Interview with Michael Bennet (D-CO). TRANSCRIPT: 6/13/19 The Last Word w/ Lawrence O’Donnell.

Guests:
Dan Kildee, Evan McMullin, Neera Tanden, Ron Klain, Michael Bennet
Transcript:

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

come back. 

 

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.

 

O`DONNELL:  Yes.

 

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

America`s. 

 

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

it. 

 

(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

for president. 

 

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

comment. 

 

(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

all connected. 

 

(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

crimes. 

 

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

pursuing impeachment. 

 

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

themselves. 

 

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. 

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

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

campaign help. 

 

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

the information. 

 

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

News. 

 

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

founding. 

 

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

impeachment. 

 

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-

elected. 

 

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

attorney. 

 

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

appreciate it. 

 

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

president. 

 

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. 

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

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

Department.

 

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

Chaffetz.

 

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

payroll before.

 

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

free commercial.

 

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

Kellyanne Conway.

 

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

sentence starts.

 

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

immediately.

 

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

that story.

 

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.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

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

again.

 

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

staggering.

 

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.

 

O`DONNELL: Yes.

 

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.

 

(CROSSTALK)

 

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

world.

 

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

stake here.

 

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.

 

(LAUGHTER)

 

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

there.

 

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.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

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–

 

O`DONNELL: Yes.

 

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

wanted.

 

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

leader.

 

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.

 

O`DONNELL: Yes.

 

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

people.

 

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

China.

 

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

the debates.

 

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

BE UPDATED.

END   

 

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