Interview with Tom Steyer. TRANSCRIPT: 1/9/20, The Last Word w/ Lawrence O’Donnell.
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel.
And thank you. Thank you for that graphic that you put up on your wall
about campaign ad spending, which is the most extraordinary graphic you
have done in a while.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, “TRMS”: It took us two and a half days to figure
out how to do it. We had to change the whole studio and we had to like act
it out and block it like it was a play.
O`DONNELL: I love the dramatic moment where the whole scale has to change.
O`DONNELL: So, we – I was watching that happen, and I started kind of
jumping up and down and saying, we need that. We need that. So, we`re going
to cut a piece of that.
O`DONNELL: And use it later in the show as part of our introduction to
candidate Tom Steyer.
MADDOW: Very good.
O`DONNELL: Who is the second-biggest column of spending in that graphic.
He`s joining us tonight for his very first interview on this program as a
presidential candidate on a day when he`s surging in the polls and just
qualified, as you pointed out –
O`DONNELL: – for next week`s debate. There was only going to be five
people on that stage, and now, Tom Steyer is going to be in that stage.
MADDOW: That two polls that came through for him tonight, he not only
qualified in them, he like qualified with an exclamation point, did hugely
well in those polls. And he is the guy from who you have to change the
scale of the map in order to account for his spending.
O`DONNELL: I like the question mark you put in your air in the voice when
you reported the part about he`s in second place in South Carolina in one
of those polls.
O`DONNELL: And I – I think we all have a question mark about that.
O`DONNELL: That is a surprise.
MADDOW: I am looking forward to your interview.
O`DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel, and thank you for the graphic. It`s going to
MADDOW: All yours, my friend.
O`DONNELL: As I was just saying to Rachel, the stage was all set, it was
set for next week`s Democratic presidential campaign debate. Only five
candidates qualifying this time until tonight in these two dramatic polls
were released state, state polls showing Tom Steyer surging in Nevada,
surging in South Carolina. He`s now in third place in Nevada and as we said
second place in South Carolina.
Tom Steyer will join us at the end of this hour for his first interview as
a presidential candidate here on THE LAST WORD. And I will ask him about
that stunning graphic that Rachel used in her program showing just how much
money Tom Steyer has spent to get to this point where the polls can lift
him on to that debate stage.
Frank Rich will also join us later in the hour. His latest article for New
York magazine is about what will happen after Trump. Frank Rich writes, all
cults come to an end often abruptly, and Trump`s Republican Party is
nothing if not a cult.
Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey will be joining us tonight. He was in that
briefing with the Trump administration officials yesterday about Iran, the
one about the briefing about which one Republican senator said was
absolutely insane. That was the Republican senator`s description of it. It
was the worst briefing that that Republican senator had ever seen. We`ll
get Ed Markey`s description of that briefing and we`ll ask Senator Markey
if he thinks enough Republicans will vote to subpoena John Bolton to
testify in these Senate impeachment trial.
Today, Nancy Pelosi divided her public comments about equally, between what
she called the two I`s, Iran and impeachment. Once again tonight, the
articles of impeachment will spend the night in the House of
Representatives in the custody of Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Here is why she said today about why she has not sent the articles of
impeachment against President Trump to the United States for trial.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: So, are you holding onto the articles of indefinitely?
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): No. I`m not holding them indefinitely. I`ll send
them over when I`m ready, and that will probably be soon. We want to see
what they`re willing to do and the manner in which they will do it.
But we will not let them say, oh, this is just like Clinton, fair is fair.
It`s not. Documents, documentation, witnesses, facts, truth, that`s what
they`re afraid of.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Earlier this week, a few, and only a few, Democratic senators
started to make public comments suggesting that Nancy Pelosi should send
the articles of impeachment to the Senate now, but today, Democratic
senators are now all fully supportive of Speaker Pelosi`s strategy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Would you like to see the speaker send the articles over now?
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D-CA): Well, I think that`s up to the speaker.
REPORTER: Should the articles of impeachment be sent over to the Senate
SEN. CHRIS COONS (D-DE): It is appropriate for Speaker Pelosi to do
everything she can to secure witnesses. Given the public statements of
Leader McConnell yesterday, I expect this is going to move forward fairly
quickly, but I fully respect the prerogative of the leader of the House to
ensure there is as fair a trial as we could possibly secure.
REPORTER: You told yesterday that you support Pelosi sending the articles
over. A few of your Democratic colleagues have echoed the same. Have you
heard from any other Democratic colleagues that it`s time to kind of get on
with the trial?
SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT): What I have heard from my Democratic
colleagues very emphatically is profound respect for the speaker`s
decision. She has waited, and the result has been additional evidence.
O`DONNELL: So they`re all back in line with Speaker Pelosi now after there
was a few wanderings off in their own directions.
President Trump continued to engage in his jury tampering strategy by
meeting with Senator Mitch McConnell yesterday at the White House where
they, according to a source, discussed the format of the Senate trial and
Senator McConnell gave the president his current reading of where the
Republican jurors stand in the trial that hasn`t yet begun.
As Mitch McConnell`s impatience with Nancy Pelosi`s holding on to the
articles of impeachment grows, today, Mitch McConnell said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): If the speaker continues to refuse to take her
own accusations to trial, the Senate will move forward actually with the
business of our people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: OK. So there is the threat. And the people`s business that Mitch
McConnell said the Senate would turn to next week, if they`re not ready to
go to trial on the impeachment case, is the revised version of NAFTA, which
just passed the Republican controlled Senate Finance Committee just this
week and is not ready to go to the Senate floor because the other
committees of jurisdiction in the Senate are moving so slowly.
Nancy Pelosi, on the other hand, got the revised version of NAFTA passed
through all the committees of jurisdiction in the House and passed on the
House floor last year. And like virtually everything else, the Pelosi-run
House of Representatives has passed and sent to the Senate. The revised
version of NAFTA is still waiting for action in the United States Senate.
So when Mitch McConnell threatens today to turn to doing the people`s
business if he doesn`t get the articles of impeachment next week, Nancy
Pelosi said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PELOSI: He said if you don`t send them over, I`m going to pass the Mexico-
U.S.-Canada trade agreement. OK.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Mitch McConnell cannot threaten Nancy Pelosi by saying he`s
going to pass the legislation that he has sent to the Senate and wants him
to pass. That kind of threat will give Nancy Pelosi the incentive to hold
the articles of impeachment longer.
One reason Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump desperately want the articles
of impeachment sent to the United States immediately is what has happened
in the time that Nancy Pelosi has been holding on to those articles.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PELOSI: In the past few weeks since we`ve had this, shall we say, impasse
because they won`t reveal the terms of engagement, many things have been
accomplished that are collateral benefit to the discussion, and they relate
to, on December 20th, new e-mails showed that 91 minutes after Trump`s
phone call with the Ukrainian president, a top OMB aide asked DOD to hold
off on sending military aid to the Ukraine, directly related to that call.
On December 29th, this report public revolutions about Mulvaney`s role in
the delay of the aid, the efforts of lawyers and what has to justify the
delay and the alarm that the delay caused within the administration.
Last Thursday, newly unredacted Pentagon e-mails exposed serious concerns
by administration officials about the legality of the president`s hold on
the aid. And just this week, Bolton announced that he would comply with a
subpoena compelling his testimony. As lawyers have stated, he has new
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Leading off our discussion tonight is the Democratic
Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur of Ohio. She is the co-chair of the House
Ukraine Caucus, and her district includes Toledo, Ohio, where President
Trump held a campaign rally tonight.
Jason Johnson is politics editor of TheRoot.com and professor of politics
and media at Morgan State University. And Eugene Robinson is the associate
editor and Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for “The Washington Post.” Both
Jason and Eugene are MSNBC political analysts.
And, Congresswoman Kaptur, first of all, I want to go to what the reaction
was in the House of Representatives in the last couple of days when you
started to hear senators like Richard Blumenthal and a few others saying
Speaker Pelosi should send us the articles of impeachment now. They have
reversed themselves, the ones who started to say those things, because it
seems Speaker Pelosi is in complete control of what this strategy is.
What was your reaction in the House when you heard those senators start to
make their own suggestions about it?
REP. MARCY KAPTUR (D-OH): Well, let me just say that I think that it`s very
important that we create a process whereby the truth be known. And the
administration obstructed justice on so many levels in terms of witnesses
who were to come before us, before our committees of travel logs and
meetings that were held relative to Ukraine and the withholding of aid to
We were not able to assemble that information in the house. So I think what
the speaker is doing is very proper, and I`m glad to see that this Senate,
which was less focused on what we have been doing in the house, are paying
attention and seeing that this temporary pause is an effort to obtain the
truth. And I think when John Bolton came out and made some indications that
he was willing to come to testify, I think that began to move the dial.
O`DONNELL: And is it also part of the speaker`s strategy to, because the
State of the Union Address is scheduled for February 4th, to delay this
trial long enough so that Donald Trump does not have a verdict from that
trial before the State of the Union Address?
KAPTUR: Well, that sounds like a good strategy to me.
O`DONNELL: So you think it`s politically wise to play the politics of that
scheduling and even if that becomes publically apparent that that`s what
the speaker is doing, that there is a political element to the scheduling
so that the president doesn`t have the kind of State of the Union Address
that he might want to have?
KAPTUR: Well, everything that we do is political. But I think that if we
can, in fact, have clarity from the Senate a little bit more on the kinds
of witnesses they will call, what we were not able to do in the House,
which is so vital to making sure that we abide by the strictures of the
Constitution, no one is above the law. I can tell you in terms of my own
committee, the fact that Secretary Perry that led the delegation back in
may, he was unwilling to give us his travel logs. He was unwilling to tell
us with whom he met, what he did.
Informally he would say things to me. He would never say it on the record,
and he`s left the administration. Oh, my goodness. That is really – the
American people deserve to know what these individuals who were Trump
appointees were doing and who they were speaking with, particularly in view
of the fact that this military aid was then withheld.
We simply don`t know and we need to know and we don`t have that evidence.
O`DONNELL: Gene Robinson, as I watch this strategy play out, I was
surprised as anyone that Nancy Pelosi decided to hold on to the articles of
impeachment. I couldn`t have told you exactly what the strategy is. I still
However, when I see it has driven Mitch McConnell to go to the Senate floor
and threaten Nancy Pelosi by saying, if you don`t give me the articles of
impeachment, I`m going to do exactly what you want me to do.
EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Exactly.
O`DONNELL: And start – I mean, Mitch McConnell has lost on this.
ROBINSON: Exactly. He keeps going to the floor and trying to say something
that will dislodge these articles.
And what Nancy Pelosi is doing is essentially, for whatever reason, I
confess I`m not sure I understand – actually, I`m sure I don`t understand
fully her strategy. But what she`s doing is what Mitch McConnell does,
which is just to be stubborn and not to care what sort of attacks she gets.
That`s what McConnell does all the time. Mitch don`t care. And he`s been
very successful that way.
Nancy Pelosi is basically doing the same thing, and she essentially said,
read my lips today. I`ll send them when I`m ready. And I gather that`s
exactly what she`s going to do and there is nothing Mitch McConnell really
can do about that.
O`DONNELL: And, Jason Johnson, you can see the shape of some of the
strategy, but I`m sure Nancy Pelosi has more in mind than I can see. One of
those things is that moment where she said, here is all the things we have
learned since the articles of impeachment passed. We have learned all this
while I have been holding on to them, and as this Senate trial, you know,
is waiting to get started.
Also, you look at what Mitt Romney said about he`s completely in favor of
witnesses testifying, John Bolton in particular. He`s basically said, I am
a vote for that. There is at least one Republican vote for that.
So far, you know, I don`t see any price Nancy Pelosi is paying here in
holding on to these, and I can see what she`s been gaining so far.
JASON JOHNSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. Lawrence, like why throw
pearls before swine? There is no reason for her to give this report, give
the articles of impeachment over to Mitch McConnell so he can throw them in
the circular file because she knows that`s what he wants to do.
The longer that Nancy Pelosi has waited, but it increases the likelihood
that Chuck Schumer and other Democrats, despite some grumbling this weak,
will have a stronger hand in negotiating how the eventual trial occurs.
That`s the most important thing here. It doesn`t really matter when the
articles of impeachment come over, as long as the process is one that
everybody can agree with. I don`t care if that happens in February. I don`t
care if that happens in March.
Even the Democrats running for president right now realized there is a
value to being actively involved in this process even if they`re
So, I think it`s been a smart idea. I wish the Democrats in the Senate had
kept their mouths quiet because obviously they were getting nervous for
reasons that make no sense. But ultimately, this is a good idea on Pelosi`s
And another, I also said it quickly, Mitch McConnell did this all the time.
He held up Merrick Garland. How could anyone complain about what Nancy
Pelosi is doing when hundreds of judges under the Obama administration were
held without a position under Mitch McConnell?
O`DONNELL: The other thing that happened today, Congresswoman Kaptur, while
Nancy Pelosi has been holding on to the articles that is buried in a bunch
of inanity that Donald Trump spoke today in a public discussion in front of
reporters, I don`t want to call it a press conference, which included
praise for the Village People and their gay anthem YMCA, which we will get
to later in the program and show. In the middle of all that, when he was
asked about John Bolton testifying, he said that it was OK with him. He had
no problem with it. He just wants to protect executive privilege.
So, he just in that moment released his directive to John Bolton to not
testify so the door has become even wider open to John Bolton`s testimony.
KAPTUR: We welcome John Bolton. I hope that he will come before the Senate.
O`DONNELL: And what about the House? Will the House also try to get Bolton
testimony at some point?
KAPTUR: I would welcome that. I`m not on any of those committees of
jurisdiction. All I know is that the situation with Ukraine is extremely
serious. It is the scrimmage line for liberty in Europe today.
Russia is working in many maligned ways and adjoining countries and frankly
in this country through cyber warfare and so forth to create disunity and
to disrupt our normal order of doing business. And they`re very serious.
They want to break up our NATO alliance. They have invaded several
countries including Ukraine most recently in order to prevent accession
(ph) to the greater European Union and ultimately to NATO.
And this is serious. This is serious security business for our country and
for liberty-loving people everywhere. So I think that we have to look below
some of the theatrical politics here and think about strategically what is
at stake for us and the tremendous price that this country has paid for the
liberty of our allies.
O`DONNELL: The co-chair of the House Ukraine Caucus, Congresswoman Marcy
Kaptur, Eugene Robinson, Jason Johnson – thank you all for joining us and
starting us off tonight. Really appreciate it.
O`DONNELL: And coming up in this hour, we will be joined by the Democratic
presidential candidate who surprised the field tonight and suddenly
qualified for next week`s debate stage after a big surge in the polls. He`s
now in third place in Nevada, second place in South Carolina. He will make
his first appearance as a presidential candidate here on THE LAST WORD
later in this hour.
And up next, Senator Ed Markey.
O`DONNELL: Tonight, the House of Representatives passed a new War Powers
Resolution to restrict military action against Iran. The vote was largely
along party lines with three Republicans voting in favor of the resolution
and eight Democrats voting against the vote. It came the day after the
House and Senate were briefed on the Iranian session with closed door
sessions with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Defense Secretary Mark Esper
and CIA Director Gina Haspel.
Republican Senator Mike Lee called the Senate version of that briefing
yesterday, quote, these are his words, absolutely insane.
Today, the Senate`s Democratic leader Chuck Schumer revealed new details of
what happened behind closed doors yesterday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): Only 15 senators were able to ask questions
before the administration decided they had to go. As many as 82 senators
were left hanging in the balance without a chance to ask their questions.
It was a sight like none I have ever seen in my time in the Senate.
The White House representative assured me the group would be back in short
order. I said, within a week? He said that in the room, the SCIF, he said
they will definitely come back.
This morning the White House told me they would explore coming back.
They`re already backing off, as usual.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Today, Republican Senator Mike Lee responded to Republican
Senator Marco Rubio`s claim that yesterday`s Senate briefing was a good
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
REP. MIKE LEE (R-UT): I think he must have been in a different briefing
than I attended. I literally find it difficult to imagine how my friend
Marco, who is smart, who listens carefully, who caring about these things,
how he could emerge from that meeting and say that it was good.
It was terrible. I think it was an unmitigated disaster.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining us now is Democratic Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts.
He`s a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
And, Senator, here is a question I haven`t asked you before. Who do you
agree with, Mike Lee or Marco Rubio?
SEN. ED MARKEY (D-MA): You know, actually it is a good day for America when
you can ask that kind of a question.
O`DONNELL: It is.
MARKEY: When the Republican Party is actually having a debate over a Trump
policy. So, you know, I attended the same briefing that Senator Lee did, a
frustrating, you know, session where information was grudgingly being
dispensed by the cabinet officials of Donald Trump. And it was almost a tag
team where each one of the senators who was asking a question was trying to
elicit another small morsel of information from them.
And then what they announced after 75 minutes like it was a game show,
time`s up. We`re sorry. We don`t have any more time for you to continue to
try to get us to give you the specifics of what the imminent threat was to
the country, what the targets were, how many days or weeks we really
thought would elapse before it would happen.
And, so, at the end of that session, you could just feel the palpable
unhappiness of many of the senators who were willing to sit there for hours
in addition to get the answers to the key questions that the American
people want to know because ultimately we could be talking about a
commitment of American young men and women to a conflict with Iran and the
precipitating cause would be the assassination of Soleimani and they just
stood up all at once and just walked out of the room without allowing us to
ask follow-on questions.
O`DONNELL: Well, the president added to the story today, he added an
imminent threat. Let`s listen to what he said today about this, the
possibility of their intent to burn down the embassy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We caught a total monster,
and we took him out. And that should have happened a long time ago. We did
it because they were looking to blow up our embassy. We also did it for
other reasons that were very obvious.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Did they say anything to you yesterday about blowing up the
MARKEY: No, we did not hear about blowing up the embassy yesterday in that
briefing, and I sat through it from beginning to end. And, so, if that was
the threat, if it was imminent, if it was going to happen within a couple
of days, they had every opportunity for 75 minutes to let us know that. And
that would have cast all of this in a different light because we had so
many diplomat diplomatic and military personnel who would have been in
But we didn`t hear that. And ultimately, you know, sometimes you just think
that Donald Trump is like making it up as he goes along in order to provide
answers because he can understand the unease of the American people that in
fact we might have just crossed a trip wire that could have potential long
term catastrophic consequences for our national security.
O`DONNELL: I just want to turn to the trial, the impeachment trial that`s
coming up. You know Senator Romney better than most of the other senators.
He was your governor of Massachusetts. You were in the congressional
delegation while he was governor. You worked with him.
He obviously has said he`s willing to vote for John Bolton to be called as
a witness. He said that he`d like to hear from witnesses, plural.
Is he the only one? Do you think there will be enough Republican votes in
the Senate to call John Bolton at least as a witness?
MARKEY: Well, you know, it is hard for me to get inside the internal
workings of the cerebral mechanisms of Republican senators. So I`m very
glad that Senator Romney is now, you know, willing to, you know, move
forward on Bolton testifying.
Obviously we`re going to need four of the senators on the Republican side
to join with the 47 Democrats or those who caucus with the Democrats in the
Senate. We would have no way of knowing what would happen a week from now,
two weeks from now whenever the trial begins on the Senate floor.
My hope would be that at a minimum we could find four Republican United
States senators who would say that due process would be well-served if the
four witnesses, that is Mick Mulvaney, John Bolton, the OMB officials who
were talked to about withholding the $380 million to the Ukraine government
were allowed to testify and that that would be something that would add on
to the information that the House of Representatives sent over. And it
would be those who are in most direct contact with Donald Trump who could
give us the most accurate representation of what he was saying and thinking
at that time.
So my hope is that four would step forward to give us the votes to get to
51. Then if ultimately, when we vote on removal of the president they
decide not to do so, it will have at least happened all the evidence was
out on the table, all of the witnesses were heard and so I have my fingers
crossed. But I have been disappointed over the last three years by the
Republican side in many, many instances with regard to bucking Donald
O`DONNELL: Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts, thank you very much for
joining us tonight. Really appreciate it.
MARKEY: Thanks for having me on.
O`DONNELL: Up next, Donald Trump and the Village People and YMCA. Many
people thought Donald Trump was honoring the United States Marine Corps
when he came up with his name for the revisions of NAFTA, but he explained
today that it had nothing to do with the U.S. Marines. It was all about the
Village People, and YMCA.
O`DONNELL: Today we have another demonstration of what happens when Donald
Trump is working without a teleprompter.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I spoke to Secretary General, yesterday and we had a great
conversation. He was very - I think he was actually excited about it and I
actually had a name. NATO, right? And then you have ME - Middle East.
You`ll call it, NATOME. I said what a beautiful name, NATOME.
I`m good at names, right? USMCA, like the song `YMCA.` Everybody - nobody
could remember, USMCA. I said, think of the song `YMCA.` Now everybody says
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: There was more insanity in that short burst of Presidential
speech than in our country`s entire higher of Presidential speeches. Sorry,
United States Marine Corp, if you thought the Mexican Trade Agreement was
named in your honor by using your initials USMCA, you were wrong.
President Trump did not have the U.S. Marine Corp in mind. He had these
people in mind. The Village People made the song `YMCA` a hit in 1979 when
Donald Trump was a married man, prowling New York City`s night clubs
without his wife. So remember that Trump supporters.
The Trump name for the new Mexican trade agreement is in honor of not the
United States marines, it`s in honor of the Village People. Those Village
People right there on your TV screen, which is interesting but not outright
crazy like say, the Middle East should be in the North Atlantic Treaty
Organization, an organization which each member pledges to join in the
military defense of every other member.
That means that every member of NATO would be immediately militarily
engaged in the Middle East, every time a missile is fired, including
missiles fired by Donald Trump in the Middle East.
It is impossible to listen to Donald Trump say things like that and then
fall into lines supporting him unless you have the capacity to completely
surrender your ability to think.
Which brings us to Frank Rich`s latest brilliant article in New York
magazine in which he says, “All cults come to an end, often abruptly, and
Trump`s Republican Party is nothing if not a cult.”
Frank Rich takes a look at what would happen to the Trump Toadies and for
that he takes a look at Richard Nixon`s defenders and the Vichy
collaborators of World War II. Frank Rich will join us next.
O`DONNELL: In Frank Rich`s latest article from New York magazine, he
writes, “Once Trump has vacated the Oval Office and possibly for decades
thereafter, his government like any other deposed strongman`s will be
subjected to a forensic colonoscopy to root out buried crimes, whether
against humanity or the rule of law or both. With time, everything will
come out - it always does.”
Joining us now is Frank Rich, Writer-at-large for New York magazine. He is
also an executive producer of HBO`s `Succession` and was an executive
producer for the Emmy Award winning HBO series, `Veep` which will live
forever online and Frank, can we use the Succession theme music for your
We can get it for cheap, right?
FRANK RICH, WRITER-AT-LARGE, NEW YORK MAGAZINE: Very cheap. Why not?
O`DONNELL: And the composer was –?
RICH: His name is Nicholas Patel.
O`DONNELL: Nicholas Patel, yes.
RICH: Yes. Brilliant guy.
O`DONNELL: It`s fantastic as is the show.
O`DONNELL: So you`re saying something that I have long believed in and it`s
one of the things that I find so strange about people like William Barr.
William Barr knows there`s going to be another Attorney General someday and
it`s going to be a Democratic Attorney General and that Attorney General is
going to have the power to look at every single thing William Barr did and
it`s coming at some point.
RICH: It`s coming and you feel these people like him and that crackpot
Senator whose parroting Putin down in then Louisiana, John Kennedy in
quotes. They`re acting as if there`s no tomorrow. There`s never a reckoning
and what I tried to do in this piece is make the point, whoever goes to
jail, doesn`t go to jail.
Whatever crimes are found out now or in the course of a Trump presidency is
nothing compared to what`s been buried that none of us know about, not even
a very zealous investigative press has found yet and people will be turning
over rocks for decades.
And if you look back at history, General Motors and Ford, both have
executives who were essentially Hitler appeasers and in case of General
Motors, involved - were involved in the armaments that were used against
American troops and manufacturing them in Germany during the war.
It took 40 years to find all that out but all came out and people who
support these kind of regimes, whether it be appeasement, then or America
First in the thirties or Trump, which is you know, let`s face it, a
criminal presidency, however you want to slice it.
It`s - it`s - there`s going to be reckoning and one other thing I want to
mention is you can only take the Nixon analogy so far because yes, Nixon
abused his office. He also tried to throw a Presidential campaign but it
would never occur to him to collaborate and aid the Soviet Union.
RICH: America`s own enemy. It would never occur to him to my knowledge to
break up immigrant families at the border and turn away refugees from
horrors in other countries. It would never occur to him to quite the
contrary, to fight climate - climate change science and to downgrade a
regulation of environmental poisons.
And so these are really serious crimes and whether they produce jail
sentences or not, for the people who did them, they`ll be implicated and so
will their children and their grandchildren, there`s going to be a stain.
O`DONNELL: The thing about Nixon is that if he did, if he wanted to switch
sides in the argument about the Soviet Union, what he knew was, no one will
follow me. If I try to start talking pro-Soviet Union tomorrow, there won`t
be a single Republican who says, oh, that`s a good thing.
RICH: No, there - no, here it is a cult because they`re absolutely people
who in some cases, did have reputations that they`ve now destroyed, good
reputations, have made fools of themselves for their dear leader.
And the thing about cults is they always do come to an end and the cult
leader, whether it be the Reverend Moon, you know who was a Nixon supporter
or you know, Jim Jones or whomever, Charlie Manson.
They`re never going to be reformed and never does and that`s certainly true
of Trump. They`re never going to see the problems with their ways but the
people who swirled around him and were taken in, they`re going to pay a
price, a human pricing and a reputational price forever.
O`DONNELL: Frank Rich, thank you very much for joining us tonight.
RICH: Thanks you.
O`DONNELL: And Succession theme music next time. Thank you very much and
when we come back, the billionaire who has surged into second place in the
latest South Carolina Democratic Presidential poll and third place in the
latest Nevada democratic Presidential poll will join us next.
O`DONNELL: The stage for next week`s Democratic Presidential debate was set
and I mean, all set with only five candidates making that cut until
tonight. As of today, it looked like the only candidates on that stage
would be Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg and
But then two new state-wide polls cannot today showing a surge by
billionaire businessman, Tom Steyer in Nevada where he is now in third
place, tied with Elizabeth Warren and in South Carolina, where he is in
Those two state-wide polls were enough to put - to put Tom Steyer on the
debate stage next week and he joins us now from New Hampshire for his first
interview as a Presidential candidate here on The Last Word.
Thank you very much for joining us tonight, Mr. Steyer. You didn`t need to
do that in the polls to qualify to appear here. I just want to make that
clear but thank you very much for joining us.
I want to go to impeachment because you began a national TV advertising
campaign, advocating the impeachment of Donald Trump in October of 2017,
two years before the House of Representatives moved on impeachment. What
did you see then before the end of the first year of the Trump presidency
as the grounds for impeachment?
TOM STEYER (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Lawrence, I saw clearly in October
of 2017 that this was the most corrupt President in American history and he
started his corruption virtually from the first day and he started his
obstruction of justice at virtually the first day and he did them publicly.
And so what I actually did in `Need to Impeach,` is not just run TV ads.
What I did was I gathered signatures of American citizens. 8.5 million
American citizens signed that `Need to Impeach` petition and they actually
not only signed it but they called their Congress people and they emailed
their Congress people and they wrote to their Congress people, asking that
Congress look at this as a matter of right and wrong, not a matter of
partisanship or political expediency.
So I give that 8.5 million people enormous credit in standing up for what`s
right in America when in fact nobody else in Washington DC was willing to
look at this as a matter of right and wrong.
O`DONNELL: If you become President, a year from now, it`ll be a year after
President Trump`s military confrontation with Iran and who knows what
happens with Iran between now and then.
What would your policy toward Iran be and would you re-establish the Iran
nuclear deal that was negotiated by Secretary of State John Kerry and
STEYER: I believe that that Iran nuclear deal that President Obama and
Secretary of State Kerry lead with our allies, that negotiated Iran away
from their nuclear ambitions was exactly the kind of positive American move
that we should be doing in foreign policy around the world. It stood up for
It made American citizens safer and it allied us with our traditional
democracy and freedom loving allies so that rather than a simple bilateral
confrontation, it was a value driven, ally-supported move that supported
our values and made Americans safer around the world. It`s exactly what we
should be doing now.
O`DONNELL: I want to go to one of the issues you know, you`re going to be
spending time on, on the debate stage next week and that is healthcare.
You`re opposed to Medicare for all but if you are President and Senator
Bernie Sanders manages to push Medicare for all through Congress, would you
STEYER: No. Let me say this, Lawrence. When we talk about healthcare in
America, there are two things that I believe the government needs to do.
One is to recognize that affordable healthcare is a right for Americans in
the 21st century, a right.
And secondly, the healthcare in America is far too expensive and that
means, it isn`t affordable and available to tens of millions of Americans.
It`s the government`s job to drive down the cost of healthcare because we
pay twice as much on average as other advanced countries for the same or
O`DONNELL: We`re going to squeeze in a–
STEYER: So when you talk about Medicare for all or a public option to the
Affordable Care Act, really what we`re trying to do is succeed in
accomplishing those two objectives that I happen to be for a public option
but I think those two objectives are what really count.
O`DONNELL: All right, we`re going to squeeze in a break here. Please stay
with us and when we come back. I`ll ask Tom Steyer a few things. If he
thinks it`s fair that billionaires can buy their way into Presidential
campaigns with massive ad campaign spending.
You`ll see what Rachel had to say about that, earlier tonight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: But this is not everyone spending money on Presidential primary
ads. This is not the full picture. For the full picture, you actually have
to change the scale to fit everybody else on the board, ready? Bye you
guys. The reason we have to make those bars so small is because in order to
get an accurate to scale picture of what Tom Steyer has spent, you have to
shrink everybody else down that much.
Tom Steyer has spent an unfathomable $67 million on TV ads to boost his
chances in the Democratic primary this far. Tom Steyer would have the
record but for former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The other
democratic billionaire running for President who has to this point spent
$142 million on TV and radio ads.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: And we`re back with businessman and 2020 democratic Presidential
candidate, Tom Steyer. Mr. Steyer, I know you couldn`t see that graphic
where you are but Rachel showed in relative terms, graphic terms, it showed
you spending 67 million and the next one down from you, Bernie Sanders,
Pete Buttigieg spending 10 million and then all the way down to 1 million
and then with Mike Bloomberg dwarfing you.
Do you understand why so many Americans look at a graph like that and think
what they`re seeing is unfairness? If they think what they`re seeing is the
ability of billionaires to buy their way into Presidential politics?
STEYER: Let me say this, Lawrence. For the last 10 years as an outsider,
I`ve been putting together coalitions of Americans to take on what I think
of as unchecked corporate power and in doing that, I`ve been taking on what
I think are the biggest problems in America that we have a broken
government that`s been bought by corporations.
So in every one of those fights, I`ve put in all of my time, my heart and
soul and my money to try and solve what I think are the biggest problems in
America including our climate crisis and democracy. To return democracy to
the people, of, by and for the people. That`s what I did in starting the
`Need to Impeach` movement and that`s what I`m doing running for President.
I have a message that is different from everyone else running for President
which is that we have a broken government bought by corporations and that
as an outsider, I have taken on these people and will take them on.
So if you`re - I have said I`m the only person in this race who will make
climate my number one priority and I`ll do it from the standpoint of
environmental justice and that I can beat Trump on the economy because I
did build the business over 30 years and I do understand the economy and I
can go toe to toe with him.
So if your point is that I`m taking on the biggest problem I see in America
and putting everything I have into it, to try and solve that problem
including my money then I`ve done that for 10 years and if that`s the worst
thing you can say about it, about me, then I`ll take it.
O`DONNELL: What changes in campaign finance law would you support, if any?
STEYER: I would support public financing of campaigns that includes the
idea of giving vouchers to American citizens that they can use for
contributions. I know that the House bill includes six times multiples of
contributions up to $200 that Americans give.
So that`s a different mechanism of public financing. The one that I`m
talking about, I believe actually brings a lot more people into the game so
I`m absolutely in favor of public financing of elections.
O`DONNELL: Would you–
STEYER: I`m in favor though more than that Lawrence, I`m in favor of
restructuring Washington DC. As an outsider, I`m for term limits for
Congress of 12 years for Congress people and Senators. I`m for giving
direct democracy to the American people, to let us pass laws if the
I`m saying we have a broken government, that`s what`s going on in
Washington DC. It`s been bought by corporations and my question to the
American people is who do you think is going to change that? Is it going to
be someone like me who`s an outsider who`s been fighting those corporations
and beating them for a decade or is it going to be someone from inside the
O`DONNELL: Would you support limits on how much an individual can
contribute to his own campaign?
STEYER: I would support public financing of elections so everybody can
compete fairly and so that - so that someone financing his own campaign is
O`DONNELL: Could there ever be a public financing option that would allow
people to compete against a billionaire?
STEYER: Absolutely. Lawrence, this is a question about message. The idea
that someone can buy votes is not true. The question is does a candidate,
any candidate including me have a message that`s differential.
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Copyright 2020 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