Democratic candidates make their case. TRANSCRIPT: 4/24/19, The 11th Hour w/ Lawrence O’Donnell.
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel.
I`m still pondering fingers and toes and what we`ve got after that. I
guess ears, right? We can use ears. You got that.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Right, anything.
O`DONNELL: So, Rachel, Joe Biden because he`s not a presidential candidate
today, he was not at that forum that Joy Reid co-moderated with the
presidential candidates, and that means he was not one of the men who was
asked why women of color should vote for him. Joy Reid is going to join us
later in this hour with a lot of highlights from her forum today, which was
really fascinating watch.
MADDOW: It was stunning. Yes.
O`DONNELL: An interesting turning of the tables in so many ways.
MADDOW: Yes. I mean, it`s a fascinating thing for Democratic politics and
Democrats coming to terms with their electorate and the needs of their
electorate and who they are and who had he need to stand for. But also,
just as a political event, it was astonishing and the tape was amazing. So
O`DONNELL: I hope there`s a lot more of them coming.
O`DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Thanks, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: We have so much news to cover tonight and we are lucky tonight
to have Professor Laurence Tribe with us, Harvard Law School`s
constitutional law professor on a night when the president invoked the
Supreme Court. The president`s belief that he can get the Supreme Court to
stop the impeachment process, Professor Tribe has much to say about that,
and what is likely to be now a protracted legal battle between the House of
Representatives and the president of the United States.
And at the end of this hour tonight, we are going to have another episode
of political hypocrisy theater, this time with Senator John Thune. Senator
John Thune has had nothing and I mean nothing to say about the revelations
in the Mueller report about the lies told by Donald Trump, including lies
to the American people. But we have video of John Thune absolutely
outraged, outraged, and morally outraged at a president lying to the
American people. It`s what John Thune had to say the day before as a
member of the House of Representatives, he voted to impeach Bill Clinton.
You`ll want to see this at the ended of this hour because this is story
will be moving into the United States Senate next week when William Barr
testifies to the Senate Judiciary Committee. And we are going to be seeing
the height of hypocrisy next week in the United States Senate. With the
Republican members of the United States Senate vet very much including John
But, first, on the day that the president took the unprecedented position
of fighting every single legally issued subpoena by the House of
Representatives every legal document request by the House of
Representatives, including the fully legal demand which is not a subpoena
but it is a fully legal demand for Donald Trump`s tax returns by the House
Ways and Means Committee Richard Neal – on that day, on when the president
declares he`s going to fight every one of those things, Hillary Clinton
published an op-ed where the country stands tonight on the verge of what
could be another impeachment of a president.
Hillary Clinton drew on her unique personal experience with the last two
impeachment processes. The one she witnessed as first lady when her
husband Bill Clinton was impeached by the House of Representatives and the
one she worked on as a young staff lawyer in 1974 when the House Judiciary
Committee voted to approve three articles of impeachments against
Republican President Richard Nixon. Hillary Clinton said in her op-ed
piece, quote: Congress should hold substantive hearings that build on the
Mueller report and fill in its gaps not jump straight to an up or down vote
She pointed out that Congress can investigate the president and legislate
at the same time as it has done in the past as it did during the Nixon
impeachment process. Hillary Clinton concluded her op-ed piece with this
line: Now it`s up to us to prove the wisdom of our Constitution, the
resilience of our democracy and strength of our nation.
The echoes of history are everywhere now, in the Trump investigations and
in the echoes of impeachment. Donald Trump is reverting to a strategy that
Richard Nixon tried and failed to make work – stonewalling Congress,
refusing to submit to Congress`s legal subpoena power, Congress`s legal
The president is not going to win that contest with the Congress in court.
He is going to lose. But he is going to buy time in the court with that
But it is a strategy that has emboldened the Congress. There are reports
tonight that Chairman Jerry Nadler of the House Judiciary Committee is
considering fines for Trump administration witnesses who do not respond to
subpoenas. Some legal scholars indicate that the president`s defiant
actions with Congress that have no basis in law can themselves be
interpreted as additional elements of obstruction of justice and could
become separate articles of impeachment if we get to that.
If the president is impeached by the House of Representatives, one of the
echoes of history we will hear is Mr. Sarbanes being asked to vote.
John Sarbanes is a Democratic member of the House of Representatives from
Maryland who will join us in a moment. His father is former Senator Paul
Sarbanes who is among the most respected members of the United States
Senate by both parties. When I was working on the staff of the Senate in
the 1990s, and before that, Paul Sarbanes was a member of the House of
Representatives from Maryland. The same district that his son is in now.
And Paul Sarbanes was a member of the House Judiciary Committee who voted
to impeach Republican President Richard Hixon. Here is that historic
moment in the committee.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Mann.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Aye.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Sarbanes.
REP. PAUL SARBANES (D), MARYLAND: Aye.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: And so, Mr. Sarbanes father and son, could become the first
father and son in history to vote for the impeachment of a president.
But we`re not there yet. We may never get there. There may not be
impeachment hearings for this president. We are a year and a half away
only a year and a half away from an election that could replace this
president and the legal process may grind slowly enough that there is not
time to complete an impeachment process before the next election.
But President Trump is now publicly afraid of the impeachment process,
after having claimed the opposite. He demonstrated his public fear today
in his usual forum for expressing his desperate fears, Twitter. He began
by using gangster language in a tweet saying that the Mueller investigation
“didn`t lay a glove on me.”
Didn`t lay a glove on me is the language of a criminal who knows he is
guilty but cleverly escaped detection. It is not the language of a
president, it is not the language of an innocent president.
The president also tweeted the single most ignorant and desperate thing
ever said by an American politician about impeachment. The president said,
if the partisan Dems ever try to impeach, I would first head to the U.S.
Supreme Court. And, of course, the Supreme Court wouldn`t say to him, what
are you doing here, because they wouldn`t let him in the door. We will
hear from Harvard constitutional law professor Laurence Tribe about the
absurdity of that statement by the president today.
But, first, we`re joined by Democratic Congressman John Sarbanes of
Maryland. He`s a member of the House Oversight Committee.
Also joining us, Matt Miller, former spokesman for Attorney General Eric
Holder who has great experience dealing with subpoenas from Congress.
And an MSNBC contributor Adam Jentleson. He`s the former chief of staff
for majority leader, Senator Harry Reid, of the United States Senate.
Representative Sarbanes, I want to start with you. I thought of your
father today when I thought of the possibility of this vote coming to you
because it feels as those we took one step, one step of what might be a
thousand steps, but one step closer to possible impeachment process today
with the president making this unprecedented declaration that he would not
cooperate with a single subpoena for anything, witnesses, documents,
anything, from the House of Representatives.
REP. JOHN SARBANES (D-MD): It`s an out outrageous position, obviously, in
my estimation for the president to take. But we ought to keep in mind when
he is taking that position. It`s not just about disrespecting Congress,
Lawrence. This is about disrespecting the American public because we were
told in no uncertain terms in 2018 in these midterm elections by the
electorate, we were told as Democrats if we got the gavel, people wanted to
see oversight an inquiry and investigation.
And we came to hold the president accountable after the 2018 election. So
when he rebuffs that, when he says he`s not going to cooperate when he says
he`s not going to respond to any subpoenas and, by the way, gives that
edict to everybody in his administration, that`s not about disrespecting
Congress. That`s about disrespecting the American public that wants
answers and wants accountability.
O`DONNELL: And what has it done today to your colleagues in the House?
What are you hearing? Has this, I mean, I know you`re on recess. It`s not
one of those days where you can all get together. But are you getting a
sense the president has changed the dynamic today?
SARBANES: I think all the president did today was he made Democrats more
determined to get to the bottom of all of these inquiries and continue in a
very steady and diligent and deliberate way to try to get the facts. And
we`re trying to get those facts so we can put them in front of the citizens
out there who are the ultimate jury when it comes to this president.
We want to equip the country with the facts that they need to go make a
judgment next November. I mean, the president will need his political
maker on November 3rd, 2020. He was made by this electorate and can be
unmade by this electorate, particularly if they have good information at
their fingertips. So, we`re even determined today based on the statements
that he made to go find these facts than we were yesterday.
O`DONNELL: And, Matt Miller, in the history of administrations dealing
with subpoenas, we`ve never had an announcement that they simply won`t
cooperate with any committee for anything.
MATT MILLER, FORMER DIRECTOR OF PUBLIC AFFAIRS, JUSTICE DEPARTMENT: Yes,
it`s completely lawless behavior by the administration. I think in some
ways, it`s kind of a continuation of the activities we saw laid bare in the
Mueller report last week where we saw a president who behaved lawlessly on
the campaign trail, behaved lawlessly as president and now, you see him
doing it here and resisting anyone who tries to hold him accountable.
And I think the statement he made today, you know, obviously, it exposes
that but I think it has a way you have backfiring. You ask the congressman
how that statement is being interpreted by his colleagues, I think there`s
a very good statement that that statement comes back to bite him in the
courts. The courts are usually reluctant to get involved in disputes
between co-equal branch of Congress – the government, the executive and
Congress. They want them to accommodate each other, take time to work it
out. There`s a process they expect them to go through.
Part of the thing that underlines that is an expectation both sides are
working in good faith. And when the president makes clear like he did
today there is no good faith on his part, he`s going to resist, he`s going
to say no, even to inquiries where Congress has gotten documents and gotten
testimony, I think it raises the chance the courts can intervene more
quickly and forcefully than in the past and the timeline on his side, maybe
that gets compressed in ways we haven`t seen previously.
O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to what Senator Gillibrand, presidential
candidate, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand said today about the subpoena fight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If President Trump
takes on Nancy Pelosi over whether he`s going to respond to her subpoenas,
I will put my money on Nancy Pelosi every time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Adam Jentleson, she`s going to win that bet. It`s a question
of how long it takes to win it.
ADAM JENTLESON, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, that`s right. I mean, President
Trump is picking a battle he ultimately cannot win here. Matt and I were
talking about this before.
I think one of the problems with the blanket statement that he`s putting
out therein a saying he`s going to fight every subpoena is that he`s
turning this into a very clear issue of separation of powers and whether
Congress has a – the ability to exercise oversights over the executive
branch. It clearly does. It`s one of its main responsibilities.
And, you know, here are different sort of strengths and weaknesses to each
of the cases that the Trump administration – where the Trump
administration are trying to deny an official from testifying. By making
this blanket statement it`s going to be denying testimony in all cases,
it`s sort of glossing over some areas where it may have strengths and
trying to deny a specific witness and putting it on weaker ground for the
Trump administration and saying we are trying to blanket deny Congress.
It`s basic oversight responsibility.
O`DONNELL: Congressman Sarbanes, there`s a new poll, “A.P.” Poll saying 53
percent believe that Congress should continue the Trump Russian
investigation, 45 percent say no.
We heard the other day, Nancy Pelosi when she was discussing it public high
here in New York at the “Time 100” discussion, site polls repeatedly in her
response about where the Congress stands now and how the last polling she
saw is as opposed to impeachment. In your discussions with your fellow
members, how often do polls come up and what the public is thinking and how
much does that control your next steps?
SARBANES: We`re extremely respectful of what the public`s view of this
whole matter is, the Mueller report, the way we`re handling these
investigations, because as I said a moment ago, we very much see ourselves
as carrying out the mandate and the direction that we received from the
American people every two years when they go to the polls. And they said
to us that they wanted to see the kind of oversight of this administration
that had been missing for the last two years when the Republicans head the
So, we came with that charge beginning with this Congress in January of
this year that we were going to provide the accountability that had been
missing before. And by the way, the public`s interest in understanding
Russia`s interference in our elections is exactly on target. We should be
on red alert right now because the Mueller report detailed exactly how
Russia interfered with the 2016 election, tried to sow discord, tried to
undermine our democracy, fundamentally undermine our democracy.
And we need to respond to that. There`s another election coming. It`s
next year. Russia`s not going away. They`re going to come back and try to
do the same thing. So, we should be collaborating, cooperating.
Republicans and Democrats together.
I don`t know where the Republicans are. They`re missing in action when it
comes to protecting our democracy.
This is not about Democrats and Republicans when you talking about fighting
back against Russian interference. That`s about being American patriots
and McConnell and the Republicans are missing in action when it comes to
taking up the sort of proposals and measures that we can put in place and,
by the way, were put in place by House Democrats with HR-1, the For the
People Act that can prevent the kind of interference that we saw in the
2016 election, happening again next year.
O`DONNELL: Matt Miller, Congressman Sarbanes red alert sounds like one of
the other possible outcomes of these kinds of hearings. In the last
election, the public was not aware of what was going on, what the Russians
were doing in the ramp-up to the election but these hearings would
certainly be emphasizing that.
MILLER: Yes, they`d be emphasizing that and kind of showing the American
people in a way they`re not going to get from reading the report because
most people won`t read the report, what it is that Trump has done in
office. I think that there are a lot of things the president doesn`t
understand. But television is one of them.
If the Mueller report is the script, the hearings are the TV show. That`s
why you see him fighting to keep witnesses like Don McGahn, people no
longer in the administration from being able to comer and testify. If you
kind of look at what the Judiciary Committee has said they`re going to do,
they want to take a lot of witnesses who showed up in the Mueller report
and have them come, you know, kind of systematically in open hearings where
the public can see just what it is the president was asking these people to
do, just how he was behaving, how he was breaking the law in the White
And to this question whether the public supports impeachment or not, where
they are ultimately going to be, where they are now is not necessarily
where they`re going to be after they`ve seen dramatic television hearings.
The president very much gets that. And that`s why you see them resisting
so, so much.
O`DONNELL: Adam Jentleson, I`m glad Congressman Sarbanes mentioned HR-1,
because it goes to the point that Hillary Clinton makes on her op-ed piece,
which is that the Congress knows how to conduct regular business and
legislate while an impeachment process or investigation like that is going
on. It has always done that, always been able to do that.
And in Nancy Pelosi`s case, she`s already done it.
JENTLESON: That`s right. HR-1 is the first bill they passed. It`s passed
the House but gone nowhere in the Senate because Senate Majority Leader
Mitch McConnell refused to bring it up.
Senator McConnell also denied the public a full accounting of what was
happening with Russia attacking our elections in fall of 2016. So, that
tells you where his priorities are. He has shown through his actions that
when he has to choose between supporting the president and giving the
public the information they need about potential threats to our democracy,
that he will choose to side with the president.
O`DONNELL: Adam Jentleson gets the last word in our first round tonight.
Congressman John Sarbanes, Matt Miller, Adam Jentleson, thank you all very
much for starting us off tonight. I really appreciate it. Thank you.
And right after this break, Harvard`s constitutional law professor Laurence
Tribe will join us to discuss account president`s new legal battle with
Congress and the president`s dreams about how one day, his Supreme Court
justices can somehow stop impeachment.
And Joy Reid will be joining us after she co-moderated a presidential forum
today where eight of the presidential candidates appeared and where the men
were asked, why women should vote for them?
O`DONNELL: The president has not read the Mueller report or the
Constitution. And that is why the president once again today proved
himself to be the most ignorant person in the history of the American
presidency and possibly American politics by saying that he would turn to
the judges that he has appointed to the United States Supreme Court to save
him from impeachment. That will never happen but it does seem that today
is the first day of what promises to be a Trump administration illegal war
with every House committee seeking information and witnesses from the Trump
And we are very fortunate tonight on this first night of this epic legal
battle of Trump versus the Congress to be able to take our constitutional
guidance from our next guest, Harvard Law Professor Laurence Tribe. He`s a
professor of constitutional law at Harvard Law School and has argued dozens
of cases in the United States Supreme Court, something that most lawyers
don`t get to do even once in their career.
And joining us now is Professor Laurence Tribe. He is co-author of “To End
a Presidency: The Power of Impeachment.”
And, Professor Tribe, I think your impeachment book, is it about a year old
LAURENCE TRIBE, HARVARD LAW PROFESSOR: Right. It came out in May of 2018,
and the paperback with a new epilog just came out in March of this year.
So, depends on how you count.
O`DONNELL: And much of what you, the guidance you gave us in that book was
in many ways putting the brakes on talk about impeachment that we were
hearing then. This story has changed dramatically to where we are tonight.
TRIBE: Certainly has. I was saying impeachment can be very divisive. It
can have a big backlash. It can look like we`re trying to undo a election.
So, we have to go slowly and carefully.
But after the Mueller report came out with all after its astonishing
revelations about the systemic and sustained Russian attack on our
democracy, and the president`s sustained efforts to obstruct inquiry into
that attack, even inquiry of a counterintelligence type that would enable
us better protect ourselves from going on attack in 2020, it became clear
there was no time to lose.
And so, that`s why I`m very much in favor of the kinds of hearings that
Representative Nadler, as chairman of judiciary, is engaged in now.
They`re not called impeachment hearings but the impeachment process for
anyone who understands what`s going on is underway. It`s under way but
they don`t have the bumper sticker yet.
They`re looking into all of the evidence connecting the dots and as you`re
earlier guests said, putting live witnesses on the air, so that people can
see for themselves through people like Don McGahn, just how corrupt and
fundamentally criminal this president was. And we cannot assume that
public opinion will be completely impervious to that demonstration. That`s
why the president is trying to shut them all up, trying to stonewall in
this unprecedented way, not invoking real legal privileges but just saying
I`m the president, and I say I don`t want any of you to cooperate with
Congress. Who`s Congress anyway? A punch of pols.
It`s an astonishing exercise and arrogant obstruction of justice, very much
like but much worst than what Nixon did leading to article three of his
articles of impeachment the article about contempt of congress. That`s
what we`re witnessing. We`re witnessing contempt of Congress, contempt of
law, contempt for the American people.
O`DONNELL: Yes, I have that article right here. It is exactly what the
president is doing today. It says in this of article of impeachment, it
says that he failed without lawful cause or excuse to produce papers and
things as directed by duly authorized subpoenas issued by the committee on
the judiciary of the House of Representatives and willfully disobeyed such
subpoenas. That was an article of impeachment.
It says in that article the president interposed the powers of the
presidency against the lawful subpoenas of the House of Representatives.
What the president did today was an article of impeachment against Richard
TRIBE: Exactly. He did it today in a context where the national security
is at stake. I mean, that is Nixon was, with all cash and the plumbers
unit, he wasn`t really inviting a hostile foreign power to keep invading
our country and our sovereignty. He was not engaging in treacherous
betrayal of the American republic. He was being a scofflaw. He was being
But now, we`ve got somebody who is fundamentally engaged in treachery.
Nothing could be more serious. And I have enough faith in the American
people to believe that when they see this live and not just in a kind of
dead 428-page thing that I`m sure the president hasn`t read but lots of
other people who can read haven`t read, then I think things will change.
But, of course, the president is not satisfied with that. He`s as you
said, he`s threatened to go to his Supreme Court. An amazing idea.
O`DONNELL: Professor tribe, I am embarrassed to use your brain power for
the answer to this question. But let`s just pretend that you are visiting
an elementary school somewhere in Cambridge, fourth grade, second grade,
and a kid there.
TRIBE: I`ve done that. I like doing that.
O`DONNELL: And a kid there raises his or her hand and says, can the
president stop impeachment in the Supreme Court, what would be your answer?
TRIBE: Well, I would said that presidents can`t do that. The Supreme
Court just a few years ago said that it had no role in the impeachment
process. And actually, kids, this is a good reason.
Back when the framers met in Philadelphia, they were wonder who should have
a role in the removal of a president, in charging him through impeachment
and then putting him on trial. And a lot of them initially thought, well,
how about the Supreme Court. They wear black robes. They`re going to be
And eventually, there was an overwhelming rejection of that idea for
several reasons. First of all, the president might have appointed some of
those guys in black robes or now women in black robes. They can`t be
Secondly, there was a concern that after a president is kicked out of
office, he can still be tried criminally, and that hopefully will happen
when this president leaves office because he has committed a lot of crimes.
But who is going to hear the appeal from a criminal conviction of a
president? Well, that would have to be the Supreme Court, but they would
already have ruled if they had a role in the impeachment process. And then
on top of that, there was a concern that the Supreme Court would be too
clubby and small and too easy to corrupt, whereas the Senate, they hoped,
unfortunately they might have hoped too much, the Senate would be
incorruptible and large.
And finally, they thought the Supreme Court wouldn`t have the prestige that
it would take to stand up to a president of the United States because the
court hadn`t yet developed that prestige. So for all those reasons, they
said we`re going to have the chief justice preside over the Senate, but
we`re not going to give the court any other role, and that`s where it
So that`s the most ignorant thing the president could possibly have said
and insulting to the justices that he named to the court, justices Gorsuch
and Kavanaugh, was you`re my guys, I`m going to get help from you. I think
that nobody would advise him to alienate the court that way, but I`m
frankly not all that upset that he did because now they`re going to have
O`DONNELL: They will have to. Professor Laurence Tribe, thank you very,
very much for joining us tonight on what may be the first night of a long
legal battle between the president and Congress. I really appreciate you
TRIBE: Thank you, Lawrence. It was my pleasure.
O`DONNELL: Thank you. Up next, Joy Reid is going to join us. She moderated
– co-moderated today`s Democratic presidential forum which included a
warning from Senator Kamala Harris about the Mueller report and how it
applies to the next presidential election.
O`DONNELL: Today, eight Democratic presidential candidates gathered in
Houston, Texas for the “She the People” presidential forum. The event was
co-moderated by MSNBC`s Joy Reid, who will join us in a moment.
Senator Kamala Harris talked about the findings in the Mueller report,
about the Russian attack on our election, and what it means for the next
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The Intelligence
Community came out with a report of what happened in 2016. Now, let`s speak
truth because some people aren`t clear about this, not any of us were
clear. Russia interfered in the election of the president of the United
HARRIS: OK. So, the Intelligence Community has done a report on what
happened. Included in that analysis is an adversarial country who was
attempting to destabilize our democracy decided that they would try and
interfere with our elections and make the American public insecure and
And so they decided to target our vulnerabilities. And they exposed
America`s Achilles heel. You know the issue that they kept bringing up
because they knew it would cause heat and dissension among us? Race.
HARRIS: So guess what, the irony of it all is that what otherwise we have
been always knowing is a civil rights issue has now become a national
security issue. And we need to deal with it and we need to deal with it
knowing what they did in 2016, because it didn`t result in any real
They will do again in 2020, and it will be about misinformation that is
being done with a targeted effort to create dissension which will lead to
suppression because people will just get turned off, and they`ll decide you
know what, I don`t like any of these people, I`m just not going to vote.
So, we are going to have to really be vigilant and calling out the untruths
when we see them because I think this is where the power of the people is
going to be critical to counteracting what will invariably be efforts to
manipulate this election for president of the United States.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: We have to squeeze in a break here before Joy Reid joins us
with more from the other candidates who appeared today at the “She the
People” presidential forum in Houston.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOY REID, MSNBC NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Would you pledge to have a woman
SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The question if you didn`t
hear it is, would I pledge to have a woman running mate? I will have a
woman running mate. To me, it`s really clear that we do that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining us now, Joy Reid, MSNBC national correspondent and host
of “AM Joy,” weekends on MSNBC. She was the co-moderator at the “She the
People” forum today in Houston.
Joy, I watched a bunch of it. I couldn`t watch all of it. I have to say it
was so fascinating see especially the men candidates being asked about the
women running, including that question you asked more than once to the men,
why should women be voting for you instead of a woman and in particular in
some cases a woman of color?
REID: Yeah. It really showed you, I think, Lawrence, how much the debates
are going to change everything about the calculus of where this race is
going. You know, the polls right now show a lot of name ID, but once some
of these candidates get on stage and are able to articulate themselves, it
really shows you who has the potential to pop.
Cory Booker had really strong responses on issues of race and gender. He
resonated with the crowd when he talked about it and his answer about why
voting for him. You know, people responded to it.
Beto O`Rourke, I have to day, he is like a machine. You give him input and
his output is sort of like a computer, goes off in his head then he spits
out like three perfect minutes of race talk, like he really did a great
job. He referenced Congresswoman Sheila Johnson Lee, whose district it is
and her mentorship of him. He talked about slavery and reparations. He had
historical references. He really was so spot-on, that even though it was a
hometown crowd, you could see that he was really winning them over.
Some other candidates struggled. Bernie sanders had a tough day in the
room. There was a lot of, you know, sort of jeering at certain points from
the crowd because when he was asked about questions about race, he returned
to his program and the things that he wants to do and he sort of repeated
them. And at one point, he went back to marching with Dr. King and the
march in Washington. People groaned because they felt like he wasn`t
answering the question.
So it really showed you that, you know, for the guys, they`ve got to the
answer that question and some really do it well.
O`DONNELL: It seemed to be one of those situations where you could see
that the answer was actually in effect custom-made for this room for this
audience which is the way it`s supposed to feel and it`s the way it`s
supposed to feel in Iowa, and what I saw for Senator sanders is the answers
tended to be long and they tended to be segments of his stump speech.
Let`s listen to be what Elizabeth Warren had to say. Let`s just go straight
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I want to talk to the
hospitals where births take place. And I want to talk to them in the
language they understand. Money.
WARREN: Here is what I would like to change right now in maternal health.
And that is to say, the hospitals are just going to get a lump of money.
And if they bring down those maternal mortality rates, then they get a
bonus. And if they don`t, then they`re going to have money taken away from
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joy, that struck me as an example of it`s not just a woman
shows up at a women`s political forum. The audience is almost what,
entirely women, 90 percent women today?
REID: Probably 90 percent.
O`DONNELL: But she is talking about something I haven`t heard her talk
about before in other appearances. She is talking about something she knows
speaks to that audience.
REID: And you know what was really remarkable was, you know, Elizabeth
Warren got a huge ovation when she walked in to the room. And she held that
audience throughout because she was giving both specifics and anecdotes.
She had stories to tell. She was interacting with the audience. When
someone yelled out, “Tell us what you think.” She said, “I`m going to tell
you what I think.” She was very personable.
I think Kamala Harris had the same kind of interaction and a lot of
specifics as well. Julian Castro would say the same kind of thing to
hometown crowd but also giving you specifics.
What that crowd wanted because remember, Lawrence, these were a combination
of local people here from Houston, but a lot of activists who have flew in
from all over the country, and these are women who are working for low
income wage increases, nurses, teachers, people are working on the ground
but also who are working in the world.
They wanted answers. They didn`t want to just have platitudes and sort of
feel good, sort of dictums thrown at them. They wanted to hear what these
candidates were going to specifically do, and they wanted their questions
answered very specifically.
Elizabeth Warren, she really soared in terms of that and some of the other
candidates did as well. I think the audience appreciated that. The last
thing I will say about what Warren was able to accomplish is that she was
also able to supply inspiration.
I said earlier on “All In” that this race has been waiting for sort of a
“Lord of the Rings” moment, for somebody to give that fighting speech of
this is what we can do, we can do it, don`t be afraid, you can nominate a
woman, you can take a chance. Warren had that moment tonight – today.
O`DONNELL: Joy Reid, thank you very much for joining us. You can come home
REID: I`m going to head back soon. Thank you, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: OK. Thank you, Joy. When we come back, this is something very
unusual. We have rare video of a congressional Republican condemning lies
by the president of the United States. And if you feel there`s some sleight
of hand involved, you`re right. That`s next.
O`DONNELL: We have rare video tonight of Republican Senator John Thune
speaking publicly about what he sees as the president`s criminal conduct.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN THUNE (R-SD): Either we are a nation of laws or we are not. And
if we are, then those laws have to apply equally to all people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Sharp-eyed observers will note that Senator Thune looks a lot
younger there than the last time you saw him, and he`s standing in the
House of Representatives because that`s 20 years ago, when John Thune had
to take a stance and cast a vote for or against the impeachment of
President Bill Clinton.
John Thune doesn`t do much talking these days in the United States Senate,
but he`s always in the shot when Mitch McConnell is talking to reporters.
He`s always over Mitch McConnell`s shoulder because John Thune is
technically a member of the leadership as the majority whip.
But that`s not a real job in the Senate. It just gives him the right to
always be over Mitch McConnell`s shoulder in the photo-ops or on his way to
being over Mitch McConnell`s shoulder in the photo-ops.
We`re going to insert a final commercial break right here so that will give
us enough time to show you more from John Thune on what he thinks about a
president`s betrayal of trust. And it will leave you wondering not just
about Donald Trump`s betrayal of trust, but what has clearly become John
Thune`s own personal betrayal of trust.
O`DONNELL: John Thune is the “over the shoulder” guy. There he is in his
standard spot over the shoulder of Mitch McConnell. John Thune is much more
noticeable than most “over the shoulder” guys because he`s so much taller
than the other shoulders that are usually around him.
The shoulder John Thune permanently attached to is Mitch McConnell. Senator
Thune is the number two in the Republican Senate leadership. He has the
title of “Assistant Majority Leader” often referred to as “The Whip.” There
is no job there. It is just an honorary title. The majority leaders and
minority leaders of the Senate have been doing their own vote counting for
Everyone deals directly with the majority leader and minority leader but
phony leadership titles are thrown around in the Senate and the House to
give members something to boast about back home and maybe help with
And for John Thune, it means that pretty much every shot of Mitch McConnell
that appears in South Dakota news media is also a picture of South Dakota
senior senator, John Thune. And the good news for John Thune is there`s
only one guy who can muscle him out of the “over the shoulder” position
with Mitch McConnell and that is the president of the United States. That`s
a very helpful photograph for John Thune in South Dakota, a state that
Donald Trump won by 30 points.
Even though John Thune is theoretically and only theoretically the number
two guy in the Senate leadership, it`s not like he`s the second most
talkative Republican senator. He doesn`t come in second to Mitch McConnell
in public comments about affairs of state. In fact, John Thune`s Senate
career is mostly a silent movie. And that works for him because it works
for South Dakota where he`s been elected to the Senate three times, once
So, in this space tonight where we would like to show you video of John
Thune`s reaction to the damning accusations against the president of the
United States exposed in the redacted version of the Mueller report, we
have nothing. John Thune has not rushed to the camera or microphone to
issue his moral guidance or judgement on what we`ve been reading about the
president whose shoulder he gets to stand behind sometimes.
But thanks to the congressional record and the C-Span video, we know
exactly what John Thune thinks about this sort of thing, especially a
president lying to the American people. That was one of the impeachment
charges against President Richard Nixon in 1974, back when John Thune was
in middle school, lying to the American people.
And we know how strongly John Thune feels about lying to the American
people in which the Mueller report proves Donald Trump did repeatedly. And
we know that because when John Thune was in the House of Representatives
dreaming of someday growing up to be the “over the shoulder” guy in the
United States Senate, he let us know just how strongly he feels about a
president lying to the American people.
This is what Congressman John Thune said on the House floor the day before
he voted to impeach President Bill Clinton.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
THUNE: There`s one other issue, an important issue that I`d like to
address, and that is the matter of trust. Lying to the American people is a
betrayal of trust. And the pattern of deception and dishonestly that acts
as a bodyguard to this president strikes at the very core of his ability to
Either the president chooses contempt and complete disregard for the truth,
or his conscience is so diminished as to leave him unable to discern the
truth from his lies.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Betrayal of trust strikes at the very core of his ability to
lead. He didn`t mean any of that. Not a word. We didn`t know that then. We
didn`t know enough about John Thune to know he wasn`t telling the truth. He
was in his first term in the House of Representatives. But now we know.
John Thune`s silence tells his story now. John Thune`s silence about every
lie President Trump has told as documented in the Mueller report, not to
mention the 9,000 lies The Washington Post reports the president has told
That last line that you heard John Thune say about Bill Clinton certainly
applies to Donald Trump. His conscience leaves him so diminished as to
leave him unable to discern the truth from his lies. Let`s watch John Thune
say those words one more time, words that were no doubt written for him by
his congressional staff, and think about who else those words might apply
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
THUNE: His conscious is so diminished as to leave him unable to discern
the truth from his lies.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Isn`t that also a description of John Thune in his years of
silent service to the presidency of Donald Trump?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
THUNE: Allegiance to our Constitutions leaves us with no alternative but to
vote in favor of impeaching the President.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: John Thune gets tonight`s LAST WORD. “THE 11TH HOUR” with
Brian Williams starts now.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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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