Amy Klobuchar interview. TRANSCRIPT: 8/1/19, The Last Word w/ Lawrence O’Donnell.
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Joy. Thank you very much.
JOY REID, MSNBC HOST: Thank you. Have a great show.
O`DONNELL: Well, we have some sad news tonight from Hyannis Port from the
Kennedy family, and that is the 22-year-old granddaughter of Robert Kennedy
and Ethel Kennedy has died.
“The New York Times” is reporting that it is an apparent drug overdose. We
will get more for you on the information as it develops tonight. But that
is once again another tragic death announcement tonight by the Kennedy
family in Hyannis Port. As soon as we can bring you more information on
that, we will bring it during this hour.
But we will go on now to the news of the week in the presidential campaign,
beginning with a very simple fact. Presidents don`t debate. But
presidential candidates have to debate in order to win the presidency, a
job where they then will not have to debate.
Most American presidents have been elected without ever debating. Debates
do not actually test the skills necessary to be president. And most of the
political news media does not seem to realize that. And I will have much
more to say about that at the end of this hour. And about how we can
improve debates and the work that you actually have to do as a viewer and
voter when you are watching the debates.
It shouldn`t be a passive exercise. You should be listening and thinking
and ignoring much of what happens in presidential debates, especially the
games sometimes played by some of the moderators. And this week, the
moderators` game, which was probably urged on them by their bosses, was to
trap the candidates into fighting with each other. Trap Democrats into
fighting with Democrats.
One candidate refused to do that. Even when specifically invited by the
moderator to attack a specific candidate, with one candidate refused to
play that game. One candidate rose above the CNN game and never criticized
another candidate on that stage.
The candidate who wouldn`t play the game, the candidate who only attacked
Donald Trump in the debates, will be our first guest tonight. That
candidate went from the debate stage to fighting Mitch McConnell on the
Senate floor today, on the last day of work in the Senate before the August
In the week since Joe Scarborough started Mitch McConnell “Moscow Mitch”,
that label has stuck and is now being used by Democrats in Kentucky in a
way that has Mitch McConnell worried about his re-election campaign in
Kentucky. Senator McConnell got stuck with the label Moscow Mitch when he
chose to repeatedly block legislation designed to strengthen our election
system against another attack by the Russian government.
Mitch McConnell says the legislation is partisan, and that`s why he blocked
it. But that is not true. One of the bills Mitch McConnell blocked was
written by a Democrat and a Republican. It has bipartisan support.
The Democrat who wrote that bill along with Oklahoma Republican Senator
James Lankford knows how and when to work in a bipartisan way in the United
States Senate. But this week on the presidential debate stage, that
senator was the most partisan Democrat in the debates because that senator
refused to criticize any Democrats and only attacked Donald Trump.
And here is that senator, on the Senate floor today going after Mitch
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We are about to adjourn
this day without passing election security legislation. We have bipartisan
election security legislation. We`ve had that for years. And yet it has
been stopped every step of the way.
Last week, my bill was offered by senator Schumer on the floor. It could
have gone to the president`s desk that day. Instead, Leader McConnell
objected. During his objection he said that election legislation must be
drafted with great care and on a bipartisan basis.
We did that. Senator Warner is here. He worked on it. We did that with
Senator Lankford, but we were blocked at the rules committee. We were
blocked. That`s a documented fact.
The markup had been scheduled. It was ready to go. Senator Blunt had been
willing to mold a markup on the bill. And it was stopped.
I am going to tell that story every day until we advance this. I have an
opportunity to do that. And I`m going to do it because people need to know
what`s going on.
This should not be – this should not be about partisanship or what
benefits what party. You think that`s what the founders were thinking when
they decided to declare independence from a foreign country? They were
thinking of our country as one.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: And here is a sample of Amy Klobuchar on the presidential
debate stage trying to advance her candidacy without ever attacking another
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KLOBUCHAR: I have bold ideas but they are grounded in reality. And, yes,
I will make some simple promises. I can win this. I`m from the Midwest
and I have run every race, every place, every time, and I will govern with
integrity – the integrity worthy of the extraordinary people of this
So this is what I think we need to get done. We need the public option.
That`s what Barack Obama wanted and it would bring health care costs down
People can`t wait. I`ve got my friend Nicole out there whose son was
actually died trying to ration his insulin as a restaurant manager and he
died because he didn`t have enough money to pay for it.
MODERATOR: Senator –
KLOBUCHAR: Bernie and I worked on pharmaceutical issues together.
MODERATOR: Thank you, Senator.
KLOBUCHAR: What`s missing is the right person in the White House.
Donald Trump wants to use the people as political pawns.
MODERATOR: Thank you.
KLOBUCHAR: I was just in Flint. And they are still drinking bottled water
in that town. And that is outrageous. But I don`t think anyone can
justify what this president is doing.
Little kids literally woke up this weekend turned on the TV and saw their
president calling their city the town of Baltimore, nothing more than a
home for rats. And I can tell you as your president, that will stop.
When he was just with Vladimir Putin at the G-20, when he was asked about
invading our democracy, he made a joke.
We need someone that has people`s back. We also need someone that can win.
And I have won in these red districts. I win in the Midwest. I can win in
states like Wisconsin and Michigan, and Iowa. And, last, yes, I will
govern with integrity.
We have a president where people turn off their TV when they see him. Not
me. I will make you proud as your president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: And then there was this moment when Amy Klobuchar was
specifically invited to attack her competitors for the Democratic
presidential nomination. And she would not do it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DEBATE MODERATOR: You have said when asked about your primary opponents,
quote a lot of people are making promises and I`m not making promises just
to get elected. Who on the stage is making promises just to get elected?
KLOBUCHAR: Everyone wants to get elected but my point is this. I think
when we have a guy in the White House that has told over 10,000 lies that
we better be very straightforward with the American people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Leading off our discussion tonight is Democratic Senator Amy
Klobuchar of Minnesota. She`s a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee
and candidate for president.
Senator, thank you very much for joining us tonight. I really appreciate
KLOBUCHAR: Thanks, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: And I just want to switch gears for a moment on this breaking
news that we`re getting from Hyannis Port. You worked with Ted Kennedy in
the Senate and now one of his nieces reportedly died today, the news
released by the family in Hyannis Port, possibly from drug overdose. I
wanted your reaction to that.
KLOBUCHAR: Well, you just think of the tragedy that has hit this family.
And it`s just one thing after another. Obviously, we think of them today.
But this problem of drug overdoses is happening all over this country right
now. And certainly we know it here with Prince in Minnesota, but it`s not
just famous people. It`s everyday people.
I talked about little Casey Jo, a champion swimmer at the end of the
debate, who went into the emergency room and got hooked. And her last
words to her mom was: mama, it`s not my fault, and she later died.
This is happening because we have a lot of politicians talking about it.
But just as I said in the debate, to be straightforward, these companies if
it was opioids I don`t know what happened in this tragic case, but if it
was opioids, we know what happened here.
The market was flooded by pharma companies. People turned to opioids and
they turned illegal drugs and they started taking the drugs and they`re
dying. And those pharma companies had better be held responsible.
It`s one of the reasons I came out with a full plan for mental health and
addiction, given my own family history with my dad who had drunk driving
convictions and finally got treatment. In his words he was pursued by
grace and it changed his whole life. I think everyone has that same right.
So, whenever I hear these stories – and again, we don`t know exactly what
happened – whether they are in famous families or not, it makes me think
about that we could be doing a better job as a country getting people into
treatment, removing the stigma and then making sure that the people this
that are responsible for this which has been the drug companies are paying
O`DONNELL: Senator, I want to talk about the debate and make sure we
reserve enough time to talk about what you were trying to achieve on the
Senate floor today.
To the debate, why didn`t you do it? CNN wanted you to attack your
competitors on that stage. They wanted you to – if you felt like it, to
reach over and attack competitors on the other stages that you weren`t even
on. But they really, really wanted you to do that.
Why didn`t you do it?
KLOBUCHAR: Yes, because I don`t think this is a sporting event. I think
there is more that unites our party than divides us. I do think we will
have, as you have seen, legitimate discussions. I disagree with some of my
colleagues and made that clear and continue to have disagreements on policy
and make that clear, because I want to make the case I`m the best
But we`ve got to use these debates, Lawrence, as a moment to take it to
Donald Trump because there are not just base Democrats watching those
debates. There is independent. There`s moderate Republican. So, there is
the general election issue.
But there`s also the fact that I still believe that people want to hear
from us about what differentiates us, what`s the contrast, what`s our own
optimistic economic agenda. And if you spend the whole time just cutting
down your opponent, just to get that viral moment, then what have we done?
We don`t win and we don`t do better for this country.
And so, it`s just a fundamental belief of mine that maybe I won`t have that
viral moment or maybe I will. I had one once in the Kavanaugh hearing just
because I did my job. And that`s what I`m not looking for it by going
after my opponents by saying mean things. I just don`t think that`s how do
Now, some people think this is a test for how you can take on Donald Trump.
As I said at that debate, one of my opponents once in a debate, Republican,
said to me you`re nothing but a street fighter from the iron range. And I
said thank you.
And you can show your tough enough to take on Donald Trump without doing it
against fellow Democrats.
O`DONNELL: Well, is it one way to do it the which you did it in the debate
which is you show how you are taking on Donald Trump but actually taking on
Donald Trump during the debate?
KLOBUCHAR: Yes. Well, that does seem to me to be a good idea. My
favorite moment for me was when he called me snow woman after my
announcement in the blizzard and I had taken on climate change, and then he
made fun of me for doing that in snow.
And so, then, I wrote back to him, I sent out a tweet and said the science
is on my side I`m climate change, Donald Trump and I`d love to see how your
hair would fair in blizzard.
And so, I just think there are many ways to take this guy on, but you`ve
got to show the absurdity of what he has done. And one of those is what we
were talking about today on the Senate floor. And that is he gut punched
us on the election bill last year.
Senator Lankford and myself and Senator Burr was on the bill, Warner. And,
basically, the administration made calls directly, Don McGahn, the White
House counsel, and stopped the bill. They called Republicans.
O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to what the president said today about Russian
interference in the election since this is so relevant to what you were
fighting for in the Senate floor today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Robert Mueller said last week that Russia is interfering in U.S.
elections right now. Did you raise that with Vladimir Putin yesterday?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You don`t really believe
this. Do you believe this now? OK.
REPORTER: He said it last week. Did you raise that with President Putin
TRUMP: OK, fine, we didn`t talk about that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: So, there is the president of the United States saying in
effect, he doesn`t believe that Russian – Russia interfered with the
election or Russia plans to interfere with the election when he is
confronted with that by Robert Mueller`s testimony through a reporter he
says you don`t really believe this.
KLOBUCHAR: Yes, same old thing. Robert Mueller said it under oath that
the Russians are doing it as we speak. Trump`s own FBI director
Christopher Wray under my questioning and others just last week said the
same thing. His own intelligence Director Dan Coates who is now sadly
resigning said that they are getting bolder.
So, it is undeniable that this is happening. They`ve done it through
hacking and done it through dirty propaganda online. And both of these
things we could take steps to decrease the possibility of in happening.
As I said today, this is about our democracy. Hundreds of thousands of
people lost lives on battlefields to protect our right to vote in our
democracy. Four little girls lost life in a church in Birmingham at the
height of the civil rights movement because we stood up for our democracy.
So, for this guy to make jokes about it all the time it`s unpatriotic and
And this can`t wait for a new president, Lawrence. There are 11 states
that don`t have backup paper ballots. Anything we can do to get the backup
paper ballots. Some of them are partial, some don`t have it at all,
because otherwise, we could have a presidential election and not know the
And the second thing is making the social media companies tell us where the
ads are coming from and who is paying for them so that we can have a fair
election. Four billion, three to four billion is going to be spent. Your
network when you run ads, you`ve got to say who is paying for those ads and
what they are. Not true of Facebook or Google or Twitter or any of those
companies. And their volunteer measures don`t measure up to what you have
to do on network TV or radio.
O`DONNELL: Senator, I know we are not hearing the name Moscow Mitch on the
Senate floor. Senate rules and customs don`t allow that and senators don`t
want to talk that way about each other no matter how bad it gets. But the
name does seem to be sticking, and it does seem to be sticking in politics
in Kentucky, to the point where there are now reports indicating that maybe
Mitch McConnell will want to negotiate something with Amy Klobuchar when he
gets back from the August recess.
KLOBUCHAR: Well, right now, Senator Lankford and I – and that actually
was our bill that we did last year hasn`t been reintroduced because we
continue to negotiate it. The other – the bills that were blocked was a
bill I was leading with Senator Warner and others. And then Senator Wyden
and I have a bill.
But what this bill does it requires backup paper ballots if you take out
federal money for election that would move the states to know that`s what
they have to do. And it has audit provisions. Senator Lankford and I
talked today. We`re continuing to negotiate. My hope is that over the
august break as long as your viewers keep calling and demanding this and
using whatever names they want, that maybe we can actually get this done.
O`DONNELL: Senator, I`m kind of speechless about what I saw happen in the
Senate Judiciary Committee today because I`ve never seen anything like it.
I know you`ve never seen anything like it.
It was a markup of a bill in that process in which the committee votes on a
bill. Whenever that happens, both sides get to speak about it at minimum
speak about it before there is a vote. Usually they get to amend it or
offer amendments before there is a vote. Lindsey Graham just convened the
committee and basically said let`s vote. Shocked Pat Leahy who had 40
years of service in the Senate, couldn`t believe what he was saying.
What was your experience of what happened on your committee today?
KLOBUCHAR: Yes, I was there for the entire hearing. And it was one of the
saddest things I`d ever seen. Senator Graham as we pointed out worked with
us on that initial immigration bill when President Bush was in, valiantly
we tried to get that done. He then supported the bill in 2013
And now, he has just gone when it comes to this issue the full Trump
because what`s happened here is we would like to work with him on the issue
of seeking asylum in those home countries of the Northern Triangle. But
instead, he has put a bill forward we have some issues with and instead of
just working with us, he rammed it through without amendment.
I had some great amendments on temporary status people that are here,
domestic violence victims, and we weren`t able to offer any amendments. He
– I think he broke four rules just to get it through the committee on a
partisan vote. And the despite how vitriolic the immigration is right now,
there are people of goodwill that worked together on this in the Senate in
the past and want to in the future.
And that`s why this was such a sad moment. The bill I suppose is now
headed to the floor.
O`DONNELL: Senator Amy Klobuchar, thank you very much for joining us
tonight. I really appreciate it.
KLOBUCHAR: Well, thank you. Thank you, Lawrence. It`s great to be on.
O`DONNELL: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: And when we come back, we`re going to have more on tonight`s
breaking news from the Kennedy family in Hyannis Port, another tragic death
in the Kennedy family, the 22-year-old granddaughter of Robert Kennedy and
Ethel Kennedy died today. We will have more on that.
And more Democrats now declaring they support impeachment, including one of
the most senior Democrats in the House, a chairman of a very important
committee now supporting impeachment.
He will join us.
O`DONNELL: Back to breaking news tonight. Saoirse Kennedy Hill, a
granddaughter of Robert F. Kennedy and Ethel Kennedy died this afternoon
after suffering an apparent overdose at the Kennedy compound in Hyannis
Port, Massachusetts, according to two people close to the family who spoke
to “The New York Times.”
Saoirse Kennedy Hill was the daughter of Courtney Kennedy Hill and
granddaughter of Ethel Kennedy. She was 22 years old.
The family released a statement today including this quote from Ethel
Kennedy, saying, the world is a little less beautiful today.
We are joined now by Anne Thompson of NBC News joining us by phone from
Anne, what do we know at this point?
ANNE THOMPSON, NBC NEWS (via telephone): Lawrence, we know that this
afternoon, emergency responders were called to Robert Kennedy – the home
on the Kennedy compound that belonged to the former and late Senator Robert
Kennedy. And they were responding to an apparent overdose.
We know tonight that the person who they treated was 22-year-old Saoirse
Kennedy Hill. What`s interesting about Saoirse is that she has spoken
about her struggles with mental illness when she was at Deerfield Academy.
And she was just 16. She wrote about the struggles, saying she fought with
depression and suffered what we she called bouts of deep sadness that felt
like a heavy boulder on her chest.
And she also revealed in the newspaper article for the student newspaper
Deerfield Academy that she had once tried to commit suicide after being
sexually assaulted. She said she did the worst thing a victim could do and
pretended that it hadn`t happened. And it all – this all became too much
and I attempted to take my own life.
But in this article, she felt she had overcome those issues. She said we
are all either struggling or know someone who is battles an illness, so
let`s come together to make our community inclusive and comfortable. But
as far as beyond the fact that she died in afternoon and that this is a
family that is absolutely heartbroken at her passing, the specific
circumstances of her death have not been made public at this time.
O`DONNELL: And, Anne, this family has suffered so greatly through each
generation. The earlier generation of cousins has gone through similar
kinds of suffering. So this is a family that has tragically found itself
in this situation before.
THOMPSON: Well, just think – this is the second – Ethel Kennedy lost her
son David to a drug overdose in the 1980s. We don`t know again if this is
an overdose. It would be – this would be her grandchild that she lost to
the same sort of illness.
Patrick Kennedy, the former congressman has been public about his struggles
with mental health, with mental illness. And so, this is a big, large
family that deals with a lot of the same problems that many American
families deal with on a constant basis. But in this case, I mean this is
now, you know, another Kennedy, another Kennedy who has gone at an age that
seems far too young.
O`DONNELL: Anne Thompson, thank you very much for joining us tonight. I
really appreciate it.
THOMPSON: You`re welcome, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: We`ll be right back.
O`DONNELL: Most members of the political news media are sports fans and
most of them think politics is sport, and most of them cover it as a sport,
a heavyweight championship fight. So candidates know they will be scored by
TV pundits on punches thrown. So punches are thrown.
But it doesn`t have to be this way. It is possible to campaign without
attacking your competitors. Amy Klobuchar showed that in her debate
performance. It is possible to campaign for office without ever mentioning
I worked for United States Senator who was repeatedly reelected in the
State of New York with two-thirds of the vote, simply by talking about what
he had done as a Senator and what he would continue to do and never
mentioning his opponents.
Presidential races are different, of course they are, and the competition
is much more intense than the Senate race, of course and it can feel much
more personal. One of the ways of competing on a presidential debate stage
is simply making the very best case for yourself without trying to tear
someone else down at the same time. The sports model for that could be home
What if each Democrat on the stage treated the competition like home run
derby instead of a boxing match, and when each one of them got up to bat,
they tried to do their very best. Make their best case for themselves, just
hit good solid clean home runs.
Here are the competitors in this year`s home run derby. They are all fierce
competitors. They were each trying to beat the other but only by doing
their own personal best. Politicians could learn a lot from them.
Joining us now is Waleed Shahid. He is a Spokesperson for Justice Democrats
and former senior aide to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. He is a former delegate
for Bernie Sanders in the 2016 presidential campaign and he is currently
not affiliated with a 2020 presidential campaign.
Also with us Ron Klain, he was a senior aide to Vice President Joe Biden
and President Obama. He`s also was an advisor - he is now an Advisor to Joe
Biden`s 2020 presidential campaign.
And Ron, I was just learning that in my teleprompter, so if it`s present
tense now that you are formally advising the Biden campaign.
RON KLAIN, ADVISOR TO JOE BIDEN`S 2020 PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN: I am, yes
O`DONNELL: So give us give us your reaction to what you saw on that debate
stage last night.
KLAIN: Look, I think you saw on the one hand the candidates did make a
powerful case against Donald Trump. And I thought you know Vice President
Biden took it to Trump in his opening statement. Senator Gillibrand had her
famous line about Cloroxing Oval Office. Governor Inslee called him a white
If you certainly watched that debate, you saw that candidates taking to
Donald Trump. But you also saw seven candidates individually attack the
Vice-President. And so part of that debate was him dealing with those
attacks, responding to those attacks. Making points about his opponents
records. That is part of the debate process and I think you saw both those
things happening last night.
O`DONNELL: And Waleed, what did you see up there?
WALEED SHAHID, SPOKESPERSON JUSTICE DEMOCRATS: Well I saw candidates making
a case for a different–
O`DONNELL: By the way, feel free. We haven`t done a show since Monday. Feel
free to reach back into Tuesday night, the first debate, where Bernie
sanders was up.
SHAHID: Yes. Also in that debate I thought we saw a really substantive
discussion about the role of government and the Democratic Party. The role
of government in America. I mean, it`s a tectonic shift from where the
Democratic Party was in the 1990s with Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders
trying to make government work again.
I mean, it`s not that long ago that Bill Clinton said the era of big
government is over. And now era of big government is back in the Democratic
Party. They`re both kind of rekindling the spirit of the New Deal, the
I think in terms of your baseball metaphor, I mean, they have to be able to
draw contrast with other candidates, so I think that`s a lot of what
they`re doing. There`s been a lot of talk today about how Obama - President
Obama was attacked last night over immigration, which I think is a little
over saying it.
I mean, I think what actually happened is a reflection on mistakes
Democrats made in the first term of the President regarding immigration and
deportation. I mean, the first person who will tell you they disagreed with
Obama`s immigration policy is Obama himself, because he created new
policies to actually provide relief to Dreamers.
So I think it`s going a little too sensitive about the robust discussion
that`s happening. Tension can produce growth. 2008, I mean, people forget
that that got pretty heated as well.
O`DONNELL: Yes. And I agree with Waleed on that. Ron, I think, this word
attack gets used too much. What I`m watching is a variation on the kind of
debate you see unfold within the Democratic Party for decades on the Senate
floor, for example, where we`ve both worked.
On any given issue and there`s a range of opinion. Usually the party is
unified in the direction like we want to provide more access to health care
for more people and then you get into this debate, argument within the
Committees and then on the Senate floor about what are the right methods
for doing that.
And as you go through that debate, certain things get thrown out in order
to clear a vote hurdle. Like with Obamacare, when they just dropped the
public option, because they knew they couldn`t get it through the House of
Representatives. So for me there`s something very familiar about all of
this that I don`t think of as attack.
KLAIN: Yes. Look, I think, the discussion that went on in health care, both
nights, I think was a robust and interesting discussion. And to go to back
to Waleed`s point. I think one interesting thing is, if you take kind of
what the left side of that debate was and the more moderate side of that
Both positions - the whole range of positions is significantly more
progressive than where we were just - eight - seven or eight years ago as a
party with the kind of the public option now being a starting point for
people like Vice President Biden and Senator Bennet and others. And
obviously, Senator Warren, Senator Sanders for Medicare for All, Senator
Harris for some hybrid plan.
But I think what you are saying is kind of like what you said, Lawrence, a
discussion about the policy stuff. I think that`s very, very healthy. I
think when it stays away from people attacking each other`s motives, when
it stays away from people attacking each other`s - Senator Gillibrand went
after an Op-Ed Vice President Biden wrote 38 years ago, I don`t think
that`s as healthy, OK. I don`t think that`s what the Democrats want to see.
But I think having a robust debate among these candidates about the
different ways to meet the shared Democratic goal of expanding healthcare
in our country, I think, that`s a that`s a healthy conversation, one we
have to have.
O`DONNELL: The - when I when I look back at the Reagan presidency and how
Ronald Reagan in his road to the presidency, Democrat, Republicans never
attacked him for having been a Democrat - a Democrat a couple of decades
earlier, because they care about where you are today and that`s part of the
key to the Trump candidacy.
All they had to do was here that he was going to accept Mitch McConnell`s
Supreme Court justices during the campaign and they didn`t care what his
previous position on abortion was or any previous position he ever had. Is
there a lesson in that present tense campaigning of Republicans - for
SHAHID: I don`t know. I think like as a Millennial, I like look at the
presidential stage and I see candidates who`ve made decisions that really
impacted my life from voting for the war in Iraq or voting for deregulating
Or overseeing the - most carbon emissions that we`ve seen in this country
have come in the last 30 years. And so I think a lot of the anger is being
driven by young people who`ve seen politicians not really solve systemic
crises in our country, and that`s why I think you`re seeing people like
Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders really propose solutions that solve
these crises and actually are the goal themselves rather than just getting
to the goal.
O`DONNELL: Why aren`t you supporting Bernie Sanders this time?
SHAHID: Well, I think, right now we`ve had a lot of supporters that are
split between candidates. We`ll follow what our supporters want, so we have
a lot of supporters who support Bernie.
O`DONNELL: Also your organization, you`re staying out of it because your
organization hasn`t chosen him candidate.
O`DONNELL: Yes. OK. I got it. Ron, what about that the way in which
Republicans seem to be very willing to forgive and forget anything you`ve
done before today, because what they care about as voters and as candidates
is what are you going to do tomorrow.
KLAIN: Well look I do think the centerpiece of these conversations should
be about what these Democrats are proposing to do tomorrow. What`s
realistic, what can get done, what can actually make people`s lives better.
I think Vice President Biden was talking about that. Last time we talked
about his health care plan and how he would expand coverage. So I think
that`s a positive direction. Hopefully, we`ll see more of that in the
O`DONNELL: OK. Ron, Joe Biden aside, in the two nights, just give me just
give me one name on who you think did the best on each of those two nights,
without including Joe Biden.
KLAIN: Its hard question Lawrence. I actually think Andrew Yang was kind of
like a surprise breakout star. I thought he did a really good job of
raising issues the other candidates aren`t really talking about.
O`DONNELL: All right. We`re going to leave it there. Waleed Shahid, Ron
Klain, thank you both for joining us.
When we come back the Russians have decided who they do not want to be the
Democratic presidential nominee or at least one of the people they don`t
want to be the Democratic presidential nominee. I`m sure there`s lot of
them that they are afraid of. We will get to that.
And more Democrats in the House are coming out in favor of impeachment,
including the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the House Eliot
Engel. Chairman Engel will join us.
O`DONNELL: Since Robert Mueller`s testimony to the House, 24 Democrats in
the House have announced they back impeachment. And today the number of
House Democrats supporting impeachment rose to just one vote shy of the of
a majority of the Democratic caucus itself.
According to the NBC News count 117 Democrats and one independent, a former
Republican, have declared support for impeachment. Well more than halfway
to the 218 votes it would be necessary to vote for impeachment in the House
Joining us now is the Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee,
Democratic Congressman Eliot Engel. Mr. Chairman thank you very much for
joining us tonight.
REP. ELIOT ENGEL (D-NY): Thank you, it`s a pleasure to be here.
O`DONNELL: So have now you - you represent New York City. You have now come
out in favor of impeachment. Your fellow Chairman Jerry Nadler represents
another part of New York City. He will be in charge of impeachment if it
happens. What brought you to this decision?
ENGEL: Well, first of all we certainly watched the hearings. Two of our
Committees, of course, had Mr. Mueller there, and we`ve had the opportunity
to read Mueller`s report and conclusion. And I`ve come to the conclusion
that this needs an impeachment inquiry.
I mean, it`s not something I relish. It`s very, very difficult, but if we
do nothing, then we encourage this kind of behavior not only now but for
all future Presidents as well. So Mueller also said that he could not
impeach the President–
O`DONNELL: Indict the President.
ENGEL: Indict the President, sorry. He could not indict the President,
because as the sitting President cannot be indicted. He said it would be
possible after he would leave office. So it falls to us. It falls to the
We`re duly elected. I was sworn to uphold the Constitution. And I don`t
take it very lightly. I fact, I agonized over it, which is why I didn`t do
it weeks or months ago.
O`DONNELL: Did the Clinton impeachment process that you were there in the
House for that. Is that part of what has slowed you down in - or made use
as careful as you`ve been in reaching this decision I should say.
ENGEL: I think it played a role. I wouldn`t say it played a major role. But
last time it really just brought the country into a really difficult
position. But, Lawrence, what choice do we really have? We have an
obligation and we have to fulfill that obligation. I think to do anything
less would be really not doing our duties.
We would hold it - we know the Senate has a majority and so the chance of
getting a conviction - you can get an impeachment, but not a conviction is
nil. But that doesn`t matter. Because I think the Constitution works and we
really have to do our job.
I mean, we are talking about Russian interference in the United States
election. And we are talking about collusion with the Trump campaign. I
mean, what can be more important than a democracy hanging in the balance.
The President takes it quite cavalierly. He thinks it`s not a big deal. But
nothing is a big deal to him. This is our very, very democracy hanging in
the balance. And I don`t want to get melodramatic.
But the fact of the matter is we have a responsibility and I think you`re
going to see the House take that responsibility.
O`DONNELL: We saw the President today - a video was showed earlier in the
hour - asked by a reporter about Robert Mueller saying that the Russians
attacked the election that they will continue to try to attack the election
and did you mention that to Vladimir Putin?
And the President said to the reporter, “You don`t believe that, do you?”
In other words there`s the President saying publicly, he doesn`t believe
now. He`s saying now. I don`t believe that the Russians attacked our
ENGEL: Well, I think he have to be naive or I don`t know what to, to not
believe it. It`s there. And then there are other things. The Speaker has
designated six of us, who are Chairs, to continue investigations.
And we still don`t know what happened when Putin met Trump in Helsinki that
time. Trump seems to have this this this wonderful feeling towards the
dictators and despots. I don`t know what the attraction is. But people want
to know what happened. I want to know what happened.
O`DONNELL: And that`s part of your investigation.
O`DONNELL: Chairman Engel, thank you very much for joining tonight. We
really appreciate it.
ENGEL: My pleasure.
O`DONNELL: Thanks for coming here. Appreciate it.
And when we come back, we will discuss how to improve presidential campaign
debates. They can`t get much worse. Improving them is not that difficult.
That`ll be tonight`s LAST WORD.
O`DONNELL: In all of the TV analysis of last night`s debate, including my
own analysis, I have yet to hear one word about which candidate was
revealed to be the best possible future President of the United States,
that`s not the way we in the media usually analyze debates.
We cover them like sporting events - winners, losers, home runs,
strikeouts, zingers, knockout punches, the line of the night. We try to
guess which candidates impress the TV audience the most and we are always
guessing about that, although we rarely label our statements as the pure
guesses that they are.
We evaluate debating skills and that`s the problem with debates - coverage
of debates. Presidents don`t debate. Presidents don`t have to think on
their feet. Presidents never have to make a decision alone without advisors
who have much more experience on every subject than the President does.
And so the debates do not test the skills necessary to do the job of
President well. It`s a job that you never get to see the President do,
because the real work of the presidency is done behind the closed door of
the Oval Office or the closed door of the cabinet room or the Situation
Room or on Air Force One.
The real work of the presidency is making decisions after being
sufficiently briefed on the subject by people who have been working on that
subject for their entire careers and know the subject way better than the
President ever will. The President doesn`t have to sit there on his own
trying to think of every relevant fact about a particular policy in 30
seconds, never. That`s not the job.
I personally have seen only one President doing the job of the presidency,
and that`s because when Bill Clinton was President, I was the Chief of
Staff of the Senate Finance Committee and most of the President`s agenda
had to come through my Committee.
And so the Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee Daniel Patrick Moynihan
and I were repeatedly in meetings with the President in the Oval Office
with the door closed and in the Cabinet Room with the door closed.
And in those rooms in every meeting I was in the President of the United
States had less to say than anyone else in the room. And in the meetings I
was in, the President of the United States knew less about the subject than
anyone else in the room. And Bill Clinton was as steeped in policy detail
as any president we`ve ever had.
President Clinton was better educated than most of the people in the room.
He was probably smarter than most of the people in the room, but he was not
more informed than most of the people in the room, because he was the
The president has jurisdiction over all of the policy territory of the
federal government, all of it, from domestic policy to foreign policy and
experts in the room usually are only very high informed about their - that
one subject, taxation or national defense.
In most presidential meetings, the President does not have to make a
decision. He simply listens to what the policy experts have to say and what
the congressional players have to say about how many votes, the different
policy approaches can get in the Senate and the House.
And the President usually decides later, sometimes much later, after
conferring with his own advisors about which policy approach to support. I
actually saw President Clinton make governing decisions a few times, right
there in the meeting, but that was very rare. And he took his time when he
did that, when he made those decisions sitting in the room with us. And
there was no 60-second time limit on his decision making.
And so if we want debates to more realistically show what a candidate might
be like as President, there should be ten people on the stage, but only two
candidates. And each candidate should have five advisers on different
policy arenas sitting right behind them, exactly the way all cabinet
members do when they testify to Congress.
And those advisers should be able to pass notes to the candidate, the way
they pass notes to cabinet members when they are testifying. And we should
give the candidates the questions in advance so that we can get their best,
most thoughtful answers, answers that they arrive at with the help of their
advisers exactly the way they would, responsibly do their job as President
of the United States.
Now, I know how heretical that sounds. But a few elections ago, in a
private conversation with a member of the Presidential Debate Commission,
who I knew, I very tentatively brought up what I thought would be the
craziest idea he had ever heard, giving the candidates the questions in
And to my surprise and delight, he said he had recently decided that was a
good idea, even before I mentioned it to him. And that was because he knows
what the job of the presidency actually is.
But it`s not going to happen. We`re going to continue to have TV debates
that serve the purposes of TV, especially commercial TV, rather than the
interests of voters. And so your job as a voter when you watch the debates
is to try to think beyond the sound bite and figure out what, if anything,
in the debate actually matters in your choice of candidate.
And don`t be surprised if there is nothing in the debate that helps you
make up your hind. Because the debates are not designed for you, the
debates are not designed to enlighten us about how can best do the job of
the presidency, because the debates have absolutely nothing to do with the
job of President of the Untied States.
That is tonight`s LAST WORD. “THE 11TH HOUR” with Brian Williams starts
BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC ANCHOR: Tonight, the President dismisses the warning
from Mueller that Russia is interfering in our elections and so he says, he
didn`t raise it while on phone with Putin.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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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