Beto O’Rourke drops out of 2020 race. TRANSCRIPT: 11/1/19,The Last Word w/ Lawrence O’Donnell.

Ro Khanna, Ben Rhodes, E.J. Dionne, Neera Tanden, Debbie Wasserman Schultz



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.


MADDOW:  Thanks.


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

secret server.


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.




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

are present. 


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

witnesses present.


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

heard about.


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

that call.


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.





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?




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.


VELSHI:  Right.


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.




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

happened, sir?


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

be –


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

interviewing yourself.


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.




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 before ducking into

an elevator.




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

our elections?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I think the best thing to do is talk to our press





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

happens then?



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.






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.




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.





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.




VELSHI: Tonight, 14 Democratic candidates are each trying to have their own

breakout moment. Here is a look at some of the top moments.





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

the nominee.



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.




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.







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




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.




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.



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?



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.




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.



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–








CUCCINELLI: Yes, they do.




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.




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.




VELSHI: All right. Today, Cuccinelli criticized Congresswoman Wasserman

Schultz on Fox News.




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





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.




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.




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.”




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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