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The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, Transcript 10/13/15

Guests: Steve Kornacki, Jonathan Alter, April Ryan, Steve Schmidt, LawrenceLessig, Timothy Lytton, Steve Clemons, Michael Kay

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC: That does it for us tonight, we will see you again tomorrow, now it`s time for THE LAST WORD with Lawrence O`Donnell, good evening, Lawrence. LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, HOST, THE LAST WORD: Good evening Rachel. We`ve been watching the debate here now and we`re going to do some early reactions to it. MADDOW: Wonderful. O`DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel. MADDOW: Thanks. O`DONNELL: Democratic presidential candidates have completed the first hour of their first debate in Las Vegas. The candidates clashed on gun control, foreign policy and what Bernie Sanders call the worst foreign policy mistake in American history; the Iraq war. There was no disagreement on Hillary Clinton`s e-mails as Secretary of State and Bernie Sanders got the only standing ovation of the evening by saying Hillary Clinton`s e-mails should not be an issue in this campaign. Joining us now, Msnbc host and political correspondent Steve Kornacki, also with us, Jonathan Alter, Msnbc political analyst and columnist for "The Daily Beast". And April Ryan, White House correspondent and Washington Bureau Chief for "American Urban Radio Networks". Steve Kornacki, your scorecard so far. STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC: So far, it`s a very good night for Hillary Clinton. The one asterisk I put on that is the sort of -- reminds me of a -- of a baseball series. The first hour of this debate, we got home game for Hillary Clinton. What did they talk about? They talked about guns, that`s the issue where Bernie Sanders is most vulnerable with the Democratic base. Hillary Clinton came ready with an attack on Bernie Sanders on that issue, she was backed up by Martin O`Malley, in the end, Bernie Sanders really had nowhere to go on that issue. Then they said going into foreign policy, there was one moment there where there was a question about Russia, about Vladimir Putin, yet Bernie Sanders seemed totally unprepared to answer. He was stumbling around, he was stammering, this is not the Bernie Sanders people have come to know. But just as we were coming on the air right now, the second hour of the debate beginning and I saw they were shifting to Wall Street. They were shifting to the idea of (INAUDIBLE) of breaking up the big banks. This is much more Bernie Sanders home turf. So, maybe it`s going to be a Bernie Sanders home game for the second half. But so far, my main take away from this first hour is, we`re all thinking about Joe Biden sitting there, watching this debate in the naval observatory, trying to figure out whether to get in the race. I don`t think he watches the first hour of this debate and says, yes, there`s room to go after Hillary Clinton here. O`DONNELL: Yes, Jonathan Alter, in watching that first hour, it was -- I didn`t miss Joe Biden. JONATHAN ALTER, COLUMNIST, THE DAILY BEAST: Right, and he really has to have an opening and a ground swell for him to get in this thing. The other thing to understand about this debate is, it has competition on television. The two biggest media markets are -- you know, have baseball; the Mets versus the Dodgers. Men disproportionally watch baseball. That means by definition, among Democrats watching this debate, it`s going to be more heavily waited to winning viewers who are much tougher on gun control than male Democrats. So, Hillary was scoring not just in the exchanges with Sanders, but with the audience, which was women that she needs to hold and women who feel very strongly on the gun issue, and she scored points with them tonight. O`DONNELL: All right, April Ryan, one of the -- one of the questions from the audience was -- through Facebook was, do black lives matter or do all - - APRIL RYAN, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT & WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, AMERICAN URBAN RADIO NETWORKS: Yes -- O`DONNELL: Lives matter? And we saw Bernie Sanders answer to that -- he went straight ahead with black lives matter. RYAN: Yes, that`s a really big issue for all the candidates. We`ve seen recently that Hillary Clinton as well as Bernie Sanders have been talking to people in the Black Lives Matter Movement. It`s a very big issue right now, particularly as we are dealing with criminal justice reform and community policing and training of police. And seeing the accountability piece of the video tapes that we`re seeing with Eric Garner and all these other people -- Freddie Gray, all these different people. We`re seeing videotape from Walter Scott. And also, when they talked about Black Lives Matter, I just can`t help but think about Martin O`Malley talking about what he did in Baltimore and the issue of Baltimore. Because that is all a part of the black lives matter issue as well; the Freddie Gray incident in Baltimore with the police and also -- and the zero tolerance issue. So, I think Black Lives Matter is a piece that`s going to follow these candidates pretty much for the rest of this campaign season. It`s a real big issue. O`DONNELL: Bernie Sanders had a lot of strong moments in this debate including when they got into Middle Eastern policy, on Syria, he said, it is a "quagmire in a quagmire." KORNACKI: Yes, he -- also, he had the line on the Iraq war, he knew this would come up, calling Hillary Clinton`s vote, calling anybody who voted for the Iraq war in 2000. He was saying that was the greatest foreign policy mistake. Although, what was interesting is, we remember how vulnerable Hillary Clinton was on that Iraq vote in 2008. How much room that gave Barack Obama. The answer she has for it in the year 2015, the answer she`ll have in 2016, is, hey, yes, remember that campaign against Barack Obama where he questioned my judgment on Iraq, he questioned my judgment on foreign policy? Well, when that campaign ended, he made me his secretary of state. He had enough confidence in my judgment despite that vote in 2002, that he put me in charge of American foreign policy. I thought that was an effective answer that she gave tonight and you think back to 2008, she didn`t have the ability to give that kind of an answer that time -- ALTER: Yes -- O`DONNELL: Yes, Jonathan Alter, it was really striking that she simply used Barack Obama as the human shield on the Iraq question. ALTER: Yes, I think it worked for her pretty well, but I do think there`s also a sense in certain quarters of the Democratic Party that Sanders and the other candidates, except for Webb, are more liberal on foreign policy. So, for people who really focus on those issues, they remember not just -- not just the Iraq vote, but that she was pushing hard on Libya, you know, she tried to blame it on the allies. But she was really very interested in getting the administration to intervene in Libya. But overall, people get a general impression in these debates, the specifics are less important. She is showing once again, as she did in most of the debates in 2008, where she beat Obama routinely in those debates, that she`s a very effective debater. She`s poised, she has good cogent answers, she had a one-word answer that worked very well for her when asked, do you want to respond on, you know, on these e-mails? And she just said, no! But in a way, that worked for her. That didn`t seem defensive, which has been her problem in some other setting. O`DONNELL: Yes, this was a moment where Lincoln Chafee was the only one who was saying something negative about the e-mails. And basically saying, you should have a scandal-free candidate with no scandal at any point in their history. She was asked if she wanted to respond to that and the `no` got a big cheer out of the audience. ALTER: Right -- O`DONNELL: A one-word answer. ALTER: Right. O`DONNELL: Yes. April Ryan, on the -- on the gun issue, Bernie Sanders kept repeating that he`s a senator from a rural state. He seemed -- it depends on how you were -- how you were hearing it. But it almost sounded like a much more elegant version of the very clumsy Mitt Romney -- I am in politics for Pete`s sake. Meaning, you know, I`m from a rural state, what did you expect of me on gun control in the Senate? RYAN: Well, he`s basically saying there`s game in there, you know. But one thing in particular that I picked out from his conversation or his speech on the gun control issue, he did say that the NRA gave him a D minus. So, he wanted people to understand that, yes, I am in this state where we use guns for game, and we have guns, but at the same time, I go up against the NRA. And it was very interesting too, to watch how he got in this back and forth with Martin O`Malley, the governor of Maryland, the then governor of Maryland. And Martin O`Malley was saying, hey, you need to come and see certain parts of Maryland and how we deal with gun control. And it was interesting to see Bernie Sanders basically dismissing and saying, look, you were never in Congress and the crowd roared there. So, Bernie Sanders has some points and people have to really take more of an in-depth look. You can`t get it all when people are going back and forth in that moment, that heated exchange. But I think he made a really key point to say that the NRA gave me a D minus. So, that lets people know that he`s not necessarily pro guns, pro gun as some people would like for them to believe. O`DONNELL: Steve, I tweeted a few hours before the debate that the big question was, who was going to be the first one to mention the word "socialist"? And I think most of my Twitter followers got it right. They said it would be the moderators. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK -- O`DONNELL: It was almost the first word out of Anderson Cooper`s mouth. It was the first question aimed at Bernie Sanders. His political history going back decades to his youth was very much on the table tonight. And Anderson Cooper actually composed under Republican attack ad against Bernie Sanders, if he is the nominee, accusing him of being a socialist and all this stuff. He did not compose any Republican attack ad against Hillary Clinton or any of the other candidates any other point there. But how did -- how did Bernie Sanders handle that first inning that was all about socialism? KORNACKI: I thought he handled the question well, but what really I found interesting about the exchange was, Hillary Clinton, as soon as Bernie Sanders finished, she was ready to get into that discussion. And she had a -- she was taking a shot at -- (CROSSTALK) O`DONNELL: An easy one for her to duck, by the way. KORNACKI: Yes, but she -- O`DONNELL: She wanted this, yes -- KORNACKI: She wanted this and she basically said, when she thinks of capitalism, she thinks of small businesses. She thinks of the greatest period of prosperity in this country`s history. Thinks of the post-war decades, and she says that basically, the goal of government and her goal in politics, sometimes needs to be to save capitalism from itself; the excesses of capitalism. But basically, a defense of the capitalist system. And it seemed like what she was trying to do there was draw a clear contrast with Bernie Sanders and basically say, look, if you put him up in the fall, he`s going to have to answer the kind of question that Anderson Cooper just asked him. In any debate, he is -- in any interview he`s in, if you put me up, don`t worry, I`m going to defend capitalism. O`DONNELL: Jon -- ALTER: But the fact that they`re having a conversation about capitalism, I mean, this hasn`t happened in this country in a very long time. And that Hillary Clinton is essentially taking what she called a new-new deal approach. It`s going way back to a bunch -- O`DONNELL: The new deal by the way was declared to be socialism by all of its -- ALTER: Right -- O`DONNELL: Opponents -- ALTER: Exactly -- O`DONNELL: Yes -- ALTER: But she is -- O`DONNELL: And it was mostly socialism. ALTER: She is willing -- under pressure from Bernie Sanders to go back to these very old debates that new Democrats, like her husband Bill Clinton tried to get away from. You know, you didn`t see Bill Clinton in 1992 debating capitalism. Saying, we have to save capitalism from itself. She`s -- even though her positions on, you know, middle class tax cut and higher taxes on the wealthy are pretty much the same as her husbands were in the 1990s. The rhetoric, the conversation, the fact that socialism and capitalism and the very nature of our system is on the table is really very interesting intellectual development. It`s not politically that significant, but very interesting for those scoring at home. O`DONNELL: All right, quick break here -- ALTER: All right -- O`DONNELL: Steve Kornacki, thank you very much for joining us. Coming up, one of the Democratic candidates for president was not invited onto that debate stage tonight, but he will be invited onto this stage; Professor Lawrence Lessig will be joining us, coming up. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: And some people think Mr. Trump is entertaining, but I don`t think it`s entertaining when somebody insults immigrants -- UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right, that`s right -- CLINTON: Insults women -- UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That`s right -- CLINTON: That is just unacceptable behavior. (END VIDEO CLIP) O`DONNELL: That was Hillary Clinton at a labor protest outside of Trump hotel in Nevada last night. Up next, Donald Trump has been tweeting the debate. He tweeted praise for one candidate on the stage tonight -- guess which one? (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DONALD TRUMP, CHAIRMAN & PRESIDENT, THE TRUMP ORGANIZATIONS & FOUNDER, TRUMP ENTERTAINMENT RESORTS: What happens is, a lot of the people have been tweeting, would you please, tweet? And I said, well, it`s going to be a pretty boring debate, I think, I mean, we`ll see. But I think it`s going to be pretty boring. But -- so, I`ve agreed that from 8:00 on, we`re going to live tweet. (END VIDEO CLIP) O`DONNELL: Here is a sample of Donald Trump`s boring tweets for tonight. "Putin is not feeling too nervous or scared, the trade deal is a disaster, she was always for it. And can anyone imagine Chafee as president? No way." Jonathan Alter, he`s also been retweeting -- mostly retweeting fans of his, saying, it`s terrible without you up there, Donald. But he praised one of these candidates on the stage. Do you know which one it is? ALTER: Bernie Sanders. O`DONNELL: Oh, you got it right. So, he praised Bernie Sanders, he said good move to Bernie Sanders after Bernie Sanders said: "let`s remember where we were when Bush left office, we were losing 800,000 jobs a month, and I know my Republican friends seem to have some amnesia on this issue. But the world`s financial system was on the verge of collapse." He went on from there, we cannot show you clips because "Cnn" owns these clips, since they own the debate right now, won`t be able to show it to you after the debate. So, big surprise, Bernie Sanders gets the one praise from Donald -- ALTER: I don`t think it`s pressed on, I mean, it`s two reasons for doing this. Remember Trump is obsessed with Twitter, so when the rest of us are, you know, wildly -- O`DONNELL: To put it mildly -- ALTER: Watching movies or baseball or living our lives, he`s tweeting. And -- but he has two reasons to tweet favorably about Bernie Sanders. He believes he`s going to be the Republican nominee, and he knows that Bernie Sanders would be the easiest Democratic nominee to beat. And so, of course, he wants Bernie Sanders to win the nomination, and he`s going to try to pump him any way he can. And he also is fighting Jeb Bush for the Republican nomination. And so anybody who takes a shot at George W. Bush, he`s going to tweet favorably about that person. Because he wants to remind Republican Party voters that Jeb Bush is connected to this disastrous war. And I do think that it`s a -- Trump on that issue -- not to talk about the Republicans too much tonight, Lawrence, but is a huge problem for Jeb. The fact that he was against that war which at the beginning of this campaign, most people didn`t know what Donald Trump`s position was on the Iraq war. But he will bring that up over and over again between now and the -- and the final Republican debate, and it is a huge problem for Jeb Bush. O`DONNELL: We`re joined now by Steve Schmidt, Republican strategist and Msnbc political analyst. Steve, your scorecard so far on this debate? STEVE SCHMIDT, CAMPAIGN STRATEGIST & PUBLIC RELATIONS WORKER FOR THE UNITED STATES REPUBLICAN PARTY: Strong performances I think across the board from the Democratic candidates on the stage. I think they are communicating effectively to a Democratic audience out there. You know, certainly, it is the case I think when you watch this debate tonight that Bernie Sanders is for real. He`s going to have a big impact in this Democratic campaign. He`s going to win an early state or two and we`ll see how many he wins, he`s going to accumulate some delegates. But one of the things I think that was most important about this debate from a political impact was the degree to which it was going to drive demand for a Joe Biden candidacy -- O`DONNELL: Yes -- SCHMIDT: I still think it`s too early to tell, to be able to analyze that. But will Joe Biden be on the next debate stage? And will there be a demand that he get in after the performances of these candidates? I certainly don`t think it`s the case that you look at them and say that there`s something missing, that it`s a terrible field, that there`re not very effective communicators. But a high energy debate. O`DONNELL: And Jonathan, if you`re looking, if you`re a voter who is looking for an alternative to Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders, because that`s what the Biden candidacy has to be. It has to be an alternative to vote for those. If you look at Martin O`Malley tonight, does he start to step into that role? ALTER: I don`t think he really does. I mean, he`s a very presentable candidate, and you could see him, you know, being a good candidate in future cycles. But Hillary scored on him by saying, look, you endorsed me strongly, you know, we`re friends -- and she sort of asked him like, why are you running? Like, what are you bringing to the party? And I don`t think he really had a very good answer. O`DONNELL: And Steve, what would be the Biden calculation in -- when you`re staring at these polls, are there so many things in it that are kind of too far off in the future? One of the things that`s the farthest from the future are these head-to- head matchups a year from now -- ALTER: Right -- O`DONNELL: Against the Republican. That happens to be the most encouraging element of all the polls for Joe Biden. He does better against every Republican in these polls than any of the other Democrats. Is that the kind of thing the professionals stare at now and take to have some real meaning? SCHMIDT: Sure, it does have meaning, but it`s hypothetical because a lot of things have to happen in order to get to that -- to get to that point down the road. What is true though, I think in Joe Biden`s calculation, in that people understand Washington D.C., particularly people who`ve been around the national security establishment of the country. Though Republicans made a big mistake rhetorically about this investigation that Trey Gowdy is leading, at the end of the day, the FBI is investigating. Multiple federal agencies, it is a serious inquiry and there`s a lot of unknowns attached to that. And one of the things that Biden, I think understands is the degree to which Hillary Clinton`s credibility, her numbers, her trust numbers, have been decimated over these last months. So, she`s always going to perform well on a partisan Democratic debate audience, but in the real world, there are vulnerabilities that Joe Biden certainly looking at I think has every reason to believe, hey, can I get in there? Shoot the gap and take this nomination? And it`s certainly difficult to argue that that`s not a possibility. O`DONNELL: Jonathan Alter, in Republican news today, the -- to put mildly, Republicans have been focused on -- what happens after Trump? Hoping that after Trump is sooner rather than later. It seems -- there`s a report indicating that Sheldon Adelson might be betting on Marco Rubio after Trump. This is a massive amount of financing that instantly becomes available to Marco Rubio if true. And what does that do to the standings after Trump? ALTER: Well, you know, Steve in a lot of ways is better equipped to answer this question, but you know, if there is a sense that the game is moving to Rubio, that could be a very significant deal, especially since he`s been having a lot of trouble, Lawrence, in raising money. That`s been the big mark against him so far in this race. As he hasn`t done very well in that department. So, if Adelson, single-handedly going to, you know, erase at least some of the gap between him and Jeb Bush. He gets even more serious than he already is. And it`s already a lot of chatter that this nomination is going to end up being with Rubio if he can continue to -- RYAN: Hello -- ALTER: Perform as well as he has been. RYAN: April Ryan, Bernie Sanders has pulled Donald Trump into the debate tonight on Bernie`s tax proposals, saying that Donald Trump -- this is -- this is a quote, "Donald Trump and his billionaire friends under my policies are going to pay a hell of a lot more in taxes today, taxes in the future than they`re paying today." Donald Trump would be it seems, the perfect poster boy for higher taxes in that debate room tonight. RYAN: How about that? Oh, yes, he came up with that tax plan that basically would allow Donald Trump, speaking of -- that will basically allow his friends, his very wealthy friends in this country to benefit. Bernie Sanders, and I guess you would call him a socialist, he is -- he is making no bones about the fact that he believes in the middle class and the average every day person. So, there is a definite demarcation between Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders when it comes to taxes. But I find it interesting, and going back to the point that you made earlier, talking about socialists and capitalists. I think that, that whole conversation has been driven by the Republican Party seeing the fact that many of the Republicans don`t want to have taxes, heavy taxes or any kind of what they consider an imbalance of taxes on the rich or the wealthy. So, therefore, the Republicans are saying that, and the Democrats are saying, wait a minute, let`s take a step back and let`s look at this and see who really is hurting in America and who really needs. So, I think that`s where all of that came from. And there`s a big demarcation line and that`s the man that Donald Trump likes, Bernie Sanders. O`DONNELL: Steve Schmidt, what`s the best Republican candidate strategy in reaction to this debate tonight? Ignore it and pick something out of it to throw at Hillary Clinton? SCHMIDT: One of the things we don`t talk enough about is the thread that connects Bernie Sanders voters to Donald Trump voters. And it`s a belief by both sets of voters that they have different issues that they project onto, that the system is not on the level. It`s a rigged game. So when Donald Trump made that comment about Bernie Sanders talking about the financial collapse -- O`DONNELL: Yes -- SCHMIDT: One thing that Republicans in Washington do not understand emotionally is the degree to which this was the psychic event of a generation for working class Americans, including many Republican voters, millions of whom lost their homes. In the Trump base, it`s blue collar. It`s economically down scale. Formerly middle class. These are people whose middle class jobs have been off-shored, outsourced, sent overseas as the industrial base in the country has been dismantled. This is why Washington Republicans talk about free trade, free trade, free trade and fair trade resonates. And the Trump position exactly the same as the Hillary Clinton position. And you see increasingly these left-right coalitions united on issues like trade because both sides have a similar voter cohort that they`re speaking to on that. And so when Donald Trump is communicating to his voters, this is why he`s against the carried interest loophole. This is why he`s attacked John Kasich and Jeb Bush for their post-government Wall Street ties. And he`s very much synced-up with Bernie Sanders with this populist anger that he`s directing at the political class in Washington D.C.. It`s a potent and powerful message. ALTER: And the thing is, even if Trump fades, Bernie Sanders fades, the result of this could be that the trade deal fails. That`s a huge historic -- this is the biggest trade deal ever. There`s you know -- so, sometimes when a trade deal happens to get mixed up in American domestic politics, it can have big, historic implications, much bigger than a debate. O`DONNELL: Right -- SCHMIDT: Conservatives pundits have been waiting for this magical hour of Trump`s demise. And I think, one thing is important to recognize -- O`DONNELL: They`re not the only ones -- SCHMIDT: He has now been ahead for longer than there are days left to the first voting from today to Iowa. And there`s no softening, no slowing down in sight at this moment in time. ALTER: What are the odds he gets the nomination? SCHMIDT: I think that right now -- look, this isn`t a very difficult business. The person who gets the most votes and the most delegates wins. And right now, if election were tomorrow, as it would have been the case over these last months, if the election were tomorrow, Donald Trump would be the Republican nominee. Now -- RYAN: But the problem is the popularity contest -- SCHMIDT: He`s in better position by -- he`s in better -- he`s in better position certainly than any other candidate at this hour to be the nominee. It doesn`t mean he will be. But he`s certainly better positioned than someone who is at 6 percent, 7 percent of the polls. O`DONNELL: April Ryan, go ahead, take the last word here. RYAN: But the problem is, it`s more of a popularity contest instead of issue. And where tonight, we must say that we`re seeing more issues out there on the table in this first Democratic debate than we have in the past Republican debates. O`DONNELL: Yes, this has -- RYAN: I mean -- O`DONNELL: Been all issues from start to finish -- RYAN: It has been all issues, people want to hear the issues and you`re hearing people talk about, they don`t want to have troops on the ground right now in Syria and things of that nature. You`re hearing real issues and real substance versus -- SCHMIDT: Wow -- RYAN: The personality -- SCHMIDT: Look -- RYAN: And back and forth. O`DONNELL: Steve Schmidt, April Ryan, Jonathan Alter, thank you all for joining me tonight. Coming up next, Professor Lawrence Lessig is running for the Democratic presidential nomination. He did not make it to the debate stage tonight, but he will join me next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) O`DONNELL: The only announced democratic candidate for president not on the debate stage tonight is Harvard Law School Professor Lawrence Lessig, who has raised more than $1 million from over 10,000 donors but has not raised his poll numbers enough to be included in the debate. Professor Lawrence Lessig joins us now. Professor Lessig, there was a moment tonight in the debate where Bernie Sanders talked about your campaign issue, which is campaign finance reform. You have said you want to get it -- you want to get in there and fix campaign finance reform, and then the most controversial part of your candidacy is you will then resign the presidency and hand it over to your vice president to take over from there. You are literally a single-issue candidate. I want to come to that later. But, listen to what Bernie Sanders said in the debate tonight. He said, "As a result of this disastrous Citizens United Supreme Court decision, our campaign finance system is corrupt and is underming American democracy. Millionaires and billionaires are pouring unbelievable sums of money into the political process in order to fund Super Pacs and to elect candidates that represent their interests, not the interests of working people." Why is not Bernie Sanders your candidate? LAWRENCE LESSIG, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I completely agree with that recognition, but what we do not have is any candidate explaining to the American people how we are going to fix this first. Because all of the issues they are talking about -- and I was incredibly excited to listen to them talk about the issues that they were going to solve. All of them are talking about fantasies unless we get a democracy that works again. Campaign finance is one incredibly important part of it, and I put forward a proposal for exactly how we could, without the Supreme Court`s cooperation, get a change in the way campaigns are funded and change -- O`DONNELL: But, why cannot Bernie Sanders do what you say you can do? LESSIG: I am not sure whether he could or could not. What I am sure of is he is not explaining to the American people, how we do this first. O`DONNELL: OK. How do you do it? LESSIG: Well, what we do is we create a campaign that explains in every single context why these issues, these ideas, these proposals to deal with immigration, to deal with tax reform, require us first to get a congress that is not dependent on these funders. O`DONNELL: So, your success -- for this to work, you have to win not just the presidential election, you have to win the congressional election and win a bunch of house seats that -- where they disagree with this position now, and a bunch of senate seats where they disagree with that position now. LESSIG: Yes. Lawrence, what we have to win is our democracy back. What we have to win is a mandate strong enough to tell congress that their corrupted system has to change. Because we will not be able to take on wall street as Bernie so eloquently talked about tonight, unless we have a system where congressmen do not raise most of their -- the biggest contributors from wall street. We are not going to get a social security system that raises the taxes on the very rich when we have a system where the very rich are the most important funders of campaigns. All I am trying to get these candidates to acknowledge, and literally not one of them made this point on that stage tonight, is that we will not get what they are fighting for until we the people get our democracy back. And, that is the critical question that is not -- O`DONNELL: If you were on the debate stage tonight, when this came up, you would have said, "Yes, I agree with all that, but you must also elect members of the representatives who agreed with all that, and you must also elect senators who agreed with all that or we, presidential candidates, if we become president are powerless." LESSIG: That is exactly right. I mean look. They talked about all these amazing things they were going to do and forgot the man in the middle. The man in the middle is congress. The most dysfunctional institution in our federal government right now. And, that institution is going to block all of these changes because it is not free to lead. That institution bends over backwards to make sure its funders are happy. And, they do not want to talk about it because they realize this is an impossibly difficult problem. And, it is not just the funding. Look, the other part of my proposal for reform would change the political gerrymandering system that makes it so the politicians pick the voters rather than the voters pick the politicians. That is produced the house of representatives. That system, which is polarized and dysfunctional, it cannot begin to address the issu issues America needs to be addressed. The issue not on that debate stage tonight is the issue I would put on every single question, which is we need a congress that can function and we will not get it unless we change the basic way this democracy functions. O`DONNELL: Jonathan Capehart wrote about your candidacy today in the "Washington Post" and said this, "Candidates who promise to vacate the oval office after the completion of one legislative task or after one term should not be entrusted with it. They are the lamest of ducks before even taking flight. Congress would frustrate them in the former and simply wait them out in the latter." LESSIG: Yes. It is a great point. It is the most difficult part of what I have been putting forward. And, I frankly believe we have to think a lot about whether this is a plausible part of the plan. And, look, everybody focuses on the resignation, but they are ignoring the fact that the resignation comes after we have achieved the most important democracy legislation in 50 years. The legislation that would make it possible, credible, to achieve what those amazing democratic candidates are talking about. So, I want to focus on the problem that was not mentioned on the stage tonight. That we do not have a congress that functions and begin to get people to talk about how we build the political mandate to change that fact. Because if we do not, we are just playing fantasy politics. O`DONNELL: At this stage, is the biggest difference between you and Bernie Sanders on this, the fact that Bernie Sanders rarely mentions the need to change congress and literally, who they are in those jobs in order to achieve this change in citizens united? LESSIG: look, Bernie Sanders and I are very close on substance -- O`DONNELL: That is what I am finding. LESSIG: Here is the real difference, Bernie Sanders is not explaing to the American people why -- everything he is talking about depends on us fixing congress first. And, explaining how he is a day one reformer. And, in that reform, changing the way campaigns are funded on day one. Look, he gave a total of 18 speeches in the United States congress talking about campaign finance reform. Seven of them mentioned public financing. Four of those, the total discussion of public financing, was in the long run, we should get the public financing. What I want him to do is to explain how the long run has got to be tomorrow. We got to get to a system where congress is not dependent on this tiny group of funders and, instead, is dependent on all of us, so they can begin to address the problems all of us care about. O`DONNELL: Lawrence Lessig, thank you very much for joining us tonight. LESSIG: Thank you, Lawrence. O`DONNELL: Coming up, one of the nation`s biggest sellers of guns linked to a crime is found liable in an unprecedented civil suit. That is coming up. (MUSIC PLAYING) (COMMERCIAL BREAK) O`DONNELL: Tonight, Russia`s foreign ministry is claiming that the Dutch investigative report that blames the crash of Malaysia Airlines Flight-17 on a Russian missile is flawed and biased. The Dutch safety board report released today says a Russian missile exploded about a meter from the front of the aircraft over territory in Ukraine that is occupied by rebels armed with Russian missiles. Dutch investigators say they found fragments of the Russian rocket in the bodies of the pilot and co-pilot, and that the explosion tore off the cockpit, killing the cockpit crew instantly. All 298 people on board died, but some passengers may have survived for as long as 90 seconds as the plane fell to the ground. A former United Nations War Crimes Judge said that their relatives will have to wait to take action until a criminal report identifies who fired that missile. Coming up, a jury rules against a gun store for its role in selling a gun that was used in a crime. That is coming up. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) O`DONNELL: Today, a jury in Milwaukee sided with two police officers, who were shot in the face during a routine stop in 2009 and later sued the gun shop that sold the gun. Jurors found badgered guns, negligent and liable for the shooting, and awarded Officer Bryan Norberg and former Officer Graham Kunish, $5 million. Their lawyers argued the shop`s negligence allowed the shooter to obtain a gun. Surveillance video shows Jacob Collins buying a gun for the shooter, 18-year-old Julius Burton in what is called a "Straw Purchase." That is when someone buys a gun, hands it off to the person who originally wanted to buy the gun so that, that person could avoid a background check. In this case, because Burton was underage. He would not have passed the background check. Today`s verdict is expected to be appealed and could go all the way to the Supreme Court. Joining us now, Timothy Lytton, a Law Professor at Georgia State University College of Law and the editor of "Suing the Gun Industry, A Battle at the Crossroads of Gun Control and Mass Torts." Timothy Lytton, this is an extraordinary case. And, just to distinguish it, a lot of people think that the federal law barred suing gun shops, gun manufacturers. Describe what the federal law restricted and why it did not apply to this case. TIMOTHY LYTTON, LAW PROFESSOR AT GEORGIA STATE UNIVERSITY COLLEGE OF LAW: In 2005, congress passed and President Bush signed the protection of lawful commerce in arms act, and that granted immunity to gun sellers, both manufacturers and gun stores, for any liability that arises out of a shooting committed by a person, who was a criminal who misuses the gun. There are a number of exceptions to that immunity. And, two of the exceptions are in place in this case. The first exception is where the gun seller knowingly violates a federal law. And, here, the knowing sale of a gun in a straw purchase would be a violation. And, the jury seemed to be convinced in this case that the gun store clerk had reason to know that this was an illegal straw purchase that was happening. And, the second is what is called negligent entrustment. That is the second type of exception to the immunity bill. And, that is also something that the jury seemed to find in this case. So, those are two exceptions that were invoked by the plaintiffs. And, they seem to be accepted by the jury. And, for that reason, the immunity bill does not shield the gun store from liability in this case. O`DONNELL: This was a big issue in the presidential debate tonight. Bernie Sanders voted to provide that immunity when he was in the senate. Hillary Clinton voted against gun shops, gun manufacturers, having that immunity. But, what are the prospects for this case going forward? Surely, there will be an appeal. LYTTON: There is certainly going to be an appeal. There will be a number of legal issues that come up about the interpretations that might be made of the exceptions. But, I think aside from the appeal and whether or not the verdict stands, there is an important question here, which is that this verdict in favor of the plaintiffs may in fact encourage other plaintiffs to come forward in similar cases. Since the immunity bill was passed in 2005, there has really been only a trickle of these types of lawsuits against the gun industry pursuant to gun violence injuries. And, we may begin to see a kind of resurrection of this litigation phenomenon, where gun violence victims go after the sellers of the weapons, either in stores or the manufacturers themselves. O`DONNELL: Timothy Lytton, thank you very much for joining us tonight. Coming up, what should President Obama do about the crisis in Syria? Vladimir Putin spoke about it. (MUSIC PLAYING) (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) STEVE KROFT, CBS NEWS HOST: You said a year ago that the United States of America leads, we are the indispensable nation. PRES. BARACK OBAMA, CURRENT U.S. PRESIDENT: Yes. KROFT: Mr. Putin seems to be challenging that leadership. PRES. OBAMA: In what way? (END VIDEO CLIP) O`DONNELL: That was President Obama speaking to Steve Kroft on "60 Minutes" about Russia`s involvement in Syria. When pressed on that point, President Obama said this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) PRES. OBAMA: When I came into office, Ukraine was governed by a corrupt ruler who was a stooge of Mr. Putin. Syria was Russia`s only ally in the region. And, today, rather than being able to count on their support and maintain the base they had in Syria, which they have had for a long time, Mr. Putin now is devoting his own troops, his own military, just to barely hold together, by a thread, his sole ally. (END VIDEO CLIP) O`DONNELL: Today, in Moscow, Vladimir Putin complained about the United States refusing to coordinate with Russian air strikes in Syria. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRIME MINISTER (Translated to English): At the military level, we asked them to give us the information regarding the targets. They believe are 100 percent belongings to terrorists. And, what we received as an answer was that they will not do that. Then the second question was asked, please tell us which targets should not be attacked by us? No answer received. (END VIDEO CLIP) O`DONNELL: The "60 Minutes" question of leadership, Vladimir Putin said, "Let me be clear. We are not going to get into leadership (debates about Syria). There is only one leader in Syria, which is the Syrian people." Joining us now is Michael Kay, foreign affairs correspondent. Also with us, Steve Clemons of "The Atlantic". Steve, what do you make of Vladimir Putin`s responses today? STEVE CLEMONS, WASHINGTON EDITOR-AT-LARGE, "THE ATLANTIC": Well, I think Vladimir Putin has a plan. He has had it for a long time, to demonstrate a muscularity around the world, and he is doing that for domestic consumption inside Russia. He has done this in Ukraine. He has done it now in Syria. He has done it in other parts of the world. And, at least in the short term, you know, he is getting some progress, at least in the perception of others. He may be drawn into a quagmire down the road, but at least right now, you know, he is getting credit for many in the world taking the action that many people think United States will not do. O`DONNELL: Let us listen to what Josh Earnest said about this today at the White House today. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think the president was really definitive in the news conference that he did 10 or 12 days ago, in which he made clear that the conflict in Syria would not turn into a proxy war between the United States and Russia. There certainly is ample rhetoric that we see from republican critics, essentially goading the president to try to engage in a proxy war with Russia. They say that because they think maybe that it makes them look tough. But, I think they would have a very difficult time articulating why that would be in the clear national security interest of the United States of America. (END VIDEO CLIP) O`DONNELL: Michael Kay, your reaction to what Josh Earnest had to say? MICHAEL KAY, FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I think -- I think that it is exactly a proxy war. I think the Islamic State has been the primary threat for both the U.S. being in Syria and Russia being in Syria, then our sideshow. And, I think we need to get transparency here. It is pretty obvious that Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the U.S. have been supporting rebels that are anti-Assad. And, it is pretty obvious that Putin is now in Syria to prop up Assad. So, I think we need to come to a common agreement. The U.S. needs to be clear and transparent of what the objectives are in Syria, as do the Russians. And, I do not think that will happen. And, until that happens, there is going to be miscommunication. You know, whether it be from the air power perspective or whether it would be from the ground forces perspective. O`DONNELL: Let us listen to more about what the president said on "60 Minutes." (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) PRES. OBAMA: One of the challenges that I have had throughout this heartbreaking situation inside of Syria is, is that you will have people insist that, you know, all you have to do is send in a few truckloads full of arms and people are ready to fight. Then when you start a train and equip program and it does not work, then people say, "Well, why did not it work?" Or, "If it had started three months earlier, it would have worked." In a situation that is has volatile, with as many players as there are inside of Syria, there are not any silver bullets. (END VIDEO CLIP) O`DONNELL: Steve Clemons, no silver bullets, no good choices. CLEMONS: Well, I think the president describes it absolutely right. It is a civil war within a country with a proxy conflict on top of it. The mistake Barack Obama made is saying that Bashar Al Assad had to go, and creating a conflict over those words and creating a sense of vacuum of American leadership and decision on this that other nations have taken advantage of. So, everything Obama said was absolutely correct, but this notion that we were engaged in some sort of wishful regime change without doing much to accomplish that has left open an opportunity for many other players. O`DONNELL: In the presidential debate tonight, Bernie Sanders called it a quagmire in a quagmire and basically supported the president`s approach. KAY: It is a quagmire within a quagmire. Air strikes alone will not do the job. If the Islamic state is the true threat, is the true target, you do need a ground force. There is a logical ground force on the ground that does not have the aspiration to topple Assad that wants to take ISIS head on. That is the Syrian Kurds. I find it illogical why an ally like the Syrian Kurds has not been seized upon earlier by the United States and other things have. So, for me, again, it goes back to this transparency and what the true objectives are in Syria. And, that really does need to be thrashed out between Putin and the administration. Until that happens, then we are going to have these deconfliction issues until the macro sort of perspectives are aligned. O`DONNELL: Steve Clemons, does the administration see the Syrian Kurds as a match for the Islamic State there? CLEMONS: Well, I think they have said now that the suspension of the train and equip program is that one of the allies will be a number of, you know, Sunni groups, but then the backbone would be the Syrian Kurdish troops that have been there. Before the refugee crisis, there were about 3 million Kurds inside Syria. That is a far lesser number now. I do not think they alone are enough to take on ISIS, but it could be, you know, a key part of it. The problem is, the more successful they become, the more problematic other Sunni fears that the Kurds will take territory and essentially push Sunnis out happens. So it is almost as if -- when you ally with any dimension of a group there, you alienate another part of it. And, Until we get something that brings these groups together, as opposed to allowing them to just fight for their own interests, things will remain in a knot. KAY: Sorry, Lawrence. Just quickly, just to add on what Steve said. There is a dichotomy here, as well. You have Turkey and by supporting the Syrian Kurds, that goes against what the Turks are actually -- their ground strategic plans as well. So there is pulling and pushing -- O`DONNELL: We are going to have to leave it there for tonight. Michael Kay and Steve Clemons, thanks for joining us. Special live addition of Hardball is next with Chris Matthews. END