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The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, Transcript 1/13/2016

Guests: Mary Brigid McManamon, Tim Pawlenty, David Corn; Michael Kay, Steven Clemons, Hugh Espey

Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL Date: January 13, 2016 Guest: Mary Brigid McManamon, Tim Pawlenty, David Corn; Michael Kay, Steven Clemons, Hugh Espey

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC: Now, it`s time for THE LAST WORD with Lawrence O`Donnell. Good evening Lawrence.


MADDOW: I got Hillary. I know.

O`DONNELL: All right, pretty good --

MADDOW: I had to sacrifice a goat, throw something --

O`DONNELL: Sure --


MADDOW: Into a volcano, it was very difficult.

O`DONNELL: I can imagine. Now, I last saw you last night at 11:00 p.m. when -- I don`t know if you notice, but I snuck away --

MADDOW: Yes --

O`DONNELL: From leaving you at that anchor table for, I guess, what was an all-nighter, right? You just went right into --

MADDOW: Sort of --


MADDOW: I tried to pass you dark chocolate, you might have noticed to try to keep you --


MADDOW: There.

O`DONNELL: I knew what you were up to. I wasn`t --

MADDOW: You were like --

O`DONNELL: Touching that stuff, yes --



MADDOW: Don`t need it --


MADDOW: I`m going home.

O`DONNELL: So, imagine my surprise when I go upstairs after that coverage --

MADDOW: Yes --

O`DONNELL: And look in the pile of mail, letters that we get, which I never do and we never do.

And I discover this envelope from -- to me -- from one of the front-running presidential candidates.

You have Hillary Clinton tomorrow night, but I have here a personal communiqu‚ from one of the front-running presidential candidates. You want to take any kind of wild guess who?

MADDOW: Please tell me it`s not Jim Gilmore.

O`DONNELL: Well, I`m going to give you a hint. It says on the bottom of it, hand delivered.

And it was hand delivered from that candidate`s office, which is on 5th Avenue.

MADDOW: OK, getting --


MADDOW: Closer, definitely not Jim Gilmore.

O`DONNELL: Take it, you can think about it, but the contents of this will be revealed later.

Because this is the only private communiqu‚ I have received from any presidential candidate and I`m going to share it --

MADDOW: This is --

O`DONNELL: With the audience --

MADDOW: The best tease in the history --

O`DONNELL: It`s what I do --

MADDOW: Of cable news teasing.

O`DONNELL: It`s what I do --

MADDOW: I quit --


MADDOW: I quit! You win.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.


And did I mention that this candidate owns the building that this office is in?

MADDOW: It is Jim Gilmore!

O`DONNELL: OK, yes, it could be, thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW: Well done, my friend.

O`DONNELL: Well, in the battle about constitutional scholarship between Ted Cruz and Donald Trump, the business school graduate is currently beating the law school graduate.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Born in Canada versus New York values.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Today is Trump versus Cruz line of attack.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: I like Donald, the legal question is quite straightforward.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hammering the issue of his rival`s Canadian birth.

TRUMP: How can you vote for somebody where there`s a question?

CRUZ: Children of U.S. citizens born abroad are natural-born citizens.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Coming at Trump harder by painting him as an embodiment of New York values.

MEGYN KELLY, FOX NEWS: What do you mean New York values?


What are you getting at there?

CRUZ: The rest of the country knows exactly what New York values are.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ted Cruz is my man. He fits the bill, and he will go duck hunting.

GOV. NIKKI HALEY (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: It can be tempting to follow the siren call of the angriest voices.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You were referring to Donald Trump, correct?

HALEY: He was one of them, yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Haley`s speech sparked backlash from some on the conservative far right.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ann Coulter tweeting about this, saying that Trump should deport Nikki Haley.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We just had Donald Trump on, he sends you his warmest regards.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D), VERMONT: I am sure that he does. I would love to run, frankly, against Donald Trump.

TRUMP: Oh, and I`d love to run against Bernie --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Senator Sanders wants to dismantle Obamacare.

HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: We have a difference on healthcare --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Buy a Powerball ticket?




CLINTON: I did --


CLINTON: Well, I`ll fund my campaign.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Already you won a lottery who was born in the U.S.A maybe --


O`DONNELL: Donald Trump says Ted Cruz is nervous, very nervous.


TRUMP: Ted is very nervous, and he shouldn`t be nervous. I don`t know why? He`s so worried about it.

I even watch him talking about it and it`s -- you can see it, it`s ridiculous. He`s got to take care of a problem.

He has got a problem that the Democrats will be bringing suit, saying that he wasn`t born in this country and therefore he`s not eligible essentially to run for president.


O`DONNELL: Now, most problems that most campaigns run into last for a few days, a few news cycles at most.

Maybe a week. Remember when Jeb Bush said this?


KELLY: Knowing what we know now, would you have authorized the invasion?

JEB BUSH, FORMER FLORIDA GOVERNOR: I would have, and so would have Hillary Clinton, just to remind everybody.

And so would have almost everybody that was confronted with the intelligence they got.


O`DONNELL: It took him a few days, but he finally figured out an answer to that, that made people just stop asking him the question.

It doesn`t mean that he solved his problem in the eyes of voters who do associate Jeb Bush -- many of them, with his brother`s policies.

But he got past that question in interviews. Ted Cruz is the only candidate for president who faces a constitutional question about his campaign.


TRUMP: He was born in Canada. He was a citizen of Canada until just recently. He was a citizen of Canada.

He was a joint -- he was a joint citizen of the United States and Canada, but he was a citizen of Canada.

Now, when you`re a citizen of Canada and you were born in Canada, there`s a real question.


O`DONNELL: That was Donald Trump on this network this afternoon with Thomas Roberts, managing to squeeze in the word Canada seven times in 20 seconds.

Try to do that yourself sometime, and here is Donald Trump just an hour ago in Pensacola, Florida.


TRUMP: You can`t be born in Canada, you can`t be a Canadian citizen -- and I hope it works out for him. I really do.

Every time I have a meeting with the press, the first question they`re asking me is this. He`s got to be able to run.

So, I`m not going to get into it tonight, I`m sure they`ll get into it tomorrow night. But it got to be like some of the greatest lawyers -- from Harvard, a very good lawyer, right?

Laurence Tribe said, it`s not a settled matter. Supposing he runs and everybody is banking on him and then the courts rule that he can`t run.

That`s not so good. What do you do? Concede the election to Hillary Clinton or to crazy Bernie?


TRUMP: Right?


O`DONNELL: Ted Cruz says there`s no doubt about his eligibility to be president. And that it is, as he would put it, a -- that it is settled law.

He`s used that phrase and that`s a phrase that`s normally reserved for issues that have been adjudicated by the United States Supreme Court.



TRUMP: Certainly unsettled law and it wasn`t drummed up by me, it was drummed up by "The Washington Post".

And there are many lawyers that say he can`t run for president. And the Democrats are going to bring a lawsuit.

A lot of people say you have to be born of the land, meaning on the land. And I read numerous articles, and not only Professor Laurence Tribe of Harvard, I mean, you can go to others.

There was a big article the other day in "The Washington Post" from a different group of lawyers that are saying the same thing.


O`DONNELL: The article Donald Trump was referring to in "The Washington Post" was actually written by just one lawyer, Mary Brigid McManamon who joins us now.

She`s a constitutional law professor at Widener University`s Delaware Law School. Professor, thank you very much for joining us tonight.


O`DONNELL: I was surprised, I have to say, by the title of your op-ed piece in "The Washington Post" because I`ve been on this now for just over a week when I started reading about it.

Very much to my surprise, found all of this doubt in every article I`ve read about this.

But the title of your piece is, "Ted Cruz is not Eligible to Be President". You are the only one I`ve found so far to take a definitive position on the Cruz case, that he`s ineligible.

Where do you get that confidence?

MCMANAMON: Well, I did a lot of research on the question, because I was teaching a class and thought this would be a fun subject.

And went back to the common law and actually read the rules and the cases and the statutes that apply.

And found that it`s actually a very clear question.

O`DONNELL: But now when you say the common law, you`re referring to common law that pre-existed the writing of the constitution?

MCMANAMON: That`s correct. The constitution adopts a number of common law concepts such as the writ of habeas corpus or the right to trial by jury.

Natural-born citizen is another one of those. And the Supreme Court has on numerous occasion told us that when we`re interpreting a common law term in the constitution, you go back to the common law of England.

O`DONNELL: And so there`s a bunch of legislation that Congress passes, including the first Congress passed.

They passed some legislation that regards naturalization. Every other --


O`DONNELL: Author, legal author on this matter refers to that and takes it very seriously as a possible indicator of what the founders were thinking when they were writing the constitution.

What is -- and in there, they find many of them. A right to citizenship granted through your parentage, even if you are born beyond the sea, as they would phrase it at that time.

MCMANAMON: Well, there are several distinctions. First of all, Congress has naturalized from 1790.

And for most of the history of the United States, people born abroad to American parents are citizens.

But that does not mean they`re natural-born citizens. If you look at article one and the powers that are given to Congress, the only power that Congress is given is the power to naturalize.

The naturalize citizen is quite different from the natural-born citizen. Congress does not have the power to effect the definition of natural-born that`s in article 2.

O`DONNELL: And you -- in your piece, you make this distinction. You`re in effect saying that Ted Cruz was naturalized in the same way --


O`DONNELL: That others, people born in other countries with no rights at all eventually get naturalized.

And the way you put it here is, he did not have to follow the lengthy naturalization process that aliens without American parents must undergo.

Instead, Cruz was naturalized at birth. There were several decades in the 19th century when children of Americans born abroad were not given automatic naturalization.

And your point being that, because the legal status in these terms of a child -- a baby like Ted Cruz being born in Canada.

Because that status has changed actually several times, according to different legislative regimes in place at a given time.

That because it`s been changeable by Congress, it is not -- he is not living under that original constitutional notion of natural born.

MCMANAMON: That`s correct. And the Supreme Court in the late 19th century when deciding the fate of a young man of Chinese ancestry who went to China for vacation and was barred from entering the United States.

The court said you are either natural-born or naturalized.

And naturalized means either naturalized at birth, such as children born abroad to American parents or naturalized through the judicial tribunals as ordinary immigrants who are not born of American parents are.

O`DONNELL: Now, one law review article I read, the most exhaustive one, 100 page, the BU law review in 2005.

Raised doubts even at the possibility of natural-born citizenship might not be conferred on people born in the District of Columbia.

That it may be that you have to be born in one of the states. Do you have a view on that?

MCMANAMOM: I haven`t actually, specifically looked at that. But the territory of the United States is what the rule is, not the actual states.

So, for example, it`s my contention that Barry Goldwater had no problem. He was born in the territory of Arizona, which was an incorporated territory of the United States.

It seems to me that the District of Columbia should be treated the exact same way.

O`DONNELL: What about the John McCain case where he was born on Panama canal zone to a military father and an American mother?

MCMANAMON: That`s a really interesting question. About the first decade of the 20th century when we first acquired territories that are what we call unincorporated territories such as Guam, Puerto Rico, the Philippines.

The United States was asked to determine whether the people born there were now natural-born citizens, because they were territories of the United States.

In a series of cases known as the insular cases, the Supreme Court ruled that because the people born in those territories were, and I am quoting, "of alien races, they were not appropriately given natural-born status."

Now, it seems to me that John McCain`s best argument would be that those opinions like Plessy versus Ferguson should be just declared null and void, overruled because they were horrible.

And then he would be eligible to be the president. As it is now with those cases in the way, he has a problem or would have had a problem.

But that, of course is a completely different situation than the one facing Ted Cruz.

O`DONNELL: And just to put a final point on it for tonight, the bigger problem in your view is being born in Canada?

MCMANAMON: Yes, which, of course was never a territory of the United States.

O`DONNELL: All right, Professor McManamon, thank you very much for joining us tonight, I really appreciate it.

MCMANAMON: My pleasure, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, Republican Nikki Haley got generally good reviews for her response to the State of the Union last night.

But not from right-wing Republicans, one of whom jokingly suggested that she should be deported. And a crisis with Iran was avoided when they released our Navy personnel this morning. And tonight, in a very special LAST WORD, Donald Trump and me -- a personal communication.


O`DONNELL: Ted Cruz released a video today proudly announcing his latest endorsement.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My qualification for president of the United States are rather narrow. Is he or she godly?

Does he or she love us? Can he or she do the job? And finally, would they kill a duck and put them in a pot and make them a good duck gumbo.

I`ve looked at the candidates. Ted Cruz is my man. He fits the bill. He`s godly. He loves us.

He`s the man for the job. And he will go duck hunting, because today we`re going.

Ted Cruz is my man. I`m voting for him.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Cruz, the reason we`re going to vote for you, all of us, is because you`re one of us, my man. That`s why we`re voting for you. It`s now or never.



O`DONNELL: OK, control room, I`m going to need that picture of Ted Cruz in the duck makeup for every segment we do about Ted Cruz for the rest of his career.

Up next, the Republicans versus Nikki Haley.


O`DONNELL: The loudest voice in the Republican presidential campaign doesn`t like what he heard in Nikki Haley`s Republican response to the State of the Union address last night.


HALEY: Some people think that you have to be the loudest voice in the room to make a difference.

That`s just not true. Often the best thing we can do is turn down the volume. When the sound is quieter, you can actually hear what someone else is saying.

And that can make a world of difference.


O`DONNELL: Mr. loudest voice in the room reacted to the South Carolina governor this way today on Msnbc.


TRUMP: I`m leading in South Carolina by a lot in all of the polls. And people agree with me, I`m very strong on illegal immigration, she`s weak on illegal immigration.

I mean, she`s very weak on it, and it`s a problem. She`s big on amnesty, but very weak on illegal immigration.

And so therefore we have a disagreement. I mean, she comes up to my office when she wants campaign contributions, and I`ve given her tremendous contributions over the years.

But I guess now that I`m running, she doesn`t like me quite as much. She liked me better when I was a giver of contributions than she does when I`m not.


O`DONNELL: It was unprecedented Republican response to the State of the Union address in which Governor Haley acknowledged that Republicans share the blame for our toxic political environment.

And she sharply disagreed with the Republican frontrunner for the presidential nomination on the matter of immigration.


HALEY: We must fix our broken immigration system. That means stopping illegal immigration.

And it means welcoming properly-vetted legal immigrants, regardless of their race or religion.

Just like we have for centuries.


O`DONNELL: Last night, Donald Trump supporter Ann Coulter tweeted, "Trump should deport Nikki Haley."

And Rush Limbaugh said this today.


RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO HOST: Nikki Haley made it clear last night, they don`t want whatever Trump has done.

They don`t want Trump, they don`t want the people supporting Trump, they don`t want the way Trump has done it.


O`DONNELL: Today, Nikki Haley reacted to that right-wing criticism.


HALEY: Those are the angry voices, right? And that`s the thing is -- look, I can appreciate that they`re angry.

I said what I believe. I stand by what I believe. My speech last night was not to win over anyone.

I understood that when I hit Republicans and Democrats, I was going to upset people. But they gave me the opportunity to say what I think and that`s what I did.


O`DONNELL: Joining us now, Tim Pawlenty; former Republican governor of Minnesota who ran for president last time around.

And David Corn; a Washington Bureau Chief for "Mother Jones" and an Msnbc political analyst. Tim Pawlenty, your reaction to Nikki Haley`s response last night?

TIM PAWLENTY, FORMER MINNESOTA GOVERNOR: Well, first of all, I think Governor Haley did a nice job overall.

But I think this whole kerfuffle is really a non-issue in the sense, Lawrence, that, look, different leadership and communication styles can work for different people.

Mother Teresa had a great effective impact and so did Bobby Knight and Lou Holtz. So, there`s a continuum of loudness and style of presentation and forcefulness.

And along that continuum different styles can work. So, I don`t think they should say there`s a one size fits all leadership style.

O`DONNELL: And the Pawlenty style has always been Mother Teresa style.


David Corn, let`s listen to this extraordinary passage in which she took blame, she allowed her party to take blame for some of our political dysfunction.

Let`s listen to this.


HALEY: We need to be honest with each other and with ourselves. While Democrats in Washington bear much responsibility for the problems facing America today, they do not bear it alone.

There`s more than enough blame to go around. We as Republicans need to own that truth. We need to recognize our contributions to the erosion of the public trust in America`s leadership.

We need to accept that we`ve played a role in how and why our government is broken. And then we need to fix it.


O`DONNELL: David Corn, if any Democrat or Republican has ever said, hey, my party is part of the problem in a response to a State of the Union address, you`re going to have to remind me who that was who said that.

Because I don`t think I`ve ever heard it --

DAVID CORN, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, MOTHER JONES: I would love -- I would love to get Governor Haley perhaps on this show, Lawrence.

And ask her, hey, give me some examples. Who are you talking about? What does the Republican Party have to atone for or explain?

Now, I can understand why Governor Pawlenty wants to make this just about an issue of volume, who speaks loud and who doesn`t.

But she was saying something far more deeper than that. And she basically addressing what I think is becoming a pretty clear civil war within the Republican Party between the Trumpian somewhat overlapping tea party faction and people maybe like Governor Pawlenty.

Who actually likes to see things get done, legislate and not engage in name calling, and really try to work, even if you disagree.

And I thought she really laid a strong marker down, but yet the Republican Party may end up with Donald Trump.

And then what will all the good, reasonable Republicans like Nikki Haley, and even Governor Pawlenty do at that point.

O`DONNELL: Governor, your response?

PAWLENTY: Well, there`s fissures in both parties and there`s extremes in both parties and volume differences in both parties.

And so, even though Bernie Sanders is perhaps likable and friendly, you know, he represents by many accounts a pretty extreme view of politics on the left.

So there are -- there are fissures. These are coalitions. There`s going to be elbows and tension and friction.

And that`s what politics are for to sort that all out. And it`s -- you know, look, there`s revisionism around how there used to be a great golden era.

I mean, my goodness, we had founding fathers who had duels. We had Edwin McMasters Stanton when he was running against Lincoln calling him in the rhetoric of the day, a cunning clown and worst.

You know, we had people in fistfights. And so, it`s not always been this smooth, go along, get along.

And it does need to improve and there`s a lot of reforms that could take place, starting with redistricting by the way.

And we all should work towards those goals. But the idea that, you know, the loud people are bad and the quiet people are good is too simplistic.

CORN: But we haven`t had a situation in a long time in which the leading candidate of a political party has called for a religious test on who they allow into the country.

I mean, it`s bigotry, it`s hatred. It`s not just the volume of what Donald Trump is saying, it`s the substance of what he`s saying that I think is going to cause the biggest problem for the Republican Party.

O`DONNELL: Governor, do you -- did I hear that you agree or partially agree with President Obama`s point last night about redistricting?

PAWLENTY: Lawrence, I think there`s a number of things we could do to improve the system.

And time doesn`t allow to go through it at all. But I don`t think you should have politicians drawing their own districts.

I think that`s what`s called the conflict of interest. Two is, in some areas, like say Los Angeles or New York, no matter how fair-minded you are about drawing district boundaries, it`s going to be really hard to draw a Republican district in a place like New York or Los Angeles.

Or Democrat districts in parts of places like Kansas or Alabama. So, there`s some underlying demographic reality you can`t just get around.

And then lastly, there`s some other interesting electoral reforms that I think could be talked about.

But that`s a topic for another day.

O`DONNELL: It is. We`re going to have to have you come back and we will explore our agreements about redistricting.

Tim Pawlenty and David Corn, thank you both for joining us tonight.

CORN: Thanks Lawrence.

PAWLENTY: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Up next, crisis averted. U.S. sailors returned from Iranian custody. And later, the Clinton attack against Bernie Sanders, and of course, finally tonight, the contents of this envelope will be revealed.


O`DONNELL: Today, Iran released ten U.S. Navy sailors who were detained overnight after their two 38-foot boats drifted into Iranian waters.

Iranian state TV released a video of their detention. Secretary of State John Kerry credited the new diplomatic relationship with Iran for the sailors quick release.


JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: I want to thank the Iranian authorities for their cooperation and quick response. These are always situations, which, as everybody here knows, have the ability if not properly guided to get out of control. And, I am appreciative for the quick and appropriate response of the Iranian authorities. I think we can all imagine how a similar situation might have played out three or four years ago.

And, in fact, it is clear that today this kind of issue was able to be peacefully resolved and officially resolved and that is a testament to the critical role the diplomacy plays in keeping our country safe, secure and strong.


O`DONNELL: Iran`s foreign minister said this in a tweet, "Happy to see dialogue and respect, not threats and impetuousness, swiftly resolved the sailor`s episode. Let us learn from this latest example." Joining us now, Steve Clemons, "The Washington" Editor-At-Large for the "Atlantic" and an MSNBC contributor, and Michael Kay, a Foreign Affairs Correspondent, a former military pilot and former senior adviser to the U.K ministry of defense.

Michael, I want to start with you in your military experience. In all this video that we have seen, we have seen the sailors on the deck of their vessel, on their knees, hands behind their heads. We have seen video of them being fed meals while in custody. What have you seen in this video that troubles you or gives you cause for concern about what happened in this?

MICHAEL KAY, FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: There is nothing alarming, Lawrence, to me in this. I mean --

O`DONNELL: What about those shots?

KAY: THE footage that you seeing right there on the screen --

O`DONNELL: -- on their knees.

KAY: -- is standard protocol. They will be put on those positions, initially, just to make sure that they are searched. They have gotten their weapons on them. And, just so they are in an orderly fashion, so that the people who have apprehended them, the Iranians, can watch them.

Now, during resistance to interrogation, or during interrogation procedures, those types of positions can be used more nefariously. So, they can be stress positions and you could be put there for a long time in order to break people down.

But, what I will say, Lawrence is, is that capture and resistance interrogation training has been completely thrown on its head in the last five years with the emotions of the Islamic State. You know, what you are taught is you go into it, and you want to preserve your life. You want to preserve the life of the men and women underneath you.

And, then you want to try to resist telling the people that have taken you prisoner anything that might compromise your own security, national security, intelligence, whatever it is. And, there is a technique of a slow drip, depending on how hard you are being interrogated. And, that can be in a nice way or it can be, you know, with a gun to your head under duress.

We do not know what was the situation was when that gentleman -- when the commander offered the apologies. That is the first thing. But, it is different now. It is different, because you have the Islamic State. And, all that they are just interested in is putting you on camera and using you as a political tool.

So, it is a very difficult position. These are not prisoners of war. They were not apprehended by a belligerent power under a military conflict. They have been detained. And, detained is usually about holding someone against their will for political purposes.

O`DONNELL: The accounts that we have so far indicate that there vessels were disabled in some way and they drifted into Iranian waters. Let us will to the sailor, who was heard apologizing for that on Iranian State T.V.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE SAILOR: It was a mistake. That was our fault and we apologize for our mistake. The Iranian behavior was fantastic while we were here. We thank you very much for your hospitality and your assistance.


O`DONNELL: Steve Clemons, your reaction to this episode?

STEVEN CLEMONS, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I talked to several senior government officials at the State Department and the Pentagon today. And, While we do not know the circumstances yet about what disabled one or both of these ships, everything I am hearing through the great vine seems to lead to that these folks, these nine men and one woman, made some sort of mistake.

So, from what see in the first accounting, this is accurate. But, I think there is something much more important here, Lawrence, is I may be overstating this for a effect that something dramatic is happening. Iran has moved from being one of the most despised nations in our history to something that is a much more comfortable potential partner, whereas we see, you know, John Kerry in his diplomacy and relationship with Nawaz Sharif was so effective.

We saw the Saudis execute Nimr al-Nimr yesterday after John Kerry tried to intervene at the last minute to stop that execution. And, you see a shift happening in America`s relationship with two key stakeholders in the Middle East. And, this is an example of it. This is an example of Iran sending a signal that it is not just about the Iran deal anymore. This is about future actions and where they hope to go.

O`DONNELL: And, Steve Clemons, there was a lot of hysteria last night on some American television discussion of this, about what was going on. But, I just want to go back to this as an experienced military personnel, you do not see anything in this in the way that all played out that troubles you? Presumably, the initial custody was being done by very low ranking people in the Iranian navy. Those are small vessels.

KAY: I think we are going to run here is that territorial waters, Iranian waters go out the 12 nautical miles. And, any sovereign state would regard a breaching of those territorial boundaries by any military vessel as an act of provocation.

O`DONNELL: Uh-huh.

KAY: Now, they will have appeared as radar blips on the screen. So, as the Iranians would have approach, they would not know why they were there.


KAY: Or is this GPS issues or whatever. So, you know, we need to sort of look at the macro picture here.

O`DONNELL: And, we are going to learn a lot more as we hear from the people who are seeing this.

KAY: And, diplomacy has prevailed. And, that is key when you are dealing with state actors.

O`DONNELL: Michael Kay and Steve Clemons, thank you both for joining me tonight. I really appreciate it.

KAY: Thank you, Lawrence.

CLEMONS: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, the Hillary versus Bernie race is now very, very close.




HILLARY CLINTON, (D) PRESIDENT CANDIDATE: Senator Sanders has been a pretty reliable vote for the gun lobby. And, I have been standing against them for a long time. We have a difference on health care. I want to build on the affordable care act.

He has introduced legislation nine times that have laid out a very specific plan to take everybody`s health care and roll it into a great big bundle and hand it to the states. But, my view is we should not be ripping up Obamacare and starting over.


O`DONNELL: That was Hillary Clinton on "The Today Show" this morning. This afternoon, Bernie Sanders responded to Hillary Clinton`s statements in an interview with Thomas Roberts on this network.


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS, (I-VT) DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: To say that I am kind of a supporter of the NRA is really a mean spirited and unfair and inaccurate statement. Now, she is attacking me because I support universal health care. In 2008, she was attacking Obama because Obama was attacking her because she supported universal health care. I would hope that Secretary Clinton will tell the American people, does she support universal health care?


O`DONNELL: The Sanders campaign also posted on social media this photo. It has a handwritten message from Hillary Clinton. It was dated 1993, when Hillary Clinton was trying to pass her version of health care reform. It says, "To Bernie Sanders, with thanks for your commitment to real health care access for all Americans."

Joining us now is Hugh Espey, the Executive Director of the Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement Action Fund, which announced this week that they are endorsing Bernie Sanders for president. Hugh, thank you very much for joining us tonight. I really appreciate it.


O`DONNELL: What is your reaction now to this argument between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders of health care.

ESPEY: Well, I mean, from our point of view, Secretary Clinton is attacking Bernie Sanders because she has seen her lead slip away here in Iowa. She knows that the momentum is moving towards the Sander`s campaign. We support Medicare for all. Bernie Sanders supports Medicare for all. I think the way she has characterized his stance is inaccurate and that dog do not hunt. People are not going to buy it.

O`DONNELL: What about the argument she is raising about Bernie Sanders support, or lack of support, as she sees it, for gun safety laws.

ESPEY: Well, you know, again, I think the fact that she is attacking Bernie Sanders is the fact that, you know, she is scared. She understands that the momentum is moving towards the Sanders campaign. Bernie Sanders got a D minus rating from the NRA.

You know, if I brought home a D-minus from my mom, she would not be happy with that. Bernie Sanders is not in bed with the NRA. Bernie Sanders is not in the pocket of the NRA. And, again, I think that is an argument that people are not going to buy, that dog do not hunt.

O`DONNELL: Tell us how you made this decision. I assume the choice was between these two candidates, between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton and how you made that decision.

ESPEY: Well, we did a couple of things, Lawrence. First of all, we surveyed members, asked them a couple of questions. One is "If you were to caucus today, who would you caucus for?" and "What are the top three issues important to you?"

And, overwhelmingly, people said Bernie Sanders, that they are going to caucus. And, it was not just Bernie Saernds, it was generally Bernie Sanders with an exclamation point. We also sent issue questionnaires to all three democratic candidates. And, we asked all three democratic candidates to jump on a phone call with our CCI action board to talk about the issues and the campaigns.

And, bernie sanders was the only candidate that responded on time to our issue survey. In fact, he is the only candidate. Hillary Clinton did not respond to our issue survey. Bernie Sanders was the only that jumped on a 30-minute phone call with our leadership team. Hillary Clinton did not.

So, based on that and based on conversations we have had with other everyday Iowans, for us, the decision was a slam dunk, you know. We are going to caucus for Bernie Sanders. Bernie Sanders also is the only candidate that talks about the political movement that understands that it is going to take a people power movement, really to create big change in Washington.

It is going to start and stop with people. Other candidates are not talking about that. They tend to be candidates. Bernie Sanders tends to be a weak candidate. So, he lines up on our issues and he lines up on our philosophy about how change has to happen. It has got to come from a political revolution. It has got to come from a people power movement.

O`DONNELL: Everyone says the ground game in Iowa matters for the Iowa caucus. We have the latest poll of Quinnipiac of Iowa showing Bernie Sanders now at 49 in Iowa, Hillary Clinton at 44. Are you going to be part of that so-called ground game that helps get people to the caucuses for Bernie Sanders?

ESPEY: Oh, absolutely. Over the next 18, 19 days, we are going to be phone bank. We are going to be doing mass mailings. We are going to be doing meeting interviews. In fact, next week, we are going on a seven- city, five-day tour with national nurses united, a bus tour.

We are going to be going all over the state, talking to voters, explaining why we support Bernie Sanders and the political revolution, asking people to vote and caucus for Sanders on February 1st. So, we are going to be phone banking.

We are going to be talking to our neighbors. We are going to be doing media interviews. We are going to be doing everything we can to put legs under our endorsement to make sure people turn up on February 1st to caucus for Bernie Sanders.

O`DONNELL: Hugh Espey, thank you very much for joining us tonight.

ESPEY: Thank you, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Thank you. I have had no private communication with any presidential candidate until Donald Trump sent me this letter.



O`DONNELL: Today, Mexican Government Officials released text messages between drug lord El Chapo and Mexican actress, Kate del Castillo. She is the actress who helped arrange El Chapo`s interview with Sean Penn. The Mexican Government intercepted the text messages from El Chapo.

His first one that they intercepted to her says, "I am very eager to meet and become great friends. You are the best in the world. I will take care of absolutely everything." She then apparently texted to him, "It is so moving that you say you will take care of me. No one has ever taken care of me. Thank you. I am free next weekend." Later, El Chapo, writing to his attorney says, "Tell Kate that when she comes we will drink Tequila and dance. Tell her just like that."

Late today, Kate del Castillo tweeted a message to her fans, "Thank you for your support. Not surprisingly, many have chosen to make up items they think will make good stories that are not truthful. I look forward to sharing my story with you." We will be right back.


O`DONNELL: The tale of two letters. First, the letter I found in my mail pile last night from Donald Trump. And, second, my letter back to Donald Trump that I will be sending right after the show. That is next.



O`DONNELL: And, now, tonight`s very special "Last Word" which will be a completely non-political word about Donald Trump. But, first, just a tiny bit of context.


DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Look at all these people from the press. Miserable people, but that is OK. True, true.



O`DONNELL: He was talking about the reporters in the room with him, but he clearly means most of us who cover his campaign. He has gotten more specific about me. In a "Washington Post" video of people Donald Trump has attacked, here is my entry.


"One of the dumber people on television"


"A Fool"


O`DONNELL: And, that is just for this campaign season. Over the years, on Twitter, he has also called me, quote, "He dumbest political commentator on television," which a week later, he amped up to "The dumbest man on T.V." Four years ago, when I was accurately predicting the exact day when Donald Trump would announce that he was not running for president against President Obama, he tweeted, "Lawrence will soon be off T.V., bad ratings. He has a face made for radio."

And a little more than four years ago, in what remains my personal favorite tweet, he tweeted, "I heard, because his show is unwatchable, that Lawrence has made many false statements last night about me. Maybe I should sue him?" So, imagine my surprise when we discovered this envelope last night from himself, Trump. It says it right there. "The Trump Organization."

Imagine my surprise when I opened this hand delivered envelope to discover, not another threat to sue me, but a check from Donald Trump for the K.I.N.D. Fund for $10,000 with a handwritten note on the check stub saying, "Lawrence, very good work on this. Best wishes, Donald."

Now, I have not talked to Donald Trump about this, so I am just guessing that because the check is dated last Friday that he probably wrote it the day after we had Victor Chinyama on the show, talking about how he helped me deliver that first classroom of desks in Malawi five years ago.

And, how Victor helped create our partnership with UNICEF for Kids In Need Of Desks that has now delivered hundreds of thousands of desks to Malawi schools and has provided hundreds of scholarships for girls to attend high school in Malawi, where the high school graduation rate for girls is half the graduation rate for boys.

The video that I bring back from Malawi, showing you the barefoot kids sitting in those classroom floors, and girls in high school talking about their hopes of becoming nurses and doctors and teachers and lawyers, if we can just continue to help pay tuition. That video is very moving. And, thousands and thousands of you have been moved to contribute because of those segments, starring those kids.

And, I for one accept that Donald Trump`s impulse to write this check came from the best place in his heart. But, there are a couple of problems with this check that are all my fault. We always tell you that you can contribute on line by going to or you can call UNICEF at 1-800-4UNICEF.

But, we have never told you how to contribute the old school way by writing a check. Here is how you do it. You make it out to U.S. Fund for UNICEF and you mail it to U.S. Fund for UNICEF, Attention: Revenue Processing 125, Maiden Lane, Floor 10, New York, New York, 10038. And, in the memo line of your check, please indicate that it is for K.I.N.D. and then also please indicate if it is to be used for desks or for girls scholarships.

Now, there was no way for Donald Trump to know any of that when he wrote this check. So, he did his best. He sent it to me directly. If he had contributed online, I would have no way of knowing about that. I mean it is possible that one of the other presidential candidates or their families have contributed online to UNICEF and I have no way of knowing that. Unicef has received over 100,000 contributions to K.I.N.D. over the years. And, I only know about the relatively few contributions that you tell me about on Twitter.

So, without having any instructions about how to send a check, Donald Trump, has makes perfect sense, made it payable to K.I.N.D. instead of U.S. Fund for UNICEF. And, so this check cannot be accepted for that technical reason. It is actually made out to K.I.N.D. instead of U.S. Fund for UNICEF. And, I certainly cannot accept a check like this from a presidential candidate to handover to my favorite charity.

And, so I am sending this check back to Donald Trump. Sending it back in this envelope with this thank you note. Dear Donald, thank you very much - - I think I need the glasses for this one. " Dear Donald, thank you very much for your generosity. Unfortunately, in our current positions, yours as a presidential candidate, and mine as someone covering your campaign, I cannot accept or pass along a check from you for any purpose. I hope you will understand this predicament.

And, I hope that when your campaign is over or when your presidency is over, you will resend this check because the need will still be there. Classrooms in Malawi will still need desks. Girls will still need financial help to go to high school. In the meantime, to assure the immediate fulfillment of your generous intent, I have written my own personal check for $10,000 to the U.S. Fund for Unicef that I am sending to UNICEF in place of yours. Yours sincerely, Lawrence."

Here is that check. This will be going to UNICEF. This is the one I will be sending there. I am going to write in the memo line, K.I.N.D. Scholarships. And, at least 56 girls are going to be able to go to high school because of this check. It could be more girls than that. It depends exactly on how much tuition is at each of the schools that they attend. At least 56 lives changed because of this little piece of paper. Somewhere in those 56 is a nurse. Somewhere in those 56 is a teacher, maybe a doctor, maybe a lawyer, maybe a future president of Malawi.

This is a check that I absolutely was not going to write today were it not for Donald Trump. I made a lot of personal contributions to K.I.N.D. this season. But, I was done for a while anyway. I am going to write more thing in the memo line of of this check. In honor of Victor Chinyama.


CHINYAMA: I can tell you that a desk delivered at the school, that is Christmas for these kids. Christmas comes in December 25th and pretty much nothing happens in their lives. When a desk is delivered to them at a school, that is Christmas. You have made their day. You have made their year. You have made their lives.