The Last Word With Lawrence O'Donnell, Transcript 12/14/2016

Guests: Gary Peters, Howard Dean, Ken Vogel, Cecile Richards

Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL Date: December 14, 2016 Guest: Gary Peters, Howard Dean, Ken Vogel, Cecile Richards

JOY REID, MSNBC HOST: And now it`s time for THE LAST WORD with Lawrence O`Donnell, good evening, sir Lawrence.

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOSt: Great to see you in the middle of the week, Joy.

REID: Absolutely, same to you, have a great show --

O`DONNELL: And I`ll be watching on the weekend of course --

REID: Thank you very much --

O`DONNELL: Thank you, Joy --

REID: Good night --

O`DONNELL: Thank you. Breaking news tonight, NBC News reporting exclusively that intelligence sources now say Vladimir Putin was personally involved in the successful efforts to interfere with the 2016 presidential election.

And Republican Senator Lindsey Graham tonight says he might not vote to confirm Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State.

And also, Elizabeth Warren making a very important move that could be a first step in a presidential campaign.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Tonight, NBC News can report that Vladimir Putin was personally involved in the Russian attempt to disrupt the U.S. election.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Most certainly, he likes President-elect Trump`s views on Russia.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: Wouldn`t it be great if we actually got along with Russia?

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: They`ve been destabilizing democracies all over the world.

MADELEINE ALBRIGHT, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE, UNITED STATES: It is really an act of foreign espionage. And it has to be dealt with.

TRUMP: We`re going to have the best people in the world and you see the people we`re getting.

STEPHEN COLBERT, COMEDIAN & TELEVISION HOST: So far, it`s been a who is who of why? What?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Many of these cabinet appointments could have big problems.

And I would, again, put Secretary of State at the top of that list.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think people want to hear how he views our relationship with Russia.

GRAHAM: I can`t imagine I would vote for anybody that believes that we should not sanction Russia, given the fact that they did in fact interfere in our election.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The conflict of interest is something that is written on Mr. Tillerson`s forehead.

It is absolutely a gift for Putin.

SETH MEYERS, COMEDIAN & TELEVISION HOST: Tillerson has the support of Dick Cheney, Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump. That only leaves one person.



MEYERS: It`s unanimous.



O`DONNELL: Tonight, NBC News has exclusive new reporting on Russian interference in the presidential election.

The U.S. intelligence community publicly revealed in October that it is confident that the Russian government interfered in the presidential election.

And at the time said only Russia`s senior most officials could have authorized these activities. At the time the intelligence community did not name any of those possible Russian officials.

But tonight, intelligence officials tell NBC News that they now have, "a high level of confidence that Russian President Vladimir Putin became personally involved in the covert Russian campaign to interfere in the U.S. presidential election.

Two senior officials with direct access to new intelligence tell NBC News, "Putin personally directed how hacked material from Democrats was leaked and otherwise used."

Joining us now, Ken Delanian; intelligence and national security reporter for NBC News in the investigative unit.

He helped break this story tonight. Ken, what are the -- what gives them the confidence now that they basically have Vladimir Putin`s fingerprints?

KEN DELANIAN, NBC NEWS INTELLIGENCE & NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: Well, Lawrence, we don`t know the answer to that question.

And it`s probably a good thing that we don`t, because it would involve very sensitive sources and methods.

What we do know is that there are human sources at play here. We`re told that it involves an allied service of the United States and some diplomatic sources.

But clearly, it`s people who have access to Putin and know what he is involved in. On the one hand, it`s not terribly surprising to learn that Putin authorized this operation.

I thought it was a covert operation even in the United States when the CIA conducts covert operation, the president authorizes it, right?

But what`s surprising here is that U.S. intelligence has been able to ferret this out to their satisfaction.

To a high level of confidence and that we`ve been able to -- you know, my colleagues, Willie Mark(ph) and Cindy McFalden(ph) to learn about it, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: In October, their statement was that this was being approved by high level Russian officials. That was read by virtually everyone to mean Vladimir Putin at that time.

DELANIAN: Yes, absolutely, but that was a judgment. That was an analytical assessment based on the way the intelligence community understands Russia to work.

This is more like -- hey, we have figured this out through intelligent sources and methods.

And the other interesting thing about this is, they`ve determined that Putin was personally involved in directing how to use some of the hack material.

We don`t know exactly how, we don`t have those details. But just that they`ve learned that is sort of remarkable to me.

O`DONNELL: Now, retaliation is always a consideration when they feel they have proof of the origin of this kind of thing.

Is there any contemplation of that, that you`re aware of at this point?

DELANIAN: Yes, so there is absolutely a lot of discussion about it. And it`s been going on for months, even before this latest revelation about how to handle this. And the Obama administration has been criticized for its lack of an open response.

But there`s certainly proposals on the table to embarrass Vladimir Putin, including to -- you know, to examine his bank accounts.

He is believed to have amassed some $85 billion in assets in Russia through corrupt means. And there is ways that the United States could expose that. But that also opens the possibility of a cyber retaliation by Russia.

So, there are perils to any kind of response, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: What are they saying about Putin`s motivation? Was this directed at defeating Hillary Clinton and electing Donald Trump?

DELANIAN: So, as you know, there is a disagreement in the intelligence community, but there are different views.

The CIA has assessed that, yes, Putin and Russia`s goal was to elect Trump and defeat Clinton. But what everybody`s reason is that, Putin has had a vendetta against Clinton for a lot of years.

I mean, she made some very strong statements about a Russian parliamentary election being not on the level back in 2011, and she`s been pretty tough on Russia.

So, it was pretty clear that, you know, the hacks of material hurt Clinton`s candidacy and helped Trump.

Well, regardless of whether their motive was to elect Trump, whether they believed Trump was going to win, the goal was definitely to damage Clinton, according to the intelligence community.

O`DONNELL: Ken, before you go, quickly, I wanted to get in a note about retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, Donald Trump`s choice to be national security adviser. "Washington Post" report about how he was disciplined for revealing classified information.

At a certain point, he took the position that he was authorized, he`s publicly taken the position he was authorized to release that information. What is your reporting on that?

DELANIAN: Well, I just want to point out he wasn`t actually disciplined, and that`s an interesting part of this.

He was investigated, and the investigation found that he actually shared classified information with foreign governments without proper authorization.

Now, he says it was with allies, Australia and Britain, specifically in Afghanistan on the battlefield.

But where -- but he specifically said he had permission. And the documents that the "Post" obtained that we reviewed today says that he didn`t.

But then the documents go on to say but we`re taking no action against him. He ended up getting promoted and he got his third star.

But he was definitely in limbo and hung up for a good eight months while this investigation took place.

And of course, during the campaign, he was very critical of Hillary Clinton for her handling of classified information through her e-mail. So, these revelations are getting a lot of scrutiny today.

O`DONNELL: Yes, he was one of the leaders of the "lock her up" chant. He also said at certain points if he had done one-tenth of what Hillary Clinton had done, he would be in jail. According to these reports, he did one-tenth of what she had done.

DELANIAN: Well, he certainly shared classified information without authorization according to these documents.

O`DONNELL: At least one-tenth. NBC`s Ken Delanian, thank you very much for joining us tonight, I really appreciate it.

DELANIAN: Thanks for having me, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Gary Peters is Democratic Senator from Michigan, he is -- he and eight other senators are calling for a national intelligence estimate to determine the extent of the Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Senator Peters joins us now. Senator, what is your reading of the news we`re getting tonight now confirmed by NBC that Vladimir Putin personally involved in this hacking and directing how to use the information once it was obtained?

SEN. GARY PETERS (D), MICHIGAN: Well, Lawrence, it`s extremely troubling. And it seems as if as more information comes out, it becomes more and more troubling that it is becoming increasingly obvious that the Russians were engaged in activities in an attempt to manipulate the election, a direct attack on our national sovereignty.

It`s -- this is about national security. And to have Mr. Putin directing these activities and evidence proving that, although certainly we would have thought that he would have been behind it.

But now that we have these direct links, these should be something that every American is outraged about.

O`DONNELL: And you would like to see the full revelation of the intelligence community`s work product here.

Is that -- is that what you`re asking for?

PETERS: Well, we like a national intelligence estimate to be done. Which really brings all the intelligence agencies together to give us a comprehensive report so that we have a better understanding of the extent of Russian involvement in our election.

Which, as you know, is unprecedented to have a foreign government so active in an election. So, we want to go through that.

But we believe that you`ve got to have this process go forward in a bipartisan way and there needs to be transparency.

And although the estimate itself will have classified materials, we think we can have a report of some of the findings that can be done in an open, transparent way so that every American can be sure as to what happened and assess this really unprecedented attack on American sovereignty and an attack on our own national security.

O`DONNELL: Senator, with the leaks out now, as of tonight, is there -- is there -- would there still be some reason why the intelligence community would not want to do some version of a public report?

PETERS: No, I think, you know, obviously some of the ways in which they find that information is classified and we have to continue to keep that classified.

But some of the conclusions that came out of those kinds of investigations should be made public.

You know, this is -- this is an unprecedented attack on the very core foundation of our democracy.

That we do not have a foreign government interfering with the American people deciding who will be the next president of the United States.

We need to know this, and once we find that information and the American people see it, we need to take action.

We have to make sure that the Russian government understands that this is simply unacceptable, and there will be significant and severe consequences as a result of this behavior.

O`DONNELL: I want to listen to a statement that Leon Panetta made today. Obviously, in reaction to Donald Trump`s resistance to this information and to the information that everyone seems to be accepting here about Russian involvement.

And Leon Panetta said "if we endure another attack and the intelligence officials had indications or information regarding that attack.

And the president did not want to listen to that for whatever reason, the responsibility for that attack would fall on the president." What`s your reaction to Leon Panetta`s statement?

PETERS: Well, my reaction is the president-elect needs to take this very seriously. You know, it`s curious in his reaction as this evidence is coming out by a respected intelligence officials that he seems to be taking the Russian government`s position.

I can`t remember where a president-elect and soon to be commander-in-chief is going to take the position of a foreign government over the trained professionals of our intelligence community.

I serve on the Homeland Security Committee. I have an opportunity to work with these intelligence officials.

They are patriotic Americans, they care deeply about their country. They care deeply about our national security.

And have a president-elect dismiss what they are saying and take the Russian position is simply unprecedented. And I can`t imagine why there is not more outrage by the American people.

O`DONNELL: Senator, is the Homeland Security Committee capable of doing a thorough investigation of this?

Or do you believe that there should be a new select committee as Senator McCain would like to see, especially designed, and to investigate exactly this?

PETERS: Well, there are a number of committees that could do this. We could have a select committee, certainly, that`s one option. And my committee, Homeland Security could do it, Armed Services, Intelligence.

I think the bottom line is that we want to make sure that this is bipartisan, and that there is complete transparency for the American people.

So, there are a number of avenues that can be taken. In fact, having one or two or three committees looking into this could also be helpful.

The important thing is we have to get it done. We have to take this as serious as it is and make sure that we`re putting all of our efforts together to make sure we get to the bottom.

And have the facts so that we can make a proper assessment and then take proper significant action in response.

O`DONNELL: And Senator, as a member of the Homeland Security Committee and knowing the kinds of threats that are out there that intelligence is trying to penetrate.

What is your reaction to Donald Trump saying that he does not take the president`s daily briefing?

He doesn`t take that briefing every day, he only takes it when he feels that there is something new?

PETERS: It`s shocking actually that he would say that. We are dealing with a very complex situation around the world.

It is important to take those daily briefings, things can change gradually. They can change dramatically.

They are very nuanced. And if you`re not doing daily briefings and following all of the threats that we face as Americans, then quite frankly, you`re simply not doing your job as a commander-in-chief.

And that`s what he is telling the American people. Is that he doesn`t want to do his job, apparently.

You know, this is not a reality TV show that he is in. He is now becoming the president of the United States. It requires much more effort than being on a reality TV show.

O`DONNELL: And senator, quickly before we go, an expanding group of electors has requested an intelligence briefing on these matters before the electoral college votes. Would you support that?

PETERS: Well, you know, I am sure that these folks are not cleared for the types of security clearance that you need for that sort of information.

I think the course of action we need to take right now, as my fellow senators have requested is that we have a national intelligence estimate.

We have those conclusions put out so that all of the American people can see the evidence and can see the extent to which the Russians were involved in manipulating our election.

O`DONNELL: Senator Gary Peters of Michigan, thank you very much for joining us tonight, I appreciate it.

PETERS: Thank you, Lawrence, thank you.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, Senator Lindsey Graham suggests that he will vote against Donald Trump`s choice for Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, depending on what Rex Tillerson has to say about Russia in his confirmation hearing.

Also tonight, the big step Elizabeth Warren is taking that could be a first step in her presidential campaign.


O`DONNELL: Why Lindsey Graham might be the Republican who stands up to lead Republican opposition to Donald Trump`s choice for Secretary of State. That`s next.


O`DONNELL: Republican resistance continues over Donald Trump`s nominee for Secretary of State, ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson.

Here is Senator Lindsey Graham tonight.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN: If he tells the committee he still opposes sanctions against Russia, what will be your reaction?

GRAHAM: I can`t imagine I would vote for anybody that believes that we should not sanction Russia given the fact that they did in fact interfere in our election.

They`ve been destabilizing democracies all over the world. If somebody wants to be Secretary of State and they hear the briefings that I`ve heard and they don`t believe the Russians were involved in our election, interfering in our elections, then I really question their judgment.

If they don`t believe sanctions are appropriate, given what Putin has been doing all over the world, including our backyard, then I don`t think they have the judgment to be Secretary of State.


O`DONNELL: The "Wall Street Journal" reports Moscow is celebrating Rex Tillerson`s nomination.

"Mr. Tillerson is very well-known to the important people here." The head of the council on foreign and defense policy which advises the "Kremlin" said: "this news is better than any other possible person for this position."

And a pro "Kremlin" political commentator told the "Wall Street Journal", "Rex Tillerson is some kind of Christmas gift from the American people to the Russian people."

Joining us now Howard Dean; former chairman of the Democratic National Committee and an Msnbc political analyst.

Also with us, Ken Vogel; chief investigative reporter for "Politico". Howard Dean, if Tillerson is a Christmas gift, it wasn`t from the American people, it was from --


O`DONNELL: Trump Tower.

DEAN: You know, I can understand talking to your enemies, I mean, that makes sense --

O`DONNELL: Sure --

DEAN: Diplomacy. And the problem is, the only likely deal to come out of that is that the United States of America is going to trade away somebody else`s sovereignty for money for companies like Exxon.

Now, that is a complete denial of who we are as a nation.

O`DONNELL: Ken Vogel, Lindsey Graham couldn`t be clear. It`s one absolute principle of getting his vote is sanctions, and Tillerson has been opposed to sanctions.

So, he would have to go into this confirmation hearing and say he fully supports sanctions and Lindsey Graham wants more sanctions than we have now on Russia.

Donald Trump has not said a word about any possibility of more sanctions. It`s going to be a fascinating hearing.

KEN VOGEL, CHIEF INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER, POLITICO: Yes, and there`s a few moving parts here that I think are shaping up as the first real flash point between the Republican Party or particularly on foreign policy and on approach to Russia and Donald Trump.

There is the Tillerson nomination as well as the possibility of sanctions and the investigation into the hacking.

Which you hear a number of congressional Republicans, including very prominent ones voicing support for as Donald Trump opposes those investigations.

So, in the end, I think that probably Tillerson will be confirmed. But the fascinating thing will be what the trade-offs, if any are.

If Donald Trump is able to get his way, Tillerson confirmed, no additional sanctions, no real sort of aggressive inquiry into the hacking.

That will be an indication that Donald Trump -- it`s Donald Trump`s Republican Party, and he is going to face very little resistance.

O`DONNELL: Well, Howard, all he has to do is lose one Republican on the committee, and then the nomination doesn`t get through the committee.

DEAN: Here`s what --

O`DONNELL: Needs to -- if they lose three Republicans on the Senate floor, then they lose this nomination.

DEAN: This is a fascinating thing. Trump has gotten away with his usual sort of bluster, not having press conferences, the last one he had was in July and not revealing his tax returns.

All this is unprecedented, rewriting the rules. You cannot rewrite the rules of the Senate and the confirmation hearing --

O`DONNELL: Right --

DEAN: As you know well, so, all those questions that Trump hasn`t answered for six or eight months, these people he`s confirmed, who are several of whom are very controversial, not just this one.

They`re going to have to ask those questions, and if they don`t answer them, it`s going to be very hard for most Republicans to vote for them.

O`DONNELL: And Ken, the loyalty to Donald Trump in the Senate, I have a suspicion it maybe an inch deep at most.

There`s -- obviously there was a very little relationship between Donald Trump and most senators when he was running his campaign.

A lot of them tried to avoid the Trump campaign as much as possible. And it seems to me all they need is one or two mistakes in the confirmation hearing process on the Trump side of that table, and they`re all in trouble.

VOGEL: One or two mistakes, and as Governor Dean mentioned, just one or two members --


VOGEL: Republican senators. And so you look at the group of senators who were sort of cool towards him during the primary, two of them actually ran against him, Marco Rubio and Lindsey Graham.

And they are among those who expressed reservations about Tillerson and about the approach towards Russia.

So, it wouldn`t necessarily be hard to foresee them, you know, coming to a place where they might have -- express serious concerns and maybe even vote against.

Now, that said, everyone who has expressed concerns within the Republican Party from leadership to this point has eventually fallen in line.

Whether it`s Mitch McConnell or Paul Ryan, even Marco Rubio eventually came around during the general election.

So, they haven`t really shown necessarily -- they`ve shown they want to put party unity ahead of some of these -- what we think of is really key principles for them on foreign policy and other issues.

O`DONNELL: But Howard, Marco Rubio just got re-elected to a six-year term. He`s got a term that out-lives this presidency.

And we know he doesn`t like Donald Trump. We saw him on the campaign trail calling Donald Trump a con man and all that stuff. He is the one on the Foreign Relations Committee, that`s the vote. If his vote --

DEAN: Right --

O`DONNELL: Goes the wrong way, then Tillerson does not get through the Foreign Relations Committee, and he has already expressed some resistance.

DEAN: And I hate to say this because we`re talking about 2020 already. But supposing Trump is a one-term president by his own choice, my guess is, his numbers aren`t going to be that good, although I was wrong every week - -

O`DONNELL: Right --

DEAN: For the last year --

O`DONNELL: Right --

DEAN: And a half. So, if I were Marco Rubio, I would want to position myself against Trump for the sake of possibly running in 2020 which he is more than young enough to do. So, this -- you know, this is very complicated as it always is in the United States Senate.

I think Ken is right, though. On the substance here, this is not where the Republican Party has been for the last 70 years.

And it`s hard for me to believe these Senators are going to swallow too much if -- the other problem is this guy is a businessman.

Businessmen are not used to having their decisions as openly discussed and challenged in a political forum as they always been their thin skin, Trump`s thin skin is going to be fascinating.

O`DONNELL: And Ken, the facts are not staying static. It`s moving underneath them.

So, now you have tonight a confirmation that Vladimir Putin was directly involved in manipulating the hacks, deciding where the information would go.

How to use it, presumably, how to get it to WikiLeaks, what to give to them. And so this -- the base of information here is just growing by the day.

VOGEL: Yes, it was so surprising that Trump came out so aggressively and dismissively about the notion of an investigation.

You know, calling the CIA finding that Russia intervened to help Donald Trump -- ridiculous. You know, it seems to me that an investigation, you know, he should step back, let it run its course.

And there is no determinative evidence that in fact what Russia did, this meddling, even if it was intended to help Trump was actually pivotal or even significant in swaying votes or many more points in the campaign.

That we saw where there was a sharp turn in polls that was not related to anything that came out of WikiLeaks.

Something of the "Access Hollywood" tapes, even James Comey coming out and saying that there was new evidence in the investigation into Hillary Clinton`s e-mails. Those are both much more significant than anything that came out of WiKileaks.

So, it would seem to me that it would be in Trump`s best interest to kind of just sit this one out. But he almost seems incapable, like he just has --

O`DONNELL: It`s true --

VOGEL: To take the bait. He did so in this case, and I think it put him in a position where it just -- one of a number of these issues that are shaping up, you know, on a real collision course between him and some of the foreign policy hawks in his party.

O`DONNELL: Yes, and Howard, quickly, before we go. When you think of that impulsiveness of Donald Trump, especially when he is watching TV, sees something he doesn`t like --

VOGEL: Yes --

O`DONNELL: Now, let`s imagine him watching the Senate confirmation hearing. He sees a question he doesn`t like. He tweets something --

VOGEL: Right --

O`DONNELL: That`s the kind of thing that could just blow up here.

DEAN: Sure, because it`s one thing to go after somebody when they`re running for election.


DEAN: If you`re going win your nomination, it`s another thing to go after a sitting senator who has a six-year term and try to embarrass them in front of the country.

That is not going to play well in the United States Senate.

O`DONNELL: Howard Dean, thank you very much for joining us tonight, I really appreciate it.

Coming up, what President Obama did today to protect Planned Parenthood. Cecile Richards will join us.

Also, Elizabeth Warren made a major move in the Senate, an inside the Senate move that for some has been a first step in a presidential campaign.



RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Who are you going to pick as your running mate in 2020? Do you see what I did there?

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D), MASSACHUSETTS: No, no, I don`t know. That is a long way off. What we got to do right now is we don`t have energy to waste on that.


WARREN: What we have is we got to line up our fights.


O`DONNELL: Senator Elizabeth Warren made a major move in the senate. She gave up the energy committee in order to transfer over to the Armed Services Committee. She is now going to be a member of the Armed Services Committee. That makes her a player in what may be the second most important confirmation hearing in the confirmation hearing season coming up in January. That is of the secretary of defense.

So mad dog -- from general "mad dog" Mattis, James Mattis that hearing. The Boston Globe notice this report -- notice this move and says Warren`s move should encourage her progressive fan base who would like to see her run for president. Warren a liberal Harvard law professor has no military experience, and would need to fill that gap should she decide to seek the democratic nomination for president in four years. Senator Hillary Clinton, of course, served on the armed services committee.

Elizabeth warren is going to continue to hold her positions on the banking committee, also on the health and education, labor pensions committee. And as I say, she`ll give up the energy committee. Back with us Ken Vogel, Chief Investigative Reporter for Politico, So, Ken, she is giving up the Rick Perry confirmation hearing in favor of the mad dog Mattis confirmation hearing. A very smart move?

KEN VOGEL, CHIEF INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER, POLITICO: Oh, absolutely. And the other thing that this will put her right in the center of is any investigation or the key investigations into Russia and cyber attacks. So that very much puts her in the center of the conversation. And she is bolstering an area that sort of was seen as a weakness for her, foreign policy.

So the 2020 implications are real. Now that said, I don`t necessarily think that the liberal base of the party for whom Senator Warren has emerged as such a hero necessarily love what she has to say about foreign policy, because she has been rather hawkish in a way. That is maybe closer to Hillary Clinton then to Bernie Sanders. She`s also been an ardent defender of some of the defense contractors in Massachusetts, her home state.

So it will be a little bit of a mixed bag. But it will certainly give her experience and allow her to answer back against any criticism if she runs in 2020 that this is an area where she is deficient.

O`DONNELL: Yes, when they were talking about the VP selection, this was one of the spots where they said well wait a minute, what`s her experience in this area? Obviously she`s intent on addressing it. And she did not have to make this move. She could have stayed where she was. This is clearly something she wants to do. And what you could say tonight is if you`re Senator Warren, if you are planning a presidential campaign tonight, this is exactly the first move you would make in the senate.

VOGEL: I think that`s right. And, you know, one of the things that sort of commonly held against her in terms of gauging her 2020 prospects is that she would be 71. Well, guess what? She would be potentially running against Donald Trump, who would be 74 years old. So that`s kind of off the table. It would definitely give her a sort of an answer to the commander in c hief question that she hasn`t really faced.

So, I think 2020, you have to look at 2020 when you assess why she would have made this move. And I think overall it`s a smart move, even if she could end up putting off some of the liberal supporters and fans who really see her as the ideal potential opposition to Donald Trump.

O`DONNELL: And she did not say no when Rachel asked her if she was running for president. That`s another important part of that answer. The it`s too early is not the same thing as no. Ken Vogel, thank you very much for joining us. Really appreciate it.

VOGEL: Thank you, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, what President Obama did today to protect planned parenthood. Very important move. Cecile Richards joins us for an exclusive interview, next.



DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: As far as planned parenthood is concerned, I`m pro-life. I`m totally against abortion having to do with planned parenthood. I wouldn`t fund it. I would defund it because of the abortion factor.

Millions of women have been helped by planned parenthood. But we`re not going to allow and we`re not going to fund as long as you have the abortion going on at planned parenthood.


O`DONNELL: Today 36 days before Donald Trump takes office, President Obama took a step to protect some of the funding for planned parenthood. President Obama issued a final rule to prevent states from withholding federal family planning funds from planned parenthood clinics, as well as other health clinics that provide abortions. That rule will take effect January 18th, two days before Donald Trump`s inauguration. Joining us now Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

Cecile what does this move by President Obama mean for us?

CECILE RICHARDS, PRESIDET OF PLANNED PARENTHOOD FEDERATION OF AMERICA: Well it`s very significant Lawrence because it means that millions of women who count on Planned Parenthood for their family planning and their cancer screening can continue to go to us for care. This administration has been phenomenal. And we have a record low for teen pregnancy and a 30 year low for unintended pregnancy.

We want to keep making progress. But obviously we`re in a big fight here. You know, we`ve been around 100 years, and we`re now in the fight of our lives with this new administration. And certainly the new congress on protecting access for women to health care.

O`DONNELL: Now, we`ve seen a lot of surprising faces going into Trump tower. Bill Gates and others that you wouldn`t expect. If you get the call to go over to Trump tower to have a conversation with Ivanka or someone over there about what are your concerns, would you go over there and try to make the case to these people?

RICHARDS: Well, the call hasn`t come, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: No, I understand. Yes.

RICHARDS: But I appreciate the question. Look, we will do everything to fight for the women who come to us for care. You know, one in five women in this country have been to Planned Parenthood for health care. And I will say two days after this election a panic was set out around the country.


RICHARDS: We`ve had a record number of women calling for birth control appointments to get access to services. So, whatever we need to do with this administration, I think they understand and I hope they understand clearly that it`s not about the funding for Planned Parenthood. It`s about the ability of women in this country to access health care. And that`s what is at stake.

And what Mike Pence unfortunately has said he would do is end that access to care. And it`s -- look, I run into women every single day who say, you know, Planned Parenthood is the place I go for my annual exam. I don`t know where we would go without you.

O`DONNELL: Mike Pence has a long record here. And I think it`s absolutely solid and unmovable on this subject. Donald Trump doesn`t. He has been all over the place. He has been erratic about it. It could be a mood thing with him. It`s conceivable that all the tough things he said about Planned Parenthood, he won`t follow through on depending on who knows what?

RICHARDS: Right. Well I certainly hope he is open to information. He sounds like he`s, you know, it`s sort of hard to know exactly what they`re going to do. I do think that we`re going to need folks to stand up at this congress because they have tried to defund Planned Parenthood before. And again this is -- the women who come to Planned Parenthood, they are Republicans or Democrats, they`re Trump voters.

These are women who had no idea that their health care access was at stake. That`s the point that we`re going to be making and states across this country starting in January because I think this is an issue that has enraged and engaged millions of people around this country. Not just women. But their families and their significant others and they`re folks who need to stand up and be counted.

O`DONNELL: And when you look at the incoming Trump administration, and you look at the choice for health and human services, it`s hard to see anything there where other than Donald Trump, other than the erratic nature of Donald Trump that is the possible opening for planned parenthood.

RICHARDS: Well, it is really interesting, Donald -- Lawrence, sorry. I mean the week before the election there was a poll by Politico and the New England Journal of Medicine that showed Trump voters actually support federal funding --


RICHARDS: -- for planned parenthood. Again, and we`re seeing this as women are calling us and saying I voted for Donald Trump. But I had no idea I might lose my access to health care. That`s the point we`re going to be making. Planned Parenthood is an American institution that serves one in five women in this country at some point in their lifetime. And we are hearing from all of them. We just need to make sure that they are talking to their members of congress, talking to their senators, and talking to the Trump administration about how vital this access to care is.

O`DONNELL: Cecile Richards waiting for the call to Trump Tower. Thank you very much for joining us tonight. Really appreciate it.

RICHARDS: Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, the dictator president of Syria thinks Donald Trump could be his ally. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: On Russian TV today, Syrian President Bashar Al Assad said Donald Trump could become, "a natural ally." Those are his words. If Donald trump was able to fight terrorism and not interfere in the matters of other countries. Assad also said that pressure from western countries like the United States on Russia and Syria to stop the deadly bombings of the city of Aleppo are "saving terrorists." NBC`s Bill Neely has the latest now from Beirut.


BILL NEELY NBC`REPORTER: No ceasefire, no mercy as the bombs rain down again today on what`s left of rebel-held Aleppo. Explosions caught live on camera. some in Aleppo now seem resigned to their fate.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So death will be a peace for us.

NEELY: The apparent ceasefire deal between rebels and regime collapsed quickly. These 47 orphans hid underground in this video posted by an Arab Human Rights group. I`m Jasmine and I`m 10, she says. We`re scared. We can`t leave because of the bombing. Please get us out of here. The U.N. says 50,000 civilians are still trapped and in trouble. But President Assad says he won`t stop the assault on Aleppo`s last rebels. Even if the city falls soon, it doesn`t mean the end of the war. ISIS still controls swaths of Eastern Syria, and just retook Palmyra. Rebels still hold large areas in the north and south. And Kurds control strips on the border with Turkey. Assad wants them all back. With no evacuation, Aleppo`s civilians tonight fear a massacre. They are powerless to stop it. Bill Neely, NBC news.


O`DONNELL: Coming up, imagine a world without strollers, baby strollers. Those things are everywhere. Imagine if you never saw them again.


O`DONNELL: You know those kids who maybe are three years old who you seen in strollers not because they can`t walk. They can walk. They`re just tired of walking. They just want to rest. Like it a can kid walk like one we just saw.

There are places where that doesn`t happen. This is a very American thing. Let`s climb in the stroller just because I`m tired. That`s next.


O`DONNELL: Time for tonight`s Last Word. Malawi has no strollers, none. Think about that. Millions of kids, no stroller. Malawi is one of the poorest countries in the world. and you notice big things that they don`t have away like no electricity in schools and most roads are not paved. But sometimes it takes a while to notice other things that are missing. And in poor countries things are missing.

We see strollers everywhere we go in this country where you see babies and toddlers happily rolling down the street napping, protected from the sun or from the cold. I`ve been visiting Malawi for years, travelled all over the country, spent a lot of time in the two biggest cities and in remote villages at the end of dirt roads and everywhere in between. And it didn`t dawn on me until my last trip to Malawi last month during thanksgiving week that I had never once seen a stroller any where in the country.

And I have seen thousands of babies and thousands of toddlers of stroller age. In America a tired three year old who can walk gets to ride in a stroller whenever she feel tired that`s the American way. Not in Malawi. Once you learn to walk you`re walking and before that you`re on mothers back while she is walking and working. Kids in Malawi learn to walk early and never stop walking for the rest of their lives.

They walk to school. Sometimes they walk several miles to school. They walk to a well to collect water. The walk to work when they`re lucky enough to get a job. They have to walk to the market if their lucky enough to have something to sell. This woman walks several miles to market everyday carrying that wood on her hear in the rain, barefoot. And of course she`s not the only one. And they do it without complain. Walking is the only way to get there.

And carrying a load of wood on your head is the only way to carry it. No pick up trucks. No one in America would dream of carrying that load of wood that way for miles in the rain, barefoot. Women all over Malawi are doing that everyday. That is life in Malawi where is nothing is easy. It seems nothing is too difficult for people in Malawi to do. They don`t look at a load of wood like that and say I can`t carry that. They look at it and say how far do I have to carry it.

Bicycles are luxury in Malawi and I have never once seen a bicycle with just one rider carrying nothing. No one uses a bicycle just for exercise in Malawi. No one does anything just for exercise in Malawi because regular life in Malawi is filled with constant exercise. Walking, pedaling a bicycle. Here`s a guy carrying mattress on a bike.

This bike is carrying a small load for a bicycle in Malawi, just four bags of grain. You can carry a lot more than you think on a bike. And people in Malawi prove that everyday. What you learn every where you look in a country like Malawi is that we can all carry more than we think we can. We can all do more than we think we can. And it is in that spirit that I invite you every year to improve the school life of Malawi children by providing desks for their schools.

Most schools in Malawi don`t have desks which is which is why we created a unique partnership between MSNBC and UNICEF called K.I.N.D., Kids In Need of Desks. We use your contributions to manufacture desks in the three factories in Malawi, employed workers in those factories who would otherwise be unemployed. And we deliver those desks to schools where without your help the kids would never see desks.

They would spend their entire school lives sitting on the floor trying to write by holding paper on their legs or on the floor. Last week I showed you show Maureen was the first student to start writing on her new desk when we delivered desks to her first grade classroom the day before thanksgiving. She was the first one to start writing.

And it might the first time in Maureen`s life that something was made easier for her. Suddenly it was easier for her to write. She still has a long walk to and from school. Nothing else in her life is easier. And the odds are still against Maureen or any girl getting through high school in Malawi because the girls healthcare graduation rate is half the boys graduation rate.

Most kids don`t make it through high school, boys or girls. And high school is not free in Malawi as in other African countries. It`s not always free in African countries. A small tuition is charge. But it`s too much for most families in Malawi to pay which is why the KIND fund also includes a scholarship program for girls to stay in high school an finish high school.

You can contribute by going to And you san specificy whether you want your contribution to go to desks or girls scholarships. And you can designate your gift in the name of someone on your holiday gift lists. And UNICEF will send them an e-mail acknowledging your gift. Maureen`s odds of finishing school are better now thanks to you because now she has that desk. She has that place to write. That place that she always needed but never expected.

Maureen still doesn`t own shoes, and she still can`t afford tuition for high school. But when she is ready for high school, the KIND Fund will be there to cover her tuition and whatever else she needs to get through high school, a school uniform, books, room and board if it`s a boarding school. And yes, shoes, whatever she needs. You can do all of that. You can make all of that happen for kids like Maureen by contributing any amount to the KIND Fund. There is no amount too small. In a country where shoes are a luxury, every dollar helps. We can all do more than we think we can. That`s the lesson the kids of Malawi teach us every day. The extraordinarily hardworking women and men of Malawi teach us that lesson every day. We can all do more than we think we can. In Malawi, a tired toddler who can walk never has the option of riding in a stroller but their mothers will still sometimes carry them or one of their big --