Deadline tonight for DOJ. TRANSCRIPT: 5/15/19, The Last Word w/ Lawrence O’Donnell.
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel.
And the situation in Alabama is moving quickly. We`re going to have Joyce
Vance join us, since she is a former U.S. attorney from Alabama to tell us
what the next legal step is. This is clearly a law, an abortion ban law
that`s not designed to be implemented but designed to go to court.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Yes.
O`DONNELL: And so, we will hear from Joyce what happens next.
MADDOW: The great thing about having Joyce on this issue too is Joyce was
doing the best national legal analysis about that will bill even before it
MADDOW: So, when it finally did get passed and signed into law, Joyce has
already basically laid the groundwork for how we could understand did.
It`s interesting, I mean, I don`t know if it is a good road test case but
that`s what they think it is.
O`DONNELL: Well, we`ll see what Joyce says.
MADDOW: Yes, thanks, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Well, Elizabeth Warren went to West Virginia to the a place where
most of the voters voted for Donald Trump, a county where 60 percent of the
voters voted for Donald Trump. She talked directly to Trump voters.
And some of those Trump voters actually said she did a good job. They were
impressed with her. Didn`t say they were going to switch and vote for her
necessarily, but at least one of them was thinking about it. Elizabeth
Warren said she really enjoyed talking to those Trump voters and is willing
to do it again and is going to do it again anytime and anyplace except on
Later in this hour, we will show you Elizabeth Warren`s explanation for her
decision in her own words about why she will not participate in any
candidate town hall on Fox.
But first tonight, tonight is the deadline that House Intelligence
Committee Chairman Adam Schiff set on his subpoena for Attorney General
William Barr to turn over the full, unredacted Mueller report to the
committee and the foreign intelligence and counterintelligence information
collected during Robert Mueller`s investigation.
This morning, Chairman Schiff said it was too early to say as of this
morning whether there had been progress in his talks with the Department of
Justice about that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Any progress in your talks with the DOJ?
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): You know, too early for me to say for sure. But
I should know more hopefully later today.
REPORTER: Would you consider contempt –
SCHIFF: You know, we`re prepared to do whatever`s necessary to make sure
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: And tonight, it is unclear whether the Justice Department has
yet responded to Chairman Schiff`s subpoena. We don`t know any more about
Today, the White House counsel sent a 12-page letter to House Judiciary
Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, rejecting all of Chairman Nadler`s
requests for documents in the committee`s investigation of possible
obstruction of justice by the president of the United States. The White
House letter to Chairman Nadler said that the committee`s investigation is,
quote, “not to further a legitimate legislative purpose,” and is, quote,
“outside the constitutional authority of the legislative branch.”
Chairman Nadler told reporters his reaction.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY): I don`t know whether they`re trying to taunt us
toward impeachment or anything else. All I know is they have made a
preposterous claim. Taking that position that a president cannot be
indicted is saying only Congress can hold a president accountable and now
they`re saying that Congress can`t, which means nobody can, which means the
president is above the law and that is an un-American – frankly, un-
(END AUDIO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Chairman Nadler and other House Democratic leaders are
considering whether they should hold administration officials in contempt
of Congress to highlight the Trump administration`s unprecedented
obstruction of legitimate congressional investigations.
Today, in what might be the first time since 1934, the concept of inherent
contempt was being discussed on Capitol Hill. 1934 was the last time we
saw inherent contempt used by Congress. In 1934, the United States Senate
issued subpoenas to a Washington attorney and that Washington attorney
refused to comply with those subpoenas whereupon the Senate sergeant-at-
arms went out and arrested that private attorney and kept him in custody
for inherent contempt of the United States Senate.
The Supreme Court upheld the Senate`s constitutional power to take such
action in that case. And now, 85 years after that, the chairman of the
House Judiciary Committee was asked today about inherent contempt.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
REPORTER: Some of your colleagues want to vote for inherent contempt. To
fine people who are defying subpoenas. Is that something you`re seriously
considering at this point?
REPORTER: What do you think about terms of dollar amount or fines?
NADLER: I don`t know. Very large amounts.
REPORTER: Would it be for the attorney general?
NADLER: It would be for any – well, it would be for anybody who was held
in inherent contempt.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Yesterday, in federal court, a private attorney representing
Donald Trump in a lawsuit trying to block a congressional subpoena of Trump
financial records from an accounting firm used that very same line of
argument that the White House counsel used today in that letter to Jerry
Nadler rejecting the document request.
William Consovoy, the private attorney representing the president, said in
court yesterday that the congressional subpoenas seeking Trump financial
records did not have a legislative purpose, a legitimate legislative
purpose. The judge was very surprised at that argument since historically,
congressional subpoenas have been issued for investigative purposes as well
as legislative purposes very broadly defined. The judge said to the
president`s lawyer: So in your view, Congress`s investigations in
Whitewater, for example, and Watergate were beyond the scope of its
constitutional authority? To which the president`s lawyer actually said:
I`d have to look at what the basis they were providing.
The judge was stunned as surely everyone in the courtroom was that the
president`s lawyer was not sure whether the congressional investigations of
President Bill Clinton and President Richard Nixon both of which eventually
led to impeachment proceedings were constitutional. And the judge went
back and forth with the lawyer at some length, finally getting the lawyer
to admit that the Trump position is the president simply cannot be
investigated by Congress. Here`s the transcript.
The court: So Congress in your view cannot determine say, for example, a
president had a financial interest in a particular piece of legislation
that was being considered or an executive action that he was considering in
your view, Congress could not investigate whether such a conflict of
electrical, whether the president has such a conflict of interest or the
conflict of interest might in some way bear on decision making by the
Mr. Consovoy: It would lack legitimate legislative purpose and that is the
Legitimate legislative purpose, that is what that he saying is the reason
they`re defying all of this, that the Congress has no legislative purpose.
The attorney general of the United States is treating the contempt of
Congress resolution passed against him by the House Judiciary Committee as
a joking matter. At a ceremonial event today, the attorney general
approached House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, shook her hand, and said loudly
enough for people to hear it: Madam Speaker, did you bring your handcuffs?
According to “The Washington Post,” Pelosi smiled and responded that the
House sergeant at arms was present should it be necessary to arrest anyone
a person said, adding that Barr chuckled and walked away.
Leading off our discussion tonight are: Democratic Congresswoman Madeleine
Dean of Pennsylvania. She is a member of the House Judiciary Committee
whose subpoenas are being defied by the White House.
Lisa Graves is with us. She`s a former Senate Judiciary Committee staff
member and a former deputy assistant attorney general under President
And Chris Lu, former White House cabinet secretary under President Obama
and he has also served as the deputy chief counsel of the House Oversight
Congresswoman Dean, what is your reaction today to that 12-page letter
basically saying that there were just no purposes, no legitimate purposes
stated by the Judiciary Committee for obtaining any of this documentation?
REP. MADELEINE DEAN (D-PA): I think it`s a stunning letter by the White
House counsel. And I think Jerry Nadler, Chairman Nadler`s response was
exactly right. Imagine the letter came to us, to the chairman, suggesting
that we had no business continuing with any more oversight as to the
Mueller investigation, as to obstruction of justice in light of what the
Mueller report says.
What I am constantly stunned by is members of the Republican Party or this
president or the people who work around this president constantly referring
to no collusion, no obstruction.
Of course, if you read the Mueller report, you would find something very,
very different. You`d find more than 160 contacts between the Trump
campaign and Russia for the benefit of the Trump campaign and they knew it.
That Russia sweepingly and systematically interfered with our elections and
yet we have an administration that seems to care little about that was we
go into the future and into 2020.
And then we have volume two which says that this administration, this
president showed evidence of obstruction of justice multiple times, as many
as at least a dozen times. And Mueller himself said he is giving it to
Congress, that it is up to Congress to go forward. He wanted to preserve
evidence even in the face of the fact that the administration destroyed
evidence and there were things that the Mueller investigation couldn`t even
But it`s just a stunning assertion by this counsel but you saw and you just
revealed the stunning ridiculous arguments that were made yesterday before
a court. So the truth bears very little on this administration and their
O`DONNELL: Chris Lu, we feel lucky to get you here tonight because you
have experience at both ends of these kinds of subpoenas, having worked in
the Obama administration, receiving these kinds I have subpoenas from
Congress, having worked in the oversight committee in the House sending out
subpoenas like this.
What is your reaction to these developments where the White House is saying
under no circumstances will they respond do anything?
CHRIS LU, FORMER OBAMA WHITE HOUSE CABINET SECRETARY: Yes, you know, I
think the White House counsel would be smart to brush up not only on his
law but also his history, as well.
This idea, look, certainly, Congress`s investigative powers are not
unlimited. But the limits are not to be dictated by the executive branch.
And this idea there has to be a legitimate legislative purpose, that`s
something that this White House has concocted.
That being said, any first year law student could come up with a dozen
legitimate legislative purposes for every one of these investigations. So,
it`s not only that they`re wrong on the law, they`re also wrong on the
If you go back and look at the investigations they conducted of President
Bill Clinton, I was on the House Oversight Committee during that period of
time when Congressman Dan Burton, a Republican, did investigations of
things like travel gate, file gate, we ended up doing Whitewater before it
went to the special counsel. There was an investigations of President
Clinton`s last-minute pardons of Marc Rich, which this White House counsel
has said cannot be investigated by Congress.
So, the history of Republican investigations is completely at odds with the
arguments they`re making here. And it`s important to understand if you
take their arguments to their logical extreme, this is a president above
the law. And so, yes, it is odd we`re talking about inherent contempt,
something that hasn`t been used since the 1930s. But that tells you we`re
in a little bit of uncharted territory right now.
O`DONNELL: Lisa Graves I learned about inherent contempt today. You could
work for several years in the United States Senate as I did and never even
hear the phrase come up. That`s the kind of rare territory we`ve stepped
LISA GRAVES, FORMER STAFF MEMBER, SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Well, that`s
right. I think that it`s important to understand that those powers go back
you know almost two suns basically. There`s a lot of black letter law
about Congress` power. It`s just in this statutory era, Congress has not
used those powers. It`s been able to get cooperation from presidents and
administrations and been able to use referrals to the Justice Department.
Here you have a situation where the president and his lawyers and
interestingly and disturbingly the White House counsel and his private
counsel are singing the same tune with this argument that the Congress does
not have the these powers, the powers to investigate the president or to
seek these documents. That`s in defiance of black letter law. These are
settled rules that have been settled for many, many years. And as you
point out inherent power has been rarely used because it`s been rarely
necessary to be used.
The fact is the Supreme Court has commented repeatedly on the breadth of
congressional investigatory power and the power of Congress to seek
material and get material including talking about it being penetrating and
far reaching, a far reaching power. And so, these arguments are really in
defiance of the law and in many ways this is like the David Frost, Nixon
interview without it being Nixon and David Frost in which, you know, Nixon
said infamously if the president does it, it must be legal. That`s where
And so, even though there`s no like fire – physical fire, it`s as if the
Constitution is on fire and the article 1 of the Constitution is being
blotted out by these guys.
O`DONNELL: Congresswoman Dean, we just heard your chairman of your
committee, Jerry Nadler, say that it feels like the president is trying to
– is taunting you into impeachment. Is the president taunting you into
impeachment? And what next?
DEAN: I wouldn`t call it taunting. I would say he may leave us no other
alternative. He certainly has shown evidence of impeachable offenses.
I`m a lawyer by training. And I`m a member of this Judiciary Committee.
So I care very much about process and making sure we get the truth before
the American public before we do something as grave and as important and
possibly very necessary under this administration. So, the president may
just be leaving us know other alternative.
But something I wanted to make sure I make mention of is the fact that as
important as all of this is and as extraordinary as it is that we might be
talking about inherent contempt and I too had to brush up on what that
meant as a member of Congress, it`s extraordinary we are pushed to that
point. And also, what I hope that your listeners, your viewers want to
know is that while we`re doing this, this is a Congress that is both
walking, chewing gum and flossing at the same time, is what I like to say.
We have to do it all. It is important, it is constitutionally our duty to
do oversight on an administration that is the most corrupt, divisive,
deceitful, cruel administration that I`ve ever seen in my lifetime. But we
also – you have noticed, you have seen us. We`re passing legislation.
This new majority is passing legislation whether it`s regarding gun
violence which the Senate is sitting on their hands. Whether it`s
regarding health care, prescription drug pricing, HR1, which is good
governance and anti-corruption, we are doing it all. And then we`re also
working back in our districts and working on issues like in my district, we
have an issue of clean water.
So, this is a Congress prepared to do it all, walk, chew gum and floss at
the same time. But we will not be shirking our duty of oversight on this
O`DONNELL: Chris Lu, if you were still at your old job on the House
Oversight Committee, that would you be advising the house to do.
LU: Well, I think exactly what they`re doing. I mean, the House needs to
consider every power it has at this point. It is trying to get both an
oversight and judiciary trying to get these documents from other sources.
I`m confident that some of these also prevail.
Obviously, the court case that was being argued the other day involved the
House oversight and financial records. We also have for instance in the
House Ways and Means effort to get the president`s tax returns. There may
be a way to backdoor way to get that through New York.
So, I think that there are private entities that Congress will be able to
get this information through. But it is important to understand again
history in all of this. If you go back to Watergate, article 3 of the
Nixon impeachment was for the president – for President Nixon willfully
disobeying subpoenas of the House Judiciary Committee. So I don`t know if
this is a president who is consciously trying to bait the House into
impeachment. There are certainly grounds for it if we get to that point.
O`DONNELL: Lisa Graves, take a quick LAST WORD with your advice as a
former Senate staffer to the House. And I understand that the House
doesn`t like to get advice from the Senate but go ahead.
GRAVES: I appreciate that. You know, I think that I have tremendous trust
in Congressman Nadler and the other chairmen to really pursue this. I know
they`ve got a great team on board and they`re looking at all options. And
I think they have to act. They have to act both morally and for the sake
of our Constitution. They have to defend the rule of law in the face of
this incredible defiance. It`s their duty and I know they`re up to the
O`DONNELL: Congresswoman Madeleine Dean, thank you very much for joining
us once again tonight.
DEAN: My pleasure.
O`DONNELL: We really appreciate that.
And, Lisa Graves, Chris Lu, thank you both for joining us. Really
And when we come back, the court challenge to Alabama`s new abortion ban
will begin immediately. Former Alabama U.S. attorney Joyce Vance will join
us with what happens next.
Also tonight, as the Trump research administration ramps up hostilities
with Iran, President Trump himself is reportedly in conflict with his
advisers over what to do next with Iran.
O`DONNELL: Breaking news tonight. Alabama`s Republican Governor Kay Ivey
did sign into law a bill that outlaws abortion except in cases of what the
new law calls, quote, a serious health risk to the pregnant woman.
Cases of rape and incest are not exempt under this bill and doctors who
perform an abortion could face up to 99 years in prison. The governor
acknowledged that this bill is designed to get the Supreme Court to
reconsider and overturn Roe versus Wade.
The governor said in a statement, the sponsors of this bill believe that it
is time once again for the U.S. Supreme Court to revisit this important
matter and they believe this act may bring about the best opportunity for
this to occur.
Alabama`s abortion ban is not slated to take effect for six months but
Planned Parenthood and the ACLU have already said they plan to challenge
it. Today, the groups filed a lawsuit to block Ohio`s six-week abortion
ban, that doesn`t allow abortions after six weeks, from taking effect in
July, arguing that it directly conflicts with the precedent and the rules
set in Roe versus Wade.
Ohio is one of four states just this year to impose some form of a ban
abortion after six weeks of pregnancy before most women even know that they
are pregnant. Courts have already struck down similar laws passed in Iowa,
Kentucky and North Dakota.
Today, the Democratic presidential candidates reacted to the new Alabama
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What they did in
Alabama, what they did in Georgia is unconstitutional.
SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: They`re trying to
overturn Roe versus Wade. That`s wrong and we will fight back.
SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It`s nothing short
of an attack on women`s basic human rights and civil rights. It`s
something that women of America are going to have to fight against with
everything they`ve got.
SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Women`s health care is
under attack and we will not stand for it! We will not stand for it!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining us now is Staci Fox, the president and CEO of Planned
Also with us, Joyce Vance, former U.S. attorney for the Northern District
of Alabama and professor at the University of Alabama School of Law. She`s
an MSNBC legal contributor.
Joyce Vance, what happens next?
JOYCE VANCE, MSNBC LEGAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, next, we`ll see this Alabama
bill begin to face legal challenges. I suspect we`ll also see an
outpouring of protests, certainly in Alabama where those protests have
already been scheduled for this Sunday. But I think also across the
And this Alabama bill which is so draconian may spark nationwide focus on
what`s going on in this area.
O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to what Pat Robertson had to say today because
Stacey Fox, this may be the first time you find yourself agreeing with Pat
Robertson, at least in part. Let`s listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PAT ROBERTSON, TELEVANGELIST: I think Alabama has gone too far. They`ve
passed a law that would give a 99-year prison sentence to people who commit
abortion. There`s no exception for rape or incest. It`s an extreme law
and they want to challenge Roe versus Wade, but my humble view is that this
is not the case we want to bring to the Supreme Court because I think this
one will lose.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Staci Fox, how did Alabama go farther than Pat Robertson`s
willing to go?
STACI FOX, PLANNED PARENTHOOD SOUTHEAST PRESIDENT & CEO: Lawrence, I think
yesterday, Alabama went so far as to ignore the rape survivors that were
standing in the gallery while the Senate was debating this bill. They
clearly stated yesterday that they don`t actually care about the women of
Alabama and this is no more than a political game.
We work across Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi. All three states have
enacted bans like this and are literally playing games with women`s lives
in the South.
O`DONNELL: And, Joyce Vance, what do you make of Pat Robertson`s legal
scholarship here saying he actually thinks this is a bad case for abortion
opponents to bring to the Supreme Court, that Pat Robertson thinks this one
VANCE: Well, if you believe in traditional legal analysis, a precedent
like Roe versus Wade which is almost 50 years old and certainly well-
established is a precedent that can`t be challenged by any of these cases.
So in that sense, Pat Robertson is absolutely correct.
The serious prospect that we face here, Lawrence, is watching this effort
not just to the erode, not just to chip away at the protections that Roe
versus Wade established for women but a full frontal assault designed to
eradicate it the in legal precedent. That`s something that`s not warranted
by the Alabama bill or any other bill.
O`DONNELL: I want to take a look at “Glamour” magazine cover, this is a
nonpolitical magazine to say the least. They have put up there the will
the 25 men who voted for this Alabama bill. These are the 25 who in
particular voted against an amendment that would have allowed an exception
for victims of rape or incest.
And, Staci, talk about what the reaction has been in Alabama where you are
in these last 24 hours.
FOX: Well, I think Alabamians are horrified, Lawrence. I mean, just in
the hours after the vote in the Senate last night, thousands of Alabamians
have signed on to veto petition that we`ve stood up and I think in a state
where 51 percent of the population of Alabama are women and where women are
dying from cervical cancer, the state said loud and clear they don`t care
about women`s health. They care about their own political gains.
And, Lawrence, to be honest, you know, who are on my mind today are our
patients – our patients who aren`t following the news really closely.
They`re seeing the headlines and they`re worried that abortion is already
illegal in Alabama. And I want them to know that will abortion is safe and
legal and available to them and we will fight this every step of the way.
O`DONNELL: Good point. Joyce Vance, this bill does not take effect for
six months. Can the legal challenge to the bill begin before the bill
VANCE: You know, it can and this is typically in Alabama how we`ve dealt
with unconstitutional state laws like we dealt with the Alabama`s
immigration bill in 2011. The hope here is that folks like the ACLU,
whoever else chooses to challenge this bill, will go into court and have it
enjoined so it will never go into effect and impact the lives of Alabama
O`DONNELL: Staci Fox and Joyce Vance, thank you very much for joining us
on this important story tonight. I really appreciate it.
FOX: Thanks, Lawrence. Thanks, Joyce.
O`DONNELL: And when we come back, the Trump administration is ramping up
hostilities with Iran. President Trump himself is reportedly in arguments
with his advisers over this. Former National Security Council member
Richard Clarke will join us.
O`DONNELL: Big surprise. Donald Trump is frustrated, “The Washington
Post” is reporting is President Trump is frustrated with some of his top
advisers who he thinks could rush the United States into a military
confrontation with Iran and shatter his long-standing pledge to withdraw
from costly foreign wars according to several U.S. officials.
Yesterday, we saw something at the Pentagon that we`ve never seen before, a
general publicly disagreeing with the president`s position. This time on
Iran. The general was a British major general who was appearing at the
Pentagon on video from Baghdad in his capacity as deputy commander of the
American-led coalition in Iraq and Syria which includes British troops.
Well, I guess we don`t have that video. He came out with a statement that
said he did not see any increased threats from Iran in the region.
The day after that British commander said there is no increased Iranian
threat in Iraq, the Trump administration announced an evacuation of the
American embassy in Baghdad. The Pentagon disputed the British major
general`s comments calling them “counter to the identified credible threats
available to intelligence from U.S. and allies regarding Iranian-backed
forces in the region.”
But “The New York Times” reports that one American official said the new
intelligence of an increased Iranian threat was “small stuff” and did not
merit the military planning being driven by National Security Adviser John
Bolton. The “Times” also reports that privately several European officials
described Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo as pushing an
unsuspecting Mr. Trump through a series of steps that could put the United
States on a course to war before the president realizes it.”
Skeptics about the confrontation with Iran include one of the president`s
most devoted Senate allies Lindsey Graham who asked the state department to
explain why the embassy in Iraq was evacuated and said “I have no idea what
the threat stream is beyond what I read in the paper.”
Democratic Congressman John Garamendi today compared the Trump
administration`s handling of Iran to the incident used to justify American
involvement in the Vietnam War.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOHN GARAMENDI (D-CA): Yes, there are problems in Iraq. Yes, there
are concerns in Iraq. Do we need an aircraft carrier to deal with those?
Do we need B-52 bombers? Or do we have the drumbeat of war here?
Are we headed for a Gulf of Tonkin situation? I believe we may very well
be in that situation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: The Gulf of Tonkin resolution was passed by Congress in 1964 to
authorize President Lyndon Johnson`s use of force in Vietnam. After a U.S.
Navy confrontation with North Vietnamese forces in the Gulf of Tonkin, the
details of that naval encounter in the Gulf of Tonkin were later showed to
have been wildly exaggerated and falsely portrayed by the Johnson
administration in order to justify what became an out-of-control American
war in Vietnam in which the United States lost 58,000 troops and in the
end, the United States lost the war.
Next, we`ll be joined by a former national security official who saw the
George W. Bush administration`s march to war in the Middle East. Richard
Clarke is a former counterterrorism adviser who became one of the strongest
opponents of the Iraq war. He`ll join us to discuss President Trump, John
Bolton, and what happens next with Iran.
O`DONNELL: Here is that British major general speaking from Baghdad on
video at the Pentagon disagreeing with President Trump yesterday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS GHIKA, DEPUTY COMMANDER, OPERATION INHERENT RESOLVE: No, there`s
been no increased threat from Iranian-backed forces in Iraq and Syria.
We`re aware of their presence clearly and we monitor them along with a
whole range of others. If the threat level perceives to go up, then we`ll
raise our force protection matters accordingly.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining our discussion now is Richard Clarke who served three
presidents as a senior White House adviser on issues from cybersecurity to
counterterrorism. He is now chairman of the Middle East Institute.
Richard Clarke, you`ve seen all of this before. You saw the ramp up to war
in Iraq. Does this feel familiar to you and what`s your reaction to that
moment yesterday at the Pentagon where a British general is contradicting
the Trump administration?
RICHARD CLARKE, CHAIRMAN, MIDDLE EAST INSTITUTE: Well, Lawrence, it feels
very familiar insofar as the United States government is taking an
intentional act, series of intentional acts that will likely provoke
conflict. That`s what happened with Iraq and maybe what`s about to happen
We are waging economic warfare on Iran. We announced last month further
economic sanctions on them. We`re crippling their economy.
They have sent a message, a very clear message to anyone who will listen
that they are going to do something. They can`t take it anymore.
We`re waging economic war on them. They will have to do something in
response. They have said that.
So there is intelligence that they`re doing things. They`re telling us
through a variety of channels that they intend on doing things. Including
attacking the Saudis and the Emirates.
And then over the weekend, we saw their Houthi allies do precisely that.
But let`s be clear. We are provoking this Iranian action by the economic
O`DONNELL: The president – according to “Washington Post,” they`re
reporting tonight, President Trump grew angry last week and over the
weekend about what he sees as war-like planning that is getting ahead of
his own thinking on Iran.
One official told “The Washington Post” he is not comfortable with all this
regime change talk which to his ears echoes the discussion of removing
Iraqi President Saddam Hussein before the 2003 U.S. invasion. And John
Bolton is, of course, one of the people who is known for regime change talk
CLARKE: Well, as much as I`d like to blame all of this on my friend, John
Bolton, this administration has been consistent since the day it came in
wanting to rip up the nuclear agreement, wanting to impose economic
sanctions, talking about regime change.
It`s not just Bolton. It`s the president is suddenly waking up and
realizing what he, the president himself, has been saying and doing for the
last two years maybe that`s a good thing. Maybe it`s not too late.
But we`re getting very close to the edge here. We`re in a danger zone and
we could have an accidental war where U.S. and Iranian ships or aircraft in
the Gulf could end up fighting each other and it could get out of hand.
O`DONNELL: And that sounds like the kind of thing that some were referring
to in the “Washington Post” reporting where they`re saying this could move
at a pace that Donald Trump himself doesn`t understand.
CLARKE: Oh, I think that`s absolutely right. I don`t think he`s ever been
briefed on the sort of hyper-war that could occur. How fast it could
involve the Saudis, the Israelis, the Emiratis and us and how major
economic effects could occur.
If oil doesn`t get out of the gulf, if natural gas doesn`t get out of the
gulf, the world economy will be very badly damaged very quickly. And that
O`DONNELL: So you`re suggesting in a conflict with Iran, it wouldn`t
affect just oil supply from Iran.
CLARKE: Oh, no. It would stop the flow of natural gas out of Qatar on
which Tokyo depends. There`s a one-day shortage of gas flowing out of
Qatar, they`ll probably be brownouts in Japan. All of the oil and gas that
flows out of the gulf from the five or six countries that export through
the gulf would be affected.
O`DONNELL: And Richard Clarke, could you stay with us? Because I`d like
to, after a break here, talk to you about the preparations for cyber
defense in our next election which we don`t really seem to be mounting. If
we can squeeze in a quick break, if you could stay, I`d like to talk to you
O`DONNELL: We`re going to come back right after this break on Richard
Clarke`s assessment of the cyber threat in our next presidential election.
O`DONNELL: The Mueller report Volume 1, page 51. In August 2016, Russian
officers targeted employees of a voting technology company that developed
software used by numerous U.s. counties to manage voter rolls and installed
malware on the company network. Yesterday, Florida`s governor said that
the FBI has told him of two Florida counties where Russian hackers have
tapped into their voter file.
Back with us is Richard Clarke, counterterrorism expert. Richard Clarke,
your reaction to both of those things. First that notation in the Mueller
report and then possibly its linkage to what we`re learning in Florida.
CLARKE: Well, they are linked. And the remarkable thing about that event
yesterday was the governor of Florida is saying he had been forced by the
FBI to sign a secrecy oath before they would tell him anything. And they
told him he couldn`t tell the two the counties involved, the citizens of
those counties, or the public, what counties had been hacked. That`s just
The Russians know what they did. There`s no reason why the American people
can`t know. But the larger issue here, Lawrence, is there are 4,000
counties in the United States. And they are not equipped to protect
themselves against nation-state attacks from Russian GRU hackers.
My day job is cybersecurity. And I know major corporations can`t figure
out when they`ve been hacked, despite a lot of investment. For these
counties to say we know we weren`t hacked, they don`t know. The FBI
It`s likely that the Russian hacking was far more extensive than we`re
aware of. If the Russians wanted to hide their tracks, they`re pretty good
at doing that.
O`DONNELL: The administration – now, the president has issued no orders
within the administration to augment our defenses against a Russian attack
in 2020. How much do you expect the bureaucracies within the
administration are doing that anyway even without a specific presidential
directive? And what do you expect in 2020?
CLARKE: Well, I expect the Russians to be more sophisticated next time
because we`re on to them. The bureaucracy is doing what it can but my
experience with running bureaucracy is the less the White House is
directing it, coordinating it, bringing it all together, that real power of
the U.S. government doesn`t get played out.
DHS is doing what they can, FBI, NSA, but it needs White House leadership.
I know Senator Wyden is about to introduce legislation, the Federal
Cybersecurity Election Act which will give more authority and more
direction but it`s unlikely to get passed.
So we may very well go into the next election without adequate defense
against what will be a more sophisticated Russian program.
O`DONNELL: And if the Russians really are going after voting machines or
voter rolls, they would presumably be using the electoral college map to do
that. They wouldn`t waste their time on anything in New York or California
or Alabama for example or Utah where those are very heavily either Democrat
or Republican states, they couldn`t affect the outcome.
They would no doubt go into those states that swung it for the president,
Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, places like that?
CLARKE: Not only that, Lawrence. They will go into the swing counties and
the swing precincts. And they know where they are.
And I wouldn`t be surprised when we do learn what counties were hacked in
Florida if one of them wasn`t Broward.
O`DONNELL: Richard Clarke, thank you very much for joining us tonight.
Really appreciate it.
And when we come back, you`ll be able to hear Elizabeth Warren`s reasons
for refusing to appear in a town hall on “Fox”. That`s next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
My name is J.W. and this is my hometown that I love dearly.
ELIZABETH WARREN, 2020 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Good. Good to meet you.
And the people are wonderful people. I think you`re the second – only the
second presidential candidate to ever to come to Mingo County, to Kermit.
Anyway, JFK in 1960 came here. Thank you for coming.
WARREN: thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Both Massachusetts senators and presidential candidates, the
Democrats who visited Kermit. That was Elizabeth Warren in Kermit, West
Virginia in a county – Mingo County, where more than 80 percent of the
voters voted for Donald Trump.
According to Politico”, one Trump voter said she done good after her
appearance at the fire station in Kermit. That voter did not say he was
going to vote for Elizabeth Warren but at least one Trump voter said she
was thinking about voting for Elizabeth Warren after listening to her.
Senator Elizabeth Warren is not afraid of talking to Trump voters. She
just doesn`t want to do it on “Fox”.
Yesterday, on Twitter, she explained why she will not participate in a
town hall on “Fox”.
“Fox News” is a hate for profit racket that gives a megaphone to racists
and conspiracists. It`s designed to turn us against each other, risking
life and death consequences, to provide cover for the corruption that`s
rotting our government and hollowing out our middle class.
Hate for-profit works only if there is profit so “Fox News” balances a mix
of bigotry, racism, and outright lies with enough legit journalism to make
the claim to advertisers that it`s a reputable news outlet. It`s all about
dragging in ad money, big ad money.
A Democratic town hall gives the “`Fox News” sales team a way to tell
potential sponsors it`s safe to buy ads on “Fox”. No harm to their brand
Here is one place we can fight back. I won`t ask millions of Democratic
primary voters to tune into an outlet that profits from racism and hate in
order to see our candidates especially when “Fox” will make even more money
adding our valuable audience to their ratings numbers.
I`m running a campaign to reach all Americans, I take questions from the
press and voters everywhere I go. “Fox News ” is welcome to come to my
events just like any other outlet, but a “Fox News” town hall adds money to
the hate for profit machine to which I say hard pass.
Tommy Christopher in an article on media I said that he has been unsure
whether Democrats should participate in town halls on “Fox”. Elizabeth
Warren`s tweets won him over.
He wrote any Democrat who agrees to appear at a “Fox News” town hall after
Warren`s stand is either saying that they don`t believe “Fox News” is an
enterprise fueled by racism and bigotry or that they think there is
something more important than denying it aid and comfort. Neither should
be acceptable to Democratic voters.
And today, Yashar Ali says that Senator Kamala Harris has also decided not
to appear on “Fox” for a town hall. Ali reports presidential candidate and
California Senator Kamala Harris will not appear on “Fox News” for a
moderated town hall according to two sources familiar with the matter.
Harris campaign has not yet informed “Fox News” executives of her decision.
Kamala Harris will appear here on this network for a town hall that I will
host at 10 p.m., the day after Memorial Day, Tuesday, May 28th in
Spartanburg, South Carolina in a county that voted 63 percent for Donald
Kamala Harris will go to Trump country to speak to voters there directly in
our MSNBC town hall. That is 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