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The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, Transcript 1/4/2016

Guests: Howard Dean, Rick Wilson, Richard Cohen, Ahmed Shihab-Eldin, Hillary Mann Leverett, Joy Fowlin, Victor Chinyama

Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL Date: January 4, 2016 Guest: Howard Dean, Rick Wilson, Richard Cohen, Ahmed Shihab-Eldin, Hillary Mann Leverett, Joy Fowlin, Victor Chinyama


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you guys, happy --




RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Reporters and editors doing the paper routes. The new -- distributor says it will be four to six months before the delivery issues are resolved.

Tonight, "The Globe" says it`s considering bringing in a second distribution company to help with the deliveries. Be grateful for your local paper.

Be happy to have access to it, and if it shows up on your doorstep, you pay to subscribe to it and you read it, maybe give a bigger tip than you`re planning on giving this year.


More often than not, if a story is here on this show before it is anywhere else really, it is in your local paper, support your local paper.

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, MSNBC HOST: Hey Rachel, happy new year.

MADDOW: Happy new year!

O`DONNELL: Rachel, I have got a weird situation here.


O`DONNELL: The staff this afternoon asked me to hand over to them the last blog of the show and it will just be a complete surprise to me.

And in my laziness, you know, the feeling that -- oh great, I don`t have to write anything for THE LAST WORD --


You know, I said, yes, OK, and now I`m like wicked nervous about what -- have you ever done anything like this, just you have no idea what`s coming in your TV show?

MADDOW: I am -- I am so controlling that I am now stressed about the fact that that`s happening in your TV show. What are you going to do? Are you just going to hide under the desk?

O`DONNELL: I don`t know if I stay in the room, I don`t know -- it`s theirs, the last blog is theirs. I do -- I have no idea what`s going to happen. You`re not involved, I take it.

MADDOW: No, you have an awesome staff, but that`s truly scary. I would just leave. I would plug my ears and run out of the room screaming.

O`DONNELL: I can`t, you know, there will be a commercial break.


O`DONNELL: I can get up and just leave when I finish my stuff and that`s a possibility.


MADDOW: Good luck, my friend.

O`DONNELL: Thanks Rachel --

MADDOW: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Well, Donald Trump wants to campaign against Bill Clinton, but today in New Hampshire, Bill Clinton refused to play Trump`s game.


BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Every American should have a right to meet at least one president in a lifetime and in New Hampshire, your odds go way up.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Bill Clinton returned to the trail in the state that famously made him --

CLINTON: The comeback kid.


I love this place, you know.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Donald Trump is still targeting Hillary Clinton via Bill and his past with women.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: She`s got one of the great women abusers of all time sitting at her house waiting for her to come home.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is not the fight that the Clintons want to have.

HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I`m going to let him live in his alternative reality and I`m not going to respond.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s such odd cycle, you got a man that bankrupted four companies is attacking a man that balanced four federal budgets. And so, you know, that`s about what this is.

TRUMP: We have a revolution going on.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Armed anti-government protests taken over a federal building.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The group wants local control of this federal land.

TRUMP: People are tired and they`re sick of the stupidity that we`re seeing coming out of Washington.

AMMON BUNDY, CATTLE RANCHER: We`re actually not demanding anything other than the government to adhere to the constitution.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We don`t have a constitutional right to use force and violence and a threat and force and violence on others.

TRUMP: We`re not going to take it anymore, we`re not taking it.


O`DONNELL: In New Hampshire today, Bill Clinton did something that no president has ever done before -- campaign for his wife to become president of the United States.


CLINTON: It`d soon be 45 years ago and a couple of months when we met. And I don`t know, that`s -- we fell in love. I thought she was the most amazing person.

And there she was in that law school, she could have written her ticket to go anywhere she wanted. All she was really interested in was providing legal services to poor people.


O`DONNELL: Yesterday, the frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination welcomed Bill Clinton`s public support for Hillary Clinton`s campaign this way.


TRUMP: She`s married to a person that`s a serious abuser, and I mean, at the highest level. And she, you know, she`s not an innocent victim.

She was the one that would go along with him in this whole game that they play. And you look at what happened with some of the people that he took advantage of and then she gets involved.

So, she`s not like the innocent person sitting by the side and you know, with tears in her eyes. She`s a person that was very much involved.


O`DONNELL: Andrea Mitchell caught up with Bill Clinton after his first campaign speech today.


ANDREA MITCHELL, MSNBC HOST: How do you feel about the kind of campaign Donald Trump is running, sir?

CLINTON: The Republicans will have to decide who they`re going to nominate. How I feel is only relevant once they pick a nominee.


CLINTON: And we got to --


CLINTON: Win a primary, we got to win that primary.


O`DONNELL: Today in Iowa, a voter asked Hillary Clinton to respond to another Trump attack.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am interested in your response to the Donald`s comment that you and President Obama created ISIS.

CLINTON: I`ve adopted a new year`s resolution.


I`m going to let him live in his alternative reality and I`m not going to respond.




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.

Rick Wilson; Republican media consultant and contributor to "The Daily Beast" and "POLITICO". And Joy Reid is here with us, Msnbc national correspondent.

Joy Reid, the Clintons are not going near the latest round of Donald Trump accusations.

JOY REID, MSNBC NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it`s interesting, because of course, the Clinton`s political pedigree or their political history is that, you know, you hit them once and they deck you like in the face 18 times in response.

And that they have this sort of disproportionate response is what people expect. They`re employing a very different strategy which is basically rope-a-dope.

They`re basically saying, let him go ahead and come at us, we`re not going to give him any sound bites that he can then use in his next stump speech.

I think in this case, it`s the right thing to do.

O`DONNELL: But -- and Howard Dean, I`m not sure if we see the full emergence of a Clinton campaign strategy here yet.

But if Hillary Clinton won`t respond to Trump on issues like ISIS, does that mean that their strategy might be to not respond to anything Trump says, so that it won`t look like they`re just isolating the Bill Clinton accusations as something they won`t comment on?

HOWARD DEAN, FORMER VERMONT GOVERNOR: I don`t really -- I mean, I have no way of knowing what the answer to that is.

But I do think what they`re doing is terrific. Because in order to become president, people have to like you. And Donald Trump is really struggling in terms of people liking him.

I mean, he may be saying things that appeal to people who are angry, but liking somebody is different. And they really do want to like the President.

And so, I predicted a couple of weeks ago that this was going to blow up in Donald Trump`s face. You know, he`s very good, Donald Trump.

But he`s got a terrific marketing personality. I don`t think you want to take on the number one champion for the last 70 years, which is Bill Clinton in something that you might be a little good at, but not very good at.

O`DONNELL: Well, he did give a lot of hints that he was going to talk about Bill Clinton tonight in lower Massachusetts in his speech, which by the way was one of the shortest he`s ever given.

I don`t know, maybe he`s got a headache or something. But instead, he didn`t mention Bill Clinton at all. Tonight, he wanted to campaign against Barack Obama. Let`s listen to that.


TRUMP: We don`t need four more years of Obama, and that`s what you`re getting with Hillary, that`s what you`re getting.


No, that`s what you`re getting. And I believe it might be even worse if you want to know the truth.


O`DONNELL: Rick Wilson, for Republican audiences, which of these things that we`ve just heard Trump say are the most effective for Republican audiences?

RICK WILSON, REPUBLICAN MEDIA CONSULTANT & CONTRIBUTOR, DAILY BEAST: Well, the repetition of another term of Barack Obama is probably the most effective.

Frankly, the Bill Clinton stuff is kind of baked in the Republican cake, we`re not -- it`s not new information, and Trump bringing it up isn`t going to move a lot of Republican voters any further than they have been.

Everyone knows bad touch Bill Clinton. They understand that, they understand that this is a guy who engaged in behavior over the course of decades that would put most people in jail.

And so, that`s sort of -- like I said, it`s baked in the cake. What it does do is bring Democrats home to Hillary as we`ve seen in previous elections.

In `12, and I believe back to 2000 when I worked for Giuliani in the senate race, we saw in focus groups that when you brought it up, that Bill Clinton was a bad actor in a million different ways.

What happened was, people said, yes, we like him still and we like her. And so, you know, it`s a paradox and Trump bringing it up, you know, it feeds the -- it feeds the Republican base that loves to go to war mentality.

But it doesn`t necessarily get you to an end state that changes the field all that much.

It makes Democrats a little stronger for her, it makes -- reminds Republicans that Bill Clinton is a guy, you know, who spent a lot of time on Jeffrey Epstein`s sex slave island.

So, he`s a guy that, you know, all this stuff is already known quantities about Bill Clinton.

O`DONNELL: So much to respond to here, Joy, that I`m not sure -- go ahead.

REID: Known quantities, maybe if you read world net daily. Like a lot of the stuff Rick Wilson just said.

But I think, you know, one important point, you know, in that Giuliani analogy is, it also depends on who is making the attack.

Rudolph Giuliani would not have been the right person to make such an attack, because he dumped his wife on like national television right at the same time he was quitting his campaign.

And having run against Hillary Clinton and failed to succeed, you know, he would understand that, I think that, the Clintons, you have to look at --

WILSON: Well, no, Joy, he did --


He left the race because of prostate cancer.

REID: OK, well --

WILSON: So, let`s be -- let`s be very precise about that.

REID: At the same time that they -- he was being hit on issues of police violence and police abuse in which he had failed to respond, and has in fact, responded in a way that got African-American New Yorkers --

WILSON: None of which polled --


The long story short --

REID: Really? Have you polled --

WILSON: I get it, I get --


REID: African-American New Yorkers back when Rudolph Giuliani was running for president. The messenger clearly matters and Donald Trump has a very similar problem.

In that if he`s going to invite the Clintons to reverse, litigate his own history regarding women, he isn`t going to hold up very well.

So, it really isn`t helpful for him to be that messenger. But I think you do make a good point that it also reinforces for Democrats the will to fight.

And that`s what Hillary Clinton actually needs the most. Is for Democrats to want to fight for her.

O`DONNELL: Let`s look at this latest poll matching Hillary Clinton to Donald Trump, and it`s a pretty close one. This is a "Cnn" poll, Hillary Clinton at 49, Donald Trump at 47 in a theoretical general election match up.

Howard Dean, they did not include Bernie Sanders in a matchup with Donald Trump in that poll as so many polls just ignore Bernie Sanders when it comes to the one on ones.

The last one we saw that did include Bernie Sanders, he had a much bigger lead over Donald Trump than Hillary did.

But that one within the margin of error, 49-47, what do you make of that?

DEAN: As I say, I don`t make much of polls in the general election before the primary, for either side has been concluded.

There`s going to be a lot of people coming home on both sides after the nominee is decided, and there is a ton of people in the middle who have yet to make up their minds.

And I think that`s where Hillary`s huge advantage is. Most people can see Hillary as a competent president no matter which side they`re on.

It`s really hard to see Donald Trump and imagine him as a competent president.

O`DONNELL: All right, let`s --

DEAN: That`s what`s going to make the difference in the general election.

O`DONNELL: Let`s take a look at the first Trump campaign TV ad. They say they`re going to spend a million bucks on this in Iowa and another million in the New Hampshire market. Let`s take a look at this.


TRUMP: I`m Donald Trump and I approve this message.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The politicians can pretend it`s something else, but Donald Trump calls it radical Islamic terrorism.

That`s why he`s calling for a temporary shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until we can figure out what`s going on.

He`ll quickly cut the head of ISIS and take their oil and he`ll stop illegal immigration by building a wall on our southern border that Mexico will pay for.

TRUMP: We will make America great again.


O`DONNELL: Rick Wilson, the Trump campaign not content with what -- the way things really are on our southern border.

Did not actually use a shot of the southern border there --

WILSON: Of course not --

O`DONNELL: That I`m told -- I`m told that`s Morocco. But it`s such an odd ad because it`s filled with negative imagery on what is supposed to be a positive ad for the candidate.

WILSON: Well, that`s because Donald Trump is a fundamentally negative candidate. He is a guy who talks about the decline of America, about how we suck in the world, how our leaders are all stupid.

How everyone takes advantage of us. This is a guy who wants to be the man on the white horse, but he has to frame the world as fundamentally dark, he has to frame America as fundamentally failing.

And frankly, even though that we`re in a -- we`re in a phase where folks are angry and pessimistic and they feel like that the government has failed in a lot of ways.

The splash damage that happens from Trump doing this, it feeds the negative perceptions of the factional folks that are involved in supporting him.

And it makes them feel, very -- you know, engaged that somebody called it - - Jerry Garritti(ph) from "National Review" called it doomsday conservatism.

And he sort of feeds that message of that core group of folks. It doesn`t get out beyond the -- you know, 30 percent-35 percent of folks that are in the Trump camp particularly.

And you know, it doesn`t sell a lot of new real estate here, it`s the same message he`s been using. And in that regard, that`s the kind of ad that Trump, you can expect from him.

He`s going to stick with themes that he`s comfortable with.

O`DONNELL: Howard Dean, quickly, before we close this segment, is that ad going to get any more voters for Donald Trump in your neighboring state of New Hampshire?

DEAN: It`s possible that it might. The sort of the anger vote is -- can be consolidated by Donald Trump, and I think that`s what he`s doing.

I agree with Rick`s analysis on this, you know, a 100 percent. But he does have a vote and he`s going to get there. And this is about getting into the polls.

And the problem for the Republicans, there`s three or four more moderate candidates who have a much better chance against Hillary Clinton, and I don`t think any of them are going to get more about 11 percent.

So, all he`s got to do is get 27 percent or 28 percent, and this wins New Hampshire for him and he`s in business and a whole lot of other people aren`t.

O`DONNELL: Howard Dean, thanks for joining us tonight, really appreciate it. Coming up, the last time the Bundy family had a standoff on federal land against the federal government, several Republicans seemed to be on their side.

But what are they saying now?

REID: And you know, I know you`re about to go to break, Lawrence, and I`m waiting to finish --

O`DONNELL: I am going to break, I just threw some stuff -- what? --

REID: You threw the stuff on the paper --

O`DONNELL: Oh, no --

REID: But you know what?

O`DONNELL: Surprises is --

REID: There`re things happening --

O`DONNELL: Starting now --

REID: There are things happening. Now, I am going to --


REID: Jump in here --

O`DONNELL: Am so uncomfortable --

REID: Because the surprising begins right now. You cannot miss the end of the show because --

O`DONNELL: What do you -- what do you know that I don`t? You know everything --

REID: All I know is that, there`s a big surprise waiting for you, Lawrence O`Donnell, your staff has put it together --

O`DONNELL: I know that.

REID: Do you --

O`DONNELL: Do you know more than I know?

REID: Well, I can`t really comment on what specifically I know, I can only tell you that the viewers must stay to the very end of THE LAST WORD --

O`DONNELL: I am with the nervous --

REID: To find out what it is, let`s go to break now.



O`DONNELL: Republican presidential candidates react to the latest right- wing armed insurrection on federal land. That`s next.


O`DONNELL: In 1908, Republican President Teddy Roosevelt created a National Wildlife Refuge that is tonight, the scene of the latest armed insurrection by the Bundy family.

The same family that in 2014 rebelled against federal authorities in Nevada over grazing fees on federal land. This time, the Bundy family claims to be supporting the Hammond family.

Two members of the Hammond family were convicted of arson in federal court for fires that spread onto the National Wildlife Refuge.

And that is the scene of the Bundy family`s latest terrorist action. But the Hammond family wants nothing to do with the Bundy family -- wisely.

They issued a statement today saying, "neither Ammon Bundy nor anyone within his group organization speak for the Hammond family."

Dwight and Stephen Hammond surrendered to federal authorities in California to serve their prison sentences in that federal case.

They did that today. The Bundy gang invaded the federal buildings in the Wildlife Refuge Saturday night when the refuge was closed and the buildings were unoccupied.

How very brave of them. Today, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said this.


JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The President certainly aware of the situation.

The FBI has indicated they`re working with local law enforcement officials to resolve this situation. And we`re hopeful that that situation can be resolved peacefully without any violence.


O`DONNELL: In an interview with Nbc News today, Ammon Bundy said this.


BUNDY: The only violence that if it comes our way, will be because government is wanting their building back.

And that`s what it -- that`s what it`d be about. We are putting nobody in harm`s way. We are not threatening anybody. We`re 30 miles out of the closest town.

We are here making this stand and we`re doing it peacefully and we`re doing it for the right reasons.


O`DONNELL: Ted Cruz who was very sympathetic to the (AUDIO GAP 00:00:23- 29) --


CRUZ: Everyone of us has a constitutional right to protest and speak our minds. But we don`t have a constitutional right to use force and violence and the threat and force and violence on others.

And so, it is our hope that the protesters there will stand down peaceably. That there will not be a violent confrontation.

Our prayers are certainly with those in law enforcement that are risking their lives right now, that they be safe. But there is no right to engage in violence against other Americans.


O`DONNELL: Joining the panel now, Richard Cohen, President of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Joy Reid, a real change of tone for Ted Cruz on this one.

REID: Yes, indeed, because remember that the Bundy ranch standoff involved members of that militia group pointing rifles at federal agents.

And I think part of the reason that we`re seeing them return to form here, out of their own state, no less, against the wishes of the very family --


O`DONNELL: Now, this guy, this picture is one of the most famous pictures --

REID: Yes --

O`DONNELL: From that Nevada standoff. He did not get arrested --

REID: No --

O`DONNELL: For that.

REID: No one did.

O`DONNELL: No one did --

REID: No one did. And the fact that they got away --

O`DONNELL: There was one -- one arrest was on -- someone had a -- on a minor gun charge, and there was another minor arrest, but not associated with what they were doing.

REID: Right, not associated with threatening federal agents, threatening federal law enforcement.

And I think the fact that they got away with that sort of emboldened this group to go out of their own state against the wishes of the very family they say they`re supporting.

And once again, in an armed standoff with the federal government. The thing that`s incredible, the sheriff has asked them to go, the family has asked them to go.

And I`m not sure what it is now that they`re trying to accomplish. Are they seizing that federal land? And if so, for whom?

O`DONNELL: Richard Cohen, is this a reaction or -- to the way things were handled in Nevada?


The Bundy family saw themselves as heroes. They were lionized by people like Cruz, Trump, Carson and Rand Paul.

You know, Sean Hannity extolled their virtues every day. And when no one was arrested, the militia world said, you know, courage is contagious.

And the number of militias in our country has grown considerably since that time. So, you know, what we`re seeing now is really the predictable result of the failure of law enforcement to crack down because of what happened at the Bundy ranch in April of 2014.

O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to what Marco Rubio said about it today.


SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: You cannot be lawless. We have -- we live in a Republic, there are ways to change the laws of this country and the policies.

And if we get frustrated with it, that`s why we have elections, that`s why we have people we can hold accountable.

And I agree that there`s too much federal control over land, such we have in the western part of the United States.

There are states, again, for like Nevada that are dominated by the federal government in terms of land holding and we should fix it.

But no one should be doing it in the way that`s outside the law.


O`DONNELL: Rick Wilson, responsible commentary by Rubio and Ted Cruz`s change of tone and content on this one, how do you read that?

WILSON: Well, look, I think that we`ve got to apply the rule of law evenly across all the parts of the political spectrum.

And you know, conservatives were cheering for, you know, swift law enforcement response to Ferguson and Baltimore and everything else.

And liberals are cheering, including some that have been calling for, you know, these -- the protesters to be shot by the federal government --

O`DONNELL: No one --


Rick, stop, Rick, stop. No one is calling for those guys in that Wildlife Refuge to be shot --


WILSON: Jonathan Chait(ph) yesterday -- Jonathan Chait(ph) yesterday tweeted, he`ll take option two of shooting them.

So, people have -- and so, I think it`s important to apply the rule of law evenly across all parts of the political domain.

I think it`s important for -- you know, I think it`s not a defense of the BLM or the absurdity of the federal land holdings in the west of this country.

To say that if these guys want to change this, they need to go through a series of political steps and not just at the point of a gun.

And they have a legitimate right to protest, they have a legitimate right to air their grievances, but if this thing gets loud and they -- and folks die on both sides of this equation, it is not good for the Republic.

O`DONNELL: And Richard Cohen, what should law enforcement do in this situation?

COHEN: Well, I think they need to wait-them-out. There`s no reason to provoke a confrontation. The Bundy clan will eventually leave and when they do, I think they should be arrested.

O`DONNELL: And Joy, that`s not what happened last time.

REID: And that --

O`DONNELL: Go ahead.

REID: Not only were they not arrested, but Cliven Bundy`s million dollars that he still owed in back grazing fees, which was the reason that standoff began.

The federal government has still not even enforced that. I think that there`s been a complete failure --

O`DONNELL: They`re pursuing it in civil actions in federal court --

REID: Correct --

O`DONNELL: They`re chasing it, but it`s like -- they`re like a bill collector chasing something --

REID: Exactly, and what lesson have they indeed taught the militia movements which are multiplying throughout the country.

They simply taught them that there is like essentially a reward or at least no penalty for literally threatening at the force of arms of the federal government.

One of the people that is involved in this standoff made -- announced on martyrdom video, telling his family, his wife and children that he was prepared to die.

That`s the kind of language that`s been used here. And yes, they haven`t actually committed any violent act.

But when you`re making videos, saying you`re prepared to die -- imagine a Muslim American, a Muslim group making that exact same statement on a video.

The federal government would have a completely different attitude toward it. And I think people who are seeing a double standard here are not crazy.

They`re watching a double standard unfold on American soil.

O`DONNELL: Richard Cohen, it seems to be kind of a singular standard that applies only to these kinds of guys when they pull something like this.

COHEN: You know, look, I think everybody realizes that black people in our country are, you know, bear the brunt of excessive policing.

I don`t think there`s really any question about this. I`m not sure this particular situation is very analogous to anything else.

I think the point that Joy made is accurate. On the other hand, I hope that if black protesters took over a building, no one would come in and start shooting them up when they could easily wait them out.

O`DONNELL: Richard Cohen and Rick Wilson, thank you both for joining us tonight, appreciate it.

COHEN: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Coming up next, the fight against the Islamic State just got much more complicated after Saudi Arabia executed a Muslim cleric who had a strong following in Iran.



O`DONNELL: Saturday was mass execution day in Saudi Arabia. Forty-seven people were executed by the government in various locations using various methods, including beheading.

The most controversial victim of the mass execution was a prominent Shiite cleric named Namir Al Namir. Yesterday in Iran, protesters sympathetic to the Shiite cleric set fire to Saudi Iranian Embassy. Saudi Arabia then cut diplomatic ties with the Shiite-nominated Iran Government.

And, now, three Sunni led countries have joined Saudi Arabia in taking diplomatic action against Iran, Bahrain and Sudan said, they also had several diplomatic ties with Iran. While the United Arab Emirates has downgraded its representation with Iran. Today, the White House spokesman said this.


JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUS PRESS SECRETARY: We do continue to be concerned about the need for both the Iranians and the Saudis to deescalate the situation in the Middle East. We are urging all sides to show some restraint and to not further inflame tensions that are on quite vivid display in the region.

And, Secretary Kerry has been in touch with his Iranian counterpart, U.S. Diplomatic Officials in Saudi Arabia have been in touch with their counterparts to convey this message.


O`DONNELL: Joining us now, Hillary Mann Leverett, former State Department Middle East Specialist under President George W. Bush and Bill Clinton. She is the CEO of STRATEGA. Also with us, Ahmed Shibab- Eldin, a producer and correspondent for Vice. Ahmed, why did Saudi Arabia do this? They had to know what the reaction would be to this execution.

AHMED SHIHAB-ELDIN, VICE PRODUCER CORRESPONDENT: You know, Lawrence, that is the right question to be asking. And, not only did they know. I think this is another example of how Saudi Arabia is exploiting exploiting sectarianism in the region in order to advance their own political game.

You know, a lot of people wonder, is this really about Sunni and Shia; of course, it is to a certain extent. But, there is no denying that Iran and Saudi Arabia, above being, these symbols of Shia and Sunni powers are two powers that are vying for influence in the region and have been for decades.

So, I think to your point, this was ill-conceived. It was poorly thought out. And, I think it will prove to be very counterproductive, just like the war in Yemen. And, I bring up the war in Yemen because in addition to being critical of, you know, the Saudi Arabian government and the monarchy, you know -- was recently very critical of the war in Yemen, which Saudi Arabia has been leading.

And, you know, specifically thousands of innocent civilians have died in this war. And, I think to your point, Saudi Arabia may very well be trying to galvanize Sunni support not just for the war but for Saudi Arabia`s, you know, other endeavors in the region, and at the expense of the stability in the region. I think it is again just Saudi Arabia being selfish and perhaps not seeing things through.

O`DONNELL: Hillary, why do you think Saudi Arabia carried out this execution?

HILLARY MANN LEVERETT, FMR. STATE MIDDLE EAST SPECIALIS: Well, Saudi Arabia -- I think it is part of a broader strategy. I share Ahmed`s view on this. I think it is part of a broader strategy. I think that Saudi Arabia has a distinctive and for itself very effective national security strategy.

But, it is a strategy that involves arming, training and funding; especially funding armed militants from Libya to Afghanistan, Yemen to Bahrain throughout the entire region. It relies heavily on that kind of strategy. And, using the United States, working with the United States to implement that strategy.

It is a strategy that has worked incredibly effectively for the Saudis. More people are starting to question whether this is effective or just going reckless given particularly this mass e execution. But, I would not underestimate the Saudis. They have pulled off the strategy effectively for themselves for years and sustained one of the most dictatorial autocratic governments the world has ever seen.

O`DONNELL: Let us listen to what Marco Rubio said about this today.


MARCO RUBIO, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Why is this president trying to portray himself as a neutral arbiter between two countries that are being in dispute? Saudi Arabia is not perfect but they are not an enemy of the United States, at least not their government.

Now, there are things they do I am not in favor of and I have strong problems with. But that being said, they have been a military ally of the United States in that region. Iran has been our enemy.


O`DONNELL: Ahmed, here is an execution where the guy is killed for what he has said.


O`DONNELL: Nothing other than words he has spoken and we cannot find a republican candidate who has any strong objection to that.

SHIHAB-ELDIN: Yes. I mean that is not surprising. Again, you know, just as we heard, you know, saying that Saudi Arabia is not our enemy. Our enemy is our ally. You know, we have given them $100 billion in arms in five years. And, it makes you kind of wonder and ask the question, "Well how did this region really fall and succumb to all of these sectarianism?"

Of course, it is proceeded to Arab uprising. It is preceded the Iraqian -- the American invasion of Iraq. But, you know, I think we would be lying to ourselves if we did not admit that Iran and Saudi Arabia are just as they are in Syria and Lebanon and in many countries in the Middle East, now in Yemen, are vying for power because there has been a security vacuum. There has been political vacuum.

And, I think it is important to remember that it was the Iraqi war, the invasion of Iraq that really allowed for a lot of these things to start to grow out of control, and allow governments like Saudi Arabia and Iran to exploit those divisions for their own national gain. You know, if you look in the mid `80s, you know, the biggest conflict in the Middle East in the `80s was between Iran and Iraq. Two Shiite powers.

You know, these are two Shiite Governments that at the time were, you know, butting heads. And, you had Saudi Arabia assisting Iraq against Iran. And, so, that kind of dispels this notion that everything in the region should be seen through the secretary lines.

At the end of the day, I think that the reason you do not see republicans saying that is the same reason you do not see democrats on the flipside really addressing what the underlying causes are to all these instability in the region; which I think at the end of the day is the fact that we have allowed for better or worse knowing we are not for people, whether Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, whether the new Saudi King, who is prevalent to be much more violent and aggressive than the previous King to take advantage of these vacuums.

O`DONNELL: Hillary, Chris Christie was asked today if he could be in any way sympathetic to the Iranian reaction to this, given that the man was executed simply for things that he said. And, Chris Christie said he had absolutely no sympathies for the Iranian side of this.

LEVERETT: Yes. And, unfortunately, I think that is across the board. Unfortunately, not even just in the republican camp but among democrats too. Iran has been so vilified in the American public that it would be hard I think for most Americans to have sympathy.

But, I think the bigger concern is more of what Marco Rubio said. And, I think that really is grounded in American love affair with militarism in the Middle East. And, if we had to somehow have a normal regular relationship with Saudi Arabia that was not pumping billions of weapons into their pockets, a normal relationship not based on this militarism, that would hurt a lot of people here in Washington.

And, we are attached to that to our peril. It was Saudi Arabia back in the 1970s and 1979 that with us started to arm, train and fund Mujahedeen Afghanistan that brought us Osama Bin Laden and 9/11. So, holding on to this idea that they are our ally -- our military ally has only hurt us and it will continue to hurt us as we double down on that strategy.

O`DONNELL: That will be the Last Word on it tonight. Hillary Mann Leverett and Ahmed Shihab-Eldin, thank you both for joining us tonight.

LEVERETT: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, President Obama takes executive action on gun control.



O`DONNELL: Today, President Obama announced that he is going to take executive action tomorrow on gun violence. The president made the announcement in the oval office with Attorney General Loretta Lynch.


PRES. BARACK OBAMA, U.S. PRESIDENT: These are not only recommendations that are well within my legal authority and the executive branch, but they are also ones that the overwhelming majority of the American people, including gun owners, support and believe in.

This is not going to solve every violent crime in this country. It is not going to prevent every mass shooting. It is not going to keep every gun out of the hands of a criminal. It will potentially save lives in this country. And, spare families the pain and the extraordinary loss that they have suffered.


O`DONNELL: The president will offer more details tomorrow.

Up next, a very, very big, and I mean big, announcement.


O`DONNELL: And, now, for the good news. On New Year`s Eve, David Hagberg tweeted, "Third year donating to K.I.N.D. in lieu of spending money on Christmas presents. Lawrence keep promoting. David gets it, helping kids in need of desks is something that we are going to have to keep doing because education is a never ending expense.

Through your generosity to the K.I.N.D. Fund, we have been able to double the number of kids in elementary schools in Malawi, who now get to sit at desks in their classrooms, but most kids in Malawi are still sitting on the floor in their schools. We will continue to build desks at factories in Malawi and deliver them to schools that need desks as long as you continue to help.

There is no other source of funding for this project. It depends entirely on the kindness of the last word audience. As most of you know the K.I.N.D. Fund includes a tuition program for girls to attend high school in Malawi, where public high school is not free and the girl`s graduation rate is half the boy`s rate because the few families, who cannot afford to send the kid to high school are more likely to send one of their boys instead of one of their girls. T

There are hundreds of girls in high school in Malawi right now. Thanks entirely to your kindness. You have met some of those girls here on this show talking about their dreams of becoming doctors, lawyers, nurses, teachers. Those dreams could never come through without your support.

You can always help by going to And, if you cannot contribute anything, just tweeting that link or posting it on Facebook would help. Tonight, I just want to say thank you. Thank you for your extraordinary outpouring of generosity again this year.

The high point of my year is always my trip to Malawi to deliver desks to schools and to meet some of the girls we are helping get through high school. It is a week of long days and long trips throughout the country and there is nothing quite like the joy of a truck full of desks arriving at a school.


And, it has been a joy to work on our kind segments this season and I mean that in more ways than one because they have all been produced by "Last Word" producer, Joy Fowlin, who joins us now on her last day of service to the team before she takes maternity leave for the second time. Joy, fantastic to give us one more night before and it is like next week, right?


O`DONNELL: Its due date.

FOWLIN: On Wednesday is the due date.

O`DONNELL: On Wednesday. I wanted you to be here for the totals. We are going to announce the totals of what we have done this season. The last time we updated the audience on the totals was our last show before Christmas. We were then at total for the program for this since we started was $9,699,053. So, Joy, give us the update. What is the latest numbers?

FOWLIN: Well, I have them right here and I am going to hand them to you.

O`DONNELL: No. I want you to do it. I want you to have the honor.

FOWLIN: Absolutely, not. This is definitely for you to do.

O`DONNELL: Big secret. You have been hiding this -- By the way, this is why we did not do updates after Christmas because you would not tell me. All right. The total now of everything we have raised. The scholarships total is now $1,905,178. The desks tote since we began the program is now $8,604,870, which brings are total -- total -- oh boy.

The total we have raised since we began this, $10,510,048. Joy you got us across the $10 million line. You know, I never look up at goals on this thing. But, I did not think we were going to make it to $10 million, but you got us there this year.

FOWLIN: No. Our viewers got us there. They are awesome.

O`DONNELL: Well, you know, you just did a tremendous job of getting us through this whole thing. We could not have done it without you. I do not know how I do this show next week without you. Actually, I got to start tomorrow without you.

FOWLIN: You will be fine. You did it before --

O`DONNELL: I am going to be calling you. I am going to be calling you. Joy Fowlin, thank you for everything you have done this year. We are going to be right back.

REID: We will be right back all right. We will be right back, all right. And, congratulations, joy.


REID: Congratulations K.I.N.D. Fund. Congratulations, Lawrence. We could not done celebrating; however, for all of you who have watched the success and the impact of the K.I.N.D. over the years, you are going to love the surprise. This was the surprise. You love this, right? You are going to love the surprise that we have.

O`DONNELL: The joy conspiracy.

REID: The double joy conspiracy in full effect.

O`DONNELL: What is -- I do not know what you guys are up to.



REID: All right. You have heard about the big news and the big surprise that we have in store for, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: There has been a coup.

REID: You have been hearing about this -- well, it has been a coup for about 40 minutes. Now, I did surprise him with the news they was going to be taking over the F block of this show tonight. I have seized control of the situation just as you have been leaded out at 30 Rock, we are showing the feds how it is done.

This is the takeover. Now, the suspense is almost over both for Lawrence and for you at home. Up next, the very fitting way that we are going to celebrate crossing that $10 million mark right here --

O`DONNELL: Do I stay here? I stay in this chair?

REID: -- on "The Last Word" ostensibly with Lawrence O`Donnell.

O`DONNELL: I stay right here?

REID: You can stay.




REID: All right. Guys. It is finally surprise time on "The Last Word." Lawrence just announced the amazing news that the K.I.N.D. Fund, thanks to your generosity at home, has crossed the $10 million mark over the holidays. Now, it is well on its way to $11 million.

Lawrence has been to that Malawi almost every year since the show launched but the most important trip was the first one that he took in the summer of 2010 right before "The Last Word" launched.

O`DONNELL: Is this greatest hits?

REID: It is the greatest hits real. potentially. Now, Lawrence went to Malawi -- He is still trying to take back over the show. Lawrence went to Malawi with a vision to help students, but he was not sure what actually could be accomplished.

And, there was someone else not sure what to expect either. Someone on the ground in Malawi -- these are your hints, Lawrence. Somebody who took you Lawrence to the first school to meet the students and to meet the need.

It is someone who helped the K.I.N.D. Fund to make the ideas, to make these ideas about these desks come true. And, it is somebody who help make the desks and it is somebody who was there for the very first delivery. Somebody who has seen this scene of celebration play out in countless schools.

Let us bring out our special guest all the way from the African continent here to help us celebrate more than $10 million in donations. And, here he is, tonight`s "Last Word`" guest. Please be welcome, sir and sit down.

O`DONNELL: Thank you so much for coming. So, great that you are here.


O`DONNELL: There would be nothing --

CHINYAMA: It is my pleasure.

O`DONNELL: Absolutely -- where are you stationed now? You are not in Malawi.

REID: OK. Before we let Lawrence talk. Before we let Lawrence talk, it is my honor to introduce to the "Last Word" audience, Victor Chinyama from UNICEF. Victor, thank you for being here.

CHINYAMA: My pleasure being here.

REID: Congratulations.

O`DONNELL: There would be nothing without Victor. Nothing. I was in Malawi for days and I had found -- I found no way to have any desks made at all. Victor took me to this place, what was then a little hardware store. And, in the back room the Motion who was running that place --


O`DONNELL: -- had one desk and one teacher`s desk.


O`DONNELL: And, I said to him, "Could you make me 30 of those?" It was Wednesday afternoon.


O`DONNELL: "Could you make them by Friday for delivery?" And, he could.

CHINYAMA: Absolutely.

O`DONNELL: And, also the girls` scholarship idea was Victor`s idea.

CHINYAMA: Absolutely.

O`DONNELL: It was his idea. When we came back to do more when my daughter came, you sat us down and said, "You know, it is time to think about how you might want to expand" -- I could go on and on.

REID: Yes. I want Victor.


O`DONNELL: We would have nothing. It is all Victor.

REID: Well, Victor, I would love for you to explain to those at home who have not been following this, and of course this audience has been following it so closely. Thanks to Lawrence.


REID: Explain why it is that people need to donate to get desks and also to get scholarships for girls in Malawi.

CHINYAMA: Well, it all started with an e-mail, you know. And, then we had our first meeting with Lawrence. And, we tried to explain what the situation was in Malawi. Essentially, you had, you know, UNICEF constructing schools. But we were buying desks, but they were not enough.

So, we said to him, "Look, we have got these schools that we are constructing and we have got many other schools that in a deplorable condition." And, so, we said, "Would you like to see both schools?" And, so, we went, you know, to a school that had a good classroom structure but kids for sitting on the floor.

REID: Right.

O`DONNELL: Uh-huh.

CHINYAMA: And, then we went to another school where the roof had been blown off and there was no concrete on the floor, kids were sitting on the ground in the classroom, and they were also sitting under a tree.

O`DONNELL: Uh-huh.

REID: And, school is not even free.

CHINYAMA: It is not. Primary school you have to pay. The eight years of primary school you have to pay. And, so, what happens, essentially, is kids enroll. And, by the time, they reach 8th, which is like 8th grade, you know, only one out of four will actually reach. So, they drop out for many reasons.

But, even worse, very few go on to secondary school. And, it is secondary school that you find. You know, they have to dig to their pockets to pay for school fees and so on.

REID: Yes.

CHINYAMA: The challenges are completely huge, you know. And, we understood very clearly that the desks were going to mean a lot to the kids. You cannot travel through Malawi, go from school to school and not see kids sitting under a tree, leaning under a tree.

REID: You know, sitting on the floor. And, they have to jump over incredible odds. But you know what? They get up every morning, every Monday through Friday, they are up, they are up going to school.

O`DONNELL: Walking miles, many of them.

CHINYAMA: Absolutely. 8 kilometers without shoes, you know.

REID: Yes.

CHINYAMA: And, sit in a classroom of about 100 other kids. So, it is huge challenges.

REID: And, I know that --

O`DONNELL: I am telling you, I would have accomplished nothing without Victor, absolutely nothing.

REID: Yes.

O`DONNELL: It was his guidance got this whole thing started in the right way. I had bad ideas about how to do this. He had the right ideas. And, the girls` scholarship program was absolutely his idea.

CHINYAMA: But, it all incredibly come together. You know, because up to that point UNICEF had been buying the desks. But, it was not the numbers that we need. And, so, when Lawrence comes and says "Look, you know, we can equip these schools with desks --

REID: Yes.

O`DONNELL: Thanks to this audience.

REID: Thanks to this audience.

CHINYAMA: We spoke to government officials and they said this is the largest procurement we have ever done of desks to this very day.

REID: Yes. And, I have to say that, Lawrence, you know, you are not guy who focuses a lot on yourself, but you inspired so many people, my family included to get involved. So, thank you so much.

O`DONNELL: Thank Victor.

REID: And, congratulations, Victor.

CHINYAMA: And, I am here to say thank you to Lawrence.

REID: In deed.

CHINYAMA: And MSNBC and his viewers for their generosity.

REID: Thank you. All right. Well, thank you. $10 million, Victor Chinyama, Lawrence O`Donnell, congratulations. Chris Hayes is up next.