The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, Transcript 12/16/2016

Guests: Adrian Karatnycky; James Kirchick; Rick Wilson; Brett Williams; Yamiche Alcindor

Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL Date: December 16, 2016 Guest: Adrian Karatnycky; James Kirchick; Rick Wilson; Brett Williams; Yamiche Alcindor

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW: That does it for us tonight. We will see you again tomorrow. Now, it is time "The Last Word" with Lawrence O`Donnell.

Good evening, Lawrence.

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Rachel, we forget how crazy it has been over this last eight years sometimes, but thank you for reminding us.

MADDOW: I`m here to catalog the crazy forever.

O`DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel. Have a great weekend.

MADDOW: You too.

O`DONNELL: This is one of the last days where Donald Trump will have to suffer a same-day comparison to President Obama as they each stand before a microphone at length on the same day. One was presidential and one was what he has always been.

Also tonight, Donald Trump thinks the CIA is out to get him.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Ronald Reagan would roll over in his grave.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are having not a crisis in our intelligence committee. We are having a crisis in patriotism.

OBAMA: Over a third of Republican voters appear of Vladimir Putin, the former head of the KGB.

JOY ANN REID, MSNBC NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Americans of every political party have at least got to agree that we do not want a foreign power trying to manipulate who will be president of the United States.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: It could be Russia. I don`t really think it is.

OBAMA: The Russians were responsible for hacking the DNC.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Russian use cyber warfare like butter on bread. They use it all the time.

OBAMA: Not much happens to Russian without Vladimir Putin.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Putin has denied any involvement at all. And he seems like a pretty straight shooter. So I think (INAUDIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This wouldn`t have happened if Hillary Clinton didn`t have a secret server.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: This is a false claim for pastors.

OBAMA: Our vulnerability is directly related to how divided partisan, dysfunctional our political process is.

MICHELLE OBAMA, We are feeling whatnot having hope feels like. Hope is necessary. It`s a necessary concept.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O`DONNELL: Breaking news tonight about the Electoral College. The office of the director of national intelligence has released a statement tonight saying Electoral College electors will not receive an intelligence briefing on Russian interference in the 2016 election before they vote on Monday. The statement also said that the intelligence community will brief Congress and make their findings available to the public only when the review of potential interference is finished.

Also tonight, Donald Trump thinks the CIA is out to get him. "The New York Times" reports that Mr. Trump has said privately in recent days that he believes there are people in the CIA who are out to get him and are working to delegitimize his presidency, according to people briefed on the conversations who described them on the condition of anonymity.

If anyone is out to get Donald Trump, it just might be the people in Trump world who leaked that stuff to the "New York Times" after hearing it from Donald Trump himself. The people who leaked that Donald Trump believes that the CIA is out to get him. Two U.S. intelligence officials told NBC News today, that FBI director James Comey and director of national intelligence Jim Clapper are now in complete agreement with a CIA assessment that Russia intervened in the 2016 election to help Donald Trump win the election.

So that means now, Donald Trump must think that James Comey is out to get him. James Comey, the only FBI director in history who released harmful information about a presidential candidate in the final days of the presidential campaign. James Comey who may have done more than anyone working on the Trump campaign stuff to actually elect Donald Trump. James Comey must now be out to get Donald Trump, according to Donald Trump`s logic.

President Obama did his best today to try to explain to Donald Trump that cyberattacks on this country by Russia, should not be a partisan issue.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: That shouldn`t be a partisan issue. And my hope is that the president-elect is going to similarly be concerned with making sure that we don`t have potential foreign influence in our election process. I don`t think any American wants that. And that shouldn`t be a source of an argument.

I think that part of the challenge is that it gets caught up in the carryover from election season. And I think it is very important for us to distinguish between the politics of the election and the need for us, as a country, both from a national security perspective but also in terms of the integrity of our election system and our democracy to make sure that we don`t create a political football here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Donald Trump spoke in Orlando, Florida tonight on his victory tour. And he spent more time talking about election night and how at first he thought he was going to lose, but then he watched the returns come in for each state, more time talking about that than he did about the Russian attacks on our election process. He actually got into a half hour performance piece, where he imitated anchor men, reciting the returns for each state. It took at least 30 minutes for him to get through this. Here`s some of it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: They go, Donald Trump has won the great state of Texas. Breaking news, Donald Trump has won Ohio and with a very big number. And then breaking news, Donald Trump has won Iowa. Breaking news, Donald Trump wins the state of Florida, right? Ladies and gentlemen, Donald Trump has won the state of Michigan. And then he said, Donald Trump is the next president of the United States.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Donald Trump had more to say about election night than he did about the most important story of the day, the Russian attack on our election process that was designed to throw the election to Donald Trump according to intelligence sources. In fact, Donald Trump had absolutely nothing to say about any of that tonight. He did not say one word tonight about what President Obama said today, not one word.

Joining us now, James Kirchick, fellow with the foreign policy initiative and author of the new book "the end of Europe." Also with us Adrian Karatnycky, senior fellow the Atlantic council and an expert on Russia. Also Jonathan Alter, MSNBC political analyst and columnist for "the Daily Beast."

Jonathan, obviously, the Trump handlers got to him and shut it down and said not one word about Putin, Russia or any of this stuff that everyone else is talking about today.

JONATHAN ALTER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. And you can kind of understand that, because basically, what we now know, and what history will know for all time is that for all of Barack Obama`s efforts before the election to have this not be tainted, it is and always will be seen as a tainted, compromised, American election.

So I can understand why Trump doesn`t want to be associated with that. He thinks quite rightly that that might impinge on this notion that he has this big mandate and that he won this land slide victory. It`s not clear that Putin`s espionage tipped the election to Trump. I don`t think anybody is saying that. But at a minimum, it tainted our election that we had Russian espionage go that deeply into our system. And it is really, it is a pretty sad for the country wherever the partisan machinations might be.

O`DONNELL: The president was asked about Putin`s involvement directly in this computer attack, the cyberattack. And he said he wants to wait until the full report is out. He didn`t want to get ahead of the intelligence agencies. This is how close he came to describing Putin`s involvement. Let`s listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: The intelligence that I have seen gives me great confidence in their assessment that the Russians carried out this hack.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Which hack?

OBAMA: The hack of DNC and the hack of John Podesta. Not much happens in Russia without Vladimir Putin. This is pretty hierarchical operation. The last I checked, there`s not a lot of debate and Democratic deliberation, particularly when it comes to policies directed at the United States.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Adrian, not much happens in Russia without Vladimir Putin.

ADRIAN KARATNYCKY, SENIOR FELLOW THE ATLANTIC COUNCIL: Well, I think it`s very clear. And I think the evidence also points to the fact that the Russian military intelligence and the Russian security services have been involved not only here, there was a hack two years ago of the German parliament where they went at the root drive, which meant that all the German data was compromised and the parliament had to rebuild it.

The same signatures of those attacks are the attacks that have happened on the DNC. And you can`t imagine that there would be long-term attacks on western targets emanating from Russia with similar or identical signatures that the intelligence communities can identify without it being directed, and that means directed by Vladimir Putin, a former intelligence operative himself.

O`DONNELL: The Kremlin response today was to say you either need to stop talking about it or finally show some kind of proof, otherwise, it just looks very indecent.

And James Kirchick, proof is on the way. That report will eventually be released. The president, as I said, didn`t want to get too far ahead of that release of that information. But apparently, it is coming.

JAMES KIRCHICK, FELLOW, FOREIGN POLICY INITIATIVE: Well, yes. One would hope so. But it`s very difficult with the sort of matters because the intelligence community doesn`t want to reveal the methods and sources in the means by which it comes across this information. So whenever you are talking about intelligence assessments, it`s difficult to be able to bring that information public for that reason.

O`DONNELL: President Obama said today, he made some comments about Russia and why we really shouldn`t be afraid of Russia, and we shouldn`t be allowing Russia to take such a large role in our affairs. Let`s listen to that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: This is part of what I meant when I said that we have got to think about what`s happening to our political culture here. The Russians can`t change us or significantly weaken us. They are a smaller country. They are a weaker country. Their economy doesn`t produce anything that anybody wants to buy except oil and gas and arms. They don`t innovate. But they can impact us if we lose track of who we are. They can impact us if we abandon our values.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Adrian, what will Russians think of that statement when he says they don`t produce anything, they don`t innovate, they can`t impact us. Will Russians even hear that statement? Will that be in their news media?

KARATNYCKY: If they hear it they won`t believe it. I think they are in an information bubble which is also something that the Russians innovate very well. Create an alternative reality. If we have sort of a post-truth standards that are emerging in our political discourse, they have been a part of the post-communist Russian political discourse ever since Putin came to power. The opposition is manipulated and given very small place in this. And an alternative view of Russia as a great power is created.

So you have some infrastructure projects. You have the military show that you have this ability to, you know, even the hacks, I think, even though they are denied or accepted and understood that the Russian people that Putin`s doing his job, because he has lied to the Russian people about what they were doing in Crimea. That didn`t cause outrage. That cause the kind of joy that there is this manipulative leader who can, you know, achieve Russian aims through subterfuge.

So I think the Russian people have bought into having a, you know, former KGB guy running their country. It`s a pretty scary development, a pretty scary evolution of Russian political life.

O`DONNELL: James, I`m wondering about how the Russian people feel about this. When the president said it, it just framed it in a way that I hadn`t seen it framed before about how they don`t innovate. I mean, do people the Russia people realize that people are walking around - people all over the world are carrying - buying Japanese products and they are using Chinese products, American products, you know, products invented in the United States, and not one thing, we don`t have one thing from Russia that is commonly carried or used by people throughout the world.

KIRCHICK: I`m not really sure it matters. And I have a real problem with the way the president talked about that. He sounds so apathetic and so late back. I mean, maybe it is true that Russian has a shrinking GDP. But you know what, they just launched the most successful intelligence operations against the United States since the Rosenbergs. And this is other piece with President Obama`s attitude throughout eight years of his presidency, you know, starting with the reset and abandoning our missile defense plans in certain and Eastern Europe. And just a policy of weakness and fecklessness towards the Russian. And then when the Russians invaded Crimea, he said, well, this is not how a country should behave in the 21st century. This is 19th century behavior.

I mean, he can say these things all he wants, but the Russians are basically wining around the world. And look what just happened in our election. Look what is going on in Ukraine. Look what is going on in Syria where they successfully carried out this destruction of Aleppo while the west just sits on the sidelines. And so, I really think it`s a problem for this administration to just, you know, sit on the sidelines and act like this is going to end eventually.

ALTER: James, all I can say to you is if you`re concerned about the Obama administration, just wait for Trump, who is what they used to call in Leninist days, a useful idiot. That was the expression that Lenin and Stalin used for people they could manipulate in a way Donald Trump has been manipulated by Vladimir Putin.

But it`s also, I think, where the Obama folks have to, you know, examine themselves is that Trump used a crude threat, saying I will say this election was rigged afterward, to deter the Obama folks from taking a tougher line against the hack. And in that sense, Obama`s fear of the reaction from Trump, because Obama is above all an institutionalist, was most interested in protecting the integrity of our democratic system and the integrity of presidency, that was used against him. And in a sense, they played Obama and the Democrats, because they don`t have as high a regard for the integrity of our system. Neither the Russians nor their best buddies in Washington, whom we now are going to expect to defend ourselves against them.

KIRCHICK: Yes. I think - Jonathan, I really think the Obama administration under --

ALTER: Go ahead.

KIRCHICK: Underestimated Russia and Putin since the minute he walked into the White House. We launched the reset less than six months after the Russian invaded Georgia. So this has been a pattern. They underestimated Putin. And now, you know what, Putin has the last laugh.

O`DONNELL: We are going to have to break it there. We are going to get a break in here.

James Kirchick and Adrian Karatnycky, thank you both for joining us tonight.

Coming up today, President Obama was presidential. And tonight Donald Trump was what he`s always been. We will show you what Donald Trump said just moments ago about his supporters and it was not exactly complementary.

And what can the United States do to retaliate for the Russian cyberattack? The general who used to be in charge of U.S. cyber command will join us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: Donald Trump`s rallies are getting less presidential as he approaches inauguration day, just getting more incoherent and string of consciousness and downright crazy, which is not a good sign for someone approaching the presidency. That`s coming up.

And later tonight, at the end of the show, a very, very special "Last Word" for the night and for the week. That`s coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: President Obama was asked today if Donald Trump`s tweets and statements have emboldened the Russian government.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: There`s just a whole different attitude and vibe when you are not in power as when you`re in power. So rather than me sort of characterize the appropriateness or inappropriateness of what`s doing at the moment, I think we have to see how will the president-elect operate and how will his team operate when they have been fully briefed on all these issues. They have their hands on all the levers of government, and they have to start making decisions.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Nothing has changed Donald Trump since he started campaigning for president. Nothing. Winning the Republican nomination did not change Donald Trump, winning the presidential election has not changed Donald Trump. Donald Trump did not say a single presidential-sounding thing tonight at his victory rally in Florida. Here was tonight`s "lock her up" moment.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: That`s so terrible. You know, here`s what has happened. Here is what I noticed. Four weeks ago, just prior to, and always prior, to you people were vicious, violent, screaming, "where`s the wall?" "We want the wall." Screaming "prison, prison." You lock her. I mean, you are going crazy. I mean, you were nasty and mean and vicious, and you wanted to win, right? But now you are mellow, and you are cool, and you`re not nearly as vicious or violent, right? Because we won, right? And now you are sort of laying back. Although it doesn`t exactly sound like a totally laid-back crowd, but that`s OK.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: And here was tonight`s "hate the news media" routine.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: If you watch television, if you watch these very dishonest people back here. Man, is that a lot.

And here`s the bottom line. They`re very dishonest. They`ve written very dishonestly about all of us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Back with us, Jonathan Alter. Also joining us Rick Wilson, Republican strategist and contributor to the website, "Hit Straight."

Rick, the guy has not changed a single note in this crazy performance art of his.

RICK WILSON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: You know, it`s remarkable to see a sweaty, fat, 70-year-old dude up there ranting and raving like he is, you know, doing something that is, this unique performance in the history of the culture. And it`s just gotten to the point where you know, he is playing to the audience. This is the washed-up actor at the Palm Beach dinner theater. He just, it`s the same old greatest hits of Donald Trump. And I think he`s sort of chasing the dragon. The guy still wants that rush of adoration from these crowds. And even he sort of vaguely knows he is going to have to start settling down. You can`t do the "lock her up" things anymore. And he is trying to prep them for. But I still think there`s a sort of symbiotic relationship between the people out there that want this antic, you know, Trump show, and between you know, Donald who needs this constant drip, drip, drip of adoration and love for the crowd.

O`DONNELL: And Rick, your take on what was clearly the campaign staff prevailing on him to not say a single word about Vladimir Putin, the Russian cyberattack. In other words, the news of the day.

WILSON: Well, I mean, look, the home office, obviously, doesn`t want Donald Trump talking about their, because whether it`s the one in the tower or in Moscow, they obviously won`t thought about this because they recognize now that the one thin reed that they had, which was that the FBI wasn`t saying there was soviet - excuse me, Russian. I`m dating myself. Russian attempts to manipulate our election system, now they are agreeing with it.

Every intelligence agency agrees with the fact that the Russian are and did in fact play a role in attempting to manipulate this election. That doesn`t mean they went and hacked voting, you know, the ballot boxes, but they played an active role with intelligence and propaganda measures to pick their candidate, and they won. And so, obviously, they are growing a little nervous that this isn`t going away and the story is a little more persistent than they had hoped and they can`t just shrug it off. They can`t just laugh it away.

O`DONNELL: The president made a point today about the growing support within the Republican Party, among Republican Party voters for Vladimir Putin. Let`s listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: There was a survey, some of you saw, where -- now this is just one poll, but a pretty credible source -- 37 percent of Republican voters approve of Putin. Over a third of Republican voters approve of Vladimir Putin, the former head of the KGB. Ronald Reagan would roll over in his grave.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Who do we have to thank for that, Jonathan?

ALTER: The tribalism of American politics. I mean, I think we can tell from this event and from Obama`s other comments that this is the greatest regret of his presidency. He came to our attention in 2004, saying we are going beyond red and blue. And I think a lot of Democrats, and I hope this isn`t too partisan of a comment, they were a little bit more ready to do that. Yes, they ran through some legislation, but they didn`t demonize the opposition as subhuman.

The Republicans going back about 20, 25 years engaged in this kind of smash mouth politics that completely demonized the opposition, so Republicans have to decide which team am I on. And if Putin is now on their team, they have been conditioned to say, OK, he is one of ours. That`s a pretty frightening thought. Somebody who clearly wishes the United States ill is better in their eyes than the Democratic Party, troubling.

O`DONNELL: Rick Wilson, what do you make of this? The rising popularity of Putin among Republican voters. Is it simply because Putin complements Donald Trump, and Donald Trump compliments Putin back? I mean, is it that simple?

WILSON: I think a meaningful fraction of it is driven by the percentage of Republicans who have fallen under this hypnotic spell of Donald Trump, and he could, you know, name any random horrible act that Putin did, explain it away, and then go, yes. It was pretty cool, we shot down that airliner. Yes, kind of neat how he invaded Crimea and the Ukraine. We really like what ---.

These people can justify things when Trump says it is OK. They can justify almost any action. And I have to say, what is disappointing is that you are not seeing more Republican leaders out there. They have sort of crept up very tentatively to start examining some of this. But they have a responsibility to their oath of office to protect the country and the constitution. And that includes against Donald Trump`s allies.

O`DONNELL: Jonathan Alter, Rick Wilson, thank you both for joining us tonight. Really appreciate it.

ALTER: Thanks, Lawrence.

WILSON: Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, how to stop these cyberattacks on our systems. The former director of the U.S. cyber command, his job was to stop these cyberattacks. He will join us next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: President Obama said again today that the United States will retaliate against Russia for its hacking in the presidential election.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: In early September, when I saw president Putin in China. I felt that the most effective way to ensure that that didn`t happen was to talk to him directly. And tell him to cut it out. There were going to be some serious consequences if he didn`t. Our goal continues to be to send a clear message to Russia or others not to do this to us, because we can do stuff to you. But it is also important for us to do that in a thoughtful, methodical way, some of it we do publicly. Some of it we will do in a way that they know, but not everybody will.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Joining us now, the man who knows just what we can do to retaliate against Russia, retired major general Brett Williams who was director of operations of the U.S. cyber command from 2012 to 2014.

General, what are the options in a retaliation here?

BRETT WILLIAMS, FORMER DIRECTOR OF OPERATIONS, U.S. CYBER COMMAND: Yes, Lawrence, you know, there are a lot of things we could do. What I would like to see us do is put together a number of thoughtful actions, both overt actions that would assure the American people and our friends and allies and other subtle actions that would not be visible that would be part of an overall leverage of the elements of national power to be part of a strategy that really started to demonstrate what the United States would and wouldn`t tolerate in its relations with Russia. And unfortunately, I don`t see that strategy out of there. That comprehensive strategy that we had that came out of the 1950s that led us through the cold war.

And so until we have that strategy, I am afraid we are going to find ourselves in this same place where we are very reactive. We are taking tactical actions. We are shooting from the cuff. We are not establishing red lines. And so, I think first and foremost, we need to get a national strategy that says, how are we going to incorporate operations in cyberspace, along with all the other things that our country can do? Because certainly, Russia`s figured out how cyber operations fit in their overall strategy. And I`m very concerned that we are behind the power curve. We are going to shoot from the hip and we are going to do things that ultimately are not going to be effective.

O`DONNELL: What have the things that could be done that could be public?

WILLIAMS: Well, you know, that`s a good question. We have to really think about how we want to operate. Typically, the United States, when it uses operations in cyberspace to further its national political goals, it does it very quietly. And what we see out of Russia and China, frankly, is they are willing to come and hit us right in the face, and we know exactly who it is, and they know exactly who it is, and they have found it to be a very effective part of their strategy.

I mean, ultimately, I think their goal, I don`t know whether it was to swing the election one way or the other, but their goal was certainly to increase the level of infighting and divisiveness in our country. And the more they can force us to fight amongst each other internally, the less effective we are going to be dealing with them.

So I think I got to think about what we can do more publicly using cyber space operations and other things that the United States can do in order to show that we are going to draw some red lines. And we are going to set some standards of behavior and we are going to be able to enforce those. And frankly, I think talking to president Putin in September after the hack occurred was probably a little but too late.

O`DONNELL: The Russian cyberattack has been made public by the United States, not by Russia. So if we had some kind of successful cyberattack against Russia, would the United States make public of what they did?

WILLIAMS: Well, I think that that depends on what it is. I would say that in my estimation, no, we would not make it public, and it would probably, in most cases, to our advantage to leave it somewhat ambiguous. But we would probably, if we did elect to do something or we found it to be effective, we would probably let the Russians make the statement in a similar way that we have, but we would find actions that would no doubt be attributable to the United States. And I think that`s something we could do. That we should find things that we can do in conjunction with operations in cyberspace to let the - again, our public and tell our friends and allies know that we are serious about establishing norms of behavior with Russia that are going to further our national security interests.

O`DONNELL: Major general Brett Williams, thank you for joining us tonight.

WILSON: Thank you, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, what Michelle Obama said in a new interview with Oprah Winfrey about hope in the time of Trump. That`s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: Today we heard from Michelle Obama in her final one on one interview as first lady. She spoke to Oprah Winfrey about the Obama administration and hope.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OPRAH WINFREY, TALK SHOW HOST: Your husband`s administration, everything, the election, was all about hope. Do you think that this administration achieved that?

MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: Yes. I do. Because we feel the difference now. See, now, we`re feeling what not having hope feels like, you know. Hope is necessary. It`s a necessary concept. And Barack didn`t just talk about hope because he thought it was just a nice slogan to get votes. I mean, he and I and so many believe that, what else do you have if you don`t have hope?

WINFREY: Yes.

M. OBAMA: What do you give your kids if you can`t give them hope?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: More from Michelle Obama, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

M. OBAMA: And I feel that Barack has been that for the nation, in ways that people will come to appreciate.

WINFREY: Yes.

M. OBAMA: Having a grownup in the White House who can say to you in times of crisis and turmoil, hey, it`s going to be OK.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: That was Michelle Obama in what is her final one on one interview as first lady.

Joining us now, Yamiche Alcindor, a national political reporter for the "New York Times."

Yamiche, we haven`t seen much more of this interview. They just let out certain little bits of it. But it`s enough to show that it will be classic Michelle Obama in that it will be thoughtful and an examination of her husband`s presidency, and she will be attacked for things she says in this interview.

YAMICHE ALCINDOR, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: This is classic Michelle Obama also in effect that when you hear her kind of defending Barack Obama`s legacy. And really trying to play this picture that they did accomplish a lot. One of the things that the Republicans have kind of said it that. And even I would say, there was so much gridlock and so much things in it going on that he maybe didn`t get all the things that he do have done, done. But I think she echoed what we heard in the president`s say in his press conference, today. He started going through how the fact that there are so many people who are insured because of him and unemployment is at record lows. So she is really going here and say, you know, we did accomplish the hope that we sought after. But we also are hoping that other people will take up a battalion. That also going to what her husband said today in the White House press conference saying that, you know, we have to march forward and that organizing continues.

O`DONNELL: And she has already being criticized for saying that now we are feeling like what not having hope feels like.

ALCINDOR: She is really speaking to the Obama generation. I think most people, even the Republicans, were really aghast after the election results. No one, including Donald Trump and staff expected him to win.

O`DONNELL: He said tonight in his own rally that he did not expect to win that night at the beginning of an election return.

ALCINDOR: Yes. So this is really a shell-shocked nation. And the fact that she is talking about this idea of him being a (INAUDIBLE) and she is talking about the idea of, you know, we have to go on. That is really, I think, a message for the Obama generation that`s really feeling they are hopeless and really feeling like the Democratic Party is coming apart. And I think that this will -- her comments will really go to and resonate with a lot of people who don`t know how to continue after this.

O`DONNELL: And she`s certainly been hearing that from people. This is not a feeling that she`s making up, that people are feeling hopeless.

ALCINDOR: This is how -- I feel that most people, they have to have some democratic friends, some progressive friends whose Facebook pages haven abo been filled which is to all types of diatribes, about how do we go forward and what does this means? Every single pick in the cabinet, it is like oh, my God, this person, Ben Carson. My God, this person for the EPA.

So people are really, really fearful. I think in the last -- when Obama came into office, of course there were some people who were upset about him being in office and they were just kind of the regular political turmoil. But this, I think, is difference because this is someone who, I`m speaking of Donald Trump, who really didn`t have the background and who really kind of, in some ways, really came out of nowhere in this idea of how he got to the White House. So I think it`s really an interesting time.

O`DONNELL: Yamiche Alcindor, thank you very much for joining us tonight. Really appreciate it.

ALCINDOR: Thanks.

O`DONNELL: Well, this is the season for gifts and for some thank you notes. Coming up, a very special thank you note, and it is a thank you note to you.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: I have got a thank you note here. And had it`s really for you. So I think you really should stick around to hear this. This is next.

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O`DONNELL: Time for tonight`s Last Word. I want to give "the Last Word" of the week to Sileni McKee. She is 14 years old and a second year of high school in Malawi thanks to your contribution to the kind fund. She was sent home this year because her parents could not continue to pay her school fees. Sileni has seven brothers and sisters, and her parents are already paying for some of them to attend high school. And they just couldn`t afford to pay for one more.

Public High school in Malawi is not free. Tuition is very low by our standards but still too high for most families in Malawi. Sileni attends one of the more expensive schools, because it is a boarding school and she has to pay for uniform, for room and board and tuition and even all of that comes to less than $200 a year.

The day I met Sileni, she was no longer enrolled in her high school because she couldn`t afford it. And when I told her she would be able to start school again the next day and never worry about school fees again, she was overwhelmed. Literally speechless. She smiled and nodded and looked down and said nothing.

That was an unusual reaction, but I felt like I understood it. Sileni is a very shy girl maybe shy about her English being imperfect. It turns out she did have something to tell me, but I would learn that later.

The kind fund is a unique partnership between MSNBC and UNICEF to deliver desks to schools in Africa that have never had desks. The desks that we now have made in three factories in Malawi are for kids in need of desks. K-I-N-D. Kind. And it is your kindness that makes the delivery of those desks possible.

When the desks arrive, the kids are always overjoyed. They all the burst into song. They always rush to the truck to carry the desks into the classrooms themselves. They can`t wait to sit at those desks. That joy is overwhelming for all of us lucky enough to be in the room when a classroom is transformed from a place where the kids sit on the floor in the dirt all day to a room that looks much more like a serious, purposeful classroom. A room filled with desks, a room filled with kids sitting at those desks, feeling the new-found dignity and empowerment of being off the floor and realizing they finally have a proper surface to write on. A desk.

It feels look a world-changing moment in that classroom. And maybe it is. Maybe a kid who is getting tired on that floor all day and slumping on a friend`s shoulder and losing concentration will have a new found connection to what the teacher`s trying to convey. Maybe that desk will make that difference. It will be the spark that makes that difference.

When I was a public schoolteacher I saw that even minor adjustments in kids` placements in classrooms can change the way they perform as students. Maybe right now sitting in the floor in the back room of an elementary school in Malawi is the next Nelson Mandela or the next Bill Gates. And that desk that you will deliver to him this year or next year is the thing that improves his trajectory as a student. Maybe it helps him reach higher and higher educational achievement. Just maybe.

You can help by going to Last Worddesks.MSNBC.com. You can designate your contribution to be for desks or for girls` scholarships. You can also designate that gift be made to anyone on your holiday gift list and UNICEF will send them an email confirming the gift.

Any amount can help. Your $5 can be combined with ten other people`s $5, and a desk will be on its way to a classroom. There is no contribution too small when the need is so great. We have doubled the number of desks in Malawi schools and still most schools in Malawi do not have desks.

When you ask the girls what would happen to them if they weren`t able to go to high school pause because they didn`t afford it, they all say the same thing. They would probably have to marry, because they would not be able to support themselves. These are 14 year old girls, 13-year-old girls whose only economically viable alternative to high school would be marriage and having babies. And they know where that will leave them for the rest of their lives. They know they will become mothers who cannot afford high school tuition for their children.

They are trying to break that cycle. Imagine the enormity of their gratitude when I told them they don`t have to worry about school fees anymore and they`re going to be able to finish high school. Even though I`m not saying exactly this, what they are hearing is that they won`t have to drop out of school and get married at age 13 and start having babies.

I`m handing them back their dreams, thanks to you. Imagine the gratitude of those kids who needed desks and never expected desks and are suddenly sitting at desks. I have never adequately been able to adequately describe that gratitude. It is deeply moving to be in the presence of that gratitude. Profound. Such feelings are the jurisdiction of poets, not anchor men.

I knew it was a huge moment for Sileni McKee, when I told her that her school fees are going to be covered for the rest of her high school years. Even though she didn`t say a word, I could feel what it meant to her. It was in her eyes. Later, Sileni handed me this folded piece of paper. I wasn`t sure if she meant for me to read it then or later. And, as she walked away, I opened it. It said, from Sileni McKee to Sir Raurence. I think that`s the pay she was hearing my name. Lawrence is not a word that they hear very often or ever in their villages.

She said, thank you Sir Raurence for what you have done for us. We don`t take it for granted. But we thank you for what you have done for us. May God bless you. We promise that we will work hard so that our dreams shall be fulfilled. You have done a great job.

This is your thank you note. I wouldn`t be there if you didn`t make the kind fund possible. Sileni is in high school because you are keeping here in high school. Her dream is to become a doctor or a journalist, and she would be at home tonight, pushed off the road to that dream, if you didn`t make it possible for her to stay in school.

I caught up with her after I read this note, and explained to her, very clearly, who was really responsible for allowing her to hold on to her dreams.

She then said, simply, please say thank you to them.

Sileni McKee`s `thank you` is tonight`s, and this week`s. Last Word.

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