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The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, Transcript 1/14/2016

Guests: Eugene Robinson, David Frum, Jonathan Allen

Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL Date: January 14, 2016 Guest: Eugene Robinson, David Frum, Jonathan Allen

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: I don`t know if hope -- starting tomorrow. So, I don`t know if hope springs eternal for the convicted governor.

But hope definitely does have a little more spring in its step than it used to for Bob McDonald.

This is a case we have followed since the beginning, tomorrow may very well be the biggest day in this case yet.

Watch this space. That does it for us tonight, we`ll see you again tomorrow, now, it`s time for THE LAST WORD with Lawrence O`Donnell.

Good evening Lawrence --

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening Rachel, thank you, I`ve been watching the debate, we`re going to talk about it now.

MADDOW: Excellent.

O`DONNELL: The Republican frontrunner for the presidential nomination had to wait 19 minutes to speak his first word in the debate tonight after the moderators called on six other candidates before they finally asked Donald Trump a question about refugees.

But the debate really started at 9:26 p.m. when Ted Cruz was asked about being a natural-born citizen.

Joining us now, Kasie Hunt, Msnbc political correspondent who`s at the site of that Republican debate in North Charleston, South Carolina.

Also with us, David Frum, senior editor for "The Atlantic" and Eugene Robinson, Pulitzer Prize-winning opinion writer for "The Washington Post" and an Msnbc political analyst.

Kasie, that seemed to be the ignition for this debate tonight, is when that subject came up, natural-born citizen to Ted Cruz.

And the back and forth with Donald Trump and Cruz went on for at least ten minutes it seems.

KASIE HUNT, MSNBC POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It went on for quite some time, Lawrence, and I`m sure it`s going to, no matter what happens in the remainder of this debate dominate many of the headlines that we`re going to see tomorrow.

Cruz in some ways taking this attack to Donald Trump in a stronger way than we`ve seen some other candidates who tried to go after him on stage.

The back and forth between them showed Cruz standing in many ways, kind of seeming like an equal to Trump, which has been the main challenge of this all the way along.

But Trump, you know, at the end of the day made this seem like, you know, a big overarching issue that he wasn`t necessarily raising himself.

But you know, pointing to lawyers and others who say this might be just, you know, simply raising the question.

And I think, you know, Trump acknowledged that the reason he`s doing this now is because Cruz is rising in the polls.


There`s a chance that Cruz might actually do well against him. I think in a normal election cycle, voters might be put off by someone acknowledging they`re doing something for nakedly political reasons.

But quite frankly, this cycle has been complete acceptance of that. I wouldn`t be surprised that that`s perceived as, in fact, a little bit of honesty from Donald Trump.

O`DONNELL: Ted Cruz tried to once again say that this was a matter of settled law. And Donald Trump cited Laurence Tribe; a constitutional law professor at Harvard Law School who was Ted Cruz`s constitutional law teacher.

Laurence Tribe first started speaking publicly about this on this program where he raised doubt about the question of whether Ted Cruz is actually meeting the qualifications of natural-born citizens to be president of the United States.

Professor Tribe gave us a statement tonight in reaction to what Ted Cruz said about him on the stage.

Ted Cruz said that he`s not surprised that Laurence Tribe is doing this because, as Ted Cruz put it, Laurence Tribe is a huge Hillary supporter.

He dismissed all of Laurence Tribe`s scholarship on this matter, simply by the notion that he`s a huge Hillary supporter.

Here is Professor Laurence Tribe`s response to what he heard on the debate stage tonight.

"I endorsed Obama over Hillary in 2008 and haven`t endorsed anyone for 2016. Cruz is just making things up.

Truth seems to be beyond his reach -- very sad." Eugene Robinson, that`s Laurence Tribe`s response to what he heard.

How do you think it played in that debate?

EUGENE ROBINSON, COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, Lawrence, I think basically that any minute spent talking about Ted Cruz`s eligibility on a debate stage is a good minute for Trump and a bad minute for Cruz.

Cruz is standing there having to explain why he is eligible to be where he is standing and why he is eligible to run for president.

I don`t think that is good for the Cruz candidacy at all. You know, they went back and forth.

You could grade the witticisms any way you want. I just think the whole -- the extended discussion probably played better for Trump than for Cruz.

O`DONNELL: David Frum, you have the cross border perspective on this, being from Canada yourself.

The audience there seems to have been equally divided amongst supporters of every candidate.

Because in the first round of questioning, every single answer by every candidate seemed to get the same amount of wild cheering applause.


O`DONNELL: And on this issue, as it was going back and forth between Trump and Cruz, there was some booing, there was some cheering.

There was -- it was hard to read the crowd. But read for us the Republican politics of this outside of that debate hall tonight.

FRUM: Well, you had it exactly right. That what Donald -- if Donald Trump wins Iowa and wins New Hampshire, this theory that has been dominating the party that he`s simply going to melt away somehow.

That becomes very hard to sustain. The great question mark has been, maybe he won`t win Iowa.

Maybe someone who appeals to the more traditionally religious voters of Iowa. But maybe Ben Carson of the past, now Ted Cruz.

So, all Trump has to do is shave off a certain number of those from Ted Cruz. Two percent, four percent, six percent, I forget what it is, it`s just the moment, it depends which poll you look at.

But he doesn`t have to crush him, he doesn`t have to damage him, he just has to shave him.

And if he can do that, if he -- if Trump wins Iowa, and then I think it`s pretty generous who will go on to win New Hampshire.

How does this race recover from that. From the point of view of any of the other Republican candidates.

And Trump, although, I think Cruz was dominant and correct and witty, Trump continued to sow the seeds of doubt while denying that he was doing it.

O`DONNELL: And Kasie Hunt, does the Cruz campaign point to -- if they can pull out a win in Iowa, where do they point on the electoral map to their next win?

HUNT: South Carolina, Lawrence. Like right where we`re standing tonight.

I mean, the question, I think that overrides a lot of this is if Donald Trump does in fact lose to Ted Cruz in Iowa, how does Trump personally react to that?

He isn`t, you know, someone who typically takes well to losing. However, if he`s able to go in, you know, to New Hampshire in the position that he`s in now and potentially do well.

The fight is going to come down here. I mean, we`ve seen historically Iowa doesn`t necessarily make the deciding -- be the deciding factor here.

South Carolina has a much stronger history of anointing eventual nominees. And the reality is that, you know, Trump is pretty strong here, but Cruz has also, you know, appealed to some of the evangelicals.

He`s also appealing to many of the more libertarian-focused voters that there might be out there.

And there`s a lot of them actually in South Carolina. Especially if Rand Paul tends to fall off.

You know, and then from South Carolina, you`ve got Nevada, and then you`re on to the SCC primary states.

And that`s a place where Cruz has focused a lot of his energy. So, I have to say, the Republicans are also meeting here.

The RNC is having their meeting in Charleston. And I was over there earlier today talking to folks.

The discussion has almost come down to, if Trump and Cruz are our choices, who do we think is more palatable?

I mean, there`s almost -- there`s so much less discussion in trying to figure out who is this establishment guy going to be that we can all get behind, you know, and try to unite our party.

I think, you know, that could also happen here in South Carolina. The ad war is extraordinarily intense.

It was a very tough ad from the Jeb Bush Super PAC calling Marco Rubio a weathervane on immigration.

I was watching the local news last night, I saw it three or four times in about half an hour, forty five minutes.

So, that may at the end of the day not benefit Jeb Bush, but it could help take down Marco Rubio potentially for Cruz if he can manage to stay in a strong position as far as here.

O`DONNELL: The reason we`re talking about South Carolina is that, in the polls at the moment indicate that Donald Trump doesn`t seem to have any real problem in winning New Hampshire.

Something is going to have to change there before there`ll be someone else on top in New Hampshire.

And so Gene Robinson, we`re looking at your home state. We`re looking at South --


O`DONNELL: Carolina as the one that tells us, you know, who might have two wins by that time.

Or you know, and as we frequently do, those first two have their own ways of settling things in Iowa, in New Hampshire.

And then we always turn to South Carolina? How do you handicap a Republican race when it turns to South Carolina?

ROBINSON: Well, you know, right now, Trump is obviously way ahead according to the polls.

There hasn`t been a lot of polling -- you know, a lot of frequent polling in South Carolina.

I`m not quite sure, but there`s another interesting moment in tonight`s debate when Trump was asked in a somewhat chastising tone -- are you really angry like Nikki Haley the governor says, seem to say you are.

And Trump said yes, I`m very angry, the country is being run horribly and I`m angry about it.

And I point to that because remember what happened four years ago in South Carolina, the distinguishing characteristic of the Republican electorate in South Carolina four years ago was anger.

To the surprise of the establishment in South Carolina, and the state ended up voting for Newt Gingrich, largely on the basis of a very angry anti- Obama speech and debate performance he had had quite -- just a little bit before the primary.

And so there is this sort of hard edge that South Carolina can sometimes adopt when it comes to election day.

Again, I think that was another moment that I would say was probably pretty good for Trump.

O`DONNELL: All right, a quick break here. Kasie Hunt, thank you very much for joining us from South Carolina tonight, really appreciate it.

HUNT: Thanks Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, Jonathan Allen will join us. He`s going to talk about why some Democrats are now worried that Donald Trump might be a tougher candidate than they thought to be in a general election if that`s what it comes to.

And Tavis Smiley will join us to talk about the little dust-up he had this week or big one with Donald Trump.


O`DONNELL: In the House of Representatives, how long do you think 15 minutes is? Well, usually, it`s about 30 minutes.

Yesterday, the house was voting on a bill that would limit President Obama`s ability to lift sanctions on Iran.

And Paul Ryan, speaker of the house, closed the vote at 17 minutes, even though 130 members of Congress still had not voted.

The bill passed, but house Republicans have scheduled another vote for next week. Paul Ryan, trying to enforce the 15-minute clock in the house.

Good luck with that, Mr. Speaker. Coming up, why some Democrats are worried that Donald Trump could be a pretty tough candidate to face in the general election.


O`DONNELL: Joe Biden is not the only Democrat who thinks the unthinkable is now thinkable, is now possible.

But he is the highest-ranking Democrat who has said that, yes, Donald Trump could win the presidency.


JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Yes, I think it`s possible. And I hope that if were that -- were to occur -- I hope it doesn`t because I have fundamentally different views than he does.

I hope that he gets a lot more serious about the issues, a lot more serious about gaining knowledge about how this nation functions and foreign policy and domestic policy.

But look, that`s a long way off.


O`DONNELL: In "Roll Call", Jonathan Allen writes, "for a long time, Democrats seemed content to watch Trump wreak havoc on the Republican primary field.

Now, though, it`s clear they`re alarmed at the possibility he could win the presidency.

Jonathan Allen joins us now along with Eugene Robinson and David Frum.

Jonathan Allen, I`m starting to hear exactly what you reported, that the -- and look, let`s just concede.

The attitude on Trump across the board with all of us, Democrats, Republicans, operatives, pundits, has changed over time.

It has had to change over time. The facts on the ground have changed over time.

But Democrats who used to think what a gift, how lucky could we be to run against Donald Trump aren`t so sure about that anymore.

JONATHAN ALLEN, POLITICAL REPORTER, VOX.COM: Yes, I think it`s a double- barreled concern. Number one, they see him as somebody who could win the presidency in terms of the political map.

And then number two, they`re worried about what he would actually do if he became president of the United States.

O`DONNELL: And Gene Robinson, there`s a fear among Democrats that Donald Trump is willing to throw punches that no one else would even think about throwing or even know how to do.

I mean -- and as he came out of the gate talking about Bill Clinton`s past, Bill Clinton, they`ve never, ever -- or Hillary Clinton have never had to campaign directly against a candidate raising the accusations about Bill Clinton`s past.

ROBINSON: Right, and look, if Donald Trump -- no one should ever say, oh, no, he`ll never go there, right?

Because he will go there. He has shown -- he goes there every time.

And if you look at where he was when he started his candidacy and no one took him seriously and no one thought he would -- he would do particularly well, look where he is now.

I think anyone who underestimates him as a politician, as someone who has figured out this sort of disintermediated world perhaps better than other politicians have, and a way to get his message through.

You know, anybody who underestimates him I think is nuts.

And again, when he gets to the general election, if he does indeed get to the general election, does anyone thinks for a minute that he will feel particularly bound by what he said in the primary?

I actually don`t. I think he won`t just sort of slide to the center. I think he`ll go all over the map wherever he needs to go.

O`DONNELL: Andrea Mitchell raised this with Nancy Pelosi this week. Let`s listen to this.


ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS: Trump accused by Hillary Clinton of sexism. He then tweeted out, watch out, if you go there, I`m going to go there.

And then he goes after Bill Clinton and Bill Clinton`s past. And we saw a noticeable change in Clinton world.

I was out on the campaign and the pulling back, you know, by both Hillary and Bill Clinton.

It`s a new caution out there, because obviously Donald Trump is a volatile adversary. How fraught is this with risk for the Democratic Party and for Hillary Clinton`s candidacy?

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER, UNITED STATES HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: Well, I believe that Hillary Clinton wants to talk about the issues that affect people and their everyday life --

MITCHELL: But on the issue of sexism and --


The issue of Bill Clinton`s past, is that fair game? And --

PELOSI: It would be if he was running for president. But he isn`t. Hillary Clinton is running for president.


O`DONNELL: David Frum, I have the feeling that Donald Trump isn`t going to play by Nancy Pelosi`s rules.

FRUM: He`s not going to play by anybody`s rules. We just saw the Republican candidates on the stage dig themselves in on -- hey, 50 caliber machine guns on for them.

On mega clips of ammunition for that personal flame thrower. I`m locking myself here on national television.

But Donald Trump has an ability to pivot. For example, on the issue of healthcare, every other Republican on that stage is committed to -- in one way or another taking healthcare coverage away from millions of people who have it now.

Donald Trump is capable of saying almost anything. And it`s not just -- I think actually the Clinton sexual issues are -- that`s misdirection.

The mother lode of pain and damage is on the financial scandals. The Clinton Foundation, how the Clintons got so astonishingly rich at a time when Mrs. Clinton was Secretary of State and likely next president of the United States.

That is -- that is -- that is the kind of thing that Donald Trump delights in talking about. He delights in talking about the corruption of the American political system.

Which the Clintons unfortunately do exemplify. And so that it is -- I`ve forgotten now whose line it is, campaigning against Donald Trump.

It was like driving in a NASCAR race where one of the drivers is drunk. But he`s not drunk.


He`s just willing to take risks that nobody else is willing to take.

O`DONNELL: Jonathan Allen, if Donald Trump wants to get into talking about complex financial transactions involving the Clintons, he`s got an awful lot of complex financial transactions.

He`s got involvement with the mafia and others in building buildings in New York City. It seems to me that, that would be an area where he would be happy to have a truce with the Clintons.

ALLEN: I think his strategy is always whenever he`s got a vulnerability to attack the other side, the other -- you know, his opponent for whatever similar vulnerability they might have to get out there first on it.

And so far, it seems to be pretty effective. Obviously, there`s a lot to dig into on Donald Trump.

If he makes a general election, I think you`ll hear a lot more about those things.

But for right now, he`s on the attack so much, I think it`s hard for the reporters that are covering his campaign to spend a little time digging in on him because every five minutes, there`s a new tweet making news.

O`DONNELL: Gene Robinson, to the point that Andrea Mitchell was raising, which was -- which was an observable Clinton campaign retreat away from engaging in any kind of combat with Donald Trump.

Do you have any sense of disappointment among Democrats, among Clinton supporters who were eager?

Oh, they can`t wait for Bill Clinton to get out there, can`t wait to see what he has to say about Donald Trump, to discover that Bill Clinton is not willing now to say anything about Donald Trump.

ROBINSON: You know, to tell you the truth, Lawrence, what I detect from the Clinton camp right now is paying more attention to Bernie Sanders --


ROBINSON: Than to Donald Trump.

O`DONNELL: A good reason, yes --

ROBINSON: And you know, they`ve got a primary campaign on their hands now to seven points in the latest national poll.

You know, and they got to try to win Iowa and New Hampshire or they`re not going to get the chance to go after Donald Trump.

O`DONNELL: And the electability argument, David Frum, has become complex for Hillary Clinton since we showed Bernie Sanders actually outperforming her, and specifically in the matchup with Trump.

He does significantly better than she does.

FRUM: Yes, again, I worry a little bit about polls that ask people questions they really haven`t thought about until the pollster called them.

And my guess is also the Democratic vote coalesces and that Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders would run more or less the same as (INAUDIBLE) terms.

The real question for Democrats is, mobilization. The Democratic vote dropped by a little over 3 million votes, between 2008 and 2012.

The Republican vote went up by only 900,000. They didn`t -- those voters did not leave Barack Obama for anybody.

They just weren`t inspired in 2012, they were -- in the way they were in 2008. And I think even Hillary Clinton`s best friends will say she`s not as inspiring a figure as Barack Obama.

O`DONNELL: Gene Robinson and David Frum, thanks for joining us tonight, really appreciate it.

FRUM: Thank you.


O`DONNELL: Up next, the race, Bernie against Hillary, it could not get much closer, and it is definitely getting angrier.

And coming up, a report from Mexico about how prison officials are trying to prevent El Chapo from escaping again.


O`DONNELL: In New Hampshire tonight, Bernie Sanders reminded pundits just how bad some of us can be at predictions.


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D), VERMONT: We were running against a candidate who was deemed by the media and the establishment as the inevitable nominee.

It turned out that what was considered to be inevitable may not be quite so inevitable.


O`DONNELL: Iowa poll from the "Des Moines Register" and "Bloomberg Politics" show a tie within the margin of error for Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton.

Secretary Clinton is at 42, Bernie Sanders is at 40. Today, Bernie Sanders released this TV ad that will run in Iowa (AUDIO GAP 00:02:56-59).


SANDERS: Rules for regulating Wall Street. One says it`s OK to take millions from big banks and then tell them what to do.

My plan, break up the big banks, close the tax loopholes and make them pay their fair share.

Then we can expand healthcare to all and provide universal college education. Will they like me? No.

Will they begin to play by the rules of our president, you better believe it.


O`DONNELL: Joe Benneson(ph) of the Clinton campaign told Chuck Todd today that that is a negative ad.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What we`ve had is Senator Sanders said he wouldn`t run a negative ad. He`s running them now.


O`DONNELL: Joining us now Joy Reid; Msnbc national correspondent, back with us, Jonathan Allen. Joy Reid, there is a higher level of sensitivity --


O`DONNELL: To the definition of negative ad.


This is like the menu at the restaurant. Chicken is doing a negative ad against steak by saying the two of us are here --

REID: Yes --

O`DONNELL: It`s up to you.

REID: Yes, it`s up to you. You know, it is weird. I find it odd that the Clinton campaign is running against Bernie Sanders like he really is Barack Obama in 2008.

The same sort of hyper awareness of his rides, the kind of fear that he`s going to win Iowa.

And when I think -- if you really look at Bernie Sanders and look a what he`s doing, he`s a lot more like Jesse Jackson in 1988.

He is a candidate who is running on an idea. He is not so much running on what Barack Obama was running on in `08 which was the audacity of hope.

I, as a basically run-of-the-mill Democrat, left of center, but against the war, which most Americans at that point were.

Not proposing any radical new ideas, not saying that we`re going to have Democratic socialism.

I, Democrat Barack Obama, who is just black, that`s my only difference, I couldn`t win. This could happen.

That is a hope that the base Democratic voters could latch on to. Because they could also see the realism of it as he won -- after he won Iowa.

O`DONNELL: But where would he -- where--

REID: Sanders is more like Jackson, he`s --


O`DONNELL: Where would the Obama candidacy have gone if he had not been recorded as being against the Iraq war.

That was the single --

REID: Right --

O`DONNELL: Biggest governing decision difference --

REID: In fact --

O`DONNELL: Between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. And it was also the biggest issue of the decade.

REID: And, it was an issue that the democratic coalition and a lot of republicans and independents turned foursquare against the war at that point. Finally, the reality of there not being WMD kicked in for the majority of Americans. And, he was on the side of the majority of democratic voters.

I think Bernie Sanders is too. I think the difference is there is not stark a difference. She was for Iraq. He was against it. That was a stark difference. Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton are both running to the left on economic issues.

O`DONNELL: Uh-huh.

REID: It is just that I think for Bernie, the reason I liken him more to Jesse Jackson is that he is running on a wholesale radical change. And, just the way we do everything in this country when it comes to economics, which is super attractive if you are a liberal, but it is not necessarily - - I do not know. I think people have to get over that hump of whether that could actually get him elected as President of the United States.

O`DONNELL: Jonathan Allen, it is my impression that Clinton campaigns, when they are running scared, do not know how to look like they are not running scared.


JONATHAN ALLEN, COLUMNIST, ROLL CALL: I see a blip on the radar and they go running for the nuclear codes.



ALLEN: It is unbelievable. And, you know, look, I do not have any reporting on this, but I assume that there are people inside the Clinton Camp that are saying things like, "You know, maybe, we ought to not overreact to what is going on here." But, what I do know from a gut level in having reported heavily on the Clintons before is that this decision is coming from the top.

O`DONNELL: Let us take a look at what Hillary Clinton said tonight to Rachel Maddow. And, I got to say, Hillary Clinton is the one person in the Clinton campaign who to me does not give off the air of running scared. Let us listen to this.


HILLARY CLINTON, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I mean, basically, it is also a very direct criticism of President Barack Obama who, as you might recall, took a lot of money from the financial industry when he ran in 2008.

That did not stop him from fighting for the hardest regulations on Wall Street since the great depression. It is a funny kind of charge. It is sort of a pox on all your houses for all the democrats. And, I think that, that is what raised some eyebrows.


O`DONNELL: Joy, she handles this situation, I think, better than the campaign around her does.

REID: Yes. She has an air of calm, and that is another difference with 2008. You could feel the alarm and fear and discombobulation in the Clinton campaign all the way up to Hillary and Bill Clinton in 2008.

O`DONNELL: Uh-huh.

REID: Because they were in a place they did not feel comfortable, essentially running against African-American. They did not even know how to do it. They were clearly freaked out, particularly when he won Iowa.

And, you could see it and feel it. This time she is running with a calm. She actually has around her own person, a sort of calm and kind of a confidence that is actually working but her campaign is behaving as if it is def-com one.

O`DONNELL: Yes. She is a very confident person especially about things she has done before.

REID: Yes.

O`DONNELL: And, in this case, run for president.

REID: Yes.

O`DONNELL: Bernie Sanders picked up a very local and very important endorsement in New England from Paul Kirk. Paul Kirk, this is as -- this is one of the versions you can get in this campaign of Ted Kennedy speaking from the grave.

Paul Kirk was the appointed senator who took Ted Kennedy`s seat, lifetime friend of Ted Kennedy. Former Chairman of the Democratic Party. Lifetime Massachusetts resident. Here he is endorsing Bernie Sanders today.

FMRO. SEN. PAUL KIRK, (D) MASSACHUSETTS,DNC CHAIRMAN: Of all the Presidential candidates, Bernie Sanders is that one voice speaking consistently, courageously, passionately, and credibly about what he and I, and I suspect most Americans believe, and that is that the core value of our democracy have been seriously endangered and need to be renewed by this generation.

I am here tonight to join in this untiring effort. And, as a former chairman of the National Democratic Party to proudly endorse Bernie Sanders for our party`s nomination for President of the United States of America.


O`DONNELL: Jonathan Allen, part of the brain trust of the Kennedy machine with that endorsement.

ALLEN: Well, certainly, the left has fallen in love with Bernie Sanders. I think what will be interesting to see is -- and I think this has been the issue for Bernie Sanders all along is, is he going to be able to pick up people of color? Is he going to be able to pick up votes of women in the Democratic Primary.

You know, Iowa and New Hampshire are very, very white states. And, I think his support group has been that. I mean this week we saw an endorsement of Hillary Clinton by Eric Holder, not only the first black attorney general, but I think a lot of people will argue the attorney general who has done most for African-Americans and looked out most for African-American interests during his time, certainly since Bobby Kennedy and probably of all time.

You know, I think that is going to be the challenge for Bernie Sanders. Can he win Iowa? Can he win New Hampshire? And, then can he start to pull in a more diverse base?

O`DONNELL: We got to leave it there for tonight, because Joy we got Tavis Smiley coming in.

REID: Oh, all right.

O`DONNELL: All right. Jonathan Allen and Joy Reid, thank you both for joining us tonight.

Coming up, we will hear once again from Tarpman, one of those insurgents up there in Oregon at the bird preserve. And Tavis Smiley will get the "Last Word" tonight, and it will probably be about Donald Trump.



O`DONNELL: Tomorrow will mark two weeks since armed anti-government protesters took over a federal bird sanctuary in Oregon. And, tonight, we have an update from Tarpman. On this program on January 5th, MSNBC Reporter, Tony Dokoupil scored an interview with one of the armed protesters. And, Tarpman instantly went viral.


SETH MEYERS, LATE NIGHT SHOW HOST: As you see, OK -- in the background, there is a blue tarp. Now, you might be thinking, "What is under that tarp?" Supplies? Some firewood? No, the answer is so much better than that.



TONY DOKOUPIL, MSNBC NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Over my shoulder is a man under a blue tarp sitting in a rocking chair with a rifle over his lap.

O`DONNELL: So, there is a guy under that tarp there?


DOKOUPIL: He is a 55-year-old rancher from Arizona named LaVoy Finicum.


MEYERS: That is right, lawman. LaVoy Finicum is under the tarp and I ain`t ever coming out. . (END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Today, MSNBC`s Tony Ddkoupil spoke by phone with LaVoy Finicum, also known as Tarpman.


DOKOUPIL (via phone): How do you think the standoff is going? Are we anywhere near a resolution?

LAVOY FINICUM (A.K.A. TARPMAN), OREGON PROSTESTER (via phone): Well, remember, there is a specific thing we are trying to accomplish until we can standoff successfully. We are talking to the Harney County residents, and the most important thing is that the federal government does not come back into this building. That is very important that that does not happen.

So, when Harney County residents can come in here and use this facility and make it theirs and not be under the threat of the federal government and that is one of the steps that determines how quickly we can get out of here.

DOKOUPIL: And, if they try to arrest you, is your intention still to resist?

FINICUM: Well, again, I just go back to same setting is that, let us just do not point guns at each other and let us just -- There is no need to go there. And, this is about not about the tenth amendment. This is about the states and the counties exercising their rights over their own resources.

DOKOUPIL: There are people who think what you, guys, are doing is a crime and that you are criminals. What would you say to people who think that way?

FINICUM: Let us consider who is the real criminal, who is the law abider, who is the lawbreaker. The federal government has no rights to control one-third of the land mass with complete legislative authority. That is repugnant and against the intent of the constitution. So, be clear, they are the law breakers, not us.


O`DONNELL: Tony Dokoupil also had the Tarpman how he is enjoying his 15 days of fame.


DOKOUPIL: What do your wife and your kids think about your newfound role as a televised celebrity?


FINICUM: Well, you know, people are out there calling me, he is the Tarpman. I do not know if you heard that.


FINICUM: And, so, all my kids call and say, "Dad! Dad, that is great." They say, "Can we roll with that? Can we make some T-shirts? You are going to be, you know, like Spiderman, Batman, Superman, Tarpman."

And, so, I said, "No, I do not want that." "No, we really want to do it." "OK." So, they are making t-shirts with Superman, or Tarpman. So, I am known as a super action hero figure. The only difference is I am actually real.


O`DONNELL: Hollywood, get up there now. You can get the rights to Tarpman pretty cheap, especially as long as he is still under the tarp.

Coming up, how Mexican officials are trying to keep El Chapo from escaping. (MUSIC PLAYING)



PETER ALEXANDER, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: The most dangerous cartel leader in the world, head of a notorious Mexican drug operation, responsible for the majority of drugs smuggled into this country. And, for the second time he just staged a spectacular escape from prison. Tonight, an international manhunt is under way for walking Guzman, nicknamed El Chapo.


O`DONNELL: Tonight, El Chapo is back in the same prison outside of Mexico City that he escaped from last July. NBC`s Jacob Rascon is in Mexico with how Mexican authorities plan to keep El Chapo behind bars this time. Jacob.

JACOB RASCON, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Lawrence, it is one of the great questions in this story. What is Mexico going to do to make sure that what happened last July, El Chapo`s elaborate, dramatic and embarrassing escape does not happen again? We sat down with Mexico`s prison boss, the commissioner, who said that since the escape, the entire federal prison system has been upgraded.

Among those upgrades, El Chapo Guzman is being watched physically and electronically 24 hours a day. He is never left alone. There is no longer any blind spot in his prison cell. In fact, all blind spots from all prison cells have been eliminated. There is no privacy, and he does not stay in one cell either.

El Chapo Guzman has been moved eight times already in a week, nd he will continue to be moved. And, that is not just true for El Chapo, but for many of the 23,000 prisoners across the prison system. In addition, the prison boss tells me that there are now infrared cameras that are connected to motion sensors on the floor that will help a lot, especially if there is any thought of building another tunnel, which is how we now El Chapo escaped lat time .

In addition to that, there are extra personnel and some of the towers. There are extra vehicles inside. There are extra medical detectors and drug detectors. A lot of new technology. This prison boss, who sat down with us exclusively, was put in to his position only months after the last prison escape, specifically to fix the security problem. He said he did it. His last words to me were, "I am confident that this will not happen again." Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Jacob Rascon, thanks. Coming up, tonight`s "Last Word" goes to Tavis Smiley, who has had a few words this week about Donald Trump.



O`DONNELL: As Ben Carson is in the middle of the debate, talking about how he would handle the finances of the United States of America, his National Finance Chairman for his campaign, Dean Parker, resigned this morning. Dean Parker has been facing criticism for lavishly spending campaign money and paying himself $20,000 a month.

"The Wall Street Journal" reports that Carson campaign documents show the campaign has less than $10 million on hand now, even though they have raised $43 million over the last six months. Ben Carson is fourth in the new NBC News Wall Street Journal" poll released tonight. Tavis Smiley will join us next for tonight`s "Last Word."


O`DONNELL: Unfortunately, there is nothing but political pundits respect more than rising poll numbers for candidate. And, so, they tend to give respectable reasons for rising poll numbers for candidates, reasons that include the skills of the candidate, the mood of the voters.

And, so, most pundits attribute the astonishing rise of Donald Trump to anything but race. Tavis Smiley is not a political pundit and so his view is not clouded by the conventional wisdom of the Sunday shows.


TAVIS SMILEY, "THE COVENANT WITH BLACK AMERICA TERN YEARS LATER": What troubles me, though, is that Trump is still to my mind at least, an unrepentant, irascible, religious and racial arsonist. And, so, when you talk about how Donald Trump is rising in the poll, you cannot do that as per the kind of campaign he is running, the issue that he is raising. And, for us to just say, Donald Trump is rising in the polls and not connect that to the base message that he is putting out there, I think dismisses the point.


O`DONNELL: Donald Trump responded on Twitter saying, "Why does this week with George Stephanopoulos allow a hater and racist like Tavis Smiley to race good airtime. NBC can do much better than him." The "Last Word" cannot do much better than him.

And, I am proud to say that Tavis Smiley joins us now from Washington. His new book is "The Covenant With Black America - Ten Years Later." Tavis, thank you very much for joining us tonight,

SMILEY: Thank you for the opportunity, Lawrence. Good to be on with you.

O`DONNELL: And, welcome to the honor roll of those attacked by Donald Trump, lied about by Donald Trump. Is this your first public run-in with Trump?

SMILEY: It is. I have met him a number of times. I have never had this kind of situation. I lack a better word. It kind feels like being on Nixon`s interview list, Lawrence. So, I am just trying to handle it.

O`DONNELL: Yes. And, anyone who is publicly commenting on the campaign, who has not made the Trump hate list --


O`DONNELL: I do not think is quite doing the job right. And, I want to get to what you were talking about on Sunday. I think it is so important. And, that is, the way the political class especially in the media is trying to describe this rise of Donald Trump.

One of the principles I think they all begin with, and I do not know whether this is subconscious. I think it might just be built in, in a way that they are not quite aware is, what I would call an excessive respect for the voter.

SMILEY: Uh-huh.

O`DONNELL: We must never say anything about the voter that is uncomfortable to hear, that is negative. And, so, I have not heard any of the discussions, you know, except the one you were in was very good. You were very good at -- it was kind of dynamic.

But, every discussion I have been in about this, I always begin with and do not have much more to say than 66 percent of Trump`s supporters believe that President Obama is Muslim. And 60 percent of Trump`s supporters believe he is not an American citizen and an illegitimate candidate.

And, so, if you take those away, Trump would be polling down around 10 percent. But you cannot take those away because that is the heart and soul of his support.

SMILEY: Yes. I could not agree more. Put another way, it is one thing to be uninformed. And, there are plenty of uninformed voters. Again, we do not want to politically correct way of behaving in this medium. We do not want to demonize the voter, but I think we have to be honest about it, though.

It is one thing to be uninformed. It is another thing, Lawrence, to be misinformed or disinformed. What Donald Trump continue to do is to misinform and to disinform. So, I could not agree more with your thesis. Let me add something else, though. I was talking to friends earlier today, Lawrence. I think I had an epiphany when I was in New York.

I am in Washington, obviously, tonight. But, for the past few days I have been in Washington -- I mean New York, that is on book tour. And, I say that respectfully, but I think that for all my friends in New York, who are covering Donald Trump, and I did all the network shows when I was there basically.

It occurred to me that for those who know Donald Trump in New York City and see this kind of bluster and bullying and bravado all the time, I think to some degree, Lawrence, they see Donald as just being Donald. And, they have not made the connection yet, but this is not a fight with Rosie O`Donnell.

This is not "The Celebrity Apprentice." This is not another construction site he is arguing about, another property he wants to buy. And, so, when you start bullying and you put that bravado out there and the kind of bluster and then you add to that this religious and racial animosity, this is a race for the White House. This is about being the leader of the free world. And, so, to keep passing this off as Donald being Donald, because they are sort of used to that, number one.

And, number two, because they come in contact with him in celebrity circles, they are not doing their job, I think, the way they ought to be doing it. So, I have said before, I will say it again. It is not just about covering him. It is about challenging him. Not just about covering him, but condemning him when he engages in this kind of xenophobia.

O`DONNELL: Yes. You know, Tavis, last week we had on this program, George Wallace`s 1968 Presidential Campaign Manager, Tom Turnipseed, who said Donald Trump is George Wallace. This is the George Wallace campaign. Everything about it stylistically is the George Wallace campaign, has exactly the same spirit. \

Tom Turnipseed completely turned against what we would call Wallacism of that era. He became a civil rights lawyer himself, very changed man. But, I do not remember anybody, you know, where I come from, who was even slightly confused about why people were voting for George Wallace in 1968. Nobody tried to make up any fancy explanations for that.

SMILEY: Yes. I do not think, frankly, Lawrence that our colleagues in the industry, the broadcast business, the news business, I do not think they are confused either. I think what is happening here is we got a horse race. And, the media loves covering the horse race. If I can use the other metaphor, they love covering the cat fight.

I mean, who knew a few weeks ago, a few months ago that the republican nomination might be decided before the democratic nomination. Everybody thought that Hillary had this thing locked down. And, so, we may end-up getting republican nominee before. We get a democratic nominee, but we love this fighting.

We love the fact that there has been accident on the establishment highway. We love the fact that we got some outsiders. Trump is entertaining. Let us be honest, we are getting ratings off of this. We are selling newspapers. Covering a folk that making a bunch of money.

So, nobody wants this thing to end so quickly because it is entertaining. It is exciting for us. It is not the same boring ride that we normally get. As you well know, a lot of folk do not even cover the political conventions anymore, because they are so predictable. So, this is exciting to those of us in this industry.

But, we ought to just say that rather than acting like Donald Trump is doing something miraculous and not connecting the dots to how and why he is rising in the polls so swiftly.

O`DONNELL: TAvis, quickly, before you go, you run the most thoughtful talk show in Los Angeles. You have a lot of people from show business come through. Once again, today, Oscar nomination come out --


O`DONNELL: And it is pretty much an all white show once again.

SMILEY: This is why on those rare occasions when they celebrated as the year of the black film or the black filmmaker or the black actor or actress, you cannot get caught up in that hype because one year you got a few films made, the next year you disappear. We got to get around to having folks green light projects, who look like America.

O`DONNELL: It is a crime that "Beasts of No Nation" was blocked out of the nominations.

SMILEY: I could agree.

O`DONNELL: I want to know about this. Tavis Smiley, thank you very much for joining us tonight. I really appreciate it.

SMILEY: Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Chris Matthews is up next live with "Republican Debate Reaction."