House Dems release additional evidence. TRANSCRIPT: 1/14/20, The Last Word w/ Lawrence O’Donnell.
ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel.
My word of the day, engrossment. I will definitely – I`ve not used that
before on television.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: No, I`ve got to look it up.
VELSHI: Have good evening, friend.
MADDOW: Thanks, Ali.
VELSHI: Coming up tonight, Congress wants answers. Nancy Pelosi is
demanding that Trump share what he knows about the Russian hack on the
Ukrainian company that is at the center of the impeachment scandal. Malcolm
Nance is here with what we can expect to see from Russian hackers this
election cycle, because it started.
Plus, Democratic senators are calling for an investigation into Trump
reportedly telling Mar-a-Lago guests to expect a big response to Iran`s
provocation just before the airstrike against Qasem Soleimani. We`ll be
joined by one of those senators, Chris Van Hollen.
And a topic I`m especially passionate about, economic inequality in America
and what we can do to combat it. We`ll have a special guest to talk about
But first, the House Intelligence Committee, as Rachel said, has released
new bombshell evidence tonight related to the impeachment investigation of
President Trump, including information turned over by Lev Parnas, the
indicted former associate of Rudy Giuliani. The material includes a
previously undisclosed May 2019 letter from Giuliani to Ukrainian President
In the letter on Giuliani`s letterhead, Rudy Giuliani asks for a meeting
with Zelensky and notes that he has, quote, knowledge and consent of Trump.
Another document in the disclosure is a handwritten note by Parnas that
states, get Zelensky to announce that the Biden case will be investigated.
Here`s House Intelligence Committee member Eric Swalwell on “THE BEAT”
earlier tonight about this release of documents.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA): Every time we see more documents, the arrows
continue to point in the direction that the president was running a corrupt
scheme, putting his interests above America`s interests to have the
Ukrainians help him cheat an election, which is all the more reason that
Mitch McConnell should support having all the documents available from the
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: All right. Could this release give Democrats new ammunition to
argue that the White House must turnover more information and allow new
testimony from witnesses? We`ll have more on that in a moment.
Before all of this came to light, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced to
Democrats that the House will vote on Wednesday on transmitting the
impeachment articles to the Senate. In a statement, Pelosi said the House
has upheld its constitutional duty to defend democracy for the people and
added, the president and senators will be held accountable.
Pelosi is yet to announce the impeachment managers, their names. It`s the
closest thing in this process to prosecuting attorneys. That`s going to
happen Wednesday at 10:00 a.m.
Smart money is on both on House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff
and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler being named managers.
Nadler told a group of reporters he would expect to be named as a manager,
but it`s unclear how many and who else Nancy Pelosi could pick.
In Bill Clinton`s 1999 Senate trial, there were 13 impeachment managers,
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he expects based on Pelosi`s
time line that opening arguments in the Senate trial could begin on January
21st, which is one week from today.
Senator Roy Blunt said the delay in starting the trial means that it`s
unlikely to wrap up before Trump delivers his State of the Union on
Leading off our discussion tonight, Democratic Congressman Mike Quigley of
Illinois. He`s a member of the House Intelligence Committee.
Jill Wine-Banks, former assistant – a Watergate prosecutor and MSNBC legal
And Mieke Eoyang, former staff member for the House Intelligence Committee,
she is an MSNBC contributor.
Thank you to all three of you joining us.
Congressman, I want to start with you and the new evidence we have seen or
the new disclosures that we`ve seen about the notes having to do with Lev
Parnas and Rudy Giuliani and Ukraine, including the news which we haven`t
even told our audience yet, that it appears that Marie Yovanovitch, the
U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, was being surveilled. She was being tracked.
Her movements were being tracked. Her cell phone was being tracked by
This is kind of incredible. What do you make of it in light of the fact
that the impeachment articles are expected to go over to the Senate
REP. MIKE QUIGLEY (D-IL): I don`t think – I never thought I could be more
surprised, but I guess the Trump administration continues its path. This is
deeply disturbing. Who gave the orders to do this, to surveil a United
States ambassador? And did it lead to the warning that she needs to move
back, that they feared for her safety, operating in Ukraine?
Well, safety from whom? Who was making these threats? Obviously, this
requires another full investigation. Make sure this sort of thing never
happens again. And those responsible are held accountable.
VELSHI: I want to read to you what the chairs of the committees
investigating – the investigation into the impeachment wrote. Chairs Adam
Schiff, Jerry Nadler, Caroline Maloney and Eliot Engel wrote: These
documents and those recently released pursuant to Freedom of Information
Act demonstrates there is more evidence relevant to the president`s scheme
but they have been concealed by the president himself.
All of this new evidence confirms what we already know. The president and
his associates pursued Ukrainian officials to announce investigations that
would benefit the president politically. There cannot be a full and fair
trial in the Senate without the documents that President Trump is refusing
to provide to Congress.
Now, that`s a letter. What do you do about this? What do you do about the
fact that there is new evidence that ultimately may influence how a vote
goes in the Senate?
QUIGLEY: Well, look, we need four senators, four Republican senators to
develop a backbone to do the right thing, that 72 percent of the American
people want. They want those documents. They want those witnesses to come
forth and tell us what we need to know, what the president is hiding.
The fact of the matter is, this is only one subpoena. There`s five major
subpoenas of documents. They have blocked nine major witnesses that we have
subpoenaed who refused to testify.
VELSHI: Jill, let me ask you about this. Marie Yovanovitch`s lawyer has
put out a response to the idea that she was being tracked. Her physical
movements were being tracked with her phone and her phone and her computer
use were being tracked.
The lawyer, Lawrence Robbins, says, needless to say the notion that
American citizens and others were monitoring Ambassador Yovanovitch`s
movements for unknown purposes is disturbing. We trust that the appropriate
authorities will conduct an investigation to determine what happened.
Except, it seems like whoever was involved in this was involved in whatever
it is that – the drug deal John Bolton said Giuliani and Trump were
So I don`t know who is going to investigate, but this does seem to be a
JILL WINE-BANKS, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: It`s particularly alarming. And you
are exactly correct because William Barr, who should be doing this, is
looking exactly the other way and doing everything he can to defend the
president and not to find the truth and the facts. These are things that
should not be going on against any American citizen overseas or at home.
And yet it was happening. And the evidence seems to be growing
And I want to point out that it is not unusual for evidence to come out
after an indictment which the impeachment is. And during Watergate, the
smoking gun tape was gotten through a trial subpoena. We had already
returned indictments and had all of the evidence that was for pretrial.
But once we indicted, we issued another subpoena to get more evidence for
the trial. The standard of proof at a trial is beyond a reasonable doubt.
The standard of proof to indict is just that there`s probable cause to
bring someone to trial.
And so, it makes a lot of sense that there be a full and fair hearing, that
there be witnesses, that all of these people whose documents we`re now
seeing should be testifying along with Bolton and Giuliani and Parnas and
Duffey and maybe Pompeo and many others who should be before the Senate.
You cannot have exoneration after a trial unless you actually have a trial,
and that requires these documents and that the witnesses come forward.
VELSHI: Well, except, Mika, the president will say he`s exonerated if he
doesn`t get convicted by the Senate. But they`re interesting matters
because there are a lot of senators talking about the fact whatever you
think about the president, this isn`t illegal, these aren`t crimes let
alone high crimes. We`re hearing these things from Lev Parnas, that sound
very much like crimes.
We`re hearing about the withholding of congressionally approved military
assistance to Ukraine, it`s not legal for the president to hold that kind
of money back or to redirect that kind of money. So, at some point, the
argument starts to ring hollow that no laws have been broken in the midst
of whatever it was that started in May and ended in September between the
president of the United States and the president of Ukraine.
MIEKE EOYANG, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Absolutely. And we think about it, Lev
Parnas was indicted on a criminal matter for his involvement in this scheme
in which the president was an actual actor.
These text messages show that part of what Lev Parnas was indicted for was
trying to get Yovanovitch fired, and that he and Rudy Giuliani were
involved in this up to their necks. That Giuliani was in communication with
the White House about this. And that the president actually fired
Now, I think there are some real questions here about what the president
knew, what did he knew it and how all these things transferred. But the
president in these documents says that his own personal lawyer can go
represent Lev Parnas. So he has a very tight relationship here. We need to
know more about it which is why they need to call the witnesses.
VELSHI: It`s completely wild, Congressman. I mean, it just – the average
mind can`t get their head around what Rudy Giuliani, the president`s
lawyer, and Lev Parnas were doing, trying to get Marie Yovanovitch fired.
At some point, you`ve got Lev Parnas who tweeted, by the way, his lawyer
tweeted: Mr. Parnas remains committed to testifying as to all the actions
he took in Ukraine on behalf of Donald Trump.
And you got John Bolton saying he`s ready to testify. At some point, if the
Senate and Mitch McConnell are not going to deal with this, is there a role
for the House or maybe your Intel Committee?
QUIGLEY: Oh, absolutely. I think the chairman has said we haven`t ruled
that out. As we have learned in these days that the investigation
continues, no matter what happens in the coming weeks, the investigation
must continue because people have to be held accountable. The American
people have to know what took place.
This is just one element of that. The facts and the issues involved with
the Russia investigation are still relevant because everything in this
investigation as we`ve learned ties back to Russia, their actions through
the president, through Ukraine. It is an unholy mess, but we`re going to
get to the bottom of it.
VELSHI: Yes, there`s new developments on that front, too, which we`re
going to be talking about with Malcolm Nance.
VELSHI: Jill Wine-Banks, let`s talk about the idea there are people out
there – give us a legal perspective. There are two people highly key to
this whole thing. If you have John Bolton in the White House involved in
these discussions, and you have Lev Parnas who is apparently where`s Waldo
of this thing, he`s all over the world trying to do someone`s bidding. Is
it Rudy Giuliani? Is it President Trump? And they`re prepared to testify.
How does – how does the legal world – I understand this is not a
completely legal process, but how does the legal world think about two
people central to something that a lot of people think is criminal activity
offering to testify?
WINE-BANKS: I think that Americans want to hear this. I think the
overwhelming number of people have said, witnesses are necessary. And I
think that that`s what will eventually happen if only because politically
it will become impossible.
Yes, the senators can vote against having witnesses. And I think if our
chief justice is going to take anything seriously about presiding over an
impeachment trial, he will rule that witnesses are necessary. And if they
overrule him by voting against it, there should be severe political
consequence. People will see that the senators voting against those
witnesses are part of the cover up, that`s what it will be, because they
And it`s so many things right now. The president`s taxes, the cost of how
much he is spending for security for going to his own golf club, for the
Secret Service agent`s golf carts, for his adult children to travel. They
want to hold that off until after the election.
But Americans deserve to have these facts before they vote, not after they
voted. So, we need to get them out there and people need to go to their
congressmen and say, Congressman Quigley and all of you, vote to get these
pieces of evidence. And if it has to go back to the House to get these,
then they should.
Bolton said he would testify to the Senate. There`s no reason why he
wouldn`t testify to the House. He is a risk. We don`t know what he`s going
WINE-BANKS: We don`t know what`s motivating him. So it`s a high risk, but
he said he wants to testify. He says he has information. He should give it.
So should Parnas. So should all the others who are direct participants in
the matter involving Zelensky and that`s what we need to know.
VELSHI: Interesting point you bring up. He`s a lifelong conservative. He`s
an establishment conservative. We don`t know what his motivations are.
He`s not likely to do something, Mieke, that is going to benefit Democrats
generally, but he seems to have something to say and people are eager to
know what it is.
Interestingly enough tomorrow at 5:00, as Rachel said, it`s going to be
walked over to the senate. Nancy Pelosi today in her statement stayed, the
president and the senators will be held accountable to what – to the point
that Jill was just making, Mieke.
At some point, if there is all this stuff around the edges that we know
about, these tweets from – these texts from Lev Parnas, and John Bolton
has ways of getting information out there if he wants to. What wrote it do
to the senators who would rather have this end quickly?
EOYANG: I think this is a real problem for the senators. They may want to
move for a motion to dismiss. But I think it`s important for people to know
in the legal process, when you talk about a motion to dismiss, that means
all the facts alleged by the prosecutors are assumed to be true.
And so, if that`s the case and they want to vote and say, hey, look, the
president can turn foreign policy on its own end, then they have to – then
the president can never be exonerated. He is always and forever have done
these things and everything the Democrats have accused him of is true. If
he wants to contest the facts, though, they have to allow the trial. They
have to call witnesses.
The dispute of facts is – disputing facts, you resolve that in a trial.
And so they need to go forward with that. And it comes down to a question
of basic fairness and American laws. And the senators are going to be held
accountable to that.
I think there are a fair number of them who are really uncomfortable with
the idea that you are just trying to sweep this under the rug without any
reference to American laws.
VELSHI: Mieke, thank you for joining us tonight. Jill Wine-Banks, as well,
and Congressman Mike Quigley of Illinois, thank you to all three.
Coming up, it`s no secret the president is not discreet with his words, and
it`s no secret that there`s a revolving donor of Republican VIPs and donors
at Donald Trump`s Florida resort. And there are reports that Donald Trump
talking to his guests about the strike on Iranian General Qasem Soleimani
before it happened.
Now, two Democratic senators want to know who knew what, when at Donald
Trump resorts. And did anyone make a profit off of that knowledge? That`s
VELSHI: One of the perks that come with membership to President Trump`s
private Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach Florida, and does it include early
access to confidential market-moving information? That`s what Democratic
Senators Elizabeth Warren and Chris Van Hollen want to know.
According to “The Daily Beast”, days before the January 2nd airstrike that
killed Iranian General Qasem Soleimani, President Trump began telling
friends and allies hanging at his perennial vacation getaway that he was
working on a big response to the Iranian regime, and they would be hearing
or reading about it very soon.
The day after the attack, defense stocks jumped and Senator Warren and Van
Hollen are calling on federal regulatory agencies to investigate whether
anyone had the opportunity to trade defense industry stocks or commodities
or make other trades based on this information.
Joining us now is Democratic senator from Maryland, Chris Van Hollen. He`s
also the ranking member on the Senate Subcommittee for Securities,
Insurance and Investment.
And, Senator, it`s worth noting that we`re pretty sophisticated in our
abilities these days to track trading that seems suspicious, trading that
is based on bad information. So, if there is some pattern here, I haven`t
seen the work done, but the Securities and Exchange Commission may be able
to find out.
SEN. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D-MD): Well, that`s right, Ali. And let me be
clear, the biggest scandal here, of course, is President Trump taking us to
the brink of war based on false information about an imminent attack,
making false statements. But it also turns out that he couldn`t help
himself from blabbering on about this imminent attack that he says they
were going to make when he was down in Mar-a-Lago.
And it turns out there were lots of well-heeled guests down there, and it
also turns out, as you said, in those days, defense stocks happened to do
very well and outperform other stocks. And so, it does raise the basic
question whether or not some of the president`s guests had access to
insider information and traded on that information.
That`s why Elizabeth Warren and I have asked the SEC to look into it.
VELSHI: And I just want to show the viewers some of the stocks you were
talking about. Northrop Grumman up 5.4 percent, Lockheed Martin was up 3.6,
Raytheon was up 1.5 percent between January 2nd and January 3rd. That would
be expected when you see some sort of military activity. The question is
whether they knew about it ahead of time.
Here`s the question. Is the president who has market-moving information –
he knows – he talks about this trade deal endlessly that we haven`t yet
seen the text of. He does this sort of thing.
How – how do you separate Donald Trump as blustery guy who wants to get
credit for things like the economy, like jobs, like a deal with China, like
response to the Iranians versus something that might be illegal behavior?
Because somebody with access to Donald Trump is getting non-public
information that could make them rich?
VAN HOLLEN: Well, that`s a good question. That`s exactly why we asked the
SEC to look into this. All – what we know is, of course, there were rising
tensions between the United States and Iran during that period of time. But
no – having generalized information about rising tensions is very
different than hearing personally and directly from the president of the
United States that, hey, something really big is going to go down, and
you`re going to read about it in the newspapers and see it on the news.
That kind of information obviously could be used improperly for insider
So we don`t know all the facts except for we do know about the reports that
the president was making all these statements to people who are close to
him down in Mar-a-Lago. And so, it`s worth looking into, as you say,
ultimately you have to make individualized cases with respect to specific
VELSHI: That can be done. I want to play you what Eric Swalwell said on
Andrea Mitchell today. Different aspect to Donald Trump and Mar-a-Lago and
who he`s telling things to. Let`s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SWALWELL: This is exactly what happened two weeks ago with the Iranian
attack where we took out General Soleimani, where the president did not
tell the Gang of Eight. He told the gang of Mar-a-Lago where he was telling
his friends and other senators there and his son who put out a tweet
intimating this was coming. But the president has cut out Congress.
And I think you have to conclude that that`s because Congress has continued
at least in the House to hold him accountable and so he`s being punitive.
But he`s not just punishing and hurting us. He`s putting our troops at risk
and our democracy if we`re not able to defend it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: Different issue, Senator Van Hollen, what you and Senator Warren
are looking at. But the idea that the president is not taking seriously the
Article I obligations in the Constitution that Congress has. That`s been
clear from the refusal to allow people to testify and to send information
But it does seem to be reaching new levels. And when you send people
potentially into war or harms way, to some that`s the worst version of
VAN HOLLEN: Well, that`s right. And there are really two issues here. One
is the fact that the president was talkingly – talking openly about this
U.S. action, not only may have had market-moving impacts and provided
insider information, but it could have obviously put our own troops at risk
if our enemies find out about that information, which is why it`s supposed
to be so close hold.
And in fact, the president, as you indicated, did not even tell the Gang of
Eight, leading members of Congress. As we`ve learned from this post-attack
situation, the evidence does not support their claim that there was an
imminent attack, which is probably the reason that President Trump and his
advisors did not want to go and show their hand to the Congress because it
was an empty hand in the sense that there was not an imminent threat that
would justify the actions they were taking, which is why, Ali, it`s so
important that the Congress now pass the War Powers Resolution.
The House has acted. As of today, we now know we will have enough
Republican senators to join all the Democratic senators to pass a War
Powers Resolution to make it absolutely clear that the president of the
United States cannot go to war without a congressional authorization.
That`s in the Constitution, but this president seems to not care about the
Constitution. He wants to rip it up many days, and so it`s very important
that Congress take this bipartisan action on the War Powers Resolution.
VELSHI: Senator, before I let you go, you in the Senate are getting the
articles of impeachment tomorrow, some activity should start next week. But
just tonight, we`ve had such a range of new information, including Lev
Parnas` texts and things they were doing about surveilling the U.S.
ambassador in Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch.
What do you make of the idea that the impeachment articles are going to the
Senate? We still don`t know whether you`re going to get witnesses or
testimony or documents, but there continues to be new information relating
to the very thing about which President Trump was impeached.
VAN HOLLEN: Well, Ali, that`s right. I was looking at some of the text
messages. It looks like sort of a monster – excuse me, a mobster
But what this, what this under underscores is why it`s important for the
Senate to get the information and get the documents. It also reveals once
again why President Trump and Senator McConnell are so afraid of new
information because every time new information has come out, it seems to
just add more evidence to the House`s case for the two articles of
So, as these – as this information comes out, I think it does get harder
and harder for Republican senators to say they want to see nothing. They
want to hear the evidence. They want to rig the trial.
And as you`ve said and other guests have said, that would just make them
complicit in a cover up. So, I do believe this information, in addition to
further supporting the House`s case also shows why it`s so important that
the Senate get all the information that is available. And we need to hear
from the witnesses.
And just as importantly, we need to get all of these documents from the
White House. This White House has stonewalled in an unprecedented way. No
president in the history of the United States has claimed this sort of
absolute immunity from providing Congress any kind of information.
And I think we know why. None of us know exactly what these documents will
say or what the witnesses will testify to, but the fact that they are
resisting so strongly obviously suggests they have something to cover up.
And senators should not be complicit in that.
VELSHI: Senator, good to talk to you. Thank you for joining me. Senator
Chris Van Hollen of Maryland.
VAN HOLLEN: Good to be with you.
VELSHI: Coming up, Nancy Pelosi wants to know what the Trump
administration knows about the reported Russian cyberattack in Ukraine as
the impeachment information was – investigation was ramping up.
Malcolm Nance has some views on this. He joins us next.
VELSHI: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is demanding that the Trump
administration tell Congress what it knows about reports that the Russian
spy agency that hacked the DNC in the Clinton campaign in the 2016
election, attacked Burisma, the Ukrainian gas company which is at the
center of Trump`s impeachment in November and that was at the height of the
impeachment investigation, you`ll recall.
A report from the security firm which detected the cyberattack released
last night quoted or noted ominously, “The timing of the GRU`s campaign in
relation to the 2020 U.S. elections raises the spectre that this is an
early warning of what we have anticipated since the successful cyberattacks
undertaken during the 2016 U.S. elections.”
Today House Intelligence Committee member Eric Swalwell criticized the
President for failing to take action.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA): It`s clear that Russia is still listening.
Russia is still attacking and as far as I see it now, knowing that this
President in the past as Special Counsel Mueller`s said invited, welcomed
and planned to benefit as a candidate from Russia`s help, if he does not
condemn this, I and many Americans will hold him as complicit in any attack
on any candidates that seek to benefit Donald Trump.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: Today Shelby Pierson, the top national intelligence official in
charge of election security, told NBC news that U.S. intelligence agencies
are tracking hacking activity by Russia ahead of the 2020 election but
warned that it may be hard to determine if disinformation is being spread
by foreign governments.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHELBY PIERSON, ELECTION THREATS EXECUTIVE, OFFICE OF THE DNI: It`s also
important to recognize that the Intelligence Community doesn`t always have
the accesses and insights to know what`s real and what`s fake. There is -
some of that, I think is cognizance from our sources and others of that as
an analytical judgment and then thirdly, we might not have insight at all.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: All right, joining us now Malcolm Nance, former counterterrorism
intelligence officer and an MSNBC counterterrorism and intelligence
analyst. He`s the author of `The plot to destroy democracy: How Putin and
his spies are undermining America and dismantling the West.`
Malcolm, you`ve written three books on this, like you - you really
understand this. There should be in fact Area 1`s security report says, I
think, what we all think. “Our report is not noteworthy because we identify
the GRU launching a phishing campaign nor is the targeting a Ukrainian
company particularly novel. It is significant because Burisma holdings is
publicly entangled in U.S. foreign and domestic politics.”
This is the company at the heart of this whole thing that was sending Rudy
Giuliani and Lev Parnas and all these guys to Ukraine.
MALCOLM NANCE, FMR COUNTERTERRORISM INTELLIGENCE OFFICER & MSNBC
COUNTERTERRORISM AND INTELLIGENCE ANALYST: Yes, you`re absolutely right and
what you are looking at here, what your audience needs to understand, you
are looking at the dawn of the DNC hacking 2.0.
This is essentially 2016 being played out again by Russian intelligence
with the intent to hack the mindset of the American public once again. So
that whole campaign of Hillary Clinton and but her emails where all of this
chum was thrown into the water in front of U.S. news media, that is what`s
They`re starting it early and they intend to take this information and
hopefully U.S. news media will just ignore about the you know, the - what
the subjects of the debate and go after salacious information that may be
manufactured by a foreign intelligence.
VELSHI: So yes, let`s examine this. Some of this information at some point
they may release and now that we know everybody has in their head, that
this information`s been hacked so now you`ll start to see emails. Some of
them might really be legally emails and there - there`s a - there`s a way I
suppose, you view the media - the role of the media in that case and some
of them might not be.
We won`t even know now. That`s - I think what Shelby Pierson was saying is
that, it`s really kind of hard to know when somebody does one of these -
puts this chum in the water, whether it`s real chum or fake chum.
NANCE: Well, what Shelby Pierson was saying was from the perspective of the
Office of National Intelligence. The United States doesn`t dedicate
resources to determining what`s real and what`s false.
NANCE: Out in the public information sphere and that was sort of her
throwing her hands up and essentially saying, it`s not my job to police
Facebook but Russia understands this. You have to understand, this is an
intelligence agency that is the successor to the KGB.
The KGB spent decades studying how the American public`s mindset works and
what is effective for them in propaganda. Now propaganda moves at the speed
of one keystroke and it cannot be stopped, once released.
So what you do? This particular technique the Russians are using, it`s
called `upstreaming.` This is where you intercept communications or you
intercept texts and get a stream of hacked material, you release all of the
material that`s true and valid but it`s strategic points you insert black
propaganda, doctored doctor documents or documents which may be true but
out of the proper sequence, looks like something significant.
This is now since they have - don`t have Wikileaks, they use you - they
want U.S. news media and the pro-Trump campaign, data campaign to be the
weapon system which guides these disinformation payloads into the mindset
of the public to bring a nefarious scandal out that literally is
manufactured by a hostile intelligence agency.
VELSHI: Malcolm, thank you for your analysis as always, Malcolm Nance. All
right, coming up next, we`re going to dig into a topic that I`m really
passionate about. It might be the biggest problem we face in the country.
It`s a problem that was there before Donald Trump and it will be with us
after Donald Trump and a whole lot of think pieces have been written about
how it might have contributed to the election of Donald Trump. That`s next.
VELSHI: From Ohio to Arkansas, from Alabama to Oklahoma to New York and
Virginia, all across this country, working class families are facing a
crisis. You may know them, you may be one of them. America`s working class
is hurting. In some cases dying because of rampant inequality resulting
from half a century of policy mistakes.
That inequality takes different forms of suffering. Lost livelihoods, drug
addiction, homelessness, hunger, declining health, shorter life expectancy,
poor education and so on. Now we`ve got a nuanced, compassionate and
superbly reported exploration of the families left behind in the world`s
We get to know these stories, thanks to Pulitzer prize winning journalists
and married couple, Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl Wudunn. Their new book and
documentary is `Tightrope: Americans Reaching For Hope.`
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NICHOLAS KRISTOF, PULITZER PRIZE WINNING JOURNALIST & CO-AUTHOR, TIGHTROPE:
AMERICANS REACHING FOR HOPE: One of my most powerful memories from
childhood is the Number 6 school bus. But this memory is also tinged with
sadness because today, about a quarter of the kids who rode that bus with
me, are no longer alive.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Honestly, it just sucks man. I had everything I wanted
in my early twenties. I have nothing now.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They can get prostitutes, they can get drugs. This is
no place for a child to be, even an adult.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My wife said, please call me, that`s all she wrote. That
text message, I knew my brother was dead.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You`re taught that anyone who used these drugs are evil
people. You`re not given any indication that these are people who are
dealing with health issues.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are in the worst affordable housing crisis in years,
KRISTOF: So four families living in a single wide?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: After the break, I`ll talk to Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl Wudunn.
They`ll tell us about the suffering they witnessed. They`ll also share what
this country can and must do to prevent more generations from growing with
the odds stacked against them and we will also discuss what they learned
about how Donald Trump appealed to this forgotten section of America and
where do we go from here as a country that prepares to elect its next
VELSHI: I`m joined now by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl Wudunn. In 1990, they
became the first married couple to receive the Pulitzer Prize for
journalism, for their reporting on Tiananmen Square, the protests and the
massacre there. In their fifth book together, `Tightrope: Americans
reaching for hope,` they write, “In doing our research and reporting for
this book, we came to see that life`s journey for affluent, well-educated
American families is like a stroll along a wide smooth path, forgiving of
But increasingly, for those from lower on the socioeconomic spectrum, life
resembles a tightrope walk. Some make it across but for so many, one
stumble and that`s it. What`s more, a tumble from the tightrope frequently
destroys not only that individual but the entire family, including children
and through them, grandchildren. The casualties are everywhere in America,
if only we care to notice.”
And that is the part, the analogy`s fantastic but the `if only we care to
notice.` That`s the part that you`re putting on us, those of us who are not
living the story that you have gone and told.
SHERYL WUDUNN, PULITZER PRIZE WINNING JOURNALIST & CO-AUTHOR, TIGHTROPE:
AMERICANS REACHING FOR HOPE: Exactly. I mean when we were foreign
correspondents in Asia, we were based in China, then we were based in Japan
and we also covered the developing world, elements, we would go out there
and we would see how - how horrible the pain and suffering was in the
developing world and Nick went to Africa as well.
And we would come back to Yamhill to visit his parents and we would you
know, meet our friends, his friends and then over time, we came to realize
that hey, there`s actually humanitarian crisis going on in Yamhill in our
own backyard as well.
And as we got to know these people and start finding out what`s happening
behind closed doors in their homes, it was stunning.
VELSHI: So you were what some of those people might refer to as the liberal
urban elite. You write about these things for major publications. You
publish books but these are your people? This is where you`re from?
KRISTOF: Absolutely and they know that you know, while I may write for some
distant paper that I still can`t fix a carburetor, that I was really awful
welder and so we have a pretty good rapport. I maybe a little better at
verbs but they`re much better at that tinkering the carburetors.
And they were so good about sharing some really difficult stories that
enabled us to tell the story of the disintegration of working class
America, partly through the kids on my old school bus.
VELSHI: Could you see it when you were on that school bus 6?
KRISTOF: No, I mean that was the thing. We were at that time, life had
improved so much in my community and indeed for much of America so families
had you know, soared, they bought their homes, they had good union jobs.
Everybody was sure that their kids would live better lives. We tell the
story in `Tightrope,` this family that got on the bus right after I did.
The eldest kid, Farlan was my grade. The other was Zealan and Nathan and
Rogina and Keylan and when the dad had a job laying pipe, the mom had a job
driving tractor. When Farlan turned 16, he got a Ford Mustang.
We were all jealous and they - and then Farlan died of the consequences of
drug and alcohol use. Rogina died of hepatitis linked to like to drug use.
Zealan died in a house fire when he was passed out drunk and Nathan blew
himself up making meth and Keylan, the youngest survive because he spent 13
years in the state penitentiary and–
KRISTOF: And this was only - there were two families including the Napsa
family and another family that had five kids that were on my bus and in
both cases, four of the five are now dead.
VELSHI: It`s amazing.
KRISTOF: And this is - this is the depths of despair. This is a country and
it you know, in that, you talked about the lack of policy response. In the
- in the Great Depression, life expectancy did not fall. Today, in one
respect, life expectancy has fallen for three years in a row. In the Great
Depression at least, we had a major national policy response. Now we`re
frozen, we`re paralyzed.
VELSHI: We don`t have a major policy recognition of this.
VELSHI: Sheryl, what did you see not being all of those people? When you
went there, what - when you went into this deeper examination because you
obviously been there several times before but all of a sudden when you
encountered this, what did you take away? What was the big surprise to you?
WUDUNN: What was really surprising to me is that as I mentioned before, we
went overseas and we would cover, as reporters we would cover these you
know, these sad situations and crises around - around China, around the
rest of the world and we would say yes.
I would tell people that the dimension of suffering overseas in the
developing world is far greater than you can even imagine here in this rich
world in the U.S. and then when we got to know these families a little bit
better and we walked you know, into their doorways and we actually found
out what was going on in their households, I realized that I have been
That the human condition such that pain and suffering is so extreme, that
they can feel it here of a magnitude that is just as searing as it is
VELSHI: All right, we`re going to talk about what you think we need to do
about this, when we come back. We`re going to talk about what we all need
to do about this. You`re watching THE LAST WORD.
VELSHI: All right, back with us, Pulitzer prize winning journalist,
Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl Wudunn. You were talking about the problem,
right? Your book is really about the problem but you also address the
solution and - and Sheryl, one of the questions that comes up and I think
people maybe - have been critical of the book in this way.
Why are you looking after these folks? They made their choices,
particularly politically. There are people in this country, politically -
who continue to vote in a way that doesn`t serve their interests. Donald
Trump seemed to tap into this vein and people voted for him and no one can
tell me that that population is better off as a result today.
WUDUNN: That`s aptly true but you know, there`s a number of things going on
here. First is the narrative of personal responsibility that everybody is
responsible only for themselves and that they should lift themselves up by
the bootstraps. By the way which is impossible to do physically. You can`t
lift yourselves up.
VELSHI: Oh, it`s not about that. Yes.
WUDUNN: And so narrative is too strong. It`s just taking over our lives and
we really need to you know, sit back and say yes, OK, you do bear some
responsibility. You know a lot of these people in poor situations, they
make bad decisions.
However, we also have to have a little bit of social responsibility. We all
live in this society together and we are also - we want to compete in the
society together. We also want our country to be competitive against other
societies particularly China and India. If we want to compete in the
future, continuing into the future against China with 1.4 billion people
and India with one - with actually going on and exceeding that.
VELSHI: We`re going to have to be pretty efficient.
WUDUNN: We have to not only be efficient but we need all the human
potential that we can actually muster.
WUDUNN: We need everybody functioning at their top capacity because we will
never be able to compete with half of our population against a country with
VELSHI: Some people who are not getting a proper education, not affording a
proper education, saddled with debt, incarcerated, no healthcare, hungry,
students going hungry. You - you talk about a lot of these things as your
recipes for what can be fixed.
You`ve mentioned childhood education programs, universal high school
graduation, universal health coverage, child allowance and end homelessness
for children, baby bonds, these are things that we are starting to have a
national discussion about, starting to kind of sort of.
KRISTOF: Yes and I think that the fundamental challenge is not the lack of
policies. We know what works. Look other countries tackle these same
issues. They resolve them. I think that it`s the narrative and the lack of
attention to this. The first class cabin is partying wildly even as the
ship is capsizing.
And I think it`s unhelpful on their right that people have this personal
responsibility narrative and blame those who are struggling because of
their bad choices and I think frankly, that it`s as you alluded to, it`s
unhelpful that on the Left there are some folks who say these people made
bad political choices.
VELSHI: So they don`t deserve to have it fixed.
KRISTOF: So they made their bed, they have to lie in it. And there`s just a
lack of empathy there. We can help these people.
KRISTOF: We should do so.
VELSHI: And the problem is entirely solvable. Thank you to both of you for
writing this book, for going out every way and for telling after spending
your life telling other people`s stories in other parts of the world, for
telling our story here. Tightrope, Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl Wudunn. That
is tonight`s LAST WORD. I`m Ali Velshi. “THE 11TH HOUR” with Brian Williams
begins right now.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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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