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Interview with John Hickenlooper. TRANSCRIPT: 3/6/19, The Last Word w/ Lawrence O'Donnell.

Guests: John Hickenlooper

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST:  Good evening, Rachel. 

You threw me there.  I thought I was being introduced when I heard you say he`s old -- once you said he`s in jail, I went, oh, OK, it`s someone else. 

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST:  I know nothing about your gout status and I don`t think you`re that old. 

O`DONNELL:  I am as of this point goutless, and --

MADDOW:  God bless you. 

O`DONNELL:  And not in prison.  And so, that`s a happy day, right? 

MADDOW:  Not miserable.  Not lonely. 

O`DONNELL:  Right. 

MADDOW:  And I don`t even want to talk about the altar boy thing.  It`s weird. 

O`DONNELL:  Well, I was an altar boy.

MADDOW:  We`ll see.

O`DONNELL:  And we are going to talk about it, Rachel.


O`DONNELL:  We are going to talk about it.

And completely -- I just want on the record, completely happy and positive experience.  You have to say that now if you say you used to be an alter boy.  You just have to. 

MADDOW:  I was -- growing up as a Catholic kid in California, I was so mad that I couldn`t be an altar boy.  It wasn`t like a gender justice thing.  It`s just the altar boys got to handle the wine.  I thought I was going to be potential good bartender material.  These kids 7 years old and handling the wine.  I was like --

O`DONNELL:  Rachel, given that the statute of limitations has passed, I can tell you, I can confess to you that I saw altar boys mishandle the wine once or twice.  It happened. 

MADDOW:  Save that for our weekend show -- 


MADDOW:  -- when we can swear. 

O`DONNELL:  We`re going to save that one. 

MADDOW:  Thank you.

O`DONNELL:  Thank you, Rachel. 

Well, Governor John Hickenlooper in his first MSNBC interview since announcing his candidacy for president on Monday.  He is going to join us. 

And we have the experts we need when it`s an important Michael Cohen day. 

Joining us in our first panel of guests tonight, and there is so much to report on that.  We learned new things.  That`s what one member of the House Intelligence Committee said today after Michael Cohen`s second closed session in a week testifying to that committee.  The member of the committee -- that member of the committee also said that Michael Cohen brought new documents to the committee today. 

The chairman of the committee, Adam Schiff, said it was a, quote, enormously productive session.  One of the things the House investigative committees are trying to learn is whether pump or his lawyers tried to use the possibility of a presidential pardon to prevent Michael Cohen and others from testifying against Donald Trump. 

In a breaking news report tonight, "The New York Times" is reporting that the president`s TV lawyer Rudy Giuliani says that lawyers for several people approached him about the possibility of presidential pardons.  "The Times" reports Mr. Giuliani who has been representing Mr. Trump since last spring says he always insisted to defense lawyers that Mr. Trump would not consider granting pardons until the investigations were long over.  I always gave one answer and they always left disappointed, Mr. Giuliani said. 

"The Times" notes tonight that President Trump`s first legal team, headed by Washington lawyer John Dowd, quote, had discussions with lawyers for Paul Manafort and Michael T. Flynn in 2017 about pardons. 

ABC News is reporting that in the weeks following the raid on Michael Cohen`s home, office and hotel room last year, Michael Cohen was, quote, contacted by two New York attorneys who claimed to be in close contact with Rudy Giuliani.  Sources described the lawyers` contact with Cohen as an effort to keep him in the tent. 

NBC News has confirmed that according to a source familiar with the matter, Michael Cohen provided the Intelligence Committee today with new documents showing edits to the written statement that he delivered to Congress in 2017 about a project to build a Moscow Trump Tower. 

Here`s what Michael Cohen said about those edits in last week`s public hearing. 


MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER TRUMP LAWYER:  Mr. Trump`s personal lawyers reviewed and edited my statement to Congress about the timing of the Moscow Tower negotiations before I gave it. 

So, to be clear, Mr. Trump knew of and directed the Trump Moscow negotiations throughout the campaign and lied about it.  He lied about it because he never expected to win.  He also lied about it because he stood to make hundreds of millions of dollars on the Moscow real estate project. 

And so I lied about it, too.  Because Mr. Trump had made clear to me through his personal statements to me that we both knew to be false, and through his lies to the country that he wanted me to lie.  And he made it clear to me because his personal attorneys reviewed my statement before I gave it to Congress. 


O`DONNELL:  Michael Cohen has pleaded guilty to lying to Congress in that written statement that he now says was edited by Donald Trump`s lawyers.  Trump attorney Jay Sekulow denied the allegation by Michael Cohen that Trump lawyers suborned the perjury to Congress that Michael Cohen has now confessed to and pleaded guilty to. 

Here`s what Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff said about Michael Cohen`s new testimony today. 


REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), CHAIR, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE:  He answered every question that was put to him by members of both parties.  He was fully cooperative with the committee.  We had requested documents of Mr. Cohen. 

He has provided additional documents to the committee.  There may be additional documents that he still has to offer and his cooperation with our committee continues.  So I think the members found it an enormously productive session. 


O`DONNELL:  Some of the additional documents that Michael Cohen submitted to the committee today no doubt include copies of checks to Michael Cohen that were published in "The New York Times" today.  In last week`s hearing, Michael Cohen revealed some checks that he said were part of Donald Trump`s reimbursement to him for the $130,000 that Michael Cohen illegally paid to Stormy Daniels during the presidential campaign, a crime that Michael Cohen says he committed at the direction of then presidential candidate Donald Trump. 

We now have eight of the checks that were part of that reimbursement scheme.  The first two of these checks are from the Donald Trump trust account, an account that was established when Donald Trump became president and a trust was established by the Trump company that was supposed to isolate the Trump business from Donald Trump himself during the presidency.  Those first two checks from the trust are signed by the company`s chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, and Donald Trump Jr.  The next check in the sequence should be an April check, which we have not yet seen, and the check after that is a May 23rd check that is the first one in the sequence that comes from a different checking account.  It appears to be a personal checking account of Donald J. Trump and it is signed by Donald Trump. 

Why the change in checks?  Why the different checks from a different checking account suddenly on May 23rd, 2017?  Why did the Trump business decide they no longer should be involved in the payments to Michael Cohen? 

Robert Mueller was appointed special prosecutor on May 17th, 2017.  And it is the very next check after that, six days later.  The May 23rd check that suddenly comes from a different checking account and is signed by Donald Trump personally.  And all of the checks reimbursing Michael Cohen for the rest of the year come from that different checking account now that Donald Trump and everyone at the Trump business knows that there is a special prosecutor investing -- investigating Donald Trump and the Trump Organization. 

And all of the rest of those payoff checks to Michael Cohen come from that Donald Trump checking account with only one signature on those checks, only the signature of Donald Trump.  Was Allen Weisselberg no longer willing to sign those checks?  Why did Allen Weisselberg stop signing those reimbursement checks to Michael Cohen after Robert Mueller was appointed special prosecutor? 

Surely someone in the House Intelligence Committee today behind closed doors asked Michael Cohen that question.  Here`s what Michael Cohen had to say after that closed-door hearing today. 


COHEN:  The hearings went very, very well.  I believe that all of the members were satisfied with the statements and the responses that I gave to them.  I told them that any additional information that they would want, they should feel comfortable to reach out to my counsel and I would continue to cooperate to the fullest extent of my capabilities. 


O`DONNELL:  Joining us now, friend of Michael Cohen, Donny Deutsch, MSNBC contributor.  He texted with Michael Cohen before, during and after his congressional testimony today.  So he has the latest for us. 

And Tim O`Brien, executive editor of Bloomberg Opinion and an MSNBC contributor.  He`s been reporting on Donald Trump literally for decades.  He wrote a book about Donald Trump that got him sued by Donald Trump and Tim O`Brien won that lawsuit. 

Donny, the checks.  Seeing this change where you have -- you go from the two signatures of Allen Weisselberg and Donald Trump Jr.  And suddenly no one`s willing to sign these checks anymore after a special prosecutor`s announced and we see one signature on the checks, Donald Trump. 

DONNY DEUTSCH, FRIEND OF MICHAEL COHEN:  Yes.  I think you lay it out perfectly.  And I think what`s interesting is that Weisselberg, and we talked last time Tim and I were on, about how he`s going to be such a key figure.  He was the guy doing everything.  So, it`s fascinating that all of a sudden, Trump is signing his own checks. 

And one other thing about Trump and checks, Trump does not like to pay money.  People know who work for Trump in New York over the years. 


DEUTSCH:  Very hard to collect for anything. 

Here now all of a sudden Donald Trump amidst his daily presidential routines is writing retainer checks to a guy who he says barely even when he was working for him was his lawyer.  Now he hasn`t worked for him technically in months just doing some advice and, all of a sudden, urgently writing him checks on a very, very timely basis.  Very un-Trump-like. 

O`DONNELL:  And, Tim, the -- there hasn`t really been a defense offered for these checks, but what they`ve -- what they`ve tried to sort of pump out there through some of the Republican members of the committee who are publicly asking questions is that there was a retainer agreement for this lawyer.  Michael Cohen is indeed a lawyer. 

But you have all these public statements from Donald Trump himself saying that, oh, Michael Cohen didn`t do anything for me.  He was just this guy I let hang around.  He didn`t really do anything.  As usual, on the record, we have Trump statements that contradict a sort of Trump theory of defense. 

But the other issue is if you`re a lawyer in a retainer agreement, those things are written.  I`ve seen retainer agreements for lawyers.  They`re pretty simple. 


O`DONNELL:  There`s got to be a retainer agreement that you produce or there isn`t.  And if Allen Weisselberg can`t produce that retainer agreement, I don`t know how he justifies signing these checks. 

O`BRIEN:  Well, then we`d be shocked again to discover that members of the Trump trio are lying about what`s occurred here.  You know, it`s interesting that that irrevocable trust is in play right here, because they set that up after Trump became president, and it was essentially this fig leaf that was established to give the appearance that the Trump family was insulating the Trump family businesses from the White House because the president came into the White House as the most financially conflicted president of the modern era. 

Every president prior to him had released their tax returns.  If they had business holdings, they either put them into an authentically blind trust or sold them.  Trump didn`t do any of the above.  That irrevocable trust is run by Allen Weisselberg, the CFO, and his two eldest sons.  The fact that the checks were cut of the of the trust presumes that the boys and Allen knew what the money was being spent on so they are now part of a possible criminal conspiracy involving the payment of hush money and campaign finance law violations. 

I imagine at some point, it dawned on them.  This is actually not a particularly bright group of people.  Probably apparently after the second or third check, they thought, uh-oh, we`ve been pulled into this and they tell the president it has to come from elsewhere.  Trump says, OK, I`ll use my personal checking account. 

Now, he`s also said that he wasn`t really sure where any of these funds were going or what they were being used for.  It reminded me in the mid- 1980s, "Spy" magazine did this great spoof where they mailed checks.  Fifty people, including Donald Trump cashed it.  Then for 5 bucks, four people and Donald Trump.  And then for 50 cents, I think Trump was the only one to cash final check. 

This is a guy who knows where every dollar is going. 

O`DONNELL:  Donny, one thing Lindsey Graham said in his, you know, defense of Donald Trump here is, oh, you know, people don`t commit crimes with checks.  What Lindsey Graham is suggesting in that is that Donald Trump as president of the United States could somehow get $35,000 over the course of the year, hundreds of thousands of dollars out of a bank somehow in cash and deliver these massive piles of cash to Michael Cohen with all of those cash transactions being illegal. 


O`DONNELL:  All of them. 

Like, so, you know, Lindsey Graham`s defense is, why didn`t he commit the crime in an even bulkier way that would create even more problems for him?

  DEUTSCH:  We`re not going to find logic in Lindsey Graham.  That would be a four-hour special. 

But I want to go back to Weisselberg that`s interesting.  I want to draw a line to Bernie Madoff.  Not that Trump is running a Ponzi scheme. 

But Bernie Madoff had a $50 billion fund and one accountant in a little strip mall, because when you are doing nefarious stuff, you can`t have a lot of people involved.  So, what`s going to be sad and tragic as we unpeel this --

O`BRIEN:  And funny --

DEUTSCH:  Well, sad. 

O`DONNELL:  The audience will decide. 

DEUTSCH:  OK.  It will certainly be interesting.  You`re going to see everything just went through this little green visor guy where this huge -- supposedly huge corporation, there is no finance department.  There is no controllers.  There`s no budget directors. 

When you are running either a Ponzi scheme or a dishonest criminal organization, it`s got to be very, very isolated.  This was very isolated and you`re starting to see it here. 

O`DONNELL:  Let me get you, Donny, to the pardons, because you would know more about this than anyone who can talk to us.  These stories that we`re getting tonight saying that people -- lawyers saying we`re close to Rudy Giuliani are approaching Michael Cohen shortly after the raid and they`re talking to him about possibilities -- staying in the tent, this kind of code language. 

What do we know about that? 

DEUTSCH:  Well, I`m not at liberty to talk about that, but I will talk about Trump as an autocrat.  If you`re an autocrat and you also operate above the law, what is the most autocratic tool a president has?  It`s a pardon. 


DEUTSCH:  So, you don`t think -- you more than anybody understanding Donald Trump, understanding his constant need to and ability to knock down obstacles, that in some way, shape or form, in Mafioso way, not a direct way, that there wouldn`t overtures out there.  It wasn`t make sense if they weren`t. 

So, I`m not at liberty to talk about whether pardons were offered or not offered.  I do know, though, that common sense tells you that if you`re Donald Trump and you know that Michael Cohen knows where all the bodies were buried, at some point, he would have at least wanted to keep him under the tent until it was no longer an option. 

O`DONNELL:  One more thing about the testimony behind closed doors by Michael Cohen.  Do you know in if the closed-door testimony Michael Cohen is in effect allowed by the Southern District prosecutors and by Robert Mueller to say more --


O`DONNELL:  -- than in the public testimony? 

DEUTSCH:  No, he is really bound in terms of these things.  Look, he`s being very careful.  That`s why I find it laughable when people were suggesting that he was lying the other day when they were editing this thing. 

Yes, this guy if he tells the truth gets nothing.  If he lies, he gets more jail time.  He`s going in the front of the entire world, oh, this is a good one.  The lawyers edited my statement.  Yes, I think I`m just going to say that on my own and it`s not going to be truthful.

So, it`s preposterous to think that`s a lie.  Michael is being very careful when it comes to any investigation.  The Southern District, Mueller, or anything that`s going on.  Closed doors or open doors, his line is there are certain places you can`t go. 

O`DONNELL:  And, Tim, Allen Weisselberg, it just keeps coming down to Allen Weisselberg.  He`s going to be asked some point probably publicly in these hearings, was there a retainer agreement?  Can you show us the retainer agreement, a piece of paper?  Or he`s just going to say, no, there wasn`t, Michael Cohen is telling the truth, this is our reimbursement method for him? 

I mean, he doesn`t have a lot of range of possibility here. 

O`BRIEN:  Well, that`s probably the least of his worries in the terms of questions he`s going to get because he`s been there for decades.  They`re going to ask him about Trump`s tax returns.  They`re going to ask him about possible money laundering.  They`re going to ask him about whether or not they committed insurance fraud. 

Which is why I suspect before Allen Weisselberg even lands in Congress, he`s going to get an immunity deal in order to sit there and talk because his knowledge is so vast and expansive that I don`t know how he could go in and not incriminate himself because he`s been tied to the hip with Trump for decades on this stuff. 

O`DONNELL:  You know, if there were important heavier crimes involved in all of this, the first thing any accountant would point to in this switch of checks is a business is paying a business expense to Michael Cohen and deducting it --

DEUTSCH:  Right. 

O`DONNELL:  -- from their taxes and that business suddenly decides it`s not a business expense and it`s then paid by an individual --

O`BRIEN:  Out of his own account. 

O`DONNELL:  That means the business payments were illegal.  But that is the tiniest of the possible illegalities in this whole scheme. 

DEUTSCH:  As we talk -- this is all very tiny.  This is all scratching the surface, my friend. 

O`DONNELL:  Your point is there is a mountain, and Michael Cohen is now just playing around with the tip of the iceberg publicly. 

DEUTSCH:  We see how Trump flaunts the law publicly.  Imagine at the head of a private company what he was doing in the real estate business, which is so slippery to begin with.  Any type of fraud, cheating, whether it`d be insurance, whether it`d be bank, whether it`d be taxes, whether it`d be philanthropic, that`s what this guy does. 

O`DONNELL:  Donny Deutsch, the guide to the workings of Trump world and Tim O`Brien, who`s literally written the book about it.  Thank you very much for joining us. 

And when we come back, President Trump`s secretary of homeland security refused to call a cage a cage today.  Another Trump official insisted it`s not his job to worry about children being sexually abused in Trump administration custody at the border. 

And former Colorado governor John Hickenlooper is the presidential contender who will join us tonight in his first MSNBC interview since becoming an official presidential candidate. 

And at the end of the hour tonight, today the Trump administration announced that President Trump has completely failed to deliver on one of his most important campaign promises and has in fact done exactly the opposite than he promised voters he would do.  The Trump administration didn`t put it exactly that way in those words, but it is new powerful ammunition that Democrats like John Hickenlooper running for president can use against Donald Trump.


O`DONNELL:  President Trump`s secretary of homeland security established her credibility with Congress a year and a half ago when she said this. 


SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D), VERMONT:  Norway is a predominately white country, isn`t it? 

KIRSTJEN NIELSEN, DHS SECRETARY:  I -- I actually do not know that, sir. 


O`DONNELL:  So the secretary of homeland security with the Scandinavian last name does not know that all of the countries in Scandinavia are predominately white.  She`s not that stupid.  She just doesn`t think you have to tell the truth to Congress, and so no one should have been surprised today when she refused to call a cage a cage. 


REP. BENNIE THOMPSON (D-MI), CHAIRMAN, HOMELAND SECURITY COMMITTEE:  Just yes or no, are we still putting children in cages? 

NIELSEN:  To my knowledge, CBP never purposely put a child in a cage, if you mean a cage like this. 

THOMPSON:  Purposely or whatever, are we putting children in cages as of today? 

NIELSEN:  Children are processed at the border facility stations that you`ve been at, some of --

THOMPSON:  And I`ve seen the cages.  I just want you to admit that the cages exist. 

NIELSEN:  Sir, they`re not cages. 

REP. BONNIE WATSON COLEMAN (D), NEW JERSEY:  What is a chain link fence enclosed in a chamber on a concrete floor represent to you?  Is that a cage? 

NIELSEN:  It`s a detention space, ma`am. 

COLEMAN:  Does it differ from the cages you put your dogs in when you let them stay outside?  Is it different? 


COLEMAN:  In what sense? 

NIELSEN:  It`s larger.  It has facilities.  It provides room to sit, to stand, to lay down. 

COLEMAN:  So did my dog`s cage. 


O`DONNELL:  In that same hearing in the House Homeland Security Committee hearing, Congresswoman Nanette Barragan of California said this. 


REP. NANETTE BARRAGAN (D), CALIFORNIA:  You said that you waited to give direction on how to implement the zero tolerance policy because you wanted to do it with compassion.  Do you know how outrageous that sounds?  You wanted to separate children and families and you wanted to do it with compassion?  So, in the meantime, you didn`t do anything at all and you let kids be separated without tracking them.  Do you know how outrageous that is, Madam Secretary?  You have no feeling, no compassion, no empathy here. 


O`DONNELL:  In the Senate Judiciary Committee today, Senator Kamala Harris got one of the most inhumane not my job answers ever given in a Senate hearing.  The Trump official who disgraced himself in that hearing was Kevin McAleenan, commissioner of Customs and Border Protection. 


SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D), CALIFORNIA:  Last week, the Justice Department reported that the Office of Refugee Resettlement received 4,556 allegations of sexual abuse or harassment of immigrant children in their custody between October of 2014 and July of 2018.  One hundred and seventy-eight of these allegations were against staff, of shelters where the children were place. 

I understand that HHS personnel of course do not fall under your direct authority.  But your agency is nonetheless handing over these children to HHS.  Do you believe that you have any duty to raise a flag of concern that when you transfer these children to another agency that they may not be safe? 

KEVIN MCALEENAN, COMMISSIONER, CUSTOMS AND BORDER PROTECTION:  I believe that`s the duty of the management and leadership of Health and Human Services, their inspector general or the White House.  Not -- or Congress.  Not mine. 


O`DONNELL:  Not his job. 

Joining us now, Maria Teresa Kumar, the president and CEO of "Voto Latino" and MSNBC contributor.  And Jason Johnson, politics editor at and professor of politics and media at Morgan State University.  He`s also MSNBC political analyst.

And, Maria Teresa, I wanted to get your reaction to -- actually, you can pick whatever you just saw in what we introduced to react to any or all of it. 

MARIA TERESA KUMAR, PRESIDENT, "VOTO LATINO":  I think, Lawrence, the fact that she`s individuals are not being held accountable for what they are doing to these children is atrocious, but it also shows the consequences of elections.  The American people spoke in November and now you actually have oversight.  If you recall, about a year ago, we had -- six months ago, we had very similar conversations with Secretary Nielsen where she was rolling her eyes and didn`t seem to care. 

And now, this is where literally the rubber hits the road and she should care.  Just today, the Trump administration finally admitted there was over 471 group of parents that have been separated from their children that were deported without their children, without their consent, 471, Lawrence.  This is on our watch. 

We also know that the United Nations has declared that what we are doing, putting children in cages, is in direct violation of universal rights of children.  The fact that we have over 60 children that are still separated from their parents, not only is talking to, again, the disservice that this government is doing to these children, but more importantly, the trauma they are going to suffer as a result of it.  And that is based on tons of studies by the American Pediatric Society. 

And, finally, but not least, we are creating, exacerbating a problem that did not exist.  To remind a lot of the viewers, there was an actual program in Central America that allowed children to present themselves at U.S. embassies to be reunified with their families that was done under the Obama administration, and one of the first things that the Trump administration did when they basically created their budget in 2017 was zero that out. 

O`DONNELL:  Jason, you know, I saw the cages at the southern border when I was down there.  No one disputed it. The people working there, they didn`t dispute that these chain link containment -- compartments inside these buildings were cages.  They didn`t have a problem with that description of what was there.  They could tell you why it was set up that way and budget and all sorts of reasons, but they weren`t fighting you on what you were seeing with your own eyes.

JASON JOHNSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Yes.  It`s like calling a prison adult condos, right?  Like this is the kind of nonsense that we`re dealing with.  And Lawrence, what really offends me about this is, what is it about Republican administrations where we are dragged into these asinine, immoral conversations to justify behavior that anybody with common sense and two eyeballs knows is wrong?

Under the Bush administration, we had to argue what`s actually torture.  We know what torture is.  Torture is something that nobody wants to deal with.  We know waterboarding is torture.  But we literally have to have discussions about what is torture.

We now literally have the head of Homeland Security and members of this administration trying to get to us to debate as to what a cage is.  We all know what cages is, whether you have a dog or not.  So I`m very happy that we finally have Democrats who are doing their job in oversight.

But what I really want to see and what`s important is now that these people have been shamed, what can we do?  What can the voters do?  What will voters do this fall and in 2020 to get these people out of office?

Because I don`t want to be having these conversations in another two or three years when we`ve lost more children, when more children have been sexually abused, and when organizations like DHS and Border Security and ICE can completely hide what kind of damage they`ve done to these kids because they don`t have to give that information to the public.

O`DONNELL:  And Maria Teresa, in the Senate, we saw Kevin McAleenan, a name that should live in infamy, incapable of even expressing concern --

JOHNSON:  Right.

O`DONNELL:  -- for children sexually abused who were in his custody once he`s transferred them to another bureaucratic custody within the structure of the Trump administration.  As soon as they`re out of his control, he couldn`t even express concern about what happens to them after that.

KUMAR:  Well, I think the fact that you`re putting children in cages, that you have babies in cages, that you are OK with children being sexually abused because it`s not under "above his pay grade" demonstrates how desensitized this administration is to actually the fault of children based solely on their race.  And that is the only way that you can justify what is happening because it is a completely racist policy.

If it were any other person`s child, this would not be -- no one would be alarmed.  We as Americans should be not only outraged but we should be in front of those detention centers every single day until every single family is reunified.  The fact that in Tornillo which is under his preview, Tornillo was the first internment camp for children, they basically waived background checks for people that were going to work in those detention centers and those are government employees.

O`DONNELL:  And we have new polling from Quinnipiac shows that 66 percent disapprove of President Trump`s use of emergency powers to fund the border wall.  And Jason, that just happens to be exactly the percentage you need in the Senate and the House to override a presidential veto.

It`s very clear the Senate is going to vote to disapprove of the president`s emergency declaration, and we just don`t know exactly how big the vote will be and then whether there will be enough in the House and Senate to override a veto.

JOHNSON:  Well, that`s the real question, Lawrence.  We know the president is very likely to veto it.  Does the Senate, do the Republicans have enough backbone, do they have enough moral spine to say, look, we will even override the president`s veto?  This is a stain on the entire American government, not just Republicans, but anybody who is remotely associated with this should be embarrassed.

We could all be dragged in front of The Hague for engaging in this kind of behavior.  And I`m not using hyperbole when I say that sort of thing.  And I really hope that in the future that not only do they think about what this vote means, but Mitch McConnell and some of these people, they have got to talk to this president and say, look, these are the kinds of moral decision that should be made at the top and you shouldn`t be putting this on Congress at all because the wall and this policy make no sense.

O`DONNELL:  Jason Johnson and Maria Teresa Kumar, thank you both for joining us tonight.  Appreciate it.

And when we come back, he is the former governor of Colorado, a purple state that Donald Trump lost.  He was the governor who implemented the legalization of marijuana in Colorado.  And he is now an officially declared candidate for president.  Former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper will join us in tonight`s contender interview.


O`DONNELL:  There are now officially 12 announced contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination.  John Hickenlooper was mayor of Denver from 2003 to 2011.  He then served as governor of Colorado from 2011 until 2018 when he reached his term limit.

And on Monday of this week, he became one of the contenders by officially announcing his candidacy for president.  And we are glad to have Governor Hickenlooper joining us tonight in his first interview as a contender on MSNBC here at THE LAST WORD.

Governor, thank you very much for joining us tonight.  Really appreciate it.

JOHN HICKENLOOPER, FORMER GOVERNOR OF COLORADO:  You bet.  Thank you, Lawrence.  I appreciate being on.

O`DONNELL:  One of the policies that I`ve implemented for my presidential candidate interviews is to discuss nothing but policy.  I don`t care what your poll numbers are.  I don`t care how much money you`ve raised this week.  I`ve read about it.  That`s not for here.

I want to know exactly what you would do and what you would support as president of the United States.  And so let me begin with taxation.  And the discussion that we`re -- that your party`s now engaged in on what the top tax rates should be and what the top brackets should be.  What should the top income tax bracket be?  What should the top income tax rate be?

HICKENLOOPER:  Well, I`m not sure I`ve got a number right off the top of my head.  That`s not something that we`ve dug down on.  But I think the process by which we get to that -- those different levels of tax rate are going to be critically important.

I don`t think there`s any question that what`s been going on for the last several decades that the structure of capitalism in the United States has slowly but consistently been working against the middle class and for poor people.

And you look at both in terms of their security and in terms of their opportunity, they`re not getting a fair shake at creating their version of the American dream.  So clearly part of the tradition of America is those that have succeeded find ways to create that opportunity for the next group, the next generation coming along, and that`s not happening.

O`DONNELL:  The Trump administration cut the top tax bracket -- top tax rate down to 37 percent.  That`s for individual filers at about $500,000 of income.  Under President Obama, it was up toward 39.5 percent and there`s some supplementary taxation sometimes occurs above that.  President Clinton`s rate was also the 39.5 percent.  Would you want to see that 37 percent pushed up to the Clinton/Obama rate?

HICKENLOOPER:  Well, I think that -- certainly, I think that`s reasonable when you look at all the necessities that we have and the places to fund, especially if you also look at the national debt.  We can`t keep spending and giving tax breaks to, you know, large corporations and the wealthy.

I think it`s worth taking a moment just -- and pointing out that so many different companies and corporations and enterprises are enjoying tax breaks and loopholes of all different kinds.  Maybe the first priority should be to look at how do we tighten up the entire system and then how do we make sure what we are taxing, we`re getting the maximum benefit for that?

One place I put out as an example is payroll taxes, right, where we`re actually penalizing small businesses from hiring new people.  Somehow we have to figure out some way to replace that money because, again, I don`t, you know, we can`t willy-nilly go around cutting taxes.  But we`re certainly in some cases taxing the small businesses and the different enterprises in a way that makes it harder for them to employ people.

O`DONNELL:  The -- with the top tax bracket at $500,000, that means that someone who is paying -- who has an income of $5 million or $500 million who is paying exactly the same rate as someone at $500,000.  We used to have a top tax bracket of $5 million under Franklin Roosevelt.

We have incomes now that are astronomical that are in effect treated exactly the same as the income of say two working physicians who are filing jointly.  Should there be higher tax brackets like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez talks about on incomes over $10 million and then incomes above that?

HICKENLOOPER:  Yes.  I think the question is figuring out exactly what are those appropriate levels.  This, again, the tradition in this country -- when I was a kid, the upper tax breaks were 70 percent.

I`m not suggesting that we go back up to those levels.  But there`s got to be a system that, again, provides that there are sufficient resources so that we have the creation of opportunity and that, you know, people that are working their way up the economic ladder have some level of security.  And we`ve lost that.

You think about it, you know, there are 81,000 different trade associations.  And I`ve got nothing against that.  Trade associations play a valuable role.  But almost everyone has a lobbyist.

Those lobbyists go to work every day, every week, every year to try and find a different benefit.  And sometimes it`s not a tax break, but some way that all the members of their association can do better relative to what they pay into government.  And over a period of time that`s pretty -- I think that becomes very damaging, that you end up watering down and filling with more and more loopholes on our tax system.

O`DONNELL:  Governor, can you stay with us?  Because even though I did work on tax policy in the Senate, there`s a lot of other things I`d like to talk about.  We`d like to get in a foreign policy question or two.


O`DONNELL:  OK.  We`re going to squeeze in a quick break.  We`re going to come back with Governor Hickenlooper.  Thank you, Governor.


O`DONNELL:  And we`re back with former Colorado Governor and Democratic presidential candidate John Hickenlooper.  And Governor, you are on the third day of your presidential campaign.  And I`m going to try to get us through a lot more issues as quickly as we can.  Your position on Medicare for all?

HICKENLOOPER:  You know I think that the priority is that -- I mean I believe that health care should be a right, not a privilege.  We`ve got to get to universal coverage.  There are a lot of different ways to get there.

In terms of Colorado, we got to almost 95 percent coverage, almost universal coverage going through the Affordable Care Act and building a really innovative way of adding on to the people that have private insurance.

O`DONNELL:  So do you see Medicare for all as a possible goal or is it something you would oppose?

HICKENLOOPER:  I think Medicare has many positive parts, but I probably would oppose Medicare for all just because there are over 150 million people, Americans who have some form of private insurance through their business, and the vast majority of them are happy with that.  I don`t see how you transition from taking something away from all those people that are already happy.

O`DONNELL:  What additional gun safety legislation would you support in Congress?

HICKENLOOPER:  Well, obviously universal background checks.  You know, when we actually got the state data for Colorado back in 2012, getting to half the gun purchases, 38 people convicted of homicide had tried to buy a gun and we stopped them.  One hundred and thirty-three people convicted of sexual assault, it was over 3,000 people convicted of violent crimes had tried to buy guns and we stopped them.

I think that`s going to be true in every single state.  And if we go out and do state by state by state, literally within six months through a year, I think we`d have national legislation.

O`DONNELL:  I have one more tax question which is not so much a tax policy question, and that is that the Democrats in the House are trying to pass a bill that requires the disclosure of 10 years of tax returns for presidential candidates.  Would you disclose 10 years as a presidential candidate?  Would you support it and make it law so that future presidential candidates have to disclose 10 years of tax returns?

HICKENLOOPER:  I think absolutely having transparency at every level of elected office is important.  And I believe maybe that the last two year -- last four years of my term since I haven`t been running for anything.  But before that, I went back 25, almost 30 years.

So I`d be happy to support making sure that everybody has to come clear on do they have conflicts of interest and what do those look like and how do we make sure that our elected officials are making decisions for the public good and not their own.

O`DONNELL:  And Governor, what is your position on what we now know of the green new deal?  And I just want to specify, it`s not written in legislative language.  So it`s not the same thing as something that`s actually been introduced in Congress as legislation.  It`s more a set of goals.  But what you`ve seen of it, what is your reaction to it?

HICKENLOOPER:  Well, you`re right.  It`s a resolution.  And I think what I really believe, and I agree completely with the urgency that we see in the new green deal, it is the time right now that we can`t rely on incremental progress.

You know, I`ve got a Masters in Geology.  I think I`m the only geologist, professional geologist that`s ever been a governor.  And I look at how far we have to go and how quickly.

And a lot of the stuff that we`ve done in Colorado where we got the oil and gas industry to sit down with the environmental community and we got the only comprehensive methane regulations in the country.  We`ve got to get methane regulations all over the world.  Fast.  We`ve got to build international relationships to get that done.

And the green new deal is that opportunity to really look at, you know, how can we get as fast we can get there.  Some people criticize the universal working part of it.  But I mean we`re at three percent or four percent unemployment.  I mean we`ve got almost everybody working already.  So that`s not as big an issue as some people make it out to be.

O`DONNELL:  And Governor, on the Iran Deal that President Trump has pulled the United States out of, would you restore American participation in the Iran deal that was negotiated by the Obama administration?

HICKENLOOPER:  Well, I think at this point you kind of create fractures in the deal.  I think it`s only prudent to look at ways to improve it.  And again, I haven`t seen all the details of what are the give and takes.

But we`d be foolish just to go back and sign it if we can see that there`s a better way of doing it.  That being said, to go backwards on deals that we have negotiated painfully and worked with our allies to create these, you know, really meaningful alliances I think is, you know, over the long term more destructive than constructive.

O`DONNELL:  Governor John Hickenlooper, thank you very much for joining us tonight.  We really appreciate it.  We hope you come back as your positions on the issues solidify, as the debate intensifies.  We`re going to want to hear more from you.  Thank you very much, Governor.

HICKENLOOPER:  You bet.  Thank you, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL:  We`ll be right back with a last word about something President Trump won`t be able to campaign on this time.  Something he mentioned a lot in his last presidential campaign.


O`DONNELL:  You remember the trade deficit.


TRUMP:  Today, our manufacturing trade deficit with the world is nearly $800 billion, $800 billion and going up.  Going up fast.  Unless I become president, you will see it drop like you`ve never seen before.  You have never seen before.


O`DONNELL:  That was presidential candidate Donald Trump.  And today, President Trump`s administration announced America`s highest trade deficit in history.  The policy of Donald Trump managed to deliver a merchandise trade deficit of $891.2 billion.

And because Donald Trump understands absolutely nothing about international trade, nothing the president has done has worked the way he wants it to.  For example, President Trump illegally used a national security loophole in trade law to unilaterally impose tariffs on China.  But tariffs on Chinese- made solar panels, for example, have in fact nothing to do with national security.

And what happened?  After President Trump used tariffs to try to reduce the amount of merchandise, China sells to the United States, China ended up selling more merchandise to the United States.  And the United States ended up selling less to China.

And now the trade deficit with China alone has hit a new record high of $419 billion.  And what does President Trump have to say now that he has completely failed in his promise to reduce the trade deficit and the trade deficit has actually gone up dramatically to new record highs?


TRUMP:  Thanks to our powerful trade policies, the trade deficit is falling and falling and falling.


O`DONNELL:  Well, you didn`t expect him to tell the truth about it, did you?  Now that Donald Trump has completely failed to do what he said he would do with the trade deficit in the presidential campaign, the only time you will hear Donald Trump talking about the trade deficit is when Democrats run negative ads against Donald Trump where they let Donald Trump do the talking.


TRUMP:  $800 billion and going up.  Going up fast.  Unless I become president, you will see it drop like you`ve never seen before.  You will never see before.


O`DONNELL:  Donald Trump, the greatest economic ignoramus in the history of the American presidency, gets tonight`s LAST WORD.  "THE 11TH HOUR" with Brian Williams starts now.