McConnell, Pelosi at impasse. TRANSCRIPT: 12/23/19, The Last Word w/ Lawrence O’Donnell.
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.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
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?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
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.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): Do you think Chuck Schumer`s impartial? Do
you think Elizabeth Warren`s impartial?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.
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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
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?
BINA VENKATARAMAN, THE BOSTON GLOBE EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR: Well, it`s one
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
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.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
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?
RUDY GIULIANI, TRUMP`S PERSONAL LAWYER: Of course I did.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mick Mulvaney.
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 MALE: Mike Pompeo.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Rudy Giuliani delivered Ukraine files to Mike Pompeo.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And John Bolton.
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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
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
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.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
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.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
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
(END VIDEO CLIP)
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.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FIONA HILL, FORMER WHITE HOUSE ADVISOR ON RUSSIA: Based on questions and
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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
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,
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
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
ROBERT JORDAN, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO SAUDI ARABIA: Well, I`m sad to say
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
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.
MARIA ECHAVESTE, FMR DEPUTY CHIEF OF STAFF TO PRESIDENT CLINTON: Well,
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
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
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
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
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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
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
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.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
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?
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
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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
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.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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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