Candidates offer contrasting visions. TRANSCRIPT: 9/13/19, The Last Word w/ Lawrence O’Donnell.

Gerry Nadler, Noah Bookbinder, Mark DeSaulnier, Mark DeSaulnier, Maria Teresa Kumar, E.J. Dionne

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST:  One of the things we`ve been talking about for

the last couple of weeks on this show is the potential that there might be

a – the opioids` version of what was the multibillion dollar tobacco

settlement back in the `90s.


The company that makes OxyContin, Purdue Pharma is trying to pursue that

sort of a settlement. Bombshell story tonight in “The New York Times” which

says the New York Attorney General subpoena`s to one financial institution

alone have turned up wire transfers of more than $1 billion dollars to

entities controlled by the Sackler family that owns Purdue Pharma.


There are allegations now that that family may have essentially raided

Purdue Pharma to take all the money out of that company, to leave no money

for victims – to leave less money for victims as they approach these

settlement talks.


Those are red-hot allegations. We`ve been talking about that all week that

is significantly advanced by this reporting in “The New York Times,” and I

expect that will lead to more reporting and more consequences over the

weekend. So, watch out for that. But now it`s time for the “Last Word” with

Lawrence O`Donnell. Good evening Lawrence.


LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST:  Good evening, Rachel. And I have right

here the Justice Department filing. It`s the – let`s see – there it is.

Justice Department filing tonight – it`s the breaking news of the night.

Them saying, the Justice Department saying that House chairman of the

Judiciary Committee, Jerry Nadler, has no right to see grand jury material

related to the Mueller investigation. And you know who has something to say

about that?




O`DONNELL:  Jerry Nadler.


MADDOW:  You have Nadler?


O`DONNELL:  You know where he is right now? He`s over here.


MADDOW:  That was an excellent reveal.


O`DONNELL:  Come by and say hi on your way out the door.


MADDOW:  I will. OK, bye.


O`DONNELL:  Thank you Rachel. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry

Nadler is here to talk about the breaking news of the night with the Trump

Justice Department trying to block his subpoena for grand jury material

from the Mueller investigation.


Chairman Nadler will be our first guest tonight with his reaction to that

new legal filing by the Justice Department. Also tonight, Donald Trump lost

a big round in court today on the emoluments case against him, which has

now cleared legal hurdles to move forward.


And we`ll take a look at last night`s debate and show you why you can

ignore almost everything in the policy details that the candidates argued

about last night. And Cal Perry will join us with a new must-see

investigation into the potential dangers of the practice of flaring natural

gas in Texas.


We begin tonight with the breaking news. The Trump Justice Department

headed by the Trump attorney general, William Barr, told a federal court in

Washington tonight that the House Judiciary Committee should be denied any

access to grand jury material from the Mueller investigation because

impeachment is not a judicial proceeding according to the Justice

Department. The Justice Department filing in court notes that grand jury

material can be released in connection with a judicial proceeding.


The Justice Department then insists, “impeachment proceedings in Congress

including hypothetical removal proceedings in the Senate are not judicial

proceedings under the plain and ordinary meaning of that term. Judicial

proceedings are legal proceedings governed by law that take place in a

judicial form before a judge or magistrate.


Proceedings that occur outside the judicial setting are not judicial

proceedings even if they are called a trial and include some of the

procedures familiar from a courtroom such as sworn testimony or lawyer-led

questioning of witnesses.


The committee for its part offers no explanation for how Rule 6(c)`s

reference to judicial proceedings authorizes access to grand jury materials

for congressional proceedings administered by members of Congress rather

than the legal proceedings overseen by judges.”


Yesterday the House Judiciary Committee on a party line vote voted for a

resolution for investigative procedures offered by Chairman Gerald Nadler.

That resolution describes in detail the investigative procedures the

committee will use in what it calls “the committee`s investigation to

determine whether to recommend articles of impeachment with respect to

President Donald J. Trump.”


Leading our discussion tonight, the chairman of the House Judiciary

Committee, Democratic Congressman Jerry Nadler. He represents New York`s

10th congressional district. Chairman Nadler, the Justice Department seems

to be making two cases here.


First of all, that this is not a judicial proceeding in your committee,

therefore, you do have a right to this. Second, even if it was a judicial

proceeding interpreted that way, you still don`t have a right to it, even

if it went to trial, even if it went to a senate trial, you don`t have a

right to any of this material.


They`re, first of all, saying though that you aren`t even having an

impeachment investigation. There isn`t – they insist – there is no

impeachment investigation in the House.



me deal with that in reverse order. We`ve been very clear for the last

several months in court filings, in public statements, and in proceedings

in the committee that we are, in fact, conducting an investigation,

preparing to decide whether to recommend articles of impeachment to the



Now, you can call that an impeachment investigation, you can call that

impeachment inquiry, those terms have no legal meaning, but that`s exactly

what we`re doing. We`re involved in an investigation to determine whether

to recommend articles of impeachment to the House. So, we will determine

that at the conclusion of this investigation.


Now, I know the Republicans and here, the Justice Department, is simply

acting as an arm of the Republican Party. They have argued that this cannot

be a really impeachment investigation because the House didn`t vote

(inaudible) to the committee to do it.


Most impeachments done since the Re-organization Act of 1946 have begun in

the – judiciary committee have not had House authorizations at all. The

Nixon impeachment had a House of authorization six months after the

investigation started in the judiciary committee. And that was done as was

the Clinton House authorization in order to give committee the right to do

certain kinds of subpoenas and depositions.


The House rules have changed. We have that authority without specific

resolution of the House. So, there`s no question that we are doing – that

we are in an official – we`re doing an investigation toward determining

whether to recommend articles of impeachment (inaudible).


The second argument they make is that that doesn`t qualify as a judicial

proceeding and therefore, we`re not entitled to grand jury information.

I`ll just have to say, this is another instance of the Trump administration

trying to cover up and hide from Congress and from the American people, in

this case from Congress because the American people wouldn`t see grand jury



All kinds of information they`re opposing. The president said he would

oppose all – he would defy all subpoenas, which they have done. That by

the way was Article 3 of the Nixon impeachment, to find subpoenas. The law

says that upon request by the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, the

department – the IRS shall give tax returns for any individual. They have

declined to do so – they have refused to do so.


They have said they haven`t shown adequate purpose. That`s none of their

business. And so they`re just defying all the law in order to hide

everything from Congress and from the American people.


Now, their excuse here that this is not a judicial proceeding, there is

judicial precedent for calling – for considering an impeachment proceeding

either judicial proceeding or preparatory judicial proceeding, but I`ll let

the details go to the legal – to the reply brief that will be filed this

coming week.


O`DONNELL:  Well, Judge Sirica in the Nixon case ordered grand jury

materials handed over to your committee. That`s one of the precedents

you`re relying on. They say that precedent isn`t relevant. I want to go to

something else they used in here.


They use what in courtroom terms would be called extrajudicial comment,

meaning they use statements that Speaker Pelosi has made when talking to

reporters or trying to explain the situation to the American public. And

they use that in these filings to say – to try to say that there isn`t an

official proceeding going on.


They quote the speaker on this one. They say “the Speaker of the House has

been emphatic that the investigation is not a true impeachment proceeding

on the same day the House adopted the resolution that the committee claims

authorized this suit, the Speaker told a reporter the House Democratic

caucus was not even close to an impeachment inquiry.” That was back in



NADLER:  Well, first of all, the House Democratic caucus doesn`t do an

impeachment inquiry.


O`DONNELL:  Right.


NADLER:  But second of all, the speaker has been very supportive of every

step that we have taken in initiating this impeachment investigation. Every

court filing, every statement, every official statement in the committee

was okayed by her at the time.


The House counsel who prepares, who makes all the legal filings on behalf

of the Judiciary Committee reports to the Speaker not to the chairman of

the Judiciary Committee. So she has been fully supportive of every

statement we have made and of the initiation and continuation of the steps

that we`re taking for the investigation.


Even the procedures that we – that the committee voted, which included in

the preamble whereas clause as a history of how this investigation started,

and of the resolution passed by the House back in June I think it was,

authorizing subpoenas and other things and the accompanying report of which

says, this is among other things, in order to determine whether to

recommend the articles of impeachment to the House. All of that was done

with the Speaker`s approval and direct involvement.


O`DONNELL:  The Justice Department filing says that the committee does not

know whether it`s going to have articles of impeachment or vote on articles

of impeachment of the president. The committee might – and it uses public

comments to support this thing. The committee might end up with just a

censure or the committee might not take action.


NADLER:  Well, that`s – but that`s saying – that`s why –


O`DONNELL:  Therefore, you don`t deserve any of this material.


NADLER:  Well, that`s like saying that you shouldn`t show evidence to the

jury because the jury hasn`t made up its mind at the beginning of the

trial. Of course, we haven`t determined yet whether to recommend articles

of impeachment.


That`s why we`re having this investigation to determine whether the

evidence is sufficient and important enough to justify the rather

extraordinary step of voting articles of impeachment. One can have one`s

personal opinions as to the quality of that evidence, but you don`t

announce the conclusion at the beginning of the trial, at the beginning of

the proceeding.


O`DONNELL:  Yes. Judge Sirica ordered the grand jury material handed over

to the committee before the judiciary committee decided that it was going

to vote on articles of impeachment. And also the committee didn`t

necessarily know whether the vote on articles of impeachment would pass.


NADLER:  Well, of course not. A proper investigation, a proper proceeding

to determine whether to recommend articles of impeachment, whether by the

judiciary committee in 1973 and `74 with respect to Nixon or now, you don`t

start off with a conclusion. You may have personal opinions, but you don`t

start of with an official conclusion. You examine the evidence and you make

a conclusion.


Now, I think personally the evidence is very strong in a dozen different

impeachable offenses, but that`s my personal opinion at the moment. We are

going to have a very aggressive series of hearings starting next Tuesday to

bring out the witnesses and we`re going to go well beyond the parameters of

the Mueller report.


It`s not just the question of collusion with the Russians in the election

and the question of obstruction of justice, which I think is very clearly

indicated in the Mueller report. But the question of self-dealing and self-

enrichment that American taxpayer`s money is going directly into the pocket

of the president,


That apparently Saudi money is going directly into the pockets of the

president because all of this in direct violation of the emoluments clause

of the Constitution because of the very corrupt actions where you direct

the Air Force to use a Trump hotel.


Or foreign governments seeking to influence the United States government,

have their delegations stay at Trump hotels, which he hasn`t divested

himself of an interest in, and which means money directly into his pocket.


We have to take a look at his failure to defend. I mean there`s ample

evidence. There is plenty of evidence that Mueller testified to this,

Senator Coates, the former head of the – the director of National

Intelligence, that we`re under attack now by the Russians in terms of the

integrity of our election, that we`re expecting that they will try to

intervene and others in our election next year.


And has the president done anything to carry out his oath to protect and

defend the Constitution, to see that the laws against election interference

are faithfully executed? I think not. That`s another grounds for

impeachment. The fact that he has in fact defied all congressional

subpoenas is an obstruction of the work of Congress.


The central purpose of impeachment is not to punish crimes. The central

purpose of impeachment as described by the framers, the federalist papers

et cetera, is to prevent the aggrandizement of power by the president to

protect liberty, to protect the separation of powers, to prevent the

president from assuming power over the Congress and over the judicial



And his complete subversion of this by refusing all information to Congress

and even this brief could be read as part of that, that was Article 3 in

the Nixon impeachment, and Nixon didn`t go so far as to say he would oppose

all subpoenas as this president has said he would do and has done.


So I think that there is some very, very serious reasons. And some people

say, by the way, why should we impeach the president, the Senate would

never convict anyway. I think it`s very important that this kind of

conduct, if you can prove it, be called out.


That the constitution must be vindicated, and that a president – and the

next president and the one after him or her has to know you can`t do this

sort of thing. You have to protect the institutions of government so that

powers are not centralized so you don`t evolve graduating to a



O`DONNELL:  Is Stormy Daniels going to be a witness in front of your



NADLER:  I don`t know if she will be, but the misuse or the payments to the

women, to Stormy Daniels and – I forget the name of the other woman, to

prevent that information from coming out in order not to influence – in

order to influence the election is certainly something we`re going to look



O`DONNELL:  Chairman Nadler, really appreciate you coming in.


NADLER:  Thank you.


O`DONNELL:  Thank you very much.


When we come back, President Trump`s big defeat in court today. The

executive director of the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in

Washington, which is suing Donald Trump for violating the emoluments

clause, will join us next.


And later, we`ll get an important update on Maria Isabel Buesos` situation

from her representative in Congress. And on August 13th, she received a

letter that said she had 33 days to leave the country. Today is day 32.




O`DONNELL:  Today, President Trump lost a big round in one of the

emoluments cases filed against him in federal court. An appeals court in

New York ruled that a lawsuit against the president brought under the

emoluments clause of the Constitution can proceed.


A federal trial court had dismissed that case with the federal judge there

saying the case appeared to be politically motivated. Today, the appeals

court said, “while it is certainly possible that these lawsuits are fueled

in part by political motivations, we do not understand the significance of

that fact.


Whether a lawsuit has political motivations is irrelevant to these

determinative issues. While the existence of a political motivation for a

lawsuit does not supply standing, nor does it defeat standing.”


Joining us now is Noah Bookbinder, executive director of the Citizens for

Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, which is suing President Trump for

violating the emoluments clause. Noah, this is one of your cases. Your

reaction to how the court ruled today?



Well, we`re thrilled with how the court ruled today. We`re obviously not

happy that two and a half years on, we`re in a place where this lawsuit is

not only as important as it was the day we brought it, the president`s

first day in the Oval Office, but so much more important.


We were worried when we brought this lawsuit that the president in holding

onto ownership of his businesses would be using the presidency, not just to

enrich himself but to create these conflicts of interest where those who

were seeking to influence him could patronize his businesses and then you

wouldn`t know whether he was acting in the interest of the country or in

his own business and financial interests.


And that has come true in spades. We`ve seen that more and more brazenly

lately. And so it`s even more important that these cases be able to go

forward in the courts and we`re glad that the Second Circuit Court of

Appeals, one of the courts at a level just below the U.S. Supreme Court

said that that could happen today.


O`DONNELL:  And it should be noted that you`re working in novel legal

territory. It`s not like we have a bunch of case law on presidents

violating the emoluments clause.


BOOKBINDER:  That`s absolutely right. There are three cases currently

pending against the president for this, the one that CREW, joined by

business owners who compete with the president`s hotels, but obviously

can`t offer access and influence over the president.


There`s the ones that they – there`s that case that was the one that was

decided today. There`s a case that the District of Columbia and the state

of Maryland brought. And the case that members of Congress brought.


But prior to this, you didn`t have any federal courts considering this

issue of the emoluments clauses of the Constitution. This is really new

territory and it`s really important that the abuses stop.


O`DONNELL:  We had 44 presidents with none of them running businesses

trying to make money off the federal government.


BOOKBINDER:  That`s right. If the emoluments clauses of the Constitution

were not household names, it was not something that most people knew about

because presidents just followed them. Presidents didn`t try to keep global

businesses going while they were serving.


They didn`t take money from the federal government and the states and

foreign governments while in office. They just followed the law. President

Obama went through a lot of deliberations to figure out whether or not he

could accept the Nobel Prize and whether that would violate the emoluments



President Trump just blew through that and, you know, we – CREW put out a

report just weeks ago finding that there have been now been 2,300 conflicts

of interest between the president`s businesses, the presidency and those

trying to influence it.


This is something that`s happening every day and that he not only has no

qualms about violating, but seems intent to use the presidency to advance

his businesses on a daily basis.


O`DONNELL:  A big win for Noah Bookbinder today in court. Thank you very

much for joining us today. We really appreciate it.


BOOKBINDER:  Thanks so much for having me.


O`DONNELL:  And when we come back, the Trump administration told Maria

Isabel Bueso that she has to leave the country by tomorrow or face

deportations. The man who represents her congressional district where she

lives in California, Mark DeSaulnier, will join us. He has been fighting to

save Isabel. He will join us next.






Congress and the administration to come together and to right the wrong of

this change in policy. This is not a partisan issue. This is a humanitarian

issue. And our lives depend on it. Thank you so much.




O`DONNELL:  That was Maria Isabel Bueso testifying for her life in Congress

on Wednesday. The Trump administration sent her and other patients

suffering with deadly illnesses letters telling them they had to leave the

country by tomorrow or be deported.


This was an unannounced change in policy by the Trump administration for

people who are in this country to receive life-saving medical care. After

Isabel`s story went public, the Trump administration sent letters to Isabel

and other patients telling them that their cases were being re-opened, but

the letters did not explain what re-opened means and the letters did not

explain what would happen next.


And joining us now by phone is Democratic Congressman Mark DeSaulnier who

represents the California congressional district where Isabel Bueso lives

with her family and where she has been participating in medical studies

that have helped save and extend the lives of Americans who suffer from the

rare disease that Isabel has been struggling with all of her 24 years.


Congressman, we are certain that Isabel is not going to be deported

tomorrow, but do we know anything else about what happens next?


REP. MARK DESAULNIER (D-CA) (via telephone):  Not really. We have a six-

hour hearing, Lawrence, as you know, and thanks for inviting me on and all

your reporting on this –


O`DONNELL:  We`re having trouble with the Congressman`s telephone

connection to us. I`m not sure if we have him. I just want to read a memo

that was used in a meeting last week about this policy that “Politico”

published today. It is from the Policy and Strategy Chief, Kathy Nuebel

Kovarik, on the Citizenship and Immigration Services.


And she wrote in that memo that her department and she - she “strongly

believes that the exercise of deferred actions in subject to abuse,” and

she said “if we continue to accept such requests, even with narrow medical

criteria, we will be creating a de facto program of criteria, which are not

enumerated in the statute of regulations and that runs counter to the

President`s agenda to enforce our existing laws.”


So there is the memo, the smoking gun so far, in the investigation of who

is responsible for this. And that`s Kathy Nuebel Kovarik saying that this

enforcing the President`s agenda, the President`s immigration agenda, to

enforce our existing laws against people like Isabel, who you`re seeing on

this screen right now.


She was not the only beneficiary - medical beneficiary of this program to

testify on Wednesday. Let`s listen to Jonathan Sanchez in Wednesday`s






told us that the medical deferred action program was canceled, I started

crying and telling my mom I don`t want to die, I don`t want to die. If I go

back to Honduras, I will die.




O`DONNELL: According to Kathy Nuebel Kovarik`s memo, Jonathan Sanchez is

one of the people who, in her view, might be abusing this program. She is

claiming that because of abuse, people like Jonathan Sanchez cannot be

allowed to stay in this country and have to be sent to their deaths. In his

case, back to Honduras.


Congressman DeSaulnier is back with us on the phone. And Congressman, this

memo from “Politico” that`s been reported on today, I was just reading that

for the audience. I know you`ve seen it. And this makes it pretty clear

that it was part of Kathy Nuebel Kovarik, as she put it, the department and

she strongly believe that this program was subject to abuse and had to be



REP. MARK DESAULNIER (D-CA) (via telephone): So we`d like them to

demonstrate that. We have asked for all our documents the Oversight

Committee staff has assured me today that we will get those. Looks like

we`re going to have to issue subpoenas, because as usual, the

administration is not forthcoming.


O`DONNELL: I think we`re losing the Congressman`s telephone connection

again. He`s driving out there in the district somewhere. There`s a lot of

hills and valleys there.


Congressman DeSaulnier, thank you very much for joining us tonight.


DESAULNIER (via telephone): You`re welcome.


O`DONNELL: We appreciate your attempt to connect with us.


We`re going to be right back with more. When we come back, the most intense

part of last night`s Presidential debate was also the ugliest part of last

night`s Presidential debate. It was the part of the debate that provoked

Pete Buttigieg to say “This is why Presidential debates are becoming

unwatchable.” That was his word, “unwatchable.” It was also the least

important part of that debate, what Pete Buttigieg called the unwatchable

part. I`ll show you why, next.







what they cannot stand about Washington. Scoring points against each other,

poking at each other, and telling each other that your - my plan, your

plan. Look, we all have different–




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. That`s called a Democratic–




O`DONNELL: The immutable law of Presidential campaign debates is the more

you know about government and policy, the less satisfying the debate is.

Many of the lines that get the biggest reaction in Presidential debates are

declarations of hope on matters that are completely under the control of

Congress. The most stirring line in last night`s debate was one of those.




BETO O`ROURKE (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And in Odessa, I met the mother

of a 15-year-old girl who was shot by an AR-15. And that mother watched her

bleed to death over the course of an hour because so many other people were

shot by that AR-15 in Odessa and Midland. There weren`t enough ambulances

to get to them in time. Hell, yes, we`re going to take your AR-15, your AK-





O`ROURKE: They`re not going to be allowed to be used against our fellow

Americans anymore.






O`DONNELL: As usual, the health care section of the debate was the longest

and most contentious part of the debate, as it veered out of control with

confusing policy points and interruptions and insults. Senator Kamala

Harris said the most important thing that voters have to know about health

care policy right now in America.





I do believe, is well intentioned and wants that all Americans have

coverage and recognizes that right now 30 million Americans don`t have

coverage. But at least five people have talked, some repeatedly, on this

subject, and not once have we talked about Donald Trump.


So let`s talk about the fact that Donald Trump came into office and spent

almost the entire first year of his term trying to get rid of the

Affordable Care Act. We all fought against it, and then the late great John

McCain at that moment at about 2 o`clock in the morning killed his–




HARRIS: –attempt to take health care from millions of people in this



Fast forward to today, and what is happening? Donald Trump`s Department of

Justice is trying to get rid of the Affordable Care Act. Donald Trump`s

administration is trying to get rid of the ban that we placed on denying

people who have pre-existing conditions covered. Donald Trump is trying our

kids up to the age of 26 can no longer be on our plans.


And frankly, I think this discussion is giving the American public a

headache. What they want to know is that they`re going to have health care

and costs will not be a barrier to getting it. But let`s focus on the end

goal. If we don`t get Donald Trump out of office, he`s going to get rid of

all of it.










O`DONNELL: And yes, a Republican Senator, John McCain, got applause right

there in the middle of the Democrats` health care debate. You can ignore

everything else that the candidates say about health care policy in the

debates because everything else they say is entirely under the control of

Congress. And as President, each one of them will sign whatever Democrats

in Congress manage to pass.


In 2008, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama argued endlessly about health

care policy. The chief difference being Hillary Clinton was in favor of an

individual mandate and Barack Obama was opposed to it, and in the end,

President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act with an individual mandate,

thereby proving that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton`s disagreements about

health care were completely ignorable. Each of them was going to sign

whatever version Congress managed to pass.


No one on that stage last night knows what Congress is capable of passing

on health care. And the moderators didn`t ask a question about health care

that is within the powers of the presidency. The only power the President

has in relation to legislation is to sign or veto it.


And so the relevant question, which could really shorten the health care

section of the debate, you could do it with one of those quick show-of-

hands moments, you could ask for a show of hands on the question of “will

you sign whatever health care bill a Democratic House and Democratic Senate

manages to pass?”


And the real answer is, every one of them will sign whatever a Democratic

Congress can pass. If that`s Medicare for all, Joe Biden is going to sign

it. If it`s strengthening the Affordable Care Act, President Bernie Sanders

is going to sign it.


Here is the right way - the right way to ask a Presidential candidate a





UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There`s been the debate around reparations for

descendants of African slaves. If you are elected President, Sheila Jackson

Lee, a member of Congress, has a bill calling for a commission to study

reparations. If that bill were to pass and come to your desk, would you

sign it?



passed that bill, of course I would sign it.




O`DONNELL: If the House and Senate passed that bill, of course I would sign

it. One other answer is there. Al Sharpton`s question forced one of those

rare moments in a Presidential campaign. A candidate admitting that

legislating is really all up to the House and Senate. Here is a sample of

the candidates remembering who they are really running against.




BUTTIGIEG: When I first got into this race, I remember President Trump

scoffed and said he`d like to see me making a deal with Xi Jinping. I`d

like to see him making a deal with Xi Jinping.



is literally running our country like a game show.


O`ROURKE: We have a white supremacist in the White House, and he poses a

mortal threat to people of color all across this country.


SANDERS: We must and will defeat Trump, the most dangerous President in the

history of this country.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There`s enormous, enormous

opportunities once we get rid of Donald Trump.


HARRIS: And now President Trump, you can go back to watching Fox News.






O`DONNELL: Joining our debate about the debate now is Maria Teresa Kumar,

the President and CEO of Voto Latino, an MSNBC contributor. She was at the

debate in Houston last night. And E.J. Dionne, opinion writer for “The

Washington Post,” is with us. He`s a visiting professor at Harvard

University. He is the co-author of “One Nation After Trump.”


Maria Teresa, you were there. So your - what were the–







KUMAR: –tensed everything.


O`DONNELL: What were the parts of the debate that you focused on the most?


KUMAR: When they started talking about gun control and gun safety and how

every single Presidential candidate gave a hat tip to Beto O`Rourke and

recognized his leadership and recognized that he was able to step up, and

how he took it graciously. And I think at first he was quite surprised, but

then he started owning it, and then he started talking that famous line

that “I`m going to confiscate all your guns.” And the room went bananas.


And the reason the room went bananas is because he understands this game, I

think, more distinctly than others, and that is that he needs to ensure

that white suburban moms stay with the Democratic Party, they don`t want to

go back to school and try to buy bulletproof backpacks, they want their

kids to be safe, and he needs to grow the electoral base.


The people - the majority of the folks that were in that hall yesterday

were people of color. We were at a historically black college. They

understand what gun violence means intimately. Here in Texas, where you

have 2.5 million unregistered Latinos who he wants in his camp, he really

understood it.


But then I also - what I also found a lot of affection was for Amy

Klobuchar. She was able to stand her ground, she was able to talk about,

“hey, I`m the person in the middle, if you want someone from the Midwest.”


Lawrence, when we started looking at the electoral map, the Democrats

basically need to look at seven states in order to really win. And the

sensibilities that will really touch the southwest, whether it`s Texas,

Georgia, Arizona, and when you`re talking about Wisconsin, Minnesota, those

are the individuals that we need to move. And I think she did a really

strong job.


And I also - something that folks - that`s been a little bit under the

radar was the fact that when Andrew Yang was asking for folks, saying,

“hey, if you put in your name and collect names, then I`ll give you a

thousand dollars,” what folks didn`t realize is that it must be that he

must be losing money. That was one of the easiest ways on a national stage

to collect names and transfer that to donations. So we may not see him on

the stage next time.




O`DONNELL: E.J. Dionne, I`m imagining you as a little boy in Fall River,

Massachusetts, watching the very first televised Presidential debate in

1960. I`m assuming you`ve seen every one of them in the history of

televised debates. What did you make of last night?




I would like you to be a debate questioner and ask that right here.




KUMAR: Right. Me too.


DIONNE: And - because - that`s exactly right. And I was struck, in fact, by

the contentiousness yet again over single payer versus expanding Obamacare.

And the Democrats are going to waste a whole lot of time having this very

divisive argument when, in fact, something will get to the President`s desk

that will, if they`re lucky, that will be a combination of these things or

a little short of these things. So I think that`s important.


The second thing that really struck me was that tableau you had just before

we went on the air. More than the other two debates, Democrats were finally

saying, hey, wait a minute, our opponent is Donald Trump. They remembered

that the opponent was Donald Trump in a way they didn`t in the earlier

debates. And I thought that actually sent a much more powerful message. I

don`t think any eight-year-old kid would stay up and watch that whole thing

last night. A three-hour debate was a terrible ordeal for everybody.


But the last thing is, I think this debate did not really move the

Presidential race at all. I think Biden did well enough. He was strong at

the beginning, got a little weaker at the end. He had that appeal to

hipsters by talking about record players. Aren`t they into vinyl these

days? People aren`t giving him credit for how he - what he had in mind





DIONNE: But - and I think Elizabeth Warren almost played as a frontrunner.

She knows–




DIONNE: –she is really within reach of Iowa and New Hampshire. But it may

have changed on issues. I think you`re probably going to see people pulling

back from health care like you suggest, and I think Beto, as Maria Teresa

suggested, really pushed the gun issue to a different place. And I think

that`s important.


O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to something Elizabeth Warren said, and E.J., it`s

one of those moments where she brought up President Obama. President Obama

made quite a comeback in this debate last night. But she also added a

point, which is similar to what Senator Harris said, indicating that they

basically all agree on health care and on the need to improve access,

coverage and try to get to universal coverage. Let`s listen to that.





debt to President Obama, who fundamentally transformed health care in

America and committed this country to health care for every human being.




WARREN: And now the question is, how best can we improve on it? And I

believe the best way we can do that is we make sure that everybody gets

covered by health care at the lowest possible cost.




O`DONNELL: And Maria Teresa, that`s the basic argument. That`s the generic

position. Everybody gets covered at the lowest possible cost. Once they get

beyond that, into the details, it`s not up to them. It`s up for the Senate

Finance Committee, the House Ways and Means Committee. And if there`s a

Republican Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, zero is going to



KUMAR: That`s exactly right. And they have to stick to that. I think that

what a lot of Americans are looking for is that not only is it important to

defeat Donald Trump, but what is your vision for unifying America? Where

are we going to go? So this idea of having these lofty ideas for the

American public moving forward, people want to hear that. But

fundamentally, you`re absolutely right. Who decides what legislation gets

passed? That is the House - that`s Congress.


And so what`s important in the debate is having this conversation of, well,

if you`re going to run for office, are you going to make sure - are the

Democrats going to make sure that will not only hold on to the House, but

is there a chance at the Senate? Is there a chance at the White House? And

the more they can talk about, again, a vision for the country is very



And I do think that yesterday, one of the things that also resonated was

Julian Castro, when he started talking about what was happening in El Paso

and the El Paso shooting, and he brought it home, when he was saying, look,

he was trying to kill someone like me who was inspired by the words of the

President. And he spoke specifically about how this President is talking

about racism and doesn`t want to take responsibility. And this is a very

real issue in the Latino community. And for the first time he gave it voice

and he gave it structure.


And my hope is that as the candidates start talking more about these

issues, that they really start talking about the Latino experience here in

America, not just around immigration but what it is to be an American-

Latino under this Presidency, where just in the month of August, after this

terrible shooting, after the largest raids in our country`s history that

also brought in a lot of U.S. citizens unfortunately, he has looked

directly at dismantling 13 different programs that disproportionately

impact the Latino community.


O`DONNELL: We`re going to squeeze in a break here, and we`ll be right back.






JULIAN CASTRO (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I want to commend Beto for how

well he`s spoken to the passion and the frustration and the sadness after

what happened in his hometown of El Paso. He`s done a great job with that.


BIDEN: By the way, the way Beto handled - excuse me for saying Beto -



O`ROURKE: That`s all right. That sounds good.




BIDEN: The way he handled what happened in his hometown is meaningful. To

look in the eyes of those people, to see those kids, to understand those

parents, to understand the heart ache–


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But this is the problem.


BIDEN: –we are ready to do this.




O`ROURKE: Thank you.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Vice President, thank you.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the problem–






O`DONNELL: We`re back with Maria Teresa Kumar and E.J. Dionne.


Maria Teresa, what did it feel like in Texas? You were down there for that

moment because that was clearly a moment where everyone was not just

reaching out to Beto O`Rourke but to Texas and what Texas has suffered in

these mass murders.


KUMAR: Yes. So there was a delegation that as Congresswoman Escobar had

brought from El Paso that of individuals who had actually been part of the

shooting. And I had a chance to talk to them. And they were just - they

were grateful to be there, but more importantly, the support that they were

receiving from the country. And there`s real conversations in Texas for the

first time of making sure that we`re talking about stand-your-ground. I

thought you were (ph) actually talking about gun reform in a substantive



And when Elizabeth Warren was talking about gun reform, when Beto was

talking about gun reform, in a state that is historically a red state that

is opening its ideas of making sure that they have more gun safety, really

it should speak to the Democrats. There`s an incredible opportunity to make

sure that that state turns blue.


And that is - but that means meeting people where they are, making sure

that they`re - recognizing that Texas is more on the conservative moderate

side of the Democratic Party, and being there for them. But the fact,

again, that you have so many Texans right now that are so aware that the

gun issues, whether it`s El Paso or Odessa, that it`s a real problem and

it`s hitting home, that it has to stop. It was uplifting to have had the

debate there because people felt that they were being heard, they were

being recognized. And Texans really tuned in.


O`DONNELL: Yes. And E.J., I just wanted to clarify. The thing I said

earlier about how these things are up to Congress, I`m not suggesting then

that in these debates that the candidates should not say aspirational

things that aren`t currently possible within the Congressional dynamics

that we live with now. And this is a clear example of it.


And what`s also fascinating about it is it`s very unlikely that there`s

anyone else on that stage who actually agrees with Beto O`Rourke or would

be willing to publicly agree with Beto O`Rourke about a buyback of these

assault weapons to just take all of these assault weapons out of private

hands. And yet, none of them felt compelled to rush into an argument about

it and disagree on the very specific policy details that could have been

brought up on that.


DIONNE: Well, first of all, in their heart of hearts, I think they do agree

with Beto O`Rourke, and they just worry still about the politics. But Joe

Biden made an important point when he went back to the (inaudible) gun

reform bill, that was fairly narrow that got 54 votes in the Senate, which

was a majority, but lost in the filibuster.


And he noted how much this issue has changed over time. Voters who voted on

the gun issue in the 2018 election voted 70 percent Democratic in the House

races. He referenced the students after the Stoneman Douglas High School

shooting. There has been a real sea change on the gun issue that you saw

reflected in that debate last night.


And related to that, the other point made that was very important,

Elizabeth Warren was the one person who stood up and said we`ve got to end

the filibuster in the Senate because if the Democrats do win the Senate,

which is still going to be tough, they are not going to have a big

majority. And if there is a brief period with a Democratic President, a

Democratic Senate, and a Democratic House, they`re going to want to get a

lot done. And if there is a filibuster, a lot of what they want to get done

will not get done.


O`DONNELL: And once again, that`s something that isn`t up to the President.

And they don`t all agree on that. I mean, Bernie Sanders is–




O`DONNELL: –pretty reluctant. And the truth is, most senators are pretty

reluctant about getting rid of the filibuster because they`ve lived on the

beneficiary side of the filibuster.


Maria Teresa, a quick last word.


KUMAR: No. I think that - again, the fact that the - yesterday it was - the

debate that was yesterday held in Texas, it was incredibly meaningful for

the people there. And it was a relief to actually see people talking on

stage that reflected America. We had three women. We had an Asian, we had

African-Americans, we had Latino. We had what America really is. And I

think that is what resonated most.


And the fact that you can see young people tuning in and children tuning in

and saying, this is a country that I identify with, that alone says what

the Democratic Party really is and the progressive movement.







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