14 Democrat 2020 candidates face voters. TRANSCRIPT: 6/3/19, The Last Word w/ Lawrence O’Donnell.
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel.
And I could have listened to ten more minutes of that, Karine Jean-Pierre.
We`ve all been watching that video. And I`m so glad you were able to get
her to come in tonight and have that discussion.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Me too.
MADDOW: Thanks, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel.
Well, the only Republican member of Congress who says he has read the
entire Mueller report also says that Donald Trump should be impeached. A
new group called Republicans for the Rule of Law wants all the
congressional Republicans to read the Mueller report, and they are making
it easier for them by giving them highlighted copies of the Mueller report,
highlighting what they think are President Trump`s worst violations of his
oath of office.
While the Democrats are under constant pressure every day from members of
their own party, the public, some news media, about the process.
Republicans seem to be under no pressure at all on impeachment.
Republicans for the Rule of Law want to change that. They want to put the
pressure on Republicans to do the right thing about an out of control
The founder of Republicans for the Rule of Law will join us at the end of
this hour tonight. He is someone who has persuaded Republicans in Congress
Tonight, the pressure continues to increase on impeachment as more
Americans support impeachment. A new CNN poll shows that 41 percent of
Americans now believe that president Trump should be impeached, 54 percent
do not believe that. That President Trump should be impeached. The 41
percent is up 4 percentage points from April when 37 percent supported
impeaching the president.
Yesterday, House Majority Whip James Clyburn of South Carolina who has
always allied with Nancy Pelosi said this about impeachment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JAMES CLYBURN (D-SC): We do believe that if we sufficiently,
effectively educate the public, then we will have done our jobs and we can
move on an impeachment vote and it will stand.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Today, the House Judiciary Committee announced it will hold a
series of hearings on the Mueller report, the first hearing scheduled for
next Monday is entitled “Lessons From the Mueller Report: Presidential
Obstruction and Other Crimes.”
The star witness on that hearing will be someone whose testimony to
Congress in 1974 helped force the resignation of President Richard Nixon.
John Dean who was President Nixon`s White House counsel will be the
featured witness in that hearing next week.
Congressman Andy Biggs of Arizona, Republican on the House Judiciary
Committee, had this reaction about John Dean testifying. Quote: Democrats
are now calling a biased witness who was convicted of criminal charges for
his role in the Watergate scandal and who has called President Trump a
nitwit, to help frame a narrative for the impeachment of President Donald
The day after that hearing next week on Tuesday, the house majority leader
will bring a resolution to a vote in the House. He announced today that
resolution is forcing Attorney General Barr and former White House counsel
McGahn to comply with congressional subpoenas that have been duly issued by
the House Judiciary Committee, the resolution will authorize the judiciary
committee to pursue civil action to seek enforcement of its subpoenas in
federal court. It also authorizes House committees that have issued
subpoenas as part of their oversight and investigation responsibilities to
seek civil enforcement of those subpoenas when they are ignored.
President Trump is in London tonight the invitation of Queen Elizabeth.
Before leaving for London, President Trump called the newest members of the
royal family, American Meghan Markle, nasty in an interview. The president
then denied that he called her nasty.
Here is the audio of the president calling her nasty.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
REPORTER: She said she would move to Canada if you get elected. It turned
out she moved to Britain.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A lot of people are moving
here. So what can I say? No, I didn`t know that she was nasty.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Nasty is now one of the president`s favorite words for
attacking people in London. That is one of the words he used to attack the
mayor of London today while in flight to London, the president of the
United States used the taxpayer-funded communication technology on Air
Force One to be unload a couplet of uncouth tweets about London`s mayor,
Quote: Sadiq Kahn who by all accounts has done a terrible job as mayor of
London has been foolishly nasty to the visiting president of the United
States, by far the most important ally of the United Kingdom. He is a
stone cold loser who should focus on crime in London, not me. Kahn reminds
me very much of our dumb and I competent mayor of New York City, de Blasio,
who has also done a terrible job, only half his height. In any event, I
look forward to being a great friend of the United Kingdom and looking very
much forward to my visit. Landing now!
Protestors are expected to be out in force in London tomorrow. Some of
them gathering under this version of Donald Trump that will be floating
above the city. The president of the United States attacked the mayor of
London today because the mayor of London published an op-ed piece this
weekend in opposition to the Trump visit saying Donald Trump is just one of
the most egregious examples of a growing global threat through his words
and actions, he has given comfort to far right political leaders. And it`s
no coincidence Steve Bannon has been touring the world, spreading hateful
views and bolstering the far right wherever he goes.
Michael Wolff has been studying the work of Steve Bannon and Donald Trump
for years now. His first book about them, “Fire and Fury”, rocketed to the
top of the bestseller list after President Trump threatened legal action to
prevent the publication and sale of that book tomorrow. Volume two of
Michael Wolff`s study of Trump world will be published. The new book is
“Siege: Trump Under Fire.”
And to begin our discussion tonight, we are joined by the author of
“Siege”, Michael Wolff.
Michael, thank you very much for joining us tonight. I really appreciate
MICHAEL WOLFF, AUTHOR, “SIEGE: TRUMP UNDER FIRE”: It`s so nice to be back.
O`DONNELL: There is controversy already on this book and it involves the -
- perhaps the biggest news in the book, undoubtedly, which is it appears
relatively early in your book, the statement about the special counsel`s
office having developed a draft indictment or a set of memos about what
indicting the president would look like, what the legal argument would be
coming from the president against an indictment. Special counsel`s office
issued a statement immediately when this was reported in the newspaper
saying that those documents don`t exist.
WOLFF: I think what the special counsel`s spokesman said is, those
documents as described don`t exist.
O`DONNELL: And just to be clear, they were reacting to a reporter calling
them doing an article in “The Guardian” about this book.
O`DONNELL: And so, that was the response to that reporter saying the
documents you are describing to us that you are saying are in my Michael
Wolff`s book don`t exist.
WOLFF: Right. So, let me describe what the documents are. The documents
are – the document is a 56-page document. It assumes that the president
has been indicted. It assumes that he in turn has come back and made a
motion to dismiss that indictment on grounds that you can`t indict a
sitting president. Then this document is a response to that.
And it has two parts. First, it outlines the terms of the indictment.
It`s – a long, detailed 20, 25-page outline of what they are charging the
And then the second part is an argument about, in fact, why a sitting
president can be indicted and why a sitting president should be held
accountable under the law.
So, it`s in a way I think that missing piece of the Mueller puzzle. You
know, the Mueller, Robert Mueller came out last week and said, you know,
the report speaks for itself. The truth is, the report speaks very
unclearly for itself.
And this is – clearly, this was a debate that had to have happened
internally. Why else when it happened, they are there to investigate the
president. Mueller pretty much came out and said that they believe that
the president committed indictable offenses.
This is that moment, however, when they probably punted. And they said,
hmm. Can we indict the president? Can`t we indict the president? Can we,
can`t we. No.
O`DONNELL: The – and the “they” in your account in the book and you quote
sources close to the Mueller investigation –
O`DONNELL: – is the way you phrase it. Were those people working on the
Mueller investigation on the team?
WOLFF: I don`t want to discuss my sources on this. Just to say that they
are gold standard sources.
O`DONNELL: And the way you put that was close to the Mueller
O`DONNELL: They seem to be describing to you a debate that went on within
the Mueller staff with it reads like some in favor of bringing charges,
Mueller ultimately the decision-maker and you describe him as a “hamlet”
going through this for a long period of time going back-and-forth with
WOLFF: I think Donald Trump spooked Robert Mueller. And I think actually
that was Donald – at one point in the book, I described Trump as saying
about Mueller, he has no game. And Trump brags a lot about how long he`s
been in – how many times he`s been in court. He`s basically been in
litigation for 45 years.
O`DONNELL: You have him – just parenthetically, you have him on the phone
one night with the Robert Kraft, the Patriots owner who`s been accused in
Florida on a prostitution – soliciting prostitution charge.
And you have him on phone giving him legal advice, saying to Robert Kraft,
I`m better at this than the lawyers.
WOLFF: Exactly, and him saying to Robert Kraft, you`re innocent, even
though they have tape of you being guilty. You`re innocent.
O`DONNELL: Yes. And so, he – Trump has a view of himself as someone
experienced enough in fighting with lawyers.
WOLFF: No, in much of or certainly a thread in my book, sometimes a comic
thread, is him belittling his lawyers, dismissing his lawyers, correcting
his lawyers, lecturing them, throwing them out of the office.
O`DONNELL: Let`s get back to this what you`ve called a draft indictment in
the book and one of the things that`s odd about it – here`s the Michael
Flynn indictment. I`m showing it to you and I`m going to put it up on the
screen. In the book, you describe the indictment as being the United
States of America against Donald J. Trump defendant.
And that “V” that we see on this indictment is the standard form. I mean,
I – in a lifetime of looking at indictments, I`ve never seen the word
against appear in a state or federal indictment. What do you make of just
that formatting part? Did it look like this, the document?
WOLFF: It looks exactly like that.
O`DONNELL: Exactly like that, and where the “V” is, there was the word
WOLFF: Yes, exactly. And the document, by the way, on the signature page
is Robert Mueller III.
O`DONNELL: So, it`s actually a signed document.
WOLFF: No, it`s not a signed document but it has the signature page.
O`DONNELL: Signature page with a line that would say –
O`DONNELL: – and it`s blank and hasn`t been signed.
WOLFF: Exactly, exactly.
O`DONNELL: So, this is the draft.
WOLFF: So, why it`s “V” and why it`s against, I don`t know. I mean, I am
– I was literally quoting from what was written.
O`DONNELL: What`s your reaction to people who see that? That`s the
biggest criticism I`ve seen of the authenticity of the documents that
you`re talking about is that the word against is there instead of the “V”,
leaving aside for a moment the special counsel saying documents don`t
WOLFF: You know, I don`t make anything of it, except for the fact that
nobody has gotten anything out of two years. Nobody has gotten anything
out of the Mueller investigation. So, I`m not sure they know what – they
know what they`re looking at or what they`re looking for.
You know, as I say, my source, gold standard on this. The document itself
addressing exactly the kind of issues that the special counsel must have
addressed, and addressing them in the greatest detail. I`m going to say
something else which really struck me is that their – the argument here
about why a president can be indicted and why a president should be treated
like everyone else under the law is a powerful argument.
O`DONNELL: Well, yes, and it`s quoted in your book extensively. And I
think I know your writing and I know your experience well enough to know
that that is a level and style of legal scholarship that is not something
you could produce yourself. This obviously came from some other source.
WOLFF: It did indeed.
O`DONNELL: It seems for “The Guardian” article was the first breaking of
in this news. That reporter said that he was in possession of the document
that you were in possession of.
WOLFF: I think he said that had he seen the document.
O`DONNELL: Had seen it, had seen the document.
O`DONNELL: Will you make that document public?
WOLFF: I don`t know. And obviously, I have considered this. There are
sourcing issues. There are issues about protecting the people who gave
this to me. So it`s unresolved.
O`DONNELL: And if it is a genuine underlying document or work product of
the Mueller team, that would be something that the Judiciary Committee will
get if it obtains the full – as it`s trying to get through subpoena power,
the full Mueller report and the underlying documents.
WOLFF: Absolutely. You know, Mueller in his statement referred to the
underlying work product. And I would – I would assume that you would
characterize this as underlying work product.
O`DONNELL: And is this an indication of why it`s so important for the
committees to get the underlying work?
WOLFF: I think so. Let me tell you some of the other – it`s not just
this document that I have. I have significant other documents, including a
substantial file on the analysis of the, I guess you might say the
fragility of the special counsel, of the law that established the special
WOLFF: And they go through a series of questions. Can the president fire
the special counsel? Would be one of those –
O`DONNELL: You present that in the book as an ongoing, as we were watching
the president attacking the special counsel`s office, witch hunt, calling
them a bunch of Trump haters, calling them a bunch of Hillary supporters.
It turns out in your account of inside the special counsel`s office, they
were worrying about those attacks every day and evaluating every day, can
the president kill this investigation? What would happen if he killed?
What would happen to our work product if he killed? That`s running through
WOLFF: And, in fact, the conclusion is not a positive one.
WOLFF: I mean, the conclusion is yes, the president could fire Robert
Mueller. What happens to the work product they ask if they are fired?
Well, the chances that it could be – the possibility is it could be
They go through one of these one after another of these contingencies,
nothing with a positive result. And one of the things that I think
happened here or one of the things that I feel might well have happened
here is Robert Mueller looked at this and said, you know, this guy, Donald
Trump could bring the house down, could bring the temple down.
O`DONNELL: By firing everybody basically at the Justice Department.
WOLFF: Yes, he could provoke a monster constitutional crisis, everything.
And I think Mueller felt – and again, I`m speculating here. But it seems
reasonable that you might assume that Robert Mueller felt his duty was to
protect the institution, to keep Donald Trump from going – from expressing
his madness in a way that would damage the country in an even larger
O`DONNELL: From destroying more than he`s already destroyed.
Quick point before we go to break on there is that you make very clear in
here in your account of this from your sources as you put it close to the
Mueller investigation, that Mueller was hyper aware of the difference
between as he put it, Robert Mueller and Ken Starr. Robert Mueller is a
special counsel. Ken Starr was an independent counsel. An independent
counsel provided – whose independence was guaranteed in law, absolutely
could not be fired by the president of the United States.
O`DONNELL: And this was a totally different thing. In fact, a post-
Clinton impeachment version of this deliberately weakened structurally
after the Clinton – after the Ken Starr example as in the past (ph).
WOLFF: Yes, as I said, these documents you read them and you say, this
investigation every day was on thin ice.
O`DONNELL: Michael, can you stay with us? There`s more we want to talk
about in the book when we come back.
WOLFF: Would be delighted.
O`DONNELL: There`s so much more in here. We want to come back on the
Jared Kushner material and so much other material that`s relevant to
exactly what`s happened today. We`re going to be right back with Michael
O`DONNELL: Jonathan Swan of “Axios” finally got Jared Kushner to talk on
camera and Jonathan Swan made the most of it, including asking about Donald
Trump lying about President Barack Obama`s birthplace.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JONATHAN SWAN, AXIOS REPORTER: Was birtherism racist?
JARED KUSHNER, WHITE HOUSE SENIOR ADVISER: Look, I wasn`t really involved
SWAN: I know you weren`t. Was it racist?
KUSHNER: Like I said, I wasn`t involved in that.
SWAN: I know you weren`t. Was it racist?
KUSHNER: Look, I know who the president is and I have not seen anything in
him that is racist. So, again, I was not involved in that.
SWAN: Did you wish he didn`t do that?
KUSHNER: Like I said, I was not involved in that. That was a long time
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Jonathan Swan also asked Jared Kushner about the murder of
“Washington Post” columnist Jamal Khashoggi who was a critic of Jared
Kushner`s friend, Mohammad bin Salman of Saudi Arabia.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SWAN: Saudi Arabia has admitted that Saudi agents strangled and
dismembered Khashoggi. Islam, Judaism, and Christianity value burying the
dead. Will you join Khashoggi`s fiancee and calling on the Saudi
government to release his body to his family or identify where they put the
body parts so his loved ones might give him if not a timely burial, at
least a burial?
KUSHNER: Look, it`s a horrific thing that happened. And what we`ve done
is we`ve called for full transparency. We`re working on an investigation
to get to the bottom of what happened.
SWAN: Should they return the body?
KUSHNER: Once we have all the facts, we`ll make a policy determination.
But that will be up to the secretary of state to kind of push on our
policy, and we`ll do everything we can to try to bring transparency and
accountability for what happened.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Michael Wolff is back with us. His new book is full of news
about Jared Kushner. It goes on sale tomorrow, “Siege: Trump Under Fire”.
Jared Kushner is a major character in this book, and I`m sure you are not
at all – I don`t think any reader of your book would be surprised that
Jared Kushner cannot even answer the question, should the Saudis return the
WOLFF: You know, at some level, Jared was – and let`s choose the word
carefully, I`m going to retreat from this because I`m going to end up
saying he was complicit in this. I`m sure that that on an actual level is
But on a support level, on a friendship level, on a would MBS have murdered
Khashoggi if he didn`t know that he had the absolute support of Jared
Kushner and this White House, I don`t know. But he certainly did have the
In fact, one – there`s a point in the book where after Khashoggi is
murdered and the White House doesn`t know how to respond and Jared calls up
MBS and says, I think you`d better execute all those guys very quickly –
the guys who actually were the executioners of Khashoggi.
O`DONNELL: What`s the sourcing on that? I mean, you admit in your
sourcing of the book that a lot of the people who were sources for your
first book are no longer working in the White House like Steve Bannon and
others who could be physically close.
I`ve got to say when I read a lot of the Kushner passages, it almost seems
like Jared Kushner would be the source since he`s one of the two people in
the room. But the material is so negative to Jared Kushner.
WOLFF: Well, I`m not going to – again, I`m not going to discuss the
sources on this. The sources are – except to say that the sources would
have heard this from one of the participants.
O`DONNELL: People in the room.
The president, I mean, you`re reluctant to put names to Jared Kushner and
what he does. But the president I read in here has nicknames for everyone,
just as a lot of people in this book we now learn about with John Kelly
calls Donald Trump. In your first book we learned about all sorts of names
that everyone was calling.
WOLFF: Everybody is calling everybody else a name. And I assume that that
sort of begins with Trump. It`s the ultimate defense.
WOLFF: You have to be calling someone names because he`s calling everyone
O`DONNELL: And they`re all calling Donald Trump crazy, they`re all calling
him out of control, stupid, all those kinds of things.
WOLFF: Let`s go even – I think it`s an important point. Anybody who has
had contact with Donald Trump comes away thinking that there`s something
wrong with him. I mean, that`s putting it in a nice way.
O`DONNELL: There`s a point in the book where Donald Trump in one of his
many points of restoration with Jared Kushner at the end of his complaint
about Jared Kushner says, “what a girl”. He refers to him as a girl. And
for Donald Trump, that is about the most negative thing he can say about
O`DONNELL: How does that is relationship work where the president doesn`t
respect him in your account?
WOLFF: Well, I mean, it`s a very important relationship. It`s really key
because remember, he`s the only person who has managed to go the distance
so far in this White House. Everybody else who began –
O`DONNELL: And his wife, the president`s daughter.
WOLFF: Yes, and that`s why. I mean, what`s the reason Jared gets to go
the distance? Because is he married to Ivanka, the only person – I think
this is, she is singular in this regard who the president doesn`t
O`DONNELL: And you make the point that the president wants loyalty, he
wants devotion and then when he gets it, he doesn`t trust you. He thinks
less of you when you deliver the kind of devotion and service that he
WOLFF: You know, this is – this is to say the very least, a difficult man
to work with. To go a little further than this, this is a crazy person.
O`DONNELL: And that`s a continuation of what was in your first volume of
this, of this study of Trumpism. And you presented at the beginning more
than anything else a continuing psychological profile of Donald Trump, of
who this man is and how his mind works, which in your view, I take, to be
the most important thing about what you can find in your studies of this,
is how does the president`s mind work?
WOLFF: I think that that`s crucial. I think ultimately, 100 years from
now, 50 years from now, 10 years from now, we`re not going to be talking
about the president`s policies. We`re going to be talking about who this
man is, how did this possibly happen?
How could a person like this find himself in the position that he`s found
himself in? And what is this – you know, what does this mean? How do you
tell the story about this?
I mean, one of the interesting things is I think the dominant narrative now
is that Donald Trump is the strong man. Donald Trump is the guys who going
to – who is going to burn through everybody else. Donald Trump is the guy
who is going to get what he wants.
Whereas I think actually the narrative is Donald Trump is melting down.
Every day, it gets stranger and stranger. Every day, he`s more alone.
Every day, someone else deserts him. Every day, he does something that is
more peculiar, less logical, and has to be undone by someone else.
O`DONNELL: The – what do your sources tell you about what Donald Trump
thinks of Robert Mueller?
WOLFF: He –
O`DONNELL: And did that change over time?
WOLFF: He thought from the beginning he could take Robert Mueller. He
says I know this guy. I know this kind of guy. You know, he`s too
separate as I said, he said he`s got no game.
And I think he sensed that. He sense this had as a weakness in the special
prosecutor. He sensed that he could be – you know, by saying a witch
hunt, witch hunt, witch hunt, he could be the person that Robert Mueller
was essentially would say, you know, this is a crazy man and how to predict
what a crazy man will do. And that`s a scary thing.
I mean, at one point, Steve Bannon says about Mueller, this is after the
report is filed, Bannon says –
O`DONNELL: The Mueller report becomes public.
O`DONNELL: Steve Bannon sees the results –
WOLFF: And he says never send a marine to do a hit man`s job. I think he
sees this as Steve understood, you know, Robert Mueller is there as to –
as an institutional guy to protect an institution. And Donald Trump is
perfectly willing to destroy an institution.
O`DONNELL: In an institution that relies on norms in a town that relies on
floor in addition to laws, the point it seems at the end of that, your
account of this is that someone who plays by the rules which is Robert
Mueller`s life, plays it by the rules, cannot match what Donald Trump will
do to the rules.
WOLFF: It turns out – I mean, you and me, I think we went into thinking
about this that, you know, gotten Bobby Mueller was a straight arrow and he
would take on the crooked guy. You know, but at best, I think it`s a draw.
O`DONNELL: Michael Wolff, thank you very much for “Volume 2.” Really
appreciate it. Thanks for joining us tonight.
When we come back, Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg says he
would vote for impeachment tonight in an MSNBC town hall.
O`DONNELL: In an MSNBC town hall earlier tonight, Mayor Pete Buttigieg was
asked about impeachment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My maim is Keith. And I just want to let you know I`m
starting to feel a little discouraged and feel like all the work that I did
in – we all did in 2018 really didn`t matter. And I`m also starting to
lose confidence at our House Democratic leadership. And I want to know if
you support Speaker Pelosi`s slow cautious approach towards the impeachment
inquiry or not, and why.
MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG (D-IN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you. First of
all, I believe that the president deserves to be impeached.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
BUTTIGIEG: I would also say even though I have revealed myself to be
ambitious and that I`m a young man running for president, that I also would
think twice before offering strategic advice to Nancy Pelosi.
(LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE)
BUTTIGIEG: So I do recognize that while we`re still trying to get
information, the investigations are ongoing. There are witnesses yet to
come before Congress. That there may be some strategic wisdom in following
that sequence. I`ll leave that to Congress.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC TOWN HALL MODERATOR: I`ve got a follow-up. It`s to
sort of nail you down. If you were voting in Congress right now on
impeachment, would you vote to impeach?
BUTTIGIEG Yes, I would.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: And a woman at the town hall asked this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You have a tremendous resume, one that speaks to your
character and your capabilities. But you are running in a field of truly
exceptional candidates, particularly in the case of the women who are
running like Senators Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren. So my question
to you is, why should the women of America vote for you over our sisters
who are kind of more qualified?
(LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE)
BUTTIGIEG: Wow. Well, look, I admire so many of the people running.
They`re extraordinary. And by the way, we ought to have a woman in the
Oval Office right now. I`m still disappointed that didn`t happen.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
BUTTIGIEG: I do think, though, that my qualifications are a little bit
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: And then after a minute of repeating his qualifications for the
job, Mayor Pete said this.
BUTTIGIEG: Now the other thing that I want the women of America to know
because I`ve met a lot of women who say I like you, I like your message. I
think you`ve got an appealing candidacy but I just will not vote for a man
this time is that, I get it. And whether you decide to be for me or not, I
promise that I will be for you.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: This weekend, 14 of the 24 Democratic candidates were at the
California Democratic Convention, the front runner in the polls, Joe Biden,
campaigned in Ohio instead.
After this break, we`ll show you who got the rock star treatment in
California and who got booed by the crowd.
Neera Tanden and Jason Johnson will join us.
O`DONNELL: Joining our discussion now, Jason Johnson, the politics editor
at the Root.com and a professor of politics and media at Morgan State
University. He`s also an MSNBC contributor. And Neera Tanden is with us.
She is the president of the Center for American Progress and a veteran of
Hillary Clinton`s presidential campaign.
Neera, in a moment, we`re going to reveal what got the boos in California
this weekend. But I want to begin with what we saw just on the other side
of the commercial Pete Buttigieg`s answer to that woman in the audience who
says, why should I vote for you when we have such great women running who
are more qualified than you are? And he says, I get it.
What did you think of that answer?
NEERA TANDEN, PRESIDENT, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: I think that was
the best answer he could actually come up with. I think a bunch of the
male candidates have gotten this question and it is the right answer, which
is that I think it really addresses a deep concern. A lot of women have
fueled the resistance. They fueled a lot of women winning in Congress.
And I think from 2016, there`s a fair amount of frustration that women
aren`t doing better in this race, that this is actually time for a woman.
We have fantastic women candidates. At the same time, if you look at the
polls, a majority of the Democratic Party right now is supporting men. A
lot of older men. A lot of white men. But I think it`s really important
for people to acknowledge that the interest and desire for a woman
president is deep and profound and feels unfulfilled from 2016.
O`DONNELL: All right. Let`s take a look at what gets you booed at the
California Democratic Convention this weekend.
TANDEN: It`s not so hard actually to get booed at the Democratic
JASON JOHNSON, POLITICS EDITOR, THEROOT.COM: Yes.
O`DONNELL: We`re going to show it right now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN HICKENLOOPER (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If we want to beat Donald
Trump and achieve big progressive goals, socialism is not the answer.
JOHN DELANEY (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I was re-elected – Medicare for
All may sound good. But it`s actually not good policy nor is it good
politics. I`m telling you.
DELANEY: I`m telling you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Jason Johnson, so Hickenlooper and Delaney get booed for that.
They had to know going into the room how the crowd feels.
JOHNSON: Yes, so in retail politics and restaurants, the customer`s always
right, right? And these guys clearly don`t understand retail politics.
JOHNSON: You don`t go into California and say, hey, Medicare for All is
terrible. Why don`t you just go against the gas tax, too? And look, I
think these guys went there hoping to create viral clips that they could
use to sell themselves in Iowa and South Carolina. They clearly weren`t
really thinking about the audiences they were speaking to.
The problem with that strategically, Lawrence, is the only person who can
get away with doing that is Joe Biden. So I think a lot of these
candidates are not realizing that they need to – it`s not about lying, but
you need to tailor your message to the community you`re speaking to. And I
think, where some of think, I think Buttigieg has gotten better at this. I
think Harris has gotten better at this. Some candidates are starting to
realize that this one-size-fits-all message doesn`t work. You`ve got to
realize who you`re talking to.
O`DONNELL: All of the highest polling candidates were there in California
this weekend, except Joe Biden, the front runner the polls. But it sounds
like Bernie Sanders was talking about Joe Biden at one point. Let`s listen
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There is a debate
among presidential candidates who have spoken to you here in this room and
those who have chosen for whatever reason not to be in this room.
We cannot go back to the old ways. We have got to go forward with a new
and progressive agenda.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Neera, your reaction to that.
TANDEN: You know, I think one of the issues that is really a challenge for
a lot of people with Biden in the position he is – he`s in is that I think
that people in the Democratic Party are really anxious about an extremely
divisive primary and, you know, there`s at least for a lot of voters a real
interest in unifying. You see it in polls where 85 percent of Democrats
want a presidential candidate that can unify the party and unify the
And I think that`s a real challenge for people directly taking on Joe Biden
because in such a large race, where there`s so many people, if you
criticize Joe Biden as part of the past, then you can weaken Biden,
although it doesn`t seem to be working over the last couple of weeks. But
the support that comes from him doesn`t necessarily go to you. It could go
to any other candidate who is seen as less divisive. So I think that`s a
real challenge until we ahead into the debate, the actual debate coming
O`DONNELL: Jason Johnson, I`ve got to say, what Bernie Sanders said there
is as delicate a kind of reference to Joe Biden and indirect as you could
come up with. If that`s the way the campaigning is going to go, if that`s
as rough as it`s going to get within the Democratic Party, it`s going to be
JOHNSON: Well, look, Lawrence, if that`s as rough as they`re going to get,
then Joe Biden can already start, you know, measuring his shoe size for the
convention next year because he`ll be the nominee. It is June. It is way
too early to be nice to anybody. The party has plenty of time to come back
together. They were able to come back together in 2016. They were able to
come back together after Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama in 2008.
Democrats need to stop worrying about how they`re going to look in 2020 and
they need to start paying attention to who they want to look at now. One
of the biggest challenges that I see with Joe Biden, to be perfectly
honest, is it`s not just that ideas may seem old and progressive – or not
progressive enough for the particular audience, it`s the idea that he
doesn`t want to fall into the Hillary Clinton trap of acting like the
Because if he does, that`s when people come for you. And whether or not
it`s going to be Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren, he needs to make sure
he actually feels like he`s fighting for this job and not entitled to it.
O`DONNELL: Neera Tanden and Jason Johnson, thank you both very much for
joining our discussion tonight. Appreciate it. Thank you.
JOHNSON: Thanks, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: And when we come back, Republicans appear to be under no
pressure at all on impeachment. Republicans for the Rule of Law want to
O`DONNELL: Today a new group called Republicans for the Rule of Law hand-
delivered highlighted copies of the Mueller report to Republican members of
Congress. The highlighted passages include this from volume two, “If we
had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the
president clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so
The cover letter sent to Republican members of Congress reminded them of
their oath to support and defend the Constitution and to bear truth, faith
and allegiance to the same. The only Republican member of Congress who did
not get a highlighted copy of the Mueller report is Republican Congressman
Justin Amash, who tweeted this two weeks ago after reading the entire
“Here are my principal conclusions. One, Attorney General Barr has
deliberately misrepresented Mueller`s report. Two, President Trump has
engaged in impeachable conduct. Three, partisanship has eroded our system
of checks and balances. Four, a few members of Congress have read the
Along with delivering their highlighted copies of the Mueller report to
Republican members of Congress, Republicans for the Rule of Law released a
video featuring three Republican former federal prosecutors who say that
Donald Trump would have been indicted for obstruction of justice if he were
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The most notable obstructive act was the president`s
instruction to Don McGahn to fire Mr. Mueller. McGahn refused to do it and
then the president asked Don McGahn to put a false document in the file
saying that the president never ordered him to fire Bob Mueller. Asking a
witness to lie to create a false record is a classic case of obstruction of
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One of the most disturbing things to me is the conduct
of Republicans. They know that there is a damming case in the Mueller
report of obstruction of justice by the president and they are acting like
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Conservatives are all about conserving. Conserving
history, conserving morality, conserving the country. If you really
believe in those sorts of principles, now is the time to put your
principles first. It`s not a time to sit silent.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Bill Kristol is a founder of Republicans for the Rule of Law
and he will join us after this final break.
O`DONNELL: Here are three Republican former federal prosecutors speaking
about President Trump for an organization called Republicans for the Rule
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This administration in my view has an absolute
disregard for the law.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Mueller report makes a very strong case on
obstruction of justice.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Were the president anybody other than the president, he
would have been subject to indictment.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining us now is founder of Republicans for the Rule of Law,
Bill, thank you very much for joining us tonight. So they have highlighted
copies of the Mueller report now, so what happens next do you think?
BILL KRISTOL, REPUBLICANS FOR THE RULE OF LAW: We want to make it easy for
them and deprive them of the excuse, that somehow it`s too hard for them to
read it. I don`t know what happens next. What happens next is I hope more
Republicans on the Hill get serious about their constitutional obligations.
And one thing we`re trying to do, though, obviously is put a flag in the
ground for those Republicans around the country, especially young
Republicans or young people inclined towards conservatism or towards the
Republican Party who look at the Republicans on the Hill and they`re just
appalled. Look at Trump and they`re appalled but who don`t want to simply
become liberal Democrats.
It`s fine if other people want to be liberal Democrats but they don`t, and
to show them that there is an alternate view of what the Republican Party
should be doing in this moment of challenge and even crisis.
O`DONNELL: Bill, you`re a veteran of the first Bush administration and you
were not even in office when I remember being at work in the Senate and a
memo from Bill Kristol would arrive in the Republican Senate and it would
pull every single Republican member of the Senate in the direction you
wanted them to go. Those days of influence are long gone, I guess, in the
world of Trump. But it makes me wonder, is there a Bill Kristol today? Is
there someone who you think in Republican life, probably a former office
holder, someone like that who if you could pull into your effort would
somehow turn heads in the Senate or in the House?
KRISTOL: You know, I`m not sure. It might take more than one person.
Obviously Bill Weld I think is doing the right thing challenging Donald
Trump in the Republican primary. Justin Amash, who I`m different on many,
many issues, really did the right thing a couple of weeks ago. And I think
the response to him was striking.
And one thing I was struck by, Lawrence, is you know what people are
impressed by, the sobriety, the soundness of explanation. I mean, it
wasn`t just an assertion. He really laid out the case in a brief way but
in a serious way. He then did a town hall. He didn`t go on many TV shows
at all, right. He turned down a zillion offers as I`m sure you know, and
said to the town hall with zone constituents and a district that Trump
carried, answered questions including some of them from Trump supporters
really showed what it means to be a serious representative who takes his
obligation seriously and respects his own constituents, and isn`t simply
going to cave to them or to the most – the noisiest group of them.
And I think that`s really important. And I will say one other thing. I
hope what we`ve done might have some influence on the House Democrats and
on Speaker Pelosi. People can make up their own minds about whether
ultimately the case is there for impeachment, maybe the care is just there
to censure, maybe nothing should be done. But I think it really is
important that the House go through a serious set of hearings where they
really look at the Mueller report, basically I assume the Mueller report is
correct, no one has really challenged the facts, and then have serious
people there, constitutional law professors and others, to say OK, what is
the right response?
I`m not sure what the right response is. It might be that one would look
at the whole thing and decide it falls a little short of impeachment. But
to simply have a bunch of disconnected hearings and subpoenas and
subpoenas, and not taking seriously as a body, I think there`s a real
problem with that from the point of view of the rule of law and
O`DONNELL: And Bill Kristol gets tonight`s LAST WORD. Thanks for joining
us Bill, really appreciate it.
KRISTOL: My pleasure, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: “THE 11TH HOUR” with Brian William 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