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The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, Transcript 01/05/15

Guests: Robert Costa, David Frum, Tony Rothert, Lizz Brown, Deborah Thomas,Sage Steele

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Happy New Year, Rachel. And you know what politicians, some of them anyway do, when they go to jail, they sometimes grow a beard. RACHEL MADDOW, "TRMS" HOST: Yes. O`DONNELL: Which is what some anchormen do if you give them enough days off around Christmastime. MADDOW: That doesn`t look like a felonious beard at all. That looks a happy January beard. O`DONNELL: It isn`t even a real beard. It`s just a guy not shaving. It`s not officially a beard. MADDOW: Well, it`s adorable, officially. O`DONNELL: Thanks, Rachel. MADDOW: Thanks, Lawrence. O`DONNELL: Well, a member of the St. Louis County grand jury that heard testimony about the police killing of Michael Brown is taking legal action to reveal what really happened in that grand jury room. And the maneuvering has begun for the 2016 presidential campaign. And just like last time, the first thing one candidate had to do was quit his FOX News job. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Republican field for president is starting to get a little crowded. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee abruptly ended his cable show over the weekend. MIKE HUCKABEE (R), FORMER ARKANSAS GOVERNOR: I cannot bring myself to rule out another presidential run. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The idea that Mike Huckabee is going to be president of the United States, I mean, I predict that that`s not going to happen. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think Huckabee is what Hillary wants for lunch. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He won the Iowa caucus back in 2008. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He`s been this kind of folksy minister figure, a lot of feel good rhetoric. HUCKABEE: The Democrats want to insult the women of America by making them believe that they are helpless without Uncle Sugar. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He`s very popular among social conservatives. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A recent FOX News poll of potential Iowa caucus-goers showed Huckabee ahead of the rest of the 2016 field, including ahead of Jeb Bush. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Jeb Bush meanwhile, quit all of his corporate boards, and even his own education foundation in the last few days. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The moves made by Jeb Bush sort of galvanized other people to start making moves. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If in fact Jeb Bush is the establishment choice, where does that put Chris Christie? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, hopefully, he can count on the Jerry Jones vote. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It`s Chris Christie`s weekend on the sidelines that has everyone talking. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Celebrating Tony Romo`s come-from-behind Cowboys playoff win with owner Jerry Jones. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, he`s really a Cowboys fan. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Romney`s certainly on the sidelines watching all this. (END VIDEOTAPE) O`DONNELL: This weekend, one virtually certain to be Republican candidate for president took a serious step to pursuing that goal. He quit his FOX News job. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) HUCKABEE: Tonight, I`m going to do more than just say goodnight. I`m going to say good-bye. This is the last edition of "Huckabee" on the FOX News Channel. God hasn`t put me on earth just to have a good time or to make a good living. But rather, God`s put me on Earth to try to make a good life. (END VIDEO CLIP) O`DONNELL: In 2008, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee actually won the Iowa caucus, briefly making him the frontrunner in the Republican primary. Mike Huckabee told his audience on Saturday that he is considering trying it again. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) HUCKABEE: There`s been a great deal of speculation as to whether I would run for president. And if I were willing to absolutely rule that out, I could keep doing this show. But I can`t make such a declaration. Now, I`m not going to make a decision until late in the spring of 2015. But the continued chatter has put FOX News into a position that just isn`t fair to them. Nor, is it possible for me to openly determine political and financial support to justify a race. I say good-bye. But as we say in television, stay tuned. There`s more to come. (END VIDEO CLIP) O`DONNELL: Here`s what conservative talk show host and mike Huckabee fan Laura Ingraham had to say about Mike Huckabee`s chances of winning of the presidency. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) LAURA INGRAHAM, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: The idea that Mike Huckabee is going to be president of the United States -- I mean, I`ll predict that that`s not going to happen. (END VIDEO CLIP) O`DONNELL: "The Washington Post" reported today that if Mike Huckabee is going to make a serious run for the Republican presidential nomination, he will have to do something he wasn`t able to do in 2008, raise millions of dollars. One of Mike Huckabee`s potential competitors for donor money is Chris Christie who according to "The Wall Street Journal" spent the holidays in the Caribbean with his family, discussing whether or not he will run for president. "The Wall Street Journal" reports, "Mrs. Christie is said to have grown more accustomed to the idea of a presidential bid since Republicans first tried to get the governor to run in 2011." Among New Jersey voters, Chris Christie`s favorable rating is at its lowest point ever, at 42 percent, giving him a positive rating, 45 percent give him an unfavorable rating now. His friendship with the Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones probably won`t help with his New Jersey numbers. Today, Chris Christie went on WFAN`s "Boomer and Carlton" radio show to defend his love of the Texas football team and try to explain the missed high-five and awkward hug with Jerry Jones after yesterday`s Cowboys win. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY (via telephone): It was pandemonium in there, Craig. It`s difficult to describe the level of intensity in the Jones box during these games, and so, no. Believe me, I`m sitting in Jerry Jones` box, how do I feel dissed? (END VIDEO CLIP) O`DONNELL: Joining me now, Robert Costa, national political reporter for "The Washington Post", and David Frum, senior editor for "The Atlantic" magazine. Robert, on the Mike Huckabee candidacy, here`s somebody who came in a strong first in Iowa in 2008. John McCain came in fourth in Iowa in 2008, went on to actually get the nomination. What in Huckabee`s previous run at this would give him the idea he can actually go all the way? ROBERT COSTA, THE WASHINGTON POST: I spoke to Huckabee advisers today, and they think he has a lot of lingering goodwill in Iowa. But the problem is, Lawrence, he only raised $16 million when he ran for president in 2008. Now, it`s estimated he probably needs to raise $50 million to $75 million just to make it through the early stage of the primary. Can he raise the money? He hasn`t shown a penchant for it in the past. O`DONNELL: And, Robert, that was the stall, wasn`t it, to his campaign in 2008? COSTA: It was. O`DONNELL: Is there a theory there in Huckabee world that if he had had the money to capitalize on how well he did in Iowa, things could have been different? COSTA: That`s why he`s getting in right now. He knows he needs to start raising money. He can`t count just on grassroots support. He`s already courting a lot of bundlers to be super PAC donors to help them in that side of things. And he`s looking at his strategy saying, I know I could win Iowa, but I have to be able to play in South Carolina, play in Florida and really build a national infrastructure. O`DONNELL: Let`s take a look at the recent national poll of the Republican candidate, that has Jeb Bush at the top. This is a national poll, 23 percent. Christie significantly below that at 10. And then, you have a bunch of people crowded in there, 7, 6, 5, Carson, Huckabee, Rand Paul, Rubio, Paul Ryan, down 5, Ted Cruz way down at 4, Rick Perry at 4. David Frum, what do you take from a lineup like that, given that it`s a national poll and the way this is actually going to work is state by state? DAVID FRUM, THE ATLANTIC: You know, there`s a unique symmetry this time between the Republican and Democratic races. In both cases, you have a field headed by a fund-raising juggernaut, Hillary Clinton, Jeb Bush. Both of them with deep personal connections, each to the other; both of them deeply connected to the wealthiest people in the country, and both of them with broadly similar views. You know, you put -- you get them in front of a questionnaire, I don`t know that the answers would look so very different. And in both cases, the problems are probably resigned to their leadership, but there is an opportunity, there`s dissatisfaction and therefore, an opportunity. And in both parties, you have people looking around to take advantage of that opportunity, rather more aggressively so inside the Republican Party, at least so far. But Republicans don`t feel about Jeb about the way Democrats feel about Hillary, which is, you know, we`ll take it if we must, but is there anything more? O`DONNELL: We`ll take a look at this poll about how Democrats feel about Hillary, which is pretty positive. We have Hillary Clinton, again a national poll, Hillary Clinton, at 66 percent. The next name down, Elizabeth Warren at 9 percent, Joe Biden at 8 percent, Bernie Sanders, 3 percent, and Andrew Cuomo, Martin O`Malley, Jim Webb, 1 percent. And you know what? Guys, having looked at that poll, Hillary Clinton at 66 percent, I`m going to take the suspense out of this episode of THE LAST WORD, I am not going to announce at the last part of this program that I am resigning this anchor desk to get in there and challenge Hillary`s 66 percent. COSTA: There`s certainly an opening, wouldn`t you agree? O`DONNELL: I don`t know. I don`t see it when I look at that poll. But, Robert, when Republicans look at that poll with Hillary Clinton up there at 66 percent, what does it tell them in terms of where they should be going with their nominee? COSTA: Well, first of all, when I was in Iowa, I sat down with some Democratic activists, they want to see a race. They like Bernie Sanders, even though he`s an avowed socialist. They like his passion on progressive politics. They like Senator Warren. They don`t think she`s going to run. But they like her to get in. They think Jim Webb has an interesting message as an anti-war Democrat. They want to see a competition for the nomination. O`DONNELL: And, David, that`s part of "The Wall Street Journal" report today indicating that Iowans don`t want to see Hillary Clinton basically come in effect as an incumbent Democratic president with no challenge there. FRUM: Yes, and I don`t think it`s the sheer love of the sport. I think it`s something deeper going on, and inside both parties. We in a recovery, and yet, it`s a recovery that has not touched very many people. And both Democrats and Republicans have that same feeling of somehow this is passing us by. Both have the same sickening feeling when they read, you know, Mike Huckabee, whether you like him or not, the idea three can`t be a candidate unless he can find $70 million before the 4th of July, there`s something very odd about that. And the Democratic race, of course, Hillary Clinton is raising tens of millions of dollars and Jeb, of course, is going to catch up. And so, there`s this restiveness. Elizabeth Warren gave very eloquent voice to this in her attempted filibuster of the cromnibus when she talked about how close Democrats have been, the past Democratic treasury secretaries to big financial institutions, and how much of the deregulation of Wall Street happened underneath the watch of President Clinton. There is -- I think there is more rest underneath the complacency that shows these vastly well-funded candidates ahead, there is restiveness. It`s not a happy time in America. It`s not an easy time to be a presumed incumbent. O`DONNELL: Robert Costa, when you have to go on a sports radio show to do political damage control, maybe you shouldn`t have gone to that game in the first place. This Chris Christie situation where here he is going to a football game, and that`s, you know, I`m sure he has a real interest in football games. I`m sure he`s a fan and all that. But that kind of thing, publicly is always about, see what a regular guy I am? You know, I enjoy a game just like anyone else. But what you have is this image of a man literally, physically desperately clinging to rich guys, in another state, when his approval rating is at its lowest point in New Jersey. And then, there he is on the sports radio show trying to straighten all that out. It`s -- it seems like a not-quite-ready-for presidential primetime campaigning moment. COSTA: I think it`s just Christie being Christie. And having a relationship with Jerry Jones, if you`re thinking about running for president, it`s not the worse thing, Jones is tight with a lot of Republicans in Dallas, a major Republican money base. And I think Christie is watching what`s happening. He sees Jeb Bush is going to be in Greenwich, Connecticut, on Wednesday, raising money, with a lot of Bush family allies. Christie`s sitting there watching a football game, but he`s also watching this whole field unfold. He`s trying to keep his relationship strong with Jerry Jones and with a lot of his donors. O`DONNELL: David Frum, Jeb Bush seems to be moving toward an announcement. He`s done everything you would do on the road to an announcement. It would be an abrupt switch at this point to see it not go to an actual candidacy announcement. Doesn`t that just close out the Christie possibility? FRUM: It certainly squeezes it. And they will be competing for the same sources of money. They are looking at the same kinds of donors. I mean, one of the ways think of the Republican race, it`s a series of leagues. There`s the league in which Jeb Bush and Chris Christie are playing. There`s the league in which Rand Paul and Ted Cruz are playing. And then there`s the league in Ben Carson and the other candidates who are becoming more famous while running for president are playing. And each of those leagues will yield a winner. Ben Carson is clearly the winner in league three. I would get -- bet on Ted Cruz to emerge the leader in league two. COSTA: But I wouldn`t to write-off Christie, wouldn`t you? I mean, wouldn`t you think, David, a lot of people are watching to see how Christie -- how Jeb Bush campaigns. FRUM: I`m backing up to league one. League one is the league that Romney dominated last time. This time, that league is competitive. Last time it wasn`t. Last time, all the action was in league two. This time the action`s going to be in league one. O`DONNELL: David Frum and Robert Costa, thank you both for joining me. COSTA: Thank you. FRUM: Thank you. O`DONNELL: Coming up, one of the grand jurors in the Michael Brown case wants to reveal what really happened in that grand jury room. And, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio spoke for the first time about the police officers who turned their backs on him during the funerals of two New York City police officers. And, in the "Rewrite" tonight, the first black man elected to the United States Senate. Barack Obama was the second. And those two men have more in common than racial heritage. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) O`DONNELL: A "Washington Post"/ABC News poll finds that the majority of Americans now say the Afghanistan war was not worth fighting. Fifty-six percent say the Afghanistan war was -- has not been worth fighting, 38 percent say the war was worth fighting. The poll also found over half of Americans, 54 percent, favor keeping U.S. troops in Afghanistan now to help train Afghan forces and perform counterinsurgency roles. Up next, one of the grand jurors in the Ferguson case wants to talk. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ROBERT MCCULLOCH, ST. LOUIS COUNTY PROSECUTOR: It is important to note here and say again that they are the only people, the only people, who have heard and examined every witness and every piece of evidence. They discussed and debated the evidence among themselves before arriving at their collective decision. After their exhaustive review of the evidence, the grand jury deliberated over two days, making their final decision. They determined that no probable cause exists to file any charge against Officer Wilson and returned a no-true bill on each of the five indictments. (END VIDEO CLIP) O`DONNELL: One grand juror in the Darren Wilson case is now suing St. Louis County prosecutor Bob McCulloch. The juror referred to as grand juror Doe in court documents, wants the right, the legal right to speak about the grand jury case against former Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of the unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown. And what the juror says are mischaracterizations by district attorney Bob McCulloch. In the complaint filed today in federal court, grand juror Doe says from plaintiff`s perspective, defendant`s statement characterizes the views of the grand jurors collectively toward the evidence, witnesses, in the law, in the manner that does not comport with plaintiff`s own opinions. The plaintiff also wishes to express opinions about whether the release of records has truly provided transparency, plaintiff`s impression that evidence was presented differently than in other cases, with the insinuation that Brown, not Wilson, was the wrongdoer and questions about whether the grand jury was clearly counseled on the law. According to current Missouri law, a grand juror could be imprisoned for up to a year for talking about a grand jury proceeding. Joining me now is Tony Rothert, an attorney representing the grand juror, the legal director for the Missouri ACLU, and Lizz Brown, a columnist for "The St. Louis American" and a criminal defense attorney. Tony Rothert, in the grand jury, do we know whether the grand jury finding in that case was unanimous? TONY ROTHERT, ACLU MISSOURI LEGAL DIRECTOR: We don`t know. What the prosecuting attorney told us is that a collective decision was reached, and that is something that this grand juror would like to be able to talk about. You know, one more nuance than what the prosecuting attorney has given as the official line. O`DONNELL: Well, the -- you only needed nine of the 12 grand jurors to agree on a course of action, and so, to get the no-true bill, that means there could have been possibly as many as three grand jurors who did want to indict on something, isn`t that correct? ROTHERT: Well, no, actually you needed nine to get an indictment. So, if there were eight for an indictment, there would still be no-true bill, if it was 8-4 or 7-5. So, we don`t know what the vote is. The impression that`s been given by the prosecuting attorney is that it was a collective decision by the grand jury, and this grand juror would like to talk about that amongst other things. O`DONNELL: Lizz Brown, it seems that in many ways this grand jury did not follow form, allowing this grand juror to speak would be one additional, unusual component. LIZZ BROWN, COLUMNIST, ST. LOUIS AMERICAN: That`s correct. But you also have to look at what has driven, presumably, driven this grand juror to want to speak out on it. The things that the ACLU presented in their lawsuit were extraordinary. When a grand juror is basically saying that the prosecutor is mischaracterizing what happened, he`s being dishonest about what happened, that`s huge. When a grand juror says that the victim in the case, Mike Brown, was the defendant and the defendant was the victim and the way that it was presented, it`s remarkable. When a grand juror says, I have seen this grand jury go, prosecute hundreds of cases, and this case, the Darren Wilson case was different than any other case that I`ve experienced, that`s huge. That`s different. And if it`s different now, it`s borne out of what Bob McCulloch has done to drive this different result and these different actions on the part of his office. O`DONNELL: Tony Rothert, in your representation of this grand jury in federal court in this case, the judge will be interested in what precedent you might be able to cite that would allow a grand juror to speak in a situation like this. What might you offer the judge by way of precedent? ROTHERT: Well, you know, this is really an unprecedented case. There are cases -- there`s a U.S. Supreme Court case about witnesses in a grand jury being able to talk. But there aren`t cases where a grand juror has asked to speak. And usually, there are very good reasons for grand jury secrecy. This is an unusual case in that the prosecutor has -- says he has released all the evidence, has given -- has said what the grand jurors thought about the evidence and has purported to release everything. So, the usual reasons for grand jury secrecy just aren`t there, in fact, the only people who can comment on what the prosecutor has said, what the government has said happened, would be criminals, if they talked about it. O`DONNELL: And, Lizz Brown, one of the points that Tony Rothert`s lawsuit as they`ve written it brings up is that the incorrect instructions to the jury -- legal instructions to the grand jury in this proceeding, which were then sort of corrected toward the end of the process, something that I covered in depth on this program, and that is, again, one of the unprecedented aspects of this case. BROWN: And one of the things that the grand juror will be able to add to that are things that don`t make it to the transcript, things like tone, things like timing, things like aggressiveness, whether Kathy Alizadeh questioned Darren Wilson in a way that was kind and gentle and patient and loving, even, whereas, the way that she questioned another juror was completely different. That`s what this grand juror will be able to say. And the remarkable part about this, the optics of this can lead to a -- lead to an extraordinary circumstance. Consider this: if this grand juror is not allowed to come forward and the grand juror decides to come forward anyway, then Bob McCulloch would be in the position of having to bring charges against this grand juror. And if this grand juror is African-American, he would be in a position of bringing charges against an African-American charging them with a crime, whereas witness number 40, a white witness, he has declined. Bob McCulloch has declined to charge that witness with perjury. A witness that was known to law enforcement as a perjurer, a witness that came in and testified twice, bringing documents with her, fabricated documents to almost double down on her dishonesty. But Bob McCulloch says, I`m not going to pursue perjury charges against her. So, that would be the position that Bob McCulloch is in if the court does not allow this grand juror to come forward and tell their tale. O`DONNELL: Tony Rothert, is the grand juror you`re representing in this case African-American? ROTHERT: You know, we shouldn`t make any assumptions about race or gender. And we`re not revealing who the grand juror is, for that person`s own protection, legal protection at this point, including any information. O`DONNELL: Just to get it technically correct, Tony, at this point, is there any legal restriction on you or on your client on revealing just the name and identification and identifying characteristics about the grand juror? ROTHERT: Well, this grand juror is concerned, and is afraid of coming forward without the ability to speak. O`DONNELL: I understand that. But I`m asking about actual legal process in Missouri. Is there anything that makes it impossible for a grand juror to reveal the simple declarative sentence, I was a grand juror on that case? ROTHERT: Yes, we think that if you read the law strictly that that would be illegal, just revealing that you were a member of the grand jury. O`DONNELL: OK. Tony Rothert, thank you very much for joining us. ROTHERT: Thank you. O`DONNELL: And, Lizz Brown, thank you for joining us tonight, too. BROWN: Thank you. O`DONNELL: Coming up, how one judge in Detroit is sentencing young men and women in a new and different way. And later, remembering ESPN`s Stuart Scott. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) O`DONNELL: In the "Spotlight" tonight, Crime and the Correct Punishment. For over a decade, the United States has maintained the highest incarceration rate in the world. Forty-one percent of American -- (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) -- prisoners have not completed high school or its equivalent, compared to 18 percent of the general population. Prisoners who do not have a high school diploma or a GED are more likely to be repeat offenders. (END VIDEO CLIP) In Michigan, one judge is trying to change that. Wayne County Circuit -- (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) -- Judge Deborah Thomas, sentences offenders who have not completed high school to get their diploma, in addition to other more traditional rehabilitation programs. Presiding over her courtroom in Detroit, Judge Thomas sits in front of the diplomas and GED certificates of the young men and women she has helped to achieve a better education. Joining me now from Detroit -- (END VIDEO CLIP) -- is Judge Deborah Thomas. Judge, thank you very much for doing this tonight. I was fascinated to read about how you`re handling this in your courtroom. And in what I`ve read about you today, I guess this is -- came to you partially because you had worked as a teacher before becoming a judge. JUDGE DEBORAH THOMAS, 3RD CIRCUIT COURT, MICHIGAN: That`s true. I used to teach with the Detroit public school system. And education is the key to success. O`DONNELL: And when you were -- when you were working in the school system, did you see this as a problem then, that with juveniles who are getting in trouble -- that if the judges could just realize that what they really needed more than anything else was that high school diploma? THOMAS: Motivation for the young people would be the larger problem, getting them to understand the importance of getting an education, of finishing high school, of getting job training beyond high school. Motivating the individuals was the bigger issue oftentimes. O`DONNELL: The one thing I was struck by in reading about your method and how you do this is that you seem to, in the courtroom, motivate some of these defendants who come in front of you. And they make -- they make declarations to you about promising that they`ll be back and that they will be up on your wall with their GED or their diploma. THOMAS: Many young people will come before me. And instead of looking at me while I`m talking, they`re looking behind me, -- (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) -- they`re looking at the wall. They`re seeing high school diplomas, GEDs, from other individuals. And they`ll say to me, "I`m going to get mine up there, judge, I promise. I`m going to have mine up there." And they come back. I make them bring the original, and I make a copy, and we stop what we`re doing. And when I take the certificate and tape it to the wall, everyone in the courtroom gives them a round of applause. And then I have them -- and some would promise me that they`re going to come back when they get junior college. I have a couple working on their bachelor`s degree. I have one young person who was certified as a mechanic to repair airplanes. So, it gives them a measure of success. And they get rewarded, recognized for that success. O`DONNELL: And you mentioned in one article that a lot of these are kids who never had their homework assignment or their test paper, with the star on it, taped to the refrigerator at home. And this is that kind of refrigerator moment for them. THOMAS: It really is. There are a lot of young people who are not encouraged. They may come from a family where, for generations, no one graduated from high school. There were employment opportunities, 20, 30, 40 years ago where the high school -- (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) -- diploma wasn`t as critical. And so, no one posted a picture of their work, -- (END VIDEO CLIP) -- no one ever patted them on the back. I have one young man. He brought me his grades to show he had completed the program. I said, "Where is the GED?" He says, "My mother lost it." (LAUGHTER) O`DONNELL: The Honorable Deborah Thomas. Thank you very much for your service as a teacher and your service now on the bench. Thank you very much for joining us tonight, judge. THOMAS: Thank you for having me. O`DONNELL: Coming up on the "Rewrite," the man who integrated the barbershop in the United States Senate. The U.S. Senate Barbershop was one of the most segregated rooms in America, until 1967. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio spoke publicly for the first time today about some NYPD officers turning their backs to him during the funerals for two fallen officers who were killed in an ambush in Brooklyn. At yesterday`s funeral for Officer Wenjian Liu, most officers did not turn their backs, but a few did, very few. Today, the Mayor and Police Commissioner Bill Bratton made these comments -- (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BILL DE BLASIO, NEW YORK CITY MAYOR: They were disrespectful to the families who had lost their loved one. And I can`t understand why anyone would do such a thing in a context like that. I think it just defies a lot of what we all feel is the right and decent thing to do when you`re dealing with a family in pain. I also think they were disrespectful to the people of this city who, in fact, honor the work of the NYPD. BILL BRATTON, NEW YORK CITY POLICE COMMISSIONER: The selfishness of that action, the selfishness of it. A funeral is not a place for that. Come demonstrate outside city hall. Come demonstrate outside police headquarters. But don`t put on your uniform and go to a funeral and engage in a political action. I`m sorry, that`s -- I feel very strongly about this. I do. (END VIDEO CLIP) O`DONNELL: Coming up in the "Rewrite," a very special man. who made people in my neighborhood when I was a kid, want to be their better selves. That`s next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) In 1962, when President Kennedy`s little brother, Teddy, won his first campaign at age 30 and was elected to the United States Senate, President Kennedy said that night, "My God, that`s the biggest news in the country." But the president wasn`t talking about his little brother`s first successful Senate campaign. He was talking about another winner that night in Massachusetts, who was also elected statewide -- Edward Brooke III, -- (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) -- who won the race for attorney general. That night, Ed Brooke became the first black person elected attorney general anywhere in the United States. He did it in a state where only two percent of registered voters were African-American. After four years as Massachusetts` attorney general, Ed Brooke ran for the United States Senate and won, again, making history as the first black person elected to the United States Senate. (END VIDEO CLIP) There`s always a footnote that accompanies that fact about Ed Brooke, and that is that, in the 1870s, during reconstruction in Mississippi, the Mississippi legislature twice voted to send black senators to Washington. Ed Brooke was the first black senator elected by voters. He had a solid resume for a politician of era -- World War II combat veteran, Howard University and Boston University Law School graduate. Here`s Ed Brooke making history on election night in 1966 -- ED BROOKE, FIRST AFRICAN-AMERICAN POPULARLY ELECTED TO THE UNITED STATES SENATE: And I say to you that I go to Washington to do all that I can to bring peace on earth, to stop the war in Vietnam. (CHEERS AND APPLAUSE) I go to Washington to do all that I can to stabilize this economy and bring about a responsible society. (CHEERS AND APPLAUSE) I go to Washington to do all that I can to give equal opportunity to all Americans for decent housing, quality education and equal justice under law. (END VIDEO CLIP) O`DONNELL: Oh, did I mention he was a Republican? Yes, that`s what some Republicans sounded like in 1966. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) On the first day of the next Senate session when senior senator, Edward Kennedy, escorted Republican Edward Brooke down the Senate center aisle to take the oath of office, the new senator received a standing ovation. (END VIDEO CLIP) Ed Brooke made history with things as simple as a haircut. He personally integrated the Senate barbershop simply by setting foot in the place and getting a haircut there, the first black man in history to be served in the Senate barbershop. As a Senate staffer, you never forget your first moment with the great ones, the senators who make you proud to work there, even if you`re just seeing them from a distance, across the Senate floor. Here`s how one former Senate staff member remembers Ed Brooke -- "I first observed Senator Brooke during his first term of office while serving as a Senate staffer. Even from across the Senate chamber, you could sense that this was a senator of historic importance." That was former Senate staffer -- that former Senate staffer is now the Majority Leader of the United States Senate, Mitch McConnell. During the Kennedy and Brooke years, Massachusetts had two of the biggest stars in the Senate. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) When Massachusetts Congressman Tip O`Neill became Speaker of the House, -- (END VIDEO CLIP) -- he was far more powerful than either of his big star senators, and far more important in the actual governing of the United States of America. But the crowds back home didn`t really see it that way. In those days, I heard Tip O`Neill tell the story of what it was like for him at big Massachusetts political events. He said, at the end of every big event he went to in Massachusetts with his two world-famous senators, there would be a long line of -- (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) -- people waiting to get Ed Brooke`s autograph. And then, a little longer line of people, waiting to get Teddy Kennedy`s autograph, -- (END VIDEO CLIP) -- and then another line waiting to ask Tip O`Neill for a favor. The Senate is often a stress test for marriages. And it was for Ted Kennedy, and it was for Ed Brooke. As Ed Brooke`s first marriage was unraveling, we now know, thanks to Barbara Walters` memoir, that he had an affair with Barbara, who said she found him fascinating. Senator Brooke had two daughters with his first wife, who he met in Italy during his service in World War II, and a son with his second wife. President Obama commented on Ed Brooke`s bipartisan friendships during the ceremony in 2009 when Senator Brooke received the Congressional Gold Medal. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I don`t know anyone else whose fan base includes Gloria Steinem, Barney Frank, and Ted Kennedy, as well as Mitch McConnell and Mitt Romney and George W. Bush. (LAUGHTER) That`s a coalition builder. (APPLAUSE) (END VIDEO CLIP) O`DONNELL: Edward Brooke died on Saturday morning at his home in Coral Gables, Florida. He was 95. When I was a kid growing up in an all-white neighborhood in Boston, I often heard adult say, "I`m not a racist, I voted for Brooke." You wouldn`t have to wait long after that to hear that same person say something kind of racist. This was a puzzle I figured out in my teenage years -- racists for Brooke. How could that be. Here`s one explanation -- (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: Ed always got to see the best in people because that was the effect he had. Maybe it was his old-fashioned manners, his unfailing courtesy and warmth. Maybe it was his charm and charisma, known to melt even the staunchest adversary, or maybe it was his genuine interest in people`s stories, the way he listened to their concerns and worked to ease their struggles. Whatever it was, even if people didn`t people fully agree with him, they saw how hard he fought for them and how much he respected them. And they respected him back. They rose to meet his esteem for them. Around Ed, people wanted to be their better selves. (END VIDEO CLIP) O`DONNELL: People wanted to be their better selves. That`s exactly what I saw Ed Brooke do. Ed Brooke made people want to be their better selves. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: Congratulations, Senator Brooke. And God bless the United States of America. (APPLAUSE) TEXT: In memoriam, Edward Brooke III, 1919-2015. (END VIDEO CLIP) (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) (SINGING) (END VIDEO CLIP) O`DONNELL: Last week, the night before New Year`s Eve, I updated you on where we stood with the K.I.N.D. Fund, our partnership with UNICEF to raise money to build desks, like this one, in Malawi, and raise money for girls` scholarships in Africa, so girls can go to high school there. And since then, just since last week -- (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) -- thanks to your generosity, we have raised another $190,278 -- just in the last week, so you were not just doing New Year`s Eve parties and recovering from New Year`s Eve parties. You were helping us continue to raise this money. That brings our total to $8,716,246 for the K.I.N.D. Fund. You can continue to contribute and spread the word about the K.I.N.D. Fund at LASTWORDDESKS.MSNBC.COM or by calling 1-800-4UNICEF. And, again, thank you very, very much for, once again, this Holiday Season, supporting the K.I.N.D. Fund so strongly. (END VIDEO CLIP) (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) STUART SCOTT, ESPN ANCHOR: Ken Griffey, Jr., waiting, waiting, boo-yah. (END VIDEO CLIP) O`DONNELL: ESPN anchor, Stuart Scott, died yesterday at the age of 49. Scott was first diagnosed with cancer in 2007. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) He interviewed President Clinton and President Obama. Yesterday, President Obama released a statement saying, "I will miss Stuart Scott. Twenty years ago, Stu helped usher in a new way to talk about our favorite teams and the day`s best plays." "For much of those 20 years, public service and campaigns have kept me from my family, but whenever I -- wherever I went, I could flip on the TV and Stu and his colleagues on Sports Center were there." "Over the years, he entertained us and, in the end, he inspired us with courage and love." In July, Stuart Scott received the ESPY`s Jimmy V Perseverance Award for his fight against cancer. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SCOTT: When you die, that does not mean that you lose to cancer. You beat cancer by how you live, why you live, and in the manner in which you live. (APPLAUSE) So, live, live. Fight like hell. And when you get too tired to fight, then lay down and rest. And let somebody else fight for you. (END VIDEO CLIP) O`DONNELL: Joining me now is Sage Steele, host of ESPN`s "NBA Countdown." She`s colleague and close friend of Stuart Scott`s for many years. Sage, watching him there in July, looking so healthy and so strong, it`s just stunning how quickly this can happen. SAGE STEELE, ESPN HOST: Yes. But the thing is, that night, he was anything but healthy. He had spent the last 10 days leading up -- (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) -- to that day, in the hospital. And up to three days before, he didn`t even know if he`d be able to make it. But this -- that ESPY Awards, the Jimmy V, was like a lifetime achievement award for Stuart. And those who knew him well knew that there was no way, unless the doctor shut him down, no way he would miss it. Because, in his heart, he knew. He knew what this disease meant, what this diagnosis meant. And that night, when I was sitting in the audience, I flew out that morning and got there, thank God, just in time. And what he said there was just so poignant. I knew he kind of turned a corner when he talked about that -- "When you die, it doesn`t mean you`ve lost." But, now, he`s resting. He`s at peace. He`s not in pain. And, now, it`s our job, our job as friends and fans out there, viewers, to fight and to keep this fight going for people like Stuart and the millions, millions like him. He knew -- he was just a public figure fighting this but there`s so many others out there. O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to a caller to one of the ESPN radio shows today, talking about exactly what you`re talking about, which is its effect on other people out there, with this struggle. Let`s listen to this. STEELE: OK. (BEGIN AUDIO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE CALLER: -- in his own battle, you know, took the time to write me a letter and just said not to keep asking myself and to stay strong. So, just one letter from a man I never met. I grew up watching him on "Sports Center." I always loved him. I didn`t know the guy from Adam. And he took time out of his own battle, his own family time, knowing he had limited time and he wrote me this letter. And to this day, I cherish it. I felt healthy. It`s the craziest thing. It just -- it changed my entire outlook on the whole thing. I wanted to beat it. (END AUDIO CLIP) O`DONNELL: Sage, I`m sure it didn`t surprise you that he wrote that letter to someone he didn`t know. STEELE: It doesn`t surprise me. I said I`d be tough, Lawrence, and I`m -- but to hear that just gets me choked up because that`s a total stranger. He took the time. And look at the effect it had on this man. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) One of my many personal stories, the one I think you might appreciate, was on June 26th this year when we moved from Connecticut to Arizona. And he came. He came for three hours. And when my little boy who`s 10 years old had to say bye to his bestfriend, he came home balling. I had movers, "Sage," yelling at me. And I was busy and Stuart saw it, took my little boy, put his arm around him and sat there on the front step with a crying 10-year-old and comforted him. And my point is that, the entire time, Stuart was in pain. He was hurting. But he came to say bye to his friends, our family, and took time for my little boy that he`ll never forget. So, that story doesn`t surprise me but it`s just so -- he knew me, he knew us. He didn`t know that guy and he wrote that letter. That`s Stuart Scott. That`s the man that so many people around the country, the world, fell in love with. And I`m proud to call him a friend. And I`m speaking on behalf of all my ESPN friends and family who are devastated right now but also thankful that we had him in our lives. O`DONNELL: Sage Steele, thank you very -- (END VIDEO CLIP) -- much for helping us honor him tonight. Thank you, Sage. STEELE: Thank you for allowing me. Thank you. O`DONNELL: Thank you. Chris Hayes is up next. END