Beto O’Rourke drops out of 2020 race. TRANSCRIPT: 11/1/19,The Last Word w/ Lawrence O’Donnell.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: I told you this was going to be an exhausting
week. It has been an exhausting week. That means you have to have a good
weekend and rest up because next week is probably going to be worse. All
right, we`ll see you again on Monday. Now it`s time for the “Last Word”
where Ali Velshi is in for Lawrence tonight. Good evening Ali.
ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel. I think most of our viewers
would appreciate it if you had a restful weekend so that you can be in fine
form for next weekend.
MADDOW: I would do my damn best. Thank you, Ali.
VELSHI: Have a great weekend.
VELSHI: All right, ahead tonight, a Democrat`s tough face-to-face with a
top Trump official. Congresswoman Debby Wassermann Schultz has accused
acting U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Ken Cuccinelli of
pursuing a “heinous white supremacist ideology in seeking to deny public
benefits to legal immigrants.” At the end of the hour, we`ll speak to the
congresswoman about her allegation.
Also it`s the dinner that helped make Barack Obama a star. Many consider
Iowa`s liberty and justice celebration as the place where Obama had his
break out moment in the 2007 presidential race. Tonight, 14 Democratic
candidates are trying to have their own break out moments at that very same
event on the same night that Beto O`Rourke dropped out of the race, so
there`s a lot to talk about in the 2020 race.
But first, House Democrats are preparing to take the impeachment
investigation public. Speaker Nancy Pelosi told Bloomberg News that public
hearings from key witnesses could start later this month.
But she cautioned that there was no deadline to finish the investigation
and that any case to impeach the president, “has to be iron clad.” The
investigating committees have already heard testimony from 13 witnesses who
have provided roughly 100 hours of testimony behind closed doors.
Next week, House Democrats have 11 more witnesses on their deposition
calendar and their testimonies could prove pivotal. On Monday, the
investigating committees are scheduled to hear from National Security
Council lawyer John Eisenberg who allegedly moved the transcript of ae
phone call between President Trump and President Zelensky of Ukraine to a
And breaking tonight, investigators have subpoenaed John Eisenberg to
appear before the impeachment committees next week rather than rely on his
voluntary cooperation. That`s according to the “New York Times.”
New reporting suggests that John Eisenberg knew how damaging that phone
call was to the president. This man, Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman
who served as National Security Council`s director for Ukraine told
lawmakers that he went to John Eisenberg to register his concerns about the
According to a person in the room for Vindman`s deposition, John Eisenberg
recorded Lieutenant Colonel Vindman`s complaints and then conferred with
his deputy about how to handle the conversation.
“Politico” reports, “The lawyers then decided to move the record of the
call into the NSC`s top secret code word system. Vindman did not consider
the move itself as evidence of a cover-up, according to person familiar
with his testimony. But he said he became disturbed when a few days later
Eisenberg instructed him not to tell anybody about the call especially
because it was Vindman`s job to coordinate the interagency process with
regard to Ukraine policy.”
NBC News and the “Washington Post” have since confirmed that reporting.
Also breaking tonight, House Democrats have scheduled outgoing Energy
Secretary Rick Perry to provide testimony to the impeachment committees. A
spokeswoman for Rick Perry told “The Wall Street Journal” that he won`t
testify behind closed doors.
But the spokeswoman added, “If the committee is interested in conducting
serious proceeding, they are welcome to send the secretary`s consideration
an invitation to participate in an open hearing where the department`s
counsel can be present and the American people can witness.
So, we might see Rick Perry on our television sets in an open hearing
sooner than we think. Now, like with Rick Perry, it`s important to note, we
don`t know if many of these witnesses will actually appear for their closed
door depositions. If precedent holds, most of them will, but nothing is
guaranteed with this administration.
Last night, Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff said that the
committees will start releasing the transcripts of all these closed door
depositions; depositions from diplomats, military advisers and foreign
policy experts that have yielded blockbuster evidence of a quid pro quo.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): One of the aspects of the resolution that we
passed today authorizes me to begin releasing transcripts and I would
expect that process will begin as early as next week.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: Now, as I mentioned later this month House Democrats plan to take
the impeachment investigation public. But even before the public hearings
take place, it seems like the investigation has already started putting a
dent in President Trump`s poll numbers among Republicans.
A new Washington Post/ABC News poll finds that 49 percent of Americans say
that President Trump should be impeached and removed from office, 47
percent of Americans say that President Trump should not be impeached.
Now, here`s where things get interesting, 18 percent of Republicans polled
say that the president should be impeached and removed from office. Almost
one in five Republicans wants Trump out. And the president`s approval
rating among Republicans has dropped 13 points since this summer.
In July, Trump enjoyed support from 87 percent of Republicans, and now that
support is at 74 percent. Who knows how low it could go once the
impeachment investigation is all out in the open. Leading off our
discussion tonight, Democratic Congressman Ro Khanna of California. He`s a
member of the House Oversight Committee and has attended many of the closed
door depositions for the impeachment investigation.
Also joining us, Barbara McQuade, former U.S. attorney for the Eastern
District of Michigan. She`s an MSNBC legal contributor. And Ben Rhodes,
former Deputy National Security Advisor to President Obama who is also an
MSNBC political analyst.
Welcome to all of you. Thank you for joining me here on a Friday evening.
Congressman Khanna, good to see you again. Let`s talk about what the next
step is in this process, the open hearings. At least for the next week or
so we presume the hearings, the people who have been subpoenaed or invited
will still testify in a closed door setting where Democrats and Republicans
REP. RO KHANNA (D-CA): Yes, Ali, we will continue to gather the evidence
and it`s important to understand that Republicans are there as well, they
have their council. But then we will quickly move to public hearings.
And the important thing to realize here is that the facts really aren`t in
dispute. I think a few key witnesses like Ambassador Taylor will establish
that the president withheld aid, pressuring Zelensky to investigate Joe
Biden, his political rival and this is unconstitutional.
VELSHI: Congressman, what`s the advantage of the closed door hearings
versus the public hearings? If you keep on getting the evidence that we
keep on hearing because we see some of these opening statements that the
They seem to corroborate the story that Democrats believe to be the case.
Why the closed door hearings versus open hearings?
KHANNA: Well, first of all, I think many of the witnesses may not be
willing to come and be badgered in front of national television. I mean,
the Republican attacks on career civil servants and people that have served
our military have been outrageous.
And I don`t think we would get the same cooperation or the same honesty if
we were forcing these individuals to have to testify to millions of people
and face the wrath of the president of the United States and the
VELSHI: But they ultimately will, right? You will – what will happen?
You`ll take sort of the best of and put them together for public hearings?
KHANNA: Yes. I mean, I think a lot of the depositions eventually will be
released, but not everyone is going to have to testify publicly and they
are going to have the opportunity first to make the case in private instead
of in the glare of the television.
So I think that this is the way almost all investigations have taken place.
And the Republicans are making a process argument for one simple reason.
They know they can`t defend the facts. I mean, the facts are so simple. The
president pressured Zelensky to investigate his political rival and
withheld military aid.
VELSHI: Barbara McQuade, we now know through the course of testimony that
there were lawyers involved. The “Washington Post” is reporting on John
Eisenberg and his request to Alexander Vindman to not to talk about the
Trump-Ukraine phone call that Vindman was so concerned about that we`ve all
And I want to quote from the “Washington Post,” “The interaction between
Eisenberg and Vindman suggests there was a sense among some in the White
House that Trump`s call with Zelensky was not as the president has
repeatedly claimed perfect.”
Eisenberg has been subpoenaed. We don`t know whether he will attend the
deposition or not, but the fact is this is a lawyer for the National
Security Council. What does this make you think?
BARBARA MCQUADE, MSNBC LEGAL CONTRIBUTOR: I think it`s very concerning. We
had already heard the information that John Eisenberg, the lawyer, had
taken the unusual step of concealing this call in a code word safe where
it`s not normally stored. That raised a lot of questions I think to why
that was done.
And now we have this additional testimony by Colonel Vindman that he also
told him not to tell anybody about this call. I think that suggests what
prosecutors refer to as consciousness of guilt. This could be a basis for
obstruction of justice, although to prove a case of obstruction of justice,
you have to show that there is an investigation pending and this may have
predated any investigation.
But it shows something deeper which is this idea of consciousness of guilt.
You don`t have to hide things if you think that they are honest and done
forthrightly. You hide things when you worry that there`s a problem there.
And so the mere fact that he is storing it in this special safe and that he
is asking Vindman not to speak about it suggests that he knows that there`s
something problematic about it.
VELSHI: Ben, talk to me about this because you were at the National
Security Council. I don`t know if you ever experienced things like this,
but how would this have been handled? How should this have been handled?
Vindman heard something that was of concern to him. It sounds like as a
military man, he had a sense of process about him. He went to the NSC`s
lawyer, probably the right thing to do.
BEN RHODES, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, yes. I mean, the NSC lawyer,
though, used to be there to not facilitate crimes but to make sure that we
were acting in an ethical way. What is so extraordinary to me about this is
I knew that system. That system was reserved for very sensitive matters,
you know, covert operations of the United States; things that dealt with
sensitive human intelligence sources for instance.
You don`t put things on that server just because they`re embarrassing. And
you certainly don`t put things on a server because you realize, wait a
second, the president of the United States may have just committed an
impeachable offense, a crime in his phone call with a foreign leader.
And so it`s rather extraordinary to me that the lawyers, the people who
were supposed to be keeping people on the right side of the law in the
White House were instead trying to conceal information.
And Ali, there`s just no other reason to put that call on that server.
There`s no other sensitive information in that call. There is no
intelligence referred to on that call.
The only reason to put that call transcript on that server is if you don`t
want enough people to see it to catch you in that crime that the president
VELSHI: Congressman Khanna, I know you can`t tell me about things that
were not in the public eye in the last couple of weeks in terms of
testimony. But it does appear from what we have heard has happened that
these – each witness tends to corroborate the last witness.
We had Tim Morrison who said he didn`t think what the president did was
illegal, but that`s sort of beside the point. He did say that he heard the
same things that others had said that they had heard about that call on
So, whether you interpret it as illegal or not is a separate question. Are
you hearing things that are surprising you? Are you hearing things that are
contradicting the message we got from the president himself? The message we
got from the memo itself of that phone call?
KHANNA: Ali, based on the public reporting, here`s what`s important to
realize. This was not just one phone call by Donald Trump and Zelensky
where he misspoke or spoke aggressively.
This was a coordinated effort that lasted months by the White House to
pressure Zelensky to get dirt on Joe Biden because the president, the White
House feared that Joe Biden was the person most likely to beat him, and
they were willing to withhold military aid.
And what`s remarkable is how many people were involved in this scheme. It`s
important to realize that Republicans were saying, oh, quid pro quo is just
part of normal foreign policy.
This is not the president saying get to the bottom of corruption. This is
the president saying help me beat my political rival who`s winning in the
VELSHI: So let`s talk about it because the president very quickly after
news of this broke said it was about corruption in Ukraine. I want to ask
Barbara a legal question about it. I want to ask Ben a question on the
facts on this one. President Trump mentioned this at a rally in Tupelo,
Mississippi tonight. Let`s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When you call the leaders of
a country many people listen. And I`m on the phone and they want me to say
to this brand new president who just got there, call to congratulate him.
Please could you help me, please? I don`t know who he is. I didn`t know his
name I will I looked down on the card.
And one of the reasons I held up money, very important, corruption, but the
other reason, why isn`t Germany and France and U.K. and all of these
European nations that are right there, why aren`t they doing things that
they`re supposed to do? Why is it always the United States?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: So from the applause there you could see that this works for the
audience that`s listening to him except for the fact that it`s not true,
what the president just said.
The idea and he`s been singing this since he tried the corruption thing and
didn`t work, he then moved to the whole I`m holding out so that the
Europeans would do more for Ukraine. The Europeans have always done more
for Ukraine since the beginning of this crisis with Russia.
RHODES: Yes. And we put together with the Europeans this entire strategy
of essentially imposing pressure on the Russians, imposing sanctions on the
Russians, and providing coordinated support, the United States and Europe
to the Ukrainian government.
And to follow up on something that Ro said that`s really important, the
people who`ve testified – I used to work on this policy, Ali – it`s
everybody who works on the Ukraine policy.
RHODES: It`s the guy in the White House who works on it, the guy in the
State Department, the Pentagon, the one in the Pentagon. You know,
everybody who would be sitting around the table in the interagency process
was witting of essentially this corruption of our Ukraine policy to make it
not about working with the Europeans to try to strengthen the Ukrainian
But rather to make it about how can we facilitate Rudy Giuliani`s effort on
behalf of Donald Trump to pressure this government to investigate the
president`s political opponents. That is a wholesale corruption.
Again, not just in one phone call but what the entire U.S. aid –
government was doing, the taxpayer funded U.S. government was doing to
pressure Ukraine to do Trump`s political bidding.
VELSHI: Barbara McQuade, Ben just (inaudible), we haven`t heard from Rudy
Giuliani for a few days. One week ago we were talking about how he had
butt-dialed an NBC reporte. That said, Donald Trump continues to try and
have this tried in a court of public opinion.
In the course of one speech, has now tried out the corruption angle and
tried out the I was just waiting for U.K. and Germany and France to do
more. Does any of this matter in the end?
MCQUADE: It could. You know, anything he says, anything he tweets are
admissions that can be used against him later. You know, if he locks
himself into a certain story and then changes his story later, there is
some suggestion that there is a lack of truth there.
But I think that impeachment unlike criminal prosecution is ultimately a
political process. And so if he can win in the court of public opinion, he
may be able to win in the impeachment battle as well. So I think that`s the
game he`s playing. He`s good at it, and I`m sure he will continue to try to
distract people, you know, referring to the perfect call and trying to
distract people from the real facts.
VELSHI: Barbara McQuade, thank you. Congressman Ro Khanna and Ben Rhodes.
Ben, stick around. I`m going to talk to you later. Thank you for getting us
started though, the three of you.
Coming up, one Republican congressman head butting a camera today instead
of talking about Trump`s behavior. He said the call – he said to call his
office to get and answer so we did. We`re going to tell you what we found
out after the break.
And later, a big night on the 2020 front. The event in Iowa that catapulted
Barack Obama`s campaign is taking place tonight. Who broke through amid the
breaking news tonight that Beto O`Rourke has ended his quest for the White
House? A lot of news to talk about tonight on the “Last Word.”
VELSHI: Republicans have been quick to chide the impeachment process to
avoid discussing whether it`s appropriate for President Trump to solicit a
foreign government to investigate his political opponent. But now that the
impeachment inquiry is about to become public, Republicans are forced to
confront the substance of the case against Donald Trump. Questions they`ve
been dodging by any means necessary.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
SCOTT PELLEY, CBS NEWS HOST: Was it appropriate for the president to ask
for investigations of his Democratic rivals with another foreign leader?
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): I`ve never seen one talking point from the
White House. I`m talking to you based upon the most important facts we
MARGARET BRENNAN, CBS NEWS HOST: You have no problem with any of this?
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): I have zero problems with this phone call.
BRENNAN: Even with that sequencing?
GRAHAM: I just told you.
BILL HEMMER, FOX NEWS HOST: Do you wish that conversation wouldn`t have
REP. STEVE SCALISE (R-LA): Well, I wish they wouldn`t have released the
transcript of the conversation.
REP. BRAD WENSTRUP (R-OH): Did the president have to mention Joe Biden?
Boy, that`s the elephant in the room. I don`t think you necessarily have to
but I did not see it as a quid pro quo.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you ask a foreign country to investigate an
opponent of yours?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m not the president of the United States.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But it`s OK for our president to extort other
countries to begin investigations into his political rivals?
SEN. JONI ERNST (R-IO): OK, we`re going to move onto another question, but
what I would say is we can`t determine that yet.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you think it`s OK for President Trump to ask China
to launch an investigation of Joe Biden and Hunter Biden?
SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL): I don`t know, but that`s a real request or him
just needling the press.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The question is, is it appropriate for a president to
SEN. CORY GARDNER (R-CO): Look, I think we are going to have an
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why don`t you answer the question about is it OK for
the president to ask a foreign country to investigate the Bidens?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don`t think we`re doing interviews instead of
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What do you make of these allegations?
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): I said I`m not going to comment on the merits
of what`s going forward.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is that concerning at all to you that the transcript
had been described as a perfect transcript but may not have been?
REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): No. I mean, there`s a process. The changes I think
that were outlined in the press were not a big deal.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
VELSHI: Republicans are so desperate not to answer questions about Trump`s
behavior that veteran Congressman Don Young from Alaska head butted a
camera when confronted by the liberal group moveon.org before ducking into
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Congressman, it`s a simple yes or no question. It`s
just a quick no – is it OK?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Please, as we talked to you already.
REP. DON YOUNG (R-AK): There you go.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is it an acceptable thing to ask foreign governments to
interfere in our elections?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just asking the same question over and over again is
not going to get you guys anywhere. Now, if you talk to Zack (ph) in our
office, he`s our press secretary. He`s the best person to talk to you about
this and to be able to get you something back.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just curious, it`s a yes or no question. Do you think
its OK for the president to pressure foreign governments and interfere in
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think the best thing to do is talk to our press
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: You ever get a situation like that where you just, like why is the
elevator not coming? I really need to get on this elevator. We called Zack
(ph). We called Zack (ph) in the congressman`s press office to get an
answer. Guess what? No response.
The next public phase of impeachment could take its toll on Republicans as
Jennifer Rubin notes in the “Washington Post” “If Republicans ever break
free of their irrational fear of Trump and his base, they might recognize
that saving him is becoming incompatible with saving themselves.”
Joining us now, Jennifer Rubin, opinion writer at the “Washington Post” and
an MSNBC contributor, E.J. Dionne, opinion writer for the “Washington Post”
and a visiting professor at Harvard University. I kind of felt for the
Congressman Young there for a second as he was trying to get in that
elevator and escape the repeated asking of the question, but Jennifer, it`s
kind of crazy, right?
Republican after Republican after Republican nobody wants to discuss the
merits, nobody wants to comment on the merits or they have no problem with
the phone call. At some point, the process are – disappears because the
process will become transparent to everybody and that whole argument about
how its Soviet-style depositions will evaporate.
JENNIFER RUBIN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I guess now Zack (ph) is the
congressman from Alaska because apparently he can answer questions that the
congressman doesn`t. I find this really sort of embarrassing and pathetic.
These people are paid to at least give us their opinion.
They can have whatever view they want but to be afraid of saying what they
think or to run literally from the press or their own constituents, this is
not a sustainable strategy, let me tell you.
And judging from the poll numbers for people like Cory Gardner and Joni
Ernst, it`s not going to sustain them. I think they`re trapped. The process
argument has fallen apart as you say, and they don`t have a good
substantive argument. The president`s defense is I did it and it doesn`t
matter, I don`t care, everything I do is fine.
The Article II of the Constitution allows me to do whatever the heck I
want. So, I don`t know how senators in particular who I think have a higher
level of probity are going to deal with this.
Essentially, we have a confession. We`re now going to have to exonerate
them. That`s apparently what the Senate is contemplating that even with a
quid pro quo, you know, hey, whatever.
VELSHI: Well, E.J., this is interesting because Lindsey Graham was on
there saying he had no problem with the phone call. There were a couple of
people there who had – don`t really have – take any issue with it. But
there were a lot of them who were saying difficult questions, unfair
question, stop interviewing yourself, we`ll get to the investigations.
We`ll get to the merits of it.
At some point and that point may come within two weeks, may come within 30
days, there will be nothing to hide behind and there will just be the
facts, which by the way most of us have known largely since day one. What
E.J. DIONNE, OPINION WRITER, “THE WASHINGTON POST”: Well, I think they`re
in a heap of trouble, but they were already in a heap of trouble. I mean,
we have reached a pretty bad point when Don Young`s head butt may have been
the most honest response in that whole lot of evasions.
I was thinking about that old Police song when I saw that series of word
salad, you know, the do, do, do, the da, da, da, that`s all I have to say
to you. They have nothing to say because they know that they are being
asked to defend the indefensible.
And it is particularly hard for senators in tough races next year from
tough states, Joni Ernst and Susan Collins and Cory Gardner because they
lose either way. They need the Trump base and they know they need a lot of
votes from anti-Trump people.
So what you`re starting to see, there`s a story in “The Post,” they`re
going to try to pivot to say, well, yes, this is what he said but it`s not
impeachable or it`s not illegal. But this is a complete contradiction to so
many of the things they`ve said in the past during the Russia
They were denying – they were saying, yes, foreign interference would be
wrong but Trump is innocent. They can`t say he`s innocent now because the
evidence is too overwhelming and that`s why they just don`t know what to
VELSHI: And we`re seeing a crack amongst conservatives, Jennifer, in this.
And the support amongst Republicans for Donald Trump is now down to about
74 percent in this particular instance. Chris Wallace yesterday on Fox is
saying that it was more than just a phone call or a perfect phone call
whatever it is.
Judge Andrew Napolitano wrote an op-ed in which he weighs in on this. I
want to read you from that. It says, “With the process soon to be as
Republicans have demanded and with the proof of impeachable offenses plain
to see, to what will the president`s allies resort as a defense?
They will claim that the federal crimes of soliciting campaign assistance
from foreign governments and bribery aren`t impeachable offenses and that
Trump was misunderstood because he exaggerates all the time and often
doesn`t mean what he says. And then the American public will decide if this
– all this is skim milk or cream.”
And that`s what it comes down to. We`re not – unlike the Mueller report,
we`re not going to be – I imagine, I`m guessing – we`re not going to be
having arguments of fact come two weeks from now or three weeks from now.
RUBIN: This is what the Republicans are reduced to arguing, that bribery
is not an impeachable offense. This is pretty crazy stuff. And I think
E.J.`s exactly right that for senators who don`t live in the middle of
deep, deep red America and are not soaking day after day in Fox News, these
arguments are going to come across as pretty crackpotish (ph).
And think about this, does the Republican Party really want to go down in
history as the pro-corruption party? This is essentially what Trump is
saying. I can get foreigners to decide our elections.
I can use taxpayer funded aid to Ukraine, which is defending itself against
what`s supposed to be a common enemy, Russia, and instead get them to use
their influence to help me win an election.
This is the very essence of corruption, and I don`t see how it`s going to
be sustainable for them to keep supporting it and defending it.
VELSHI: Thanks to both of you. Jen Rubin and E.J. Dionne, always
appreciate your analysis.
Coming up, the shifting ground in the race to defeat Donald Trump. A new
poll shows a four way race in Iowa as Beto O`Rourke drops out of the race.
And later, a look at one of the more contentious moments on Capitol Hill
this week and it had nothing to do with the impeachment of Donald Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BETO O`ROURKE (D) FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE: This is campaign that has
prided itself on seeing things clearly and speaking honestly and then
acting decisively. We have to clearly see at this point that we do not have
the means to pursue this campaign successfully and that my service will not
be as a candidate nor as a nominee of this party.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ALI VELSHI, ANCHOR, MSNBC: That was former Congressman Beto O`Rourke
telling supporters that he is officially dropping out of the Democratic
Presidential primary earlier tonight. Beto O`Rourke`s departure come as new
polling shows the top of the Democratic feel starting to take shape. And
we`re going to have more on that later in the hour. But even with these
latest developments, we`re still more than three months out from the Iowa
caucuses and a reminder of just how early we are in the process that`s
taking place tonight in the Hawkeye State.
Tonight is the annual Iowa Liberty and Justice Celebration. It was formerly
known as the state`s Jefferson-Jackson dinner. The event has a unique place
in Democratic campaign lore, partly because it was where many consider the
nation`s presidential campaign of then senator, Barack Obama, to have first
taken off with the delivery of this speech.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We can make this
election not about fear but about the future. And that won`t just be a
Democratic victory. That will be an American victory. And that is a victory
that America needs right now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: Tonight, 14 Democratic candidates are each trying to have their own
breakout moment. Here is a look at some of the top moments.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG (D-IN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The first time I came
to this state was as a volunteer to knock on doors for a presidential
candidate, a young man with a funny name. And we knew the stakes were high
then. The stakes are colossal now.
JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There`s a couple of things I`ve
learned the last couple of weeks. Number one is that Vladimir Putin doesn`t
want me to be President. And number two, Donald Trump doesn`t want me to be
SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Anyone who comes on
this stage and tells you they can make change without a fight is not going
to win that fight. And anyone who comes on this stage and tells you to
dream small and give up early is not going to lead our party to victory.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: When we come back, I`ll be joined by the person who helped Barack
Obama write that famous speech as well as someone who worked for the
campaign that had to respond to it. I`ll ask them what they think of the
current crop of Democratic candidates. That`s next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I want to thank Beto,
who is a friend, not only for running a principled campaign but for
understanding that we must end the horrific level of gun violence in
SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And I want to give a
shout-out to Beto because he had the courage - Beto had the courage to say,
look, you can`t walk around talking about gun safety, but you don`t have
the courage to figure out how you`re going to take 5 million assault
weapons off the streets of America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: All right. Joining me now, Neera Tanden, former Senior Advisor to
President Obama and Hillary Clinton, who was the policy director - she was
a policy director for Hillary Clinton`s 2008 campaign. She`s the President
and CEO of the Center for American Progress. Ben Rhodes also back with us.
He helped Barack Obama write the famous speech we saw a little bit of in
the previous segment.
Welcome to both of you. Ben, let`s talk about that. That night in 2007,
this night in 2007 at that event in Iowa. You put a lot into that being the
pivotal moment for Barack Obama, and in the end, it paid off.
BEN RHODES, FORMER OBAMA DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: Yes. I mean,
look, he was lagging behind in the polls. There wasn`t a sense of whether
or not he could put this whole thing together. And that`s really the
starting gun for the last sprint to the finish of the Iowa caucuses.
And so, together with John Fabro, obviously with then Senator Obama, we sat
down. How do you boil this entire argument? Because what you need to do is,
why should I be President, why me not nobody else, and what is the sense of
urgency that I bring to this? And can I prove to those people in Iowa that
I`ve heard them and that is making be a better candidate? And here is my
argument. And he laid it all out in about 15 minutes. And from there on,
that was lightning in a bottle.
VELSHI: Neera, let`s talk about a few things that have happened this week,
starting with tonight. The departure of Beto O`Rourke. It was starting to
look inevitable. Does it benefit anyone in the race?
NEERA TANDEN, FORMER SENIOR ADVISOR TO PRESIDENT OBAMA & CENTER FOR
AMERICAN PROGRESS PRESIDENT AND CEO: Well, I would first want to say that
Beto ran a race that I think brought a lot of really important issues to
the table. Obviously, he was an incredible advocate on issues like
immigration, on gun violence. And I think he really gave a moral voice
after El Paso in fighting Donald Trump`s white nationalism really, his
racism. And he had a moral clarity that I think was a really important
In terms of the polling and what`s happened with - what we`ve seen is that
from polls in July and over the summer when people asked second choices,
interestingly enough, a lot of his voters seemed to go to Biden first, then
Bernie, and then some other candidates.
So I - but I think that`s very fluid and it might be very different today
than it was over the summer. I mean, what`s really true of this race is
that it`s extremely fluid. It was fluid 12 years ago and - at this time,
and it is very fluid now. And I think days like tonight and the next debate
are when people - the voters are really going to feel like they have to
make decisions because they haven`t really been making them thus far.
VELSHI: What do you think about the top of the pack right now? We are
looking at - we`re still looking at Bernie Sanders. We`re still looking at
Elizabeth Warren. We`re still looking at Joe Biden. And then you`ve got
Pete Buttigieg there bumping up close to them, and then everybody else
still at 5 percent or lower.
TANDEN: Well, for me, I think - I do think it is still pretty fluid.
Obviously, Mayor Buttigieg has been rising in Iowa. I think he had a really
good debate performance a few weeks ago, and that is going to help
crystallize how he does.
I would say Ben is really right, though. The truth is that this is the time
that these candidates have to make a reassuring argument. They have to make
the argument as to why they are the best person to take on Donald Trump and
lead the Democratic Party and actually - and you saw tonight - make the
argument about why they are better than their opponents.
And I do think that we saw a number of the candidates this evening really
make the case as to what could fuel their race and what`s best for them.
Elizabeth Warren, if she`s a fighter. Kamala Harris, if she`s a prosecutor.
Mayor Pete talking about how he can inspire a new generation, a lot like
then Senator Obama did. And Joe Biden really making the case that actually
both Donald Trump and Putin see him as the most wary opponent.
VELSHI: Ben, both Amy Klobuchar and Kamala Harris are not in that front
pack, but this is an important three months that`s coming up. Kamala Harris
pulling out some staffing from other states to concentrate everything on
Iowa. And by the way, a strategy to make Iowa really important did work for
Barack Obama. But that looks like what Kamala Harris is doing now. She`s
putting it all on Iowa at the moment.
RHODES: Yes. She`s closing on offices, moving staff and pushing all the
chips into Iowa. Just listening to this discussion, Ali, I mean, we all
kind of know the outlines of the race right now. Right? You`ve got Warren,
you`ve got Biden, you`ve got Pete coming on, you`ve got Bernie hang on.
And to me, when I go back to why did that speech work for Obama, he really
spoke to what is this moment. Right? What is on your minds? And I get it. I
get what you care about, and I`m going to make this bigger. I`m going to
make this a movement. Everybody jump onboard with me. And yes, draw some
contrast with my opponents. I would like to see these candidates.
The one thing that they haven`t quite yet done is they`re arguing about
things, Medicare for all. They`re arguing about policy proposals. We`re in
a big moment in this country right now. We`ve got an election coming up
that the stakes are higher than anything that I can remember in my whole
life. And I`d like to see them really go big. And Kamala did tonight. She
came out like a fighter. She came out like I get it, I get how upset people
are, I get how frustrated people are, I get how scared people are. Right?
And I think the person who`s going to emerge from this pack in the next few
weeks is the person who can take, yes, the lane that they`ve carved out,
the policy proposals they have, but how do you put that together into
something that has a sense of a movement that can capture the fear and hope
in the country right now and move that forward?
VELSHI: Ben, thank you for joining us tonight, Neera Tanden as well. Thanks
to both of you.
Coming up, stunning news this week that the Trump administration separated
even more families than previously known. Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman
Schultz confronted Ken Cuccinelli in a live hearing, calling the
immigration policies of the Trump administration based on white supremacy.
She was criticized today on Fox News, and tonight, Debbie Wasserman Schultz
gets the “Last Word.”
VELSHI: We are beginning to learn the full scale of the Trump
administration`s cruelty toward migrant families at the southern border.
The American Civil Liberties Union revealed that the Trump administration
separated 1,556 more immigrant children from their parents between July
2017 and June 2018. That`s a figure never previously disclosed to the
public. That brings the total number of children separated since July 2017
to more than 5,400.
This week, Acting U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director, Ken
Cuccinelli, testified before a House Oversight Subcommittee on the Trump
administration`s immigration policies. Democratic Congresswoman Debbie
Wasserman Schultz confronted Cuccinelli over the administration`s treatment
of migrant children.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D-FL): You want to block all immigration and
make life harder for immigrants, and you have demonstrated that you will
pursue this heinous white supremacist ideology at all costs.
KEN CUCCINELLI, ACTING DIRECTOR, U.S. CITIZENSHIP AND IMMIGRATION SERVICES:
After declaring that I`m not a white supremacist, as you alluded–
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: You have been - you have been (inaudible) white
CUCCINELLI: –nor is the President–
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: OK.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Facts matter.
CUCCINELLI: Yes, they do.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Right.
CUCCINELLI: Yes, they do. Truth matters.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Right. That`s why I`m stating them here today.
CUCCINELLI: Yes - no, you certainly are not.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Please answer the question. How many children may stop
receiving critical services due to fear of losing legal status under this
rule? Yanking social services–
CUCCINELLI: You`re asking about public charge.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: That`s right.
CUCCINELLI: I don`t have that information in front of me.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: You don`t know how many children off the top of your
head it affected? Did you not think it through before you insisted that
CUCCINELLI: That rule is a thousand pages long, ma`am.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: All right. Today, Cuccinelli criticized Congresswoman Wasserman
Schultz on Fox News.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CUCCINELLI: She came in, laid on her smears both me and the President, all
completely false, and then wasn`t there much longer, got on her broom and
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: “Got on her broom and left.” When we come back, Congresswoman
Debbie Wasserman Schultz gets tonight`s “Last Word” on the confrontation
with Ken Cuccinelli and what to expect from next week`s depositions related
to the impeachment inquiry.
VELSHI: This week, a House Oversight Subcommittee hearing became
contentious when Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz accused Ken
Cuccinelli and the Trump administration of pursuing immigration policies
based on white supremacy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: You and Mr. Trump don`t want anyone who looks or talks
differently than Caucasian Americans to be allowed into this country.
CUCCINELLI: That`s false.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: I`m sorry, please don`t interrupt me. And I`d like the
time to added back.
CUCCINELLI: That`s defamatory.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Excuse me, there`s nothing defamatory about it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: Joining me now, Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz
from Florida. She`s a member of the House Oversight Committee.
Congresswoman, thank you for being with us. It`s a big charge that you made
against Ken Cuccinelli. Tell me more about what you base it on.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Well, I think the - all of America has watched this
heinous immigration policy that persecutes and has intentionally targeted
people of color over the last three years play out. And I just had an
opportunity because I`m a member of the Oversight Committee and a member of
a coequal branch of the government, much to the annoyance of Mr. Cuccinelli
and the Executive Branch to call what has been evident.
In that, this administration has had an immigration policy based in a white
supremacist ideology. And all I did was I had an opportunity to say it to
his face. And that`s my responsibility as a member of our coequal branch of
VELSHI: Kind of interesting because we`ve been covering this for a long
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: And it`s part of holding the executive accountable.
VELSHI: We`ve been covering it for a long time. We`ve been trying to hold
the executive accountable with the pictures and the stories of what`s going
on on the southern border. It doesn`t appear to have softened the
administration`s view of how they want to approach immigration, which seems
it`s strange from the top to bottom. Right? The idea that they want to
limit legal immigration, in fact, and then deal with undocumented Americans
- undocumented immigrants the way they do, it seems economically unsound
and it doesn`t seem in keeping with America`s principles.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Yes. Ali, the question I was asking was about the public
charge rule that Ken Cuccinelli advanced, which would deny immigration to
an individual who may become what he called a public charge if they needed
benefits when they come to the United States. And that was - that is
intimidating thousands of families and having them withdraw their children
from vital public programs that keep them healthy and safe.
And he couldn`t even answer the simple question I was asking, was - how
many children did that public charge rule affect? He had no idea because he
didn`t care. And that further underscored what I was saying, which is that
they have been persecuting people of color, their immigration policy
advances a white supremacist ideology, and I just called it out because I
had that opportunity.
VELSHI: You were having a hearing that was very different from what most
Americans thought was going on on Capitol Hill this week because what we`ve
been watching is, people coming in for depositions and going out and trying
to get reporting about what`s been going on in those hearings. This is now
going to become something that certainly in the next two or three weeks,
depending on how it goes, will start to become public. What do you believe
Americans are going to hear when they start watching impeachment hearings?
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: As Americans watch the public impeachment hearings, they
are going to see what I had an opportunity to see as a member of the
Oversight Committee in these depositions. And that is that this has been a
thousand-piece puzzle that has slowly been - the evidence made clear that
the President and - that a direct line is drawn to the President in
withholding military aid approved by Republicans and Democrats from a
country that vitally needs it to keep a foreign enemy, Russia, at bay, and
also dangled a White House meeting, all in an effort to get him to open up
investigations against the President`s political opponents.
That is illegal. Withholding the military assistance is a law that the
President violated. And he abused his power. That`s unacceptable. It`s
illegal. And it`s impeachable.
VELSHI: During the Mueller report, there were discussions and arguments on
the facts. There does not seem to be any discussion or arguments on the
facts here. Your colleagues across the aisle, Republican colleagues in
Congress, are not arguing the facts at the moment. They`re arguing the
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: No, it`s really - it`s really pathetic, actually. I`ve
watched people, many of whom I respect in many other aspects of the work we
do together, really become sycophants to this President. They cower in fear
at the possibility of losing their power or perhaps being criticized by
him. And instead of arguing the substance, because they can`t, you can`t
listen to the evidence, Ali, and think anything other than that this
President is guilty as sin. And what they do instead is they argue process.
Now they`re actually - some of them are actually now trying to say, “Oh,
nothing to see here. It`s no problem that the President abused his power.
It`s perfectly OK that he withheld military assistance that we approved in
law in order to get a foreign country to investigate his political
opponents. It`s perfectly OK that we are drawing direct lines with a quid
pro quo between President Trump and President Zelensky, with the President
trying to get Ukraine to interfere in the presidential election in 2020.”
It is ripe for an impeachment inquiry. And when the American public sees
it, I know they`ll be appalled.
VELSHI: Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, thank you for joining us.
Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz gets tonight`s “Last Word.”
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Thank you.
VELSHI: That is tonight`s “Last word.” This Sunday night, please watch
“Impeachment: White House in Crisis” with Ari Melber. It airs at 9 p.m. And
“The 11th Hour with Brian Williams” begins now.
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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