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Mueller's Office: Manafort lied. TRANSCRIPT: 11/26/18, The Last Word w/ Lawrence O'Donnell

Guests: Harry Litman, Ron Klain, Eric Swalwell, Maria Teresa Kumar, Ron Klain, LaTosha Brown, Kimberly Atkins

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST:  Good evening, Ali.  And thank you very much for filling in for me here at this hour last week.  Really appreciate it. 

ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST, "MSNBC LIVE":  My pleasure.

O`DONNELL:  Well, the breaking news tonight is about the collapse of Paul Manafort`s cooperation with special prosecutor Mueller.  And it raises the question of a possible presidential pardon for Paul Manafort because if Paul Manafort is a rational actor.  And that`s a big if, but if Paul Manafort is a rational actor, the only reason to stop cooperating with Robert Mueller is that he has been promised a pardon by President Trump. 

Today was one of those days when the breaking news was actually scheduled and expected because today was the deadline for the filing of a so-called status report in Paul Manafort`s case.  This is report in which both the prosecution and the defense explained to the judge where the case stands before Paul Manafort has to be sentenced. 

That status report was filed this evening, and the shocker came on the second page where the special prosecutor says: After signing the employee agreement Manafort committed federal crimes by lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the special counsel`s office on a variety of subject matters.  The government will file a detailed sentencing submission to the probation department and the court in advance of sentencing that sets forth the nature of the defendant`s crimes and lies, including those after signing the plea agreement herein.  As the defendant has breached the plea agreement, there is no reason to delay his sentencing herein. 

Manafort`s lawyers then responded on that same page of the status report saying: After signing the plea agreement, Manafort met with the government on numerous occasions and answered the government`s questions.  Manafort has provided information to the government.  In an effort to live up to his cooperation obligations, he believes he has provided truthful information and does not agree with the government`s characterization or that he has breached the agreement.  Given the conflict in the party`s positions, there is no reason to delay the sentencing herein, and he asks the court to set a sentencing date in this matter. 

Joining our discussion now on this breaking news: Harry Litman, former U.S. attorney and deputy assistant attorney general under President Clinton; Mimi Rocah, former federal prosecutor and an MSNBC legal contributor, and Ron Klain, former chief of staff to Vice Presidents Joe Biden and Al Gore, and a former senior aide to President Obama. 

And, Ron Klain, the reason I raise the possibility of a pardon is that sentencing, which is now going to come, leaves the possibility of Paul Manafort being sentenced to decades, multiple decades in these two cases that he`s facing.  This one in D.C. and the other one in the state of Virginia, a federal court in Virginia.  He -- if he`s rational, he has to think there`s some better deal than whatever the sentencing agreement would be with the special prosecutor. 

RON KLAIN, SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE FORMER CHIEF COUNSEL:  Yes, I mean, I think it`s a hard choice, but it`s possible that the person who was in charge of President Trump`s campaign combined the ethics of the "Godfather" with the execution of the "Three Stooges", and he just bumbled his way into this disastrous result.  But as you say, if that`s not the case and this isn`t just a horrible completely irrational set of acts by Paul Manafort, it does raise the serious prospect that President Trump has dangled a promise, a pardon to Paul Manafort if he refuses to cooperate, notwithstanding his promise to do so. 

I mean, Mueller really holds all the cards over Manafort because of the way in which this agreement was structured and all the different ways in which Manafort took his property -- Mueller took his property and all these other things.  So, there`s no way to explain this other than complete irrationality and incompetence by Manafort or a promise of a pardon from President Trump. 

O`DONNELL:  Mimi Rocah, it`s so striking to see in writing, not just the special prosecutor saying, OK, let`s get on with the sentencing.  But Manafort says let`s get on with the sentencing.  He`s inviting sentencing where he now has no protection whatsoever against the sentence. 

MIMI ROCAH, FORMER ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK:  Right.  Well, he really doesn`t have a choice right for you.  I mean, he`s pled guilty and he either needs the government to say he`s being a cooperator, let`s put this off, or the government`s going to say as it has you`re in breach.

And Manafort saying, well, I don`t agree with that but let`s go ahead and I`ll contest that.  And you can see already in this statement, in this letter, he says he doesn`t agree with the government`s characterization. 

This isn`t about a characterization, OK?  For the government to say that Manafort breached his agreement, that`s a big deal.  The government doesn`t say that lightly. 

This isn`t him forgetting.  This isn`t about the weather as Trump said at one point.  This is about a material lie and/or omissions, probably plural because Mueller would not say that in a written statement like this and say that he`s committed crimes if it weren`t serious and if he couldn`t really prove it with hard evidence.  So, that`s what`s going to be interesting about this. 

What is the evidence that Mueller has about these lies and what are they about?  Are we going to see that evidence come now in the form of charges against other people, perhaps? 

O`DONNELL:  Harry Litman, how unusual is this?  Here you have a cooperating witness who`s cooperating in order to get a reduced sentence and suddenly, the prosecutor he`s cooperating with goes into court and says he`s been lying to us, he`s been lying to us after he signed a plea agreement with us, and we give up on any deal with him?  How often do we see this? 

HARRY LITMAN, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL:  About 1 in 1,000, extremely unusual, and more over we now understand the ten-day delay was a final opportunity for him to in fact to get straight. 

That has to be the reason for that very brief delay.  They said we know you`re lying, this is really it.  You were just going to go and straight to sentencing and you will clearly -- and he clearly is in far worse shape with no prospect whatsoever of ever getting out of prison if you don`t play the hand completely open as you promise to.  And he continued not to. 

As Mimi said, they`ll certainly have proof of this.  And it`s an extraordinary turn of events especially in a case like this.  And not one Mueller would have wanted.  I mean, Mueller gets forced into it because Manafort refuses to give the full account.  His case gets hurt somewhat as well. 

But it`s a very -- it`s extraordinary turn of events.  As Ron says either incredibly irrational or a pardon in hand, which would be problematic for a welter of reasons. 

O`DONNELL:  Harry, can we see anything in this development that tells us anything about how the new Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker might be handling this case? 

LITMAN:  I think the short answer is no.  I think this so far has been just Mueller.  To Manafort, my best guess even Whitaker hasn`t had any involvement at all.  But in any event, Whitaker is in no position to second guess Mueller when he says we have a witness here who is lying to us and not cooperating, the plea agreement is breached. 

So that would have been the same under Rosenstein, Manafort, and the attorney general. 

O`DONNELL:  And, Ron Klain, as we say, trying to go back to making sense of this, the pardon is the only other way that I can see in the available options for Manafort to get something other than a terribly burdensome sentence. 

KLAIN:  Yes, I mean, unless Trump pardons Paul Manafort, he will spend the rest of his life in jail.  That is almost certainly the outcome of this filing tonight.  I mean, we could be surprised, but it seems incredibly likely that he will get a very severe sentence if indeed Robert Mueller can prove as he says he can not only did he commit the crimes which he`s pled guilty but he`s committed additional crimes since then. 

And so, either Manafort completely stumbled and bumbled into this.  Either he`s so confused about the number of lies he`s told, he can`t keep the truths and falsehoods separate anymore, which again is completely possible given the cast of characters we`re dealing with here, or he believes Donald Trump has his back. 

And I have to say, you know, counting on Donald Trump to have your back, that seems like a very risky play given how Donald Trump wrecks the lives of every person he touches. 

O`DONNELL:  And, Mimi, talk about what the special prosecutor`s standard would be to put in a plea deal like this today that he`s committed crimes, he`s committed crimes since he signed the plea deal with us, he`s lied to the FBI and to prosecutors.  This wouldn`t be a matter of bumbling.  This wouldn`t be a matter of, oh, I got that wrong. 

They -- as Harry was suggested they`ve given him time to correct any mistake he might make, any bumbling with the facts. 

ROCAH:  Absolutely.  Cooperation is all or nothing.  In other words, they have to be completely truthful.  But cooperators don`t have to be perfect, and the government recognizes that.  And whenever someone cooperates you say to them, you know, you give them a chance to correct mistakes and to remember things that they might have forgotten. 

What you don`t give them a chance to do and what you don`t tolerate are what seem like what appear to be blatant lies.  And I think for Mueller to say this as strongly as he did, that he lied, that he committed a crime by lying means that they have very good proof of those lies.  We still haven`t seen that, and I think we will. 

I think Mueller`s standard whether it`s in this, whether in a report is always going to be something he could use in court, and that`s a very high standard.  And it`s why, you know, I think that really the things that Mueller puts in writing or says are as close to the truth as we can get.  And that`s something Manafort is just not familiar with. 

I just don`t think he -- he doesn`t think that -- he tries to act like there isn`t such a thing as truth like someone else we know, and that`s not the way it works. 

O`DONNELL:  And, Harry, the next big development here will be when the special prosecutor as he puts it, sets forth the nature of the defendant`s crimes and lies including those after signing the plea agreement.  The special prosecutor has promised to make those available to the judge in real detail, and that`s where we will learn a lot about what this is about. 

LITMAN:  If it`s not under seal, which is possibility.  But yes, he`ll give chapter and verse, and as Mimi says, it will be good enough for the judge.  That`s not exactly the same thing as being useable in a jury trial.  There might be rules of evidence that would mean that the evidence he has to show Manafort lied wouldn`t necessarily be something he could use in a jury trial.  That`s a tricky thing. 

But I think it`s clear that Mueller has the goods on him.  Even Manafort`s statement is tepid, right?  It says he thinks he provided truthful information but doesn`t really deny that he at a minimum held back on many things.  So I think as Ron says, there`s no chance Manafort sees the outside of a prison now unless he gets the get out of jail free card from Trump with all the possible scandals and investigations that that would entail. 

O`DONNELL:  And, Ron Klain, there`s something in the Paul Manafort-Rick Gates office where they used to work together that makes them incapable of telling the truth, apparently.  Rick Gates had a similar problem with the special prosecutor actually when they`re at an earlier stage making of a similar proffer to the special prosecutor about what he could plea to and they decided he was lying about that.  And so, he had to get that straight before he could go forward. 

And these are guys that spent their lives in Washington, watching people get in trouble in corruption cases, watching people creating more trouble for themselves by lying to the FBI and lying to prosecutors. 

KLAIN:  You know, absolutely, Lawrence.  But I do think it feels like we are getting even closer to a constitutional crisis tonight because I think -- you know, Manafort is at the center of the Russian collusion issue and is at the center of whatever went on between Russia and the Trump campaign.  And if Mueller has positive proof that he has lied about that in particular, and if he`s prepared to file that with the court in the near future, maybe it`ll be under seal as Harry suggests and maybe we won`t see it. 

But if it`s a public document and it makes the case that Manafort has been lying about Russian collusion and Trump then pardons Manafort, you know, that really is smack-dab in the middle of a president essentially pardoning himself for cooperating with a foreign power in the presidential campaign.  So, I mean, I do think the crescendo is building.  The music is rising here.  We`re headed to something very significant here in the next few days. 

O`DONNELL:  And, Mimi, given his closeness to Russians and people close to Vladimir Putin, and the work he did in Ukraine, and when you see what Vladimir Putin is apparently willing to do to people around the world including poisonings in London and elsewhere, is it possible that Paul Manafort is thinking the biggest fear he has is what Putin might decide to do if Paul Manafort becomes a cooperating witness who then eventually is free? 

ROCAH:  It`s definitely possible, which sounds a little bit, you know, contradictory.  But, yes, I mean, we don`t have sort of evidence with it with respect to Manafort but we have evidence of Putin`s actions with respect to other people who could incriminate him and his actions around the world.  And that is what we at least think, you know, Manafort could possibly provide. 

And so, when you put those things together, it would make sense that`s something he is afraid of.  And that goes to Ron`s point about if Trump then pardoned him knowing that, or, you know, knowing what Manafort could provide, knowing that he`s not cooperating, you know, because of fears of retaliation by the Russians, you know, it`s just a really dirty, bad, ugly situation.  You can call it a constitutional crisis, but it`s just -- it stinks on so many levels, you know, beyond the Constitution.  It`s just something we don`t want in this country.  We want to find out the truth, and that feels like that is what is being prevented. 

O`DONNELL:  Well, Donald Trump`s disapproval rating at gallop is an all- time high of 65 percent tonight.  Manafort`s pardon might find a new high for that number somewhere down the road. 

Harry Litman, Ron Klain, Mimi Rocah, thank you all for being with us tonight.  Appreciates it.

And up next, Congressman Eric Swalwell will join us with his reaction to this breaking news tonight in the Manafort case. 

And later, Donald Trump as I said has hit his highest disapproval number in the Gallup poll, and he is now lying about using tear gas yesterday on children at the southern border. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL:  With tonight`s breaking news that Paul Manafort`s cooperation with special prosecutor Mueller has collapsed, 68-year-old Paul Manafort is now facing the possibility of being sentenced for decades in prison for the crimes he pleaded guilty to in federal court in Washington, D.C. and the crimes he was found guilty of by a jury in federal court in Virginia last year. 

Joining us now is Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell of California.  He`s a member of the House Intelligence Committee and the Judiciary Committee. 

Congressman Swalwell, thank you very much for joining us tonight on this breaking news.

REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA), HOUSE INTELLIGENCE AND JUDICIARY COMMITTEES:  Of course.  Good evening, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL:  And what will be the Democrats` reaction in the House of Representatives if the president pardons Paul Manafort? 

SWALWELL:  Well, again, I think it would be to understand whether there was any agreement between the president and Manafort that amounts to obstruction of justice.  Of course, the pardon power is pretty unlimited, you know, but if you`re using it to obstruct justice, that doesn`t inoculate you from, you know, being brought up on charges for that.  I think there`s two things at play here, Lawrence. 

There`s the fact that Corsi and Manafort are both going cold at about the same time frame, and also this is happening at about the same time that the president justice that doesn`t inoculate you from being brought up on charges for that.  I think there`s two things at play here, Lawrence.  There`s the fact that Corsi and Manafort are both going cold at about the same time frame, and also this is happening at about the same time that the president just turned in his answers to special counsel. 

And so, I also wonder whether the president and his team have dangled a pardon fearful that Paul Manafort may contradict some of the answers that the president has given. 

O`DONNELL:  You mention Jerome Corsi who`s publicly been saying that he`s been in talks about a possible plea with Robert Mueller, and now he`s saying he won`t plea with Robert Mueller on possible perjury charges.  And that -- the point you raise is fascinating, is the coincidence in time here with the president having given his written answers to the special prosecutor and now, suddenly, Paul Manafort`s backing off. 

Underline that possible linkage for us. 

SWALWELL:  Well, we know that there are a number of lines of inquiry that special counsel had for the president including the president and his team`s ties and contacts with Russia.  So, we don`t know what the president said.  If he wanted to be forthcoming, he would release those answers for us.  But if he wanted to make sure that witnesses who were cooperating did not contradict him or put the president in a position where he gave a false statement, he could dangle a pardon. 

And we know, Lawrence, back in March 2018 of this year, "The New York Times" reported that John Dowd was putting out the idea of a pardon to Flynn and Manafort.  So, it`s been discussed before.  The question is whether it`s been revisited. 

The president could put all of this to bed and take it off the table if he would just come out tomorrow and say under no circumstances is he going to pardon Paul Manafort. 

O`DONNELL:  And Paul Manafort loses his Fifth Amendment protections once he`s pardoned, if he is pardoned.  You presumably could subpoena him to testify to Congress with no Fifth Amendment protections at all. 

SWALWELL:  That`s right.  You don`t have a Fifth Amendment protection once you`ve been cleared and so once other jeopardy or pardon is issued.  And so he could be brought before Congress.  We sought to bring him before Congress in the investigation that the Republicans shutdown and refused to bring forth. 

One other point, Lawrence, is that the president and his team have tried to use lying, obstructing and tampering as both a shield and a sword.  As a shield to protect the president and Bob Mueller from getting too close to the truth but also a sword as it delays the process by lying, tampering and obstructing.  The president uses those delays to try to undermine the Mueller investigation, and here we`re seeing again the president is trying to benefit from his own team obstructing and not cooperating fully with the Mueller investigation, which will inevitably take longer. 

O`DONNELL:  Well, we`ve seen another extraordinary Trump moment following Russia`s new interference in Ukraine, a new level of this with this interference on the scenes of Ukraine, ramming ships, all the confrontation really ticking up, and basically no response from the president of the United States at all. 

SWALWELL:  No response, but a bizarre response from Secretary of State Pompeo.  He issued a line condemning it but also the very last line of his statement says the United States does not recognize the attempted annexation of Crimea. 

Attempted annexation of Crimea, Lawrence?  News flash, they annexed Crimea.  The president of the United States has done nothing to make them pay a price for that, and now it seems like they`re in denial that it occurred and that they`re trying to rewrite history.  So, again, a real president would show leadership and refuse to meet with Putin or directly confront him at the G20 this weekend. 

If past is prologue, we should not expect the president to do that. 

O`DONNELL:  And, Congressman, let me get reaction to something that happened on the southern border of your state yesterday, down in Tijuana.  The United States firing tear gas across the border into Mexico.  It`s the first known case of this occurring, and this was tear gassing as we`ve seen children -- tear gassing mothers with their children. 

And this is something we`ve never seen before on the southern border. 

SWALWELL:  This is behavior, Lawrence, of countries that we typically would condemn, sending tear gas into crowds with women and small babies.  One of the images you see a little girl who`s not only unarmed, she`s un-shoed and she`s having tear gas fired at her. 

This is completely avoidable and almost a crisis of the president`s making.  Lawrence, if I was president, I would convene leaders in Mexico, Central America and South America and try and come together to find solutions on this, because it doesn`t matter how high of a wall you build, there`s still poverty and violence in those countries and only American leadership can solve it.  We need that right now. 

O`DONNELL:  Congressman Eric Swalwell, thank you very much for joining us tonight. 

SWALWELL:  Thank you, Lawrence.  My pleasure.

O`DONNELL:  And when we come back, Donald Trump is now lying about using tear gas on those children at the southern border. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL:  No one in the Trump administration is willing to admit that he or she gave the order to fire tear gas across the southern border into Mexico yesterday, something the United States has never done before.  Mexico is demanding on investigation of this violation of their sovereignty. 

The secretary of homeland security issued a written statement about the situation in which she did not even dare to mention tear gas.  That was also true of the commissioner of Customs and Border Protection who also would not dare mention tear gas in his statement about what happened. 

But, finally, tonight, the first and only member of the Trump administration to mention the use of tear gas at the southern border said this. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Why is a parent running up into an area where they know that tear gas is forming and it`s going to be formed and they`re running up with a child? 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL:  The president is, of course, lying.  As this photograph shows, that is Maria Lila Mesa Castro (ph) and her two twin daughters running away from the tear gas, which they had no idea was coming because the United States has never fired tear gas into Mexico before. 

That tear gas canister is in Mexico.  Those people are in Mexico. That child`s bare feet are in Mexico running away from Donald Trump`s tear gas. 

Today`s Gallup poll shows President Trump`s disproval is at an all-time high of 60%.  That poll comes after weeks of President Trump trying to demonize families like the Castros who we just saw headed towards our southern border. 

Tonight, we know that the President thinks that using tear gas on children looks bad.  There is no reason to assume that Donald Trump actually believes that it is bad to use tear gas on children, but he obviously believes that most people think using tear gas on children is bad. 

And so the President decided to do what he always does in a situation like this.  He simply lied about it. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Is it okay to use tear gas on children? 

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  We didn`t.  We don`t use it. 

(END VIDEO CLIP) 

O`DONNELL  Of course, they did.  President Donald Trump is of course lying which comes as no surprise.  He has been labeled a pathological liar in "New York Times," and "The Washington Post" and now he`s a pathological liar who uses tear gas on children. 

Joining us now Maria Teresa Kumar, the President and CEO of Voto Latino and an MSNBC contributor, and Ron Klain is back with us.  Maria Teresa, your reaction to the President`s realization that most people think that it is atrocious, unthinkable to use tear gas on children.  And we know that the President knows that because he`s denying that he did it. 

MARIA TERESA KUMAR, THE PRESIDENT AND CEO OF VOTO LATINO:  Right.  Well, you saw the poll numbers this morning, you probably saw something that even Fox News was in agreement and all of a sudden he decided to pivot.  But let`s be clear what the President did yesterday at the southern border basically throwing tear gas at families seeking asylum is his way of finding a loophole after a Federal judge last week said that anybody who crosses the border has a right to seek asylum by international law, by American law. 

So the President decided to close the border to ensure that these families seeking asylum did not take a step forward on our ground.  It really takes a moment for us as Americans to really try to reconcile what we`re witnessing because we are the moral authority when it comes to refugees and asylum. 

And that picture that is now circulating around the world all of a sudden jeopardizes not just ethnic minorities in this country, people seeking asylum here but it sends messages to authoritarian regimes that their ethnic minorities are vulnerable and up for option, and that is incredibly frightening, Lawrence. 

O`DONNELL:  Ron Klain, there is a simple question to which perhaps only the Democrats in Congress next year can find the answer, and that is who gave the order.  The Secretary of Homeland Security refuses to even mention the use of tear gas and no one down the line in the Trump administration will even mention the use of tear gas. 

RON KLAIN, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF TO VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN:  Lawrence, that`s right and it is an important question.  But in some ways it`s buried inside the bigger question, which is no matter who gave the order Donald Trump created the crisis in which the order was given. 

As Maria Teresa said, he is disobeying the law by denying these people.  Let`s keep in mind, these people are not coming here unlawfully.  They`re coming here lawfully to seek asylum under US law in a way that both our laws and now a court has said, is completely lawful. 

The person acting unlawfully here is the President and his administration who are trying to prevent people from exercising their legal rights.  Donald Trump likes to talk all the time about law and order and obeying the law and so on and so forth.  Well, he is breaking the law here.  And whether it is keeping minors detained unlawfully away from their parents or firing tear gas at them or whatever, it matters a little less to me, Lawrence, who actually pushed the final button on firing that tear gas and more that Donald Trump has setup the situation where our government is acting lawlessly towards innocent people who are trying to exercise their rights.  I think it`s somewhat reassuring, frankly that the American people are rejecting this. 

They`re saying they don`t like it, they can`t tolerate it.  And Donald Trump has to be held to account for it. 

O`DONNELL:  And Maria Teresa, the Castros, the family, and I`d like to get that picture back up if we can, what was running away from the tear gas.  They walked there from Honduras.  This is a family that has been walking all the way up from Honduras and by the time they get here, the little girl on the left side of that photograph has no shoes, whether she had shoes when she started, we don`t know. 

But this is family that represents absolutely no threat to the United States of America.  This is family that does not need to have tear gas fired on it, and it`s also a family that has every legal right to approach our border at any point on our border and ask for entry via asylum or any other request of entry that they want to make. 

KUMAR:  That is exactly right, Lawrence.  And I want to put mothers and fathers watching your show tonight in a position of a parent who has to uproot their lives completely to save their child.  That is the desperation that people fleeing Honduras specifically are facing.  They have two options.  One to stay there and have their child either thrown into prostitution or basically become a gang member or possibly killed or come north to the land of freedom that was built by the love and sacrifice and aspiration of refugees and immigrants. 

Let us not forget we are the wealthiest nation in this country, we are the ones that built that American identity is built on sacrifice of those refugees and those immigrants.  That is who we are and right, now we are shutting the door not only against that child and that mother but also against who we are fundamentally as Americans. 

O`DONNELL:  And Ron Klain, we know that the President approves of everything that we saw happen on the southern border yesterday.  Every unprecedented action taken by the American enforcement on the American side of that border because this is exactly what he said he wants to see happen. 

KLAIN:  Yes, and look, he`s in Mississippi tonight bragging about the various immigration actions he`s taken, trying to drag a candidate with a horrible record across the line in the Mississippi senate runoff.  He thinks this is good politics for him.  And he thinks this rallies his base. 

And most importantly, he thinks it distracts us from how he`s failing his job as President.  You know, today 15,000 Americans lost their jobs because of Donald Trump`s failed trade policies and GM is shutting down major plants in the heartland of the country.  That`s political death for Donald Trump.  And so he`d rather talk about anything but that, and so he wants to, you know, tell us that this caravan is still coming and we should be scared and nervous about that instead of talking about how his policies are failing Americans and failing to create the kind of jobs he promised he`d create. 

O`DONNELL:  Ron Klain and Maria Teresa Kumar, thank you both for joining us tonight.  And when we come back, tomorrow is Election Day in Mississippi anyway in a run-off for a senate seat that is now a close race because the Republican candidate has spoken approvingly of lynching, and of course that`s the candidate Donald Trump is campaigning for tonight in Mississippi.  That`s next. 

Tomorrow is Election Day once again in Mississippi.  Former Democratic Congressman Mike Espy is in a runoff election for a Senate seat with Republican Cindy Hyde-Smith who has been struggling in her campaign since she`s been caught speaking approvingly about lynching. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) 

CINDY HYDE-SMITH, US SENATOR, MISSISSIPPI, REPUBLICAN:  If he invited me to a public hanging, I`d be on the front row. 

(END VIDEO CLIP) 

O`DONNELL:  She later apologized, quote, "For anyone that was offended by my comments."  "The New York Times" reported that the race was within five points, according to an internal Republican poll before Thanksgiving.  Joining us now is LaTosha Brown, co-founder of Black Voters Matter, and Kimberly Atkins, Washington bureau chief for "The Boston Herald" and MSNBC contributor.  And LaTosha, you`ve been down there in Mississippi. What is your read on where the race stands now? 

LATOSHA BROWN, CO-FOUNDER OF BLACK VOTERS MATTER:  You know, I think it`s a competitive race.  I think, we in the last couple of weeks, I think there`s been a shift at three major elements that are very similar to what we saw in Alabama.  I think the first is now we see a deeply damaged Republican candidate.  I think the second piece is that there`s an ignited base.

We`ve been seeing black voters and progressive voters are very, very disturbed by these comments and have been ignited.  I think, the third thing is we`re looking at what I call the economics of image that Mississippi in recent years has done, has really tried to rebrand itself, having the gaming industry and even being considered as a site for a baseball team. 

Really the economics of trying to move away from that past, I think that that`s an element at play right now.  So I think because of those three things, this election could possibly, we could see something very, very different in Mississippi this year. 

O`DONNELL:  Let`s listen to what Mike Espy said today about his Republican opponent`s comments about lynching. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) 

MIKE ESPY, SENATE CANDIDATE, MISSISSIPPI:  They were very disappointing.  They were harmful and hurtful.  They were -- they were hurtful to the people of Mississippi of good will, who just can hear what that means and they can sense that it`s a throwback to an bygone era that we`re not going back to. 

(END VIDEO CLIP) 

O`DONNELL:  Kimberley Atkins, this was not apparent as far as I could tell the fight that Mike Espy wanted.  He was running a unifying campaign, but this was something that he couldn`t avoid. 

KIMBERLY ATKINS, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, "THE BOSTON HERALD:  I think that`s absolutely right.  I mean, this comment really just threw a wrench into this entire campaign and really gave light to the fact that this is candidate who apparently did not have a lot of vetting before this, before being appointed to this seat and going into this election, and so a lot came out about her past, and has sort of taken over the entire campaign. 

And I think there is something to be said about the voters in Mississippi being very concerned about the image that this is projecting about that state broadly.  But I think at the same time, you also have Republicans who are very laser focused on issues like the Supreme Court, like backing up conservative legislation. 

And so I think it`s still, it`s a very close race.  We don`t know how it`s going to end, but I think that it is still going to be very steep for Mike Espy to get the 25% to 30% of white voters he would need to clear the hurdle and get to victory tomorrow.  It`s two very competing interests battling it out. 

O`DONNELL:  And we do finally know how that Utah House race will end because it has ended.  Mia Love finally conceded today.  Democrat Ben McAdams has won that Utah seat and Republican Mia Love had this to say about Donald Trump today in her concession remarks. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) 

MIA LOVE, FORMER US SENATOR, UTAH, REPUBLICAN:  The President`s behavior towards me made me wonder what did he have to gain by saying such a thing about a fellow Republican?  It was not really about asking him to do more, was it?  Or was it something else? 

Well, Mr. President, we`ll have to chat about that.  However, this gave me a clear vision of his world as it is, no real relationships, just convenient transactions. 

(END VIDEO CLIP) 

O`DONNELL:  LaTosha Brown, the one African-American Republican in Congress, Donald Trump attacked her and attacked her repeatedly and now there`s a Democrat in that seat. 

LaTosha, I don`t know if you could hear me about Mia Love`s concession speech today, but she was responding directly to things that Donald Trump had said about her.  Let`s go to Kimberly.  Kimberly, I don`t know if you can hear me.  Maybe we`ve lost sound everywhere. 

ATKINS:  I hear you. 

O`DONNELL:  I just want to get reaction to what Mia Love had to say today. 

ATKINS:  Yes, I mean, I think it`s really interesting if it took until now and these comments that the President said to have Congresswoman Love realize the transactional nature of Donald Trump`s support.  If it`s not something in it for him or his party or if he is going to be blamed for something, he will throw someone under the bus in a minute. 

I thought it was also interesting the comments that she made about race in this issue and being a woman and also that she is not going away, and that she says she`s going to continue to be a voice whether or not she runs for the seat again in two years or not. 

So she could be -- add to the number of Republicans who have turned against Trump and who are critical of him in these last two years of his first term. 

O`DONNELL:  And she could have been an invaluable asset to Donald Trump as the only African-American Republican in Congress. 

ATKINS;  Well, she could have.  But in the two years that Donald Trump has been in office, it`s pretty clear that he has not shown a great interest in reaching out to black voters, even black Republicans in trying to be a big tent party type of leader.  Even today in his comments in Mississippi, he again rolled out that old, you know, what do you have to lose line when it came to appealing to black voters. 

So I`m not sure he saw the value in that.  He more saw a potential liability in a Republican losing in a red state, and he wanted to absolve himself of responsibility for that. 

O`DONNELL:  Kimberly Atkins, thank you very much for joining us tonight. And LaTosha, Brown, I`m sorry we lost our connection to you.  Thank you very much.  And when we come back, we`re going to have more about what we see in this photograph that went viral yesterday. 

This is the photograph that most Americans woke up to this morning on the front page of their newspapers.  It went viral on line yesterday and was captioned by the governor-elect of California Gavin Newsom on Twitter this way.  Quote, "These children are barefoot, in diapers, choking on tear gas.  Nothing can make a person, especially a child, less threatening to us than being barefoot." 

In a country where everyone has shoes and most of us have more shoes than we need, nothing conveys vulnerability than being barefoot -- a barefoot child.  That`s why it`s the first thing that Gavin Newsom noted about that photograph.  But there are hundreds of millions of people in the world who are barefoot every day who don`t own shoes. 

Her name is Awanenje.  She`s in sixth grade at a school in Malawi where most of the kids don`t have shoes.  When you spend time in a country with millions of people who don`t own shoes as I did last week in Malawi, you don`t see vulnerability, you see something different.  You see strength. 

Rainy season hit Malawi on Friday, but that didn`t stop this woman from doing what she does every day, carrying 10 feet of firewood on her head for five miles.  Barefoot.  You see women like her every day in Malawi, and they are the personification of strength and determination and grace. 

The rain didn`t slow these kids down on Friday in Malawi, they`re not worried about not having shoes.  I`ve seen kids like them who have shoes actually take their shoes off on the soccer field because they can run faster.  They prefer actually playing barefoot. 

In most of the schools I visit, most of the kids don`t have shoes.  Here`s how one classroom in a primary school began their day on Thanksgiving Day last week, sitting on the floor.  And here`s that same classroom an hour later after we delivered desks that you have provided to these kids through your contributions to the KIND Fund, Kids In Need of Desks. 

Like most primary schools` I`ve seen in Malawi, this one is very overcrowded and doesn`t have enough classrooms for all the students, so some classes take place outdoors.  This boy has the best seat in his outdoor classroom, and when I asked him how it feels not to have shoes like most kids in Malawi, he didn`t really know what I was asking about.  It seems, he doesn`t even think about shoes.  What he does want to do is sit at one of those new desks that he saw that arrived at his school on Thursday, and he will get to do that when he moves into one of the indoor classrooms next year. 

You can continue to help us produce desks at factories in Malawi with workers in Malawi and deliver them to schools where kids have never seen desks by contributing at lastworddesks.msnbc.com. 

You can also choose to help provide scholarships for girls to attend high school in Malawi where public high school is not free.  Any amount you can contribute will help.  Giving Tuesday is tomorrow.  That`s the day where instead of shopping for Christmas gifts, we pause to consider giving to a good cause.  MSNBC is the signature media partners of Giving Tuesday for the fifth year in a row and I hope that you will consider giving desks and girl scholarships tomorrow. 

You can actually make your gift in the name of anyone on your gift list, and UNICEF will send them an acknowledgment of your gift.  So for the people on your gift list who have enough shoes, or enough neckties or scarves, please consider giving them a desk or a scholarship tomorrow on Giving Tuesday. 

Tonight`s "Last Word" is next. 

Time for tonight`s "Last Word" on what is still election night in America.  Votes are still being counted in California and that will tell us whether the Democrats will have a net gain of 40 seats in the House or 39.  Mia Love`s concession in Utah today brought the Democratic wins to a net 39, and now, in the 21st congressional district in California with Republican incumbent David Valadao, the latest count shows the Democrat TJ Cox with a lead of 438 votes.  And so this one is still being counted.  The next batch of counted votes could come tomorrow.  This could be the 40th net gain House win for the Democrats if it goes their way. 

That is tonight`s "Last Word."  "The 11th Hour with Brian Williams" starts now. 

 

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