Candidates offer contrasting visions. TRANSCRIPT: 9/13/19, The Last Word w/ Lawrence O’Donnell.
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
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
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.
REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY), CHAIRMAN, HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Well, let
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
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
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
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
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
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
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?
NOAH BOOKBINDER, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, CITIZENS FOR RESPONSIBILITY & ETHICS:
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.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARIA ISABEL BUESO, RECIPIENT OF MEDICAL DEFERRED ACTION: I`m asking
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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
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
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JONATHAN SANCHEZ, RECIPIENT OF MEDICAL DEFERRED ACTION: The day our lawyers
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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
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.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This reminds everybody of
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–
(END VIDEO CLIP)
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.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
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-
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
O`ROURKE: They`re not going to be allowed to be used against our fellow
(END VIDEO CLIP)
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.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Everybody on this stage,
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.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (inaudible)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 15 seconds.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
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
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
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
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If the House and Senate
passed that bill, of course I would sign it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
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.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
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.
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have a guy there that
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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
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–
MARIA TERESA KUMAR, PRESIDENT, VOTO LATINO: I wish you had been too,
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
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
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?
E.J. DIONNE, THE WASHINGTON POST OP-ED COLUMNIST, HARVARD UNIVERSITY
VISITING PROFESSOR & CO-AUTHOR, ONE NATION AFTER TRUMP: Well, first of all,
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.
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
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.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We all owe a huge
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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
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.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
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–
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You did–
(END VIDEO CLIP)
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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Copyright 2019 ASC Services II Media, LLC. All materials herein are
protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced,
distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the
prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter
or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the