UP, Transcript 12/19/2015

Joshua DuBois, Tom Doherty, Janell Ross, Michael Balboni, Mia McLeod, Helen Prejean, Barry Scheck, Jennifer Granholm, Christopher Baker, Paul Bonicelli, Alexandra Petri

Date: December 19, 2015
Guest: Joshua DuBois, Tom Doherty, Janell Ross, Michael Balboni, Mia
McLeod, Helen Prejean, Barry Scheck, Jennifer Granholm, Christopher Baker,
Paul Bonicelli, Alexandra Petri


JONATHAN CAPEHART, MSNBC HOST: The war between Bernie Sanders and the
Democratic Party.

Good morning. I`m Jonathan Capehart. Thanks for getting UP with us. Big
developments overnight in the fight between the Bernie Sanders campaign and
the Democratic Party. The details on that are ahead.

We`re also learning more about the President`s visit last night with the
victims` families and the first responders of the San Bernardino shooting.
We`ll be joined by a former White House staff member who accompanied the
President to Newtown, Connecticut three years ago to discuss his touching
account of what it was like when President Obama met with the Sandy Hook
families. We`ll have more on that in just a moment.

Plus, what the President had to say in his final press conference of the

Also this morning, it`s now officially year two of the improved
relationship between the U.S. and Cuba with new details about what exactly
the new friendship is going to look like. We`ll also be joined by the
South Carolina lawmaker who wants to make men jump over the same hurdles to
get a Viagra prescription that women have to clear in order to access
abortion services.

But we begin this hour with President Obama who made a visit to San
Bernardino, California last night on his way to Hawaii to visit with
victims` family members and first responders. Those meetings lasting much
longer than expected.

NBC`s Morgan Radford has the details.

MORGAN RADFORD, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Jonathan. Governor
Jerry Brown has declared a state of emergency to help this community
recover. This comes 16 days after the attack. And on the same day as the
President`s visit.


RADFORD (voice-over): President Obama offering comfort, meeting privately
Friday with families of the 14 victims who lost their lives in the San
Bernardino massacre.

PRES. BARACK OBAMA (D), UNITED STATES: Despite the pain and the heartache
that they`re feeling, they could not have been more inspiring. And more
proud of their loved ones and more insistent that something good comes out
of this tragedy.

RADFORD: Words of encouragement to a community rocked by the attack. And
now haunted by what could have happened. In a 36 page affidavit,
prosecutors say Syed Farook and his longtime friend Enrique Marquez planned
to attack Riverside City College in 2011.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Especially – I was a student here. Like it`s crazy
that you wouldn`t want to hurt so many people that you know.

RADFORD: And it didn`t stop there. They also planned to throw pipe bombs
on to a stretch of busy freeway with no exits to, quote, “maximize the
number of casualties.” And then Farook would walk between each of the cars
shooting drivers one by one while Marquez fired shots from the hillside.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You know, I drive every day to take my daughter to
school on the 91 Freeway, so it`s very, very scary.

RADFORD: Marquez was arrested this week on three criminal charges. He
bought two guns for Farook in 2011 and 2012, guns that were later used in
the San Bernardino attack. But prosecutors say there is no evidence
Marquez knew what Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, had planned. In
fact, he called 911 when he realized what had happened, telling the
operator, they can trace all the guns back to me. The operator at one
point asks, you said he used your gun? Marquez, yes, oh, my God. But the
question remains, how these two go undetected for so long?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our intelligence efforts are excellent, but we don`t
have an x-ray for a man`s soul.


RADFORD: Marquez remains in custody this morning ahead of Monday`s bail
hearing. Meanwhile, so many unanswered questions for this community still
in shock – Jonathan.

CAPEHART: And this is Morgan Radford in San Bernardino, thanks for joining

Last night`s meetings between the President and the families of the San
Bernardino victims were private as they should have been, so it`s difficult
for to us know exactly what happened. But we`ve seen images from similar
events in recent years. This is President Obama in July, 2012 hugging
Stephanie Davies who helped her friend Alley Young stay alive after she was
shot during the movie theater massacre in Aurora, Colorado. Alley is on
the hospital bed on the left.

This is the President comforting a woman who is sitting in the family
section at a memorial service for the victims of the Washington Navy Yard
shooting in September, 2013. And is this is a photo of President Obama
holding the granddaughter of the slain principal of Sandy Hook Elementary
School. We`re learning more about what that December 2012 day in Newtown,
Connecticut was really like for President Obama.

In a new memoir, Joshua DuBois, one of the White House aides who travelled
with the President to Newtown describes Obama`s meetings with the victims`
families, writing, quote, “Person after person received an engulfing hug
from our commander-in-chief. He`d say, tell me about your son. Tell me
about your daughter. And then hold pictures of the lost beloved as their
parents described favorite foods, television shows and the sound of their
laughter. For the younger siblings of those who had passed away, many of
them, two, three or four-years-old, too young to understand it all, the
President would grab them and toss them laughing up into the air and then
hand them a box of White House M&Ms which were always kept at close hand.
In each room, I saw his eyes water, but he did not break. And then the
entire scene would repeat for hours. Over and over and over again, through
well over 100 relatives of the falling. Each one equally broken, wrecked
by the loss. We spent what felt like a lifetime in those classrooms. And
every single person received the same tender treatment, the same hugs, the
same looks directly in their eyes.”

Joshua DuBois, author of the “President`s Devotional” and the former
director of the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood
Partnerships joins us now. Joshua, thanks for being here.


CAPEHART: So, as we see the first pictures of the President in his
meetings with the families in San Bernardino, what went through your mind
and what do you think was going through the President`s mind at that time?

DUBOIS: I was just thinking about how this is such a grim responsibility
of the Presidents, one that he and the first family have had do far too
many times, but one that they really don`t do out of any obligation. This
is simply about walking alongside those who mourn and letting them know
that their commander-in-chief and their country is standing with them. And
listen, they know that being there is not going to change what happened.
It`s not going to fix everything certainly but if they can provide just a
little glimmer of hope, a little bit of the comfort, they even just stand
alongside these folks in their sadness for a while, it`s something that the
President wants do.

And it`s not just him. You know, the First Lady is there with him both
supporting the President and these terribly emotional times, but also
comforting folks herself. She went to Oak Creek, Wisconsin after the Sikh
Temple there was shot up by a mad man, by a white supremacist. And spent
time with those families, as well. This has unfortunately been a big
obligation, a responsibility of this White House. And of this president.
But it`s something they know that they need do and that they want do for
those who`ve lost their loved ones.

CAPEHART: Well, you know, Joshua, I was going to say that we have been –
we have watched this President unfortunately sadly do this over and over
and over again with all the mass shootings that we as a nation have
endured. And I`m wondering where does the President find the strength to
do this? Because as you said, he`s under no obligation do this, but as a
moral man, he feels compelled to do this. But this is tough work.


CAPEHART: Where does he find the strength to be the rock for these
grieving families?

DUBOIS: Yes. I can`t speak for the President, but imagine he finds
strength from a few places. Certainly from his family, Michelle is his
rock. The First Lady is his rock as are his girls and I know he leans on
them in tough times. I think he finds strength in God. He`s a committed
Christian. He`s someone whose faith is important to him, something he
keeps close to heart and leans on in tough times. And quite frankly from
the folks who have been impacted by these tragedies, they have shown
tremendous courage. They are inspiring themselves. And he feels that, you
know, it`s the least he can do to be there for them in their time of need.
And so, I think it`s a few places, but I imagine it does have to take a
toll on him.

CAPEHART: And Josh, since you were there in Newtown and you were in the
room with the President as he talked to the families, talk to us about the
families` reactions to the President coming in and grieving with them.

DUBOIS: You know, very widely certainly there are some folks who, you
know, it was just a little bit of a break to be able to meet a man that
they heard a lot about and to spend a little bit of time with him, just a
little bit of an important distraction in a terrible, terrible, terrible
time in their lives. There are some folks who were just overcome by
emotions, still processing what it means to lose their loved ones and
sharing with the President their loved ones` quirks and, you know, favorite
jokes and favorite meals and so forth. And so, you know, we have all had
to be there for people that we love and care about in their time of need.
And it`s similar to that unfortunately, something take just happens over
and over again. I think they said the President spent three hours with
these folks yesterday. And I think that`s one of the things he always
wants people to know is that take as much time as you need. And he`s going
to be there.

CAPEHART: Joshua, let me bring in our panel into this discussion. David
Corn is an MSNBC political analyst and Washington Bureau chief for Mother
Jones Magazine. Tom Doherty is a Republican strategist and former senior
adviser to former New York Governor George Pataki. And Janell Ross is my
colleague, she`s a reporter for “The Washington Post” The Fix. Your
reaction to what Joshua is talking about, but also the President once again
consoling grieving families.

DAVID CORN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, it`s not part of the
official job description. And I think when he got the job, he didn`t
expect to be doing it so much. And, you know, I think it`s wonderful that
he does, that he`s able to according to Josh and others maintain this sort
of one-on-one connection with these victims and their families and not
become jaded to it even though we have politically become jaded. And, you
know, to inject a little bit of politics into this, this is MSNBC, you
know, I wonder what would be happening if we had a sort of Republican
president in these overseeing all these shootings.

Because Obama at least has this position that he wants to do something,
enact some laws. Whether, you know, people can argue whether that`s the
right recourse or not. A lot of these families tend to want to see some
gun safety measures endorsed. Not all, but some afterwards. So he`s been
trying to fight for this, as well. So it`s not just consolation. He has
prescription to kind of move forward. And most Republicans are not in that

CAPEHART: Uh-hm. Well, try to move forward.

CORN: Yes.

TOM DOHERTY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I have a question for Josh. Is there
a time frame that sort of having been through Newtown and now, San
Bernardino, that is appropriate? The President has gotten I think unfair
criticism that this is sort of a fly by, he`s on his way to Hawaii. This
obviously means a lot to the families. Is there a time frame that the
President you wait a week for these, you wait two weeks? Do they find that
the White House that you know, you kind of let things settle down for the

DUBOIS: Yes. You know, it`s been more than those two incidents of course.
You know, over and over again, and Jonathan quoted some at the top of the
segment. Even down in Charleston after what happened there at Mother
Emanuel. Most of it is driven by the families in my experience. The White
House is in constant communication with those who are affected, with the
first responders, with the leadership in the town that is sort of
overseeing investigations. And they really try to take their cues and work
around their schedule where possible. I know that`s what happened in
Newtown, certainly what happened in Charleston with the funeral there and
I`m sure they were in close coordination with the families in San
Bernardino, as well.

CAPEHART: So, Janell.

JANELL ROSS, THE WASHINGTON POST, THE FIX: I`m curious about where the
President I guess has gone for guidance on the right way to act out this
role as a national mourner in chief and what is appropriate and when it is
appropriate. I`m wondering if there are any particular past presidents or
individuals that the President has turned to for guidance.

DUBOIS: You know, my sense is that he really does go with it himself in
times like this and consults scripture and certainly talks to the First
Lady and, you know, and staff and just sort of hashes it out. But mostly,
I mean, this is just sort of an interpersonal dynamic between him and those
who are impacted. He sort of steal himself, takes a deep breath and goes
in there, looks them in their eyes and asks them to tell them what`s on
their heart and, you know, put arm around them and hold them close for a
little bit and just provide whatever comfort he can. You know, it`s not
very complex, but it is very heartfelt.

CORN: You know, interesting this is happening in a very political moment,
too, because the Republicans in presidential debates out there basically
saying the President is incompetent, a weakling, not a strong leader,
Donald Trump says that Putin is a better leader than the President.


CORN: And yet we see him in this role which is just pure leadership. It`s
not about politics right now or policy. And I mean, seems to be wearing
this mental very heavily but actually doing the job very well.

CAPEHART: Well, you know, we have seen since President Clinton in the
Oklahoma City bombing is, you know, where people say that President Clinton
found his sea legs as president of being consoler in chief. And
unfortunately, because of the mass shootings that we`ve seen over and over
and over again during this president`s tenure, that he has unfortunately
mastered the role of being consoler in chief.

Joshua DuBois, thank you so much for being with us this morning bringing us
your perspective.

DUBOIS: Thanks for having me.

CAPEHART: Up next, one threat, two very different reactions from two of
the country`s largest school systems. Their response in an era of
terrorism and mass school shootings is presenting a major challenge. What
are authorities looking for to determine how legitimate a threat really is?


CAPEHART: Earlier this week, the nation`s two largest school systems
received nearly identical threats of a terrorist attack on the very same
day. But the two cities reacted very differently. New York City
determined the threat was not credible, but Los Angeles made an
unprecedented decisions to close the city`s school serving more than half
million students.


MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D), NEW YORK CITY: Based on the information that we
have, this was a very generic piece of writing sent to a number of
different places simultaneously and also written in a fashion that suggests
it is not plausible and we`ve come to the conclusion that we must continue
to keep our school system open. In fact it`s important – very important
not to overreact in situations like this.

determination about the decisions that were made today, I would ask them to
look at this way. If you knew what the superintendent and the school board
knew at 5:30 this morning when the decision had to be made, would you have
sent your child to school. And every parent I`ve asked has said no, of
course not. And I think that that should be the test that all of us ask
our school to pass.


CAPEHART: Joining me now to discuss the challenges of assessing terror
threats, former New York Homeland Security Director Michael Balboni.

Michael, thank you very much for being here.


CAPEHART: So, here is what the Los Angeles School Superintendent Ramon
Cortines who was the schools chancellor here in New York back in the `90s.
Here what he had to say about the decision to close the schools. He said,
“I go back to 9/11. People knew something. Maybe they didn`t know enough,
but they knew something and they didn`t act. And I was not going to let
something happen on my watch. I knew I had to do something quickly if I
was going to do something.”

BALBONI: Tremendous pressure. And it`s really a no win situation.
Because if you do something and it turns out not to happen, then you`re the
goat. And yet obviously if something does happen and you haven`t reacted.
But in this case, one of the things that really were puzzling, the e-mail
itself, now that we know, it had similar language. I`m a student, we`re
here, I`m in L.A., I`m in New York, we`re going to attack. You know,
that`s what the e-mail message said. So, a quick little calibration and
communication between the two different districts, what are you seeing,
that would have been a very significant tell as to whether this was real.
But here is the other thing.

You know, anybody who has any experience with al Qaeda or ISIS knows that
they don`t forecast when they`re going to attack. They never do. They
never say we`re going to come because they want to come when you`re not


BALBONI: You know, so what is the process, right? You take a look at what
is the threat. How specific it is. Is it reasonable? You know, could
somebody actually do it. What is the capabilities that they`re expressing?
And then you talk about what is your risk, what is your vulnerability, and
are there ways to mitigate that. So, what is so extraordinary about this
is, the size of the district. And they said, from one minute to the next,
we`re not going forward. New York City, deciding to do something

CAPEHART: You know, what is interesting here is, what you were describing
between New York and Los Angeles, they both got this e-mail, but what I`m
wondering is, did they share? Do they talk to each other? It`s like
they`re reacting in isolation, but should we be talking about a system
where school district number one, number two, the top five school districts
should at least if they get a threat zap it around to each other, and say,
have you gotten this? Do you know anything about this?

BALBONI: I would argue that the Department of Homeland Security
Intelligence Analysis Center, that they take information, they put it
together, and then they will send it out to the localities. They should
have been the adults in the room to sit there and say, well, wait a minute,
guys, are you seeing the same thing? Let`s take a look at this this, what
is the background. Can we find the server from where it was sent? You
know, all these things that you could have sit there and said, yes, it just
doesn`t sound credible. But again, it`s a terrible decision for a local
school district to have to make.

CAPEHART: And on that note, Michael Balboni, thank you very much. Michael
Balboni, former director of Homeland Security for New York State.

Still ahead, is it just a matter of time before the death penalty in this
country is a thing of the past? We`ll take a look at what is behind the
steep decline and executions here in the United States. But first, the
ongoing dispute between Bernie Sanders campaign and DNC. What really
happened? We`ll go live to New Hampshire and more. And a preview of
tonight`s debate. That is next. Stay with us.


CAPEHART: Democrats are set to square off tonight in New Hampshire for
their third debate, but it`s the fight between Bernie Sanders campaign and
the Democratic National Committee making headlines this morning. The
Sanders campaign reaching a deal overnight with the DNC to regain access to
the party`s voter database after a staffer allegedly accessed the data

Now, for more on this, we head to New Hampshire and NBC`s Kristen Welker.
Kristen, what is the latest?

morning. It has just been a stunning 24 hours. And now Bernie Sanders is
under fire really for the first time in his campaign. And Clinton is on
the attack, her campaign accusing him of stealing their private voter
information. Now, even though the legal issues appear to be resolved this
morning, the gloves have clearly come off.


WELKER (voice-over): Overnight a deal, the Democratic Party agreeing to
give Bernie Sanders` campaign access once again to a database of potential
voters. This after a firestorm of controversy. Sanders facing questions
about why one of his staffers took advantage of a computer glitch in the
Democratic National Committee`s data files to access Hillary Clinton`s
voter list. The staffer was fired.

file data.

WELKER: The Sanders campaign sued the DNC for temporarily cutting off
access to its own voter files.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is taking our campaign hostage.

WELKER: Outraged, Sanders supporters signed an online petition demanding
the DNC reversed course and accusing the party of trying to guarantee a
Clinton win. A consistent accusation from team Sanders. The DNC chair
pushed back.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I mean, if the shoe were on the other foot and the
Clinton campaign had accessed, Sanders campaign data inappropriately,
Sanders supporters and the Sanders campaign would expect me to react in the
exact same way which I would do.

WELKER: The DNC gave in to Sanders` demands before the two sides were to
appear in court Friday night saying in a statement that the campaign agreed
to cooperate with the party investigation and that, quote, “We are glad
that all parties are moving forward and that the candidates and the party
can refocus on engaging voters on the issue that matter to them.” And
while Sanders gave Clinton a pass over her e-mail controversy in the first
democratic debate –

sick and tired of hearing about your damn e-mails.


WELKER: The question now, will Clinton attack him tonight for this breach.
The democratic frontrunner surgeon at times acting like the nominee

CLINTON: As president, I would work with responsible gun owners.

WELKER: Now, the DNC is launching an independent audit. The Clinton
campaign said this just this morning, quote, “We believe this audit should
proceed immediately and pending its findings, we expect further
disciplinary action to be taken as appropriate.”

And Jonathan, you can expect this to really overshadow at least the first
part of tonight`s debate. Back to you.

CAPEHART: Absolutely. Kristen Welker in New Hampshire, thanks very much.

Now, that fired staffer talked exclusively with our very own Steve Kornacki
yesterday. Take a listen to this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We didn`t actually like use it for anything valuable.
And we didn`t take custodianship of it. Like we didn`t – it`s like the
equivalent of, I guess, you know, the acknowledge you maybe would be, you
know, somebody leaves the front door open for the fifth time, although this
was the first time that they made a mistake like this, but somebody leaves
the front door open and you left a note inside the front door saying you
left the door open. And then maybe you wouldn`t checked the side door, too
to make sure that door was closed.


CAPEHART: OK, now, first your reaction to that explanation and then did
the DNC as a result of that explanation? Did the DNC overreact?

CORN: Well, I think overall this is a tempest in a thumb drive. It will
disappear after the debate. But, you know, if the door to your neighbor`s
house is open, you can walk up, you can go, hey, anybody home, and then you
close the door and walk away. If you have to call the cops, you call the
cops. It`s a bad examination. But everybody in this case has overreacted.
I think, you know, the DNC overreacted and then Sanders overreacted. And
it took about 12 hours to resolve it when they all decided, it was not
worth the fight.

CAPEHART: But Janell, let`s say this – what about what DNC Chair Debbie
Wasserman-Schultz said, that if the Clinton campaign had been accused of
doing this or had done this, what would the reaction be?

ROSS: I think there are two things going on here. One, this situation
seems to run sort of counter to the narrative that the Sanders campaign has
wanted to put out about itself. And that I think voters believe and
understand about Sanders. That they are running sort of an outsider
campaign, they`re the underdog, they have to fight harder, et cetera, et
cetera. Now we`ve crossed the line into something that seems like some
possible cheating so to speak, right?

And furthermore, in listening to the gentleman who was fired speak, I can
begin to understand why people`s eyebrows went up. This young person
sounded quite a bit like a student who was trying to justify plagiarism.
Like it was just unbelievable. Oh, it`s not that bad, it was just two
sentences. You know, listen, you either close the door and do your civic
duty and walk away and say, alert your neighbor, you know that your front
door was open when they get home, or you walk in and look around and leave
a note.

CAPEHART: And it`s not like just one person, we`re talking about four
people who then saved stuff at glance.

DOHERTY: Oh, they went on, they turned the TV on, sat around and watched a
football game and they said, OK, let`s get out of here before they find out
we`re watching a TV. What I find amazing though is, I didn`t recognize
that isn`t it silly though for the DNC to be sort of hosting all of this
information that is, you know, really Clinton information or Sanders
information? And they just put themselves in a position where something
like this would happen where they`re stealing from one another. You would
think you would want to host it in your own site that, you know, no one can
get a hold of.

CORN: There is a reason. I thought that, too, at first. But the
explanation they gave yesterday is that all this voter data information
will eventually be used in the general election. And so they`re assembling
it for them. It helps the campaigns. It`s the vender who really screwed
up here by creating, you know, this upping the firewall, and then the
Bernie Sanders campaign that went through sat down and opened the door and
looked at the bandies, as well.

DOHERTY: But to the point – if Hillary had done this –

CAPEHART: Oh my God!

DOHERTY: Oh, this would have been – we`d be talking about this for the
next three weeks now.

CAPEHART: Well, let`s talk about –

DOHERTY: There would be Congressional investigation over this.

CAPEHART: I know about that. But let`s talk about tonight`s debate.


CAPEHART: And one of the issues here is that, you know, Bernie Sanders has
been sort of knocked off his stride. He`s going into this debate, a lot of
people thinking he`s been off message, especially because terrorism and
international issues have taken over the conversation as opposed to
domestic policies and economic issues, which is Senator Sanders` strength.
What does he have do tonight to sort of get back the burn, if you will?

ROSS: I think he has got to demonstrate some actual and clear confidence
on straight up core foreign policy issues and homeland security issues.
And then he probably does need to display some ability to connect these
issues that he cares most about or that he is most deeply connected to,
which is economic instability to those issues. That is not impossible, but
it has to be done with care and it has to be done artfully so it doesn`t
seem that he just –

CORN: And this guy knows what the nuclear triad is. I mean, he`s been in
the Senate, in the House for a long time. He`s worked a lot on foreign
policy issues. It`s just that his cause has raised on death threat for
running, has been economic insecurity and inequality and that`s what he
wants his overarching message to be. It`s just when the news cycle turns a
different way, it looks like he`s not engaged but he`s certainly has the
competence and the intelligence to address that. One question I think we
have here is, at what point does it become too late to close the gap
between him and Hillary Clinton that seems to be there at least in the
general national polls.

DOHERTY: He needs to win New Hampshire is what he needs do. And so he has
to focus on, you know, voter turnout is the first step for him. I mean,
he`s going to have a ground game. What he says tonight is less important
to what happens in New Hampshire. Because he doesn`t get through New
Hampshire with a win, it`s over.

CAPEHART: And on that point, I agree with you, Tom. Still ahead, why in
my opinion Ben Carson won Tuesday night`s Republican debate without having
to say a single word.

And next, why filling a Viagra prescription may be getting a little tougher
in one southern state. Stay with us.


CAPEHART: Now, what would ham if men had to jump over the same hurdles to
get Viagra as women have to clear in order to gain access to abortion
services? That`s the question a state representative in South Carolina is
hoping to answer with new proposed legislation. The bill would limit the
ability of men to get erectile dysfunction drugs unless they undergo a 24
hour waiting period, they submit a notarized affidavit from at least one
sexual partner affirming that the patient has experienced symptoms of E.D.
within the last 90 days and they are examined by a state licensed sexual
therapist to make sure their E.D. is not, quote, “attributable solely to
one or more psychological conditions.” And finally, within six months,
patients must also attend three outpatient counseling sessions where they
would receive information on, quote, “pursuing celibacy” as a viable
lifestyle choice.

The bill is sponsored by South Carolina State Representative Mia McLeod and
she joins us now to tell us more about this. State Senator, thank you very
much for being here. Now, why did you introduce this legislation?

STATE REP. MIA MCLEOD (D), SOUTH CAROLINA: Well, you know, I`m just fed up
with the way we do things in South Carolina. And I`m certainly not saying
that abortion and erectile dysfunction are the same. But surely one can`t
happen without the other. So, I just think it`s time that we focus on both
sides of the equation.

CAPEHART: Uh-hm. And you join a growing list of female state lawmakers
who are trying to counter the wave of recently passed anti-abortion laws.
As we all know in Ohio, State Senator Nina Turner countered a fetal
heartbeat bill with a measure similar to yours in South Carolina. In
Virginia, State Senator Janet Howell sought an amendment to the State`s
vaginal ultrasound bill that would require men seeking Viagra to get a
rectal exam. In Illinois, State Representative Kelly Cassidy wanted to
mandate that men watching graphic video about the drug`s potential side
effects. And in Missouri in Georgia, female lawmakers introduced bills
that would restrict men`s ability to get vasectomies only if their life
depended on it. And in all three cases, the measures failed. So what has
been the reaction from your colleagues to your proposed legislation?

MCLEOD: The reaction from my colleagues has been interesting. Not really
strong. I`ve gotten a much stronger reaction from constituents and others
outside of South Carolina who see the need for this type of legislation.
The thought that we can broaden this discussion.

CAPEHART: How confident – you don`t think your legislation is going to
pass, do you?

MCLEOD: In a male dominated legislature, it`s not likely. It`s not
likely. But I do think that it has ignited a conversation that we
certainly need to have and I`m encouraged by that.

CAPEHART: Now, in just the last four years, states have enacted 231 new
laws restricting abortions and early next year, the Supreme Court is going
to hear a challenge to one of those laws passed in Texas. They could set
the national template for House states can limit abortion, access to
abortions, how has the national debate over abortion in your view changed
since Roe v. Wade?

MCLEOD: Wow. The national discussion has changed drastically I think at
least in our state.

CAPEHART: For the better or for the worse do you think?

MCLEOD: For the worse. For the worse. And that has prompted me to of
course introduce legislation like this. Because every year, we waste an
extraordinary amount of time and tax dollars in my opinion debating anti-
abortion bills, requiring women to jump through additional hoops and
hurdles. And to investigate women`s healthcare centers without cause.
Those are reasons to broaden the discussion and to look at both sides of
the equation. I mean we`ve only been debating one. And that has got to

CAPEHART: Uh-hm. Well, I look forward to the discussion coming out of
South Carolina because of your bill. South Carolina State Representative
Mia McLeod, thanks very much for being here.

MCLEOD: Thanks so much for having me.

CAPEHART: Up next, a look behind the sudden decline in death penalties
nationwide. Stay with us.


CAPEHART: An historic drop to report in our nation`s use of the death
penalty this year. Executions have fallen to their lowest point in more
than two decades. Only 28 people were put to death in 2015, all of those
executions taking place in just six states. A 27 year low. Just as
significant, the number of new death sentences dropped to a four decade
low, 49 death sentences were handed down this year. That compares to 315
death sentences in 1996. Now, behind those numbers is a falling murder
rate and juries increasingly opting for life without parole. The drop also
comes as states continue to have difficulty obtaining the drugs used in
lethal injections. There is also that botched execution in Oklahoma in
2014. And the issue of innocence continues to make headlines with six more
death row inmates exonerated this year, bringing the total to 156 since the

Joining me now, anti-death penalty activist and author of “Dead Man
Walking,” Sister Helen Prejean. And Barry Scheck, co-director of the
Innocence Project. Thank you both very much for being here.

Sister Helen, let me start with you. The support for the death penalty has
declined from 80 percent in 1994 to 61 percent today. What is behind those
numbers and how do you respond to the fact that a majority of Americans
still support the death penalty?

Americans that support the death penalty is a theoretical death penalty.
If there is a terrible crime and the person is guilty, are you for the
death penalty? But when you give the American people the choice, which are
you for, the death penalty or life without parole, and you hear that in the
question, a majority now support life without parole. And you can see it
in practice. So what has happened over these years since we`ve had it is
I`m going to speak from the end of educating the public. Because I`ve been
involved in six executions, worked with victims` families, wrote the book
“Dead Man Walking.” And we had a great film.

And it`s just to get out there and tell the people to help them understand.
They don`t have real information of how selective the death penalty has
been from the very beginning, how it`s almost always eight out of ten cases
only when white people get killed that it`s sought, never people of color.
And people don`t know any of those things. And when you can bring them
close to it and then what I did in the book and what we do in the film of
“Dead Man Walking” is just actually bring them into the killing chamber.
Here is somebody who is guilty, but now let us look at what it means for us
as a people to decide that we will kill a human being.

CAPEHART: And, you know, excuse me, and Barry, you know, you have the
Innocence Project. There are people on death row who are innocent. What
role is that and the publicity as we just said, six people had been
exonerated out of death row. What role does Innocence play in this debate?

BARRY SCHECK, THE INNOCENCE PROJECT: Well, Innocence as I think really
changing it in a very profound way. Because it`s not just the 154 death
row exonerations or the six last year. But when you look at the 336 post-
conviction DNA exonerations, when you look at the non-DNA and DNA
exoneration which since 1989 are over 1500, people begin to realize that
they really can`t trust the state to get it right and there is profound
issues of doubt about whether somebody is really guilty of some of these
crimes. And that makes a huge difference in the way people think about the
ultimate punishment.

CAPEHART: Uh-hm. And Sister Helen, six states have abolished the death
penalty in the last eight years with Nebraska`s legislature. Legislatures
moved to abolish the death penalty likely going before the voters next
year. Should we be expecting more states to abolish the death penalty
anytime soon and what do you expect to happen in Nebraska?

PREJEAN: Yes. In Nebraska, I just happened to be with the two senators in
Rome who led that legislation. And they said it was a tough fight, but
it`s that education of the people. And also a significant factor I want to
add in here, too, is the role that victims` families that are speaking out
saying that the death penalty doesn`t help them, it`s eight years since New
Jersey did away with the death penalty and 62 murder victims` families said
this doesn`t heal us, this doesn`t give us closure to wait years and years.


PREJEAN: That`s been a factor, as well. And if you look across the whole
spectrum, what you look for first is practice begins to diminish. The last
thing that will happen is that it will be repealed on the books. Supreme
Court may itself in the death penalty, from Justice Breyer strong dissent
in Glossip v. Gross that happened recently. Because looking at the


PREJEAN: Supreme Court has never looked at the practice. They keep
holding on to the theory of it. But in practice, it`s never worked because
from the very beginning, the Supreme Court gave us the guidelines to the
states, only go after the worst of the worst murderers. Nobody knows what
that is.

CAPEHART: Well, let me bring in – before we go, let me bring in Barry on
this. So, you know, as Sister Helen is bringing up, you know, the Supreme
Court, we`ve got two justices who just in June said it`s highly likely that
the death penalty is unconstitutional. What is the likelihood that we will
actually have the high court hand down a ruling on death penalty?

SCHECK: Well, I think it`s very good. You have to understand that the
death penalty is only for a few states. Ninety three percent of the
executions have only been in four states, two-thirds of the death sentences
are coming from two percent of the counties.


SCHECK: So, the Supreme Court is looking at all the other states that are
not executing people and not putting forward death penalties and they`re
putting that into the mix and that`s going to be a key to the decision they
ultimately render here.

CAPEHART: And on that, we have to go. Sister Helen Prejean, author of
“Dead Man Walking.” And Barry Scheck of the Innocence Project, thank you
both very much for joining us today.

SCHECK: Thank you.

CAPEHART: We`re following a developing story in Iraq where the U.S.
military says a coalition air strike against ISIS may have killed Iraqi
soldiers. Here`s what we know right now. Iraqi officials saying an
officer and nine soldiers were killed or wounded in the incident in Anbar
Province near Fallujah. This is the first known instance of friendly fire
since operations against ISIS in Iraq and Syria began. We`ll bring you
more information as it becomes available. We`ll be right back.


CAPEHART: We`re getting our first look this hour. President Obama`s
arrival in Hawaii earlier this morning. The President flying overnight
following his stop in San Bernardino, California. He and the first family
will be spending 16 days in in the Aloha State for the holidays. The state
where President Obama was born and raised.

And as we look ahead to tonight`s democratic debate, I want to point
something out about this week`s Republican debate in Las Vegas.
Specifically my contention that when it comes to style, Ben Carson emerged
from that debate the winner. Simply because he was the only candidate to
wear a blue tie in a sea of red. How do you think I noticed this? Because
of how remarkably similar Ben Carson looked to how I look almost every day,
today included. So, I want to ask the panel, does style actually matter
when you`re running for president or is it only about substance? I mean,
look at that, it`s very close. Style or substance?

DOHERTY: You need to look the part. And look, clearly as the Republican -

CAPEHART: You wear your red tie.

DOHERTY: Here`s what we do, we put the red tie on and then it`s a good

CAPEHART: Style, substance?

CORN: Well, you know, Donald Trump has the best style ever of anybody who
ever ran for President. So, I think you`ll going to get a call from him
after this segment is over.

CAPEHART: You know, I`m willing to take his call. I think he has got my
number. Janell, what do you think? Style or substance?

ROSS: Listen. I think the same rule applies to presidential candidates
that it does to all of us. Substance matters a lot. But if you come
somewhere looking really crazy, people really don`t hear what you have to
say. So style matters. It matters quite a bit. You know, I have to say
that there were some particularly interesting fashion choices on that

CAPEHART: Such as?

ROSS: There was a lot of red. Well, as you know, Jonathan, you and I have
discussed, you know, Carly Fiorina is in an interesting position as the
only woman on the stage. And it is in that sense relatively easy to stand
out. Of course she`s wearing an all-red suit to match with the all red
ties selections save Dr. Carson. However, it was a lot of suit and a lot
of jewelry.

CAPEHART: – A lot of jewelry. Like the overs to the pop culture sized
cross that she is wearing.

ROSS: I think it would.

CAPEHART: That`s a whole other discussion. We have got more to talk about
in the next hour. Another hour of news and politics, we promise, still
ahead. Stay with us.


CAPEHART: President Obama`s year end report card.


CAPEHART: Thanks for staying with us this Saturday morning. I`m John

President Obama begins his Christmas vacation in the state before he was
born and raised, but not before a visit to San Bernardino as well as his
final press conference of the year. All the details in what he did and
what he said in just a moment.

Donald Trump`s support keeps on growing in the newest polls. So, what
about those who predicted he`d already reached his ceiling.

Plus, the surprising new numbers that show how Americans really feel about
assault weapons.

Also, it`s now officially year two of the improved relationship between the
United States and Cuba. How long will it be before Americans will be
making the trip to Havana? We`ll have the new scoop from the State

And as “Star Wars” takes over the White House for a day, if seems you don`t
have to be a full blooded “Star Wars” geek to get caught up in the
excitement of the latest installment. I`ll be joined by my favorite “Star
Wars” geek in just a bit.

But we begin this hour with President Obama and the first family touching
down in Hawaii this morning to officially begin their annual Christmas
vacation. On his way cross-country, the president stopped in San
Bernardino to visit with the families of the 14 people killed in the
December 2nd massacre and the first responders.


ones who had come to this country as immigrants, others who had lived in
the area all their lives. All of them extraordinarily proud of the work
they were doing to keep people healthy and safe here in this community.
And as difficult as this will time is for them and for the entire
community, they are also representative of the strength and love that
exists in this community and this country.


CAPEHART: Before living for his cross-country trip, President Obama was in
the White House briefing room for his last press conference of the year.
He appeared to take a victory lap of sorts.


OBAMA: I look back on this year and one thing that I see is that so much
of our steady persistent work over the years is paying off for the American
people in big tangible ways. I just want to point out, I said at the
beginning of this year, that interesting stuff happens in the fourth
quarter and we`re only halfway through.


CAPEHART: The president cited the improving economy, the surging number of
Americans with health coverage and his historic deals with Iran and Cuba.
He also took a swipe at the Republicans who threatened to derail the
agreement he hammered out in Paris just last week.


OBAMA: Right now, the American Republican Party is the only major party
that I can think of in the advanced world that effectively denies climate
change. I mean, it`s an outlier. Many of the key signatories to this
deal, the architects of this deal come from center right governments, even
far right parties in many of these countries, that they may not like
immigrants for example, but they admit, yes, the science tells us we`ve got
to do something about climate change.


CAPEHART: The president also pushed back on the criticism he`s weathered
on saying on the eve of the Paris attacks that ISIS was contained.


OBAMA: Whenever I say that we have made progress squeezing the territory
that they control or made inroads against them, people will say if
something happens around the world, then obviously, that must not be true.
But in any battle, in any fight, even as you make progress, there are still
dangers involved.


CAPEHART: Looking forward, the president promised to remain productive and
relevant in his final year in office.


OBAMA: Since taking this office, I`ve never been more optimistic about the
year ahead than I am right now. In 2016, I`m going to leave it up all on
the field.


CAPEHART: I want to bring back the panel but I want to show yet one more
clip. This time, President Obama discussing his relationship with newly
minted Speaker of the House Paul Ryan.


OBAMA: I will say that in his interactions with me, he has been
professional, he has reached out to tell me what he can do and what he
cannot do. I think it`s a good working relationship. We recognize that we
disagree on a whole bunch of other stuff. He is respectful of the process
and respectful of how legislation works.


CAPEHART: So, are we in a new era here?

We got a budget passed with no ceilings or crises. We – they talked. The
president and speaker of the house talked publicly. Even the speaker of
the house had a dinner with the former speaker of the house, the house
minority leader, Nancy Pelosi.

New era here this Washington?

DOHERTY: Isn`t that the way it`s supposed to be?

CAPEHART: That`s the way it`s supposed to be, but it`s not the way it`s

DOHERTY: Right. But the difference – on one hand, he loves to play the
politics with climate change. He took a heavy bat to the Republicans. If
you look into work and get a deal done, you would think that you would be
not swinging a bat and ripping their heads off before you sit down at the
table and discuss the deal.

On the other hand, he said some very nice things about the speaker who he
needs to deal with and I think that relationship has got off to a good
start. I wish he would take the politics out of it sometimes as we`re
going to Christmas break and say, I wish the Republicans as opposed to even
the far right groups away the world and civilized world.


CAPEHART: Republicans won`t say the president needs to take the politics,
he`s the president.

CORN: Wait a second, you worked for Governor Pataki.


CORN: When he was this charge of a committee at the Council of Foreign
Relations that put out a great report a couple years ago, (INAUDIBLE) from
the Republican primaries, but a great report on climate change and called
for basically all the steps that the president is trying do now.

The Republican Party is just so far off the map on this and they were out
there attacking Paris and they were saying to the president, you know what,
this is meaningless, we`re going to laugh you out of town on this. He has
to fight back on this because they are wrong, they`re wrong for –


DOHERTY: But they should fight back on the facts. The facts are on his
side, as Governor Pataki has pointed out. The facts are on his side. And
that`s what he should talk about because they are Republicans like myself
who agree with him on this.

Stay to the facts. He would win on the –


CAPEHART: I was going to say, the Republicans on the Hill who are not in
the reality based community that you are –

DOHERTY: But you`re only going to get them farther into their corner by –


DOHERTY: We`ll see how that goes.

CAPEHART: Janell, do you think that this really incredible period that
we`re in between both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue will continue, or is this
the last positive thing that we will see from Speaker Ryan because the far
right factions that drove out Boehner are going to set their sights on Paul

ROSS: Well, I think there is reason to be hopeful. The reason that I get
I would say there is probably reason to be somewhat hopeful that there will
be some sort of functional relationship is that Paul Ryan was the speaker
who came in and basically set some terms for his own speakership, that he
wasn`t going to take the job unless he had some assurances that there was
going to be some party discipline, that there was going to be some
reasonable behavior.

So, assuming he can hold his caucus together and hold them to their
agreement, then I think you should expect to see at least some reasonable
levels of communication.

CORN: That may be true between Ryan and the White House. I still think
every time people have said in the last six years, the Tea Party is going
to have to get reasonable, they`re going to have to make a deal, they`re
going to have to realize how Washington works and be part of that, they
basically have proven that they can do that for maybe 20 seconds at the
longest amount of time.

So, you have Rush Limbaugh and all the other talk show Rush wannabees out
there, you have Donald Trump and Ted Cruz and others out on the stump and
they are going to be fanning the flames of this sort of internal GOP civil
war. So, that`s going to continue.

I guess the big question, maybe you have an idea, what is the next front
for the Tea Party rebellion to come back on against the establishment?

DOHERTY: Look, I think that we`re going to make a decision whether or not
as we did in 2014 where we did not talk about Palin, we didn`t talk about
Cruz, we didn`t talk about the far right, we ran reasonable candidates, we
won election. The question is, have we learned from that or is 2016, we
shown in national election that we cannot control ourselves and we are
really a midterm party?

CAPEHART: We only have about 45 seconds left, but we can`t go without
talking about the president commuted sentences of 95 people yesterday,
mostly drug offenders. He`s now surpassed the number of commutations
granted by the previous four presidents combined. What kind of criminal
justice push do you think we`ll see from the president in his final year in
office, do you think, Janell, real quick?

ROSS: I think there are people who are certainly hoping that will be a
real emphasis in the last year and for a number of reasons. Certainly I
think, there`s some pretty wide scale agreement that the drug war has not
worked or our approach to the drug war has not worked. But also because of
the sheer costs of the human cost and the fiscal costs of incarcerating
this many people is really unsustainable.

CAPEHART: And that is the reason why you`re seeing both the far left and
the far right joining together in the capitol to get this done.

Up next, the new war of words about immigration between two sons of
immigrants who are running for president.

Stay with us.


CAPEHART: A new poll released just last night shows Republican frontrunner
Donald Trump leading at 39 percent, up 11 points since November. Senators
Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio round out the top three. This after Trump
responded to praise this week from Russian President Vladimir Putin who
said in a news conference that Trump was a, quote, “bright personality and
talented person”.

And so, here is what Trump had to say about that on yesterday`s “MORNING


MIKA BRZEZINSKI, MSNBC ANCHOR: Did you like you Vladimir Putin`s comments
about you?

brilliant, that`s always good, especially when the person heads up Russia.

JOE SCARBOROUGH, MSNBC ANCHOR: Well, he also is the person that kills
journalists, political opponents and invades countries obviously, that
would be a concern, would it not?

TRUMP: He`s running his country and at least he`s a leader – unlike what
we have in this country.

SCARBOROUGH: You obviously condemn Vladimir Putin killing journalists and
political opponents, right?

TRUMP: Oh, sure, absolutely. I`ve always felt fine about Putin. I think
that he is a strong leader. He`s a powerful leader.


CAPEHART: Trump taking just a little too long there to condemn Putin such
as it was.

Meanwhile, Senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz are still fighting over
immigration and the gang of eight immigration bill. Cruz aggressively
pushing back on Rubio this week, saying he never supported legalization for
undocumented immigrants.


Rubio supports it. I oppose citizenship. Marco Rubio supports
citizenship. I oppose legalization. Marco Rubio supports legalization.

I opposed and led the fight to defeat the gang of eight bill. Marco Rubio
authored and led the unsuccessful fight to pass the gang of eight bill.

attacks on this since he`s the one that for example supports doubling the
number of green cards. He`s the one that supports a 500 percent increase
in guest workers into the United States. And he`s the one that supported


CAPEHART: MSNBC`s Kasie Hunt joins us live from Cedar Rapids with more.

Kasie, how do you see the dynamic between these two – these top three
candidates playing out over the next few days?

here in a very chilly Cedar Rapids ahead of a big Donald Trump rally. He,
of course, is the national frontrunner, although a couple polls have shown
him falling back in Iowa, losing to Ted Cruz.

And that`s the dynamic that you`re seeing play out right now between Ted
Cruz and Marco Rubio. And Rubio`s campaign has really managed do a pretty
remarkable thing. He is somebody who was an author of this gang of eight
bill that included this path to citizenship. It was a cause he really took

He, of course, dropped it pretty quickly once he realized that the right
wing media has turned on him in this regard. But they have always known
that it was going to be a weakness for him in – especially a place like
Iowa where immigration is such a front burner issue for so many voters.

And he`s managed to put Cruz who frankly has, as you know from Washington,
a pretty fiery reputation as being some who is aggressively conservative,
isn`t somebody who changes his positions. And, all of a sudden, you`ve
seen on the airwaves Cruz having to defend himself.


CRUZ: Securing our borders and stopping illegal immigration is a matter of
national security. That`s why I fought so hard to defeat President Obama
and the Republican establishment`s gang of eight amnesty plan. Their
misguided plan would have given Obama the authority to admit Syrian
refugees, including ISIS terrorists. That`s just wrong.


HUNT: So, there you go, it`s already into the ether here in Iowa. The
Cruz campaign clearly feeling pressure to make sure that they`re getting
their message out on this.

And the reality is, Cruz did try to attach a poison pill amendment to that
bill. It would have killed the bill, it included a path to legalization
which if you`ll remember at the time was for Democrats completely
unacceptable, Democrats insisted that it be a path to citizenship instead
of legalization.

Now, of course, the Rubio campaign is using to say, hey, Ted Cruz secretly
wants to provide amnesty to all these undocumented immigrants who are
already in the country. Cruz`s campaign is caught between a rock and a
hard place frankly because, you know, this makes him look like he was
making a political calculation.

And it there is anything that is dangerous for Ted Cruz and how voters
perceive him, it`s issues of personality, it`s issues of him being seen as
too political, John.

CAPEHART: Kasie, that`s a great point. I`m going to throw this open to
the panel.

And, Tom, on Kasie`s point there about Ted Cruz being caught between a rock
and a hard place looking political, I mean, isn`t that one of Ted Cruz`s
biggest problem to begin with?

DOHERTY: That is his biggest problem. He comes across – for those who
love Ted Cruz, he`s a man of principle and this is what he believes. So
any problem that he has in that area or that he`s wiggling or he`s changing
position, et cetera, poses a potential problem. But, you know, I still
believe that as Trump falls or if Trump were to fall, all of that vote goes
to Ted Cruz. There`s a huge upside for Ted Cruz moving forward.

CAPEHART: Well, that`s interesting, because according to a PPP poll of
Republican primary voters, 42 percent said they would choose Trump over
Cruz and Rubio if those were the only three choices. And if it was just
Cruz and Rubio, 48 percent say they would vote for Ted Cruz.

So, that`s to your point, but then what does that mean for Marco Rubio?

DOHERTY: I believe what happens is that that vote at some point goes to
the right, it goes to the left and we wind up with two candidates battling
out from two wings of my party. And who they are right now –

CAPEHART: I was going to say, on the left, is that Rubio or is that Trump?

DOHERTY: No, on the left in my party, moderate establishment side, it will
come down to Chris Christie, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, John Kasich.

CORN: I`m sure Chris Christie would love to be called a leftist

CAPEHART: It will work in the general election.

CORN: Can I share an epiphany about Donald Trump that bit about Putin?


CORN: Because it seems if you`re a narcissist, how do you judge other
people around you? You judge them by what they think of you.

So, if Putin says Trump is brilliant, Trump is going to love Putin. It
doesn`t matter that he`s killed journalists and he`s a thug. To him, the
most important thing is what Putin thinks of him.

And so that`s why with “MORNING JOE,” he was hesitant to criticize Putin
because he loved the guy you because he loved him.

CAPEHART: Janell, real fast. I mean, we go to Kasie.

ROSS: It was remarkable, I have to agree. And you`re right that it seems
that his assessment of Putin really was centered around Putin`s assessment
of him. It was very interesting , even though, you know, Scarborough very
clearly threw him a few, sort of pointed questions, last chance about
reasons that other people feel about Vladimir Putin.

CAPEHART: And, Kasie, I want to end this on you and bring it back to
Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, “The Times” has a story this morning about the
fact that Donald Trump has been trying to recruit a bunch of people in each
of the state`s 1,681 Republican precincts by Thanksgiving. They had a
heating in West Des Moines where 80 people showed up with about 50
participating online.

Given that, is Trump`s organization even capable of beating Ted Cruz in

HUNT: That`s the key question right now, Jonathan. And I will tell you, I
talk to some Republican campaigns here in Iowa who are at the very least
operating under the assumption that Donald Trump can get his supporters out
to caucus.

Now, the question is, of course, whether the game that he has on the ground
is one that is going to be able to convert people who show up to these big
rallies into actual caucus-goers. It`s much more difficult on the ground.

But I do think that the open question is how many new voters are they going
to bring into the process? If the answer is not very many, then Donald
Trump is going to have a tough time beating Ted Cruz on the ground here.
But if the answer is, you know, all of these thousands of people who are
showing up, then it`s a totally different story.

So, I think to a certain extent there is a sense that, you know, he does
have a team that knows Iowa very well. Chuck Laudner worked for Rick
Santorum back in 2012. Santorum ultimately won the caucuses. But the
question is whether or not that`s ultimately going to translate. And the
reality is no one actually knows at this point how this will go for them.

CAPEHART: You`re absolutely right.

Kasie Hunt, MSNBC`s political correspondent Kasie Hunt there in Iowa –
thank you very much.

Coming up, we`ll head north to New Hampshire for a preview of tonight`s
Democratic debate.


CAPEHART: Overnight, the Bernie Sanders campaign struck a deal with the
DNC, giving back the Sanders campaign access to its voter data, leaving the
big question in the wake of that brief and intense one day conflict, how
will it be talked about in tonight`s Democratic debate? The third time the
candidates will face off.

It`s taking place in New Hampshire, a must win state for Sanders where
Hillary Clinton has surged to a virtual tie. She`s also solidified her
lead nationally in a new poll, now up nearly 2-1 over Sanders.

And as for Sanders, he picked up key endorsements earlier in the week, but
his fight with the Democratic Party is what everyone is talking about
before the candidates take the stage tonight.

For more on what might happen tonight, we`re joined now by former Michigan
governor and senior adviser for Correct the Record, Jennifer Granholm, who
is also a Hillary Clinton supporter.

Governor, thanks for being here.

JENNIFER GRANHOLLM, CORRECT THE RECORD: Jonathan, great to be on. Wish
you were here, wish I were there.

CAPEHART: I bet you.


GRANHOLM: It`s a little chilly here.

CAPEHART: All right. Let me ask you, how do you expect Hillary Clinton to
respond to the data breach at the debate tonight?

GRANHOLM: Well, you know, honestly, it will probably be the first
question, right, and it will probably go to Bernie Sanders and then she`ll
be asked to react to that.

But the issue is thank goodness resolved. I think everybody wanted to make
sure that Bernie Sanders had access to his data, but he didn`t have access
to her data. And that`s what the campaign had been pushing for.

Although I must say, you know, this was not a small thing. If you –
anybody who knows anything about the data gathering process in campaigns,
it is millions of dollars and thousands of hours that go into building the
data that goes in there. And it`s extremely sensitive stuff.

So, it is no small breach, but the bottom line is, it`s behind us thank
goodness and then they can go on to talk about the issues.

CAPEHART: So, the breach in question is behind us, so then if you`re
Sanders there your perspective, how do you get back on track tonight and is
this make or break for him?

GRANHOLM: I do think that the debate itself is important for all of them,
right? They haven`t had a chance to talk about, for example, domestic
homeland security and in the wake of San Bernardino. And Hillary Clinton
has come out with very strategic comprehensive 360-degree plan that talks
about how to protect us here, protect our troops and our national security
there, and online.

And I think obviously, this is her strong suit. So, it will be interesting
to see how the others who don`t have as much experience in this area
respond to her and what their plans are. To me that`s going to be one of
the biggest points of conversation.

Obviously, Democratic voters are really interested both in the economic and
in national security and anti-terrorism strategies. And I think both of
those topics will be, you know, the absolute focus tonight, at least for
the candidates. Who knows what the moderators will be asking?


Governor, Tom Doherty has a question for you.

DOHERTY: Governor, is there any concern – Democrats at all talked that
this is the third debate and it`s on a Saturday night, days before
Christmas with an NFL football game? That – is there anybody who is
really going to watch this debate tonight?

GRANHOLM: Well, I think this kerfuffle of the past couple days maybe gets
a few more eyeball, but I know there are a lot of us who would love to see
more people watching.

I`d say on the Hillary Clinton team, you know, she does really well in
these debates after every one these debate, we`re saying why aren`t we
doing more of these debates? So I think that because it`s a network and
not a cable outlet, they maybe don`t want to give up weeknights because
they have other programming that makes them money.

CAPEHART: Governor, there are conspiracy theories out there that the fact
that they`re on Saturday nights during football games is being done on
purpose to protect Secretary Clinton.

GRANHOLM: But why would that protect her? She`s a great debater. What
would be in her interests to hide the debate strategy? It doesn`t make

CAPEHART: I yield the floor to David Corn on that.

CORN: Governor, then can we get Hillary Clinton to say explicitly that
she`d like to have more debates even before the voting and caucusing begins
on a weekday night? You know, just say that the DNC schedule doesn`t seem
to be fair to those Democrats who want to see wider viewership
participation and more discussion? Can we get her to say that?

GRANHOLM: I think she – I mean, David, I think her campaign has said that
they are totally willing to do more debates.

CORN: So, what is the problem here is this because we certainly know
Bernie Sanders wants to. So, is the problem the DNC and does that give
people reason to believe that the DNC is trying to play something here?

GRANHOLM: You know, I don`t think it`s fair to say that the DNC is trying
to play something. You know, this whole kerfuffle yesterday which, you
know, was soaked in conspiracy theories and all that, I mean, truly Debbie
Wasserman Schultz has a really good point, which is that this breach, there
was an audit trail was released by the company, and it`s not like anybody
made this up. There were 24 attempts to draw out information. Information
was saved by the Sanders people.

So, it`s not like she was making that up. I – these conspiracy theorists,
I don`t buy it at all. Now, I haven`t talked to Debbie Wasserman Schultz
about their strategy, but I don`t think the Clinton campaign, I just say
that, I don`t think they are afraid of debates.

CAPEHART: I want to continue your pivot, governor, to bring back to
Sanders. And, you know, the GOP debate this past week was focused heavily
on terrorism, international affairs. Senator Sanders seems to have a
problem with terrorism, foreign affairs, international relations. He
doesn`t want to go there.

Can he get away with that tonight if all of the questions are about
terrorism and Paris and San Bernardino?

GRANHOLM: No, he cannot. He can`t avoid this issue.

CAPEHART: Governor, answer and then we`ll bring it to the panel.

GRANHOLM: Yes, yes. This is at the top of minds of all citizens. I don`t
think that – he can`t come in and I don`t think it would be a wise
strategy, I`m sure it`s not his strategy, to just pivot back to the economy
which is what he tends to do.


GRANHOLM: It`s also interesting and one other point to make, the
Republicans have avoided talking about the relationship between access to
guns and domestic terrorism. And Democrats need to push on that, too. And
I know people have said that Bernie Sanders has – there is some
sensitivity there on the guns because he voted against the Brady bill, et
cetera, but he will have to address that nexus, too, because you better
believe that Hillary Clinton and Martin O`Malley are going to be talking
about why Republicans are not voting to deny guns to those on the terror
watch list and other things.

CAPEHART: Governor, let me bring this question –

DOHERTY: The governor raised two issues that, one, they would like to talk
to foreign policy which they believe is Hillary`s strength, they would like
to talk about guns which they feel is a negative for Bernie Sanders, right?
So, they`re pivoting in that direction.

I still say you go to your strength tonight. He needs to talk to your
foreign policy, but go to your strength.

Your voters are talking about income inequality, et cetera, et cetera.
Those are your voters. That`s why you`re going to motivate to come out to
vote for you. They`re not going to vote for you on foreign policy. That`s
not his vote.


GRANHOLM: But he can`t – if he`s asked a direct question on foreign
policy, he can`t just pivot, short trip and pivot. He`s got to answer it.


GRANHOLM: Like I don`t want to answer that.

CORN: And I have no doubt that he can. I have said this earlier in the
show. He`s been a senator and member of the House, he`s work order foreign
affairs issues for decades now, as well.

And so, to me, it`s a question of basically where his head is at and
whether he can sort of do what you suggest, Tom, speak to his core issue,
but also at the same time use his experience and intelligence from the
years and make strong points on those terrorism and overseas policy issues.
He didn`t do -

CAPEHART: In the last debate just after Paris, he gave a half a phrase to
Paris and then pivoted to the economy.

CORN: And the question is, and he got a lot of guff for that. The
question is whether he learned from that, and it`s going to take a
different tact this time.

CAPEHART: Janell, do you think he will take a different tact this time,
Senator Sanders?

ROSS: I have no doubt his campaign staff has had that discussion with him
and explained to him precisely why and how he can do.

I think the thing – and there is an opening here, which was something that
was completely devoid in the GOP debate the other night, the matter of
foreign policy or domestic security or international security is not
limited simply to issues of war. And physical defense and good posturing
and looking strong.

And that is pretty much where the discussion stayed the other night. There
are a whole list of issues that can be talked about, including aid, trade,
medicine, science, certainly climate issues, and some of the instability
that can flow from any of those things. And that is where Senator Sanders
could really sort of make his mark.

CAPEHART: Governor, you wanted to jump in?

GRANHOLM: Yes, I just want to say I think you`re totally right even on
this issue of terrorism, the Republicans only – they were one note which
is more military aggression. They didn`t talk about the more nuanced
issues and, in fact, they insulted the Muslim world basically. I mean,
there are 50 Muslim countries, majority Muslim countries in the world, 2.1
billion people.

What – I mean, the Democrats I think will be united in saying what a
terrible strategy to alienate those who you would want to enlist in
creating a Sunni-led army against terror. So I think you will see
unanimity there. But I think there`s also important about what you do you
at home including the online stuff, including training and providing
support to local law enforcement.

So, there is a whole raft of issues that the Republicans did not address
other than carpet bombing ISIS.

CAPEHART: Right, and on that positive note, former Michigan Governor
Jennifer Granholm, thank you very much for braving the cold and joining us

GRANHOLM: You bet.

CAPEHART: Up next, why fewer Americans favor an assault weapons ban in the
wake of yet another mass shooting. Stay with us.



CRUZ: You don`t stop the bad guys by taking away our guns. You stop the
bad guys by using our guns.


CAPEHART: That was Senator Ted Cruz speaking just days after the terrorist
attack in San Bernardino sharing one of the main arguments against gun
reform in this country, that innocent Americans will have a better chance
of surviving a mass shooting if they`re equipped with their own guns to
fight back.

According to one poll out this week, more and more Americans are beginning
to agree with that thesis. This week for the first time in more than 20
years, a majority of Americans say they now oppose a ban on assault
weapons. Those numbers have flipped since January 2013 when the same poll
was taken just one month after Newtown.

And although support is for an assault weapons ban has steadily declined
over the years, we`re only seeing this crossover now and this might be why.
In the same new poll, 56 percent of Americans say they are less confident
in the government`s ability to prevent a large scale attack. Even more are
less confident it can prevent a lone wolf attack like the one in San
Bernardino. And of those people, 47 percent believe that a better way to
respond to terrorism is by having more people carry guns legally.
Something to keep an eye on as this debate continues to unfold.

Up next, fastball diplomacy. Can a visit Cuba by some of Major League
Baseball`s biggest stars improve relations between the U.S. and the island


CAPEHART: The State Department announced Thursday that it has reached a
deal to resume commercial flights from the U.S. mainland Cuba for the first
time in 50 years, what will eventually be 110 round trip flights a day.

The announcement comes one year after the U.S. and Cuba agreed to resume
relations. And we got a closer look at what that relationship will look
like this week as Major League Baseball took its first ever goodwill tour
of Cuba with players hosting clinics in the baseball mad country and even
reuniting with long lost family members.

And Cuban President Raul Castro capped off the week with a rare televised
address to the Cuban people yesterday, reiterating his support for
normalizing relations. But he also urged the U.S. government to stop radio
and TV broadcasts aimed at Cuba, a sign that despite all that`s changed, a
lot still remains the same.

For more on all of this, let`s bring in Paul Bonicelli, former assistant
administration for USAID, and also with us is Cuba travel expert, author
and tour operator, Christopher Baker.

Thank you both for being here this morning.

Chris, let`s me start with you. What is the biggest impact this travel
deal will have?

CHRISTOPHER BAKER, CUBA TRAVEL EXPERT: I think the most important thing is
that we`re supporting the Cuban people who are now engaged in private enter
prize. Raul Castro has initiated reforms that permit people to have their
own businesses, private restaurants for example are booming because of
travel. And we`re able to support this initiative.

CAPEHART: Paul, one year later the embargo remains in place, but what
purpose could it still have and what can we – when can we expect to be

going to be lifted until the Congress plays a greater role in this. And I
appreciate what Chris said about more tourism. Certainly hundreds of
millions of dollars have been going into Cuba in the last year since the
president`s initiative.

The problem is the Cuban people, the average Cuban cannot use the
convertible peso. So most of the money that is coming in from tourism,
just as it is always done with European tourism, Canadian tourism, is
skimmed off by the government. They control the labor, they control
investment, they control those little bitty businesses because those people
cannot operate in a free economy. They are not even as free in their
economy as the Chinese were when Jinping made his changes. So, more needs
to be done on the Castro side.

CAPEHART: And on that, Chris, the head of North American affairs says
economic effects have been barely visible one year later. How do you
expect this travel deal will help regular everyday Cubans?

BAKER: It really is helping them. For example, I do these motorcycle
tours. I do other tours, and we`re staying in private homes for the most
part. We`re using private restaurants almost exclusively. We hire the old
`50s cars to take our clients to restaurant, et cetera. This is money
directly into the hands of Cubans.

And it is actually incorrect just – I wanted to correct that Cuba can
indeed use the convertible peso. That`s what we`re paying them in as
travelers. And that channels through the economy from one private
individual in Cuba to another private business, et cetera.

CAPEHART: Paul, the Castro regime hasn`t made many if any concessions on
freedom for Cubans, dozens of dissidents arrested on international human
rights stage just a week ago. How and when this will change?

BONICELLI: Well, with all due respect to Chris, no law has been changed in
Cuba. So any kind of exchange of convertible peso is because someone is
favored enough by the regime to be able do it. Of course, tourists from
America, you`re going to want to show that you`re doing some of that. But
the law hasn`t changed.

But you`re exactly right, Jonathan, persecution has not only continued a
pace, it has actually increased. We`re on track this year for a record
number of arrests, probably 8,000, hundreds of people regularly beaten and
arrested. And nothing has been done about that.

And that`s why this policy has always been so unfortunate. The president
missed an opportunity to use leverage to get the Castro regime to do what
this needs to do to truly have a free Cuba and one that can actually
prosper instead of being some quasi-authoritarian communist state that just
has a little more money in the coffers of the regime.

CAPEHART: Well, Paul, one more question to you. “Politico” wrote that
some Republican members of Congress are warming up to normalizing
relations. Do you get that sense and where does that leave Senators like
Marco Rubio?

BONICELLI: I think some are warming up because the Chamber of Commerce
wants them to. The Chamber of Commerce is looking for deals for its
members, I don`t think there`ll be a lot of them because people get
arrested in Cuba if they offend the regime. But people like Marco Rubio
and Ted Cruz and others will taking strong stance again this, highlighting
the fact that people are getting beaten every day for simply wanting to
speak out. They are the Nelson Mandelas of their country, and the
president and Congress need to respect that.

CAPEHART: Christopher Baker and Paul Bonicelli, thank you both to joining
us today.

Up next, just how much of a box office force is the new “Star Wars” movie?
We`ll take a look right after this.



OBAMA: OK, everybody, I got to get to “Star Wars.”


CAPEHART: The force was strong at the White House yesterday, with
character visits and a screening for gold star military families as the new
“Star Wars” film spent its first full day in theaters.

As we look at more images from the White House, let me add that “The Force
Awakens”, the seventh film in the “Star Wars” series, shattered box office
records on opening night and it`s now on track to make more than $200
million this weekend alone.

The new film picks up 30 years after “Return of the Jedi” left off as Han
Solo, Princess Leia, Luke Skywalker, pick up new fans and make a lot of old
ones very, very happy.

Joining us from Washington is my favorite self-professed “Star Wars” geek,
my colleague at “The Washington Post”, Alexandra Petri.

Alexandra, thanks for getting up early this morning to be here.


CAPEHART: Now, I intentionally did not go see the movie yesterday so I
wouldn`t provide any spoilers. So, first thing`s first, no spoilers, what
did you think of the film?

PETRI: OK, no spoilers, I loved it. If you enjoyed the original “Star
Wars” movies, you will love this, because it is a movie made by someone
with “Star Wars” coming through his pours and it has all those things you
remember. It`s got stormtroopers. It`s got the bigger death station-type
thing, all your favorites.

CAPEHART: The death star, right.

Now, Alexandra, a lot of people were let down by the prequel. So, to ease
there in our minds, can you tell us how this film succeeds where the others

PETRI: Well, there`s no Jar Jar, that`s the number one thing. But the
number two thing I think is that all the complaints I`ve had coming out
have been, like, substantive complaints. Like, why was that character
doing that? Because everyone talks like a real person and they have
relationships like real people and they interact normally. It`s amazing
and beautiful.

CAPEHART: I want to bring the panel in on this. Has anyone else other
than Tom see the movie?

DOHERTY: I saw it and it was spectacular. It really was just spectacular.

CAPEHART: Have you seen it yet, David?

CORN: No, I skipped the prequels because the first trilogy was very
important to me when I was in high school and I saw it on opening night,
went back the next day.

My only question is, can`t millennials get their own sci-fi trilogy? Why
do they have to go back to my childhood and do this again? I`m looking
forward – I`ll see it this weekend, I hope. We need to advance the ball
and get some new sci-fi fantasy trilogies going out there.

CAPEHART: When it`s this good though, why not continue the run?

Janell, have you seen it?

ROSS: I have not and I won`t be seeing it unless somebody makes me.
However -

CAPEHART: Whoa! Ooh!

So you`re one of them. You`re one of those people –

ROSS: I`m not a hater. I`m just one of these people – no, it`s not my
particular set things but, you know, I am excited by how excited everybody
else is.


CAPEHART: Hey, Alexandra, for folks who don`t know, is a huge “Star Wars”
fan. Like, she is – you`re a professional at this. You go to festivals
and things. You were at the “Star Wars” –

PETRI: Conventions, celebrations.

CORN: Does she dress up?

CAPEHART: You do dress up?

PETRI: I do.

CORN: As what?

PETRI: Jabba the Hut actually.


So, Alexandra, what`s your reaction to people like Janell who don`t – who
don`t like “Star Wars”? They`re not even interested in it?

PETRI: Well, you know, honestly I`m just really sorry for having – for
you having to live through this week with all of us just being like we love
this thing, it`s our favorite thing in the world, take joy in it. And,
like, you know, I understand what it feels like to be left out of a pop
culture phenomenon. I would say, take “Star Wars” into your heart. It`s
kind of a cult but in the best possible way.

CAPEHART: And real quickly, you wrote a column about the “Star Wars”
episodes from C3PO`s perspective saying it`s his continual nightmare. Real
fast in 15 seconds.

PETRI: Oh, yes. Well, C-3PO`s like me, he`s the English major of the
galaxy, none of his skills are useful. And if you look at it from his
perspective, the original trilogy starts where he`s evacuating his
workforce with his crazy colleague who says, I`m going on a secret mission,
we need to walk through a desert. Then he gets dismembered. None of his
friends respect his abilities.

Finally, in “Return of the Jedi,” he gets worshiped by a group of Teddy
Bears with bad teeth. For the most part, he`s just kicked around and
insulted by his closest companion. He`s got a festive red arm, he`s out to
party. I`m excited.

CAPEHART: That is great. Alexandra, I`m so glad you were able to do this
segment. I love you. Thank you very much. “Washington Post`s” Alexandra
Petri, thank you for joining us.

PETRI: Thank you.

CAPEHART: I`d also like to thank our panel for being here. David Corn,
Tom Doherty, and Janell Ross.

And thank you for getting up with us today. Join us tomorrow, Sunday
morning at 9:00.

Up next is “MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY”. Joy Reid is in for Melissa today.
Democrats are fighting, Republicans are ready for war, and questions of
justice for Freddie Gray. That`s all coming up on Nerdland.

Have a great Saturday.


Copyright 2015 Roll Call, Inc. 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 Roll Call. You may not alter or remove any trademark,
copyright or other notice from copies of the content.>