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The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, Transcript 1/18/2016

Guests: Rick Tyler, Jonathan Allen, James Pindell, Phyllis Bennis, Hillary Mann Leverett, Karen Higgins, Austan Goolsbee

Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL Date: January 18, 2016 Guest: Rick Tyler, Jonathan Allen, James Pindell, Phyllis Bennis, Hillary Mann Leverett, Karen Higgins, Austan Goolsbee

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC: 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, HOST, THE LAST WORD: Rachel, I hope you didn`t stop showing the British parliament just because my TV show was coming on --


Because I would have been happy to listen to that stuff for the rest of the night.


MADDOW: Just hearing that one guy pronounced the word idiot over --


MADDOW: And over and over --


MADDOW: Again, it`s pretty satisfying.

O`DONNELL: Yes, and speaking of Donald Trump, I got another personal note from him, and in the interest of full transparency on my communication with presidential candidates, I will be sharing that with the world tonight.

MADDOW: I am envious of your position sort of.

O`DONNELL: By the time you get home, Rachel, you`ll be able to turn it on and see what he said.


MADDOW: Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Thanks, Rachel. Ted Cruz`s campaign spokesman will join us tonight to answer Donald Trump`s personal attacks on Ted Cruz and we will take up the debate between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders over healthcare.


SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: Tom Brady was framed. And I have it on good authority that Hillary Clinton did it.


CRUZ: It seems Donald has a lot of nervous energy.

HALLIE JACKSON, NBC NEWS: Donald Trump calls you nasty, hated by everybody, is he right?

TRUMP: He`s a nasty guy. Nobody likes him.

CRUZ: Well, look, Donald seems a little bit rattled.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My good friend Rafael Edward Cruz.


TRUMP: Nobody in Congress likes him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ted Cruz was born in Canada, he can`t be president.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Clearly, I`m not Canadian, Canadians are well liked. I am not.


RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO HOST: Whatever you want to say, Cruz is not a nasty guy.

TRUMP: It`s not a good thing for the country, very nasty guy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think this man is crazy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: His words are not comical. His words are not funny. His words are poisonous.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ISIS needs Donald Trump and Donald Trump needs ISIS.

TRUMP: You have a socialist and you have Hillary.

HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: President Obama has led our country out of the great recession.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D), VERMONT: Two-thousand and eight, I did my best to see that he was elected, in 2012, re-elected.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He would raise taxes on the middle class also, is that correct?

SANDERS: Yes, some middle class families.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Clearly, we need to beat expectations on caucus night.


O`DONNELL: We`re just 14 days to go before the Iowa caucuses, the two Republican frontrunners in Iowa who for months never said a bad word about each other.

Now can`t think of a single nice thing to say (AUDIO GAP 00:02:43-46) --


TRUMP: I mean, for a lot of reasons --


TRUMP: But they all hate him. And by the way, he`s attacked me, so when he attacks me --


TRUMP: As you know, I`m a counter puncher.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You are, you mean literally --

TRUMP: You`ve seen a lot of people --


TRUMP: You have all seen a lot of people attack me, and you see where they are right now. But he attacked me first.


O`DONNELL: The nastiest presidential campaigner in modern history thinks the other guy is nastier than he is.


TRUMP: The truth is, he`s a nasty guy. He was so nice to me, I mean, I knew it, I was watching.

I kept saying, come on, Ted, let`s go, kid. But he`s a nasty guy, nobody likes him. Nobody in Congress likes him.

Nobody likes him anyway once they get to know him. He`s a very -- he`s got an edge that`s not good (AUDIO GAP 00:03:27-28) very nasty guy.


O`DONNELL: The nastiest and richest radio talk show host in history jumped into the fight today.


LIMBAUGH: I think Trump going after Cruz is quite normal. It`s understandable. But I think he`s making a tactical error the way he`s doing it.

Whatever you want to say, Cruz is not a nasty guy. When you -- when you -- when you get into criticism, it better be believable.

I think Trump free to criticize Cruz all he wants as far as I`m concerned. But going after him as a nasty guy on this birther business, he`s got to worry that it`s going to create more negatives within his own support base rather than turn people off to Cruz.


O`DONNELL: In the latest Iowa poll released last week by the "Des Moines Register", Ted Cruz and Donald Trump are tied within the margin of error with Ted Cruz at 25 and Donald Trump at 22.

Today in New Hampshire, it fell to the intrepid Hallie Jackson to ask Ted Cruz if everybody really hates him.


JACKSON: Donald Trump called you nasty, hated by everybody, is he right?

CRUZ: Well, look, Donald seems a little bit rattled. I understand he`s losing support and going down in the polls.

And it seems his response is to attack and get personal. I don`t intend to respond in kind.


O`DONNELL: Also in New Hampshire today, Ted Cruz went after Donald Trump on policy.


CRUZ: I would note that Ronald Reagan spent decades as a principled conservative. Spent decades traveling the country, sharing his conservative free market views, defending the constitution.

Ronald Reagan did not spend the first 60 years of his life supporting Democratic politicians, advocating for big government politics.

Supporting things like the TARP big bank bailout, supporting things like expanding Obamacare to turn it into socialized medicine.

That`s not what Ronald Reagan did.


O`DONNELL: Joining us now, Rick Tyler, national spokesman for the Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz.

Also with us, Jonathan Allen, columnist for "Roll Call" and a co-author of "HRC: State Secrets and the Rebirth of Hillary Clinton".

And James Pindell, political reporter at the "Boston Globe". Rick Tyler, I have some late breaking news.

Trump versus Cruz news from Twitter. This is Donald Trump tweeting within the hour saying, "I don`t think Ted Cruz can even run for president until he can assure Republican voters that being born in Canada is not a problem. Doubt!"

And the second Trump poll -- a Trump tweet that`s come out just in the last few minutes.

"Ted Cruz is falling in the polls, he is nervous. People are worried about his place of birth and his failure to report his loans from banks."

Rick Tyler, your response.

RICK TYLER, NATIONAL SPOKESMAN FOR TED CRUZ: Well, you kind of surprise me when you said late breaking news. I had no idea you were going to announce a tweet.



TYLER: Look --

O`DONNELL: At this hour, Rick, that`s where the news is made.


TYLER: Yes, look, Donald Trump was a really nice guy when he was winning and he was happy when he`s winning, but he doesn`t like to lose.

And now, you know, he`s not doing as well as he`d like to do and he`s just suddenly turned sort of mean.

And it`s never about substance, it`s never about policy issues, it`s always, you know, these birther nonsense which he keeps going after even though it`s not doing him any good.

No one believes it. Everybody has repudiated it. And so, he can persist, but I think he ends up looking -- he`s marginalizing himself.

O`DONNELL: Well, one of the problems for the Cruz campaign is that really there are virtually no legal authorities who have repudiated it and we`re going to listen to Ted Cruz`s constitution law teacher at Harvard Law School and what he said about it on this program. Here`s Laurence Tribe.


LAURENCE TRIBE, PROFESSOR, HARVARD LAW SCHOOL: Without amending the constitution or getting a definitive ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court, it`s just wrong to say, as Senator Cruz has tried to say, that it`s a settled matter. It isn`t settled.


O`DONNELL: And Jonathan Allen, that`s what really ignited the issue with Donald Trump just throwing it around, didn`t mean much until he started getting support on the doubt issue.

I mean, on Trump`s tweet you`ll notice the last word of it is just doubt. And Laurence Tribe shares that doubt.

JONATHAN ALLEN, COLUMNIST, ROLL CALL: Well, Laurence Tribe is a better lawyer than I am, and so is Ted Cruz. It`s a little outclassed on both of those sides.

But look, I think what Laurence Tribe said was not that Ted Cruz is ineligible to run for president, but simply that it`s not a settled matter.

It`s not something that has come before the Supreme Court before. I think if Ted Cruz were to win the electoral college, the Supreme Court would be hard pressed to deny him the presidency.

And it`s hard to see a case making it forward before now and then, you know, stranger things have happened.

What I think is really interesting going on right now though in this fight between Cruz and Trump is, Trump seems to be making the argument that Ted Cruz isn`t American enough.

And Ted Cruz seems to be making the argument or at least the surrogates are in places that Donald Trump isn`t Christian conservative enough.

And I think they`re both trying to fight that, and I think we`re going to get a slingshot effect after Iowa and New Hampshire where that really intensifies as we get into the south.

And I`m curious to hear what Rick has to say about how the Cruz forces are going to try to keep Donald Trump from portraying himself as a Christian conservative going forward.

We saw him at Liberty University earlier today.

O`DONNELL: Go ahead, Rick.

TYLER: Well, look, we worked very hard to get the support of the evangelical vote. We`re doing very well, we have three full-time people dedicated to it.

We got over 250 pastors in Iowa alone, over 300 national evangelical leaders have endorsed Ted Cruz and those continue to roll out.

And look, we announced our -- we announced our campaign right there at the world`s largest university at Jerry Falwell`s Christian University; the Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia.

So, we`re very confident that we`ve done very well with those voters. And by the way, before March 15th, 11 states that have 50 percent evangelical vote and some of those more.

So, if you go from Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Texas.

All of those have 50 percent more, some like Tennessee have 70 percent more. So, the evangelical vote is definitely front-loaded and we`re poised to do very well with those voters.


ALLEN: Why is Trump doing so well in some of those states though? There`s a Georgia poll relatively recently that had him up 20, 30 points.

Why if those states were so conducive to a Christian conservative candidate such as Cruz and not conducive to a Trump candidate who seems to be emphasizing his faith a lot more in the last couple of weeks.

Why is -- why are we seeing polls that have Trump with big leads there?

TYLER: Well, Trump has had a lead since July. And over that time, people -- a lot of his supporters have not really known a lot of the names of the other candidates.

And so they`ve always wanted an outsider and now they`re starting to look at Cruz. So, in the beginning when Trump was up at about -- in July, about we tested that and it was really single digits of Trump supporters that have come over to us.

Today that number is about 50 percent to 60 percent. And I credit a lot of that to the debates where you had millions of people watch and they saw Ted Cruz and then they`ve gotten more educated about the campaign.

And they realize that, you know, look, here`s a guy who actually went to Washington, did what he said he was going to do, stood up to the establishment.

Both in the Democrats and Republican Party, the central question that Donald Trump is raising is we have to change Washington.

The next question would be, well, who has already tried to change Washington, who stood up to the cartels in Washington and that`s Ted Cruz.

And I think that`s why a lot of Donald Trump supporters in Iowa have come over to our side.

O`DONNELL: James Pindell, it seems that Donald Trump and an assortment of law professors have written law review articles about this, have raised enough doubt about Ted Cruz to impact voters.

There`s a "Reuters" poll indicating that 25 percent of Republicans say that Ted Cruz, they believe Ted Cruz is disqualified to serve as president because of his -- the circumstances of his birth in Canada.

It`s actually a bit worse among all voters, 27 percent of all voters, 28 percent of independents.

That`s going to be a difficult thing to counter. I`m not sure how you do the 32nd ad about that.

JAMES PINDELL, POLITICAL REPORTER, BOSTON GLOBE: Well, here -- look, this race is increasingly becoming a two-person contest between Trump and Cruz on the ground.

And while we`re talking about this, you know, the fact that he was born in Canada and we`re talking about other issues about Donald Trump being a Ronald Reagan.

I think what`s important to recognize is they`re only talking about these two candidates.


PINDELL: We`re not talking about Jeb Bush, we`re not talking about Marco Rubio or Chris Christie.

And I guess the question I have for Rick is, look, we saw two candidates go head-to-head in Iowa in 2004, Howard Dean and Richard Gephardt.

And they got so nasty that they took each other out. How will you know -- this is -- this is getting to the point where this is actually being detrimental to both campaigns.

TYLER: Well, first of all, let me go back and since we`re going to talk about the circumstances of Ted Cruz`s birth, the circumstances are this.

That is, Ted Cruz`s mother who was born in Delaware, who has been an American citizen her entire life, went to Canada for a job.

Ted Cruz was born in Canada and he returned at 4 years old. Now, in the law, there`s only two ways to become a U.S. citizen.

One is, you are a naturally-born citizen and that is you were born to an American parent which Ted Cruz was or you were naturalized.

Ted Cruz was not naturalized, so he is a natural-born citizen. That`s the definition of a natural-born citizen.

So, that`s off the table. By the way, Lawrence, Laurence Tribe also agrees that Ted Cruz is a natural-born citizen even though he pretends to --


O`DONNELL: No, just to be clear --

TYLER: He`s also -- he`s also --

O`DONNELL: Laurence Tribe believes -- just to give you credit, Rick. Laurence Tribe believes that the argument you`re making right now is the better of the possible arguments.

What he says is --

TYLER: He has --

O`DONNELL: What he says is --


The Supreme Court --

TYLER: He has said --

O`DONNELL: Has never decided it, and he agrees that to have absolute clarity on it, we would need a constitutional amendment.

TYLER: He has raised the doubt and he has said that, but he has also said personally, he believes that Ted Cruz is eligible.

He has said that, he has told the "New York Times" reporter that. So, look, there really isn`t any doubt and I want to be fair to James because I`ve forgotten his question, the original --


O`DONNELL: Well, it was -- it was a great one. Is it -- is it possible that Cruz versus Trump will destroy both of them and maybe emerge -- allow Rubio or somebody else to emerge.

TYLER: Yes, that`s a great question. Well, one thing is, you know, you notice she was doing the name-calling in the invective and we are sticking to the policies and the differences.

Because actually policy differences between candidates and how they would govern are helpful to people.

They don`t view it as negative at all, they view it as very positive. But calling people nasty and calling them names and raising up silly birther issues, I don`t think is very helpful to Donald Trump.

So, he can keep doing it, but it`s not going to be very helpful.

O`DONNELL: But Rick, if Trump stops talking about it, as of right now, you`ve got 28 percent of total -- of all voters thinking -- 27 percent I guess of all voters thinking that Ted Cruz is ineligible.

How would you counter that in a campaign?

TYLER: Well, just like I said, he was born -- most people don`t know that he was born to an American mother who was in Canada on a job.

So that would be -- so, the way to say this, look, every service man, everybody is on a mission, you know, like a Christian mission overseas who has children overseas.

And even the founding fathers, you know, they -- a lot of them when -- they were ambassadors. So, John Quincy Adams was an ambassador, John Adams was an ambassador.

The idea that John Quincy Adams` children who might have been born overseas, they weren`t, but they might have been.

The idea that --


O`DONNELL: So, I guess you have no answer. I mean, that`s not a campaign answer --

TYLER: Well --

O`DONNELL: I mean, if you don`t have a 32nd answer, you don`t have a campaign answer.

TYLER: But 32nd --


O`DONNELL: If you`re making --

TYLER: Hypothetical --


O`DONNELL: Who were not, in fact, born --

TYLER: Yes --

O`DONNELL: Overseas --

TYLER: Well, there are -- well, John McCain was not born in the United States. George Romney wasn`t born in the United States.

Barry Goldwater wasn`t born in the United States, and they were all nominees. I would -- no, George wasn`t, but the rest of the other two were.

So there`s precedent for that already. And it`s satisfying by the way --

ALLEN: Can`t see this Lawrence --


O`DONNELL: Go ahead.

PINDELL: Look, my job is to cover the campaign on the ground, particularly in Iowa and in New Hampshire.

The only people bringing up this birth -- this citizenship issue for Ted Cruz are people who already don`t support him.

And if Ted Cruz were to become the nominee, there`s no reason to believe they wouldn`t finally back him if they`re -- with the Republicans.

O`DONNELL: All right, we`re going to leave it there for tonight, Rick Tyler, Jonathan Allen, James Pindell, thank you all for joining us tonight, really appreciate it.

PINDELL: Thank you.

ALLEN: Thank you, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, Bill O`Reilly is going to tell you exactly what you can do to get him to give up on America and move to his ancestral home country of Ireland.

And we will be joined by a Bernie Sanders supporter and a Hillary Clinton supporter to debate healthcare.

And tonight`s LAST WORD will be a personal word from Donald Trump to me. I got to reply to my letter to Donald Trump which I read to you on this program last week.


O`DONNELL: If you`re undecided about who to vote for for president, this might help.


BILL O`REILLY, FOX NEWS: And if Bernie Sanders gets elected president, I`m fleeing -- I`m going to Ireland.

And they already know it. So, that`s -- and I shouldn`t say it publicly --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, let me give you a little --

O`REILLY: That will get Sanders more votes. But I`m not going to pay 90 percent of my income to that guy, I`m sorry, I`m not doing it.


O`DONNELL: No, Bill, you`re not going to pay 90 percent of your income to that guy, because the top income tax rate that Bernie Sanders is proposing is 52 percent.

And that`s on incomes above $10 million, in order words, Bill O`Reilly`s income which is somewhere above $20 million a year.

If Bill O`Reilly does flee Bernie Sanders proposed 52 percent top income tax and move to Ireland, he will discover the top income tax rate in Ireland is 52 percent.

Coming up, the debate over healthcare between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton.



CRUZ: In that State of the Union, President Obama didn`t so much as mention the ten sailors that had been captured by Iran.

President Obama is preparing to send a $100 billion or more to the Ayatollah Khomeini.

I give you my word, if I am elected president, no serviceman or servicewoman will be forced to be on their knees in any nation that captures our fighting men and women will feel the full force and fury of the United States of America.



O`DONNELL: The full force and fury. So that was Ted Cruz saying he would have launched nuclear war on Iran for detaining ten members of the U.S. Navy overnight.

One of whom apologized for drifting into Iranian waters. And that was just the beginning of an extraordinary news from Iran.

This weekend, the International Atomic Energy Agency certified that Iran has comply with the terms of the nuclear deal.

And Iran released five Americans they had been holding, including "Washington Post" reporter Jason Rezaian.

In exchange, the United States released seven Iranians who were accused of crimes and 14 Iranians were removed from a list of people wanted by INTERPOL.

Joining us now, Hillary Mann Leverett, former State Department Middle East specialist under President George W. Bush and Bill Clinton.

And the author of "Going to Tehran: Why America Must Accept the Islamic Republic of Iran". Also joining us, Phyllis Bennis, a fellow with the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington.

I want to listen to what Rand Paul had to say about what`s happened here with the Iran deal.


SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: You know, I think when something good happens, we ought to celebrate it.

I think sometimes for partisan reasons, politicians on both sides become sort of like windup dolls, and if the other side does something good, they have to complain no matter how good it is.

And I think we should celebrate.


O`DONNELL: That may explain why Rand Paul is running at the bottom of the Republican pack for president.

But Phyllis Bennis, the rest of the Republicans reacted much more predictably even with all these successes over the weekend with Iran attacking everything the President is trying to do.

PHYLLIS BENNIS, INSTITUTE FOR POLICY STUDIES: Well, of course, because this has everything to do with President Obama and nothing to do with diplomacy versus war.

This was one more example and it was a great one of why diplomacy works better than war or threats of war.

We have the prisoner exchange, we have the agreement by the U.N.`s watchdog -- nuclear watchdog agency, the IAEA that Iran has indeed complied with its requirements and therefore the sanctions could be lifted.

This was a great victory. You know, we`re 2 for 2 here for diplomacy and 0 for war. That`s a good thing.

We should be celebrating that. Rand Paul for whatever reason is right on this, and the fact that people are condemning it.

The notion that a serious presidential campaign from any party would make the kinds of threats that we`ve been hearing about lighting up the sands, threats of using nuclear weapons.

This notion that we will go after any country that takes any of our soldiers into custody, despite the fact that our own Secretary of Defense acknowledged that they had mistakenly, maybe it was a mistake, maybe not.

But it was clearly their responsibility, not the Iranians, that they strayed or went into Iranian territorial waters.

This is unbelievable. It was diplomacy that made it possible to get them released, to get the two war boats released, to do the prisoner exchange.

This is all good news.

O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to what --


O`DONNELL: Hillary, before you -- let me --


O`DONNELL: Let me just get it on the table here. Let`s listen to what the frontrunner for the Republican nomination said about this.


TRUMP: And we`re getting -- we`re getting four back, they`re getting seven. They`re getting 14 off of the INTERPOL watch-list.

These are real bad customers. They`re getting all sorts of advantages including free market oil.

They`re getting unbelievable advantages. They`re going to be an immensely wealthy country and a wealthy terror country.


O`DONNELL: Hillary, what should voters who haven`t followed this very closely know when they hear Donald Trump saying things like that?

LEVERETT: Well, there are -- there are two things. One is, there`s narrative coming out from Republican candidates across the board, perhaps without -- except for Rand Paul.

That what Obama has done with Iran is profoundly important, strategically grounded diplomacy that he has done with Iran.

Similar to what President Nixon did with China. It`s just as profound, just as important for the United States.

But there`s this narrative on the Republican side that it somehow shows weakness about President Obama. You know, I spent a lot of time in the Middle East and in China.

And what shows weakness there from their perspective about us, what showed real weakness was that the United States deployed hundreds of thousands of troops to Iraq and Afghanistan, spent over a trillion dollars and failed.

That showed weakness. What Obama has done with Iran has actually shown real strength.

And we have -- the Chinese president in fact is going to go to Iran in about a week or so to follow in President Obama`s footsteps to try to solidify this deal with Iran.

And the world is actually taking -- following America`s lead in pursuing this kind of diplomacy.

This is strength through leadership. What we had before with trillions of dollars wasted, hundreds of thousands of troops sent, thousands of American troops killed, let alone all the Iraqis and Afghans, that showed real weakness on the world stage.

That`s how it`s seen in the Middle East and China, that we were weak to do that. And now that we`re strong taking this leadership stand in leading off diplomacy with Iran.

O`DONNELL: Phyllis Bennis, when the next president takes office, the first meeting on Iran, what do you think the state of play will be at that point?

BENNIS: Well, of course, it`s very much dependent on who is in the Oval office. Who are the staff people that he or she has brought in to work on that question.

But what it should be is a look at what`s it going to take to move to the next step? The nuclear deal was a great victory for diplomacy over war.

We`ve now seen some of the fruits of that in the prisoner exchange and the release of these sailors in the agreement by Iran to implement the deal.

But now, the next step is how do we move towards what was once called a grand bargain with Iran?

Move towards the normalization of relations that could lead to a real resolution of this horrific war in Syria.

That`s what we need to be dealing with Iran directly.

O`DONNELL: Hillary Mann Leverett and Phyllis Bennis, thank you both for joining us tonight, really appreciate it.

BENNIS: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, we`ll have our version of Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton`s debate over healthcare.


O`DONNELL: This afternoon at an event commemorating Martin Luther King Jr. in South Carolina attended by all three Democratic Presidential candidates, Bernie Sanders said this.


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS, (I-VT) DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Dr. King was with us today, what would he say about a nation in which the top one- tenth of 1 percent own more wealth than the bottom 90 percent? And, what would he say about a nation in which 29 million Americans had no health insurance? And, in a state where the governor refused to allow the people of this state to take advantage of Medicaid expansion.



O`DONNELL: Health care access in America was the focus of last night`s democratic debate on NBC.


HILLARY CLINTON, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have the Affordable Care Act. That is one of the greatest accomplishments of President Obama of the Democratic Party and of our country. And, we have already seen 19 million Americans get insurance. We have seen the end of pre-existing conditions keeping people from getting insurance. We have seen women no longer paying more for our insurance than men.

And, we have seen young people up to the age of 26 being able to stay on their parents` policy. There are things we can do to improve it, but to tear it up and start over again, pushing our country back into that kind of a contentious debate, I think is the wrong direction.

SANDERS: No one is tearing this up. We are going to go forward. But, with the secretary neglected to mention, not just the 29 million still have no health insurance, that even more are underinsured with huge co-payments and deductibles. Tell me why we are spending almost three times more than the British, who guarantee health care to all of their people?

50 percent more than the French, more than the Canadians. The vision from FDR and Harry Truman was health care for all people as a right, in a cost effective way. We are not going to tear up the Affordable Care Act. I helped write it. But, we are going to move on top of that to a Medicare for all system.



O`DONNELL: Joining us now Austan Goolsbee, a former chair of the Council of the Economic Advisors for President Obama. He is currently a professor of economics at the University of Chicago and a Hillary Clinton supporter. Also with us, Karen Higgins, a registered nurse and the co-President of the National Nurses Union, which endorsed Bernie Sanders for President. Karen Higgins, on the matter of health care why do you favor Bernie Sanders over Hillary Clinton?

KAREN HIGGINS, R.N., NATIONAL NURSES UNION CO-PRESIDENT: Really the reason why is because we do believe that health care is a right in this country. And, we are watching the fallout as nurses, when we see people coming in that supposedly have health insurance and still cannot afford the deductibles and the co-pays, and we are seeing people that are in major debt because of health care costs.

And, this is the wrong -- this is the wrong direction. And, so, we are very excited. We believe in what Senator Sanders is saying and it is a program that we have been fighting for along with a lot of others like the AFL-CIO to have happen. We need to have health care for all, not health insurance but actual health care for everyone in this country.

O`DONNELL: And, Austan Goolsbee, as Bernie Sanders keeps saying, there is 29 million people left out of the Affordable Care Act. It is not just the affordable care act but of our entire health system now, Medicare, Medicaid, private insurance, Affordable Care Act, all of that. And, he is aiming as the Obama reformers and the Clinton reformers before them, he is aiming at that gap. He is aiming at all the people who are left out now.

HIGGINS: Well, it is not just a gap.

AUSTAN GOOLSBEE, FMR. CHAIR COUNCIL OF ECONOMIC ADVISORS: Well, I agree, yes, and we should. We should aim at trying to get a universal coverage to everyone that we can. And, the Affordable Care Act was a massive triumph in that direction. We added so many millions of people to the rolls as Hillary Clinton said. We got rid of pre-existing conditions. We had a whole bunch of triumphs.

And, for all of us progressives -- I mean, this was -- we bled. We fought. Look at the congress. The Affordable Care Act is under siege by republicans throughout congress, throughout the country. The thought of just saying, "Yeah, well, OK, that seemed like a triumph, but let us move on to something else." I just think that is the wrong approach.

O`DONNELL: Karen Higgins, how do you see the Affordable Care Act working in the marketplace now that you work in?

HIGGINS: Well, I am a nurse, and I am a working nurse. And, I would tell you that as far as it was maybe a little bit better than what we were seeing before, but we are still got a big problem here. And, you know, kudos to those that have moved health care along, but we cannot stop here. This is not good enough, what they are doing.

We need to have health care that actually allows people to get care no matter what age they are. It is not, if you are on Medicare, you have better care than if you a 20-year-old, a 30-year-old, a 40-year-old, and that is not acceptable. And, you know, we are not going to stop here. As nurses, we are going to determine that we are going to do a program that delivers health care to everybody in this country.

So, as much as they think they have made progress, the answer is not good enough and, no, we do need to take it on. We need to expand it out so that everyone gets Medicare of some form, which is basically what we are talking about at this point.

GOOLSBEE: You know, the only thing I would say to that is, Bernie Sanders released a plan that really is not a plan. You got progressive experts like from Paul Krugman to Ezra Klein. As Ezra Klein described it, it was not a plan. He said it was, quote, "Puppies and rainbows."

You know, it is a humongous heavy lift to propose a single payer program like the one that Sanders proposed, which would require something like $15 trillion of new tax revenue to pay for it. And, if you are going to propose something as large as that, which exceeds the entire revenue that would be collected by the entire federal income tax combined, it is -- the onus is on you the proposer to have the details worked out.

HIGGINS: Well, the details -- I think the details --

GOOLSBEE: His plan has not worked out.

HIGGINS: No, the plans are worked out. I believe that if Professor Friedman out of UMass, Amherst, looked at this plan very carefully and said that he would, in fact, say $6 trillion over ten years in this country, it would cut back on people that are paying astronomical amounts to have insurance.

And, that includes companies that are paying astronomical amounts to insure their people. It would cut back cost back. It would allow people to not only have jobs but to actually probably get raises in their jobs, because they would not have to worry about their health care. So, to say what you are saying is totally wrong. Obviously, I do not believe you have looked at the plan, and I believe the economists have.

And, this is not the first one we have had look at this plan. It is a plan that will work. It will save money. It will provide -- you know, again, provide more jobs. It will give people increase in their pays, which is desperately needed. So, no, I do not think this is a problem. I think this is a solution to a problem. And, we need to take this seriously as we move forward in this campaign.

O`DONNELL: Austan, on the question of -- what the Sanders plan does in effect is it replaces taxes for health insurance premiums.


O`DONNELL: And, as an economist, Austan, are not you emotionally neutral as to the word tax or premium, it is coming out of the same pocket? Someone is paying it from the way they were --

GOOLSBEE: Yes, I could be emotionally neutral, I like that phrase for it. The question is, and I have looked at what the Sanders` campaign released and the note that came from the professor that she is indicating, but there is a very serious question as to whether it actually pays for what he is proposing. And, by his own admission, they have got to raise something like $15 trillion of additional tax revenue. So, I just think it needs to be worked out better.

O`DONNELL: All right.

HIGGINS: Well, I think --

O`DONNELL: Karen, I am sorry. We are going to have to leave it there for tonight.


O`DONNELL: We are out of time. But, we are going to come back and continue this debate. There is so much to talk about in it including tax provisions and the Affordable Care Act and in the Sanders` plan. There is a lot to talk about. Karen Higgins and Austan Goolsbee, thank you both for starting this debate for us.

GOOLSBEE: Thank you, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: I appreciate it.

HIGGINS: Thank you very much.

O`DONNELL: Up next, Idris Elba, who was not nominated for an Academy Award in "Beast of No Nation," which he should have been nominated for as should the movie have been nominated, explained the importance of diversity to the British parliament.



O`DONNELL: Idris Elba told an audience of a hundred members of the British Parliament and television executives that their needs to be more diversity in television and films in the United Kingdom, where the British Government fund some of the production through the BBC. Idris Elba is, of course, one of the co-stars of "Beast of No Nation" one of the best movies of the year, if not the best movie of the year, snubbed by the American awards system. Here is a piece of that film.


IDRIS ELBA, AS COMMANDANT, IN THE FILM "BEAST OF NO NATION": I am not taking the scary. I am not taking no girls. Are you ready to fight?


ELBA, AS COMMANDANT: Are you ready to fight?


ELBA, AS COMMANDANT: Do you want to take that bridge?



O`DONNELL: There is no better performance by an actor this year. Idris Elba shared some of his struggles in the industry as an example of why he says things need to change.


IDRIS ELBA, ONE OF THE CO-STARS IN "BEAST OF NO NATION" FILM: My agent and I would get scripts and we were always asked to read the black male character. All right? Or the athletic type. And, that was just a Crime watch.


But, when the script -- when the script asked for a black male it was not describing a character or person`s character. It was describing a skin color. I got to a certain point in my career where I saw the glass ceiling. I was so close to it I was going to hit my forehead on it, but I was busy. I was busy. I got lots of work. I realized that I can only play so many best friends or gang leaders, all right?

I knew that I was not going to land a leading role. I knew there was not enough imagination, not yet, for the industry to be seeing me as a lead. In other words, if I wanted to star in a British drama like "Luther," for example, then I would have to go to a country like America. I did not see myself or my culture on T.V., so I literally just stopped watching it. Instead, I decided to go and become a T.V.



O`DONNELL: How many elementary school music teachers get to watch one of their former students become Broadway`s most celebrated musical theater creator and star? Barbara Ames is living that experience now with her former student Lin-Manuel Miranda, creator and star of the Broadway show that has become a phenomenon like no other, "Hamilton."

For Martin Luther King day, Lin-Manuel Miranda gathered a bunch of former students of Barbara Ames to sing a song about Martin Luther King that she wrote and taught to her students at Hunter College Elementary School in Manhattan. We are going to show you the video of Lin-Manuel Miranda leading the group in song intercut with the now retired Barbara Ames` reaction as at home she watched them singing online.


LIN-MANUEL MIRANDA, CREATOR OF THE BROADWAY SHOW, "HAMILTON": Hello. Happy Martin Luther King day. Every year, Hunter Elementary students are sad on Martin Luther King day because we all sang this amazing song called "Martin Luther King" in our elementary school assembly, and it was not until we got out into the real world that we realized, no one else knew this amazing song.

And, it turns out, it was because our amazing elementary school music teacher, Barbara Ames wrote the music and lyrics to the song. And, it is one of our favorite anthems. If you went to Hunter, you grew up singing this song. And, it is unfair that the rest of the world does not know it.

So, here we have Hunter Elementary School graduates from 1988 till 2001. That is the Ms. Ames` era here at Hunter. And, we are all going to sing -- we are going to full Mr. Holland`s Opus and we are singing the "Martin Luther King" song for you via the internet. Martin Luther King Ahtem. Here we go!



SECOND VOICE: Martin Luther King.

HUNTER ELEMENTARY SCHOOL GRADUATES FROM 1988-2001: As a man with a dream.

SECOND VOICE: Was a man with a dream.

HUNTER ELEMENTARY SCHOOL GRADUATES FROM 1988-2001: And, he took his dream.

SECOND VOICE: And, he took his dream.

HUNTER ELEMENTARY SCHOOL GRADUATES FROM 1988-2001: To the mountaintop, oh yeah. He soared to the sun. And he warmed everyone The love he`s sending down will never stop.

SECOND VOICE: Will never stop.

HUNTER ELEMENTARY SCHOOL GRADUATES FROM 1988-2001: He taught us, "We shall overcome, overcome it if we try." He left us with his song half-sung, still ringing from the sky.

SECOND VOICE: Ringing from the sky.


SECOND VOICE: Martin Luther King.

HUNTER ELEMENTARY SCHOOL GRADUATES FROM 1988-2001: As a man with a dream.

SECOND VOICE: Was a man with a dream.

HUNTER ELEMENTARY SCHOOL GRADUATES FROM 1988-2001: And, he took his dream.

SECOND VOICE: And, he took his dream.

HUNTER ELEMENTARY SCHOOL GRADUATES FROM 1988-2001: To the mountaintop, oh yeah. He soared to the sun. And, he warmed everyone The love he`s sending down will never stop.

SECOND VOICE: Will never stop.

HUNTER ELEMENTARY SCHOOL GRADUATES FROM 1988-2001: Will never stop. Will never stop.


MIRANDA: Happy Martin Luther King Day! We love you!


MIRANDA: Alfred got here late. Mwuah.


O`DONNELL: Tonight`s "Last Word" will be about Donald and me. I got a reply to my letter to Donald Trump. Reply of course is from Donald Trump and that is next.


O`DONNELL: And, now, for tonight`s "Last Word" and this time it is a personal word from Donald Trump to me. Last week, I told you about my surprise at discovering in my office mail pile an envelope from Donald Trump that contained a check for $10,000 for the K.I.N.D. Fund with a handwritten note on the check stub saying, "Lawrence, very good work on this. Best wishes. Donald."

The check was written 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.

Donald Trump was not the only person, who contributed to the K.I.N.D. Fund after seeing that segment but everyone else, who contributed went to or called 1-800-4UNICEF. And, all of those contributions were processed by credit card through UNICEF. But, Donald Trump was the only person who sent me a check.

And, as I said when told you about it, it is completely understandable that he sent that check to me because we had never bothered to explain how to send a check to the K.I.N.D. Fund and how to make that check out. And, so, I could not accept the check that Donald Trump sent me for two reasons. First, through no fault of Donald Trump`s, it was made out incorrectly. Instead of being made out to U.S. Fund for UNICEF with K.I.N.D. in the memo line, it was made out simply to KIND.

And, so, we had no way of processing that check, that made it an invalid check basically. And, UNICEF could not have deposited that check if I had passed it on to them. So, there was another reason why I could not accept Donald Trump`s check, which I explained to him in a letter that I read to you just before sending it to him.


O`DONNELL: "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."


O`DONNELL: Needless to say, I was not exactly sure how Donald Trump would react to that letter. I meant it sincerely and I wanted him to take it sincerely. Well, now I know. I believe that all of my dealings with the Presidential candidate on a matter like this should be completely transparent. And, so, Donald Trump and I have had no communication about this other than his original note to me and my letter of reply to him, both of which I have read to you.

And, now his note replying to my letter, which I received at my MSNBC E- mail address with the subject line "A Note from Donald J. Trump." And, here it is. Lawrence, just got your note. Very nice. Your sending a check is class. You will have mine in eight years! Best wishes, Donald J. Trump." And, so, Donald J. Trump gets tonight`s "Last Word." Chris Hayes is up next.