The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, Transcript 12/23/2015

Guests: Christina Bellantoni, Howard Dean, Jonathan Allen, Alexis Okeowo, Stacie Blake, Howard Dean

Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL Date: December 23, 2015 Guest: Christina Bellantoni, Howard Dean, Jonathan Allen, Alexis Okeowo, Stacie Blake, Howard Dean

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC: That does it for us tonight, happy Christmas eve, the eve, we will see you again very soon. Now, it`s time for THE LAST WORD with Lawrence O`Donnell, good evening Lawrence.

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, HOST, THE LAST WORD: So Rachel, it sounds like your bookers might be fighting with my bookers to try to get Rand Paul here on the night of the next Republican debate when he`s boycotting the debate.

MADDOW: If that does happen, your bookers will win. I have it on good authority.

O`DONNELL: I`m later at night, it`s hard for them to stay up this late.

MADDOW: Well --

O`DONNELL: It really is.

MADDOW: It`s hard for me to get Rand Paul in particular, but that`s a different story --

(LAUGHTER)

O`DONNELL: Rachel, thank you very much.

MADDOW: Thanks a lot, Lawrence, have a great --

O`DONNELL: Have a great break --

MADDOW: Thanks --

O`DONNELL: Thank you. The rise of Donald Trump is explained not so much by the hatred of Muslims, but rather the hatred of just one Muslim. The one who is not a Muslim.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A new "Cnn"-ORC poll shows Trump with a double-digit lead over the rest of the field.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Twenty one points ahead of his nearest competitor Ted Cruz.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If you look at the rhetoric that Donald Trump uses, if you look at the rhetoric that Ted Cruz uses and the people who love them, these are people who are anti-everybody.

DAVID CORN, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, MOTHER JONES: The Republican base is not reflective of the whole country.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Clinton reacting to comments made by Donald Trump at a rally Monday night.

HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE, UNITED STATES: I really deplore the tone of his campaign.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This last Yiddish-gate language deal.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Where`s the conversation going?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To the bathroom.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sometimes you shake your head and say, these are the things that we`re talking about.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is Donald Trump being just too low brow at this point.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A lot of times Mr. Trump is up there on the stage and he`s actually responding to people who are yelling things out to him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am sick of hearing people defend this stuff.

CLINTON: His bigotry, his bluster, his bullying, have become his campaign.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: A new "Cnn"-ORC national poll of Republican voters gives Donald Trump his biggest lead yet in that poll.

He`s at 39 percent of the vote, a full 21 points ahead of second place Ted Cruz who is at 18, Ben Carson, Marco Rubio at 10, Chris Christie at 5 percent, Rand Paul is actually ahead of Jeb Bush now with 4 percent, and Jeb Bush all the way down to 3 percent.

Now here is something you need to know about those voters who were polled in that poll. Fifty four percent of Republican voters believe President Obama is Muslim.

And 66 percent of Trump voters believe President Obama is Muslim. If you hear anyone trying to explain the rise of Donald Trump without including that fact, then you`re hearing someone who doesn`t know what they`re talking about.

Forty four percent of Republican voters believe President Obama was not born in the United States. They believe he is not a legal citizen of the United States.

They believe his presidency is unconstitutional. It`s illegitimate. Sixty one percent of Donald Trump`s supporters believe that President Obama was not born in the United States.

They believe Donald Trump`s lie about where President Obama was born, the lie he started telling four years ago and has since replaced with other hate-driven lies like the thousands of Muslims Donald Trump lies about having seen celebrating in New Jersey on 9/11.

Donald Trump has been getting favorable comments from white supremacists, from American Nazis. And any explanation of Donald Trump`s rise that does not include those facts is a false analysis.

The polling indicates that probably about 35 percent of Donald Trump`s supporters do not believe that President Obama is Muslim or that he was not born in the United States.

Those Trump supporters are not white supremacists. But if Trump did not have the support of Obama haters who believe that the President is a Muslim, who believe that he was not born in the United States, Donald Trump would lose two-thirds of his support.

He would be polling in the "Cnn" poll at about 13 percent behind Ted Cruz who would probably be then way ahead of Donald Trump.

And other candidates like Marco Rubio would probably have vaulted ahead of Donald Trump if he didn`t have that support.

If all Trump had was the support of people who listened to his very few and very shallow policy proposals, and liked his insulting and vulgar style.

As the world knows by now, Donald Trump used the Yiddish term for penis when referring to Hillary Clinton the other night.

For anyone who needed proof of what the word meant, last night we cited Harvard Yiddish scholar Dr. Ruth Wisse who told us, "the word is a Yiddish vulgarism -- vulgar Yiddish term for a penis."

Tonight, Donald Trump did his usual softball interview on "Fox News" where the interviewer agreed with Trump that using that Yiddish vulgarity is going to be OK for him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, CHAIRMAN & PRESIDENT, TRUMP ORGANIZATIONS & FOUNDER, TRUMP ENTERTAINMENT RESORTS: And when I said it, nobody in the audience thought anything about it.

They clapped, they didn`t view that as being a horrible thing. And then all of a sudden, I get back in and people are calling about it.

And, you know, when they checked it out, some pretty quality people have been using that term over the years. So, I think I probably skirted by that one Greta, what do you think?

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS: Well, I think so, but --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: I think so. Well, one of the "Fox News" players, perhaps to his peril, just can`t take it anymore when he hears people Trump- xplaining(ph).

That`s Greg Gutfeld`s term for people who try to explain away the things that Donald Trump says, especially Donald Trump`s use of the Yiddish term for penis and Donald Trump`s crazed comments about the bathroom break during the Democratic presidential debate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GREG GUTFELD, AUTHOR & TELEVISION PERSONALITY: I need somebody to Trump- xplain(ph) this, because I don`t understand it.

I`ve heard people defend him about making fun of a disability, making fun of John McCain, making fun of women -- a woman`s face.

I just wanted to hear somebody defend this as well, because it just never ends. No one will ever stop defending the crass stuff he says.

By the way, I haven`t used that word since I was 7 years old. I don`t understand this. And also, I don`t understand the comment about the bathroom.

And I am sick of hearing people defend this stuff.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Joining us now, Howard Dean, former governor of Vermont and former Chairman of the Democratic National Committee, he`s also an "Msnbc" political analyst.

Jonathan Allen, a political reporter and co-author of "HRC: State Secrets and the Rebirth of Hillary Clinton".

Also with us, Christina Bellantoni, Assistant Managing Editor for Politics at the "Los Angeles Times". Christina joining me here in the L.A. studio.

You know, it`s so shocking, these numbers about Republicans believing that President Obama is a Muslim, believing he`s not a citizen.

And they`re so huge that they somehow -- it seems to me most political analysts don`t have room for that concept in discussing what`s going on here.

CHRISTINA BELLANTONI, ASSISTANT MANAGING EDITOR FOR POLITICS, LOS ANGELES TIMES: And they should have room for that concept.

Because a part of the entire Trump experience or whatever this last six months has been sort of feels like we`ve been living in a dream, but this is all actually happening.

I mean, it`s great to be a political journalist in this time. It`s about the rhetoric. You hear his supporters on the campaign trail say we`re glad he`s not politically correct.

We`re glad he`s telling it like it is. And I think that that`s at the core of this. And so, whether those voters would have said, yes, they think President Barack Obama was not born in America or is Muslim, if Trump was not in the race, I`m not sure.

In some ways, he allows them the freedom to say what they might already be thinking, or he encourages people, and they say, oh, he is the frontrunner.

He believes that, we`re going to believe that, too. It has been a very strange phenomenon to observe.

O`DONNELL: Howard Dean, we played some video here last night, where Bernie Sanders would say something and then Donald Trump would say a pretty messy version of the same thing.

And we showed a poll in which you can see a migration to Bernie Sanders from Donald Trump if Bernie Sanders is the nominee instead of Hillary Clinton.

So, there`s a very clear overlap, and it`s a -- and you can clearly see a policy-based overlap.

And that is definitely -- includes people who are kind of economically disaffected from recent government policies, opposed to trade deals, opposed to what they think Wall Street is up to.

Donald Trump doesn`t talk fondly about Wall Street when he`s out there speaking. And so that section of Trump support is a minority piece of his support.

But it`s the one that`s talked about the most, it seems to me by political analysts describing the Trump phenomenon.

It`s all about, you know, kind of a policy-driven thing. And there`s a -- there`s a -- I think statistically, there`s a fundamental lie in that kind of analysis that completely ignores the hate-driven component of the Trump candidacy, which is the majority of the support that he has.

HOWARD DEAN, FORMER VERMONT GOVERNOR: Well, I talked for a long time about that, what I call the hate wing of the Republican Party.

And often been criticized for saying it. But there is such a thing, and it started in 1968 with the southern strategy developed by Richard Nixon to bring southern racists out of the Democratic Party and into the Republican Party, which they succeeded in doing.

So, it is true that there`s an economic argument and an economic feeling that something different needs to happen and politicians talking out of both sides of their mouth and all that kind of stuff.

But there`re also -- is this so-called hate wing that is so angry at all the things that have -- all the changes that have happened in America, this is what they respond to.

And I think it`s dangerous for the country, I also think it`s going to be incredibly unsuccessful in the general election.

O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to how Hillary Clinton responded to Donald Trump`s vulgarity, speaking with the "Des Moines Register".

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON: I really deplore the tone of his campaign and the inflammatory rhetoric that he is using to divide people. I don`t know that he has any boundaries at all.

And his bigotry, his bluster, his bullying have become his campaign.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: And Jonathan Allen, Donald Trump has brought the campaign directly to Hillary Clinton giving her now this opportunity to be running a kind of general election argument against Donald Trump.

JONATHAN ALLEN, POLITICAL REPORTER, VOX.COM: I think one of the key things that Hillary Clinton and her campaign have been trying to do is make the campaign about something other than her.

Which is why I think Hillary Clinton did not respond directly to Trump`s comments, certainly didn`t do it immediately.

Her campaign asked other people basically to respond to women in particular who felt aggrieved by what Donald Trump had said about Hillary Clinton.

So, I think they`re seeing them trying to walk a careful line here where she`s sort of marshalling people to respond, but not doing it as much herself.

And at the same time, obviously she couldn`t get away with saying absolutely nothing.

I think she`s trying to make it bigger and say it`s not just about -- not just about her in terms of her having been the object of those comments or the subject of those comments.

But also those comments going towards women more broadly, and also that being part of a larger pattern of Trump going after particular groups.

O`DONNELL: And Christina, you know, when I watch Hillary Clinton in that video, it`s really striking to me because there`s a very -- it`s a very private version of her that`s on display there that you don`t normally get to see.

Years ago, I used to see the private version of her rather frequently, and I don`t think she in any way is sitting there and thinking, I wonder if there`s a political benefit to me if I can play this the right way and use this against Trump.

That seems to be a woman who is genuinely depressed that this is the political dialogue she`s been thrown into in the 21st century in running for president of the United States.

BELLANTONI: I think a lot of people are feeling that right now. Like this is a conversation that we`re having in America about who wants to lead the free world.

That`s all true. I would agree with you on that. One thing I would say is that, it doesn`t matter in a sense if she`s thinking about the political calculation because the Democrats are thinking about it for her.

They know that President Barack Obama won women in 2012, 55 percent to 44 percent for Mitt Romney.

And that is an area that they can continue to exploit, to use that term, and to say look, you know, Hillary Clinton is a candidate that not only is a woman but stands up for women and look at your Republican Party.

Even if Donald Trump does not become that nominee, they are going to attempt to pick every single Republican like him to say why didn`t you denounce him when he said things like this.

And the other thing is, I reported this on Saturday night at the debate. "Abc", they didn`t negotiate terms of who could be at the podium or not.

The fact that they started that debate without her was something that they really brushed off. You know, she knew it was five minutes and you know, that was the issue.

They knew the time was tight and it was live TV. That created this --

O`DONNELL: Let me tell you --

BELLANTONI: Entire situation --

O`DONNELL: That`s a complete nonsensical thing. We control live TV. When -- if we have a situation here where there`s a little bit of a problem in the studio, we can plug in another 30 seconds on a commercial --

BELLANTONI: Ban --

O`DONNELL: Real easily --

BELLANTONI: Get back --

O`DONNELL: Can do it two seconds before you need to do it. They know how to do it. They didn`t.

But you know, I don`t think if -- Howard Dean, I don`t think to any sane person that mattered even slightly that Hillary Clinton was delayed getting back to the podium through absolutely no fault of her own.

DEAN: I don`t think anybody pays attention to that kind of stuff. Trump has made it the issue. You know, I think the people who are most distraught about this are actually not women.

I think that they`re mainstream Republicans who are seeing their party fall apart in front of their face and in front of the entire nation.

You have two people who I would classify as extremists. Donald Trump because of his behavior and Ted Cruz because of his views, leading the Republican Party.

It is highly likely that one of the two of them is going to be the nominee. This is a -- look here, what is this -- what this is really is a prescription for remaking the Republican Party.

This is the train wreck that`s going to have to happen, and then out of those ashes there`s going to come something different.

But I think most Republicans would rather win this election than have that transformation.

O`DONNELL: Jonathan Allen, quickly before we go. If Hillary Clinton is the nominee against a Donald Trump nominee, is she going to have to figure out a way of campaigning that she hasn`t used before?

ALLEN: Yes, probably. I mean, every candidate presents their own challenges.

I think what we`ve seen here from Donald Trump, though, is that, his big challenge is going to be how to figure out -- how to campaign against Hillary Clinton in a way that doesn`t turn off independent voters, moderate Republican women.

This is -- if this is the launch of his attacks against her, there may need to be a redefinition for him for how he wants to take on that strategy.

O`DONNELL: We`re going to have to break it there, Jonathan Allen, thank you very much for joining us tonight. Coming up --

ALLEN: Merry Christmas.

O`DONNELL: Thanks, Jonathan. Coming up, a multiple choice question. Donald Trump`s tax plan will, A, reduce the national debt, B, increase the national debt or C, make America great again.

And later, women are joining the fight against Boko Haram in Nigeria. A woman who has been there will join us.

And my answer to today`s Twitter question, who is your favorite baseball writer? That`s coming up, and my answer will involve a lot more than baseball.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: Stephen Colbert got asked about Donald Trump for "Cbs`" Sunday morning show and he had this to say. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHEN COLBERT, COMEDIAN & TELEVISION HOST: What I do respect is that he knows that it is an emotional appeal and it might be emotional appeals that I don`t -- can`t expect.

But he knows that you have to appeal to the voter, and that`s why I may be wrong. I made a big deal about there`s no way he`s going to win.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Oh -- up next, Donald Trump`s tax plan, you`ll never guess how great it`s going to make America again.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: And now let`s listen to Donald Trump on the national debt.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We have $19 trillion in debt, we have $19 trillion in debt. It was 18 a short while ago, now it`s 19.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: You got that? Nineteen trillion in debt. I hope it doesn`t shock you to know that Donald Trump is only exaggerating the national debt by about a (AUDIO GAP 00:00:56-58) accurate as he`s ever been about any number.

Trump`s plan for the national debt is to, of course, increase it. According to a new analysis by the Tax Policy Center, Donald Trump`s tax plan is going to increase the national debt by more than 50 percent over ten years.

The Trump plan would increase the national debt a little over a $1 trillion a year, the Trump plan would reduce taxes at all income levels with, of course, the biggest tax cuts going to the richest taxpayers as they always do.

Christina Bellantoni, Howard Dean back with us. Christina, this is one of those things where the only economic plan he has is his tax plan, and the big thing that it does is explode the deficit and the debt.

BELLANTONI: It`s huge!

O`DONNELL: Yes, it is huge, yes.

BELLANTONI: And this is in some ways, it is important for campaigns to put out policy statements like this and to put, you know, things behind big statements that they make.

But Congress deals with tax policy. And if Donald Trump somehow became president and the Congress that exists today is the Congress that would be there in 2017, they`re not going to pass a tax plan like this.

And so, you know, it is good to look at an analysis of this I think, that it is important information to say, you know, that debt would be there until 2036 --

O`DONNELL: Yes --

BELLANTONI: You know, according to this --

O`DONNELL: Yes --

BELLANTONI: Estimate. But it actually won`t become reality --

O`DONNELL: Right --

BELLANTONI And he probably also is not becoming president in that fact. But you know, it`s important to point out that Democrats and Republicans have fundamental differences when it comes to how you tax and how you spend.

And look at right here in California, Governor Jerry Brown has been very clear, we`re going to tax people a lot. And we`re going to do a lot for the state and we`re going to try to plug some of our holes.

You know, whether or not that`s working, that`s another debate for another day. But Republicans and Democrats are clearly different on this issue.

O`DONNELL: And Howard Dean, there wouldn`t be a -- Donald Trump would not lose a single voter over any report indicating that his tax plan might not work.

DEAN: That`s true. Although I do say, I have to disagree with Christina. Actually, Congress just did pass a tax plan like Donald Trump`s.

They passed a tax plan which some Democrats voted for, significant number of Democrats which gave huge tax breaks to wealthy people and corporations.

And some tax breaks like the extension of the earned income tax credit and the extension of solar and wind credit tax. And so the Democrats -- Democrats on board, so you`re right, the Congress said tax policy.

But their tax policy was pretty bad, that added $800 billion to the deficit in the next ten years. So --

(CROSSTALK)

BELLANTONI: And President Obama signed an extension of the Bush tax cuts - -

DEAN: Yes --

BELLANTONI: As well, I mean, that is definitely true.

O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to what the Democrats are saying about this. Bernie Sanders, first of all, and there`s a real debate going on between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders about taxes. Let`s listen to t this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D), VERMONT: Do away with the corporate loopholes that allow major profitable corporations to stash their money in the Cayman Islands and not pay a nickel in some --

CHUCK TODD, MODERATOR, MEET THE PRESS: OK --

SANDERS: Cases in federal income taxes. That`s a $100 billion a year, we`re going to impose a tax on Wall Street speculation to pay for -- to make sure that public colleges and universities in America are tuition free.

We`re going to raise the estate tax for wealthy, very wealthy people, but top two-tenths --

TODD: OK --

SANDERS: Of 1 percent. But in terms of this issue that you raised, I do disagree with the secretary.

I believe the United States should join the rest of the world through paid family and medical leave. It would cost us a $1.61 a week in an increase in payroll tax.

I think that`s a great investment.

TODD: Is that the only thing you plan on raising taxes on the middle class on?

SANDERS: Yes, that`s right.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: And Christina, as you say, Congress has this power. And there isn`t going to be a Congress that`s going to do that plan either.

BELLANTONI: That`s very true, and neither single payer healthcare, right? There are -- there are things that -- progressives, like to lay out and Bernie Sanders is going right along those lines.

And that`s resonating with the youngest voters. You know, you`re also hearing both campaigns talk about a real student loan reform in a way that wasn`t necessarily the conversation for eight years ago.

Because that`s one of the things Sanders is doing in this race. Even if he does not defeat Hillary Clinton, he is pushing the entire conversation in the Democratic Party to a more progressive wing.

Will that affect Congress? You know, the Democrats are trying real hard to win back that senate, you know, then we can start to see these things turn.

You know, do you have mixed control in the two chambers? Do you have a Republican in the White House?

You know, there`s a lot to be determined if the economy continues at this pace, there could be major changes ahead.

O`DONNELL: We`re going to have to take a break there. Christina Bellantoni, thanks for joining us tonight. Coming up, the politics of ISIS.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: It is lunacy to be bringing refugees into this country who may be terrorists trying to murder Americans.

BEN CARSON, AUTHOR & RETIRED NEUROSURGEON: To bring them here under these circumstances is a suspension of intellect.

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: I said, we should allow no Syrian refugees into the country, not even women or children.

TRUMP: Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: A new Quinnipiac national poll shows 51 percent of Americans oppose accepting Syrian refugees while 43 percent support the idea.

The poll also asked about other ideas floated by the 2016 candidates. Americans oppose Donald Trump`s idea of banning all Muslims from entering the United States, 66 percent to 27 percent.

And Americans support sending U.S. ground troops to fight ISIS 52 percent to 40 percent. Of those who support sending troops, 52 percent think the United States should send a significant number of its troops.

According to the international organization for migration, more than 1 million migrants have arrived in Europe this year, the most since World War II. Half of them were Syrian. Earlier this week, President Obama`s U.N. ambassador, Samantha Power, said this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SAMANTHA POWER: This year has shown with painful clarity that our existing systems, approaches, and funding, are inadequate to the task at hand, and to the amount of human suffering that is ongoing. For this reason, I announced during today`s (Syria) humanitarian session that President Obama plans to host a high level summit at next year`s general assembly during high level week, focused on the global refugee crisis.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL: Joining the discussion now is Stacie Blake, the director of government and community relations for the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants. Stacie Blake, what is your reaction to what you`ve been hearing from the presidential candidates?

STACIE BLAKE: Well we sure have been hearing a lot about refugees from all corners. And it`s so interesting because the U.S. has welcomed refugees since our inception, and to - you know, to hear all the rhetoric today, it`s a little alarming, and in fact it runs counter to the history. Under Republican presidents, more refugees have been resettled in the last 40 years, so to suddenly have this turn, it`s really a surprise, Lawrence.

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to what Hillary Clinton said about accepting refugees.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY CLINTON: Well I agree that we have to have the toughest screening and vetting that we can have, but I don`t think a halt is necessary. What we have to do is put all of our resources through the Department of Homeland Security, through the State Department, through our intelligence agencies, and we have to have an increased vetting and screening .

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL: Howard Dean, it seems like maybe 51 percent in that poll don`t believe that the screening would work.

HOWARD DEAN: Yes, I think this is mostly a matter of more discussion, and some education. The screening in the United States is the toughest screening of any country in the world in terms of refugees, that accepts refugees. And of course there are those that don`t accept any, or ever have, no matter what kind they are.

The truth is that people - many people are concerned about this, but this is not the first time in America this has happened. There were a significant number of people who didn`t want Jewish refugees before World War II, or even during World War II.

So these are not the most proud moments that we`ve had as a country, and I think we can do better than this. Safety concerns are reasonable. Banning refugees is certainly not.

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL: Stacie Blake, what about the screening process? That is the big concern here.

STACIE BLAKE: Well I agree with the governor, we know that this is the most thorough screening process of any country. It`s the most thorough screening that anyone undergoes to enter our country. So you know, we`ve refined this program and this process over many years, this is continuous improvement.

And it`s also true that, you know, the process takes 18 to 24 months. At any point during that time, if something comes up to give any officer or any participant any reason to pause, the person`s out, it`s very simple. So we have confidence in the process.

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL: And Stacie, what do we know about the experience of Syrian refugees who are here now? We have taken a few, probably fewer than any other country that`s been taking refugees, but what do we know about their experience in the United States?

STACIE BLAKE: You know, I`m glad you asked that, Lawrence, because I spoke to one of our program directors earlier this evening, and he told me that it`s true, that new arrivals are hearing some of this talk that`s anti- Syrian, and anti-Muslim.

And while it is concerning, what they`re experiencing in communities is a wrap-around of welcome. You know, volunteers are coming forward to help with donations, to help find new apartments, to help people get that first job, so that they can get started and live their life, have a moment of peace.

These are folks who have been living in war, and fleeing terrible atrocities. So on the ground, Syrians are being fully welcomed into the United States.

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL: All right, we`re going to take a break here. Stacie Blake, thank you very much for joining us, we really appreciate it. Coming up .

STACIE BLAKE: Thank you.

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL: . women joining the fight against Boko Haram.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL: We just got a reaction from Donald Trump to something Hillary Clinton said earlier in the program. Let`s take a look at what Secretary Clinton said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY CLINTON: I really deplore the tone of his campaign, and the inflammatory rhetoric that he is using to divide people. I don`t know that he has any boundaries at all, and his bigotry, his bluster, his bullying have become his campaign.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL: Looks like Donald may be watching the show tonight. Minutes after she said that on this program, Donald Trump tweeted Hillary said "I really deplore the tone and inflammatory rhetoric of his campaign. I deplore the death and destruction she caused-stupidity." Howard Dean, your reaction to Donald Trump`s tweeting tonight?

HOWARD DEAN: I think he sounds incoherent, inarticulate. I don`t, you know - I mean there are a number of people who thought Donald Trump was driving over the edge for the last six or eight months. I have always thought that he was an incredibly clever politician, but he`s - at some point he`s going to become unwound and maybe this is it.

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL: Yes, unwound is about the most charitable, Christmas- like comment you could make about him. Howard Dean, thanks for joining us tonight, thanks for wearing the Christmas sweater, getting us all in the spirit.

HOWARD DEAN: Yes, I was hoping you would notice.

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL: No, beautifully done. Thank you very much, Howard. Coming up next, women joining the fight against Boko Haram.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL: Since the terror group Boko Haram began terrorizing communities in Nigeria over six years ago, over 2 million people have been forced from their homes. In the last seven months, over 1,000 people in Nigeria have been killed in Boko Haram attacks.

The kidnappings of hundreds of schoolgirls last year provoked international outrage and a social media movement. A report in The New Yorker brought to light the story of dozens of women who`ve joined a government-backed vigilante group fighting back in Nigeria.

One of them, Fatima Muhammed, said this about Boko Haram, they will kill you, they will kill everyone you know. That`s what motivated me. I`m not afraid at all. Joining me now, New Yorker staff writer Alexis Okeowo, who wrote that article about the women fighting Boko Haram. Alexis, what exactly are women like Fatima Muhammed doing in this fight?

ALEXIS OKEOWO: They`re doing a variety of tasks. They`re checking women for weapons at public events, at public prayer in mosques or in other arenas. They`re helping the vigilantes to apprehend female suspects when they go into private homes and male vigilantes can`t enter, the women go in and then apprehend the suspects. And they also help with providing tips and information to security forces on people that residents suspect may be Boko Haram.

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL: And you make the point in the piece that under Islamic precepts, men cannot enter the home of a woman who they don`t know, and so they need the women in this effort to enter homes where they`re - where they`re looking for possible women terrorists, women accomplices of Boko Haram, and trying to either disarm them or get them out of that movement. So that`s a - this couldn`t be done without women.

ALEXIS OKEOWO: Exactly. You know, before I actually reported this, I didn`t realize that women, you know, were members, were accomplices to Boko Haram, to the extent that they are. And so yes, these dozens of women are integral to apprehending these female suspects, to checking, giving women body checks, to making sure that Boko Haram doesn`t use women to carry out attacks, and do - and do clandestine activities without the vigilantes being able to go after them.

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL: It`s so moving to read about what these women are doing, because they are unarmed, the women you`re writing about are unarmed themselves, and they`re searching other women for possible arms, they`re approaching women who they think might be armed without any arms themselves.

ALEXIS OKEOWO: Yes, it`s incredibly dangerous, but you know, whenever these women are doing this work, their counterparts, the male vigilantes, are not far behind, and they`re often armed with machetes and locally made guns. So it`s not as if they`re just operating by themselves, but yes, a lot of them are operating unarmed, and sort of just relying on the fact that they can do their work without being attacked.

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL: How dangerous was it for you, Alexis, to go into this, reporting on this story?

ALEXIS OKEOWO: Yes, I mean it was - it - there was an element of danger. It`s always hard to know, going into this - into the northeast of Nigeria whether it will be a quiet period, or whether it will be a period of attacks. The moment I went, there had been some recent attacks, but there weren`t any during the week that I was there. But the problem with that region, is that people never know when there will be a suicide bombing, or when there will be some kind of raid by Boko Haram. It`s - there`s a high element of unpredictability.

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL: And you know, when you read Fatima Muhammed`s explanation of why she`s not afraid to do what she`s doing, it`s really I have nothing to lose, it`s really they`re going to kill me if I don`t.

ALEXIS OKEOWO: Yes, I mean what struck me about her is that she had lost family members and friends to Boko Haram, and she had felt this feeling of hopelessness, you know, after these deaths, after these murders, and so yes, she felt like if I don`t do anything, I might as well sign my own death. So she decided to do something about it. And .

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL: How - Alexis, how long did it take you to do the reporting on this piece?

ALEXIS OKEOWO: I was there for about a week, but I`ve been reporting on vigilantes in northeast Nigeria for about a year now, and so I periodically go up to the northeast and spend time with them, and see what they`re doing and what they`re up to, because they`ve been very integral in keeping Boko Haram out of several towns and cities, and keeping them at bay.

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL: Alexis Okeowo, thank you very much for joining us tonight. Thank you for doing the work you`re doing. I know most reporters are not going up there, they`re not going into that region, they`re not trying to get this story, and a lot of the media doesn`t have the bandwidth to keep with this story, so thank you very much for the work that you`ve done. Thank you.

ALEXIS OKEOWO: Thanks for having me.

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL: Coming up, the most thrilling thing I have ever read from a sports writer. OK, that`s a little bit of an exaggeration, but it was an important thing that I read today, coming up.

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LAWRENCE O`DONNELL: Two weeks after admitting to killing three people at a Colorado Planned Parenthood clinic, Robert Dear now says he wants to fire his court-appointed attorneys. The 57-year-old told the judge at his court appearance today, "I do not want them as my lawyers, I reserve my constitutional right to defend myself."

At his first court appearance earlier this month, Robert Dear had several outbursts and called himself "a warrior for the babies". This time, cameras were not allowed in the courtroom, and Robert Dear made no random outbursts.

When he asked to represent himself, the judge ordered the public, including reporters, out of the courtroom to discuss the request. Later the judge told Robert Dear he would have to submit to an exam that will determine whether he is mentally competent to defend himself. (Inaudible) is due back in court for an update in February. Tonight`s last word is next.

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LAWRENCE O`DONNELL: And now, for tonight`s last word, which will be my last words before Christmas, and this is where I will answer the question I asked on Twitter today, who is your favorite baseball writer? My baseball career ended in college.

I played on the freshman team, but was becoming more drawn to intellectualism than athleticism, and so I gave up baseball, and it was perfect timing because baseball was going to give up me very soon. There was very little chance that I would have made the varsity team next year, so it was an amicable parting of the ways.

Most of what I learned about baseball came from great coaches, beginning with my father, then Bob (Buchelle), when I`d made it into the seated row of Little League in (Dorchester), then Dan Burke, (John Balfe), the great Henry Lane.

The rest of what I learned about baseball came from Peter Gammons, the Boston Globe`s best baseball writer when I was in high school. Peter Gammons went on to Sports Illustrated and ESPN, and was on everyone`s shortlist of best baseball writers ever.

Most of you on Twitter today and tonight said that Peter Gammons is your favorite baseball writer, and today he wrote something that thrilled me, using fewer words than he ever has before. Peter Gammons, who I have never met, tweeted "Giving the gift of a desk through K.I.N.D. offers a Christmas thought."

That went out to his more than half a million Twitter followers, and I retweeted it as soon as I could, and Peter Gammons` tweet includes a link to the K.I.N.D. fund, where you can contribute at lastworddesks.msnbc.com.

You can do your last minute Christmas shopping there, and give a school desk for kids in African schools that don`t have desks, or you could contribute a girl`s scholarship to help a girl stay in high school in Malawi, where public high school is not free.

And the few families who can afford tuition to send - when they send a child to high school, they usually send one of their boys instead of one of their girls, and so the girls` high school graduation rate there is half of the boys.

You can make a contribution in the name of anyone on your gift list, and Unicef will send them an acknowledgment of your gift. Peter Gammons` tweet today, the day before Christmas Eve, just might raise more money for kids in need of desks, than any tweet about K.I.N.D. ever has. Peter Gammons has almost doubled the number of Twitter followers, followers that I do, and he`s a lot more likeable and he has fans that have been devoted to him for over 40 years.

My friend, Holland Taylor, has fans who have been following her work for that long on stage, screen, and television. I lat visited her backstage when she was doing a one-woman show about Texas governor Ann Richards at Lincoln Center.

She recently tweeted "Be KIND" & be happy! Lawrence`s wonderful charity, through Unicef gives schoolkids, used to mud floors, DESKS!" Holland Taylor has been an enthusiastic supporter of the K.I.N.D. fund from the start.

You know, I always feel a bit awkward when it`s time to talk about the K.I.N.D. fund on this program. I don`t want to be one of those guys on a telephone begging you to contribute, but this is the only way that we raise money for kids in need of desks. It`s the only way that we raise money to send girls to high school in Malawi, the only way.

Just before I began doing this show five years ago, a dear friend of mine, Karen Russell, asked me what I was going to do with the show. And she didn`t mean what was going to be in the show, or who were the guests going to be. She meant how was I going to use this platform to do something important, something that I wouldn`t be able to do without an hour of real estate in cable news prime time.

Karen Russell learned to think in those terms from her father, someone Peter Gammons knows well, Boston Celtics legend Bill Russell, who used his prominence to support Martin Luther King Jr., to support the civil rights movement, and other important work, including work in Africa throughout his career. And Bill Russell is still at it.

The K.I.N.D. fund is my answer to Karen Russell`s question, what are you going to do with this show? Providing jobs at three flat factories in Malawi to make school desks for kids who have never seen desks, and providing scholarships for girls to go to high school who would never otherwise be able to go to high school, is by far the most important work I do.

And it`s easy for me to do it because I have this platform, and it is a joy to do it, pure joy. And I`m not sure if I`d be doing it if Karen Russell hadn`t asked me what I was going to do with this show. Sometimes, we just have to be asked.

And so I`m asking you to make at least some of your Christmas giving important. I do the same kind of Christmas shopping that everyone else does, getting the same kinds of gifts that everyone else does, and I`ll be doing some of that last minute stuff tomorrow, but I also give the gift of desks and girls` scholarships to some of the people on my gift list.

And this is the kind of last minute gift that you don`t even have to leave your house to get. You just go to lastworddesks.msnbc.com. In the last 24 hours, you have done that, and you have contributed another $90,149 to the K.I.N.D. fund, bringing our totals since we began the fund five years ago, to $8,092,548 for desks, $1,606,505 for girls` scholarships, which is a total now of $9,699,053.

With that, we have doubled the number of kids in Malawi who now have desks in their schools, but still, most kids in Malawi schools don`t have desks, and most girls there cannot afford to go to high school, and don`t go to high school.

We`ve come a long way, and we have a long way to go. I can never find the words to thank you enough for what you`ve done. And as we head into Christmas Eve, let`s all just listen to the voices of those children at their new desks, the most beautiful thanks we could ever hear.

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(CHILDREN SINGING)

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