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The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, Transcript 1/6/2016

Guests: Sarah Helene Duggin, Kurt Andersen, Jonathan Alter, George Mitchell, Tony Dokoupil

Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL Date: January 6, 2016 Guest: Sarah Helene Duggin, Kurt Andersen, Jonathan Alter, George Mitchell, Tony Dokoupil

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC: That does it for us tonight, we will see you again tomorrow, now it`s time for THE LAST WORD with Lawrence O`Donnell. Good evening Lawrence.

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, HOST, THE LAST WORD: Hey Rachel, I will never forget the day in Washington when I met John Lewis by phone when he called me to ask about something.

And the phone just shook in my hand. I couldn`t believe that John Lewis was on the other end of the line. Really exciting --

MADDOW: I have never done anything nicer for my father than the day I introduced him to John Lewis. My dad got to look him in the eye --

O`DONNELL: Oh, great --

MADDOW: A nice thing I ever did for my dad --

O`DONNELL: Hey, can I ask you to do something nice for me?


O`DONNELL: I need a little help.


O`DONNELL: It`s a pronunciation thing. The name of that state right above California, right above the next state above where you grew up is pronounced how?

MADDOW: Oregon.

O`DONNELL: One more time?

MADDOW: Oregon.

O`DONNELL: OK, because on Twitter today, everyone was praising your pronunciation while they were criticizing mine.

Apparently, I`ve been driving the state crazy with --

MADDOW: How do you say it?

O`DONNELL: I don`t even know, because when I mispronounce stuff, I don`t even know --


How I said it. But I just --

MADDOW: Most people say Oregon or something --

O`DONNELL: I guess --


I`ve been saying something like that --

MADDOW: Oregon --

O`DONNELL: I`ve been respecting --

MADDOW: Yes --

O`DONNELL: Every letter in it, which is so hard for me with the Boston accent that I have to conquer --

MADDOW: I will tape you -- I will tape you Nevada and Oregon.

O`DONNELL: Nevada I know.


O`DONNELL: Nevada I learned, it took me a long time but I learned Nevada, and so give it to me one more time there.

MADDOW: Oregon.

O`DONNELL: Oregon.

MADDOW: Yes, there you go!

O`DONNELL: Just say it as fast as you can, really --

MADDOW: Exactly --

O`DONNELL: OK, right --

MADDOW: And if you mumble it, you`ll get it right.

O`DONNELL: All right, good, I got to mumble it. I`m good at mumbling, thank you Rachel --

MADDOW: Thanks my friend --

O`DONNELL: Well, you know, things got a little crazy at this hour last night in that standoff in Oregon where the man who overnight has come to be known as tarp man online, was sitting under a tarp, that was on this program.

He was sitting under a tarp with a rifle under there. Saying he was ready to confront and maybe kill any law enforcement officials who tried to arrest him.

We were able to ask him a few questions when he took the tarp off last night. We`ll see if he`s still under that tarp tonight.

And in the presidential campaign tonight, Ted Cruz and most of the conventional wisdom news media are wrong. It is not a matter of settled law that Ted Cruz is constitutionally eligible to be president of the United States.

Donald Trump, who has spent his entire political career lying about President Obama`s natural-born citizenship finally has a birther case that isn`t completely crazy.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Donald Trump goes birther on Senator Ted Cruz.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN: Do you believe Senator Ted Cruz is a natural-born citizen?


CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC: Does it get any better than this?

JOSH EARNEST, PRESS SECRETARY, WHITE HOUSE: It would be quite ironic Republican primary voters were to choose somebody who actually wasn`t born in the United States.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: Look, as a legal matter, the question is quite straightforward and settled law.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Straightforward! Done! Settled!


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, he only wishes.

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO HOST: And as far as Trump hitting Cruz or vice versa, have at it, boys.

JIMMY FALLON, COMEDIAN & TELEVISION HOST: Donald Trump accused Ted Cruz of copying his immigration reform plan.

TRUMP: He said, and we will build a wall. So now he`s taking my idea for the wall.

FALLON: Then China said, hello --


I think we kind of invented that whole wall thing. You are in a feud with Donald Trump right now. Do you know this?


FALLON: We can prove that Donald Trump is lying when he says he doesn`t know you. This might be the thing that finally brings down his campaign.


This might be the thing.


O`DONNELL: Ted Cruz has a tortured relationship with American law, beginning with his time at Harvard Law School, where by all accounts, he was an excellent student.

But when that excellent student became a politician, it was as if he`d never spent a day in law school.


CRUZ: I don`t think we should entrust governing our society to five unelected lawyers in Washington.

Why would you possibly hand over the rights of 320 million Americans to five lawyers in Washington to say we`re going to decide the rules that govern you.


O`DONNELL: That`s what presidential candidate Ted Cruz called the Supreme Court last year. The court whose authority was granted to them in the constitution by the founding fathers.

The court where Ted Cruz himself was on the payroll, served as a law clerk to the Chief Justice of the United States.

The chief of the court that Ted Cruz now calls nothing but a group of unelected lawyers whose views not only do not deserve respect, but do not actually hold the force of law.

That statement reduced Ted Cruz to the level of gibberish that we heard from tarp man last night in Oregon when he was describing why he had joined in seizing federal property and just might kill federal agents.

But today, under the most intense pressure that any Republican candidate for president not named Trump can feel -- which is of course, to say, an attack from Donald Trump.

Ted Cruz tried to play his Harvard Law School card. He tried to play his Supreme Court clerk card.


CRUZ: As a legal matter, the question is quite straightforward and settled law. That the child of a U.S. citizen born abroad is a natural-born citizen.

People will continue to make political noise about it, but as a legal matter it`s quite straightforward. I would note that it has occurred many times in history.

John McCain was born in Panama, but he was a natural-born citizen because his parents were U.S. citizens.

George Romney, Mitt`s dad, who was born in Mexico when his parents were Mormon missionaries, but he was a natural-born citizen because his parents were citizens.

And actually Barry Goldwater, who was born in Arizona before Arizona was a state and yet he was a natural-born citizen because his parents were citizens.


O`DONNELL: Ted Cruz and others in the media today cited a six-page Harvard law review online commentary by two former solicitors general.

Now, this online commentary was never published in the printed pages of the Harvard law review as a formal article. It doesn`t have the kind of prestige that such an article would.

And in that online commentary, those two solicitors general say there`s no question that Senator Cruz has been a citizen from birth and is a natural- born citizen within the meaning of the constitution.

Now normally, when you hear one line like that being quoted from an article and you hear it all day in the news media, that usually means that that`s the only line people quoting from the article have actually read.

The Harvard law review online posting is a very thin piece of legal research, which was written last year, specifically to address the issue of Ted Cruz`s natural-born citizenship.

In 2005, Boston University law review published a 100-page law review article of far more depth and complexity that examines the constitution`s use of the phrase natural-born citizen as a qualification for the presidency.

The piece was written while Ted Cruz was still working in Texas government. It was written two years before Barack Obama began to run for president.

And three years before the United States Senate decided that John McCain`s natural-born citizenship was questionable enough to be worthy of a unanimously passed Senate resolution in 2008 declaring that the United States Senate, at least, regards him as a natural-born citizen, even though he was born outside of the United States.

There is no more authoritative legal analysis of the natural-born citizenship issue than this Boston University law review article written by Sarah Helene Duggin and Mary Beth Collins.

On its 54th page, it says, "the natural-born citizenship status of millions of Americans is open to question.

Natural-born citizenship is absolutely certain only for United States citizens born post statehood in one of the 50 states, provided that they are not members of native American tribes recognized by the United States government.

To varying degrees, the natural-born status of all other United States citizens is suspect." Joining us now, one of the co-authors of that article, Sarah Duggin, a professor at Catholic University`s Columbus School of Law, and an expert on constitutional law.

Professional Duggin, thank you very much for joining us tonight, I really appreciate it.


O`DONNELL: You were onto this issue before anybody knew it was going to come up in a -- in a serious way in a presidential campaign.

And in your law review article, you do cite the cases where it had been questioned in the past, beginning with Barry Goldwater, also George Romney.

Let`s talk about those cases and why there were questions. In Barry Goldwater`s case, why was there a question about -- and he was a Republican nominee about his possible natural-born citizenship.

DUGGIN: Well, Senator Goldwater was born in Arizona while it was still a territory. So there actually was a lawsuit.

It was a very short-lived lawsuit, but a lawsuit filed challenging his qualifications as a natural-born citizen of the United States.

And actually, even going back a little bit further, Franklin Delano Roosevelt Junior was at one time considered a viable candidate for the presidency.

But he did not end up running, and it`s hard to track down why, but one of the theories is that he was born in Nova Scotia, one of the family homes outside the United States.

O`DONNELL: And the Romney case, I don`t think is terribly significant. He was born in Mexico to American parents, but he never actually even ran in a primary.

He dropped out of the race before he even got --

DUGGIN: He did --

O`DONNELL: To the votes, right --

DUGGIN: That`s right --

O`DONNELL: But now, Ted Cruz`s case has some unique components. For -- only one of his parents was an American citizen, and I think in the other cases, certainly in the McCain case, both of his parents were American citizens.

DUGGIN: That`s right --

O`DONNELL: McCain was born unarguably on U.S. territory because it was a military installation in Panama. Ted Cruz was born in Canada.

And there`s another element to Cruz that doesn`t exist in any of the other cases, which is Ted Cruz is the only one of these people who actually had a citizenship other than United States citizenship.

He actually had Canadian citizenship.

DUGGIN: Yes, I`m not sure that that makes a significant difference here. I think that certainly a distinction, but the real issue is what did the framers of the constitution mean by natural-born citizenship?

And we know a great deal about why they were worried. They didn`t want a foreign nobleman to come to the United States and with the power of the foreign nobility behind him actually become president of the United States.

They didn`t want the kind of monarch that they were fleeing from in a sense with the revolution, because if you think about it, George III came from a foreign country and became the ruler of England.

And there was certainly a lot of precedent for having foreign monarchs. They didn`t want to have a foreign president because of that concern over the power of the European nobility.

O`DONNELL: Ted Cruz says this is settled law. Settled law is normally a phrase we use with cases that have gone through the Supreme Court and been adjudicated. We don`t have that here, right?

DUGGIN: You`re exactly right, Lawrence, exactly, it`s not settled law --

O`DONNELL: And so, what is your reading of this situation as it involves Senator Cruz if he were to become the nominee?

What would happen? Would you expect litigation? Would you expect some kind of challenge? How long would it take?

DUGGIN: There`s already a challenge. I know that there`s a case that`s been filed in Broward County, Florida. They`re challenging his natural- born citizenship credentials.

I don`t think that case will survive because the person filing it on a pro se basis filing it in his own right is essentially arguing that as a voter.

He has a right to vote for only constitutionally qualified candidates. Usually the courts will not entertain that kind of action because it`s more of a generalized grievance than a specific injury.

We`ve heard that Congressman Alan Grayson is thinking about filing a lawsuit. I think we would see a number of other lawsuits popping up.

Whether anyone would actually have standing, that is, would be a proper party to bring those lawsuit is a question that`s a very difficult one to resolve.

If someone like Donald Trump, though, a rival candidate, were to actually file a lawsuit, I think there`s a good chance that the -- that the court would take that case to the merits.

O`DONNELL: Because an opposing candidate seems to be obviously in a position to have standing in a case like this.

DUGGIN: Absolutely, because standing under the federal constitution requires an injury, it requires someone to have that injury traceable to a defendant`s conduct, and it requires that a court order could redress it.

So, I think this is an important question. I think it`s one that matters not only in this race, but to the thousands, tens of thousands and millions of immigrant families who believe that they are just as loyal to the United States as people who are born here.

And something that is going to continue to hang over our presidential elections until we resolve it by definitive Supreme Court ruling or by a constitutional amendment.

O`DONNELL: Yes, in your law review article, you recommend a constitutional amendment. And one of your many concerns in this is succession.

You know, we`re careful about choosing presidents and vice presidents, but we don`t think that much about the others in line of succession, which goes right through the cabinet.

And we`ve had people in the cabinet like Henry Kissinger who were in the line of succession --

DUGGIN: Madeleine Albright --

O`DONNELL: Yes, but we would have had to skip over them because they`re not --

DUGGIN: Yes --

O`DONNELL: Natural-born citizens. We have to move down in succession as we go, and only a constitutional amendment can really address this and fix this in a way that we`d have absolute clarity.

DUGGIN: That`s a great point, Lawrence. And I think the fact that we are willing as a nation to give so much power and authority to these people means that we have come to an understanding that place of birth is not necessarily the best surrogate for loyalty.

That said, it`s not settled.

O`DONNELL: Right, Professor Sarah Duggin, thank you very much for joining us tonight. I don`t --

DUGGIN: Thank you --

O`DONNELL: Think this is --

DUGGIN: Very much --

O`DONNELL: The last time you`re going to be discussing this. I have a feeling that Donald Trump and Ted Cruz are going to have this discussion go on for a while. Thank you very much professor --

DUGGIN: I think you`re right, thank you --

O`DONNELL: Thank you. Coming up --

DUGGIN: Good night --

O`DONNELL: As Chris Christie moves up in the polls, he now becomes the target of attacks from others running close to him in the polls.

And because of his appearance on this program last night, tarpman is now a star on Twitter. We will go back to Oregon tonight to see what he`s up to now.


O`DONNELL: According to a "Huffington Post" analysis of campaign finance data, independent groups spent roughly $99 million on ads for the 2016 presidential campaign race since April 2015.

And just $1.7 million of that was spent to attack the Republican frontrunner, Donald Trump. Normally, the frontrunner is the subject of the most attack ads, trying to bring him down, but not this time.

Coming up, more of Donald Trump versus Ted Cruz.



WOLF BLITZER, CNN: Do you believe Senator Ted Cruz is a natural-born citizen?

TRUMP: I don`t know, to be honest. And I like him a lot. And I don`t like the issue. I don`t like even bringing it up. How do you run against the Democrat, whoever it may be, and you have this hanging over your head if they bring a lawsuit?

A lawsuit will take two-three years --

BLITZER: He says he`s a natural-born citizen because his mother was U.S. born -- a U.S. citizen, and as a result, he`s a natural-born citizen.

TRUMP: Well, I hope he`s right. I don`t -- you know, I want to win this thing fair and square. I don`t want to win on this point.


O`DONNELL: Joining us now, Jonathan Alter, Msnbc political analyst and columnist for "The Daily Beast", and Kurt Andersen, the host of the award- winning public radio program "Studio 360".

Dressed in your radio wardrobe, right?


O`DONNELL: This is -- this is the way radio looks.


O`DONNELL: Let -- I want to go straight to what John McCain has said about this since McCain has gone through this himself.

It`s fascinating where he`s coming down on this. Let`s listen to what McCain said about it today.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Well, it came up in my race because I was born in Panama, but I was born in the canal zone which is a territory.

Barry Goldwater was born in Arizona when it was a territory when he run in 1964 --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, you were born on a base, too, were you?

MCCAIN: Yes, I was --


MCCAIN: It`s a U.S. military base.


MCCAIN: That`s different from being born on foreign soil. So, they think -- I think there is a question. I am not a constitutional scholar on that, but I think it`s worth looking into.

I don`t think it`s illegitimate to look into it.


O`DONNELL: Kurt Andersen, he`s not a constitutional scholar, and he`s not a friend to Ted Cruz, and he`s happy for you to look into this.

ANDERSEN: It`s extraordinarily well. And Donald Trump, the other line of Donald Trump`s that wasn`t in that clip that I love about this is, I`d hate to see something like this get in his way.


ANDERSEN: Which really sounds like the mobster going -- I hate to see something happen here --


ANDERSEN: In this all(ph) --


ANDERSEN: You know --

O`DONNELL: Yes, this is how much he would hate it. Let`s listen when Wolf Blitzer today asked him about President Obama`s birth. This is how much Trump has always hated this subject. Let`s listen to this.


BLITZER: Your critics are saying you`re doing to Ted Cruz what you tried to do to President Obama --

TRUMP: No --

BLITZER: Where he was born, his birth certificate --

TRUMP: Who knows about Obama --

BLITZER: His mother was a U.S. citizen born --

TRUMP: Who knows? --

BLITZER: In Kansas --

TRUMP: Can I tell you --


BLITZER: So, is he a natural-born citizen? --

TRUMP: Who knows? Who knows? Blitz, who cares right now. We`re talking about something else, OK?

I`m going to have my own theory on Obama. Someday I`ll give -- I`ll write a book, I`ll do another book, and it will do very successfully.


O`DONNELL: Jonathan Alter.

JONATHAN ALTER, COLUMNIST, DAILY BEAST: So, this was a -- this was why Trump is so skilled. It was hugely, somebody from the "Washington Post" described it passive aggressive.

The thing to understand when he`s talking about Democrats maybe filing a lawsuit, this is one of the most litigious people on earth.

He actually threatened to sue me in 1980 for one sound bite --

O`DONNELL: He`s threatened to sue me --

ANDERSEN: Me, too --


ALTER: Yes, you too, right --

O`DONNELL: You know, everybody --

ANDERSEN: We don`t know how --


ALTER: Fight being a Nixon`s enemy`s list --

O`DONNELL: Right --

ALTER: You`re depressed if you haven`t been --


ALTER: Sued by Donald Trump in New York. So, clearly if Ted Cruz starts surging in this race, you can bet that Donald Trump will sue on this question and will have -- all Spring will have, you know, great litigation on whether -- on whether Ted Cruz knows how to play hockey and anything about the Canadian (INAUDIBLE) --

O`DONNELL: And Ted Cruz has kind of gone silent on it. He did his little constitutional law turn this morning after playing it as a joke yesterday.

And now he just won`t talk about it. He`s not going to answer --


O`DONNELL: Any questions about it. Which is, maybe, his best play here, if he can continue to say absolutely nothing about it, maybe it can go away.

ANDERSEN: Well, but if people like your professor from Catholic University and others of her peers begin to say, no, this is a real issue and John McCain keeps it going.

I mean, when Ted Cruz attempted to laugh it off with the jump the shark idea, not only -- that was a skilful attempt --


ANDERSEN: But on the other hand in terms of Donald Trump jumping the shark, this is the least shark jumping thing he`s done practically in the campaign.

ALTER: And also by saying that somehow this story has jumped the shark, that was from "Happy Days" right?


ALTER: Where you got Ron Howard --


ALTER: Driving the speedboat --

O`DONNELL: We showed the video last night --



ALTER: Right --

O`DONNELL: Twice --

ALTER: So, but that show used to be good, so it`s sort of like Cruz saying yes, that charge about being born abroad, that was fine when we were making it --

ANDERSEN: It`s true --

ALTER: Against Barack Obama, but now, oh, that charge has jumped the shark and it`s not a good TV show anymore.

O`DONNELL: So, John McCain had no problem getting a unanimous resolution through the United States Senate where they say we believe he`s a natural- born citizen.

Not that that has legal meaning, but Ted Cruz might be able to get a vote through the Senate saying we don`t know. If -- like that`s --


O`DONNELL: The best he could get. There`s no way he could get a resolution --

ANDERSEN: Well, that -- and which would be, again, irony upon irony. The most -- one of the most hated men in the --


ANDERSEN: U.S. Senate, if not the most hated attempting to get the John McCain pass.

ALTER: Right, he wanted -- Bob Dole said anybody but Cruz --

O`DONNELL: Right --

ALTER: Who is for this --

O`DONNELL: Right, all right, a quick break. Coming up, why Republican presidential candidates are now going after Chris Christie and not the frontrunner Donald Trump.

And former U.S. Senator George Mitchell; one of the great statesmen of our day will join us to talk about North Korea`s claim to testing a hydrogen bomb and what that means for future diplomacy.



GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: We`ve got a message here in New Hampshire that`s resonating with voters, connecting with them.

And that I`m the best messenger in this field. And I also think that things are really starting to work out well for us in Iowa as well.

So, that`s why I think we`re seeing people shoot at us --


O`DONNELL: In a new PPP poll of New Hampshire voters, Chris Christie has moved up to third place, Donald Trump is in the lead at 29, Marco Rubio is in second at 15.

Chris Christie, John Kasich and Ted Cruz and Jeb Bush are all essentially tied in third place within the margin of error at 11 percent and 10 percent.

That means Chris Christie now has enough support to actually make it worthwhile for other candidates to try to pull Christie supporters to their side.

So, John Kasich is attacking Christie in New Hampshire in a mail piece with the line, "Chris Christie, tough talk, weak record."

A Jeb Bush pack hit Governor Christie`s record in a New Hampshire TV ad last week and a pack backing Marco Rubio began airing two anti-Christie TV ads in New Hampshire on Tuesday.

Here`s one of them.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Chris Christie could well be Obama`s favorite Republican governor. Why? Christie`s record.

He instituted an internet sales tax, supported common core and liberal energy policies. Incredibly, Christie even backed Obamacare`s Medicaid expansion.

Chris Christie, one high tax common core, liberal energy-loving-Obamacare- Medicaid-expanding president is enough.


O`DONNELL: Today on "MORNING JOE", Chris Christie said this about Marco Rubio.


CHRISTIE: I just think it`s kind of funny that the guy who very righteously stood up on the stage and lectured Jeb Bush, saying someone must have told you that attacking me would help you.

Apparently, the same person now must be talking to Marco and telling him that attacking me will help him.


O`DONNELL: Back with us, Kurt Andersen and Jonathan Alter. Kurt, I think that the guys underneath Trump all believe I can`t get any voters away from Trump.

I can`t pull them away from Trump. And they look around the field and they think, who else can I pull these voters away from?

ANDERSEN: I`m sure that`s true, and it`s slightly pathetic.


ANDERSEN: Because also they are all playing in the same universe --


ANDERSEN: Donald Trump is in this other wrinkle in time. You know, he is like a character in -- you know, like a cartoon character coming to reality. But, I do think -- I mean, I have always thought, and of course, he is still down in the single digits mostly, that Chris Christie has much of what is appealing about Donald Trump, that this tough talking, urban bully thing that is appealing to people, you know, combined with a -- he has been a governor, combined with the sort of establishment credibility. I could imagine if and when the Trump deflation ever happens that Christie -- that a certain fraction of the Trump voters would indeed go to Christie.

O`DONNELL: Well, if there is any more Christie inflation, he ain`t seen nothing yet, because Trump previewed last month what is going to happen to Christie, if Christie ever becomes worthy of the Trump attack. Let us listen to Trump on Christie.


DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Chris, who is a friend of mine, he hit me hard. And, I said I got to hit him at least once. So, I will not do this a lot, but look, here is the story here. The George Washington Bridge. He knew about it. He knew about it. He knew about it. Totally knew about it.


ANDERSEN: And, he has not even gotten into his weight yet.

O`DONNELL: That is right. But, Jonathan Alter, there it is. I mean he will just -- Trump, if he has to, will take that George Washington bridge and sink Christie into the Hudson with it.

JONATHAN ALTER, DAILY BEAST COLUMNIST: Especially since the trial opens in April.


ALTER: Let us say Christie gets some traction and he survives the southern primaries and he is there with Cruz and Trump. Trump will just hit him with a two by four. And, everybody will believe Trump because if you talk to any kind of governor -- hands-on governor, they will all tell you the same thing Trump is saying. Of course he knew.

Any kind of governor paying any attention would have had to know about that. So, it is going to be hard for Christie. I think the hug with Obama is going to be hard for him in the interim. But, he has been doing pretty well in New Hampshire because he is a master of the town meeting and that is the big way to campaign in New Hampshire.

O`DONNELL: Yes. One of the striking things in this poll that provides encouragement to Christie is that he is now up at the Jeb Bush level.


O`DONNELL: And, we are not doing a story about Jeb Bush. You know, this segment is about "Hey, look at Christie moving up." He is up to where Jeb Bush is, which -- I come back to Jeb Bush every once in a while, because he has held a pretty consistent position in the polls and that turn-away if it ever happens towards the establishment. Jeb Bush is still standing there in the states where he has to be standing there.

ANDERSEN: Well, he could -- I mean John Kerry was well ahead of where Jeb Bush is in 2004, but he could be the last establishment man standing in that sense. I bet against that heavily, personally.

ALTER: What establishment? I mean are there any country club republicans left? So, you know, when a New Year starts, I am always very doubtful of things changing that much in the prior year, but now this race is about Donald Trump. And, the big story right now is, "Will he win Iowa?"

It turns out he has a much better organization there with micro-targeting and all the latest technology to bring people out to those caucuses. If he beats Cruz in Iowa, there ain`t going to be no broker convention. It is going to be at that point very hard to stop Trump from getting the nomination.

ANDERSEN: Another thing about Donald Trump that occurred to me today for the first time is he is oddly enough, the only wasp in the top tier of the republican candidates. And, the Republican Party, at least as far back as I counted in the last century has never nominated a non-wasp.


ANDERSEN: So, that is another reason that perhaps he will indeed get the nomination.

O`DONNELL: All right. We are going to leave it there for tonight. Kurt Andersen and Jonathan Alter, thank you both for joining us tonight.

Coming up, last night`s interview with the man underneath this tarp caused a lot of reaction on social media. We will have a live update from Oregon. See how he is doing tonight.



O`DONNELL: The White House responded today to North Korea`s claim that it conducted its first successful hydrogen bomb test. Here is Press Secretary Josh Earnest.


JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The initial analysis that has been conducted of the events that were reported overnight is not consistent with North Korean claims of a successful hydrogen bomb test. There is nothing that is occurred in the last 24 hours that has caused the United States government to change our assessment of North Korea`s technical and military capabilities.


O`DONNELL: Independent nuclear experts agree that last night`s event was likely not a hydrogen bomb test, but another less powerful atomic test, or a boosted nuclear device, as they call it. Today, Donald Trump said the situation in North Korea is all about China.


TRUMP: China has total control over them and we have total control over China. If we had people who knew what they were doing, which we do not. We have no leadership in this country. China can come out and frankly they will -- you know, they say they do not have much control over the North Korea.

They have total control because without China, they would not be able to eat. So, China has to get involved, and China should solve that problem and we should put pressure on China to solve the problem.


O`DONNELL: This turns out to be one of those issues where there is not that much difference between Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders.


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS, (I-VT) DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, first of all, we are going to have to lean on China. China is North Korea`s closest ally. They are going to have to push North Korea to start adhering to international agreements.


SANDERS: Well, China and we have a relationship. China is equally concerned about what North Korea is doing. North Korea is a paranoid isolated nation. If you have a hydrogen bomb, if that is true, you are a threat to China as well.


O`DONNELL: Joining us now, former Senator George Mitchell. He is also former Special Envoy to the Middle East Peace under President Obama. He is a former majority leader of the United States Senate from Maine. Senator Mitchell, is this all about China?

GEORGE MITCHELL, FMR. SPECIAL ENVOY TO THE MIDDLE EAST PEACE: Not all about China, obviously, but it is a significant factor. And, in fact, what may be different this time than in the previous North Korean test was the immediate negative reaction from China that. It has not happened before that quickly or that clearly.

The question to Senator Sanders was what can we do about China? Appeal to their self-interest. That is really the only way you are going to persuade them. Chinese now have something at stake, a growing society, a growing economy, lifting up hundreds of millions of people out of poverty into middle class.

A massive infrastructure, growing rapidly by the day. And, so having an unstable regime with an obviously insecure erratic leader in possession of nuclear weapons in the middle of a completely failed society, totalitarian country is not a benefit to China. It is a burden.

O`DONNELL: Is it your sense that within the Chinese Government that North Korea is in effect this kind of crazy cousin who they worry about every bit as much as the United States worries about?

MITCHELLE: I am not sure every bit as much as we do. I think they have used North Korea to China`s interest over a number of years. But, in this instance, I think they clearly recognize that an all out confederation, which cannot be ruled out with as obviously unstable a leader as that society has, and the insecurity of the entire regime would be disastrous for China as well.

And so I think there may be a possibility of appealing to their self- interest, not to our interest, not to the interest of South Korea, the interest of the Chinese in somehow putting a lid on this.

O`DONNELL: As troublesome a region as the Middle East is, where you worked so hard, it always seems that when something goes wrong, last week just seemed so much more stable than this week.

And, this is one of those weeks where we saw the execution by Saudi Arabia of the Shiite cleric, and then the reaction in Iran, burning the embassy. Now, we are seeing the collapse of diplomatic relations in the region among all these government -- a bunch of governments, others associated with Saudi Arabia. What is your reading on the situation there?

MITCHELL: Well, the principle you just described last week is going to be a multiplier effect over the next decades. You will be talking about this for a long time to come on this show, Lawrence. There has been internal conflict within Islam from the beginning. 1,400 years ago a bitter struggle, not religious in nature, but for political control of the caliphate, that Mohamed had created occurred.

It lasted three decades and finally the group that prevailed became the Sunnis. The group that lost became the Shia. And, off and on over 1,400 years that has continued. It will continue into the future with much greater intensity. Consider just these figures of the 7.5 billion people in the world today, one in five is Muslim, 1.5 billion.

When the world`s population reaches 10 billion, about 2,060 under current U.N. projections, 1 in 3 will be Muslim. 3.5 billion, which to put it in perspective was the total population of the world as recently as 1970. And, these internal conflicts are going to continue. There will be a period of sorting out as the political order that was established, imposed on the Middle East in the aftermath of the First World War has now collapsed and a new one is emerging.

So, your principle is absolutely correct and it will continue to play out over a long period of time. And, the real challenge for American leadership will be to discern how and in what manner can we most influence the events there. We surely cannot expect to control them completely.

O`DONNELL: We spent a lot of time in the last year talking about dealing with the Iranians, especially in terms of negotiating the nuclear deal. Talk to us about dealing with the Saudis. The administration specifically tried to avoid this particular execution. Secretary Kerry spoke to the Saudis about do not do this. Is there a way -- what is our problem in the way we interact with the Saudis? Why could not we have prevented that single execution there?

MITCHELL: Because Lawrence, remember the truism that all foreign policy includes a substantial dose of domestic policy. It is very true in our own country, as this presidential campaign makes absolutely clear. And, we should not be surprised that it is true in other countries including Saudi Arabia. The executions were a message, not just to Iran, not even primarily to Iran, but to internal factions.

Remember 15 percent to 20 percent of Saudis are Shia. They have been in a state of turmoil and potential revolt. And, this was a message sent to them as well. We do not exclude and we cannot exclude domestic politics from our foreign policy deliberations, neither can or will the Saudis. And, we have to expect this to continue in the future as well.

O`DONNELL: So, in certain ways, you could say it is an indication of some of the weaknesses of the Saudi regime is that they believe they did not really have a choice. In order to look forceful, in order to look in control, they had to do this.

MITCHELL: Insecurity plagues those who usually are the strongest. You will remember the old stories about the bully. The bully is really the guy who is most afraid of being hit.

O`DONNELL: Uh-huh.

MITCHELL: And, so, he strikes out and lashes out first. The fact is that there is a high level of insecurity over potential developments in the region growing not just from a Sunni/Shia divide but from the internal conflicts within Sunni Islam itself, between the longstanding hostility, which most Americans do not appreciate between Persians and Arabs. This is not just Sunni Saudis against Shia Iranians. This is a Persian Arab hostility, which is very deep longstanding and will continue.

O`DONNELL: Senator George Mitchell, always a pleasure and an honor to have you on the program.

MITCHELL: Thank you, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Thank you very much for coming in. Coming up, Samuel L. Jackson of all people versus Donald Trump, of all people. And, of course, we are going to go back to Oregon tonight and check on the guy under the tarp. See what he is up to tonight.



SETH MEYERS, LATE NIGHT SHOW HOST: If we can prove that Donald Trump is lying when he says he does not know you, this might be the thing that finally brings down his campaign. This might be the thing.



O`DONNELL: Once again, Donald Trump has proven that there is nothing, and I mean nothing that he will not lie about. Yesterday, Trump tweeted the lie, "I do not know Samuel L. Jackson, to the best of my knowledge. Have not played golf with him and think he does too many T.V. commercials. Boring. Not a fan." Last night with Seth Myers, Samuel L. Jackson cracked that lie wide open.


SAMUEL L. JACKSON, ACTOR: I met him a lot.

MEYERS: You played golf with him?

JACKSON: I played golf with him.

MEYERS: He claims --

JACKSON: I actually played golf with him with Anthony Andersen one day. He called me one day. I was here in New York. And, he is always calling me, "Samuel L., The Don." "Who?" "The Don." "Oh, Mr. Trump, how are you doing?"

"Yes. Are you busy today?" "No." "You want to play golf?" "Sure." "Well, I am not going to play, but I got a friend who wants to play and then we are going to play at my club." It was over here, not in Manhattan --


JACKSON: -- but that other Trump club that is on this side of the bridge. And, when I got there it was President Clinton.

MEYERS: Really?

JACKSON: Who could also verify that Donald Trump knows me.





O`DONNELL: The man who took over a federal facility on a national wild life refuge in Oregon will face federal charges when the siege is over. According to the local Sheriff, Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward told NBC News today that the FBI assured him that those charges will come at some point. However, a representative for the FBI refused to confirm that to MSNBC. A few hours ago, Sheriff Ward spoke to members of his community.


SHERIFF DAVID WARD, HARNEY COUNTY OREGON: There have been things going on in the community that maybe was our visitors, maybe it was not. Deputies followed home, their families followed around. People from outside this community, they followed my parents around. Stand up, mom and dad.


You do not come here and intimidate people. You are not invited to come here and bother with our citizens. It does not matter that they are my mom and dad. Anybody`s mom and dad. I am asking as a Sheriff of Harney County that the people that are occupying our wildlife refuge, go home and let us get back to our lives as we live them here.



O`DONNELL: Earlier today, members of the burns Paiute Tribe, whose ancestors were on that land long before any rancher spoke to the press.


CHARLOTTE RODRIQUE, BURNS PAIUTE TRIBAL COUNCIL CHAIRPERSON: By their actions, they are desecrating one of our sacred sites. They are endangering our children and the safety of our community and they need to leave. Armed confrontation is not the answer.



CECIL DICK, BURNS PAIUTE TRIBAL COUNCIL, MEMBER: Mr. Bundy comes in and talks about 1890. Well, before then it was occupied by our people. So, if Mr. Bundy wants to discuss more about that, that is where we are coming from. We want to get the facts straight.



JARVIS KENNEDY, BURNS PAIUTE TRIBAL COUNCIL, SERGEANT AT ARMS: What if it was a bunch of natives that went out there and overtook that or any federal land? What would the outcome be? Think about that. What would happen? Would they let us come into town and get supplies and re-up? Tell me, ask anybody. Think about that. We as Harney County residents do not need some clown that come in here and stands up for us.


O`DONNELL: We will go live to Oregon and MSNBC`s Tony Dokoupil, next.


O`DONNELL: We are joined now from Princeton, Oregon by MSNBC National Reporter, Tony Dokoupil. Tony, you had that stunning moment with us last night, where LaVoy Finicum was under that tarp and he finally agreed to talk to you. Is he there tonight? And, have you heard anything more from him?

TONY DOKOUPIL, MSNBC NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Lawrence. No, LaVoy Finicum is not under the tarp any longer tonight. After our cameras left and the lights went off, he told us this morning that he spent some time under the stars pondering his situation, and he came to the conclusion that he did not want to die. He did not want to be arrested and he thinks he saw a way out of his predicament.

And, right now, we can tell you that we just got a call from a law enforcement source that has been tailing the leadership contingent here, the Bundy leadership contingent including LaVoy. And, they are in town having dinner at the pine room, which is known as one of the best restaurants in nearby Burns.

So, perhaps, they are coming to some conclusion that could get us out of this situation. We are hoping to find out more later tonight. But, the news is he is no longer under the tarp and he seems to be moving into more of a conciliatory position, looking for a way out.

O`DONNELL: Tony, did the law enforcement people involved in this understand how strange this is for Americans to be watching these people go in there and break these laws and then just go to dinner uninhibited by a law enforcement in any way?

DOKOUPIL: I think they absolutely understand how strange it is. I think they also appreciate the history of this kind of situation turning very, very bad. In 1992, in Waco -- I am sorry, 1993 in Waco, federal agents tried to serve a warrant to the people who had legal guns in a compound in Texas and shots rang out. And, 82 people I think was the total, more than 80 people ended up dead.

A year before that, in Ruby Ridge, Idaho, not far from here, there was another bloody altercation. There seems to be a propensity toward a violent end in situations where there are mostly white contingents holding these sorts of properties. And as a result because of that history, law enforcement plays it very safe. And, that is why there is some freedom of movement. They do not want to escalate the situation by putting pressure on it themselves.

O`DONNELL: But Tony, in those cases -- none of those cases did the people involved in the siege just decide, "Well, we are going to go into town in Waco and we are going to go to the restaurant, the big restaurant in town, and we do not care how many federal agents are out there trying to get us. We are going to do that."

So, obviously, this situation is completely different from those. And, there is plenty of reason to now get the feeling that these people, you know, do not have anything behind their threats. And, what would prevent authorities from going up to them in that restaurant and just cuffing them?

DOKOUPIL: Well, the risk there is you play into their hands. I mean, they want a confrontation with police, according to the law enforcement officials we talked to former law enforcement officials like Jim Cavanaugh, an MSNBC Analyst.

He has told us, "Look , this group is trying to make a point. A political point and the best way they can do that is to cause an altercation." Perhaps a violent altercation, any kind of altercation and an arrest in a swanky restaurant inside Burns would certainly help.

O`DONNELL: Well, so, far they seem to be making the political point that American law does not apply to them, which I think is the point they are really trying to make.

DOKOUPIL: That point is coming across loud and clear.

O`DONNELL: Tony Dokoupil, thank you very much for joining us again tonight. I really appreciate it.

DOKOUPIL: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Chris Hayes is up next.