Politics of running on impeachment. TRANSCRIPT: 9/12/19, The Last Word w/ Lawrence O’Donnell.

Mark Zandi, Rachel Bitecofer, John Autry, David Jolly, Claire McCaskill, Amy Klobuchar

LAWRENCE O’DONNELL, MSNBC HOST:  Good evening, Rachel.   Thank you very



RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST:  You’re welcome. 


O’DONNELL:  Well, for the history books, Thursday, September 12th, 2019,

will be the day remembered as the first recorded vote of the possible

impeachment of President Donald J. Trump.  The House Judiciary Committee

voted on a party line vote to establish rules and guidelines to govern an

impeachment inquiry. 


Some Democrats are worried about the politics of impeachment, but political

scientist Rachel Bitecofer will make the case here tonight that the

politics of impeachment work in the Democrats’ favor.  Rachel Bitecofer is

the election analyst who predicted the big blue wave of 2018 right down to

the number of House seats flipped from Republican to Democrat. 


Professor Bitecofer has studied how the impeachment issue affects voters,

and she has much to say about the strong campaign Democrat Dan McCready ran

in a North Carolina congressional district where he came in second Tuesday

night, just two points behind the Republican winner.  Rachel Bitecofer will

explain why she thinks that race was actually winnable for Democrats. 

She’ll tell us what she believes the Democrat could have done differently

in that race and that Democrats could make a difference in other races in

dozens of other congressional races by approaching them differently. 

Rachel Bitecofer will join us later in this hour. 


Also ahead tonight, the new political viral video star Deb Butler. 




STATE REP. DEB BUTLER (D), NORTH CAROLINA:  Process.  You shall not do this

to – you shall not do this to democracy in North Carolina, Mr. Speaker. 

How dare you do this, Mr. Speaker?  I will not yield. 


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  We’re not going to let anybody touch her. 


BUTLER:  I will not yield, Mr. Speaker.  I will not yield!




BUTLER:  You shall not disrupt the process, Mr. Speaker!




O’DONNELL:  Deb Butler was seen as a hero in North Carolina and much of the

country today after fighting back against Republican dirty tricks in the

statehouse yesterday.  She joined us here last night at THE LAST WORD, and

we will show you what Deb Butler had to say today.  She has a new demand

for the Republican speaker of the house in North Carolina. 


But we begin tonight with the Trump escape hatch.  Trump team rushes to

find escape hatch for China tariffs.  That’s the headline on a new article

in “Politico” which says, quote: President Donald Trump’s top advisers are

rushing to find an escape hatch for a series of tariff increases in the

coming months, worried about the potential for further economic damage. 


Donald Trump opened one of those escape hatches last night with a tweet

saying he was delaying increased tariffs on Chinese goods scheduled for

October 1st as quote, a gesture of goodwill, due to the fact that the

People’s Republic of China will be celebrating their 70th anniversary. 


And that is the very first time a president of the United States has

greeted the birthday of the communist dictatorship in China with such a

gift.  According to “Politico’s” reporting, the change is all part of an

effort by some Trump advisers who understand just how damaging the Trump

trade war is to the United States and to Donald Trump’s re-election

campaign.  “Politico” reports the goal of the internal administration

discussions is to forestall October tariff increases and the next tariffs

set to take effect in December with some advisers arguing that the economic

hit is real and must be mitigated prior to the election year. 


The economic hit is real according to every economist not working in the

Trump White House.  Yahoo Finance reports forecasting firm Moody’s

analytics estimates that the Trump trade war with China has already reduced

U.S. employment by 300,000 jobs compared with likely employment levels

absent the trade war. 


That’s a combination of jobs eliminated by firms struggling with tariffs

and other elements of the trade war and jobs that would have been created

but haven’t because of reduced economic activity.  The firm’s chief

economist Mark Zandi who will join us in a moment told Yahoo Finance that

the job toll from the trade war will hit about 450,000 by the end of the

year if there’s no change in policy by the end of 2020, the trade war will

have killed 900,000 jobs on its current course.  The hardest hit sectors

are manufacturing, warehousing, distribution, and retail. 


In other bad economic news for the Trump re-election campaign, President

Trump’s own Treasury Department has been forced to admit that the U.S.

annual budget deficit is now more than a trillion dollars a year. 

Candidate Donald Trump ran for president promising to completely eliminate

the budget deficit by balancing the federal budget every year, and then

completely eliminate the national debt.


But in fact, President Trump has increased the national debt from $19

trillion to $22 trillion, and there are more troubling suggestions of the

possibility of a recession hitting before the 2020 election.  Jeffrey

Gundlach, chief executive officer of Double Line Capital said we should be

on recession watch before the 2020 election.  Gundlach said Thursday in

London, we’re getting closer but we’re not there yet.  The odds of a U.S.

recession before the election are 75 percent, said Gundlach.


And leading up our discussion tonight, Mark Zandi, he’s chief economist of

Moody’s Analytics.  He’s an economic adviser on John McCain’s 2008

presidential campaign and is currently advising some of the Democratic

presidential candidates on economic issues. 


And also joining us, Jonathan Alter, he’s columnist for “The Daily Beast”

and an MSNBC political analyst.  Jonathan covered the economic problems of

the 2008 presidential campaign, and President Obama’s efforts to bring the

country out of recession in his first years. 


Mark Zandi, I want to start with you and your view of what the job loss,

what the effects are of the Trump trade war. 



damage.  I think it’s fair to say that manufacturing, the ag sector, the

transportation distribution sectors are already in recession and the

problems are starting to broaden out.  We’re seeing job growth slow in many

parts of the economy.  The slowdown has been very pronounced since this

time last year when the trade war got going, and if growth slows any

further, we’re going to see unemployment start to rise. 


And once unemployment starts to rise, that’s the fodder for an economic

downturn because that spooks people.  You know, they sense the rising

unemployment, fewer open job positions, less opportunity, smaller pay

increases, less bonus.  They start to pull back a bit on their spending,

businesses see that, they start pulling back more on their hiring.  You can

see, Lawrence, how you get into that self-reinforcing negative cycle, which

is a recession. 


So, we’re not there yet, but the trade war is doing a lot of damage.  If

the president continues on the current course, we’ll get there pretty soon. 


O’DONNELL:  And, Jonathan, we saw Trump reaching for an escape hatch.  To

commemorate the 70th birthday of a communist dictatorship, he has decided

to delay, delay his tariffs, all of which are illegal, by the way.  They

are – he is using a clause inside trade law specifically for national

security, and there’s not a single national security element in Chinese

clothes washing machines being imported into the United States or Canadian

steel being imported into the United States, so forth.


So, these are all illegal tariffs that the market seems to have assumed

would go away as soon as they became a political problem.  But Donald Trump

is still holding onto them. 



disaster, and he’s never consistent on any issue, and trade is among them. 

He just goes back and forth, back and forth. 


The question now is whether he sees his re-election flashing before him,

and if you look at Mark Zandi’s numbers, he says 900,000 jobs under the

current tariffs if the new ones kicked in in October, it would go over a

million jobs.  So that’s a pretty good talking point for Democratic

candidate, right? 


O’DONNELL:  David Plouffe, who ran Barack Obama’s successful 2008

presidential campaign, urged all of the Democratic candidates, all of them

to use exactly what you just said and to use Mark’s analysis tonight, only

one of them did. 


ALTER:  Right.  But they would next year if the tariffs continue.  I think

– and I don’t want to make these sorts of predictions about Trump because

he’s so unpredictable – but because his re-election is the only thing he

cares about, there are some signs in recent days that he is looking, as you

said, for an escape hatch, and so, they’re going to put this all in



But that then puts Xi Jinping in the driver’s seat, right?  Then he has

Trump exactly where he wants him.  And you have another situation where

this guy proves to be a disastrously bad negotiator. 


So, he will try to go back to the terms that they had in May when they came

close to having a deal, we’ll see whether Xi Jinping accepts them.  He’s

got his own problems in Hong Kong.  He has his own incentives to want to



And there’s some reporting out of China that, you know, insiders are saying

that he doesn’t want to see Trump lose his temper, so he may be trying to

placate him.  So, they may have kind of a fig leaf trade deal to reassure



O’DONNELL:  Mark, what about the Chinese economy and their ability to just

hang on for 18 months and hope for a new president? 


ZANDI:  Yes, good point.  And the advantage the Chinese has, and I should

say the trade war is doing a lot of damage here.  It’s doing obviously a

lot of damage there. 


The Chinese economy is struggling, but the advantage they have is that they

have a lot of room for monetary and fiscal stimulus.  They can lower

interest rates.  They can ramp up infrastructure spending.  They can cut

taxes and they’re doing all of the above, and they’re doing it very



I mean, they don’t have, you know, the problems we have as a democracy to

get things done.  They just do it, and so that’s supporting their economy,

and they’re still hitting their growth targets.  You know, a lot of

questions about the validity of those targets, but they’re pretty close. 


So I think because they have that latitude on monitoring fiscal policy,

they’re going to – I think they’re going to play a little longer game

here, and I don’t think they’re going to agree to anything substantive

until after the election.  I mean, I think they’re going to wait and see

how the election plays out. 


O’DONNELL:  Yes, Jonathan, just one word in there that Mark just said that

I really want to emphasize for the audience.  You don’t want to get in a

trade war with a dictatorship.  No one in China is worried about their

approval ratings in government in this situation.  Donald Trump is the one

who has political risk in this. 


ALTER:  But it – you know, we’re not sure whether xi wants Trump out of

there because he’s so easy to manipulate that he might want to do Trump a

favor and come up with some kind of a deal because he could have his hands

full, with President Warren or President Biden or somebody else who’s not

as much of a sap and not as out of his depth in these negotiations. 


O’DONNELL:  Mark, there is, after all, a Republican primary now in the

states that are allowing – Republican states that are allowing primary

elections.  I would expect the other Republican candidates to be making as

much of this as they possibly can, and in certain situations in certain

states, some of them might even get a better hearing on the Trump trade war

than some of the Democrats get. 


ZANDI:  Yes, good point.  You know, the irony in all of this, at least from

a political perspective for the president is that the damage that the trade

war is creating is mostly in those parts of the country that have voted

very heavily for the president.  You know, think about that – agriculture,

the farm sector.  Of course the president’s trying to mitigate the fallout

of the trade war by $16 billion in aid, but that only goes so far. 


And, of course, manufacturing, I mean, he was all about manufacturing, and

this is – manufacturing’s on the front line of the trade war.  It’s in

recession and starting to lose jobs.  So, you know, this is really hurting

the parts of the country that voted for the president in the last election. 


O’DONNELL:  And one thing, Jonathan, that the president obviously doesn’t

understand about agricultural markets is that farmers aren’t looking at a

four-year horizon.  They’re looking at a lifetime horizon, and they’re

looking at a horizon in which many of them hope that their children will be

running the farm after them.  That means markets, having a market matters

to them much more than getting a government handout because their market

has been cut off.  And once a market is cut off, it means it’s been the

source for that market has been replaced by some other country. 


ALTER:  Right, so remember, the farm belt is the only place that Trump has

huge support.  He had 75 percent in some of these areas, so any kind of

erosion there is really damaging to him politically, and your point is spot

on, just to go to a Carter administration example.  When the Soviets

invaded Afghanistan, Carter over Walter Mondale’s, vice president’s

objection imposed a grain embargo, drying up all those Russian markets. 


O’DONNELL:  Us sending grain to the Soviet Union. 


ALTER:  And you know what happened?  Democrats got killed for 25 years. 

They are still suffering from it. 


You can go and people will still be talking about the 1980 grain embargo

because it’s their livelihood.  So if you wreck those export markets as

you’re discussing, there can be really long-term consequences for



O’DONNELL:  And, Mark, talk about the recession outlook and no one wants it

to happen.  No one’s encouraging it, but when you’re in the White House,

you have to look at every possible warning sign, especially as you’re

approaching re-election and be extra cautious about this. 


ZANDI:  Yes, good point.  I mean, I – my sense is that if the president

follows through on all of his tariffs threats an we got another round

coming at the end of the year, if he actually goes through with that, then

recession odds for next year in 2020 are better than even. 


And you know, I’m not the only one who thinks that.  I mean, just look at

what’s going on in financial markets, the bond market, you know, the so-

called yield curve, kind of a geeky thing, but it’s a very prescient

leading indicator, and that indicator has been signaling very strongly that

this time next year, the U.S. economy will be in recession. 


So, the collective wisdom of global investors are already concluding that

recession is increasingly likely. 


So I think the president still has some time.  You know, I think he can –

if he can stand down, find some face saving arrangement to end this thing

and not follow through on those threats.  I think the economy will navigate

through barely. 


If he follows through, I think recession risks are better than even and

they’re very, very high.  Of course, we’re not even considering all the

other risks out there.  I mean, consider what’s going on in the U.K. around

Brexit, think what’s going on in Hong Kong, think about what’s going on in

the Middle East and Iran.  I mean, there are a lot of things that can

derail an economy that is already weak with potentially rising



O’DONNELL:  Jonathan, what Mark just said about the trade war is what every

president prior to Donald Trump heard from staff and from economists and

experts.  Whenever that president might have wondered why don’t we just

impose some retaliatory tariffs on China because of their behavior on X or

Y, and the answer was always it’s complex.  It is likely to backfire on us,

at least as much as it is to harm China? 


ALTER:  You know, the great tragedy might be too strong, but it’s really

unfortunate that the TPP didn’t go through.  This was negotiated under

President Obama.


O’DONNELL:  Trans-Pacific Partnership. 


ALTER:  Because what that did is it actually isolated China.  China was not

part of it.  Trump when he was trashing it, made everybody think that China

was, but they weren’t.  It was creating rules of the road that would make

China play on our terms.


And so, the next president, if it’s a Democrat is going to have to get back

to this tough, but smart trade policy where you don’t say things like,

well, winning a trade war is easy, and you have very tough negotiations on

technology transfer, intellectual property, agriculture – genuine trade

issues where the Chinese are taking advantage of us.  You come at it with

our strength, not with protectionism that doesn’t work. 


O’DONNELL:  Yes, and you’ve touched on a larger subject that we don’t have

time for tonight on international trade, which is that it has strategic

importance beyond just economic policy, that it has a strategic importance

in interlocking different countries and creating more of a security blanket

in effect and eliminating different kinds of tensions that might otherwise



We’re going to have to leave it there.  Mark Zandi, Jonathan Alter, thank

you both for starting us off tonight.  I really appreciate it. 


ALTER:  Thanks, Lawrence.


ZANDI:  Thank you.


O’DONNELL:  And when we come back, political scientist Rachel Bitecofer

will join us once again to explain how the politics of impeachment could

impact congressional campaigns. 


And Representative Deb Butler joined us here live on THE LAST WORD last

night, and she described what it felt like when she grabbed the microphone

to protest what the “Charlotte Observer” called a shameless theft of

democracy by Republicans in North Carolina’s House of Representatives. 




BUTLER:  You shall not do this to – you shall not do this to democracy in

North Carolina, Mr. Speaker!  How dare you do this, Mr. Speaker! 




O’DONNELL:  The only reason we were able to see that is because of John

Autry.  He is the representative who had the presence of mind to capture it

all on his phone to show the world the shame of North Carolina Republicans. 

North Carolina State Representative John Autry will join us coming up.




O’DONNELL:  Today, the House Judiciary Committee took its biggest

procedural step forward in its impeachment investigation of President

Trump.  This morning, the committee voted on a set of rules to empower

their inquiry of the president. 


The impeachment inquiry rules allow the committee to rely on counsel to

question witnesses publicly and privately.  The rules also establish a

process for reviewing evidence like grand jury evidence, privately, and

allows the president’s attorneys to respond in writing to evidence that the

committee examines both in public and in private.  These are the same rules

that have been used by the House Judiciary Committee in previous

impeachment investigations of presidents.


During the vote, Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler said this. 




REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY):  This committee is engaged in an investigation

that will allow us to determine whether to recommend articles of

impeachment with respect to President Trump.  That is what we are doing. 

Some call this process an impeachment inquiry.  Some call it an impeachment

investigation.  There’s no legal difference between these terms, and I no

longer care to argue about the nomenclature. 




O’DONNELL:  While some Democrats have worried about the politics of

impeachment, and our next guest has studied voter reaction to impeachment. 

Rachel Bitecofer is the assistant director of the Wason Center for Public

Policy at Christopher Newport University.  She built a midterm forecast for

the 2016 elections that was close to perfect, and she is this show’s

official second favorite Rachel. 


Rachel, thank you very much for joining us again tonight.  Really

appreciate it. 




O’DONNELL:  Talk to us about what you have found in voter reaction to the

politics of impeachment for Democrats. 


BITECOFER:  Yes, let me explain how this is supposed to work.  I mean, we

used to hear that Obama led from behind, right?  And certainly, we could

watch Trump every day leading from incompetence.


But when we think about how Democrats have led this impeachment effort, it

really is leading by ambivalence.  I mean, even today with this vote, we

had Nancy Pelosi come and give a press conference where she seemed to

assure everybody that it was a vote that was not for an impeachment

inquiry, even though it kind of was, maybe, sort of, she isn’t sure. 


So, you know, it’s really difficult when you’re talking about political

messaging when you don’t even know for sure what your own message is.  And

that can be really disastrous electorally. 


Let me explain why because when we talk about public opinion, this

perception that we should be seeing movement in the public and that would

inspire Democrats then to take a leadership role on this issue, it’s just

backwards.  I mean, certainly there are times when public opinion’s going

to lead, gay marriage would be a great example of where public opinion was

on a leading indicator and pushed elites, but it’s very rare. 


Generally speaking, it flows from the top down, and the Democrats really

have mishandled the way the politics of this moment of impeachment. 


O’DONNELL:  And so, what is it that voters are looking for when they look

at Washington, they look at Democrats facing the question of impeachment? 


BITECOFER:  Yes, so I think the voters spoke pretty clearly in the 2018

midterms.  As you know, we have discussed several times my election

research, which shows that the House flips, especially in those marginal

districts, really we’re a product of turnout surges, not just of Democratic

voters but also of independents that didn’t vote in the 2014 midterms and

were galvanized to the polls. 


You have to believe that some of that was motivated by fear of what Trump

has been doing while in office, you know, certainly some of this

impeachment inquiry involves Russia, but some of it involves other things,

the emoluments clause issues, the effort to obstruct justice during the

Russia investigation.  The Democrats speak in terms of the leadership

anyway as if they were waiting for a message from the voters as to what

they should do. 


But we just had a pretty big message, a 40-seat message.  I think the

voters kind of spoke their case on that and even though the polls isn’t

really, you know, saying oh, there’s this public outcry, that’s because the

salience of the issue has been obscured. 


I mean, Democrats have not made this a major theme.  They didn’t make it a

theme in the campaign.  They haven’t held public hearings, where they aired

the evidence, although Mueller did have that one day of testimony, which a

little bit of public exposure, but this idea that most people know what the

Mueller report revealed, it’s ludicrous. 


I mean, I guarantee you that less than 1 percent of the American public has

actually read the Mueller report. 


O’DONNELL:  You studied the districts and predicted the districts where the

Democrats would flip Republican seats to the Democrats in the last

election.  Those are the seats that some Democrats in leadership in the

House have been trying to protect by immuting the subject of impeachment,

but what we’ve started to see is some of the winners of those flipped seats

themselves are coming outs in support of impeachment, and nose are the

people who the Democratic leadership were trying to protect from having to

take a position on impeachment. 


BITECOFER:  Yes, and it’s exactly a product of this.  I mean, here’s the

question that the press likes to ask a lot.  Should Donald Trump be

impeached?  OK, well, that’s a political question.


But when you ask the question, has Donald Trump committed impeachable

crimes?  The answer is yes.  I mean, yes, maybe times 20, and a lot of

these marginal districts, I think Katie Porter is a great example of this

in California, how do you look your constituents in the face and say, we’re

going to allow the commander-in-chief, the president to sit there day in

and day out, run roughshod over the Constitution and not hold him to

account, and the real trouble with that is that once you allow that to

happen, it opens the flood gate to more intrusion and more outlandish



And I think that that’s why we’re starting to see some of these marginal

district members starting to stand up for the rule of law because it really

does become politically dangerous to just simply ignore the behavior. 


O’DONNELL:  Rachel, before you go, what’s the lesson of Tuesday night’s

election in North Carolina? 


BITECOFER:  So, the lesson there, Democrats of course had that natural

turnout surge or it wouldn’t have been a competitive race.  We’re talking

about a district that was safely Republican.  However, because they chose

to not tap into the referendum effect that’s feeding that natural

enthusiasm, particularly among those base voters, they came up short. 


So it was definitely a winnable election with a better strategy. 


O’DONNELL:  What’s the better strategy in that situation? 


BITECOFER:  So, when you look at how the Republicans ran, run these races,

they make sure that share voters know there’s a national component.  They

tie voting for Bishop as a vote for support of Trump.  You really never saw

that relationship spelled out for Democratic voters on the other side, and

that really does make a difference. 


I mean, Trump came in on election night and reminded voters to show up to

vote.  That never happened on the other side. 


O’DONNELL:  Rachel Bitecofer, thank you very much for joining us tonight. 

Really appreciate it. 


BITECOFER:  Thank you so much for having me. 


O’DONNELL:  Great to have you back. 


And when we come back, the North Carolina Democrat who made sure that the

whole world was able to see what the Republicans were doing what was called

a theft of democracy in the statehouse yesterday on 9/11.  John Autry’s

video of his colleague Deb Butler calling out Republicans’ actions

galvanized Democrats to protest today.  State Representative John Autry

will be our next guest. 




CHORUS: Shame! Shame! Shame! Shame! Shame! Shame! Shame! Shame! Shame!



O’DONNELL,: Protesters disrupted the North Carolina General Assembly’s

prayer this morning to voice outrage after House Republicans called a

surprise vote yesterday to override the Governor’s budget veto while most

of the Democratic members were absent after they were told by the

Republicans that there would be no votes.


Protesters gathered to call for the resignation of House Speaker Tim Moore.

Democratic State Representative Deb Butler was there. On Twitter, she

called for Speaker Moore’s resignation with the hashtag #iwillnotyield. “I

will not yield” is the line that made her go viral after she confronted the

House Speaker yesterday.







let anybody touch her. We’re not going to let anybody touch her.


BUTLER: I will not yield, Mr. Speaker. I will not yield.




BUTLER: You shall not usurp the process, Mr. Speaker. How dare you subject

this body to trickery, deceptive practices, hijacking the process. We have

been here day and night for months defending what we believe, and you would

submit this body to trickery, deception, deceit? It is so typical of the

way you conduct yourself. How dare you, Mr. Speaker.




O’DONNELL: Deb Butler joined us as a guest here at THE LAST WORD last

night, and today, this is what Deb Butler had to say.




BUTLER: North Carolina is better than this?








BUTLER: We deserve better than this?








BUTLER: Our citizens deserve Representatives with integrity, decency,

respect for the rule of law. What happened yesterday was a shameful,

shameful display. We will not yield.


CHORUS: We will not yield.


BUTLER: We demand more of our legislators and our elected Representatives.










BUTLER: And we will see you at the ballot box in 2020.






O’DONNELL: One of the heroes at Deb Butler’s side yesterday was Democratic

State Representative John Autry. He is the one who had the presence of mind

to grab his phone and capture that video of Deb Butler refusing to yield,

and he joins us now.


Representative John Autry, North Carolina, thank you very much for joining

us tonight. When Deb Butler was here last night, I asked her how it felt as

police officers were closing in on her and then her colleagues, including

you, surrounded her. You with the camera. Other colleagues, we could hear

on your video, saying don’t let anyone touch her. You all immediately went

into a mode of protection so that she could continue, and it didn’t seem

like there was any real strategy to it. It seemed like it was just a

natural impulse that you all felt.



agree with that. It seemed certainly appropriate. And once the Sergeant at

Arms motioned for the Capitol police to be brought in, that’s what prompted

Representative Kandie Smith to say “don’t let anybody touch her,” and then

we just all immediately started moving around her and circled her. I had

already been shooting with my phone because once the Sergeant at Arms

approached us, I says, OK, this is not going to go down the way they think

it’s going to go down.


O’DONNELL: Yes. And we noticed that you were behind her at first, and then

we saw that your camera and you hustle forward, get in front of her, so we

ended up getting that more dramatic shot. But when you did that, we could

also see the Capitol police officers coming in behind her. What did you

think was going to happen at that point?


AUTRY: I had no idea what was going to happen. I knew she was going to have

her say, and she was going to make her points, but they weren’t going to be

taking her out of that chamber. She’s an elected member of that chamber and

has the right to be on that floor and to express herself.


O’DONNELL: What was your own personal reaction when you discovered what had



AUTRY: Well, I was a little suspicious when I first walked in. Usually in

these kinds of skeletal sessions, you may have 10 to a dozen members of

each party on the floor, but most of the other side of the aisle was in

their seats, and that raised my antenna right away. And I recall mumbling

to my seat-mate that he’s going to call that vote. And sure enough, that’s

when he recognized one of the representatives for a motion to say that

you’re going to recognize a member, you don’t know what they’re going to be

rising for. But the Speaker was very explicit to say the Chair recognizes

Representative Saine for a motion. So I figured this was all planned out

ahead. And it really denied over half the population of North Carolina

because last year Democrats in the legislature received 51 percent of the

votes in North Carolina. So they basically denied a little over 5.5 million

people, their representation, by pulling this stunt.


O’DONNELL: And your camera work was brilliant, and I’m sure there are

cinematographers in Hollywood who were saying he captured everything in the

room you needed because you did that shot when Deb Butler challenged the

other side where you panned across to the other side, and we see all of the

Republicans sitting there in a completely different mode from the

Democrats. There’s just a tiny handful of Democrats who were standing

around, but all those Republicans are organized in place. It’s like they

were showing up for something completely different from why you were there.


AUTRY: I would have to agree with that. We were there to take the pledge

and have the opening prayer, probably hear a couple of motions for other

ancillary administrative purposes, and then gavel out to be coming back in

at 1 o’clock for voting session. This happens a lot in the General

Assembly. And we had an opportunity yesterday that - it was just - there

was no media in the room. So I think being able to capture that on the

phone to show people what it was like and where it happened and how it

happened really was an important piece of the story of the legislative

session this year.


O’DONNELL: The country is very grateful. North Carolina is very grateful.

One final point - so the Senate has not voted to override the veto. So

what’s happening in the Senate?


AUTRY: Well, the Senate has different rules than the House does. And in the

Senate, they have to - once the measure is put on the calendar for the

Senate, they are given their membership 24-hour notice of when they’re

going to vote. And the Senate did break the super majority in that chamber

last year during the election also.


O’DONNELL: So what is the likelihood of the Senate overriding the veto?


AUTRY: I think the likelihood is very strong. They would have to only peel

away one Democrat to vote with them. But I think that after the way they

exhibited themselves yesterday, we’re dealing with a group of people who

aren’t really concerned about governing. They’re concerned with ruling. And

that’s what they exhibited yesterday.


O’DONNELL: State Representative John Autry, thank you very much for going

to work with that camera yesterday that told the story the way nothing else



AUTRY: Thank you, Lawrence. Thank you for having me on.


O’DONNELL: Really appreciate it. Thank you.


And when we come back, Ted Cruz, who had a real challenge last year from

Beto O’Rourke for his Senate seat, is now very worried about Republicans in

Texas. That’s next.




O’DONNELL: Joining our discussion now is former Republican Congressman

David Jolly of Florida. He is an MSNBC political analyst. And Jonathan

Alter is back with us. And Ted Cruz said something today that is

noteworthy. He said at a speech, “I think the Texas election in 2018” -

meaning his - “is powerful foreshadowing for what to expect across the

country in 2020. The far left is pissed off, they hate the President, and

that is a powerful motivator. If the left shows up in massive numbers and

everybody else doesn’t, that’s how we end up with an incredibly damaging



And so, David, Ted Cruz is impressed with what Democrats have already

achieved in Texas.



ANALYST: Ted Cruz is coming after - off a real scare at the hands of Beto

O’Rourke, somebody who tonight seemed to get his stride back, had his

confidence back, and particularly on the issue of guns. And Ted Cruz, at

the moment you were talking about, was talking about specifically guns and

the issue of guns in Texas coming after El Paso and Sutherland Springs.


Look, at the end of the day, Texas may be another cycle from turning blue.

If it goes blue, Republicans are done, and they’re done for a generation.

But what Ted Cruz is failing to do is shape public opinion in Texas around

guns. Beto was trying to do it, and Democrats are trying to do it

nationwide. If they can shape public opinion instead of just following

public opinion, Democrats could eventually flip Texas.


O’DONNELL: And Jonathan, latest Quinnipiac Poll showing 53 percent of

Texans support new gun legislation.



changing in the Lone Star State. People, for instance, they assume that

it’s a conservative–


O’DONNELL: Oh. I’m sorry, we’ve got to cut you off. The Democratic debate

has been completed. That means we’re going to go straight to Brian Williams

for a live post-debate analysis. We didn’t watch the debate. So we can’t do



BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC ANCHOR: Well, thanks to Lawrence O’Donnell, and a

welcome to all of those viewers joining us at the conclusion of the debate.

Good evening from our NBC News headquarters in New York, Brian Williams

along with Nicolle Wallace.


The third Democratic primary debate has just wrapped up at Houston’s Texas

Southern University, among the largest historically black colleges and

universities in our nation. Tonight’s was the first debate, as you know,

with this crowded election cycle in which all 10 top contenders shared one



It meant that front and center were Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, and Bernie

Sanders finally facing off for the first time in a showdown on the most

important issue to Democratic voters. Among the most divisive topics of the

evening, in fact, was health care.


More on that in a moment, but first, the night got underway with Senator

Kamala Harris speaking directly to one viewer.





get. What you don’t get is that the American people are so much better than

this. And we know that the vast majority of us have so much more in common

than what separates us, regardless of our race, where we live, or the party

with which we’re registered to vote. And I plan on focusing on our common

issues, our common hopes and desires, and in that way, unifying our

country, winning this election, and turning the page for America. And now,

President Trump, you can go back to watching Fox News.






WILLIAMS: At the center of the stage tonight, the frontrunner and the

biggest target of the evening, Joe Biden. At one point, Julian Castro

appeared to take a swipe at Biden over what he seemed to regard as some

sort of senior moment.





support and what you support, Vice President Biden, is that you require

them to opt in, and I would not require them to opt in. They would

automatically be enrolled. They wouldn’t have to buy in. That’s a big

difference because Barack Obama’s vision was not to leave 10 million people

uncovered. He wanted every single person in this country covered. My plan

would do that. Your plan would not.


JOE BIDEN (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: They do not have to buy in.




BIDEN: They do not have to buy in.




CASTRO: You just said that.




CASTRO: You just said that two minutes ago. You just said two minutes ago–


BIDEN: You don’t have to buy in if you can’t afford it.


CASTRO: –that they would have to buy in. You said they would have to buy



BIDEN: Your grandmother would not have to buy in. If she qualifies for

Medicaid, she’s automatically be in for it (ph).


CASTRO: Are you forgetting what you said two minutes ago? Are you

forgetting already what you said just two minutes ago? I mean, I can’t

believe that you said two minutes ago that they had to buy in and now

you’re saying–




CASTRO: –they don’t have to buy - you’re forgetting that.


BIDEN: I said anyone–


CASTRO: I mean, look–


BIDEN: –like your grandmother who has no money–


CASTRO: Look, we need a health care system–


BIDEN: –you’re automatically enrolled.


CASTRO: –that automatic–




WILLIAMS: So you heard the crowd react in real-time. Controversial moment

for sure. It will be interesting to find out what Sanders said to Biden

there between the two men, but the accusation from Castro practically calls

out for a fact check. It appears that in fact Biden did not say that

Americans would “have to buy in to his health care policy.” Here’s what he

did say.




BIDEN: My health care plan does significantly cut the cost. If the largest

out-of-pocket payment you’ll pay is a thousand dollars, you’ll be able to

get into a - anyone who can afford it gets automatically enrolled in the

Medicare-type option we have, et cetera. But guess what. Of the 160 million

people who like their health care now, they can keep it. If they don’t like

it, they can leave.




WILLIAMS: In-fighting was a topic on stage. And it called about - it

brought about calls for unity and civility with Mayor Pete leading the







UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Come on, guys, come on.


BUTTIGIEG: –Presidential debates are becoming unwatchable.






BUTTIGIEG: This reminds everybody of what they cannot stand about





BUTTIGIEG: Scoring points against each other–




BUTTIGIEG: –poking at each other, and telling each other that your - my

plan, your plan. Look, we all–




CASTRO: Yes. That’s called a Democratic primary election.




BUTTIGIEG: –what is better about–




CASTRO: That’s called election. That’s an election.




CASTRO: This is what we’re here for. It’s an election.



cannot stand.




WILLIAMS: So, airing a little bit of the laundry publicly on stage tonight,

it was interesting. It was as if someone might have told them, prior to

this event, here is the deal; Obama good, Trump bad.


NICOLLE WALLACE, MSNBC ANCHOR: Yes. I don’t know who that (inaudible) of

the Democratic Party.




WALLACE: But look, if you had to stick one headline on this night, I think

we showed the moment that Julian Castro was the skunk at the garden party.

I don’t think there is an - I think if Joe Biden isn’t the nominee, if he

falls from what have been months and months and months of an enduring lead,

this race is not that fluid at the top. And I don’t think anything that

happened tonight will move Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren

out of those top three spots.


I think the only thing - if you’re looking for some sort of action or

anyone that could be in motion after tonight, I think Beto O’Rourke who

found his voice after the massacre in El Paso, he still has that voice. He

still spoke with clarity. He seems to have gained some confidence between

sort of matching those moments. He tends to use salty language. I work for

John McCain. So I find that familiar and refreshing. Some people might not

like it.


He still has that sort of clarity that he really showcased after El Paso.

He had some moments. But whether it jostles him out of sort of the bottom

of that top 10, I don’t know. And I think Pete Buttigieg was very much on

brand tonight. Whoever merges as the nominee, Buttigieg will be named at a

very early stage as someone who will be in his cabinet because he’s just so

talented and so likeable.


WILLIAMS: Let’s go to our man in Houston, Texas. Chris Matthews in the spin

room adjacent to the venue tonight. Chris, what was the view from there?


CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Well, I thought - I agree with everything

Nicolle said. I thought that the evening began with calls for unity. A very

strong call by Amy Klobuchar for unity. I’m not intending to be President

for half of the American people but for all the American people. I think it

was a pushback against hard ideology of the Democratic left.


That was a theme for a while, but then I thought some of the strong

ideologues, the people who have strong agendas like Warren and Bernie

Sanders, were very clear where they stand. Certainly, Medicare for all, no

more private insurance. Absolute position on that. Bernie and her competed

on paying off all the student loans.


And then also on an ideological (inaudible) sort of purity test. Beto came

along and said he’s going to not just buy back automatic - the semi-

automatic assault rifles but demand that they sell them back. I don’t know

where you get away with that.


I noticed that Kamala talked about an executive order. This would be an

extraordinary ruling by the Supreme Court that would allow a president to

use executive orders to demand the end of ownership by - automatic weapons

by semi-automatic assault weapons. I think these are three or four cases of

extreme ideological positions. But generally, I thought there was a

pushback on that stage against the hard left.


I heard a lot of calls for unity. I thought there was a lot more pushback

on all-out health care, the Medicare for all without any health insurance

from the private sector. I thought there was a lot of pushback that wasn’t

there before.


And on border issues, fascinating. Last time we were on, I think it was two

debates ago or one debate ago, people were talking about, certainly Castro

was, about decriminalizing illegal border crossings. None of that tonight.

Very careful. And by the way, I’m glad you scooted against Castro and the

issue of -attempted to blame the guy for having Alzheimer’s. I think that

was a cheap shot. The fact is he got his facts wrong. And in terms of

competency, he was the one that risked his position tonight, not Biden.


WILLIAMS: Chris Matthews, I can’t help but notice Senator Klobuchar over

your right shoulder. And we will come back to you.


MATTHEWS: She’s right here as we speak.


WILLIAMS: We will come back to you.


MATTHEWS: Thank you.


WILLIAMS: Our frequent viewers know the drill. When Chris gets a candidate

wired up and ready to go, we’ll go to Chris in Houston.


With us here, members of our family in our studio, Claire McCaskill, former

Democratic Senator from the great State of Missouri; Eugene Robinson,

Pulitzer prize winning columnist for “The Washington Post”; and Joy Reid,

the host of “AM Joy” weekends here on MSNBC. At the big board tonight, our

National Correspondent, Steve Kornacki. Good evening and welcome to you



Senator, by dint of your title, we’re going to begin with you. Were kings

or queens made or destroyed on that stage tonight? What’s your headline?


CLAIRE MCCASKILL (D-MO), FORMER SENATOR: I think Castro is hurt. I think

his - he was trying to swing for the fences.




MCCASKILL: People kept talking about the tension between Warren and Biden.

The tension I felt on that stage were for the bottom five. This was their -

really, in some ways, their last moment to make a lasting impression to try

to get in to the kind of debate that will probably move the needle some

down the line. But I’m not sure anything tonight moved the needle except I

think Castro offended people the way he did that. And it won’t surprise me

if it helps Biden.



totally agree with Claire. For long stretches, the debate, to me, seemed

like Biden versus the fringes, Biden versus the other. And they were trying

to get some sort of purchase. I think you understate the damage that Castro

did to himself tonight. He would have lost a lot of support if he had a lot

of support to lose. He didn’t. He had a little support. I think it’s

basically over. He took a shot. It was not a good shot. And it just really

went over like a lead balloon. It was - that was a bad, bad moment for him.


I thought Cory Booker at times sort of looked wise and presidential. And he

presents himself in a way that you could sort of imagine an internal watch

(ph). And I think he might have done himself some good tonight in the

debate. There were a number of issues he wasn’t pressed on that he might

have been pressed on. Maybe he will be in future debates. Other than that,

I didn’t see a lot of movement.




JOY REID, MSNBC HOST: Well, it’s interesting what our two colleagues here

have said. And I actually we - the Senator and I watched the debate

together, much of it.


WILLIAMS: Oh, we should have had a camera in that room.


REID: That would have been the place to be.


MCCASKILL: We had some fun.


REID: We did have a great time.


ROBINSON: Maybe not a microphone (inaudible).




REID: But I think because you run in campaigns you know that the likability

argument in politics normally gets thrown at women. But when you’re running

a campaign, just having worked out on the press side in a couple, you have

to always remember who is likable among your opponents and why they’re



And I think that going after Biden is smart in the sense that he is at the

top. And if you want to get at the top, you have to eventually take him on.

But you have to remember people like Joe Biden. Right? Joe Biden is not

Donald Trump, who’s an unlikable figure to most Americans. People like Joe

Biden. They may not know as enough about Joe Biden to know the dings in his

past. And when they find him out, they may be disappointed. But

fundamentally, Democrats like him. And so if you go after him in a way–


MCCASKILL: And this is the other piece, Joy. Democrats are fundamentally

horrified and terrified and totally turned off by criticism of him–


REID: That’s right.


MCCASKILL: –should he emerge as the nominee.


ROBINSON: Exactly.


REID: For the same reason that they’re turned off by criticism of President

Obama. They’re - I was just in an event last night with a lot of young

progressive activists who are very critical of specific things about

President Obama. But if you were to come for President Obama, they would

defend him because President Obama is on their side fundamentally. And so I

think when you’re trying to take out a frontrunner, you don’t do it in a

way that presumes that people don’t like this person that you can go after

him that harsh. So I think that was too harsh on his part.


For the other second-tier candidates, I thought Beto had a great night.

This was his best night - best debate so far because now I can see in him

the confidence of not really necessarily caring if he wins, he just wants

to send a message that I think is authentic. I think he was authentic



And then my last is at Warren. No one touched her. She was strong on

foreign policy. She’s been coherent on everything she said. I thought she

had a great night.


WILLIAMS: Did she get enough air time?






REID: I think no one did. It’s still too many people. It’s the same number

of people as the other debate.


WALLACE: Yes. I know we have to go to Chris. But no one - nobody said a

word about Senator Harris. And I thought she had–






REID: She did have a great night.


WALLACE: She had a great night. And that attack on Trump is exactly–


REID: Yes, right.


WALLACE: what Democrats–


REID: Want to hear. Yes.


WALLACE: –anecdotally and in the polls want.


MCCASKILL: Absolutely.


REID: That was a mistake by my part because I wrote her down as well.


WALLACE: No, no. (inaudible) the other one–


REID: Yes. Yes.




MCCASKILL: And by the way, Mayor Pete had a good night, too.


REID: He did.


ROBINSON: He really did.




MCCASKILL: –it was very strong.




WILLIAMS: Chris Matthews is going to get the–


WALLACE: Sorry, Chris.


WILLIAMS: –honor and distinction of taking us over the top of the hour,

what is normally “The 11th Hour.” Tonight our special post-debate coverage,

and Chris is standing by with the first of our special guests tonight.



MATTHEWS: Thank you. And hopefully, with some crossover appeal into 11

o’clock. Amy Klobuchar is a Senator.


KLOBUCHAR: Thank you, Chris.


MATTHEWS: I thought you started hitting (ph) by setting a kind of a

keynote. You talked about - and this is an ideological debate in many ways,

especially on the Democratic left against Trump. But you talked about –

you didn’t want to be President of half the country.







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