control, full of
drugs coming across, terrorists and criminals, really is rejected by the
data. We have a humanitarian crisis but it`s not one that poses a real
O`DONNELL: What do you think the border needs, given what you see
happening at the border now in terms of the humanitarian crisis and the
reality of what`s happening at the border? What would you suggest the
SANDWEG: You know, Lawrence, 18 years ago when you had 1.5 million people
crossing that border, there were definitely areas where you needed fencing.
The good news is that`s largely been build and it was relatively effective.
Well, the border – beginning in 2014, we saw this real shift where all the
sudden you stop seeing, you know, individuals infiltrate the border and try
to evade capture and get into the United States. You saw the Central
American families who come up, mothers with their children seeking asylum
in the United States.
We`re not adequately resourced to deal with that threat. We don`t have
enough immigration judges. We don`t have enough humanitarian resources
dedicated for health and human services to kind of help the transition of
those people and move their cases along quickly.
The good news is the president does request money for those two things.
The bad news, though, is that he seems so fixated on this kind of security
solutions that aren`t designed and are really ill-suited to address the
humanitarian crisis we`re facing.
O`DONNELL: Are there any significant portions of the border where some
kind of barrier can be built that has not been built?
SANDWEG: I think there`s some areas where we probably need to replace
existing walls. There`s some areas in Nogales, Arizona where they use old
mats from aircraft landing, things from World War II. Certainly, we can
replace those walls there.
But generally speaking, the areas where we need the walls, the walls exist.
And if they don`t exist, it`s because simply the terrain doesn`t lend
itself to it. What we really, really need are the immigration judges and
got to give them credit for requesting 75 new immigration judges, but what
we don`t need is $5.7 billion dedicated to a wall that`s going to be
O`DONNELL: If you could correct the president on one thing that you know
he thinks, if you had one minute with him, what would you tell him?
SANDWEG: I don`t know if a minute would be enough.
SANDWEG: The drugs don`t come across between the ports of entry.
Terrorists are not coming across between the ports of entry. And quite
frankly, what concerns me is all the talk about criminal aliens.
It`s not just that the immigrant population tends to commit crimes at a
lower rate than does the general population, it`s also that he`s redirected
ICE. to have a broad-based focus that diminishes their focus on those
criminals. During the Obama administration, we had a laser-like focus on
criminals. We`ve gone away from that.
O`DONNELL: Thank you, John. Former Acting Director of ICE, John Sandweg
gets tonight`s LAST WORD. “THE 11 HOUR” with Brian Williams starts now.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
Copyright 2019 ASC Services II Media, LLC. All materials herein are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content.>
Copyright 2019 ASC Services II Media, LLC. All materials herein are
protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced,
distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the
prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter
or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the