Trump praises confederate general. TRANSCRIPT: 4/26/19, The Last Word w/ Lawrence O’Donnell.

Guests:
Stacey Plaskett, Lloyd Doggett, Jared Huffman, Aisha Moodie-Mille, Ron Klain
Transcript:

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST:  Thank you for being with us on this fine Friday

night. I`m going to spend the weekend chasing shad (ph) and failing to

catch them. But I will see you on Monday and if I have any fish stories, I

will bring them back for you.

 

Now, it is time for “The Last Word” with Lawrence O`Donnell. Good evening,

Lawrence.

 

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST:  Good evening, Rachel. It`s only fair for

you, though, (INAUDIBLE) like that.

 

(LAUGHTER)

 

O`DONNELL:  That`s very, very generous of you.

 

MADDOW:  They are big part of my demo.

 

O`DONNELL:  So Rachel, Andrew Napolitano, does he still works at Fox News?

I saw him say those things yesterday, very convincingly, about the

president being guilty of all of this obstruction of justice. And I was

just amazed. I ran some of it last night. I assume he is going to need,

safe harbor (ph) somewhere very soon.

 

MADDOW:  Well, you know, cable news networks are complicated places and,

you know, glass houses and all the rest. I don`t know how things run

anywhere else. I barely know how things run here.

 

O`DONNELL:  Right.

 

MADDOW:  But those comments that he made, the reason that I aired those

comments tonight is that I thought that he was very succinct and

effectively clear –

 

O`DONNELL:  Yes.

 

MADDOW:  – and accurate in the way that he factually described the legal

part of the obstruction case. That`s in the Mueller report. And it was tidy

and it was from an unusual source. And may the chips fall where they may.

 

O`DONNELL:  Yeah, and I have to say it`s not the first time that he has

said things that are counter to the general flow at Fox. He has in the past

at several points clung to reasonable positions that were not being held by

very many other voices there.

 

MADDOW:  Has also said insane things, including –

 

O`DONNELL:  Yes, absolutely.

 

MADDOW:  – about this investigation. He was the one who was saying that it

was England who was spying on the Trump campaign.

 

O`DONNELL:  Yup.

 

MADDOW:  That he had sources that were telling him. I`ve been thinking

about that because Trump revived that this past week. He confirmed that he

was going to have a state visit to the U.K. and then the next day started

ranting again about this Andrew Napolitano conspiracy that England was

really the true spy on the Trump campaign, which may to seem like he maybe

wanted to get disinvited from his state visit.

 

But, yeah, Andrew Napolitano in this case is explaining things in a way

that I think is very helpful, has also been a complete nut on this same

story.

 

O`DONNELL:  Yeah, it`s quite a range of performance.

 

MADDOW:  Indeed.

 

O`DONNELL:  Thank you, Rachel.

 

MADDOW:  Thank you, Lawrence.

 

O`DONNELL:  Well, at the end of the hour tonight, we`re going to talk about

what it feels like to live in times when the president of the United States

as he did again today, defended people who shouted, “Jews will not replace

us.” He defended those people again today, saying that some of those people

who shouted that are very fine people.

 

It made me turn today to a passage in Anne Frank`s diary, that I think is

the most powerful description of what it feels like, what it feels like to

live in the midst of this kind of thing, of this kind of talk, this kind of

darkness. Much darker time that Anne Frank lived in but her guidance lives

on, and we will come to that at the end of the hour tonight.

 

There are new details from The Washington Post tonight about how Deputy

Attorney General Rod Rosenstein was privately briefing President Trump on

the Russia investigation during the Russia investigation and assuring the

president that he was on – Rod Rosenstein was on the president`s side.

 

The Washington Post describes a call between the president and Rod

Rosenstein last year after The New York Times report came out that said

that Rod Rosenstein had suggested wearing a wire, that him wearing a wire

to record the president.

 

According to The Washington Post, Rosenstein, who by one account had gotten

teary-eyed just before call in a meeting with Trump`s chief of staff,

sought to defuse the volatile situation and assure the president he was on

his team, according to people familiar with the matter.

 

He criticized the Times report, published in late September, and blamed it

on former deputy FBI director Andrew McCabe, whose recollections formed its

basis. Then he talked about special counsel Robert S. Mueller III`s

investigation of Russia`s interference in the 2016 election and told the

president he would make sure Trump was treated fairly, people familiar with

the conversation said.

 

“I give the investigation credibility,” Rosenstein said, in the words of

one administration official offering their own characterization of the

call. “I can land the plane.” In the end, the president didn`t trust Rod

Rosenstein to land that plane alone.

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

SEN. CHRIS COONS (D-DE):  Who if anyone outside the Justice Department has

seen portions or all of the special counsel`s report? Has anyone in the

White House seen any of the report?

 

WILLIAM BARR, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY GENERAL:  You know, I`m not going to -

- as I say, I`m landing the plane right now and, you know, I`ve been

willing to discuss my – my – my letters and the process going forward.

But the report is going to be out next week and I`m just not going to get

into the details of the process until the plane is on the ground.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

O`DONNELL:  The Washington Post reporting tonight says that President Trump

eventually decided that Rod Rosenstein was “on the team after all,”

according to a senior administration official. The Washington Post reports

that Rod Rosenstein was willing to resign after the report of him wanting

to wear a wire last year. “I can go. I`m ready to go. I can resign. But I

don`t want to go out with a tweet,” the deputy attorney general said,

according to one person`s account.

 

But according to The Washington Post,” Rod Rosenstein met with President

Trump aboard Air Force One a few weeks later and ultimately remained at the

Justice Department. The Washington Post reports that Rosenstein also told

the president more than once that he agreed Trump was being treated

unfairly.

 

The one person familiar with the matter said Rosenstein was probably

referring to media coverage rather than the investigation itself. To keep

his job, the deputy attorney general has worked to mollify an often angry

Trump while at the same time protecting the special counsel`s investigation

of the president and his campaign.

 

In a speech today to the National Rifle Association, President Trump said

that he was the victim of an attempted coup. Former CIA Director John

Brennan said this about the president`s talk of a coup.

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  That`s the president alleging that you among others

were in on the act for some kind of an attempted overthrow. How do you

respond?

 

JOHN BRENNAN, FORMER DIRECTOR OF CIA:  I don`t think it`s surprising at all

that we continue to hear these sociopathic ramblings of Mr. Trump claiming

that there was this effort to try to prevent him from being elected or to

unseat him. And I welcome any type of, you know, continued investigation in

terms of what we did during that period of time that we were in government.

I`ve testified in front of Congress.

 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  You would do it again?

 

BRENNAN:  Absolutely I`ll do it again.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

O`DONNELL:  Leading off our discussion tonight are three Democratic members

of Congress, almost a quorum for a subcommittee. Congressman Lloyd Doggett

of Texas is a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, Congressman

Jared Huffman of California who made news on the Democratic conference call

this week which we will get to in just a minute, and Congresswoman Stacey

Plaskett from the U.S. Virgin Islands. She is a member of the House

Oversight Committee. She was also a senior counsel to former Deputy

Attorney General James Comey and served as an acting deputy assistant

attorney at the Justice Department.

 

Congresswoman Plaskett, I would like to start with you on your reading of

this new information that we`re getting tonight about Rod Rosenstein`s role

within the Justice Department where you used to work and his interaction

with the president. What is your interpretation of that?

 

REP. STACEY PLASKETT (D-VI):  This is the very reason that members of

Congress are asking for an investigation and for testimony notwithstanding

the Mueller report being out already. This is subsequent activity that is

outside of the report that we need to get to.

 

You know, as Attorney General Barr said, he`s waiting until the plane has

landed. Well, the plane is at the gate now. So, we`re ready for

investigations and for him to come back and give us some more detail and

substance on the process by which this report was actually made public.

 

O`DONNELL:  And Congressman Doggett, you`ve watched a lot of investigations

over your career and here we have this report on Rod Rosenstein tonight, in

effect fighting for his job, according to the White House sources, and it

sounds like saying whatever he needed to say to hold on to that job with

the president.

 

REP. LLOYD DOGGETT (D-TX):  It`s very troubling. And I think what we have

to do in Congress is fight for democracy. Seldom in recent decades has

democracy faced a danger as great as Donald Trump and his sleazy gang. We

have to be there, standing up for democracy, recognizing that Rod

Rosenstein and Mr. Barr are not going to be any help here.

 

I think our patience should be at an end. Investigate. Do it respectfully.

But when people do not show up to testify, arrest them. Get the jail ready

and get the fines ready to ensure that there`s enforcement.

 

O`DONNELL:  Congressman Huffman, this is our first chance to talk since the

reports about Speaker Pelosi`s conference call with Democratic members

about how to proceed at this point in the investigations of the president.

What can you share with us about your contribution in that call?

 

REP. JARED HUFFMAN (D-CA):  In that call and in other opportunities, my

message to colleagues and everyone who will listen to me on this is to

think about the downside of not acting in this historic moment that has

been forced upon us, really.

 

I am not haunted by the political uncertainty of moving forward and doing

our job under the constitution. I am haunted by the thought of not doing

that job, especially as the lawlessness and defiance from this president

continues unfolding every day.

 

O`DONNELL:  I want to read a report in Yahoo News from Paul Rosenzweig, who

was part of Ken Starr`s special prosecutor team, prosecuting – basically

going after President Clinton which led to President Clinton`s impeachment.

“Paul Rosenzweig, who served as a senior counsel to Ken Starr, said that a

significant number of his former colleagues from the independent counsel

office share his views. My view is that there`s ample reason right now for

the House Judiciary Committee to begin an impeachment inquiry and if it

were up to me, I would recommend them to impeach,” said Rosenzweig.

 

Congresswoman Plaskett, your reaction to that.

 

PLASKETT:  You know, that`s an opinion, and I think we are using our

constitutional authority as well as our constitutional obligation to

investigate. There`s no constitutional obligation to impeach a president.

There is a constitutional obligation for us to be a check and balance which

I think we`re being. And I don`t want us to fall into the same trap that

this White House falls into and many of the officials in there that they

feel that they have to make themself heard and make themself known.

 

The actions of Rosenstein, the actions of Barr are so outside the norms of

normal prosecutors that I think the American people want us to move

cautiously, want to us give them the full details, but not to be champing

at the bit to make ourselves heard and to have our place in history in this

time.

 

I think that they want to us to investigate, but they also want us to

legislate at the same time. And there are many things that are going on in

Congress that the people of this country are not hearing about, because

we`ve become obsessed with what`s happening in the Mueller report and with

this president in every tweet and every turn that he makes us follow.

 

O`DONNELL:  I want to take a look at two items in a new Washington Post

poll. One is 58 percent saying that yes, Donald Trump lied about matters

involving the Mueller investigation, 58 percent saying the president lied.

And then, on the other side of it, the question of, should Congress begin

impeachment proceedings? And this is the same group that`s 58 percent of

whom said the president lied.

 

Only 38 – sorry, 37 percent say that Congress should begin impeachment

proceedings, 56 percent saying they should not begin. Congressman Doggett,

what is your reaction to those polls?

 

DOGGETT:  Well, I think that Donald Trump has clearly committed impeachable

offenses. And that every day he is in office, the danger to the security of

America grows. The job we have is to see that he`s out of office as quickly

as possible. But with every Republican except Mitt Romney refusing to even

recognize the wrongdoing it may be that the most effective and clearest

path to doing that is the 2020 election, not impeachment.

 

At the same time, this is about more than Donald Trump. We really are

making a decision here about lawlessness from the chief executive of this

country. We`re setting a standard that applies not only this year but for

future presidents. I`m troubled. I would not take impeachment off the

table. I think we need to investigate promptly and thoroughly and then make

a decision about that.

 

O`DONNELL:  Congressman Huffman, how much is the calendar one of the

problems here? We`re 18 months away from an election that could change the

presidency. When we`ve looked at impeachment proceedings in the past, once

you start with hearings in the Judiciary Committee, we`re talking the

better part of the year.

 

If they started next week, it would probably take the rest of this year.

They`re obviously not going to start next week nor would they probably be

starting next month. And so the calendar seems to be a significant factor

in trying to come up with a plan in the House of Representatives.

 

HUFFMAN:  It`s certainly a challenge. But Lawrence, I agree with my

colleagues. How we do this matters. And I want to be very clear. Nobody I

know of is proposing that we just rush right to an impeachment vote on the

floor of the House. We do need to have sober and thoughtful and transparent

hearings. We need to make our case to the American people.

 

All of these references to polls. Let`s remember that public opinion is not

static. It can change. Our constitutional duty is a lot more static. And I

would argue that when you`re presented with the kind of facts that we see

before us in this situation, you have an obligation to move forward.

 

I think a lot of that is happening in the context of these investigations.

I`m one member of Congress who feels like it probably should be in the

context of an actual impeachment inquiry but the investigations are moving,

they`re moving with urgency. I can live with that for now.

 

O`DONNELL:  And Congresswoman Plaskett, as a member of the Oversight

Committee, your commit is in a normal mode is in investigative mode. It`s

the one committee that is almost always in investigative mode. And so your

committee is going to be acting in an investigative mode whether the

Judiciary Committee is or isn`t. How do you coordinate the different tracks

of investigation that the various committees are following?

 

PLASKETT:  I think that the chairs of the committees are doing a fantastic

job with that under the leadership of Speaker Pelosi and really making sure

that they each are staying within their lanes, whether that`s Congressman

Doggett in Ways and Means in looking at tax issues, the Judiciary Committee

looking at the issues that they oversight over, and Oversight who really

fall under the umbrella of pretty much all of government making sure that

we`re picking up the pieces, as well.

 

You know, we`re already looking at emoluments claws violations as well as

campaign finance, along with – in terms of the obstruction of justice

issues. So all of those things, I think, are going to be going on in

parallel tracks. And I agree wholeheartedly with my colleagues that we are

going to be methodical about this, we`re going to be thoughtful about this,

and we`re going to leave nothing unturned.

 

Individuals will have to answer to our committees, whether they try and

avoid subpoenas or not. We are going to meet our constitutional obligation

and let the chips fall where they may. And we believe that the courts are

going to back us up, whether those be fines compelling them to appear or

jail time if necessary.

 

O`DONNELL:  I want to get to the subpoena question. Can you all stay with

us for across the next commercial break? Because this subpoena question

that Congresswoman Plaskett has just brought up is the important one. That

will tell us a lot about the calendar, how much delay is involved in that

subpoena, evasion game that the administration is playing.

 

So if you could please all stay with us. We`re going to go to commercial

break now. That will give us enough time to do that subject justice when we

come back from this break. And when we come back, we will get to the

subpoena issue. We will be right back.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

O`DONNELL:  President Trump seems to think the Trump administration has

given more than enough testimony about Donald Trump.

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I let White House Counsel

McGahn testify. I let everybody testify. I think McGahn – excuse me. I

think McGahn was in there for 30 hours. Whoever heard of such a thing? But

I said I want everybody to testify.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

O`DONNELL:  But now the president seems to be trying to stop everybody from

testifying. Donald Trump`s refusal to cooperate with congressional

investigations is forcing Democrats to examine increasingly aggressive

legal options to enforce their oversight authority. House Democrats warn

that Trump officials who refuse to comply with subpoenas could be held in

contempt of Congress, fined up to $25,000 a day, possibly even jailed.

 

As happened in the Watergate investigation. The threat happened in the

Watergate investigation when President Nixon tried to prevent his aides

from testifying. Senator Sam Ervin, chairman of the Watergate Investigation

Committee, threatened arrest of White House staff if they did not testify

to the Watergate Committee, and then they did testify to the Watergate

Committee.

 

This week, Donald Trump has stonewalled subpoenas and document demands from

committees investigating Trump`s tax returns, the 2020 census, the recent

firings from the Department of Homeland Security. Tonight, the White House

agreed to a Republican proposal to allow Carl Kline, the former head of

personnel security, to sit for a voluntary transcribed interview to answer

questions about how security clearances were granted to officials like

Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump.

 

But that is not what Chairman Elijah Cummings was requested. He wanted

Kline to testify before the House Oversight Committee. And there`s also no

sign that the Democrats will actually accept this proposal because there is

a scheduling conflict that that would represent with Attorney General

William Barr`s testimony on Wednesday.

 

We`re back with Congresswoman Stacey Plaskett, Congressman Lloyd Doggett,

and Congressman Jared Huffman. Congressman Doggett, I want to ask you about

the tax return issue, because that`s – you`re chairman of Ways and Means,

you`re on Ways and Means Committee. Chairman Richie Neal has the absolute

legal authority to see any tax return he wants to see. That`s written into

law very clearly. What is the status tonight of that demand by Chairman

Neal?

 

DOGGETT:  Well, it`s really up to Chairman Neal now that he`s been denied

not once but twice. Each of these letters is just about running out the

clock as you`ve been saying. They`re trying to delay. This May 6th deadline

is phony. I hope that Chairman Neal will move forward expeditiously to get

these returns.

 

And whether it`s there or someone who refuses to come in front of the

Oversight Committee or the Judiciary Committee, I think really the House

needs to explore contracting for jail space.

 

We need to send a message that this is not going to be putting people up at

the Willard Hotel that they`ll be there with the common criminals arrested

if they do not comply with the inherent power of Congress to subpoena

records and to subpoena people to come in. And whether it`s through arrest

and jailing or through daily fines we intend to enforce these provisions

and we`re not going to let them run out the clock.

 

O`DONNELL:  And so now, President Trump is saying he doesn`t want Don

McGahn to respond to Chairman Nadler`s subpoena to testify to the Judiciary

Committee, but Donald Trump now wants to publicly testify about Don

McGahn`s testimony. Let`s listen to what the president said today about Don

McGahn`s testimony.

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

TRUMP:  I never told Don McGahn to fire Mueller. If I wanted to fire

Mueller, I would have done it myself. It`s very simple. I had the right to.

And frankly, whether I did or he did, we had the absolute right to fire

Mueller.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

O`DONNELL:  So Congresswoman Plaskett, that`s the president of the United

States accusing former White House counsel Don McGahn of lying under oath

to special counsel Robert Mueller, because the Mueller report says that Don

McGahn did indeed tell them that Donald Trump told him to fire Robert

Mueller. And so how can Don McGahn now not testify to the Judiciary

Committee now that the president is out there repeatedly, this isn`t the

first time, saying that Don McGahn in effect lied to the special counsel?

 

PLASKETT:  Well, I`m sure the committees are going to be asking Attorney

McGahn – Mr. McGahn to give to justify what he said and to really try and

firm up those statements. But I want everybody to remember that the

president is not speaking under oath when he`s talking to the press. And

when he answered questions that the special counsel gave him, he only

answered the questions related to the Russia investigation and refused to

answer any questions related to the obstruction of justice.

 

So we have no statements from the president under oath written under the

investigation that relate to the obstruction of justice. And until he does

so, his word can`t be taken as being truthful at this point.

 

O`DONNELL:  And Congressman Huffman, what`s so important about what

Congresswoman Plaskett just said is that one of the questions the president

obviously would have been asked is, did you call up Don McGahn twice on a

weekend and twice tell him to fire the special prosecutor? In other words,

he would have been asked to say what he said today under oath.

 

HUFFMAN:  Well, and the only thing we have from this president under oath

are his written answers where he suddenly came down with a terrible case of

amnesia every time he was asked a question. This president is not

interested in going under oath and being transparent. He`s certainly not

interested in being accountable to the rule of law. I think it is gut check

time for the United States Congress. He is testing us. He is trying to see

if we have the stomach to do our job and to enforce the law. It`s a heck of

a moment.

 

O`DONNELL:  Congressman Doggett, what about the timetable on subpoena and

subpoena enforcement, what does that look like?

 

DOGGETT:  Well, we need to move forward expeditiously. When the chief of

staff for the president says we`ll never get the tax returns, we don`t need

to hear much more. We should be ready to move forward on it. When the

president says he`ll erect stonewall here and won`t permit anyone to

testify, let`s get the subpoenas out. Let`s set a short timetable on them,

get them over there, and ask them to tell the truth.

 

I believe some of these officials will decide to comply with the subpoenas

instead of complying with a president who is a man of his last word and who

lies about everything. And they shouldn`t expose themselves to jail time

and criminal fines because of willingness to follow this man.

 

O`DONNELL:  Thank you all very much for joining and staying for some extra

time here on our Friday night hearing. Congresswoman Stacey Plaskett,

Congressman Lloyd Doggett, and Congressman Jared Huffman, thank you all

very much for joining us tonight. I really appreciate it.

 

PLASKETT:  Thanks for having us.

 

O`DONNELL:  Thank you. Today, Donald Trump once again stuck to his belief

that people who were shouting “Jews will not replace us” are very fine

people, because they all love General Robert E. Lee just as much as Donald

Trump does. That`s next.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST:  The Trump re-election campaign responded

today to what Joe Biden said yesterday in his campaign announcement video

about the aftermath of the deadly confrontation in Charlottesville two

years ago when one of the members of a racist anti-Semitic mob used his car

to kill Heather Heyer.  One of the people who was protesting the racist

anti-Semitic mob that gathered in Charlottesville to chant racist, anti-

Semitic poison. 

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  And that`s when we heard the words

of the president of the United States that stunned the world and shocked

the conscience of this nation.  He said there were, quote, “Some very fine

people on both sides.”  Very fine people on both sides?  With those words,

the president of the United States assigned a moral equivalence between

those spreading hate and those with the courage to stand against it. 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

O`DONNELL:  And here was the Trump re-election campaign`s response to Joe

Biden today. 

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  If you look at what I said,

you will see that that question was answered perfectly.  And I was talking

about people that went because they felt very strongly about the monument

to Robert E. Lee, a great general.  Whether you like it or not, he was one

of the great generals. 

 

I have spoken to many generals here right at the White House and many

people thought of the generals, they think that he was maybe their favorite

general.  People were there protesting the taking down of the monument of

Robert E. Lee.  Everybody knows that. 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

O`DONNELL:  Favorite general?  I don`t know.  I like generals who don`t

kill Americans.  And Robert E. Lee killed more Americans than any general

in any army in the history of the world.  And every day that Robert E. Lee

was killing hundreds of thousands of Americans and ordering hundreds of

thousands of Americans to their deaths in hopeless battle against the

United States of America, Robert E. Lee was committing treason against the

United States of America.  And every day Robert E. Lee was killing hundreds

of thousands of Americans he was also a slave owner who tortured his

slaves. 

 

And Donald Trump is right that the people he said were very fine people

were in Charlottesville to, among other things, worship Robert E. Lee

specifically because Robert E. Lee killed hundreds of thousands of

Americans so that he could continue to be a slave owner who could continue

to torture his slaves whenever he felt like it. 

 

That`s what Donald Trump`s very fine people love about Robert E. Lee.  Some

of them say they have no problem with killing Americans.  One of them did

kill an American in Charlottesville.  Heather Heyer.  One of the leaders of

the racist anti-Semitic mob that Donald Trump says includes some very fine

people told Vice News, quote, “We`ll effing kill these people if we have

to,” and after he said that, Heather Heyer was killed.  One of them did

exactly what that man said they would do. 

 

Donald Trump said today exactly, exactly what he would have said if he were

the president of the Confederate States of America instead of the United

States of America.  And after this break, we`ll be joined by Ron Klain and

Aisha Moodie-Mills to consider how Donald Trump`s offensive behavior and

comments as president will now be catching up to him in the presidential

campaign. 

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

TRUMP:  You also had people that were very fine people on both sides.  You

had people in that group – excuse me, excuse me. 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

O`DONNELL:  He has not been excused.  And now the presidential candidates

are coming at him for what he has actually said and done as president of

the United States. 

 

Joining our discussion now Ron Klain, a senior aide to Vice President Biden

and to President Obama when they were in the White House, and Democratic

strategist Aisha Moodie-Mills.  She`s a fellow at the Institute of Politics

at Harvard`s Kennedy School. 

 

And Aisha, the president today said that he got that answer perfectly

right.  He didn`t repeat it.  He didn`t go into the same words again, but

what he`s saying was right was that there were very fine people on both

sides which means he believes that some of those people who we saw chanting

“Jews will not replace us” and other things were very fine people. 

 

AISHA MOODIE-MILLS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST:  Well,  I mean, this is a

pattern of the president, right?  Where he embraces white supremacists, he

embraces Nazi sympathizers, and then says, oh well, you know, they`re all

kind of fine people. 

 

Here`s the challenge that we have not. Lawrence, is that we have not yet

reconciled in America the fact that the civil war was about something that

was far deeper than the economic condition of the South that we like to

talk about.  And that absolutely was a fundamental moral test for us around

how we think about certain communities in this country.  And we`ve never

really faced that head-on. 

 

We`ve never really dealt with and talked about the legacy of racism, of

anti-Semitic sentiment.  And the president is not in any position to want

to even have that conversation.  I think it`s important for us to

understand our history and to be reminded that that rally that happened

there in Charlottesville was created by white supremacists. 

 

The entire intention of it was an opportunity to show strength among people

who believe in white power.  It wasn`t simply about a monument.  In fact,

in the organizing of it very little conversation was being had around the

Robert E. Lee monument.  And I think that, you know, it`s important for us

to use this moment to actually confront head on what was this is time

period about, what was this war about, who were these people, and I`m so

thankful to you for actually in your previous monologue talking about the

fact that this is someone who killed more Americans on American soil than

anyone else. 

 

And yet there are still people who have reverence for them.  That`s a real

conversation and a real soul searching that we should be having as a

nation.  I think it`s important. 

 

O`DONNELL:  Yes.  So, Ron Klain, the president talks about favorite

generals today.  He can`t think of any from World War II who liberated the

Nazi death camps.  He can`t think of any of those generals.  He thinks of

the treasonous Robert E. Lee who killed more Americans than any other

general in history. 

 

RON KLAIN, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF TO VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN:  Yes, you

know, it`s really amazing on a lot of levels, Lawrence.  I mean, first of

all I think you see the consequence of Vice President Biden and other

Democrats putting pressure on Trump on some of his statements.  And you see

him default back to his two core competencies, spreading hatred and

spreading lies. 

 

You know, Trump elevating a slave owning treasonous general as a hero which

he obviously is not and then telling this lie that many active generals

tell him all the time Lee is their favorite general.  You know, and

obviously that`s not true and the White House can`t provide any names of

generals who say that. 

 

And so, you know, this is a president who got to the White House by

spreading hatred and spreading lies who maintains power by spreading hatred

and spreading lies, and is going to run a campaign in 2020 of spreading

hatred and spreading lies.  And it`s important for Democrats to stand up to

that and I think – and I think they are. 

 

O`DONNELL:  Let`s look at Bill Weld`s campaign announcement video.  This is

the Republican who is running against Donald Trump in the Republican

primaries and his announcement video hit the president on a larger range of

issues than Joe Biden did.  Let`s watch this. 

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Today we need Bill Weld more than ever.  Because

America deserves better. 

 

TRUMP:  He`s a war hero because he was captured.  I like people that

weren`t captured, OK. 

 

I don`t know what I said.  I don`t remember. 

 

I moved on her like a (EXPLETIVE DELETED).  I couldn`t get there and she

was married. 

 

And when you`re a star they let you do it.  You can do anything. 

 

BILLY BUSH, FORMER HOST, “ACCESS HOLLYWOOD”:  Whatever you want. 

 

TRUMP:  Grab them by the (EXPLETIVE DELETED). 

 

You also had people that were very fine people on both sides. 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

O`DONNELL:  And that`s always the worst one, Aisha.  Very fine people on

both sides. 

 

MOODIE-MILLS:  Well, it`s all bad.  I don`t know at this point I can say

there`s a worse one because it`s all bad.  You know, I – the Republicans

are really, really showing up as hypocrites right now.  This was a party of

so-called family values to hear them tell it.  When you watch those clips

and you look at how the person that they put in the White House that they

revered so many of the leaders who frankly led through a moral compass,

refused to push back against, this man is certainly hanging out with

racists and white supremacists, or at least white supremacists and racists

and Nazis think that he is one of them. 

 

He is defiling women in the worst way.  He`s making fun of people with

different disabilities and no one`s saying anything on his side.  So for

Bill Weld to run this ad I think it`s really great and important.  And I`m

hoping, I`m hoping that the moral center of the Republican Party rises up

and looks at this and says, yes, this isn`t quite who we want to be.  This

isn`t someone that represents our values. 

 

O`DONNELL:  Such a great point, Aisha, because when Donald Trump first said

there were very fine people on both sides, there was some Republican

objection to that.  There were some Republicans who then stepped up and

said he`s not speaking for me on that.  But none today.  The president can

say it again a couple of years later and now that he`s in campaign mode,

there won`t be a single Republican who objects to the way he said that

today. 

 

KLAIN:  Aisha is right.  I mean, one thing we`ve seen over the past years

is really the collapse of the moral center of the Republican Party whether

it`s Mitt Romney being the only one to take Trump to task for the Mueller

report and others who criticize different of his positions during the 2016

campaign.  Now falling fully into line. 

 

This is Donald Trump`s Republican Party.  Bill Weld notwithstanding.  And

they are going to re-nominate Donald Trump and they are going to run Donald

Trump and run behind Donald Trump on the agenda of a man who believes that

Robert Lee is a great hero.  Of a man who believes that there were fine

people on both sides in Charlottesville.  And you know, as Vice President

Biden said this is a battle for the soul of America. 

 

It is a battle for the soul of America.  And we`re going to have to make a

decision as a country as to which side we`re on.  We know what side Donald

Trump`s on.  We know what side his supporters are on that line up behind

this agenda and we need to make it clear what side the majority of the

American people are on. 

 

[22:45:07] O`DONNELL:  We`re going to leave it there.  But before we do,

let me just make one point about Bill Weld and the reason I keep bringing

him back into these conversations.  History shows that when a president is

challenged from within his own party, in the primaries, if that challenger

stays in the racist just beyond New Hampshire, that president will lose in

the general election. 

 

It`s just an automatic formula at this point.  It`s never been defied.  And

so people who are hoping for a change in presidency should be paying

attention to the Weld campaign as well as those Democratic campaigns. 

 

Aisha Moodie-Mills, Ron Klain, thank you both very much for joining us on

this Friday night.  Really appreciate it.  Thanks a lot. 

 

KLAIN:  Thank you. 

 

O`DONNELL:  And when we come back, at the end of the hour, we will just

stop the news talk for a couple minutes to just consider what it feels like

to live in a country where the president says that some of the people who

shouted Jews will not replace us are very fine people.  What does it feel

like to live in that kind of darkness? 

 

There are some historical models for us to look to and we will do that at

the end of the hour tonight. 

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

O`DONNELL:  Here`s Lindsey Graham talking about why the president should be

impeached. 

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC):  He doesn`t have to say go lie for me to be a

crime.  You don`t have to say let`s obstruct justice for it to be a crime. 

You judge people on their conduct, not magic phrases. 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

[22:50:08] O`DONNELL:  And of course Lindsey Graham is completely right

about that.  You don`t have to say let`s obstruct justice for it to be a

crime.  But that was 20 years ago, and Lindsey Graham was talking about a

Democratic president, and now that we have a Republican president who a

Republican special counsel has caught doing much worse things, Lindsey

Graham doesn`t believe what Lindsey Graham used to believe. 

 

Once again today the president of the United States defended some people

who are very, very clear about what they believe.  They could not be more

clear or more emphatic or more consistent.  They are the people who shout

the Nazi slogan “blood and soil”  and “Jews will not replace us.” 

 

After this final commercial break here, we will consider what it feels like

to live in a country where the president supports people who shout “Jews

will not replace us.”  The news media has handled that as a news story and

we`ve covered it extensively here as a news story.  But let`s stop this

time and allow ourselves to feel the impact of those words and what it

feels like to live in a country that has a president who defends America`s

21st century Nazis.  That is next. 

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

O`DONNELL:  Imagine you`re a 14-year-old in America tonight and the first

presidency you remember, the presidency you grew up with was Barack Obama`s

presidency.  A president with the full range of admirable personal

qualities, intelligence, kindness, grace, eloquence.  Then came President

Trump when you were 12 years old. 

 

And if you really liked President Obama, of loved him, and if you agreed

with what you know about President Obama`s policies and agreed with what

you believed he was trying to do for America, the last couple of years have

been the darkest years in American history as you have personally

experienced it if you`re 14 years old. 

 

So how does that feel?  How does darkness feel?  America was in a very dark

place when I was 14 years old and it was getting darker.  The body count in

Vietnam was skyrocketing, my oldest brother was worried about getting

drafted and sent to Vietnam to be killed.  My cousin Johnny was finishing

West Point and eager to start combat training for Vietnam where he killed

on May 9th, 1968. 

 

That was the war of my youth.  The war where most American men did

everything they possibly could to avoid service in that war.  A draft card

in your pocket felt like a death sentence.  I remember people talking about

avoiding service in the war or protesting the war, and a few people like my

cousin Johnny talking about why they wanted to serve in the war, but I

never heard anyone talk about after the war.  No talk about after the war. 

 

The darkness of the war was so complete that the generals fighting the war

and the reporters covering the war talked about the light at the end of the

tunnel and whether we could see it or not.  And none of us could see it. 

But it was such a dark time that the most optimistic phrasing you could get

out of our commanders in the Vietnam War was that they could see sometimes

the light at the end of the tunnel. 

 

The light at the end of the tunnel that they could see and we couldn`t gave

us no hope in the darkness.  And I know that`s the way these days feel for

some people.  But there is a light at the end of the tunnel.  Eighteen

months from now you are guaranteed an end to the darkness of Trumpism and a

president who defends people who say Jews will not replace us.  Just 18

months from now if enough people turn up to vote to change the presidency. 

 

And as of tonight that is very likely to happen.  You live on a country

where most people disapprove of Donald Trump and most people have

disapproved of Donald Trump every single day of his presidency, especially

the days he defends Nazis and racists.  And I can`t promise you that Donald

Trump won`t be reelected, but you do not have the right to pretend that you

can`t see the light at the end of that tunnel that`s just 18 months away. 

 

If the end of the Vietnam War had been just 18 months away when I was 14

years old, then my cousin Johnny would be alive today.  He`d probably be a

grandfather today.  At any point in my teenage years, if you told me that

the end of the Vietnam War was just 18 months away, I would have been

thrilled.  I would have been filled with optimism about the future and

about what this country could be after the Vietnam War. 

 

But that`s not what it felt like then.  That`s not what I felt like.  I

felt what many of you, certainly many 14-year-olds, might be feeling

tonight on a night when once again the president of the United States

defended these people. 

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS:  Jews will not replace us.  Jews will not replace

us.  Jews will not replace us.  Blood and soil.  Blood and soil. 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

O`DONNELL:  Some of them were very fine people the president said.  They

all shouted “Jews will not replace us.”  All of them, and Donald Trump says

that some of them are very fine people. 

 

It was a dark day in America when that happened and it was a dark moment in

America again today when the president defended those people, defended his

words about those people again today. 

 

The most powerful description I`ve ever read of what it feels like to live

in the middle of a dark period was written by a 14-year-old girl in her

diary, on Monday evening, November 8th, 1943.  Anne Frank was living with

her family in hiding in an attic in Amsterdam, living in fear that the

Nazis could barge in at any moment.  That night she wrote, “I simply can`t

imagine the world will ever be normal again for us.  I do talk about after

the war, but it`s as if I were talking about a castle in the air, something

that could never come true.” 

 

The castle in the air was only 18 months away when Anne Frank wrote that. 

The war in Europe ended 18 months after Anne Frank wrote that after the war

felt like something that could never come true.  It never did come true for

Anne.  She died in a Nazi prison camp just a few months  before the end of

the war. 

 

Anne Frank should be with us tonight as a 90-year-old great grandmother who

could tell us that we`ve seen darker days than these.  But she left us her

diary and she left us her strength, and those of us who`ve lived long

enough know that 18 months is not too long of a time to have to wait for a

castle in the air. 

 

That`s tonight`s LAST WORD. “THE 11TH HOUR” with Brian Williams starts now.

 

END   

 

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