Interview with Michael Bennet (D-CO). TRANSCRIPT: 6/13/19 The Last Word w/ Lawrence O’Donnell.
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel.
You know, in Vegas, there is a phrase, it`s my Friday because Vegas is a
seven days a week place, it always has been. And so the five-day week
starts at different times for different people. Some people their week
begins on Wednesday, which means they have Monday and Tuesday off.
So, for them, they say it`s my Friday on Sunday so you`re just feeling like
it`s your Friday. It`s a Vegas thing. That`s what you`re feeling.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: I used to work overnights in one of my first
New York City radio jobs, and I would finish my shift at like 6:00 a.m. and
then my job would be to go to sleep for the day before I had to wake up and
I would go to a bar in Times Square and order a tall boy of Coors Light.
When the bartender looked at me like and it was like, girl, it`s 6:00 in
the morning. I would be like it`s my Friday. The problem is it was five
days a week.
O`DONNELL: Rachel, you told me never to tell anyone that.
MADDOW: I know.
MADDOW: You were a great bartender, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Yes. Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: Well, you heard it here first. Kellyanne Conway violating the
Hatch Act. And today, in an unprecedented letter by the special counsel
who enforces the Hatch Act, he actually cited the reporting on this program
about Kellyanne Conway`s violations of the Hatch Act. We will read you his
description of the way we reported it here, and other things included in
this unprecedented recommendation by the special counsel that Kellyanne
Conway be fired.
And the special counsel said to the “Washington Post”, yes, it`s
unprecedented as a recommendation but Kellyanne Conway`s behavior is
absolutely unprecedented. They have never seen anything like it. That`s
going to be later in this hour because we have more breaking news tonight
about what the president said last night.
Last night, the president of the United States said that the FBI director
was wrong, those were his exact words. The FBI director is wrong.
Tonight, the chair of the Federal Election Commission is saying that the
president of the United States is wrong.
America`s top law enforcement officer, the attorney general of the United
States stayed silent today about the president`s misstatement of federal
law last night. The FBI director stayed silent today about the president`s
misstatement of federal law last night. And the president`s saying that
the FBI director is wrong. The FBI director had nothing to say about that.
And so, the only voice, the only voice raised on the enforcement side of
the federal law that the president said he would violate last night is
Ellen Weintraub, the current chair of the Federal Election Commission.
Here is what she said tonight clearly in reaction to the president saying
last night that he would violate federal law and accept help in his re-
election campaign from a foreign country or foreign nationals.
Let me make something 100 percent clear to the American public and anyone
running for public office. It is illegal for any person to solicit,
accept, or receive anything of value from a foreign national in connection
with a U.S. election. This is not a novel concept. Electoral intervention
from foreign governments has been considered unacceptable since the
beginnings of our nation.
Our Founding Fathers sounded the alarm about foreign interference, intrigue
and influence. They knew that when foreign governments seek to influence
American politics, it is always to advance their own interests, not
Anyone who solicits or accepts foreign assistance risks being on the wrong
end of a federal investigation. Any political campaign than receives an
offer of a prohibited donation from a foreign source should report that
offer to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Last night at this hour, I read to you the formal language of that law
after the president said this in his interview with George Stephanopoulos.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS ANCHOR: Your campaign this time around, if
foreigners, if Russia, if China, if someone else offers you information on
opponents, should they accept it or should they call the FBI?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think maybe you do both.
I think you might want to listen. I don`t – there`s nothing wrong with
listening. If somebody called, from a country, Norway, we have information
on your opponent, oh, I think I`d want to hear it.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You want that kind of interference in our elections?
TRUMP: It`s not interference. They have information. I think I`d take
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: It is a crime to take it. That is what the chair of the FEC
had to say tonight.
The law is very clear that it is a crime to accept that help from a foreign
national. Most Republican members of Congress refuse to comment today on
the president`s admission that he would violate the law.
But freshman Republican Senator Mitt Romney said that what the president
was advocating is, this was his word, unthinkable.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITT ROMNEY (R-UT): Let`s distinguish between circumstances where the
queen of England says something to a pressure contender that obviously is
not what we`re talking about. In circumstances where a foreign government
attempts to be involved in an American election, that would be simply
unthinkable for a candidate for president to accept that involvement, to
encourage it, to participate with it in any way, shape, or form. It would
strike at the very heart of our democracy.
REPORTER: The president said that candidates do it all the time. You ran
ROMNEY: I ran for president twice, I ran for governor once. I ran for
Senate twice. I`ve never had any attempt made by a foreign government to
contact me or a member of my staff. Had that occurred, I would have
contacted the FBI immediately.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Lindsey Graham is one of the few Republicans who was willing to
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Is it OK for the president to say that he would listen and take
help from a foreign adversary?
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): It is not OK for any public official to
receive assistance from a foreign government, whether it`d be anything of
value, money or opposition research. That`s not appropriate.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Mitch McConnell literally walked away from reporters who asked
about the president`s comments.
The leader of the Republican minority in the House, Congressman Kevin
McCarthy of California, refused to say that the president was wrong when he
said he would violate the law. But eventually, MSNBC`s Kasie Hunt got
Kevin McCarthy to in effect admit that the president was at least wrong
when he says that every member of Congress has already violated that law or
would violate that law.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KASIE HUNT, MSNBC CAPITOL HILL CORRESPONDENT: If somebody, a foreign
adversary called you, and said, I have information on your opponent, would
you call the FBI?
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): I would send it to the authorities, yes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: In a private meeting during the last presidential campaign,
Kevin McCarthy was reported to have said that he believed then at that time
that Vladimir Putin during the campaign was paying Donald Trump.
Today, Nancy Pelosi highlighted the moral failure of Kevin McCarthy and
most other Republicans in their refusal to confront what the president said
about violating the law.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): What is it about the Republicans in Congress,
how much more can they bear of the president`s unethical behavior that they
think that they are honoring their oath of office? And I believe these are
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Leading off our discussion tonight Democratic Congressman Dan
Kildee of Michigan. He`s a member of the House Ways and Means Committee.
And Evan McMullin, former CIA operative and former congressional staffer.
And, Congressman Kildee, first of all, I want to get your reactions to what
the president said last night and what the FEC chair said tonight about
that is a clear violation of law.
REP. DAN KILDEE (D-MI): Well, what the president said, Lawrence, was
absolutely chilling. At a moment when I thought he couldn`t do any more,
he couldn`t be more outrageous, he couldn`t be more outside the bounds of
the norms that we have been bound by for so long, when I watched that, it
gave me chills.
This is a frightening moment where we have a president ho is so capable of
rationalizing anything if it happens to come to benefit him. He is just
completely out of control. What the FEC chair said is exactly right. I`ve
run for Congress and won four times. I managed five congressional
campaigns before that. I`ve been involved in every presidential election
in one way or another since 1980.
And the president is absolutely dead wrong. This is not what everyone
does. This is not how it works. What he has done and what he continues to
do is solely applicable to him.
He welcomed foreign interference. He encourages foreign interference. It
is the most unpatriotic thing that a public official can possibly do – put
his own interests and the interests of a foreign adversary ahead of the
interests of the nation. He should be ashamed.
O`DONNELL: Congressman, what does this do to the impeachment process in
the House of Representatives? All previous impeachment processes have been
about something the president has done.
It is about events in the past just like in courtrooms. Courtrooms are
always evaluating events that occurred in the past. Here`s a president who
is saying he would violate the law and he`ll do it, he`ll violate that law
in order to get re-elected. He`s promising the possibility of future
How does that affect the impeachment calculation?
KILDEE: It certainly has an effect on my thinking. I have come a long way
just in the last month on this subject. I initially was not in favor of
I think we now have to have an impeachment inquiry because the impeachment
process is not about punishing a president for his misdeeds. I think
people misunderstand that. It`s about protecting the rule of law. It`s
about protecting the Constitution from this pattern of behavior.
So I don`t think there`s any way to erase the fact what the president has
done is signaled that he is not only willing to but I believe, Lawrence,
pursuing foreign interference in this election because he`s not willing to
take the election on with a fair fight. So, I think in many ways, the
emotion of impeachment or some effort to rein this president in is in order
to protect the Constitution.
What I fear is that the Republicans in the Senate and many of my Republican
colleagues in the House – yes, they may say a thing or two that makes it
clear that they don`t agree with this behavior. But, Lawrence, they`re not
willing to do anything to stop him. I think words are cheap.
O`DONNELL: Congressman, let me just clarify your decision on impeachment.
Is that a decision you`re making after what the president said yesterday or
were you there already?
KILDEE: Well, last week I made the determination that in order to get to
the facts, an impeachment inquiry would be clearly a way for us to get
there, by establishing that there`s a legitimate legislative interest in
getting this information, impeachment is clearly a legislative interest.
What the outcome of that will be I think we have to let the facts speak for
But the president through what he said yesterday makes it clear that he`s
going to continue this behavior and we have to stop him.
O`DONNELL: Evan McMullin, you know you`ve worked with many of the
Republicans who Congressman Kildee is talking about. You know Kevin
McCarthy. We heard what Mitt Romney said today which is the minimum we
would expect from any federal elected official and Mitt Romney has that
unique additional authority of having been a presidential candidate twice
and having been in that position where Donald Trump says, of course, he
would accept the help of a foreign country to win the presidency.
What more would you – do you expect from Republicans. Is this as far as
they`ll go? Will they just hold their breath and hopes this blows over?
EVAN MCMULLIN, FORMER CIA OPERATIVE: I don`t have many great expectations
to be honest, Lawrence. I just don`t see it.
Look, we`ve watched the Republicans in Congress for the last three or four
years and this episode during the campaign and following the campaign, the
Republican base is with the president very strongly. He may not be
everyone`s favorite guy in the base, but he`s got a lot of strong support.
I just don`t expect a lot to change on that front.
I think this is really, you know, something that the Democrats are going to
having to deal with, hopefully with a cross-partisan coalition of voters
which are the same cross-partisan coalition of votes are that helped bring
the Democrats to a majority in the House. I`m talking about Democrats,
independents, and anti-Trump Republicans. I think that coalition exists.
It`s very powerful.
But that`s going to be I think what saves the country. It`s not going to
be Republicans in Congress, sadly.
O`DONNELL: Evan, the Ellen Weintraub, a name that no one in America really
knows, she`s the current chair of the Federal Election Commission. That`s
the highest ranking voice in federal law enforcement the enforcement of
this particular law. The highest ranking voice to speak on this, the
attorney general is silent, the FBI director is silent, after being
specifically insulted and contradicted by the president of the United
States last night.
MCMULLIN: Yes. Look, I think what we`re seeing here, Lawrence, is that
our institutions are weakening under this president and his constant
attacks to our democracy. You know, I was thrilled to see that statement
from the FEC tonight from the chairwoman that leads it who leads it, but
the reality is that our institutions are led by humans and they can only
take so much and they`re fallible and prone to mistake and weakness and
self-interest. And I`m very concerned about the state of our democracy.
Lawrence, I think that actually we`re in a state of denial as a country
even those of us who are as opposed to the president and working against
him, working for a better path for the country. We are in a state of
denial. We still don`t fully understand and accept that our elections in
2016 were not free and fair. The outcome, the outcome there was heavily
influenced and decisively influenced by a foreign adversary.
And I fear that`s what we`re headed to in 2020 unless we do something,
unless Congress does something to teach the president that he cannot get
away with working with foreign adversaries against our democracy.
O`DONNELL: Congressman Dan Kildee and Evan McMullin, thank you both for
starting off our discussion tonight. I really appreciate it.
KILDEE: Thanks, Lawrence.
MCMULLIN: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: Well, to many of you heard it here first, Kellyanne Conway`s
violations of the Hatch Act. There is now an official report on that sent
to the president, recommending that she be fired for violating the Hatch
Act. We`ll show you some of exactly what she was accused of and read you
the conclusions of that report, including the report`s citation of the
coverage on this program of Kellyanne Conway`s violations of the Hatch Act.
O`DONNELL: Today, Congressman Eric Swalwell, who`s a member of the House
Judiciary Committee, which has jurisdiction over impeachment, announced
that the president`s comments last night saying that he would violate the
law and accept help from a foreign power in his re-election campaign was
the last straw.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I was reluctant to you
know, lead and head straight forward into impeachment. I believe the rule
of law is so important and not to do Donald Trump justice and just arrive
at the conclusion. But he has put us in a position now where he is truly
openly saying he has learned no lesson from the last election that he
actually thinks it`s OK to receive that type of information. We have to
say enough is enough and show that there are consequences, and that`s why
I`ve arrived at this conclusion.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining our discussion now, Neera Tanden, the president of the
Center for American Progress and Ron Klain, a former senior aide to Vice
President Joe Biden and President Obama, a former chief counsel to the
Senate Judiciary Committee.
We`re lucky to have you both here. You`re both veterans of presidential
campaigns. You`re both people who could have been in that position that
Donald Trump was talking about last night where a foreign power offers your
And, Neera, I just want to get what your reaction was, your emotional
reaction last night when you saw the president say, of course, I would take
NEERA TANDEN, PRESIDENT, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: I mean, I had two
reactions. One was absolutely he would take the information because he did
take the information. And the irony we`re in of the irony of the times is
that he basically confirmed that he colluded in 2016.
But I was also really angry because I think the one thing we all Americans
should try to do is to guarantee that it doesn`t happen again. And he was
telling us from his own mouth that he would absolutely do it again, which
we should all recognize means that foreign adversarial countries are going
to try to flood our elections because they know for sure one side will take
it because they can`t win fair and square otherwise.
O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to the legal opinion on the one Fox News show that
Donald Trump does not like to watch, that Shep Smith show today. Let`s
listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHEPARD SMITH, FOX NEWS HOST: So what the president said he would do to
George Stephanopoulos, if he did it, would be felonious.
ANDREW NAPOLITANO, FOX NEWS LEGAL ANALYST: Correct, meaning he would be
committing a felony and the person giving it to him if that person was ever
here in jurisdiction would be committing a felony, as well.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Ron Klain, I just like to set you up to say I agree with Fox
RON KLAIN, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF TO VP BIDEN: I agree with Fox News.
Look, thank you, Lawrence. Look, I think all day long a lot of the
commentary has been around I wouldn`t do this, like it was rude or
impolitic. It`s criminal, what the president is proposing to do is a
crime. It violates 52 USC 30121.
And, you know, between the president of the United States saying, I would
commit a crime to get reelected and now, his adviser Kellyanne Conway
repeatedly violating the Hatch Act, what Donald Trump is running in 2020,
isn`t a campaign. It`s a crime wave.
And Congress has to do something about it. They have to put an end to this
criminal conspiracy at the White House.
O`DONNELL: And you know to, see a day where something we`ve never seen
before, a president of the United States publicly declaring, yes, I would
commit a crime to get re-elected. Attorney general stays silent. FBI
director stays silent even in the face of the Trump insult.
And the highest ranking person on the enforcement side who says anything is
Ellen Weintraub, the chair of the Federal Election Committee, and she cited
the founders on this and actually used some of their language and we got
this yesterday courtesy of Michael Beschloss in a tweet where he wrote that
Adam Jones wrote Thomas Jefferson on December 6th, 1787, about American
elections: you are apprehensive of foreign interference, intrigue and
influence. So am I.
And, Neera, that is who Ellen Weintraub was echoing today.
TANDEN: Absolutely. And this is – this has been an issue that`s not just
our norms. It is the law. It is breaking the law, and it has been
breaking – doing something like this has been breaking the law since our
And I mean – what I find particularly astonishing, I mean, nothing is
fully surprising anymore but that the FBI director who has a unit that has
been focused on this over the last two years just stays silent because he
wants to keep his job or some other self-interested motivation? I mean, I
think that`s what`s happening is that people are deeply fearful that we
have a lawless administration, and it is increasing the pressure on
I think the issue here is really the president himself by basically
announcing that he is willing to partake in a crime I think most Americans
think when you announce, you`re willing to partake in a crime, that is
criminal behavior that should be sanctioned.
O`DONNELL: Ron Klain, we need a normalcy reset from you tonight. I may be
the only one who has your entire endless resume memorized, including your
service in the Justice Department, in of the office of the attorney general
during the Clinton administration.
I want you to imagine, you`re working for the attorney general and the
president of the United States says, I will violate the law to get re-
What do you advise the attorney general to do or say publicly?
KLAIN: Yes, I mean, obviously, any attorney general who respected the
integrity of the office would stand up and make a public statement today
saying that the law is the law. The law will be enforced against all
Americans and that includes the president, includes his family because
let`s remember, it was Donald Trump Jr. who solicited foreign assistance at
the Trump Tower meeting in the 2016 campaign. And that also violates the
same statute Ellen Weintraub referred to earlier.
The fact that our attorney general doesn`t stand up and say that, the fact
as Neera suggested that, the director of the FBI doesn`t stand up and say
that just shows how this president has corrupted federal law enforcement,
as well, or intimidated or installed his you know, people in there. And we
see again and again with the Attorney General Barr, he`s not really acting
as attorney general of the United States. He`s acting as Donald Trump`s
And that – this failing, this failing of our system has really become
pervasive under President Trump. That`s why I think the pressure is on
Congress to initiate impeachment proceedings to try to be the one check we
have in our system against an executive branch that is systematically
undermining the rule of law.
TANDEN: Can I just say one thing about this though. The reason why the
president acts this way honestly, Lawrence, is because he knows the final
jury is actually the Senate and it`s the senators, Republican senators who
are keeping his illegal behavior happening.
O`DONNELL: Neera Tanden gets THE LAST WORD on this segment.
Ron Klain, Neera Tanden, thank you both for joining us tonight. I really
And when we come back, the office in charge of enforcing the Hatch Act told
President Trump today that Kellyanne Conway is a repeat offender. That was
their word, repeat offender and should be fired. We`ll show you the
reporting from this program that was quoted in that report to the
And also tonight, we will be joined by presidential candidate, Senator
Michael Bennet. He is a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee and
he`s one of the candidates who has qualified for the first round of
presidential debates right here on MSNBC, the week after next.
O`DONNELL: Faithful viewers of this program will not be surprised at what
happened to Kellyanne Conway today. It has never happened to anyone else
working in the White House.
For two years, we`ve been reporting on Kellyanne Conway`s public and
willful violations of the Hatch Act. And today, the Office of Special
Counsel which enforces the Hatch Act cited our reporting in its report to
the President, recommending that President Trump fire Kellyanne Conway.
Special Counsel is a permanent office run by a Trump appointee, Republican
Henry Kerner. This office has nothing to do with Robert Mueller`s office,
which is also a Special Counsel`s office established within the Justice
Henry Kerner was counsel to the House Oversight Committee when it was
chaired by Darrell Issa. He was the Staff Director of Investigations for
the House Oversight Committee, one that was chaired by Republican Jason
Henry Kerner`s Washington resume is purely Republican and highly partisan,
and even he could not abide the conduct of Kellyanne Conway. In his letter
to the President, Henry Kerner said, if Ms. Conway were any other federal
employee, her multiple violations of the law would almost certainly result
in removal from her federal position. Ms. Conway is a repeat offender.
Never has the Office of Special Counsel had to issue multiple reports to
the President concerning Hatch Act violations by the same individual.
Never, there has never been a Kellyanne Conway on the federal government
The Special Counsel`s 17-page report begins with a simple sentence that
everyone in the federal government not working in the Trump White House
understands. “The Hatch Act prohibits federal civilian executive branch
employees from using their official authority or influence for the purpose
of interfering with or affecting the result of an election”.
The report specified Kellyanne Conway`s multiple violations of the Hatch
Act on Twitter and on television, in which she criticized the campaigns of
Democratic candidates for President and supported President Trump`s re-
election campaign. The Special Counsel cited our reporting on May 1 of this
year, showing a Hatch Act violation by Kellyanne Conway in the driveway of
the White House. Here`s part of what we reported that night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Here is Kellyanne Conway breaking the law again today.
KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT: Oh, we must be worried about
Biden, look what Kellyanne said about him today. So thanks for the free
commercial about all the things Joe Biden didn`t get done for the eight
years he was Vice President.
O`DONNELL: And she is right, it is a free commercial, and it is an illegal
CONWAY: I do find it fascinating that the former Vice President Joe Biden
said that he asked President Obama not to endorse him, do not endorse me.
But we know he`s open to endorsements, because he got it from the
management of the firefighters. It will be fascinating to watch the other
candidates who are tied with a margin of error in most polls in the
Democrat - I can talk about them too, if you would like, no problem.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Yes problem, very serious problem, it`s the problem of breaking
the law. And here`s how the Special Counsel`s Office described that
violation of the Hatch Act. On May 1, 2019 during an interview in the White
House driveway, Ms. Conway again brought up Mr. Biden unprompted in
segments of the interview that were broadcast by Lawrence O`Donnell, Ms.
Conway said about her prior comments concerning Mr. Biden, so thanks for
the free commercial about all the things Joe Biden didn`t get done for the
eight years he was Vice President.
Ms. Conway also commented that she found it fascinating that Mr. Biden said
he asked former President Obama not to endorse him and that it was also
going to be fascinating to watch the Democratic candidates who were not
doing well in the polls.
On the topic of those Democratic candidates, Ms. Conway dismissively said I
can talk about them too, if you like, no problem. The facts set forth above
show that Ms. Conway engaged in a well established pattern of using her
official authority as a platform to engage in blatantly partisan attacks.
Such political activity in her official capacity constitutes a clear and
continuing violation of the Hatch Act.
The sheer number of occurrences underscores the egregious nature of her
violations. The White House Counsel`s Office wrote an 11-page reply,
defending Kellyanne Conway, by essentially sayings the Hatch Act does not
apply to “the most senior advisers to the President.” The White House
Counsel filled most of their pages with process objections to the way the
Office of the Special Counsel conducted its ongoing investigation of
The White House Counsel dismissed the very concept that the Hatch Act could
be violated on Twitter saying, “The Hatch Act does not specifically address
activities on social media.” That sentence is true.
The Hatch Act does not specifically address social media, because the Hatch
Act was written in 1939. The Hatch Act does not address TV commercials
either because they had not been invented in 1939.
But that doesn`t mean White House staff can appear in campaign commercials
for the President`s re-election, and none ever have. And the White House
Counsel`s Office just made up the idea that senior White House officials
are exempt from the Hatch Act. No one has ever believed that before.
Libel law, by the way, does not specifically mention social medial either,
but you can absolutely libel someone on Twitter right now and every lawyer
in America knows that, and every lawyer in Washington knows that the White
House Counsel wrote a legally empty defense of Kellyanne Conway today.
The Special Counsel`s report began with what Kellyanne Conway said publicly
about her own violations of the Hatch Act. After my many tweets about
Kellyanne Conway`s Hatch Act violations and our reporting on her violations
on the Hatch Act on this program, finally, finally at the end of May this
year, a reporter asked her about her violations of the Hatch Act and her
response became the very first sentence in the Special Counsel`s report.
In a May 29, 2019 interview, Ms. Kellyanne Conway, Counselor to the
President, reportedly scoffed at her responsibilities under the Hatch Act
and ridiculed its enforcement by asserting, let me know when the jail
Her defiant attitude is inimical to the law and her continued pattern of
misconduct is unacceptable. The U.S. Office of Special Counsel calls on
President Donald J. Trump to remove Ms. Conway from her federal position
The White House Counsel`s response to that was, “Ms. Conway`s comment was
taken out of context.” Okay, here`s the context. Here`s what happened,
after a reporter asked Kellyanne Conway in the White House driveway about
violating the Hatch Act. First, she did what she does to most questions,
she ignored it, and did a three minute - full three minute rant against Joe
Biden, ending this way.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CONWAY: Joe Biden, all that is part of his record. I don`t care that he`s
running for President, I could care less. What I care about is people lying
about their records and being hypocrites, and people who are supposed to be
informing the President about such hypocrisy not doing so. If you`re trying
to silence me through the Hatch Act, it`s not going to work.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m not trying to silence you. The Office of Special
Counsel said you violated it.
CONWAY: Let me know when the jail sentence starts.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Should we expect the President - sorry–
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: How is that for context? And then, as usual, another White House
reporter took the pressure off by changing the subject. The Special
Counsel`s report says Ms. Conway`s persistent notorious and deliberate
Hatch Act violations have created an unprecedented challenge to this
Office`s ability to enforce the act.
Ms. Conway defiantly rejected the Hatch Act`s application to her activities
and flippantly stated, let me know when the jail sentence starts. And she
made it clear that she has no plans to cease abusing her official position
to influence voters.
Now, this would be the biggest scandal in most previous White Houses, but
the Special Counsel`s recommendation to fire Kellyanne Conway for violating
the Hatch Act comes the day after the President said that he himself would
violate federal law to win re-election, if a foreign country offered him
information on his re-election campaign opponent.
The President said, I think I`d want to hear it, they have information, I
think I`d take it. Those are his exact words. The President said that the
FBI Director is wrong to say that that is a crime. And so, today, in
perfect symmetry to what the President said yesterday comes the case of
Kellyanne Conway, and the White House says that the Special Counsel is just
wrong about the law, wrong about the Hatch Act, which the Special Counsel
is in charge of enforcing.
It`s all the same story. Every day of the Trump administration is another
piece of the same story, the story that began with Donald Trump`s
inauguration. Today, it was Kellyanne Conway`s turn to play her role in
The Special Counsel summarized Kellyanne Conway`s role in the story of the
Trump Presidency in one perfect sentence today; her actions erode the
principal foundation of our democratic system, the rule of law.
That`s the story. That`s the story of Donald Trump`s Presidency, the
President whose actions erode the principal foundation of our democratic
system, the rule of law.
O`DONNELL: Yesterday, Donald Trump Jr. made a return appearance in a
closed-door session of the Senate Intelligence Committee, the Mueller
report`s evaluation of the meeting Donald Trump Jr. had at Trump Tower
during the Presidential campaign to obtain dirt on Hillary Clinton from
Russians, suggested that everyone in that room might well have been unaware
of the possible violation of law in such a meeting.
But last night, the President of the United States said they would do it
Joining us now is a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Democratic
Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado. He`s also a Presidential candidate.
Senator Bennet, your reaction to the events of the last 24 hours, it was
just last evening that we heard Donald Trump say he would violate that law.
SEN. MICHAEL BENNET (D-CO), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think what you said
at the end of the last segment is exactly where it all comes down to. These
people have no respect for the rule of law, they have no respect for our
democratic institutions, they have no respect for this Republic. I think
this is the most unpatriotic administration we have ever had and it is
They won`t - they`ll go to any length to put themselves above the law.
They`ll attack the FBI, they`ll attack the intelligence agencies, they`ll
rely on Russia before they`ll rely on our own intelligence agencies. It is
- but it`s been consistent since before he won. I mean he was unpatriotic
before he won.
BENNET: This is a guy who attacked–
O`DONNELL: There was no false advertising, except on policy where he said
he was going to solve every problem in America, but–
BENNET: I alone can fix it.
O`DONNELL: –on who the person was there was no false advertising.
BENNET: There was no false advertising. He was clearly a cheater. He
invited the Russians to interfere with our election explicitly, and now
he`s inviting them to do it again. He called - he ran by asserting that
John McCain was a failure for having been in solitary confinement in
Vietnam. This all fits together. It`s like the guy hates America. He
doesn`t love this country.
O`DONNELL: You were in the meeting with Donald Trump Jr. yesterday. What
can you tell us about it? Why was he called back?
BENNET: I can`t say anything about it.
O`DONNELL: Can`t say why–
BENNET: I can`t say what happened.
O`DONNELL: –can`t say anything about it.
Will a transcript eventually emerge from what happened yesterday?
BENNET: I don`t know. But what I do know is the Senate Intelligence
Committee is doing its job looking seriously at Russia`s interference with
our election and it was nontrivial; I can say that.
And the only person in America who seems not to still admit that the
Russians were doing it is Donald Trump. He stood next to Putin and said,
well, Putin tells me that he didn`t do it so he must not have the done it.
No one else believes that`s true. I can tell you that the Republicans on
the Committee don`t believe that`s true.
O`DONNELL: If you are the nominee on the top or the second part of the
Democratic ticket, Donald Trump is saying he will take information that -
any information he can get about you from any foreign government in the
BENNET: Yes. Listen–
O`DONNELL: Especially Norway, I guess he thinks they might have something.
BENNET: Every single western democracy is being attacked by Russia. If you
talked to any ambassador from any country in Europe, they will tell you
that Russia is supporting Far Right Wing parties in their countries that
are seeking to destabilize the democracies themselves. That`s what`s at
And the world needs an American President who will stand up to that, not
endorse it, not ask for the Russian`s help, but that`s what we have. I
don`t know how the guys at Fox live with themselves, with this President
doing things like that, but that`s what he`s doing.
O`DONNELL: The Presidential debates are two weeks from tonight. Actually,
the first one will be two weeks from last night. What are you hoping to
achieve in the debate? You`re going to be one of a lot of people over two
nights. We don`t know how many minutes you`ll end up with in the night
you`re in there. It could be very few.
BENNET: I know, I`ve asked my family not to blink.
O`DONNELL: Yes. What do you–
BENNET: Although I don`t know who they want to watch.
O`DONNELL: Do you have a strategy for somehow grabbing a moment?
BENNET: I think what`s important to me in this moment in American history,
where we have reached the breaking point that we`ve reached, is to have
people that are willing to level with the American people about how screwed
up the system is that we have. We were a mess before Donald Trump got
Mitch McConnell, we were talking about him earlier, Mitch McConnell and the
Freedom Caucus have tyrannized America. They`ve tyrannized the Republican
Party. They have immobilized our exercise in self-government. If that
continues for another decade, my generation is going be the first
generation to leave less opportunity to people that are coming after us,
and we can`t continue on this way. In my judgment–
O`DONNELL: Can you let me squeeze in a break here. We`ll continue.
BENNET: Sure, I`ll be happy to.
O`DONNELL: One of the things I want to ask you when we come back is, what
would you tell former Senator Joe Biden, who worked with a very different
Mitch McConnell back when he was in the Senate, about the Mitch McConnell
you`re - I guess have found you can`t work with? We`re going to be right
back with Senator Michael Bennet, right after this.
BENNET: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: And we`re back with Presidential candidate Senator Michael
Bennet. His new book is “The Land of Flickering Lights: Restoring America
in an Age of Broken Politics.”
And Senator, Joe Biden, I`m not sure if he understands how broken the
politics of the Senate are now, because we`ve heard him make the kinds of
comments that made perfect sense when I was working in the Senate and Joe
Biden was there about how you reach across the aisle and how he believes
he`s going to be able to do that after Donald Trump is gone. Has something
happened there that Joe Biden doesn`t know about?
BENNET: Yes, but he should have understood it because he was Vice President
from 2010 forward. And in 2010, that`s when the Freedom Caucus and the Tea
Party knocked out more mainstream Republicans that you remember working
with. Mike Lee beat Bob Bennett–
BENNET: –you remember that. Then Rand Paul won his race. And then it was
off to the races. And ever since then, we`ve got these climate deniers and
these Freedom Caucus guys, and they will not compromise with anybody.
Mitch McConnell, I write this in the book, Mitch McConnell is impervious,
immune to give and take unless he`s taking everything, which he almost
always is. And that was, frankly, the story of the last six years of the
Obama administration after the Tea Party took over.
They couldn`t get anything through the Congress and the deals that were
cut, like the “fiscal cliff” deal, gave McConnell everything that he
O`DONNE: Okay. So you`re President, how do you deal with a Senate that
still has Mitch McConnell as a leader, if they still–
BENNET: Two choices. So the preference is Mitch McConnell is not the
O`DONNELL: Yes, but if he is.
BENNET: But let me just say that has big implications. How we take the
Senate means we have to win seats in the middle of the country that we`ve
been losing over the last decade. We have to win those seats, I think, with
a unity agenda for Democrats. If he is still a majority leader, we have to
take it to the people. And as you were saying in your earlier segment, you
can`t just ask one question and then ask the next question.
BENNET: We have to stick with it. If the issue is changing the tax code to
make it more fair for people that are working and less generous to capital,
we need to go out to America, we need to tell that story, we need to do the
math and stay with it.
We can`t just lose to McConnell on climate and then lose to McConnell on
judges and then lose to McConnell on the next thing. We have to stick with
a strategy, and frankly, I think that`s how we win the Presidency too, and
that`s how we win a majority in the Senate, which is what we need to do.
O`DONNELL: Not every question in the debates will be about governing
policy. There will be questions about impeachment and things like that,
which are not about what you would do as President. If you can have a
moment in the debate to highlight one, one governing policy that you want
to lead and you want to advance as President of the United States, what
would that be? Would it be in taxation, would it be in climate, where would
it be, would it be in health care?
BENNET: Well, if I could pick two, it would be climate and taxation and
health care. But on taxation, since you ran the Finance Committee once–
O`DONNELL: And you are a member of the Finance Committee now.
BENNET: –and I`m a member of the Committee. The American Family Act, which
I have with Sherrod Brown, which is a dramatic increase in the child tax
credit, so much so that it reduces childhood poverty in this country by
40%, ends $2 a day poverty for children.
O`DONNELL: The child tax credit is literally a check that goes directly to
BENNET: And the way we`ve designed it, it would be on a monthly basis, it
wouldn`t be annual anymore. So families could use it for housing and for
childcare and for college loans, whatever, health care, and that`s what we
should do. And I think we should increase the income tax credit again for
the same reason so that we are rewarding work in this country again.
Right now the tax code is set up to benefit capital. It`s not set up to
benefit work. And when nobody in this country has basically had a pay raise
for 40 years and all the growth has gone to the people at the very top, I
think it has - we`re now at a time when we`ve got to figure out how to
mitigate that problem.
And by the way, when people who are working get a tax benefit like that,
unlike the people at the very top, they actually spend it, which drives
economic growth in our country. By the way, the cost of what I`m suggesting
is far less than Donald Trump`s tax cut for the wealthiest people in
America, and it costs only about 3% of what Medicare For All costs.
O`DONNELL: What would you do about the Trump tariffs?
BENNET: I think the tariffs have been a huge mistake. They`re a tax on our
agricultural producers, they`re a tax on our workers and we should get rid
of them. I think he was right to call the question on China, but he did it
in a way that`s totally counterproductive to the United States. We have the
chance to lead the entire world in a push against China`s mercantilist
policies. We can do that.
Everybody in the world has the same interests that we do, including in the
region around China, in Asia, because people don`t want to be dominated by
China. They don`t want to live in a unipolar world that is dominated by
The only folks that have any disagreement with us are probably North Korea,
Russia and China. That`s an amazingly exciting opportunity for America to
provide leadership for the rest of the world, and I think that`s what we
should be doing.
O`DONNELL: Here`s what I guarantee you about the debates, you will not get
enough time to speak, and that is going to be true of every candidate in
BENNET: I believe it.
O`DONNELL: So we will be here after the debates. You can always come back
and finish your sentences here.
BENNET: If you let me come back - you don`t have the questions, do you?
O`DONNELL: No, I don`t have the questions. But–
BENNET: I`ll come back.
O`DONNELL: –you can finish your points here. Senator Bennet–
BENNET: Thank you, thanks for having me, Lawrence, I appreciate it.
O`DONNEL: – thank you very much for joining us, really appreciate it.
Senator Bennet gets tonight`s LAST WORD. “THE 11TH HOUR” with Brian
Williams starts now.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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Copyright 2019 ASC Services II Media, LLC. All materials herein are
protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced,
distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the
prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter
or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the