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The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, Transcript 2/3/2016

Guests: James Pindell, Jonathan Alter, Michael Steele, Wendy Davis, Laurence Tribe, Asra Nomani, Mayor Virg Bernero

Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL Date: February 3, 2016 Guest: James Pindell, Jonathan Alter, Michael Steele, Wendy Davis, Laurence Tribe, Asra Nomani, Mayor Virg Bernero

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Lindsey Graham says -- I don`t know the future of the Jeb Bush campaign, neither do you.

There`s a good chance he`s still in it for the long haul, he is well-funded for it if nothing else, and besides what else is he doing, he has no other job.

But if Jeb Bush does pack it up soon, if he`s toast as his friend who endorsed him, Lindsey Graham says, at least he can get started on finding some new friends and maybe that for him will be something worth applauding.





MADDOW: That does it for us tonight, we will see you again tomorrow for debate night here at the University of New Hampshire.

Now, it`s time for THE LAST WORD with Lawrence O`Donnell, good evening Lawrence.

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Rachel, there`s going to be a lot of Republican toast in New Hampshire Wednesday morning.


And it`s going to be Christie toast and maybe Bush toast. A lot of toast.

MADDOW: It is toasty up here already. We`ve got three political corpses in the last 24 hours and we`re just looking for the next one.

O`DONNELL: Rachel, we`ve been collecting possible questions for you for tomorrow night from Twitter. We`re going to play around with some of them in the show tonight.

You decide though, it`s all up to you --

MADDOW: Oh, awesome, well done --

O`DONNELL: OK, thanks Rachel --

MADDOW: Thank you Lawrence, cheers man, thank you --

O`DONNELL: Well, two more Republicans dropped out of the presidential race today and the most gracious and the shortest speech that Donald Trump has ever given was his concession speech Monday night in Iowa.

And now even Donald Trump has forgotten about that speech.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s just in, now trending, Trumper tantrum.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS: You have tweeted that Senator Ted Cruz stole the Iowa election.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It was disgraceful. It was a fraud, I mean, come on, you`re not a baby, Greta --

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He`s losing it. We need a commander-in-chief, not a tweeter-in-chief.

TRUMP: Actually, I think I came in first.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You`re a loser!


A loser.

TRUMP: Oh, that voter fraud, you know, these politicians are brutal. They`re brutal.

CRUZ: He had another Trumper tantrum.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think if those two guys beat each other up enough, they can create just an euphoria(ph) for one or more of the establishment guys to rise up.

VAN SUSTEREN: So, are you team Trump or are you team Cruz?

BUSH: I`m on team Jeb. Please clap.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You are suspending --


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Suspending your --

SANTORUM: Our campaign as of this moment.

TRUMP: Oh, I love you --

SANTORUM: We decided to support Marco Rubio.

BUSH: Please clap.



O`DONNELL: The Iowa caucus continues to do its job of forcing the candidates out of the presidential race.

Monday night`s results in Iowa forced Rand Paul and Rick Santorum to finally come to grips with the fact that neither one of them is going to be the next president of the United States.

They both dropped out of the presidential race. Today, Rick Santorum endorsed Marco Rubio and Rand Paul still doesn`t know who he wants to be president.

Chris Christie has not yet announced exactly when he will announce that he is dropping out, but it will probably be no later than the day after the votes are counted in New Hampshire next week.

Now, we all knew Donald Trump was going to hate being a loser, and so we were all very surprised at how gracious his concession speech was in Iowa Monday night when he lost to Ted Cruz.

We were surprised to see Donald Trump delivering exactly the kind of concession speech political professionals would have advised him to give.

For Trump watchers though, he performed it well. Donald Trump clearly hated giving that speech.

The proof being it was the shortest speech of his life. He rushed off the stage and out of Iowa as fast as he could.

But Donald Trump`s handlers cannot control his Twitter finger and today, Donald Trump decided he just couldn`t leave Iowa behind him and started attacking Ted Cruz for stealing the election there.

So, tonight, with less than a week to go before voters go to the polls in New Hampshire, Donald Trump is still trying to win Iowa.


TRUMP: I think what he did is disgusting. He said that Ben Carson, who is a fantastic guy, had dropped out of the race during the caucus, he had dropped out of the race and vote for Ted Cruz.

All of those people, come and vote for Ted Cruz and many of them did. I think it was a disgrace that he did it and I don`t think it should be even allowed.

I think those votes should be taken away and there were plenty of them.


O`DONNELL: Donald Trump used all of those appearance time on "Fox News" tonight to remind people that he lost in Iowa.


TRUMP: No, it`s not a mistake. He did it on purpose. I mean, come on, you`re not a baby, Greta.

He did it on purpose. And then he apologized after all the votes were counted.

That`s thousands of votes that were taken away, which by the way would have given me, in my opinion, would have given me the election.

Because you know, when the people went in, I won by four or five points. Now, I was very happy in second place because a lot of people thought I shouldn`t even go to Iowa and partake, and I came in second place.

But I`ll tell you what, I think what he did was a fraud and what he did with the voter violation statement looking like it came from a government was a fraud, and I think it`s a disgrace that he did it.


O`DONNELL: Remember, this is the same guy who said this 48 hours ago.


TRUMP: I want to congratulate Ted and I want to congratulate all of the incredible candidates --


O`DONNELL: Ted Cruz is using Donald Trump`s latest tantrum as proof that Donald Trump is far too emotionally unstable to be commander-in-chief.


CRUZ: We need a commander-in-chief, not a tweeter-in-chief. We need someone with judgment and the temperament to keep this country safe.

I don`t know anyone who would be comfortable with someone who behaves this way having his finger on the button.

I mean, we`re liable to wake up one morning and Donald, if he were president, would have nuked Denmark. That`s not the temperament of a leader to keep this country safe.


O`DONNELL: Joining us now, Michael Steele, former Republican Party chairman and an Msnbc political analyst.

Wendy Davis, former member of the Texas State Senate, and Jonathan Alter, Msnbc political analyst and columnist for the "Daily Beast".

Michael Steele, can Donald Trump cry-baby his way to the nomination in your party?





Shortened sweet answer, Lawrence, no. Look, OK, so get it out of his system.

The reality is now I think hit Donald Trump that, yes, a lot of people play for keeps in this sport and losing is a big part of it.

As we`ve seen candidates drop to the way side in just the last 24 hours. So, he needs to get this out of his system and hopefully, the day is that and focus on how he`s going to win.

Because polls are now beginning to show he`s losing ground in New Hampshire, and Rubio and Cruz are tightening the noose around him.

So, this is a real test of whether or not he`s built to actually run for the presidency or whether or not this was just a Summer fling that turned into a fall fancy that, you know, was something that ended in Winter.

O`DONNELL: Wendy Davis, given that you`ve been watching Ted Cruz in Texas longer than any of us have, how shocked are you that the Cruz campaign sent out a lie saying that Ben Carson was dropping out of the race.

They sent out that message during the caucuses and then urged people within the caucuses who would be Carson supporters to switch over to Cruz?

WENDY DAVIS, FORMER TEXAS STATE SENATOR: Not shocked at all. This is part and parcel of the character of Ted Cruz.

In Texas, it`s a little bit on the opposite side trying to suppress votes and using tactics that try to keep people at home.

But clearly here in Iowa, what he was doing was trying to make sure that he forced as many people out as possible.

That mailer that he sent out misrepresented itself. It looked as though it was something from the government.

It actually called people`s attention to a possible voter violation and used intimidation to try to get people to actually show up.

I`m sure that he in his vast modeling had modeled those folks and understood that they were likely his voters if he could get them to come.

He`s a very sly politician, and he`s going to use every trick in the bag to be able to win this election.

I think that the mistake that Donald Trump made was to play right into his hand.

And instead of letting third parties maybe point out these possible violations, this possible voter fraud, he took it upon himself to begin to complain.

And allowed Ted Cruz to do exactly what he`s doing right now, which is to call into question Donald Trump`s temperament and his ability to actually serve as president.

O`DONNELL: Jonathan Alter, Ted Cruz is the only campaigner who comes out of Iowa being accused of unethical behavior on two counts.

One is this mailer that seemed to be threatening people that they had to go and participate in the caucuses.

The other is what he did on Ben Carson with lying that he was dropping out of the race.

Sometimes cry-babies are right. Sometimes the things they`re crying about --

ALTER: Yes --

O`DONNELL: Are right. But --

ALTER: Right --

O`DONNELL: When it`s your top two candidates in a presidential race within a party, is it possible that people hearing about what the cry-baby is talking about think Cruz was a bad guy for doing that and they don`t like Cruz and then, oh, they don`t like the cry-baby?

Are both of those results possible here?

ALTER: Yes, which would help Marco Rubio.

O`DONNELL: Sure --

ALTER: I mean, that`s why I think the odds have kind of gone back to where they were a couple of months ago, where Rubio I think is now the favorite for the nomination.

Because he has a path you can see between these two vipers, and there are a lot of, you know, more reasonable Republicans who think that both Trump and Cruz have disqualified themselves from the presidency and they`re moving now to Rubio.

So, you can sense that happening. But before we get there, Donald Trump is not going to go down without a fight.

And next Saturday night, this coming Saturday is going to be great television on "WMUR", their debate in New Hampshire.

Because you know, Trump now has a blood feud with Cruz, because he feels that Cruz really did him dirty.

And he will spend a tremendous -- I think even though Trump is a cheap skate, he will now spend a tremendous amount of money to do anything he can to destroy Ted Cruz.

It`s not like Jeb having low energy or something.

O`DONNELL: Right --

ALTER: I mean, this is something where you -- and also, he`s also going to (INAUDIBLE) cog Rubio on immigration because Rubio isn`t the gang of eight, and that`s where he`s vulnerable --

STEELE: Yes, but --

ALTER: From Trump, so they`re both those things on Saturday.

STEELE: Yes, I was going to say, the other thing to what Jonathan is saying is not just what Ted Cruz or Trump does, specifically Trump.

It`s also what you see Chris Christie beginning to do, and what I suspect you`ll see Kasich and Jeb Bush do as well.

They recognize -- the three of them, that their pathway is blocked by Rubio, and in order to disrupt this 3, 2, 1 strategy, coming in third in New Hampshire, second --

ALTER: Yes --

STEELE: In -- I mean, third in Iowa, second in New Hampshire and first in South Carolina.

The Rubio strategy, they need to block him. So, you`re going to see a whole lot of back and forth in this debate unlike anything I think we`ve seen before, and it will be a real test to see how --

DAVIS: I think that`s true --

STEELE: They hold their temperament and how they --


STEELE: Expand on the noise.

O`DONNELL: Go ahead Wendy --

DAVIS: Right, I think that`s true. It`s fascinating to watch who the victim of the week is going to be in this Republican primary, and clearly I think we are going to see some real fireworks between Cruz and Trump here.

But we`re also going to see these other candidates jumping on board in a very strong way, trying to suppress what they see as Marco Rubio`s rise and the potential that he is going to be the nominee.

And their last ditch effort for those who are left in New Hampshire to try to quash his popularity and try to move themselves forward in some way.

O`DONNELL: And Michael, it may be that this week, a bunch of these candidates eliminate themselves from any future role in this Republican campaign.

Meaning, no speaking slot at the convention. If it`s a Rubio convention, Chris Christie has already knocked himself out of that, just name-calling against Rubio with this boy in the bubble imagery --

STEELE: Sure is --

O`DONNELL: And all this stuff. And some of the others might find themselves in that spot.

I mean, certainly, Donald Trump could find himself in a position where they just can`t have him at the convention based on what he has said about the nominee.

STEELE: Well, I think that depends on how far Donald Trump goes, and quite frankly, I don`t think Christie cares one way or the other.

His goal is just going to be the guy who`s standing on the stage receiving the nomination.

But I think you make a good point, but they`re not thinking about that right now. This is -- this is the blood and guts of getting to that spot where you grab momentum.

Remember, these -- none of these folks have really had any momentum for the last nine months except for Rubio in the last couple of weeks.

So, this is the chance for them to really grab a spotlight that has eluded them up to this point.

And right now, Rubio is in the way on one lane and Ted Cruz is in the way on the other. Donald Trump has always been in the way, they haven`t figured that out.

They`ll deal with that one later if he`s still there, but right now these two obstacles have got to be dealt with by the governors.

ALTER: It`s just amazing to me that this is the party where Ronald Reagan said the 11th commandment is --

STEELE: Oh, please --

ALTER: Do not attack --

O`DONNELL: There`s no commandment --

STEELE: Oh, Jonathan --

O`DONNELL: Anymore --

STEELE: Please --

ALTER: I mean, this is now gone -- this is now gone --


From very vigorous speech, from -- each roller derby --


ALTER: Now --

O`DONNELL: Commandments are gone --

ALTER: It is rough. We`ve never seen anything quite this rough in presidential politics.

O`DONNELL: Michael Steel --

DAVIS: That`s true --

O`DONNELL: And Wendy Davis --

DAVIS: That`s true --

O`DONNELL: Thank you both very much for joining us tonight.

STEELE: You got it --

DAVIS: Thank you --

O`DONNELL: Appreciate it, thank you. Coming up, the Illinois Board of Elections has just ruled on Ted Cruz`s eligibility for their presidential primary ballot.

Harvard law Professor Laurence Tribe will join us. And we`re less than 24 hours away from the Msnbc Democratic debate, the first one-on-one debate of the season.

Coming up, I`ll have the questions that you want Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton to answer, the questions that you`ve sent us today.

Maybe we can get them into the debate tomorrow night. And the best political speech today did not happen on the presidential campaign trail.

Senator Elizabeth Warren takes on America`s two legal systems.


O`DONNELL: A federal grand jury in Oregon has indicted Ammon Bundy and ten others who participated in an armed takeover of a federal bird sanctuary.

The indictment is sealed, but federal prosecutors say the charges will be made public later this week.

Bundy and many other participants were arrested January 26th, during a confrontation with law enforcement in which LaVoy Finicum, one of the protesters there was shot and killed.

Four occupiers have refused to surrender which makes this the 33rd day of the standoff there. Coming up, the Illinois Board of Elections rules on Ted Cruz`s eligibility to be on the presidential ballot.

The professor who taught constitutional law to Ted Cruz, Harvard`s Laurence Tribe will join us next.


O`DONNELL: The Illinois Board of Elections has rejected a challenge to Ted Cruz`s eligibility to be on the state`s presidential primary ballot.

That challenge came from Illinois lawyer on the grounds that Ted Cruz is not a natural-born citizen as the constitution requires for eligibility to be president of the United States.

The Illinois Board of Elections said the candidate is a natural-born citizen by virtue of being born in Canada to a mother who was a United States citizen at the time of his birth.

The Illinois Board of Elections decided that Ted Cruz fit the definition of natural-born citizen because he "did not have to go through a naturalization process at some point after birth."

In January, the New Hampshire Ballot Commission rejected a similar challenge to Ted Cruz`s eligibility, but recognized that the definition of natural-born citizen is not settled law.

And said that the courts should settle the matter so that, "all election officials and the American people know once and for all the definition of natural-born citizen."

Joining us now is Laurence Tribe, professor of constitutional law at Harvard Law School.

And Professor, I feel I have to give you a political Miranda warning that anything you say here can and may very well be used by a presidential candidate out there in the field.

So, let`s --



O`DONNELL: I think -- I think you can go pro se and you`ll do just fine. Professor, your reaction to the decision in Illinois?

TRIBE: Well, I think the Illinois Board of Elections doesn`t know what it`s talking about.

Actually, I`ve read their opinion. They say that for a century, this issue has been settled, there`s no problem, not even worth discussing.

Well, obviously, that`s wrong. Law professors and scholars all over the country are discussing it, more and more are concluding that he is not a natural-born citizen.

I simply said it`s unsettled. I think the New Hampshire guys were right that a court really needs to settle it.

But when the Illinois Board of Elections just kicks this can of worms down the road and ducks so that nobody can hold it to account the way they could if they had ruled the other way.

It`s not showing much courage or much wisdom and certainly no legal understanding.

O`DONNELL: What options did they have, do you think?

TRIBE: Well, I think they could have basically set up a test case by saying we will not allow him to be on the ballot, at least provisionally.

Then Ted Cruz would have had to come out of hiding and sue them to get on the ballot and that would have set up a test case.

Or if they were to get to rule the way they did, they could at least have been honest and said this is a serious question, but we`re doing the best we can in resolving it this way.

But basically, you know, telling an untruth, saying that it`s clear, there`s no problem, just move along, that really was duplicitous, and it`s not worthy of a state election commission.

O`DONNELL: So, in your view, the New Hampshire board handled it in a better way, saying, we`re going to allow him on the ballot, but this is unsettled and we need guidance on this, we need the court basically to make -- to give us guidance on this?

TRIBE: That`s right, I mean, at least that was honest --


TRIBE: Somebody -- some official at some point in this process may well say that he doesn`t belong on the ballot, either during one of the primaries or if he were to become the nominee in the general election.

And at that point, clearly, he or the Republican Party would have to take that public official to court and it would end up in the Supreme Court of the United States, where it could go either way.

I mean, this is not an open and shut question. That`s the one thing that`s clear about it that it`s completely unclear.

Many law scholars have said we`ve studied it, I`ve studied it carefully, and I`ve said that the irony is that if you are a very strict reader of the constitution, you`ll probably go against Cruz.

So, if you are a reader of the constitution who views it really narrowly the way Cruz says he does, then he`s not eligible.

If you read it more generously, like, you know, the way liberals like me tend to read it, then you might well rule for him.

So, he is basically stuck in a catch-22. If his theory of the constitution is right, he doesn`t belong in the presidency.

He`s not eligible. If his theory of the constitution is wrong when it comes to basic human rights, gay rights, racial equality, gender equality, privacy, if his theory is wrong, then maybe he does belong on the ballot.

He could take his pick.

O`DONNELL: Professor Laurence Tribe, thank you once again for giving us your guidance --

TRIBE: Thank you Lawrence --

O`DONNELL: On this matter, really appreciate it.

TRIBE: My pleasure.

O`DONNELL: Coming up next, on the eve of Msnbc`s Democratic debate, your questions for Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You mentioned the word debate. People need to be debating the issues.

Are you going to be participating in the debate with Hillary Clinton tomorrow night?

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The answer is yes, and you know that I have always wanted more debates and Secretary Clinton in the beginning was not so interested in more debates.


O`DONNELL: And so, it`s on. At this hour tomorrow night, the Democrats will be debating in New Hampshire right here on Msnbc.

The first one-on-one debate of the season, where it`d be either one of the parties. Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders will be facing questions from Rachel Maddow and Chuck Todd from 9:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. Eastern.

Back with us for a debate preview, Jonathan Alter also joining us, James Pindell, "Boston Globe" political reporter.

Now, we solicited some questions on Twitter today, got some good ones. Now, I want to use a couple to give examples of what I don`t like in debate questions and what I like.

Melanie(ph) gave us a question that comes from a very nice place in her heart, she says, "how will you unite the nation if you become president."

That is exactly the kind of question I would never ask, because -- no, it just invites one of these sermons --

ALTER: Yes --

O`DONNELL: You know, of utter --

ALTER: Yes --

O`DONNELL: Totally empty --

ALTER: Yes --

O`DONNELL: And you just giving away the time to the --

ALTER: Yes --

O`DONNELL: And now, they would both do it. Here is one that I really like.

This one is, "ask Hillary if it were politically feasible, would you prefer single-payer healthcare to Obamacare?"

In others words, Jonathan, would she prefer, you know, Bernie`s idea since she`s always said going back 20 years, she does think that that`s the best way to do it, it`s just politically impossible to do it.

ALTER: Right, and if you look back at what they call Hillarycare in 1994, it more resembled a single-payer system.

Although it wasn`t the full Canadian system, she`ll have a good answer to that, and then will relate to the fact that there`s not an appetite there on the part of the American people to move to this.

And too many people would be thrown off the health insurance that they like. Millions and millions of people would lose their insurance and then would go on government insurance.

They don`t want to do that, it`s not politically possible, she`s the candidate of what`s possible, not necessarily what`s ideal.

And, she would -- that is an important theme for her is this in some ways a theory of change discussion that Sanders and Clinton are having. And, she has a more pragmatic theory of change and I think she would go to that on her answer to that question.

O`DONNEL: James, what are you hoping to see in the debate tomorrow?

JAMES PINDELL, BOSTON GLOBE POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, look, this is an important moment in this contest. Bernie Sanders is clearly up in New Hampshire, but it is the only state left that he is up in. He is up in, basically, two states, Vermont and in New Hampshire.

I think what Jonathan said was very important. I mean, I think the key questions here is not so much the heart and soul of the Democratic Party as everyone has to say, but I think it is really about the Obama legacy. I mean what do you think this Obama moment meant?

I mean you think that the Obama presidency was transformational, has moved this country left and democrats are left with the choice. Do they think that they need to lock down this Obama legacy, the Obamacare and a number of other things and then maybe tweak them a little bit here and there?

That is the Hillary argument. Or do they need to make another step, another big leap more to the left and push a little bit more. I think that is really the context of this contest right now. And, I think that is something we are going to see on the stage tomorrow night.

O`DONNELL: What is odd about this whole thing is I think as highlighted by one of the tweet questions -- tweeted questions we got today, tony tweeted. Given Obama`s difficulties with the GOP, what makes Bernie feel will feel differently. You can also substitute the word Hillary there, because I have not heard either one of these candidates say a single thing that Paul Ryan`s House of Representatives will even have a hearing on, never mind to have a vote on.

ALTER: Yes, but I mean before you can get to the republicans, Bernie Sanders is not a democrat. And, it is really hard to be an effective president if you do not have your own party.

O`DONNELL: How do we not talk about a republican congress when we talk about a democratic president?

ALTER: Well, you have to talk about that especially -- Well, Hillary is in a position where she can use some of her skills and her relationships to build bridges across the aisle. Sanders did that on veterans, but in most cases, he would not.

So, he is talking about a 10 or 15 year project to change the whole context of American politics before anything would happen in a Sanders administration. So, it is a little bit of a -- your heart versus your head question. But the challenge for Hillary is what are her big ideas, her aspirational ideas?

People do not vote on experience. They do not vote on, "Oh, I will bring you some incremental fixes". They want to know where you are going to take the county and what your vision of the future is. And, she is still too focused on the past. She is too much of a 20th candidate and this is a 21st century campaign.

O`DONNELL: And, congress is all about compromise. Go ahead, James. Go ahead.

PINDELL: No. I was going to say, I hear something different. I do not hear this -- I agree with Jonathan, the fact that I do not hear her or you talking about how they are going to compromise with republicans. I think the argument right now from Hillary is, "I will fight with republicans".

Bernie Sanders is giving an argument that is not even an argument. It is not a way to fight with republicans. You hear her use the word fighter so often here in New Hampshire and obviously you heard it in Iowa.

She has a credibility that you may not like me, that her poll numbers show that you may not even trust me. But, with the one thing you do know about me is that I will fight tooth and nail with republicans and the same republicans who fought with tooth and nail with president Obama.

O`DONNELL: And, if republicans continue to control the legislative process in either body, when she fights with republicans --

ALTER: They are going to have the house.

O`DONNELL: All right. Let us agree they are going to have the house.


O`DONNELL: So, what is Paul Ryan going to surrender to Hillary Clinton on?

ALTER: Well, you know, if you actually look at what has happened, especially in lame duck sessions, but often at the end of the year over the last seven years when there is not a lame duck, the democrats and republicans have gotten a series of things done together as recently as a month ago. You know, so there --

O`DONNELL: But, it is basic government maintenance. It is not anything more than that.

ALTER: Right. But, I mean, you could envision them getting something done on infrastructure, on certain kinds of public investments. I do not think it is impossible to get anything done in eight years, but what we have to look at is who can begin to move the ball down the field? And, I think that is where Clinton has an advantage.

Sanders today said that you cannot both be a moderate and a progressive. Well, almost every democratic president from Harry Truman to Barack Obama has been both a moderate and a progressive. For him to say they are mutually exclusive to set up that kind of, you know, dichotomy in the Democratic Party that you cannot be both moderate and progressive, I do not think that is going to sit well with democrats.

O`DONNELL: All right. We got to break it there for tonight. James Pindell, thanks for joining us tonight. Jonathan and I will see you up in New Hampshire this weekend.

ALTER: Good.

PINDELL: Thank you. See you then.

O`DONNELL: Coming up President Obama visited an American mosque today, first time during his presidency. And, the house of representatives began its investigation of the crisis in Flint, Michigan.




DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country`s representatives can figure out what the hell is going on.



O`DONNELL: Perhaps in response to that, today President Obama gave a speech at the Islamic Society of Baltimore. It was his first visit to a mosque in the United States during his presidency.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If we are serious about freedom of religion and I am speaking now to my fellow Christians, who remain the majority in this country, we have to understand an attack on one faith is an attack on all our faiths.


And, when any religious group is targeted, we all have a responsibility to speak up. And, we have to reject a politics that seeks to manipulate prejudice or bias and targets people of religion.


O`DONNELL: The president had this message for young people.


PRES. OBAMA: I want to speak directly to the young people who may be listening. In our lives, we all have many identities. We are sons and daughters and brothers and sisters. We are classmates. We are cub scout, troop members. We are followers of our faith. We are citizens of our country.

And, today, there are voices in this world, particularly over the internet, who are constantly claiming that you have to choose between your identities as a Muslim for example or an American. Do not believe them. If you are ever wondering whether you fit in here, let me say it as clear as I can as president of the United States, you fit in here, right here. You are right where you belong. You are part of America too. You are not Muslim or American, your Muslim and American.



O`DONNELL: Joining us now, Asra Nomani, a co-founder of the Muslim Reform Movement and the author of "Standing Alone: An American Woman`s Struggle For the soul of Islam". And, back with us, Jonathan Alter. Asra, I would like to get your reaction to the president`s speech today.

ASRA NOMANI, CO-FOUNDER OF MUSLIM REFORM MOVEMENT: Well, I did not actually watch the president`s speech as it was happening, because I was standing outside on Johnny Cake Road by the police security barriers, protesting President Obama`s presence at that mosque.

While his words are wonderful in theory, what he does not seem to understand is that many of us as Muslim women try to go into these mosques as places where we believe we belong, and we are told to go through back doors and to go through back stairwells into basements and into balconies.

And, I am not speaking only hypothetically, because on Sunday I went to that Islamic Society of Baltimore, I walked through the front door, asked to go to the prayer hall. I was led to the third floor, where there is this darkened space. It looks over the beautiful majestic space that you can see President Obama speaking in.

All of those people who are there, are allowed entry on this special interfaith day. And, women are unfortunately barred in two out of three mosques in America when conditions that are separate and unequal.

And, on that Sunday what I witnessed standing at the doors of the main prayer hall, which President Obama stood there today and spoke, I watched a woman tell the girls to go pray in the gymnasium, in those darken space below the basketball hoops. And, the boys got to go pray into that beautiful space in which president Obama stood.

And, so, I think while his words are wonderful in principal, what they do not reflect is the struggle that we are having within our own faith for the soul of Islam. And, unfortunately, the President Obama has taken sides with the hyper conservatives interpretation of Islam that then targets liberals and mainstream and feminists within our own faith. And, that is the real tragedy to me.

O`DONNELL: Jonathan.

ALTER: You know, with all due respect to my "Daily Beast" colleague, Asra. I strongly disagree with what you just said as it applies to the president`s visit. You know, I am Jewish. And, Orthodox Jews have the same kind of separation in their synagogues. It is horrible. I think it is a blight on my faith that they do that. But, that is not what the president`s appearance was about.

NOMANI: I understand what you are saying.

ALTER: He spoke very eloquently to something that is important for non- Muslims to understand. It was a message to non-Muslims as well as to Muslims. He was not trying to settle various disputes within Islam. He was trying to talk about what it means to be an American. And, this is something we need to hear now very much. I think we are going to miss this man when he leaves the presidency.

NOMANI: You may need to hear this --

ALTER: Not me.


ALTER: Other Americans need to hear it.

NOMANI: Well, I will tell you I am an American and I did not need to hear that message, because I feel very comfortable in this country. I feel very safe. But where I do not feel safe is going into my mosques. We are afraid when we go into our mosques. We are afraid of walking into the shadows of men who are going to scold us?

And, I am going to tell you something, Jonathan. If there was a church that said that blacks had to pray in a balcony, and that there was a president that went to that church and said that it was a never issue that we need to discuss that is of greater importance, we would all be disgusted. And, you even ironically called it a blight. For anybody to then endorse a space in which we have such strong words as that, I think it is a real tragedy.

ALTER: He was not endorsing space. He was not endorsing that gender segregation. That was not the president`s discussion.

NOMANI: I can tell you that for those of us standing outside including my 83-year-old father, who has fought in our own Mosque in Morgantown, West Virginia for the right of woman to have presence in those spaces, it was a very great insult. And, I will tell you something else. To throw women under the bus like that is a real tragedy.

And, to me, it is really ironic especially the time when the president is pushing for equal pay and is pushing for greater benefits for women in the military. This is the tragedy for all times for women. We are always thrown under the bus.

We were the last to get the right to vote in America. And, today, I am so sad to be hearing from you as a colleague the same kind of evaluation that ends up saying, "You know what? Your values, your needs are not as important as these greater needs."

O`DONNELL: Asra, can I ask you quickly before -- we are running out of time. Could the White House have chosen a better location for a speech like this?

NOMANI: Unfortunately, like I said two out of three mosques in this country have these kind of blightful conditions as Jonathan just actually put forward. We have some that are more liberal and more mainstream, if you ask me. To values of Islam, it would have been very difficult, but I think he could have found a better choice. And, you know what? Why not just have a lovely potluck dinner anyway? Why do you have go to a mosque.

ALTER: He has done that in the past. He has done the potluck dinners in the past.

NOMANI: You know what, that is great. Do it again. Do it again.

ALTER: I think this was an important message to send. It was also given the political context in the attacks by the republicans. Donald Trump today said he felt -- Obama felt comfortable at the mosque.

NOMANI: It was a very tragic symbol.

ALTER: That is the level of rare attacks. And, I think he is trying to say to them -- he is trying to push back and say to all of them to the entire Republican Party and the American people, Muslims are Americans too.

NOMANI: We know that. We know that we are Americans.

ALTER: You might know it, but they do not. Donald Trump does not know it.

NOMANI: You know what. We do not need to speak to Donald Trump in order to find our agenda.

ALTER: You need to speak to his voters.

NOMANI: And, I find it unfortunate that we end up having to make political calculations, especially when Islam is being battled on such a political battle. We need to return to issues of faith and spirituality. And, this ended up becoming just another political agenda. And what ends up coming - - what becomes the issue at cost then? All of the noble efforts for reform that many of us are fighting to do.

And, so tonight just hours after coming back, rain drenched from that street on Johnnycake Road. What happened on Twitter now, I am being attacked as the islamphobe and the anti-Muslim that this politics want to try to generate. And, what we have to do is come back to a place where we support reformers that want to pursue the progressive values of America.

O`DONNELL: All right. We are going to have to leave it there for tonight. Asra Nomani, thank you very much for joining us. And, Jonathan Alter, thank you for sticking with me with our show tonight. I appreciate it.

ALTER: It is my pleasure.

NOMANI: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, the best presidential candidate the democrats have who is not running for president.



O`DONNELL: The most powerful political speech given today was not given in New Hampshire or anywhere on the presidential campaign trail. It was given by the most prominent senator, who chose not to run for president this year.


SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN, (D) MASSACHUSETTS: We have one set of law on the books, but there are really two legal systems. One legal system is for big corporations, for the wealthy and the powerful. The second system is for everyone else.

In this second system, whoever breaks the law can be held accountable. Government enforcement is not timid here. It is aggressive. Consequences be damned. Just ask the families of Sandra Bland, Freddie Gray and Michael Brown about how aggressive they are.


O`DONNELL: Senator Elizabeth Warren spoke this morning about a new report issued by her office entitled, "Rigged Justice" about lax law enforcement of corporate crime. And, she strongly objected to attempts by her colleagues to sabotage bipartisan criminal justice reform for non-violent offenders.


SEN. WARREN: But now, all of a sudden, some republicans are threatened to block a reform unless congress includes a so-called mens rea amendment to make it much harder for the government to prosecute hundreds of corporate crimes. Crimes from everything from wire fraud to mislabeling prescription drugs.

In other words, for these republicans, the price of helping out people unjustly locked up in jail for years will be to make it even harder to lock up a white collar criminal for even a single day. That is shameful. Shameful.

The American people expect better from us. They expect us to straighten out our criminal justice system and reform drug enforcement practices that do nothing but destroy lives and communities. They expect us to stand up against unjustified violence, but they also expect us to protect the financial system and to hold Wall Street executives accountable when they break the law.

They expect us to hold big companies accountable when they steal billions of dollars from taxpayers when they rip off students or veterans or retirees or single moms or when they cover up health or safety problems and people get sick, people get hurt or people die because of it.

The American people know that we have two legal systems, but they expect us to fix it. They expect us to stand for justice. They expect us to once again honor the simple notion that in America nobody is above the law.


O`DONNELL: Congressman Elijah Cummings was outraged today at the House of Representatives` first hearing on the crisis in Flint. That is next.


O`DONNELL: House democrats today objected that Michigan`s Governor Rick Snyder was not invited to the first hearing on the Flint crisis.


REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS, (D) MARYLAND: I do not care whether it is EPA, whether it is local, whether it is state, I want everybody who is responsible for this fiasco to be held accountable. I am not protecting anybody because that is not our job. We are the last line of defense. If we do not do it, nobody is going to do it.


O`DONNELL: Joining us now, Virg Bernero, Mayor of Lansing Michigan. He also ran against Governor Snyder in 2010. Mr. Mayor, republicans control the witnesses at those hearings and the invitations to those hearings. For some reason, the republicans did not want to hear from the republican governor.

MAYOR VIRG BERNERO, (D) LANSING, MICHIGAN: I will tell you, Elijah Cummings outrage did my heart good. And, I am sure it did to all the residents of Flint and people of Michigan. The public confidence has been breached to such an extent, Lawrence. You know, the old attitude about, we are here from the government and we are here to help.

Literally, nobody believes that in Flint. They do not know who to believe. They cannot trust state officials. They cannot trust federal officials. The governor has said he takes responsibility. He said the bus stop with him. If that is the case, let him go before the congress and explain exactly what happened.

I think he owes that to the nation and to the citizens of Michigan. There is a crisis in confidence in Michigan. There is so much to be done. There is plenty outrage. The one thing about that hearing, I do not about you, Lawrence, but I felt finally, that there was some by partisanship.

At least we can agree that people deserve clean water. At least, democrats and republicans seemed to agree on that idea that people should not be poisoned by the government in terms of water. That is progress, I guess.

O`DONNELL: And their job is to try to get at the lines of responsibility including federal that they have a specific jurisdiction over there. And, what they got was finger pointing of one group to another.

MAYOR BERNERO: Right. I mean the state -- but clearly the state has primary responsibility. And, again, yes, there is a little bit of finger pointing, but it is clear the state was running the city through this incredible emergency manager law in Michigan that gives kingly powers to the governor.

The governor, through his appointee runs that city, just like he was running the city of Detroit. So, clearly, the responsibility was there and the responsibility for the clean water act and the lead regulations is with the state department of environmental quality. And, so they owe -- they have to fix this. If you break it, you buy it. And, they broke Flint and they got a lot to fix.

O`DONNELL: That is going to have to be the "Last Word" tonight. Lansing Mayor, Virg Bernero, thank you very much for joining us tonight. I really appreciate it.

MAYOR BERNERO: Thanks Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Chris Hayes is up next.