McConnell, Pelosi at impasse. TRANSCRIPT: 12/23/19, The Last Word w/ Lawrence O’Donnell.

Bina Venkataraman, Rina Shah, Robert Jordan, Maria Echaveste

AYMAN MOHYELDIN, MSNBC HOST:  Hey, good evening, I was going to say, Ice is

back with a brand new invention. 




ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST:  Take it away, friend.  That was good. 


MOHYELDIN:  All right.  Thank so much, Ali.  Appreciate it.


We have a lot to get to, folks. 


Today, a new editorial hits, saying Senate Majority Mitch McConnell –

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is a clear and present danger to the

Constitution.  We`re going to talk about that. 


And as the impeachment stalemate continues, is there a chance moderate

Republicans will buck their leader and President Trump in support of

impeachment witnesses in the Senate? 


Also ahead, the show trial this Saudi Arabia for the murder of U.S.

journalist, U.S.-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi.  U.S. intelligence says

the crown prince ordered the assassination.  But today anyone close to the

prince was cleared of wrongdoing.  Trump White House quickly followed with

a statement of support for that verdict.  The former U.S. ambassador to

Saudi Arabia will be here as well. 


And later, one of THE LAST WORD`s favorite freshmen Congresswomen Katie

Porter, she is ending her first year on Capitol Hill on a very high note,

and there will be a special LAST WORD from Lawrence and Rachel. 


But we want to begin this hour with the stalemate over the Senate

impeachment trial of Donald Trump amid a renewed push from Democrats for

witnesses to testify, in fact, witnesses that the Senate Majority Leader

Mitch McConnell does not actually want.  He has already declared that he

will not be an impartial juror in all of this.  He is coordinating trial

strategy with the White House.  And he has rejected Minority Leader Chuck

Schumer`s request for any witnesses before the trial even begins. 


A new editorial in “The Bulwark” argues that Mitch McConnell is a danger to

the Constitution and a problem for America.  Editor at large Bill Kristol

writes, quote: McConnell`s actions to date prevent the Senate from

organizing the trial, whatever the ultimate verdict, in a way consistent

with the constitutional design and with a sense of fairness in the body

politic.  He is fundamentally distorting our constitutional norms and

damaging the health of American politics.


Today, the Democrats` case for more witnesses grew stronger this weekend

after damning new evidence further linked the hold on Ukraine`s military

aid with Donald Trump`s demand for an investigation into his political

rival.  Newly released e-mails show that 90 minutes, 90 minutes after

Donald Trump asked Ukraine`s president to do us a favor, though, a senior

official in the Office of Management and Budget e-mailed the Pentagon to

freeze the aid to Ukraine and more importantly keep quiet about it,

writing, quote: Please hold off on any additional department of defense

obligations of these funds pending direction from that process.Given the

sensitive nature of the request, I appreciate you keeping that information

closely held to those who need to know to execute the direction. 


Now, that e-mail was sent by Mike Duffey, who`s one of the four witnesses

that Minority Leader Chuck Schumer wants to testify.  He wants him along

with acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and former national security

adviser John Bolton. 


Now, the White House called the timing a “coincidence.” 


But following those revelations Senator Schumer reiterated why those

witnesses need to testify. 




SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY):  What happened over the weekend with Duffey`s e-

mails that were made public has only bolstered the case that documents

should be produced and witnesses testify if everything was on the up and

up.  If the call was perfect, as President Trump said, why does one of his

top aides, who`s a political appointee, say let`s keep it hush-hush? 




MOHYELDIN:  Now, Chuck Schumer also argued in favor of a fair trial with

documents and witnesses in a letter to his Senate colleagues today,

writing, quote, to oppose the admission of this evidence would be to turn a

willfully blind eye to the facts and would clearly be at odds with the

obligation of senators to do impartial justice according to the oath we

will all take in the impeachment trial.


But Mitch McConnell, he dismissed any argument about impartiality in the

Senate impeachment trial on what else but Fox News just this morning. 




SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY):  Do you think Chuck Schumer`s impartial?  Do

you think Elizabeth Warren`s impartial? 




MCCONNELL:  Bernie Sanders is impartial? 


So let`s quit the charade.  This is a political exercise.  If we haven`t

ruled out witnesses, we`ve said let`s handle this case just like we did

with President Clinton.  Fair is fair. 




MOHYELDIN:  But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is not budging on sending the

articles of impeachment to the Senate until Mitch McConnell negotiates the

rules of that trial.  Today, she held firm tweeting, quote: The House

cannot choose our impeachment managers until we know what sort of trial the

Senate will conduct.  President Trump blocked his own witnesses and

documents from the House and from the American people on phony complaints

about the House process.  What is his excuse now?


Minutes later, President Trump, who is waiting for the Senate trial to

vindicate him, tweeted this: Pelosi gives us the most unfair in the history

of the U.S. Congress and now she is crying for fairness in the Senate and

breaking all rules while doing so.  She lost Congress once.  She will do it



All right.  Leading off our discussion tonight is Jonathan Alter, columnist

for “The Daily Beast” and an MSNBC political analyst.  Jill Wine-Banks,

former assistant Watergate special prosecutor and an MSNBC legal analyst. 

And Bina Venkataraman, editorial page editor for the “Boston Globe” whose

recent editorial urges all senators and Chief Justice John Roberts to take

more of an active role in the Senate impeachment trial. 


Let me start with you, if I can, Bina, and ask you about that article

you`re making about the chief justice playing a bigger role here.  Right

now by most people`s understanding, this ball is really in the court of

Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell.  With consultation with Chuck

Schumer he`ll set the rules for this. 


But what is the argument you`re making, what is the role Chief Justice John

Roberts can play here and what should he play? 



of the only explicit rules given to the chief justice by the Constitution,

to preside over an impeachment trial in the Senate to remove the president. 

And ceremoniously this role has been played in the past in sort of a

removed way.  If you remember Chief Justice Rehnquist during the Clinton

impeachment trial he was really kind of hands off.  He was most notable for

wearing a robe that ripped off of Gilbert and Sullivan`s Iolanthe and had

four gold stripes on either sleeve. 


But in fact there is a more muscular role that can be played by the chief

justice in this instance.  Of course, McConnell – Majority Leader

McConnell will set the rules.  But we`re calling on Chief Justice John

Roberts to play that role because we`re in an unprecedented time where the

norms of impartiality, where the Senate majority leader has basically vowed

to violate or to not abide by his oath to be an impartial juror.  And I

think at this moment, we need to implore the chief justice to play a

stronger role. 


MOHYELDIN:  This, Jonathan, is as much of a test for the United States

Senate and how they perform their role in this constitutional obligation

they have as much as anything else.  And what is your assessment on how and

whether or not the U.S. Senate led by Mitch McConnell will actually rise to

the occasion and do their job? 


JONATHAN ALTER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  It`s a very simple question.  Are

you for a real trial or a fake trial?  A trial that has no witnesses and no

documents is by definition a fake trial.  Not just unfair but a sham and a



And so, what Susan Collins and Martha McSally and Cory Gardner and maybe

two or three others are going to have to decide is not whether they`re

going to convict or not.  We know that that is highly unlikely, but whether

they`re going to vote for a fake trial or a real trial.  If they vote

against witnesses, and they`re going to get a chance to vote on this, if

they vote against witnesses they`re going to have to explain to their

constituents in Arizona, Colorado, Maine, and other states why they vote

ford a fake trial. 


I think that`s going to be very hard for them to do, which is why I think

that McConnell is not holding very many cards right now.  We`re so

accustomed to this guy being this legislative genius, master of the Senate,

that the rules here are different.  They`re not under his control.  And I

don`t think he has the four votes he needs in order to have the sham fake

trial in the U.S. Senate. 


MOHYELDIN:  Let me ask you, Jill, really quickly from your perspective is

the president in need of a vindication through as Jonathan put it a real

trial or do you think that he can sell himself to the American public with

a sham trial?  Because it doesn`t seem as least from what we`ve been

hearing Mitch McConnell say and the president say they`re really serious

about a fair trial that could really exonerate the president. 


JILL WINE-BANKS, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST:  I think for the people who are his

loyal supporters, who will not vary no matter what happens, it doesn`t

matter whether it`s fake or real.  But there are enough people in America

who are undecided, who need to see a fair trial and who may be persuaded. 

And the senators who vote against a full and fair trial are going to have

to either explain why they voted against a fair trial or they`re going to

have to explain why they didn`t pay attention to the evidence once it`s



So, if a fair trial happens, there is a chance that some Republicans will

end up voting to convict the president and remove him from office.  During

Watergate that`s what would have happened.  That`s why Richard Nixon

resigned rather than face the trial because senators went to him and said

we`ve seen the evidence and the evidence is compelling, you will be

convicted.  And I still have that slight glimmer of hope that there will be

senators who actually listen to the trial. 


And there`s a big difference between saying I have a bias and saying I will

not vote fairly in a trial.  You can have an opinion and still be seated as

a juror.  You have to be willing to say I will set aside my opinion and I

will vote on this case based on the evidence presented in the trial.  So if

senators have a bias, that`s OK.  As long as they`re willing to say I`ll

put it aside and I will vote based on the evidence. 


And so far, the evidence is very compelling.  And now, today, more came out

that`s even more compelling because you can`t say it`s a coincidence that

it happened 90 minutes after the phone call that the OMB was told to hold

the money.  And that`s just not a coincidence, or if it is a coincidence

then the fact that you announced the Saudi Arabia trial outcome, which was

clearly not a fair trial, is a coincidence that it`s parallel to this one. 


MOHYELDIN:  Let me play for you guys this commercial, Jonathan, that

Republicans for the Rule of Law are urging by asking people to vote for

their – call their senators and put pressure on them.  Listen to this. 




UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Key witnesses in the Ukraine scandal must testify in

the Senate impeachment trial.  These witnesses include Rudy Giuliani. 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  But you did ask Ukraine to look into Joe Biden? 






REPORTER:  What you just described is a quid pro quo. 


MICK MULVANEY, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF:  There`s going to be political

influence in foreign policy. 




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Rudy Giuliani delivered Ukraine files to Mike Pompeo. 




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  A lawyer for John Bolton says his client has new

information on these meetings with Ukraine. 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  These witnesses must testify.  Call your senators now. 




MOHYELDIN:  So, that`s the Republicans for the rule of law, Jonathan,

urging citizens and others to call their senators.  Is that tactic, is that

strategy likely to work on somebody like Mitch McConnell? 


ALTER:  It`s not going to work on Mitch McConnell, but it`s not directed at

Mitch McConnell.  These are the same folks who wrote that article in “The

Bulwark” that you reported at the top, and that`s Bill Kristol.  Remember,

these are old-line Republicans.  Bill Kristol was a very, very important

Republican, especially 15, 20 years ago when he was – a lot of people

thought he was running the country.  He was working for George H.W. Bush,

Dan Quayle, and George W. Bush. 


So that part of the old Republican Party, you can say, well, they`re

history.  They were taken over by the Trump party. 


But if you`re looking at people like Susan Collins, you know, Gardner and

McSally, these folks have a lot of people in their states who don`t love

Trump.  They might be conservative.  They might be independents.  And it`s

directed at them. 


The question is will they say to their senators you just can`t go with

McConnell on this?  If you do you`re going to get punished not in a primary

but in a general election where you need the independents and you need the

swing voters to hang on to your seats.  So that`s directed mostly at people

in those states.  So people watching here from Arizona, Colorado, Maine. 


MOHYELDIN:  Yes, they`re the ones that are expected to –


ALTER:  They`re the ones they hope will contact their senators and say

don`t vote with McConnell, vote for a real, not a fake trial. 


MOHYELDIN:  Let me read you this tweet from Senator Lindsey Graham about

the dynamic unfolding with Nancy Pelosi.  He writes: Stop playing games

with the Constitution.  In our system, you cannot be the speaker of the

House and the Senate majority leader at the same time.  The Senate will

decide how we dispose of this sham created by the House.


How long do you think Nancy Pelosi has to hold out on here before

transmitting those articles of impeachment to the Senate?  How much

pressure is she going to come under by folks like Senator Lindsey Graham? 


VENKATAMARAN:  Look, Nancy Pelosi knows not to bring a knife to a gunfight,

to use a violent metaphor.  But she`s basically trying to establish that

this should be a fair trial, and she`s in the process of violating some

norms of how we would normally do this and – but we know that we`re –

again, we know we`ve seen the Senate majority leader continue to violate

constitutional norms.  So she`s bringing that same sort of position to this



Now, there might be a point at which the American public starts to lose

interest in impeachment.  And I think that this new announcement today that

they could bring a second article of impeachment in the House based on Don

McGahn, based on Don McGahn, the former White House counsel`s testimony, is

a way to sort of potentially hedge against that.  So they could be able to

recreate a new process in the House that keeps this very alive in the

American public`s eyes. 


Now, that could have real costs because we`re going into the election year

of course and the Democratic primaries are beginning.  We`re going to be

heading into Iowa and New Hampshire.  So I think she`s going to be

balancing those different concerns. 


MOHYELDIN:  Jill, let me get your final thoughts on the piece of

information we learned from those e-mails over the weekend.  And most

interestingly as I pointed out earlier, this tidbit where the official from

the Office of Management and Budget is directing the Pentagon official to

be quiet about the freeze itself.  As a former Watergate prosecutor, what

is the significance of that, when you have a government official telling

another government official hey, we may be doing something here, keep it



WINE-BANKS:  This doesn`t take my experience in Watergate to answer.  Just

as a citizen listening to that I know and every citizen listening knows

that it`s because there`s bad things happening, that there`s bad

information that would come forward, and that they have to hide it.  It`s a

cover-up.  It`s the kind of thing that shows guilty intent. 


It shows that the president had his orders followed through when he had

that phone call, 90 minutes later, there was somebody following up on it

saying don`t release that money.  That`s what people at meetings with the

president do. 


Haldeman was best known for taking very complete notes and following up on

anything the president said in any meeting.  When he said something,

Haldeman made sure that that got carried out.  The president doesn`t do it. 

His minions do. 


MOHYELDIN:  All right.  Jonathan Alter, Jill Wine-Banks, thank you very

much.  Bina Venkataraman, thank you as well for joining us.


And coming up, the White House is it still at it pushing conspiracy

theories backed by Vladimir Putin and not by our own intelligence services. 

The big risks are up next.


And later, after dozens of elected officials demand the resignation of

Trump senior adviser Stephen Miller, now another damning story about him

surfaces and it involves secret plans to essentially spy on migrant





MOHYELDIN:  The Trump administration continues to spread false conspiracy

theories as the Senate prepares for an impeachment trial.  In fact,

yesterday, Mike Pence`s chief of staff pushed the debunked theory that

Ukraine was responsible for interfering in the 2016 presidential election. 




CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS ANCHOR:  Does President Trump still believe that it

was Ukraine, not Russia that interfered in the 2016 election? 


MARC SHORT, MIKE PENCE`S CHIEF OF STAFF:  Chris, it doesn`t have to be

either/or.  It can be both. 


WALLACE:  Does the president believe that Ukraine interfered in the 2016



SHORT:  He thinks we should at least investigate it, Chris.  We`re not

questioning Russia`s interference, Chris.  I`m accepting that.  But it

doesn`t mean that just because Russia interfered it doesn`t mean others

didn`t as well. 




MOHYELDIN:  And as we reported, there is no evidence that Ukraine

interfered in the election.  In fact, even – at least 17 American

intelligence agencies have traced that theory back to Russia saying that

Ukraine has not interfered in U.S. elections. 


“The New York Times” reports that Russia had engaged in a years-long

campaign to essentially frame Ukraine as responsible for Moscow`s own

hacking of the 2016 election.  New reporting details just how much

influence Russian President Vladimir Putin seems to have on our own

president.  The “Washington Post” reports that Trump grew insistent that

Ukraine had worked to defeat him in the 2016 campaign. 


One former senior White House official said that Trump even stated so

explicitly at one point, saying that he knew Ukraine was the real culprit

because Putin told me.


Vladimir Putin is sticking by Trump through the impeachment, though,

attacking House Democrats at his end of year news conference. 




VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator):  House of

Representatives is the Democratic majority.  They`ve lost the election and

they`re trying to revise this history with the means that they have at

their disposal. 




MOHYELDIN:  All right.  Joining us now is Glenn Kirschner, a former federal

prosecutor and an MSNBC legal analyst.  And Rina Shah, Republican

strategist and partner at Red Fort Strategies. 


Great to have both of you. 


Glenn, let me begin with you and talk about the fact that Marc Short, the

vice president`s chief of staff, continues to push this Ukraine conspiracy

theory out there in the public without any evidence whatsoever to back it

up, saying it should be investigated. 


How do you explain that, that we`re, you know, almost three years beyond

the election and the Republicans, particularly Trump and his White House,

continue to peddle this conspiracy theory? 


GLENN KIRCHNER, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST:  I mean, the only way to explain it,

Ayman, is that everybody is going to sing whatever tune Trump tells them to



Let`s go back to the most basic fact that tells us all that it was Russia

and not Ukraine that interfered in the elections.  Donald Trump stood up,

we`ve seen it on an endless loop, and somewhat infamously said, Russia, if

you`re listening, find the 30,000 missing e-mails.  Within hours, Ayman, we

learned courtesy of the Mueller report that Russian government hackers

targeted and cyber-attacked the e-mail accounts of Hillary Clinton



Now, that was candidate Donald Trump urging Russia to interfere in our

elections.  He didn`t stand up and say, and the way, Ukraine, if you also

happen to be listening. 


So the fact that candidate Trump is the one who urged, initiated, inspired

the Russian cyberattack is a clue.  You don`t need to be Sherlock Holmes to

figure that one out. 


And then if we look real quickly at a few data points it all sort of leads

to the conclusion that Vladimir Putin owns Donald Trump.  Donald Trump is

beholden to him.  Because one, you`ve got as you mentioned Donald Trump

saying Putin told me it was Ukraine.  Two, you`ve got – if you think back

to Andy McCabe, remember when Andy McCabe said he and some members of the

intelligence community were in the Oval Office briefing Donald Trump on the

ballistic missile threat by North Korea and Trump interrupt interrupted and

said no, no, no, no, Putin said something different and I believe Putin. 


I mean, everything that we know says that Putin basically owns Donald



MOHYELDIN:  Rina, let me play you this sound bite from Fiona Hill`s

testimony on November 21st, in which she pretty much admonished I would

argue mostly the Republicans on that committee for peddling this Russian

conspiracy theory.  Watch this. 





statements I`ve heard, some of you on this committee appear to believe that

Russia and its security services did not conduct a campaign against our

country and that perhaps somehow for some reason Ukraine did.  This is a

fictional narrative that is being perpetrated and propagated by the Russian

security services themselves. 




MOHYELDIN:  Why do you think Republicans – I mean, forget the White House

here for a moment, but why do you think Republicans, as Fiona Hill was

saying to members of the committee, why are they peddling this conspiracy

theory?  What is it they have to gain by pushing it forward? 


RINA SHAH, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST:  Well, the way they see it they have

nothing to lose.  Congressional Republicans have really started to take on

a lot of what Trump does.  You know, they started to wear that sort of mask

that Trump wears.  Either they lie, they peddle conspiracy theories, or

they get angry.  And usually, it`s a combination of the three, as we`ve

seen during the hearings on Capitol Hill. 


But regardless, what they`ve really done is employ that patch and go

strategy that leaves a lot of us really flummoxed about how they can

possibly withstand the public really coming up against the president –

this administration.  I mean, the country is divided.  Half the people say

what he did was impeachable.  Half say what he did was not impeachable. 


Here inside the beltway, a lot of establishment Republicans say this – I

think what he did in regards to Ukraine was impeachable.  However, the

Democrats` process, how they`ve done this whole impeachment thing is all

wrong.  Outside the beltway, in my home state of West Virginia, for

example, they say I don`t think the president`s done anything impeachable. 

Him asking Ukraine for a favor is essentially what all these leaders do,

isn`t it? 


So I think it really leads us to what we saw on Sunday.  The vice

president`s chief of staff in front of Fox News`s Chris Wallace saying the

things he said and saying let`s investigate both Russia and Ukraine.  And

then he – it was just – this is remarkable.  They`ll do anything. 


MOHYELDIN:  Rina, do you expect any Republicans in the Senate to stand up

and at least have some kind of backbone in demanding witnesses and a fair

trial if not at least going through and acquitting the president but at

least demanding a fair trial? 


SHAH:  I still have hope.  I hold out hope for Senator Romney, Senator

Collins, Murkowski.  These are people that have cared a great deal about

really the principles throughout these 3 1/2 years now.  We`ve really heard

them stand up. 


And though Senator Romney seems to have waned on domestic issues at times,

I think he likes where he`s at foreign policy-wise and tends to focus a lot

there.  I still have hope they`ll stand up and do the right thing because

it`s really never too late to do the right thing. 


MOHYELDIN:  All right.  Glenn Kirschner, Rina Shah, I have to leave it

that.  Thank you both very much for joining us this evening. 


Up next, the CIA says the Saudi crown prince ordered the murder of Jamal

Khashoggi, but the Trump White House is standing by a verdict that absolves

the crown prince of any wrongdoing while five others are sentenced to



And later, the very good news that is greeting Congresswoman Katie Porter

at the end of this year. 




MOHYELDIN: Today a criminal court in Saudi Arabia delivered what critics

are calling a travesty of justice. That ruling came in the murder of

Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi which sparked a global outrage

last year.


In fact a Saudi court sentenced five men to death in connection to the

murder but cleared top Saudi officials believed to be behind the killing.

Critics at the UN are calling the verdicts, the antithesis of justice and a



Meanwhile, a White House senior administration official called the

sentencing an important step in holding those responsible for this terrible

crime accountable. Donald Trump has stood by Saudi Arabia despite the

murder. In fact he sent his son in law Jared Kushner and Treasury Secretary

Steve Mnuchin to a conference there this fall.


The White House made sure to strip out spending measures, banning arms

sales to Saudi Arabia and Trump has repeatedly praised Crown Prince

Mohammed bin Salman, the man the CIA says ordered Khashoggi`s murder.


Joining us now is Robert Jordan, the former U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia

from 2001 to 2003. Ambassador Jordan, great to have you with us. First of

all, let me get your initial reaction to this verdict.


You obviously know the criminal system in Saudi Arabia. You know the

kingdom better than us. What do you make of the trial and how that was

carried out?



it`s not a surprise. This is a band aid I think on a much greater problem.

They have convicted those who perhaps carried out the murder and

dismemberment of Jamal but they have certainly not held accountable those

who orchestrated it and put it together.


I think it is a mockery of justice.


MOHYELDIN: One of the aspects in all of this and you again know very well

that the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is a very powerful man and the

argument that Saudi officials have been putting forward though was that

these were rogue elements, rogue agents who carried out either a

misinterpretation of a broader policy to silence dissidence or they just

completely went out and acted on their own.


Do you think it is conceivable that in a country with the Crown Prince as

powerful as he is, that that many agents could have gotten on a plane, gone

to Istanbul, carried all of this out with anyone knowing about it including

senior members like the Crown Prince.


JORDAN: No, Ayman, that`s complete baloney and all you have to do is read

the accounts of the audio tapes, the surveillance tapes that the Turks had

of the consulate. You had first of all two members of the consulate were

ordered on a top secret mission to go to Riyadh.


They come back then with the hit team on private airplanes with diplomatic

passports. They bring a body double for Jamal who looks like him and they

bring a forensic doctor with a bone saw. Now what kind of accident was

going to occur. This is absolutely premeditated and it could not have

occurred without the full knowledge and consent and direction of the Crown

Prince as well as several others who have now been let off the hook.


MOHYELDIN: It obviously puts the United States in general, not just this

administration but in a difficult position. Let me read for you Sir, what

Adam Schiff had to say today about the verdict. He essentially said, “The

Intelligence Authorization Act includes a provision I authored requiring

the Director of National Intelligence to provide a report to Congress

within 30 days about current or former Saudi officials who played a role or

who had advance knowledge of Khashoggi`s murder and requires the names to

be provided in an unclassified format unless it would reveal sources and

methods. We will insist on the completion of that report.”


What leverage does Congress have when you have a President and an

administration who are bending over backwards to placate the Saudis? What

leverage does Representative Adam Schiff have to get this kind of

information and hold the Saudis accountable?


JORDAN: Not very much. I think he has leverage with the American public but

we`ve also seeing a President who is gone rogue in connection with the

impeachment proceedings. I don`t think we have any reason to believe that

he`s going to be any more cooperative on dealing with the Saudis.


The one encouraging feature is that Saud al-Qahtani, the Crown Prince`s

right hand man in connection with this murder has been sanctioned by the

Treasury Department and as has family. There are a couple of other Saudis

who have also been sanctioned. That is the only nugget that I think we have

here but I don`t think Congressman Schiff has -has a very strong piece of

leverage right now.


MOHYELDIN: Yes, it`ll be interesting to see if Saud al-Qahtani actually now

that he wasn`t found guilty in that trial, if his name would be taken off

of the sanctions list here in the U.S.


JORDAN: And I think that`s a possibility.


MOHYELDIN: Yes, it certainly is. All right, Ambassador Robert Jordan Sir,

thank you very much for joining us this evening. Appreciate your insights.


JORDAN: Thank you. My pleasure.


MOHYELDIN: Up next, Stephen Miller`s secret plan to embed ICE agents inside

refugee agencies to get information on migrant families. It is renewing

calls for Miller`s resignation. Stay with us.




MOHYELDIN: As we celebrate the holidays, asylum seekers and their children

are facing harsh winter conditions at camps along the U.S. - Mexico border.

There are multiple reports of migrant children shivering in freezing

temperatures. Their parents desperate to protect them as they wait in

makeshift tent settlements.


They are facing those conditions because of an immigration policy that has

been pushed by President Trump`s senior adviser Stephen Miller. The remain

in Mexico policy is forcing over 60,000 asylum seekers to wait in dangerous

conditions in Mexico for a chance to apply for refugee status.


Stephen Miller was also behind the separation of at least 2700 children

from their parents but Stephen Miller is not done. New reporting reveals a

spying plan by Stephen Miller in potentially deporting parents and relative

to provide their information when they try to get custody of their

unaccompanied children.


The Washington Post reports that Stephen Miller hatched a secret planned

this month to “embed immigration enforcement agents within the U.S. refugee

agency that cares for unaccompanied migrant children.” The department of

Health and Human Services rejected Miller`s plan. However “they agreed to

allow Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agents to collect your prints and

other biometric information from adults seeking to claim migrant children

at government shelters. If those adults are deemed ineligible to take

custody of children, ICE could then use their information to target them

for arrest and deportation.”


The Post reports, “The arrangement appears to circumvent laws that restrict

the use of the refugee program for deportation enforcement. Congress has

made clear that it does not want those who come forward as potential

sponsors of minors in the U.S. custody to be frightened away by possible



We`re going to discuss the significance of this reporting after the break

with NBC news correspondent, Julia Ainsley and former deputy chief of staff

to President Clinton, Maria Echaveste.




MOHYELDIN: Today, the House Oversight Committee requested documents for its

investigation into “a pattern of negligence and abuse leading to serious

harm and the deaths of immigrants detained by the Trump administration.”

That includes the death of a 16-year old boy.


Now this comes as a Washington Post reports that Stephen Miller tried to

make it easier to deport the parents and relatives of unaccompanied migrant

children in government custody. Joining us now are Maria Echaveste, former

deputy chief of staff to President Clinton and lecturer at the University

of California, Berkeley school of law.


Also with us NBC news correspondent Julia Ainsley who covers the Department

of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security. Great to have both of

you with us. Julia, let me begin with you more and talk a little bit more

if I may, about what we learned Stephen Miller`s role in this new attempt

to exploit the refugee program to deport unaccompanied migrants and any of

the adults that may be claiming them.


JULIA AINSLEY, NBC CORRESPONDENT: So Ayman, I`m reminded of a trip I took

about a year ago down to attend facility in Torneo, Texas near El Paso

where there were children who were in a large backlog in the care of Health

and Human Services, the very agency Stephen Miller was trying to target.


The reason why they were stuck there is because they were waiting for

potential sponsors to come forward and go through a rigorous background

check that included the fingerprints and criminal history of every person

in the household that they would be going to once they left that camp.


And now pediatrician and psychologists would tell you, it is much better to

get a child out of the government custody and into a home but they were

none the less still there because of this government policy.


As reporters, we were told over and over again, this is for the care of the

children. Now this new reporting shows that actually ICE and the government

had a plan to try to use that data, that biometric data, the fingerprints

especially if people who are coming forward who did not get to receive the

children for whatever reason, that that would actually be used to target

them for deportation.


Which is really the realization of fears that the advocate community had

had for some time, even under the Obama administration, they worried about

a plan that would fingerprint parents that might keep parents from coming

forward and so that plan was never put into place under the Obama



So now we have more context as to why these children were waiting there and

then we know about a plan, Stephen Miller was working on just this month in

order to put someone from ICE in the Health and Human Services agency as

someone as kind of a minder or a spy if you will to try to use more

information about interviews that children were giving to the government,

to try to find out more information so they can target people who brought

them here and go after them for deportation.


This is another example of a time where Stephen Miller is trying to use the

law enforcement components of DHS and try to mix them in with the

components that are supposed to be there caring for children, caring for

welfare, very similar thing is actually already happening and did go

forward where he uses border agents to conduct asylum interviews.


So they`re - they`re trying to talk to people about their fear of returning

home while they have a gun on their belt.


MOHYELDIN: Maria, I wanted to get your thoughts on this startling statistic

from Human Rights First and this is a number, it documents the number of

attacks on asylum seekers who have been essentially forced to remain in

Mexico as a result of this Remain in Mexico policy.


As of December 4th, 2019, there are at least 636 publicly reported cases of

murder, rape, torture, kidnapping and other violent assault. Among these

reported attacks 138 cases of children returned to Mexico who were

kidnapped or nearly kidnapped. That is a direct result of American policy

to not let these people seeking refuge or asylum here in the United States.



those statistics are beyond horrifying and I think every member of the

administration that has their finger in the decisions that are leading to

those kinds of statistics will one day have to answer to their God or to

their beliefs. Now look we all understand that not every single asylum

sector seeker may have credible claim under our laws, but to wilfully, put

people, families, innocent children and women in danger of their lives of

being trafficked.


It`s horrifying but I also want to go back to Julia`s point about what

Stephen Miller is now harboring or bringing to light, is it`s really

amazing, this - he serves an administration that ostensibly believes in

smaller government and worries about the big hand of government.


There is a reason why there is this hard line between - this hard barrier

between HHS and ICE, right? You have a responsibility to protect refugees

and children and that is why you keep ICE and you start to break down that

barrier. What`s to stop that slippery slope?


And it`s to me, just amazing that Stephen Miller continues to have such a

control and also just this really is heartless, seems too light a word but

is so focused on making sure no immigrant, no matter what reason comes into

this country and by the way, it was Stephen Miller`s policy and DHS that

caused the separation of children from their families.


So all of this is really mystifying in a very - like we`re Americans, we

are better than this and right now this administration is showing the rest

of the world and especially to those families that we have lost our way.


MOHYELDIN: Yes, certainly humanitarian catastrophe that is unfolding on our

southern border as a result of some of these policies are instituted by

Stephen Miller and this administration. Julia Ainsley, Maria Echaveste,

thank you both for joining us this evening and tonight`s LAST WORD from

Lawrence, Rachel and Congresswoman Katie Porter. All that coming up next.




MOHYELDIN: MSNBC`s holiday gift to everyone is brand new shows from

everyone in Prime Time tomorrow night. In Lawrence`s special case, he

closed us in on his fame for two minutes of every work day. Here`s a big





RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: For the record, I just want to say there is no

symbolic significance whatsoever to the fact that I`m accidentally wearing

a blue blazer instead of the same black blazer I`ve been wearing for the

past 2.5 years.


LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Rachel, I`m missing a blue blazer in my

closet upstairs.


MADDOW: La-la-la.


O`DONNELL: You didn`t do more time? Do you want to because I wouldn`t dare

try to do that.


MADDOW: I threw out half my show and I ended with singing on TV. Do you

know how messed up all of this is?


O`DONNELL: The Rachel greatest hits of singing on TV.


MADDOW: What everybody`s watching at home doesn`t know and we can`t talk

about on TV because it`ll wear them out is that we can see them all, when

they`re watching us so when we say see you there, it`s because we can see

everybody that is watching through the cameras.


O`DONNELL: You weren`t supposed to say that. That`s why I was trying to

cover for you there. I was trying to fix it.


MADDOW: I let out the secret. I can see what everybody`s wearing. I can see

what you`re eating. I can the whole thing.




MOHYELDIN: All right, there will be much of the Best Handoffs of the year

on tomorrow night`s special. There will also be a brand new interview with

one of the show`s favorite freshman members of Congress, Congresswoman

Katie Porter.


Has held a master class in making the most of her five minutes of question

time in congressional hearings and because of that, she is ending the year

with a promotion to the House Oversight Committee.


In announcing the promotion Speaker Pelosi called Porter an unparalleled

champion for consumers and working families across America, whose

diligence, determination and mastery of the issues strengthened the

Congress and the country.


Here`s a look at just some of her hard - handy work this year.




REP. KATIE PORTER (D-CA): Safe to say that the statements you`ve made it

mean something to you and the customers and investors can rely on those



TIM SLOAN, CEO, WELLS FARGO: That`s correct.


PORTER: OK, then why Mr. Sloan, if you don`t mind my asking, Mr. Sloan, are

your lawyers in federal court arguing that those exact statements that I

read are “paradigmatic examples of non-actionable corporate puffery on

which no reasonable investor could rely?


SLOAN: I don`t know why are lawyers are arguing that.


PORTER: Are you lying to a federal judge or are you lying to me and this

Congress right now about whether we can rely on those statements?


SLOAN: Neither.


PORTER: It`s convenient for your lawyers to deflect blame in court and say

that your re-branding campaign can be ignored as hyperbolic marketing but

when then you come to Congress, you want us to take you at your word and I

think that`s the disconnect that`s why the American public is having

trouble trusting Wells Fargo.


She had 24 - $2425 a month. She rents a one-bedroom apartment. She and her

daughter sleep together in the same room in Irvine, California. That

average one-bedroom apartment is going to be $1600. She spends $100 on

utilities, take away the 1700 and she has net $725. She`s like me. She

drives a 2008 minivan and has gas. $400 for car expenses and gas. Net $325.

The Department of Agriculture says a low cost food budget that is Raman

noodles, a low food budget is $400. That leaves her $77 in the red. She has

a cricket cell phone, the cheapest cell phone she can get for $40. She`s in

the read $117 a month.


She`s after school child care because the bank is open during normal

business hours. That`s 450 a month. That takes her down to negative $567

per month. My question for you Mr. Dimon is how should she manage this

budget shortfall while she`s working full time at your bank?


JAMIE DIMON: I don`t know. I have to think about that.


PORTER: Would you recommend that she take out a JP Morgan Chase credit card

and run a deficit?


DIMON: I don`t know. I`d have to think about it.


PORTER: Would you recommend that she overdraft at your bank and be charged

overdraft fees?


DIMON: I don`t know. I`d have to think about it.


PORTER: So I know you have a lot–


DIMON: I`d love to call up and have a conversation about her financial

affairs and see if we can be helpful.


PORTER: See if you can find a way for her to live on less than the minimum

that I`ve described.


DIMON: Just be helpful.


PORTER: Well, I appreciate your desire to be helpful but what I`d like you

to do is provide a way for families to make ends meet.




MOHYELDIN: Katie Porter is among our guests on THE LAST WORD Holiday

Special, tomorrow night at 10:00 p.m. Eastern. All right, that`s it for

tonight`s show. “THE 11TH HOUR” with Brian Williams starts right now.







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