Interview: Rep. Eric Swalwell. TRANSCRIPT: 5/2/19, The Last Word w/ Lawrence O’Donnell.
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel.
I`ve got a bunch of new questions for Congressman Eric Swalwell, who is a
member of the Intelligence Committee, who will be joining us tonight, both
as a member of the committee and later in the hour actually as a
presidential candidate. We will separate those two things out.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, “TRMS”: Excellent. The new staffer, new
staffing at the Intelligence Committee, I think we are the first people
able to report that. So, I don`t know if he knows that`s public knowledge,
but we will just made it so.
O`DONNELL: All right. We`ll get into it with him. Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Thanks, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Well, we`re going to get straight to the news of the day but I
want to alert you now that we`re going to end the hour with a very
important footnote to the story that begins the hour. We`re going to show
you video of Bobby Kennedy asking questions in a congressional hearing when
he was a committee staff lawyer which the attorney general is now
pretending is unprecedented.
The news day began with the attorney general refusing to show up to testify
to the House Judiciary Committee. It`s not just the attorney general now
who is refusing to testify to the House Judiciary Committee. Now,
President Trump tonight is saying he won`t allow (AUDIO GAP) to testify,
even if they`re no longer working in his administration.
And that might include Robert Mueller. NBC News is reporting tonight that
the House Judiciary Committee has now begun discussions directly with
Robert Mueller`s team about coming to testify to the committee but nothing
has been finalized at this point and no date has been set. The Judiciary
Committee has been seeking Robert Mueller`s testimony through the normal
Justice Department process which requires the permission of the attorney
general, but that permission might never come now.
The president told Fox News tonight that he will try to block former White
House counsel Don McGahn`s testimony to the House Judiciary Committee. The
president said: I don`t think I can let him, especially him because he was
The president falsely claimed that he has given investigators total
transparency and then he said “it`s done.”
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
INTERVIEWER: So, is it done?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I would say it`s done.
We`ve been through this. Nobody has ever done what I`ve done. I`ve given
total transparency. It`s never happened before like this.
INTERVIEWER: So, congress should be –
TRUMP: They shouldn`t be looking anymore. This is all – it`s done.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: The attorney general refused to testify to the House Judiciary
Committee today because of what he called, quote, Chairman Nadler`s
insistence on having staff questioned the attorney general. The attorney
general called that unprecedented. But as I said, later in this hour,
we`ll show you a video history of committee staff asking questions in
congressional hearings, including President Trump`s favorite lawyer Roy
Cohn who actually became a famous lawyer who Donald Trump wanted to hire
because Roy Cohn was allowed to ask questions in high profile hearings as a
There were more calls for attorney general`s resignation today and our
first guest tonight, Congressman Eric Swalwell has called for the attorney
general`s impeachment. Eric Swalwell is not the first member of the House
to call for the Attorney General Barr to be impeached.
The House Banking chairman, Henry Gonzales (ph), called for the impeachment
of Attorney General William Barr 27 years ago, in William Barr`s first tour
of duty as attorney general for Republican President George H.W. Bush.
William Barr has been through all of this before accusations of dishonesty,
accusations of being part of a cover-up, calls for his resignation, calls
for his impeachment. The people who urged Donald Trump to choose William
Barr as his attorney general knew William Barr had survived all that once
before and would know how to handle it once again.
Democrats controlled the House and Senate in 1992 and were outraged at
Barr`s handling of an investigation of the administration which included an
investigation of the conduct of the FBI and the Justice Department. So,
William Barr was actually supervising then an investigation of himself. As
I reported on this program recently, “New York Times” columnist William
Safire on October 19th, 1992, called Attorney General William Barr the
cover-up general because of the way he handled that investigation.
William Safire was a conservative Republican columnist in the “New York
Times” in those days. He had worked as a speechwriter for Republican
President Richard Nixon. And even William Safire was astonished by William
Barr`s conduct as attorney general. But if Bill Safire was still with us
tonight, he would not be surprised to hear what the speaker of the house
said today about Attorney General William Barr.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): What is deadly serious about it is the attorney
general of the United States of America was not telling the truth to the
Congress of the United States. That`s a crime.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Remarkably, after the speaker of the house said that`s a crime,
the next reporter`s question changed the subject, but MSNBC`s Kasie Hunt
knew a history-making comment by a speaker of the house when she heard one,
and two minutes later, Kasie Hunt went back to the crime.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KASIE HUNT, MSNBC CAPITOL HILL CORRESPONDENT: Madam Speaker, did the
attorney general commit a crime?
PELOSI: He lied to Congress. He lied to Congress. And if anybody else
did that, it would be considered a crime.
Nobody is above the law, not the president of the United States, and not
the attorney general. Being the attorney general does not give you a bath
to go say whatever you want, and it is the fact because you are the
HUNT: Should he go to jail? Should he go to jail for it?
PELOSI: There`s a process involved here, and as I said, I`ll say it again,
and the committee will act upon how we will proceed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: “Politico” reported today in a closed-door session with the
Democratic members of the House of Representatives this morning, Speaker
Pelosi told Florida Congressman Charlie Crist we saw Barr commit a crime
when he answered your question.
Here is the moment the speaker was talking about.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. CHARLIE CRIST (D-FL): Reports have emerged recently, General, that
members of the special counsel`s team are frustrated at some level with the
limited information included in your March 24th letter that it does not
adequately or accurately necessarily portray the report`s findings. Do you
know what they`re referencing with that?
BARR: No, I don`t.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: No one knew it then but we now know that William Barr was in
possession of a letter of complaint signed by Special Counsel Robert
Mueller and according to William Barr`s guessing yesterday in the Senate
Judiciary Committee, that letter was written by the special counsel`s team.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARR: You know, the letter`s a bit snitty and I think it was probably
written by one of his staff people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: That was a major blunder in his under oath testimony yesterday.
Because William Barr has been claiming that because Congressman Crist used
the phrase the special counsel`s team, that didn`t mean the special counsel
himself. And so, he did not have to reveal then that he was in position of
possession of complaint from the special counsel`s team as he put it.
But you just heard the attorney general say that he believed that that
letter wasn`t even written by Robert Mueller, just signed by Robert Mueller
which means it was the product in the attorney general`s mind at that time
of the special counsel`s team. The White House released a letter to
William Barr from a White House counsel who is designated to defend the
president in investigations.
The letter was written the day after the redacted Mueller report was
publicly released and among other things, the letter stresses that although
the president waived executive privilege and allowed White House counsel
Don McGahn and other members of his administration to voluntarily testify
to the special counsel, that waiver of executive privilege does not extend
to any other investigation.
The president`s lawyers letter says his decision not to the assert
privilege is not a waiver of executive privilege for any other material or
for any other purpose. His decision to permit disclosure of executive
portions of the report does not wave any privileges or protections for the
special counsel`s office underlying investigative materials such as, for
example, FBI form 302 witness interview summaries and presumptively
privileged documents made available to the special counsel`s office by the
White House. His decision does not affect his ability as president to
instruct his advisers to decline to appear before congressional committees
to answer questions on these same subjects.
Leading off our discussion tonight is Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell
of California. He`s a member of the Judiciary Committee and the House
Intelligence Committee, and he is also a candidate for president.
Congressman Swalwell, I first of all want to get your reaction to the
attorney general`s refusal to testify today.
REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Good evening, Lawrence.
I believe it`s clear why he didn`t want to come in. He has a lot to hide.
This attorney general has had the shovels out finishing off the burial of
evidence to protect this president. He was allowed to play a home game
yesterday essentially in front of a friendly Senate with Chairman Graham,
but today he was facing the new majority that the American people had put
in place to put this balance of power, on these abuses of power.
He wasn`t willing to come in. He`ll stand on process objections but the
American people will judge him by whether he showed up or he didn`t. When
he was supposed to come and talk about what the Russians did in our
election and who they worked with on the Trump team, the Trump campaign,
the Trump businesses, he was unwilling to do that. And he`s going to be
held responsible and accountable for that.
O`DONNELL: And so, what is next? How is he going to be held responsible?
SWALWELL: Well, I`m urging my colleagues to move forward with impeachment
proceedings. And, Lawrence, I don`t take that lightly. I called on him to
resign a couple weeks ago. I`ve long been concerned about his conduct.
First, he prejudged the investigation before he even got the job with the
letter that he sent to the deputy attorney general. Second, when he took
the job, he accused falsely the prior administration of spying on the Trump
campaign. Third, the way that he mischaracterized at the press conference
the Mueller findings that there was no collusion when, in fact, there was
evidence of collusion and also stated that Mueller was unable to find
obstruction because of different things that Mueller laid out but didn`t
know the that the Mueller noted that it was the Office of Legal Counsel
finding that you can`t indict a president which also stood in the way.
And then, finally, Lawrence, just in the last two weeks, finding out that
he lied to Congress, to Congressman Crist, and yesterday, he missed the
deadline when we asked him what the lawful subpoena to deliver the
documents of the Mueller report. Time after time, he`s protected the
president, acted as his lawyer. The only way to stop that and get the
documents we need, have the rule of law, is move to impeach and ultimately
O`DONNELL: Isn`t that taking – Congress taking the eye off the ball,
though, since the Mueller report is about the president? Wouldn`t it be a
sidetrack to go after William Barr?
SWALWELL: We have to do all of that. We have to continue to understand
what the Russians are doing, hold accountable the person who won`t give us
the information we need, because – you know, an eighth of the Mueller
report is redacted. If we`re going to hold the president accountable and
put reforms in place so the Russians can`t do this, we need to see the full
And if he`s going to be a live real-time obstructer, we have to move to get
him out of the way essentially so we can get what we need.
And, again, you know, people talk about – well, are you going to impeach
the president? Is that on table? Yes, of course, that`s on the table.
We`re looking at his conduct right now.
But if he has someone withstanding guard and is not following the law and
turning over the documents that we need, then we`re not going to be able to
get that. And he`s effectively allowing the president to get off scot-
free. So, he needs to be held account credible.
O`DONNELL: Let me go to a point that Rachel raised, just at the end of her
hour. I don`t know if you heard that but – about the new staffing on the
Intelligence Committee that you`re a part of it and the way the Chairman
Schiff is adding to the staff of the committee.
What can you tell us about that and what does it mean?
SWALWELL: Yes, this is a staff that we needed two years ago, Lawrence.
The Republicans in the thick of this investigation, right after we found
out about the attack, would not allow us to add staff or investigators that
would look at the money and so we were in a hole for two years. But our
committee and our staff worked hard to elevate the issue and the public
And now, we have these experts on the beat so to speak. And we are looking
at the financial aspect of this. Chairman Schiff and I and others
suspected that Mueller was not able to look at the financial compromise of
the president which again calls into question whether you can really charge
somebody or not charge somebody with the conspiracy if you don`t understand
the financial entanglements.
We are looking at those financial entanglements. We are taking an MRI to
the financial records of the Trump family, businesses, and campaign.
O`DONNELL: Congressman Eric Swalwell, thank you very much for starting us
SWALWELL: My pleasure.
O`DONNELL: Later in the hour we`ll do the presidential campaign interview.
SWALWELL: Look forward to that.
O`DONNELL: So, please stay with us.
We are joined now by Chuck Rosenborg. He`s a former senior official at the
FBI and former U.S. attorney. He was counsel to Robert Mueller at the FBI.
He`s an MSNBC legal analyst.
And, Chuck, when I read this letter today from the White House counsel to
the attorney general, I just wanted you on the phone immediately.
So they`re saying that even though there was a waiver of executive
privilege to allow all these White House staff people to freely discuss
whatever the special prosecutor asked about, that waiver doesn`t extend to
any congressional committee, doesn`t extend anywhere else at all?
CHUCK ROSENBERG, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: Mr. Flood, Emmet Flood, counsel to
the president who wrote the letter, makes a pretty nuanced and difficult
argument. He said the president decided not to assert the privilege but
that failure to assert or the decision not to assert the privilege is not
the same as waiving the privilege.
So, it`s not a crazy argument. It`s not frivolous, but I don`t think it
prevails. The better argument I think you`ll hear it from the other side
is that if you waive as to one, you waive as to all.
But here`s the problem. In order to get to that answer, it`s going to have
to be litigated and you know better.
O`DONNELL: What`s the timetable? So, obviously, what happens is, they
subpoena Don McGahn and the president says, no, executive privilege. And
then that goes to court. That subpoena in effect goes to court. How long
does that take to work it out?
ROSENBERG: That`s exactly right. It goes to a federal district court.
And whoever loses there will inevitably appeal to the court of appeals.
And someone will lose there and they might take the appeal to the Supreme
Court which may or may not hear it.
O`DONNELL: Three months between each stage or possibly more?
ROSENBERG: Possibly more. I mean, it could be 12-plus months. That`s
part of the strategy, right?
So you don`t have to advance a winning argument. You just have to advance
an argument credible enough to prolong the process.
O`DONNELL: And litigation is something Donald Trump has always used as a
tactic without necessarily believing he could even win.
ROSENBERG: A hundred percent right. We saw that time and time again when
it was businessman Donald Trump in Manhattan. And there often you had
somebody on the other side who couldn`t afford to wage that legal battle.
That won`t happen here. Both sides will be able to mount their arguments
in court. But nevertheless, if you`re just trying to run out the clock,
this is a way to do it.
O`DONNELL: Your reaction to the attorney general refusing to show up at
the House Judiciary Committee today.
ROSENBERG: We need toe hear from our attorney general. We also need to
hear the truth from our attorney general and that appears to be two
different things. But I was disappointed.
The Department of Justice has a critical role in this society. The
attorney general whether you like him or not at its helm and he should be
there to answer questions in the people`s house. I mean, that`s part of
I imagine he will get there one way or the other. They may not like one
another but he has to sit in that chair and answer questions.
O`DONNELL: Well, he has to by tradition.
O`DONNELL: But the tradition does not seem to hold with President Trump or
with this attorney general now.
ROSENBERG: Right, the Congress has a few cards to play, for instance,
purse strings. They are the appropriators. There are things that a
Department of Justice needs from a Congress and so one way or another, he`s
going to have to go there and answer their questions eventually.
O`DONNELL: But they are two different economies. We already saw him
testify to the appropriations committee and that`s a very different
experience than testifying to the Judiciary Committee.
ROSENBERG: That`s right. I still predict he will show up there
eventually. I`m just sorry he wasn`t there today because these are
important questions, just like the litigation which would delay the
questions to which we need answers, you want answers now. And you need the
attorney general there now. These are too important to put off.
O`DONNELL: And quickly, Robert Mueller`s testimony, are we – are they
going to be able to block that?
ROSENBERG: So an interesting question. If it`s Bob Mueller private
citizen, of course he can go testify. However, there are still limitations
on it. He can`t talk about grand jury information, he can`t talk about
classified information. He can`t talk about ongoing matters.
So, once he`s a private citizen, he`s welcome to go, but he`s still not
welcome to talk about things that are otherwise restricted.
O`DONNELL: Chuck Rosenberg, thank you very much for joining us tonight. I
really appreciate it.
ROSENBERG: My pleasure.
O`DONNELL: And when we come back, President Trump might be just as worried
about losing re-election as he is about losing legal bats because if he
loses, he has a lot of free time to deal with things like, oh, you know,
O`DONNELL: The polls get worse for President Trump every day. He has the
most consistently strong disapproval rating in the history of presidential
polling and a new poll today shows most of the top tier Democratic
candidates significant leads over Donald Trump in one-on-one polls against
And so, there is a very strong chance that he will not be president of the
United States on the afternoon of the next inauguration day, according to
what we know from the polls now. And if that happens, Donald Trump will
have a lot of free time to deal with things like being indicted.
Three weeks ago at this hour, I reminded you that Donald Trump is an
unindicted co-conspirator in the Southern District of New York with Michael
Cohen who pleaded guilty to federal election crimes that he said he
committed with Donald Trump and at Donald Trump`s direction. And that they
committed those crimes together to win the presidential campaign and what
the prosecutors called a conspiracy against the United States of America.
And that all of that is still sitting in the Southern District of New York
waiting for Donald Trump after the next inauguration day. That`s the point
I made then.
And now, a former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York is
saying the same thing in a smarter way. In an interview with “The Daily
Beast”, Preet Bharara said: My former office clearly endorses and believes
the fact as Michael Cohen admitted in open court that he engaged in the
conduct he pleaded guilty to at the direction of Individual 1, Individual 1
is the president, depending on what the other circumstances are, I believe
there`s a reasonable likelihood that they would follow through on that.
The man who thinks he`s the smartest staff person in the Trump White House
proved once again today that there is no good way of defending Donald
Trump. Emmet flood, the White House counsel who is assigned to defending
the president and every investigation is the author of a letter that was
released by the White House today presumably because Emmet Flood and the
White House think it is very helpful to the president.
It is a letter as we mentioned to previous segment to Attorney General
William Barr. It was written the day after the redacted Mueller report was
released. It is a letter of complaint about Robert Mueller and the Mueller
report. And it biggest complaint, biggest complaint is that Robert Mueller
in the report says that the special counsel could not exonerate the
president in its investigation of obstruction of justice by the president.
And the president`s lawyer does not insist that the special counsel could
exonerate the president. You would think that`s what his complaint is, why
didn`t he exonerate the president.
The president`s lawyer actually says that it is impossible to exonerate the
president, Emmet Flood`s letter says the special counsel`s office concluded
that the evidence prevented it from conclusively determining that no
criminal conduct occurred, but conclusively determining that no criminal
conduct occurred was not the special counsel`s office assigned task,
because making conclusive determinations of innocence is the never the task
of the federal prosecutor. Prosecutors simply are not in the business of
And so, the president`s own lawyer took the position in that letter that
the Mueller report did not establish the president`s innocence on anything.
So when Donald Trump stands up in the presidential campaign and says he was
exonerated, the Democrats can wave the president`s lawyer`s letter saying
that he wasn`t.
Joining our discussion, Neera Tanden, president of the Center for American
Progress, and Jason Johnson, politics editor at theroot.com, and a
professor for politics of media at Morgan State University.
And, Neera, begin where you want to because there`s so much going on here.
NEERA TANDEN, PRESIDENT, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: I mean, my take on
the letter is that Emmet Flood probably presumed because there`s so many
big words in the letter, Donald Trump was never going to read it.
O`DONNELL: Of course he did. He doesn`t know that.
TANDEN: So, he thought maybe he would get by on that. But I do think – I
think you`ve seen, this is the latest example of the ways in which the
administration has essentially argued themselves into a bag. You saw
throughout the attorney general`s testimony yesterday how he couldn`t even
articulate clearly without some prompting that if the Russians come and or
another country comes and tries to sway the election, actually as a
candidate, you might want to let the FBI know.
I mean, the attorney general confident United States has to go through
mental gymnastics on an issue like that, which tells you how you know,
Kafkaesque this whole debate is. And what we should really recognize is
that we have a president who is continually working to obstruct any
investigation, and generally speaking when you`re trying to obstruct
investigations, it shows that you`re guilty, not that you`re innocent.
That`s the bottom line I think for most Americans.
O`DONNELL: So, Jason, what I was struck by it`s a legal letter. The legal
point it wants to make is we are not extending the waiver of executive
privilege beyond the Mueller investigation. OK, that`s the legal point.
But it`s a political letter. This was written to help the president
politically, help the president`s re-election campaign.
And in the part where he`s trying to help the most by attacking the Mueller
report, he is actually saying you could never prove Donald Trump innocent
JASON JOHNSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, it`s funny. It`s like, you
know, you accused him of being a liar and a thief and a murderer, he is not
a liar is essentially what they`re saying here.
And the problem is, it`s hard to keep track of all these lies. Like these
are individuals who worked in D.C., they worked in Congress, they worked as
lobbyists for years and they may be used to sort of fudging the truth but
the level of mendacity that you have to engage in to work this guy is
actually beyond them.
I`m impressed that they`re still incapable of lying the way they want to
lie. They`ll get better but this letter is an example of how even someone
using the spiciest of word salads can`t find a way to justify their boss
keeping his job.
TANDEN: As evidenced by the fact that, you know, you have Kamala Harris
finding the attorney general didn`t look at the underlying evidence. I
mean, as Americans, we expect prosecutors to look at the basic evidence
behind a case. The fact he`s unable to do that because his job was not to
find what to do here, his job was to protect the president. I mean, the
president basically put his own lawyer in charge of this investigation.
O`DONNELL: Jason, these one-on-one polls are interesting. They`re early,
we grant that. They`re early.
But there`s a consistent pattern you see in the polls and they line up and
they make intuitive sense with a president who has always had significant
majority disapproval that he would be running behind any reasonable-
JOHNSON: So that`s the issue, reasonable, right? They all sound
reasonable now. Will they sound reasonable at this point next year?
I was looking at polls around May of 2011, right? Right before Obama was
up for re-election. Trump was actually ahead even though he hadn`t
announced in some polls at that point. So, we can`t always trust what
these polls are saying now.
But what this speaks to and I said this before, Lawrence, Trump has the
weakest fundamentals of any president in history for re-election. It you
lost a popular vote by 3 million, you approval always blows 50 percent and
every swing state that you won swung back blue hard during your first
He`s starting from a deficit. He doesn`t just have a headwind. I mean,
this guy is climbing over rocks and mountains to get there.
I don`t know if that means that the Democrat can pull it off. We`ll have
to see who the final nominee. But Donald Trump is not in a very strong
position. I think – I objectively think any of the top four or five
Democrats running right now, if they`re smart, if they pick the right kind
of VP could probably pull off victory assuming Trump and this
administration don`t cheat –
TANDEN: I think the one way he is planning to win, I would agree that the
fundamentals are definitely against him and that he is – he`s as many have
said, he`s a president of his base, he`s not the president of the country.
He`s done nothing to reach out to the middle or the 51 percent of the
country so far. It`s consistently has 50 percent or 55 or 58 against him.
It`s a little unusual politics.
But I do think his plan is to destroy the Democratic nominee. And I think
he will play psychological warfare in the Democratic primaries. So, I
think Democrats have to be mindful of who the candidate he wants is, who
can he go after. That`s the only thing I would add to that.
JOHNSON: Here`s the thing about that. I never believe – first off, this
guy`s got terrible political instincts, right? I don`t think trust
anything he has to say. He lost the popular vote before.
But I think this idea we have to be careful how he destroys people, Donald
Trump – this sort of high school game that he plays of coming up with
nicknames, it only works for his base.
I mean I don`t think it necessarily has much of a pervasive impact. And I
wouldn`t trust – it`s like if you ask an athlete which team do you want to
face, they`re never going to tell you the truth. It`s like do you really
want to face the Lakers? Do you want to face Golden State?
I don`t think Trump really knows. He just knows who he`s paying attention
to right now. The people that he dismisses like Beto O`Rourke, Beto
O`Rourke could actually be really dangerous, even his own advisers don`t
know who`s the –
TANDEN: I mean he does very well in this poll.
O`DONNELL: Neera, you`ve worked in presidential campaigns. I want to –
the way – here`s why I`ve been watching the Trump re-election campaign and
presidential re-election campaigns are actually supposed to begin on the
election night when you win. Your victory speech is supposed to be at
least partially directed at the people who didn`t vote for you.
TANDEN: Yes, that is usually the case.
O`DONNELL: So in my watching of the Trump re-election campaign, I have
never once seen him try to reach a voter who did not already vote for him
and so the way I look at the Trump campaign is what did he do to convince a
voter to change their mind and vote for Donald Trump today and I`ve never
seen that day happen.
TANDEN: Yes. That day has never happened. I do think he tries to use
fear to scare people. I think the caravan was about trying to scare
people. Maybe women in the suburbs, who knows.
But here`s the thing, it didn`t work. That`s the issue. He lost
historically in the midterms. Nine million more people voted for Democrats
than for him.
So what is he doing day to day to actually get some of those people back?
Nothing. I mean very little. His whole strategy is to just bring more
people out from the base.
And I think that`s a shaky category because here`s the thing, he`s no
longer the change agent. He`s the incumbent. He can`t promise a new
change in Washington. He has to go on what he`s done.
So far he`s only passed one major bill and it was a tax cut that basically
no one in America feels except for the top one percent, not his base.
O`DONNELL: And now he`s fighting in court to take health care away from 21
JOHNSON: Which is not going to be popular.
O`DONNELL: I don`t see that helping the campaign.
JOHNSON: No, no. Here`s a particularly scary part. All of these bad
news, all of these bad poll numbers, losing in the midterms, everything
else like that, that`s with a good economy.
JOHNSON: What happens if this slows down? If there`s a snowball`s chance
in Jamaica that he`s going to be able to pull this off if this economy ends
up slowing down.
And one other thing I`ll say, we`ve sort of talked about this before. Who
would be the most effective at beating him? The most effective person for
the Democrats to beat Donald Trump is the person who gets the most people
You can`t line this up one-on-one, right. There`s no statistical measure.
It`s got to be the candidate that gets the most people enthusiastic.
Because the greatest danger in Trump getting re-elected is not because
people fail to turn out to vote, it`s because they fail to believe that the
challenger is going to actually change and undo the things that he`s done.
O`DONNELL: All right. We got to squeeze in a break here. Neera Tanden,
Jason Johnson, thank you both very much for joining us here tonight.
Really appreciate it.
And coming up later in the hour, we have a new video of Congresswoman
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez preparing for her televised debate in her
successful congressional campaign last year. And her preparation at that
point was not about memorizing talking points.
O`DONNELL: As mentioned in the last segment, new polling today shows that
President Trump is losing in one-on-one match-ups with several of the
leading Democratic presidential candidates. A new “CNN” poll shows Beto
O`Rourke with the largest lead over the president with O`Rourke at 52
percent and Trump at 42 percent.
Joe Biden leads the president in the one-on-one polling with 51 percent to
45 percent. Senator Bernie Sanders polled at 50 percent to Trump`s 44
percent. Senator Kamala Harris polled ahead of Donald Trump at 49 to 45
percent. Mayor Pete Buttigieg polled at 47 percent, with the president at
44. And Senator Elizabeth Warren polled within one point of the president
which is a statistical tie within the margin of error.
At this point in 2007, in the campaign for the Democratic presidential
nomination, Joe Biden was polling at only three percent against Hillary
Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards. And in the end, Joe Biden came in
second. There is a second place in presidential campaigns. It`s called
the vice president of the United States.
And almost all of the candidates running are solid possibilities for the
vice presidential nomination. And it`s never too early to start thinking
about who you would like to see on the ticket with your favorite candidate.
And that might start to become much clearer next month when we have the
first Democratic presidential debates on this network. You can start
looking at what your ideal ticket might look like then.
Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell is one of the candidates who has
qualified to participate in that debate. And he will join us next for
tonight`s interview as one of the contenders.
O`DONNELL: Joining us now, one of the 21 candidates for the Democratic
presidential nomination, Congressman Eric Swalwell. Thank you very much,
Congressman, for staying with us for this campaign discussion.
REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA), 2020 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Of course. Thank
O`DONNELL: I want to start with a question that some of the candidates,
some of the men running have been asked and it`s that question of would you
choose a woman as your vice presidential running mate.
I`m going to ask you a different question. I`m going to ask would you
happily accept the nomination to run in the vice presidential slot with a
woman at the top of the ticket?
SWALWELL: Oh, I mean of course. I`ll do anything to serve my country,
O`DONNELL: And I want to go to issues that aren`t being discussed very
much these days and using your experience on the intelligence committee.
What do you see as the biggest threat in the world that the United States
SWALWELL: Lawrence, I see the biggest threat being on the Intelligence
Committee meeting with foreign leaders, taking the classified briefings,
and going to the war zones is that we have lost our friends in the world
and that`s costing us more here at home.
You know, I`m a parent of two kids under two. So I look at everything in a
parental metaphor. And if you look at our foreign policy, the way a parent
would look at their kid on the playground, in the last couple of years your
child has gone from hanging out with the honorable kids, traditional
friends being the Brits and the French and the Australians to now we roll
with the detention crew.
It`s not just bad company in the Russians and North Koreans and the Turks
and the Saudis. It`s going to cost us more when you pull out of
environmental treaties, when you pull out of nuclear treaties, when you
can`t count on NATO and the South Koreans and the Japanese and you`re
threatening to charge them more for our presence over there.
So that is the biggest threat right now is that we are not able to count on
our friends. And there`s a cost for not having friends. It`s going to be
fewer tablets in the hands of our kids in their classrooms and more
expensive prescription drugs our for seniors because we`re going to have to
spend more on defense.
O`DONNELL: You began the announcing of your presidential campaign focusing
on the domestic threat of gun violence. What do you think you can
realistically achieve legislatively on that if you`re in the presidency?
SWALWELL: Yes, I`m offering the boldness on this issue. And in the first
hundred days, I will ask the Congress to pass not only background checks
because 90 percent of Americans and 72 percent of NRA members want that,
but also to ban and buy back the 15 million assault weapons just like the
one that was used in Poway last weekend and used in other church shootings
and other school shootings.
I`ve come to see, Lawrence that this issue is actually not as divisive as
we`re told it`s supposed to be. We`re always told it`s a hat stove. But
that`s a tactic that the NRA uses so that we do nothing.
I`m motivated by the moms and the students and the parents who all
converged in this last election and beat 17 NRA endorsed members of
Congress. And we`re just getting started.
O`DONNELL: And Medicare for all?
SWALWELL: Medicare for anyone who wants it. My plan is coverage for all
which would include a public option, but also would invest in cures in our
lifetime. I want to challenge the country to seek and find cures through
investments in genomic research, targeted therapies, as well as data
sharing so that we could look at ALS and Parkinson`s and cancer patients
and assure them that we`re putting the next generation of scientists to
work, to bring down the cost, extend the quality of life, and also have a
massive jobs program.
O`DONNELL: So let me just explore this. Medicare for anyone who wants it,
meaning they can buy into it?
SWALWELL: Yes, public option, Lawrence. So if you like your union plan,
you can keep your union plan but the government will have a greater
responsibility by bringing back the inheritance tax, reforming the capital
gains tax, making sure that the wealthier pay their fair share. That –
those dollars will go into an affordable government plan.
O`DONNELL: And what about the Green New Deal?
SWALWELL: I support it. We have 12 years to address the devastating
effects of climate change. But the first thing I`ll do is host in the
United States a new climate accord, show leadership there, get us back into
But also assure that union worker who is a pipefitter or a laborer that you
don`t have the false choice of deciding between your job and clean air and
clean water because we will make sure we deploy carbon capture, carbon
sequestration, carbon reuse technologies to your job site.
You can keep working because we`ll bring those sites to carbon neutral but
also have a skills bridge to the new and green color economy and wind,
solar and alternative fuel cells. And again, I want to bring boldness
where we`ve just seen incrementalism and gridlock.
O`DONNELL: How important do you think the issue of experience is for a
candidate for president, you`re running against possibly the most
experienced candidate for president ever in Vice President Biden with a
very long Senate career and then eight years in the vice presidency.
Bernie Sanders, very long congressional and Senate career. How do you
compare your experience to theirs?
SWALWELL: I`ve been on the Intelligence Committee. I`ve defended the
threats to our democracy from abroad and the Russian interference attacks.
People have seen where I`ve stood in that ring but also defending the rule
of law here at home on the Judiciary Committee and seven years as a
prosecutor in my hometown city councilman.
I have some of the highest national security policy experience aside from
Joe Biden in this field. But I also believe that not being in Congress for
a lifetime, not being in Washington for a lifetime also brings a
perspective that will bring new energy and new ideas and a sunny optimism
that we can still solve these big problems.
O`DONNELL: Presidential Candidate Eric Swalwell, thank you very much for
SWALWELL: My pleasure, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: We`ll do this again.
SWALWELL: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: There are a lot more issues to talk about and we will
definitely do it again. Thank you for joining us tonight.
SWALWELL: All right. Thank you.
O`DONNELL: And when we come back, how the most famous freshman member of
Congress in history prepared for her campaign debate back when nobody
really knew her outside of her congressional district. That`s next.
O`DONNELL: Last year, the then virtually unknown 28-year-old congressional
candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez seemed to be doing everything right in
her congressional campaign, including the televised debate on local T.V. in
New York City.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-NY): For over 20 years, the interests of
working families have been sold off to luxury and real estate developers,
Wall Street banks and for-profit health care corporations. And for 20
years, our rents have been going up, health care`s been getting more
expensive and our incomes are staying the same.
Not all Democrats are the same. And in a district that is overwhelmingly
working class, we deserve a working-class champion.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: That was the scene from the new Netflix documentary “Knock Down
the House” that became available on Netflix yesterday and is on my list for
viewing this weekend. Here is a scene of the candidate at home preparing
for that debate which involved more than just studying talking points.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OCASIO-CORTEZ: I can do this.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know you can.
OCASIO-CORTEZ: I am experienced enough to do this. I am knowledgeable
enough to do this. I am prepared enough to do this.
I am mature enough to do this. I am brave enough to do this. And this
whole thing, this whole time, he`s going to tell me I can`t do this. He`s
going to tell me I`m small, that I`m little, that I`m young, that I`m
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: She really did push all of that away. After this final
commercial break, we will take you on a quick video tour through the
history of congressional hearings starring staff lawyers asking the
questions in those hearings, something that the attorney general is now
pretending is unprecedented. That`s next.
O`DONNELL: As we reported earlier, the attorney general of the United
States refused to appear at a House Judiciary Committee hearing this
morning because he objected to “Chairman Nadler`s insistence on having
staff question the attorney general.”
The attorney general said that is “unprecedented.” In fact, there is a
long history of committee staff, especially committee counsel doing most of
the questioning in both Senate hearings and House hearings. That is one of
the very few pieces of congressional history that Donald Trump actually
knows because Donald Trump`s first lawyer was Roy Cohn who became famous in
Roy Cohn was never elected to anything. Roy Cohn was a counsel to a
committee and he got to ask questions in early days of televised hearings
in the 1950s.
That is how Donald Trump knew who Roy Cohn was. That is why Donald Trump
and everyone else who hired Roy Cohn wanted Roy Cohn, they saw him on T.V.
in those hearings.
Here is a brief video history of some of the people who became big
congressional hearing room T.V. stars by doing what the attorney general of
the United States now says is unprecedented. Beginning with Bobby Kennedy
in the 1950s, back when he was a committee staff lawyer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT F. KENNEDY, FORMER CHIEF COUNSEL, SENATE LABOR RACKETS COMMITTEE:
During the period of the operation of this committee, we`ve had some
testimony regarding an individual by the name of Mr. Glenn Smith.
You were employed on January 21, 1969, and continue to be employed until
March 14 of this year. Is that correct?
ALEXANDER BUTTERFIELD, FORMER WHITE HOUSE AIDE: That`s correct.
KENNEDY: Mr. Butterfield, are you aware of the installation of any
listening devices in the oval office of the president?
BUTTERFIELD: I was aware of listening devices. Yes, sir.
SAM DASH, FORMER CHIEF COUNSEL, SENATE WATERGATE COMMITTEE: As soon as the
president used his telephone, lifted up his telephone and engaged in a
conversation or received a conversation on the president`s phone, the
recording device began to record the telephone conversation.
BUTTERFIELD: That`s my understanding, Mr. Dash.
SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY (R-IA), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: I can`t think of no one
better equipped to question the witnesses than Rachel Mitchell.
RACHEL MITCHELL, FORMER INVESTIGATIVE COUNSEL, SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE:
I know this is stressful and so I would like to set forth some guidelines
that maybe will alleviate that a little bit.
CHRISTINE BLASEY FORD, WITNESS, KAVANAUGH HEARING: I understand that a
professional prosecutor has been hired to ask me questions and I`m
committed to doing my very best to answer them. I have never been
questioned by a prosecutor and I will do my best.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Senator Chuck Grassley and the rest of the Republicans in the
Senate and the House don`t remember any of that. That`s “Tonight`s Last
Word. “The 11th Hour” with Brian Williams starts now.
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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