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The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, Transcript 07/16/15

Guests: Robert Freeman, Jim Cavanaugh, Eugene O`Donnell, David Sterman,Anthony Lemieux, Ladoris Cordell, Jonathan Capehart, David Corn

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: As we continue to learn more -- that it will turn out that it was not that kind of weapon. We`ll see, a very tight lip so far, stick a pin and not specific point though, this is one of the important pieces of information that will presumably come out of this investigation soon as we continue to learn more. That does it for us tonight, we`ll see you again tomorrow, now it`s time for THE LAST WORD with Lawrence O`Donnell, good evening Lawrence. LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening Rachel, thank you very much. MADDOW: Thanks. O`DONNELL: Today, tragedy struck in Chattanooga, Tennessee, as Rachel was telling us, four Marines murdered before the gunman was killed. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Today is a nightmare for the city of Chattanooga. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Four U.S. Marines are dead, gunned down by a lone shooter. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As a hail of bullets tore through two military centers. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) -- UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All of a sudden I heard about 10 or 15 pops, you know, just really fast pop. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What we do know is that somebody brutally and brazenly attacked members of our armed services. BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It is a heart-breaking circumstance for these individuals who had served our country with great valor to be killed in this fashion. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: According to the police, this gunman acted alone. ALEX WAGNER, MSNBC: A naturalized American citizen identified as Mohammad Youssuf Abdulazeez. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are conducting this as an act of domestic terrorism. (END VIDEO CLIP) O`DONNELL: The FBI and joint terrorism task force are now investigating the shooting death of four Marines today after a gunman opened fire at two military facilities located seven miles apart in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The suspected shooter is also dead and has been identified as 24-year-old Mohammad Youssuf Abdulazeez; he is a naturalized citizen of the United States, born in Kuwait and lives in -- had lived in the Chattanooga area. At least three other people were injured, including a police officer and another military service member. U.S. Attorney General -- United States Attorney General Loretta Lynch said the FBI will lead the investigation and that today`s shooting is being investigated as a potential act of domestic terrorism. "Nbc`s" Pete Williams is reporting that law enforcement officials are investigating if this is a case of foreign inspired terrorism. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said in a statement that officials are enhancing the security posture at certain federal facilities out of an abundance of caution. In New York, law enforcement officials have stepped up security at local recruitment centers and President Obama said this earlier today. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: When you have an attack on a U.S. military facility, then we have to make sure that we have all the information necessary to make an assessment in terms of how this attack took place and what further precautions we can take in the future. (END VIDEO CLIP) O`DONNELL: According to the "New York Times", the FBI had not been investigating the alleged gunman before today`s shooting and officials were not aware of any plans for attacks in Chattanooga. Joining us now is "Nbc News" correspondent Gabe Gutierrez who is live for us in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Gabe, what do we know at this hour? GABE GUTIERREZ, NBC NEWS: Hey there, Lawrence, well, as you can see behind me, the FBI is still on the scene there, taking a lead in this investigation. There are also investigators here from different agencies including ATF and other local agencies. Now, this is what happened this morning. It was around 10:35, sometime between 10:30 and 10:45, different witnesses give a different timetable exactly, but around that time, they heard a volley of gun fire. At first, some of them thought it may have been some sort of construction project, they didn`t immediately realize what it was. And they say that it happened in rapid succession. We know that the suspect fired more than 25 rounds here at this location. Now, this was the first of two locations that -- where the shootings took place. This one first, then the gunman took off and drove about seven miles, then to a naval reserve center, and that is where four Marines lost their lives and the gunman was killed. Now, at this point, it is unclear whether the gunman took his own life or whether he was shot and killed by police. That`s one of the details that we`re still awaiting confirmation on. And authorities really aren`t giving a whole lot of confirmation on exactly what happened. We spoke with one of the sergeants who was in this military recruiting center, just a short time ago. And he says that there was one gunshot and then there was a pause and then more gunshots continued. Now, he says there were a total of five people in this military recruiting center, himself and four people who were under him. He was leading this military recruiting center, and then they went into an active shooter position, their active shooter drills and stayed in there until they got the all clear. So, a lot of unanswered questions at this point about exactly what happened, what the exact motive was. And Lawrence, as you mentioned, federal officials are looking at this to see if it may have been -- now it`s a big "may", may have been inspired by ISIS perhaps. Only because of the nature of the targets, military centers, and also the timing of all this, which is as Ramadan was wrapping up. Now, that is what investigators are looking at throughout the evening, they have gone to the home of the suspected gunman, which is near Chattanooga. And they`ve also been looking at perhaps who he may have had contact with in the last few weeks, perhaps e-mail communication, phone calls, trying to get any idea as to what may have led to all this, Lawrence. O`DONNELL: Gabe, were the Chattanooga police able to engage in any kind of chase of the shooter`s vehicle when he was going from one location to the other? GUTIEREZ: Well, earlier today, they did say they were able to engage the shooter as he made his way to the second location. The exact details of that is -- are unclear. There were 911 calls that suggested after he left this location or right after the shots were fired here and he drove the seven miles to the other location that they were in pursuit. And then they said they engaged the suspect, but question is, what exactly does that mean? Engaging the suspect could mean a variety of things. That they in given that they knew that he had fired already and he was presumed armed and dangerous, they may have gone up to him and you know with guns drawn and may have fired the first shots. Or it could be that they yelled out freeze or something to that effect and he fired and they returned fire and struck him. But we don`t know that. Again, we don`t know if the police officers were - - fired the fatal shot or if the gunman may have taken his own life. So, those details are something that will, I`m trickle out over the next day or so, in the coming days as this investigation continues. We do not know how he obtained the weapons that were used in the shooting. And again, that`s something that authorities are looking into at this point, Lawrence? O`DONNELL: We now want to listen to a video of one of the witnesses, Robert Dodge who will describe what he heard when that shot went off. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ROBERT DODGE, MARINE: We heard one shot go off, which kind of alerted us at that time, about a second or two went by and then we heard the first volley of fire. At that time, we knew it was, you know, gun fire at our location. And then we went into what we call an active shooter drill and we moved to the rear of our building and barricaded ourselves in and got down on the ground and waited for it to be all clear. (END VIDEO CLIP) O`DONNELL: We are joined now by phone by Robert Freeman, he is a retired Marine and a former recruiter at the Lee Highway Recruiting Center where the first shooting occurred today. Robert, what can you tell us about that location and what it must have been like there today? ROBERT FREEMAN, RETIRED MARINE & FORMER RECRUITER, LEE HIGHWAY RECRUITING CENTER: All I can really say is that, it`s pretty open. I mean there is -- the doors ain`t locked, they can walk in at anytime. It`s not -- it`s not like it`s, you know, anybody`s making sure that people don`t have weapons or anything. And when you walk into the door, the recruiting office is wide open. O`DONNELL: I want to listen to something else Robert Dodge said about how the posture that they`re in, in a situation like this and how it`s different for them as trained soldiers in combat. Let`s listen to this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DODGE: When you`re in combat, you`re in full gear and you have a weapon in your hands, and you`re more ready for it. When you`re out in a civilian community, it`s not something that you`re ready for on a regular basis. But the additional training and experiences has definitely helped us and my team react the way we were supposed to react today. (END VIDEO CLIP) O`DONNELL: Robert Freeman, Robert Dodge talked about going into active shooter training that they`ve done. Could you describe what that involves? FREEMAN: It`s just basically a way to barricade yourself. I mean, with the active shooter drills and the stuff that they do, it`s more so that -- like for him in the instance that he was in a different office. So, they barricade themselves to keep the shooter from coming into their office. As far as the Marines that were in the Chattanooga office at the time, they didn`t really have time to get in that posture. The guy walked up and started shooting. So, there was no active shooter, you know, drill for someone who is actually shooting into the office. They -- they just had to run for their lives basically. O`DONNELL: Is this something that any of you working there had ever discussed, especially say after the shooting at Fort Hood? FREEMAN: It`s something that -- we do what`s called annual training every year as recruiters, and it`s something that we do go through and that we do talk about. But again, it`s -- there is no real drill for someone who is -- who is putting rounds into the -- into the room you`re in. It`s more so to make sure that you don`t go through and take more, you know, more lives than he could before. O`DONNELL: Robert Freeman, thank you very much for joining us tonight, and I`m very sorry for what`s happened to your former teammates down there today and I really appreciate you joining us, thank you. FREEMAN: All right, thank you. O`DONNELL: Joining us now, Eugene O`Donnell, a professor of law in police studies at John Jay College and a former police officer with the NYPD. Also joining us, Jim Cavanaugh, an "Nbc" law enforcement analyst and retired ATF special agent in charge. Jim was also the head of the ATF`s Nashville office where Jim and federal authorities are investigating there tonight. So Jim, you know that area, tell us what`s going on in that investigation now? JIM CAVANAUGH, LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST & RETIRED AGENT, BUREAU OF ALCOHOL, TOBACCO, FIREARMS & EXPLOSIVES: Well, we`ve got a big command post set up, they`ve got scores of agents down there from all the surrounding offices. And they`ve got agencies in there that are key to this; Chattanooga PD, their homicide bureau, Hamilton County Sheriff`s Department. The TBI, that`s the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, the Tennessee Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, the ATF, you know, the Tennessee Highway Patrol, and you know surrounding communities. So, they`ve got lots of people, Lawrence, to be able to do the investigation that they need to do. And the scene is stopped and static and the shooter is deceased. So, you know, they`re at the other house, they`re doing their searches, they`re starting to know more and more about this guy by the hour, and you know, they`re going to have it all wrapped up, but there is going to be no prosecution. O`DONNELL: Eugene O`Donnell, you know, you hear these stories sometimes and you listen and you think, well, maybe if they had done this instead of that. I mean, this is one of those things where it`s just pure vulnerability. They`re just in a store front and there`s -- I don`t see what they could possibly have done about this. EUGENE O`DONNELL, PROFESSOR OF LAW IN POLICE STUDIES & FORMER POLICE OFFICER, NEW YORK CITY POLICE DEPARTMENT: It`s a business office and you know, downtown, you know, on a main street. I think the two things that are at play here is learning about him, whether he has a network or whether it`s just simply about him acting alone. And then I think lessons learned as to whether this guy should have been on somebody`s radar screen. How people like this are being grown in the country and what kind of interventions we need to do to see if there`s anything that could be done where people are being radicalized. And it -- you know, this -- whether this turns out to be -- how far along on the continuum of terrorism this is. The fact is that we do have a very dangerous environment, now people are trying to go overseas and have been apprehended doing that en route to the battlefield essentially. And so it`s no longer, you know, a question of whether we have this issue as a serious issue, it is absolutely profoundly a serious issue at this point. O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to what Chattanooga Police Chief Fred Fletcher said about the investigation earlier. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) FRED FLETCHER, POLICE CHIEF, CHATTANOOGA: We`re identifying spots, we`re meeting on an hourly basis to make sure that any identified areas that might feel vulnerable are addressed in the appropriate manner. I can assure you that, all agencies, federal, state and local, are working together with the common goal of keeping everybody in this community, across this city, across this state and across this country safe. (END VIDEO CLIP) O`DONNELL: Jim Cavanaugh, talk about the emotions in an investigation like this. These are all people who never expected to be investigating the murder of four Marines. CAVANAUGH: Yes, this is heartbreaking. A law enforcement always has a close relationship with the military, you know, because a lot of law enforcement people come from the military. We work with them, you know, we go to their bases, you know, ATF, we worked closely with the CID of the army, the Naval Criminal Investigation Service, the Air Force OSI. So, there`s a big law enforcement military interaction. So, we certainly feel that for the Marine Corps. And then of course, there`s a wounded Chattanooga officer. And you know, these foreign terrorists groups have been encouraging their followers to kill police and military in the U.S., so that`s an ongoing thing like Eugene mentioned. So, that`s a real live threat to people who are in uniform. But Lawrence, just to comment about what transpired today when you talked about what happened, this guy might not have even got out of his vehicle. This could have been almost a drive-by shooting at the recruit center. The 911 calls come in, a great Mustang convertible and officers are converging, and what happens -- and I`ve done this in a patrol car and in shooting situations. Where there`s a shooting location, you`re responding and you encounter the vehicle. And you know, I had a partner with me and then the guy started shooting at us. So, this is likely what happened. The Chattanooga PD then engages when they see the vehicle that they try to pursue or apprehend. And then he speeds to the naval recruit center or you know, the reserve center and what happens is, you know, he kills four Marines somehow. We don`t even know those four Marines were in the car. Well, they could have been in the car and he drove right up next to them and shot them all with his -- with his rifle. So, we don`t quite know exactly how that transpired. Were they walking? But you know, the officers might have been behind him just a few seconds which would give him the ability to kill our heroes like he did. O`DONNELL: Gabe Gutierrez, what kind of headway are they making at this stage on the kind of details Jim Cavanaugh was just talking about? GUTIERREZ: Well, as you can see behind me, I mean, this is a very active scene right now with the FBI on scene. You know, forensically, trying to figure out what happened here. Twenty five, at least 25 rounds fired at this location. And then the other location is actually even more blocked off. So, the media hasn`t really been able to get a great -- you know, been able to see exactly what transpired there. But what Jim was saying was -- it was exactly right. We don`t know a lot of things. We don`t know if these, you know, the four Marines who were shot, what their proximity was to this convertible. If he somehow managed to, you know, get out of his convertible and approach the facility or if they were in the parking lot of the facility. And I go back to -- we don`t know if it was the officers that fatally shot him or if he decided to take his own life. Authorities have not revealed that as well. Now, this investigation is not just looking at the logistics of what went on here. There is also -- you know, they`re trying to piece together his history. He was arrested for driving under the influence earlier this year, that was really his only reason he was known to law enforcement. He was not in any federal watchlist of any sort. The FBI did not consider him a terrorism suspect, they had briefly, according to federal officials looked at his father years ago for perhaps having some type of connection to a terrorism organization. He is from the Palestinian territories, but that investigation was closed and he was not put on any sort of terror watchlist. So, now they`re looking to -- how perhaps this gunman acquired the weapons. We don`t know exactly how he acquired them. We`ve heard witnesses say that automatic weapons were used, but were they semi-automatic? Was it -- you know, what type of gun was used? We don`t know the answer to that. So, there`s still a lot of unanswered questions at this point, as to not just how this transpired, but why this transpired, Lawrence. O`DONNELL: Gabe Gutierrez, Jim Cavanaugh and Eugene O`Donnell, thank you all for joining us tonight. CAVANAUGH: Thanks, Lawrence. O`DONNELL: Coming up, President Obama makes a historic trip to a federal prison, and we will have more on the investigation in Chattanooga. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) O`DONNELL: An affiliate of the Islamic State has now taken credit for that group`s -- what they`re calling their first naval attack. The Islamic State says it attacked an Egyptian naval vessel with a rocket in the Mediterranean Sea near the coast of Israel. The Egyptian military says its coast guard did exchange shots with terrorists and the boat was set on fire, but no one was killed. Up next, more on the threat of terrorist violence in America. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: We know that -- what appears to be a lone gunman carried out these attacks. We have identified the name, and at this point, a full investigation is taking place. The FBI will be in the lead working closely with local law enforcement. We`ve also been in contact with the Department of Defense to make sure that all our defense facilities are properly attentive and vigilant as we sort through exactly what happened. (END VIDEO CLIP) O`DONNELL: According to the "New York Times", the gunman was not on the government`s radar, but law enforcement officials say that his father had been under investigation several years ago for possible ties with foreign terrorist organization. At one point, a law enforcement official said that the father was on a terrorist watchlist and was questioned while on a trip abroad, but that he was eventually removed from the list. The official cautioned that the investigation of the father was old and did not generate any information on the son. Joining us now is David Sterman, a Program Associate at the New America Foundation and an expert in American terrorism, and Anthony Lemue, the Associate Director of the Global Studies Institute and lead researcher of the Trans-Cultural Conflict and Violence Program at Georgia State University. David Sterman, your reaction to what we`ve seen today? DAVID STERMAN, PROGRAM ASSOCIATE, NEW AMERICA FOUNDATION: Thanks for having me. I think that what we have seen today is a horrible tragedy. And the FBI is doing exactly what it should be doing, opening a terrorism investigation while cautioning people that there`s no evidence so far, at least publicly that this is actually an act of terrorism. O`DONNELL: And Anthony Lemieux, what is your -- what is your reaction about what you`ve seen as this story has developed today? ANTHONY LEMIEUX, ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR, GLOBAL STUDIES INSTITUTE: Well, the first thing is, you know, certainly, in my kind of sense of, you know, just being really upset for the victims and their immediate families. And, you know, thinking about it, as David points out, really kind of understanding, you know, getting at some of those underlying motivations. So, I`ve been very curious about trying to see what becomes available about the perpetrators background. And so far, we don`t know a lot, but we have seen certain things that have come out, some statements that he`s posted only very recently on social media which have been of interest. O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to what James Comey said last week about how the Islamic State is trying to target young people through social media. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JAMES COMEY, DIRECTOR, FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION: They broadcast a message which is two-pronged. Come to the Islamic State and join us here in this -- you know, our version of paradise -- which is a nightmare, but their version of paradise. And second, if you can`t come, kill somebody where you are, videotape it, you can cut their head off and videotape it, great. Please try to kill law enforcement or military. (END VIDEO CLIP) O`DONNELL: David Sterman, do we see any pattern in the young people who are susceptible to that kind of material? STERMAN: It`s very difficult to determine pattern within people charged with Jihadist terrorism crimes. They tend to be middle class, but you see other classes, both men and women, although they tend to be overall men. They have a wide variety of ages, although they tend to be younger at the moment in this particular cohort. And they have a wide variety of educational levels. So, it`s very hard to generate any kind of profile. And again, we have no information on this particular individual and whether he was connected to Jihadist terrorists at all, let alone ISIS. O`DONNELL: We`re going to now hear a very short forum from a young person who has been susceptible to this. This is the son of a Boston police captain who was arrested for illegally buying four firearms from an undercover FBI informant. This is video of him being questioned by the FBI after he was arrested on July 4th. And here he is talking about the people who we have seen beheaded by the Islamic State. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The people that you -- people that you see being executed are criminals. They`re criminals. (END VIDEO CLIP) O`DONNELL: Tony Lemieux, what does it take to take an American kid -- now, that -- this kid`s had a lot of mental problems in his history that we know about. So, that`s certainly a factor in this. But to hear a young American talking the way about these people who were beheaded, what is that road that gets them to that space? LEMIEUX: Well, there is -- there is a lot of different pathways that get you there. I think one of the key things is that, you know, he went on to say they`re the lowest of the low. And he really kind of has that sort of essentializing dehumanizing aspect of it. So, they`re not even actually considered as people. Now, to kind of bring that back even to the Chattanooga attacks, you have here, you know, targeting of a military recruiting station. So there is an extra layer of that kind of dehumanization and really kind of labeling the out-group as an enemy that is, you know, that you need to go out and kill. And so, that I think is part of it. But it also has that sense of, you know, here is someone who is trying to kind of fit in, and certainly in the case of Boston. You know, to try to kind of be part of something bigger and that is part of the appeal certainly that ISIS is trying to do. I would say, the only thing that would really kind of lead me to kind of sway towards that, and as David points out, we don`t really know definitively yet. But there have been, you know, specific calls for attacks and especially now. I mean, especially because we`re about to, you know, end Ramadan. So, we`re kind of in that period where ISIS had been calling for those particular sorts of attacks and military recruiting stations have been targeted in the past, even 2009 in Little Rock. I mean, so, this is not unprecedented. It just happens to tragically be the worst we`ve experienced thus far. O`DONNELL: Tony Lemieux and David Sterman, thank you for joining us on this sad night. Thank you. STERMAN: Thank you. LEMIEUX: Thank you. O`DONNELL: Coming up, President Obama makes history. The first sitting president to visit a federal prison. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) O`DONNELL: Today President Obama made history by being the first president to visit a federal prisoner. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: The United States accounts for 5 percent of the world`s population. We account for 25 percent of the world`s inmates. And, that represents a huge surge since 1980. I just took a look at a cell where because of overcrowding specifically, we might have three people housed in a cell that looks to be, what, 15 by -- UNIDENTIFIED MALE SPEAKER: 9x10. OBAMA: Huh? UNIDENTIFIED MALE SPEAKER: 9x10 OBAMA: 9x10. Three full grown men in 9x10 cell. (END VIDEO CLIP) O`DONNELL: Later President Obama started to walk away from reporters when one shouted a question and the president`s answer got personal. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: Visiting with these six individuals -- and I have said this before, when they describe their youth and their childhood, these are -- these are young people who made mistakes that are not that different than the mistakes I made and the mistakes that a lot of you guys made. I think we have is a tendency sometimes to almost take for granted, or think it is normal that so many young people end up in our criminal justice system. It is not normal. It is not what happens in other countries. What is normal is teenagers doing stupid things. What is normal is young people making mistakes. And, we got to be able to distinguish between dangerous individuals who need to be incapacitated and incarcerated versus young people who are in an environment in which they are adapting. But if given different opportunities, different vision of life could be thriving the way we are. That is what strikes me. There, but for the grace of god. And, that I think is something that we all have to think about. (END VIDEO CLIP) O`DONNELL: More on President Obama`s historic visit next. And, later, a few words about Donald Trump. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) OBAMA: For non-violent drug crimes we need to lower long mandatory minimum sentence or get rid of them entirely. We should pass a sentencing reform bill through congress this year. (AUDIENCE APPLAUDING) We need to ask prosecutors to use their discretion to seek the best punishment, the one that is most effective instead of just the longest punishment. We should invest in alternatives to prison, like drug courts and treatment and probation programs. (END VIDEO CLIP) O`DONNELL: Joining us now David Corn, the Washington Bureau Chief for Mother Jones and an MSNBC Political Analyst. Also with us, Jonathan Capehart, opinion writer for the "Washington Post" and an MSNBC contributor. Also joining us, former Judge Cordell, who is now the Independent Police Auditor for the City of San Jose. Judge Cordell, your reaction to what you heard the President say today in that prison. FMR. JUDGE LADORIS CORDELL, INDEPENDENT POLICE AUDITOR, CITY OF SAN JOSE: Lawrence, by the president going to a federal prison and then two days ago delivering a speech the NAACP about criminal justice reform, this was a game changer. This is a game changer for reform of the criminal justice system. No president before him, who has -- and all of them have pushed for criminal justice reform but in the opposite direction. They have all pushed for more prisons, tougher sentencing laws. This president has done a 180 and it is just remarkable. This is a huge deal. O`DONNELL: Jonathon Capehart, that personal moment that came down for him there but for the grace of God. How did you react to that? JONATHAN CAPEHART, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I mean, it is something the president has talked about before. I mean he mentioned it during my brother`s keeper launch last year. He brings it up every time he talks to young people, particularly young men of color. Remember when after the acquittal of George Zimmerman, there in the White House press briefing, where President Obama said that, you know, he -- 30- something years ago, he could have been Trayvon Martin and that because he grew up in an environment where second chances were allowed, where he was allowed to make mistakes his path was different. And, so he recognizes very strongly and very well that a lot of the young people he has met during his presidency. A lot of the people who are in that prison in Oklahoma that he visited today and who are caught up in the criminal justice system, that he could have been them, and those are the folks who are in prison for, you know, low-level drug offenses and who could have been diverted to other programs. That is what he is trying to -- that is what he is hoping to change. I mean I hope he is right that he would like to get a criminal justice reform package done this year. But as we know in this town, the president wants it. It is hard to see how he is going to get it. Even with bipartisan support that there is for criminal justice reform right now. O`DONNELL: Yes. There is some surprising bipartisan support right now. But, David Corn, before we get to that, I want to just linger for a moment on the fact that he did not just say that it could have been him. President Obama did not just say this kind of thing could have happened to me. He pointed it to all of the press corps there and said, "You know, a lot of these are the kinds of mistakes that we all made, that you all made. And, that is, you know, certainly applies to me and everybody I grew up with at some point did something trivial or not so trivial that I could have gotten us arrested and most of the time did not." DAVID CORN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: He was, basically, saying we live in a rigged system, where some people get treated a different way than others for doing essentially the same thing. You group in a middle class, upper class, suburban area, and you get in trouble with the cops, the law. You have an intact family. You have friends. You may be a lawyer. And you can get off pretty easily. You know, and it has been true for decades. It happens in an urban area. You are poor. You do not have those resources, and you pay a heavy price. And, politicians -- and this is I think the big break here. Politicians for decades starting really with really, you know, in some ways with Richard Nixon but even goes back before that have played politics with crime. They have used all of these poor kids as, basically, cajole and try to go against the other side and say, "I am going to keep them longer. We are going to throw away the idea of rehabilitation. It is all going to be punitive." Even though Clinton did that with the crime bill in 1994 and Barack Obama has finally come around. Thank God for second terms and saying we need to rethink fundamentally how we deal with crime from a political and a policy perspective. O`DONNELL: Let us listen to what Bill Clinton said today, not today but this week about what he got wrong when he was president. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BILL CLINTON, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: I signed a bill that made the problem worse. I will not admit it but in that Bill, there were longer sentences. And, most of these people were in prison under state law, but the federal law set a trend and that was overdone. We were wrong about that. The bad news is, we had a lot of people who were essentially locked up who were minor actors for way too long. (END VIDEO CLIP) O`DONNELL: Ladoris Cordell, talk about what that Clintoneer. I do not mean to begot to him, because all of Washington was very excited every chance they could get to introduce a new harsh, federal penalty. I once heard a senator jokingly say about the Clinton Health Care Bill, "We could get this passed, if we just put a death penalty in here somewhere." And, that was the spirit of Washington at that time. CORDELL: Sure. The political wins were such that Bill Clinton grabbed on to them. And, I will tell you, you know, he should apologize, but that is not enough. If he really wants to make amends for I think the great harm that he caused in pushing forward the passage of that legislation. He needs to be out front. I think he should be out front on criminal justice reform. When President Obama pushed for all this, this is for the federal system. This is not about the states and the hope is that the states will follow on the tailwinds of the federal system here as we reform it. And, I think that Bill Clinton, if is truly apologetic, he should really take the lead in seeing these reforms happen throughout the country. O`DONNELL: Listen to what John Boehner said today about the possibilities here. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JOHN BOEHNER, SPEAKER OF UNITED STATES REPRESENTATIVE: I have long believed that there needed to be reform of our criminal justice system. Chairman Goodlatte last year put together a working group that had recommendations. And, I supported his recommendations and they are by and large embraced in the bill that Mr. Sensenbrenner has with Mr. Scott. We have a lot of people in prison frankly, that really in my view, really do not need to be there. It is expensive to house prisoners sometimes, frankly. So many of these people are in there under what I will call flimsy reasons. And, so, I think it is time that we review this process they have and I am looking forward to putting those recommendations on the floor. (END VIDEO CLIP) O`DONNELL: John Capehart, I do not know how to handicap that legislation and where it that is going but to hear a Republican Speaker of the House saying, that has to be encouraging. CAPEHART: Yes. I, actually -- I am going to walk back what I said in my original answer just a little bit. On the one hand, I noticed that he talked about how much it costs to house these prisoners. And, that is where you have some republicans on Capitol Hill who are latching on criminal justice reform because they see it as a way of bringing down government spending. But Speaker Boehner went the extra step by talking about sort of the moral part of this problem, and that is, as he said, people in prison for quote, "Flimsy Reasons." And, so that actually did give me -- I am very, actually, more hopeful than I was when this segment started. (LAUGHING) O`DONNELL: All right. Well, that is the perfect note to end on. David Corn, Jonathan Capehart and Ladoris Cordell, thank you all for joining me tonight. CORN: Sure. Thanks, Lawrence. CORDELL: Thanks, Lawrence. O`DONNELL: Coming up next, a verdict in the Aurora, Colorado theater shooting. And later, I will address Donald Trump`s big challenge to me today. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JANSEN YOUNG, 2012 AURORA THEATER SHOOTING VICTIM: I just feel closure and a weight lifted that I did not even know was there. (END VIDEO CLIP) O`DONNELL: That is Jansen Young, a survivor of the Aurora Movie Theater shooting after a Colorado jury announced a verdict today. James Holmes is guilty on all counts. Jansen Young was able to witness the trial but her boyfriend Jon Blunk was not. Jon Blunk was one of the 12 people killed when Holmes opened fire within that crowded movie theater in July of 2012. The jury spent 13 hours deliberating before rejecting the defense`s claim that Holmes was legally insane. The case will now proceed to the penalty phase, where the same jury will decide whether to send Holmes to life in prison or to death row. Coming up, next, the republican presidential campaign has a new frontrunner. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) O`DONNELL: A new Fox News Poll released tonight shows the Republican field has an officially new frontrunner. Donald Trump is at 18 percent. Scott Walker is at 15 percent. Jeb Bush is at 14 percent. Rand Paul is at 8. Marco Rubio 7. Ben Carson is 6. Fox News Poll last month shows Jeb Bush leading with 15 percent. Donald Trump with then only 11 percent, then Carson with 10 percent. Scott Walker and Rand Paul with 9 percent. Tonight`s poll has a 5 percent margin of error. I have a few more words to say about Donald Trump next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) O`DONNELL: And, now for a few words about Donald Trump. I like him. I know how shocking that sounds to faithful viewers of this program. So, let me explain. When I was a kid, the first columnist I ever read was "The Boston Globe`s" great George Frazier who once said he never wanted to meet politicians because he was afraid he might like them, and then could not write about them object ively. I understand what the he meant. Here is the moment when I met Donald Trump just three months ago. Donald was making his grand entrance in the ballroom of the White House Correspondents` dinner, and I was sitting alone at a table minding my own business. He spotted me, called my name and watch what he did. He stretches out his hand for a handshake. That, he does that to a guy, who savaged him four years ago when he was talking about running for president. I bothered him so much back then he threatened to sue me, but he did not care about any of that when he saw me. He just wanted to shake my hand and wish me well. Now, that moment was not going to happen if it was up to me. I was not going to go out of my way to say something nice to Donald Trump and shake his hand, because on that night, in that moment, Donald was a bigger man than I was and I liked him for that. It was not the first time Donald reached out to me. A year ago when I returned to this show after a lengthy hospitalization recovery from a car accident, Donald watched that first show when I came back. I really did not know how to return to the show; meaning, I just did not know what to say about what have happened to me or if I could actually talk about it at all. I was very unsure of myself that night. And, as it turned out, I spent the first 15 minutes of the show thanking from the heart all of the people who put me back together and then I tried to move the show closer to its regular jurisdiction. The first e-mail I read, the next day was a message from Donald Trump to me. It said, Donald Trump`s office called this morning. They wanted to express Donald Trump`s sentiments. He said he watched the show last night and thought Larry was great. And that touched me deeply. And, when Donald Trump announced his candidacy, I welcomed it in the same spirit as Jon Stewart. This is going to be fun to cover. That is what I set out to do. That is the way I wanted to cover Donald this time. But I got myself hung up on the least important thing about Donald Trump, the future president, how much money he has earned in T.V. Donald is now bothered by my disbelief that I have expressed about how much money NBC paid him as the star of "The Apprentice" series. And, today, Donald came up with a better idea than threatening to sue me. This time, he challenged me to bet 100 percent of my salary that I am wrong about his NBC income. Now, where I come from, no one settled disagreements with bets because none of us had any money to bet. So, no, Donald there will not be any bet because I would never bet about anything. I just do not bet, period. And, I do not want to be in a story about Donald Trump. I want to cover this campaign, and I might be wrong. I have never said, I know exactly how much Donald Trump made for the entire series. I do not know. I have made semi-educated guesses about it and I do not really care very much about it. I do not really care. And, so, after I offered my guesses about it last night on this program and tried to have some fun with it. James Fallows wisely tweeted that Donald`s T.V income does not matter and I immediately agreed with him on Twitter. Then I stupidly jumped in to talking about it again on "Morning Joe" today, where I in fact hijacked a few minutes of the show to talk about this thing that I know does not matter. That I have already said publicly does not matter. And, others have expressed doubts about Donald`s claims about money. Timothy O`Brien, a "New York Times`" reporter wrote a book about such doubts, but no one has expressed such doubts with harsher language than I have. And, I am not proud of that. I do not want the prize for the guy, who uses the meanest words in a debate. I do not want to be the angry guy about Donald Trump because I am not. And, so, as I said, I do not want to be in stories about Donald Trump. I just want to sit here and cover the Donald Trump campaign. I was trying to have fun, talking about Donald`s money this morning, but when I watched the video of that thing this afternoon, it did not look like fun. And, when I finally shut up about this stuff this morning on the show, only then did I realize that I had been eating up time that should have been devoted to Joe and Mika`s interview with April Ryan, who had just joined the panel to discuss her very important question to President Obama yesterday in the press conference about Bill Cosby. Now, I am really sorry that I wasted the time that should have been focused on what April Ryan had to say. And, I want to give April Ryan a chance to be heard again on this, because once we all listened to April this morning, she left us all speechless. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MIKA BRZEZINSKI, MSNBC CO-HOST OF "MORNING JOE" PROGRAM: April, step out of the reporter role and tell me what you felt as a human being about that answer. APRIL RYAN, AMERICAN JOURNALIST: -- You know I am not supposed to be the story, but as a woman, as a daughter of a woman, as a mother of two daughters, I was floored. I was like, "Wow, it was strong. It was a statement." You know, and hearing these allegations -- I mean it is -- it is amazing. And, then, you know, as someone -- you know, being a kid I grew up, you know, on Cosby, "Fat Albert." I remember my parents gave me this little -- what is it? A 45. Remember those little 45 pistons called "water water everywhere" by Bill Cosby. And, you know, I watched "The Cosby Show." I watched "Different World." You know, it was interesting. But my reporter`s hat was on the taking a look back, you know. It is just a sad situation all the way around for everyone. And, it was a presidential issue. Anytime you have people asking that this president revoke a medal of freedom given by another president it became presidential and I had to ask that question. It is not about me personally. It is about the issue. Anything presidential, anything, nothing is beyond bounds to ask the president of the United States and that definitely was a presidential question. BRZEZINSKI: April, thank you. Lawrence O`Donnell and Cordell Crystal (ph), both as well. (END VIDEO CLIP) O`DONNELL: April Ryan I guess tonight`s Last Word. Chris Hayes is up next. END