Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL Date: September 20, 2017 Guest: Ron Mott, Gadi Schwartz, Sam Stein, Betsy Woodruff
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC: That does it for us tonight, we will see you again tomorrow, now it`s time for THE LAST WORD with Lawrence O`Donnell, good evening Lawrence.
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, HOST, THE LAST WORD: Good evening, Rachel. The -- we`re going to try to go live to Mexico City tonight --
O`DONNELL: And I think we`re going to be able to do that, but -- and there`s a really touching story that`s going on there now.
The search for a little girl who may be the last girl alive in her school that collapsed. That search is going on right now, but we`re also going to try to go live to Puerto Rico and based on your live coverage with Puerto Rico, we have to have our fingers crossed.
We -- the power situation there means we may or may not get through.
MADDOW: That`s right, zero power on the island with officials talking about four, five, six-month window to get power back.
And according to the Secretary of State who we just spoke with, he says there`s one cell carrier --
O`DONNELL: Yes --
MADDOW: That`s operating right now, so that`s fragile.
O`DONNELL: Yes, when I heard that, I thought, well, we`re going to try to go live to Puerto Rico --
MADDOW: Yes --
O`DONNELL: We`ll see what happens --
MADDOW: That`s right, that`s right --
O`DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel --
MADDOW: Thanks Lawrence --
O`DONNELL: Well, now, it`s Jimmy Kimmel versus Donald Trump and the Republican Senate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHUCK TODD, MODERATOR, MEET THE PRESS: The health care wars are back. It never goes away.
BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It certainly is frustrating after mobilize every couple of months to keep our leaders from inflicting real human suffering on our constituents.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Obamacare is a disaster, it`s a wreck.
OBAMA: And people are alive today because of it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There will be more people covered under the Graham- Cassidy-Heller(ph) Johnson amendment than our -- under status quo.
JIMMY KIMMEL, COMEDIAN & TELEVISION HOST: This guy Bill Cassidy just lied right to my face.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Calling this good man a liar without ever talking to him first.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But states would be able to not cover people with pre-existing conditions --
GRAHAM: This is not right. Where are you getting this garbage? That`s complete garbage.
SEN. TIM KAINE (D), VIRGINIA: This does not protect people with pre- existing conditions.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC: The bill is already losing support from big state governors across the country.
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: This bill will cut $4 billion in Medicaid funding to the people of my state. I can`t be in favor of that.
GOV. JOHN KASICH (R), OHIO: Nothing can be sustained that is just one party.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We don`t pass something, Obamacare remains the law of the land.
TRUMP: I thought that one and one, I would go to the Oval Office, sit down at my desk and there would be a health care bill on my desk to be honest.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Tonight, we are covering two terrible natural disasters, one in Mexico City, at least 230 people are dead after a magnitude 7.1 earthquake that struck that city yesterday.
Among the dead are 22 children who died when their elementary school collapsed, rescuers continue to search for survivors at that school.
At least 52 people pulled from piles of rubble, but tonight, rain is making the dangerous search for survivors even more difficult and the entire island of Puerto Rico is without power tonight after being struck by a devastating category 4 hurricane.
San Juan, Puerto Rico could be without power for four to six months as you just heard Rachel say, according to mayor, says that is a possibility and there is the potential of more flooding and mudslides.
We will have live reports from Puerto Rico and Mexico coming up. In Washington today, Republicans continued to try to push the Graham-Cassidy bill to repeal Obamacare.
And last night on his show, Jimmy Kimmel told his audience that one of the co-sponsors of the bill, Republican Senator Bill Cassidy lied to Jimmy Kimmel`s face when he said -- Senator Cassidy said that he would not support a bill that would cause anyone to lose health care coverage.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KIMMEL: Now, I don`t know what happened to Bill Cassidy, but when he was on this publicity tour, he listed his demands for a health care bill very clearly.
These were his words. He said he wants coverage for all, no discrimination based on pre-existing conditions.
Lower premiums for middle-class families and no lifetime caps. And guess what? The new bill does none of those things.
So, not only did Bill Cassidy fail the Jimmy Kimmel test, he failed the Bill Cassidy test. He failed his own test.
And this guy, Bill Cassidy just lied right to my face.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Tonight, President Trump tweeted in Senator Cassidy`s defense saying, "senator, Dr. Bill Cassidy is a class act who really cares about people and their health care.
He doesn`t lie, just wants to help people." So, a proven liar says that Bill Cassidy doesn`t lie, just wants to help people.
And Jimmy Kimmel says that he lied to my face. So, who are you going to believe? The Graham-Cassidy bill followed the president to the United Nations today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is Graham-Cassidy going to pass?
TRUMP: I think it has a very good chance --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you --
TRUMP: It has tremendous support from Republicans, certainly, we`re 47 or 48 already. Senators and a lot of others are looking at it positively.
I think there`s tremendous support for it. I think it`s actually much better than the previous shot which was very sadly let down.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Republican Senator Chuck Grassley; a member of the Senate Finance Committee that will have one hearing on the bill next week, did not try to justify the bill today on its substance.
Senator Grassley said, "you know, I could maybe give you ten reasons why this bill shouldn`t be considered, but Republicans campaigned on this so often that you have a responsibility to carry out what you said in the campaign.
That`s pretty much as much of a reason as the substance of the bill." Senator Grassley was asked if there are enough votes to pass the bill in the Senate and he said, no.
"I think we`re one or two votes short and I don`t see those other one or two votes coming. I hope I`m wrong."
Majority leader Mitch McConnell`s spokesperson released a statement today saying "it is Senator McConnell`s intention to bring the Graham-Cassidy bill to the Senate floor next week."
Today, another Republican governor of a state that would take a big loss from the bill came out against it. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said "I oppose Graham-Cassidy because it is too injurious to the people of New Jersey.
I am certainly not going to support a bill that takes nearly $4 billion from people in the state." Jimmy Kimmel has asked Senator Cassidy to stop using his name to justify his legislation.
Using Jimmy Kimmel`s name to justify the legislation. But here`s what happened when Kasie Hunt asked Senator Cassidy about that today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KASIE HUNT, MSNBC: Senator Cassidy, can I just ask you a quick question?
SEN. BILL CASSIDY (R), LOUISIANA: Yes.
HUNT: Do you think that the legislation passes the Jimmy Kimmel test?
CASSIDY: Absolutely. There will be people in states like --
HUNT: He called you a liar last night.
CASSIDEY: It was a personal attack, and I can`t help that. But all I can say is that, if you`re in Texas or if you`re in Maine and Virginia and Missouri, there will be resources in your state that you do not have to provide you coverage and we have protections for pre-existing conditions --
HUNT: But states would be able to not cover people with pre-existing conditions --
GRAHAM: That`s not right, where are you getting this garbage? Where are you getting this garbage --
HUNT: Well, they would be able to opt out --
GRAHAM: That`s complete garbage.
HUNT: If they got --
GRAHAM: The legislation --
HUNT: Is that no --
GRAHAM: The legislation --
CASSIDY: Specifically says that the state applying for a waiver would have to ensure that those with pre-existing conditions would have access to adequate and affordable coverage.
GRAHAM: That`s been the --
HUNT: And what does affordable mean?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: The garbage that Senator Graham was angrily accusing Kasie Hunt of talking about is in the Graham-Cassidy bill.
Under the current law, the Affordable Care Act provides a national guarantee to everyone in the United States that they cannot be denied insurance because of pre-existing conditions.
The Graham-Cassidy bill would leave that issue to the state. Some states would surely continue to require coverage for pre-existing conditions but some states would not.
And any state could drop that coverage at any time. There would be no federal guarantee left. Tonight, the president tweeted, "I would not sign Graham-Cassidy if it did not include coverage of pre-existing conditions.
It does!" The great bill repeal and replace, one thing all Republicans have agreed on in their leaks to the press about their discussions with the president on healthcare is that he does not have any idea what is in any of the healthcare legislation that`s been considered by the Congress this year.
Today, President Obama said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: When I see people trying to undo that hard won progress for the 50th or 60th time --
With bills that would raise costs or reduce coverage, or roll back protections for older Americans or people with pre-existing conditions, the cancer survivor, the expecting mom or the child with autism or asthma, for whom coverage once again would be almost unattainable, it is aggravating.
And all of this being done without any demonstrable economic or actuarial or plain common sense rationale, it frustrates.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: We are awaiting President Obama`s tweeted response to that. Joining us now is Howard Dean; a medical doctor, former chairman of the Democratic National Committee and an Msnbc political analyst.
Also joining us Julie Rovner; chief Washington correspondent at "Kaiser Health News" and Neera Tanden; president of the Center for American Progress and she was an adviser on the Affordable Care Act when the Obama administration was working on it.
And Governor Dean, I just want to talk to you first of all, as a politician. You`re in this situation, you`ve been on all those kinds of shows like Jimmy Kimmel`s.
A politician on a show like that makes a certain promise. Does that politician think he`s going to be able to break that promise publicly and hear nothing from Jimmy Kimmel?
HOWARD DEAN, FORMER VERMONT GOVERNOR: Lawrence, these guys think they can get away with anything.
The head guy lies every day and everybody in America believes that he lies every day, now he`s vouching for somebody.
I don`t know Bill Cassidy, I`ve never met him, but he is lying about this bill. You explained the pre-existing conditions.
What they can do, however, is charge you as much as they want. So effective pre-existing conditions are gone, health care is gone.
This is nonsense. This is a ridiculous bill, it`s a hard right bill. I don`t think Lindsey Graham has any idea what`s in this bill, he ought to stick to foreign policy and stop this crap.
O`DONNELL: Julie Rovner, you will be our non-partisan referee here. The closest thing we have -- you`re the closest thing we have to the CBO in this discussion.
On the Jimmy Kimmel versus Cassidy fight, how do you see it?
JULIE ROVNER, CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, KAISER HEALTH NEWS: Well, it`s mostly a semantic fight.
I think that the senators are right when they said there`s language in the bill that seeks to protect pre-existing conditions, but there`s other language in the bill that completely undermines them.
So you can waive the essential health benefits, the required benefits and you can charge people more, so that way you can offer people with pre- existing condition coverage that doesn`t include what they need and charge them things that they can`t afford.
Even though there is technically language in the bill that seeks to say you`ll protect people with pre-existing conditions.
O`DONNELL: And Neera, one of the things that we`ve seen around the country is that different states have what we could call different senses of responsibility.
About how much coverage should they be guaranteeing to people and so, once you remove these -- this national guarantee, that the Affordable Care Act has.
Then sure, California, New York and states of government Dean`s Vermont, some of these states will continue to do some of the things they`re doing under that, but a lot of states won`t and they will have much less money to try to do it.
NEERA TANDEN, PRESIDENT, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: Look, there will be several states that drop pre-existing conditions.
And you know, I can`t believe we`re in a world where you -- we can say this, but we have senators who either don`t know what`s in their bill or they are lying through their teeth about what`s in their bill.
And it`s -- I have to say it`s situation we`re in, but if you cannot rely on what Lindsey Graham has cited, either you know, he`s staked his reputation on a bill that he does not understand or he`s just blatantly lying.
No one in America thinks that if you`re charged a million dollars for pre- existing conditions, protections or for access to cancer, that that`s a protection, nobody thinks that.
That`s not semantics. That`s just saying they`re not protecting pre- existing conditions. So the reality of this is more and more information is coming out about this legislation, from insurers to the AARP to hospitals, every stakeholder group opposes this.
Everyone involved in the health care system, everyone involved in protecting people is against this legislation.
We now have new data that shows that states are going to lose money. Arizona, $11 billion, Ohio, $9 billion, Alaska a billion dollars.
Hundreds of thousands of people thrown off their coverage, 32 million in all when this bill is said and done.
And there`s no argument -- and this is the most conservative bill. There`s no argument in favor of it, and that is why they`re misleading the American people.
Because really, there is no policy argument behind this legislation which is to the right of every other version.
O`DONNELL: Ellen DeGeneres tweeted today, "when Jimmy says call, I call. So should you, I love you, Jimmy Kimmel" and then she gave the Senate phone number there.
And I just want to go to a report here of -- that the "Ap" has tonight of an overheard phone call of Lindsey Graham at the airport or an airplane -- about to get on an airplane and just interpreted as talking to John McCain because he`s talking about Arizona.
But it`s very clear in that phone call, just have a little bit of it that Lindsey Graham is not talking to someone who is yet anyway voting for this bill.
And Howard Dean, if you`re one of the Republican senators who voted against the last Republican attempt, what is in here for you to vote for this one now?
DEAN: Absolutely nothing. You know, Cassidy himself is going to cost the taxpayers of Louisiana $2 billion.
Louisiana is going to lose money. Showing more capital, the senator from West Virginia, she can`t vote for this bill.
The billions of dollars is going to come out of one of the poorest states in the country if this bill gets passed.
I don`t believe Lisa Murkowski is going to vote for it. She and Susan Collins were given -- here given hero`s welcome when they went back to Alaska and Maine after they killed the last bill.
They`re not going to vote for this. This is far worse. This is going to really screw the governors. I can`t believe Rob Portman is going to do this and take billions of dollars out of Ohio after his governor says not to do it.
This bill is a sham, and you know why they are passing it? Because they want the money to give tax cuts to people like Donald Trump.
That is what they have been trying to do all along. And this is about taxes. This is not about health care, they don`t give a damn about the health care of the people of the United States of America.
O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to more of Kasie Hunt`s great reporting on the "Hill" today, this time talking to Senator Murkowski.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: Are you ready to support it?
SEN. LISA MURKOWSKI (R), ALASKA: Nope.
HUNT: Why not?
MURKOWSKI: Because I am doing the due diligence that I committed to doing yesterday.
What I have had an opportunity to do is to sit down with my team who has sat down with HHS and we are ferreting out lots of numbers and we`re continuing to do that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: And Julie Rovner, there`s been some speculation today that they might be able to shoe-horn something into this bill, specifically for Alaska to try to get Senator Murkowski`s vote.
Do you see an opening for that?
ROVNER: Well, my understanding is that the money in there for Alaska was actually in the last version that she didn`t vote for.
But they are definitely doing everything that they can to get those last couple of votes that they need to get them to the 50.
And remember, they only have until next Saturday. That`s when their budget instructions expire, they won`t be able to do it with 50 votes after that.
So they`re on a very tight time line which may be serving them well, they may be able to convince that some of the senators that this is -- they`re literally -- their last chance to do this.
At least for this year. And there`re -- some of them are concerned about, you know, the complaints they`re getting from donors who are saying you guys can`t seem to get anything done, so this is a chance to do something and many of them don`t actually care what it is that they`re doing.
O`DONNELL: When you defeat a bill by one vote in the Senate, it -- every vote is a decisive vote, but the most dramatic vote cast last time was by John McCain and this is what he told "Politico" today.
"Nothing has changed. If McConnell wants to put it on the floor, that`s up to McConnell. I am the same as I was before, I want the regular order.
Asked if that means he is a no vote, McCain said that means I want the regular order, it means I want the regular order, and Neera Tanden, what does that mean?
TANDEN: Well, if this is not regular order, there -- let me just say again, there is not going to be a CBO score.
There`s not going to be an official referee. Now, we do have data points like billions of dollars that will be lost by Arizona and Alaska and other states.
But there`s no regular order for this. There`s no mark-up, this is just going to be jammed through as Julie said.
Let me say there are three people who held that before, but there are a lot of people who made statements who said they got something in the past legislation that was important.
I didn`t think it was very real, but Rob Portman, Shelley Moore Capito, both talked about opioid funding which they received.
That`s not even in this bill. Now, people who made claims and statements before, they`re not even getting little provisions and they`re willing to do this just for politics.
They see a political problem, not a health care problem, a political problem. And I think that`s why Americans are outraged and are calling and there`s just a few more days left to make your calls so please call tomorrow.
O`DONNELL: Well, we`ll see what Jimmy Kimmel says tonight. Neera Tanden, Howard Dean, Julie Rovner, thank you all for joining us tonight, really appreciate it.
TANDEN: Thank you.
DEAN: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, it is Manafort week in the Russia investigation, all roads seem to be leading to Paul Manafort in the investigation news this week.
And later, we`ll be -- we will be going live to Puerto Rico to the aftermath of the hurricane there, devastating hurricane.
And to the -- to Mexico, we`ll be going live also in the aftermath of that deadly earthquake.
O`DONNELL: Tonight`s new developments in the Russia investigation being reported by the "New York Times" and the "Washington Post" have new details on the material the Mueller team is requesting from the White House.
The special prosecutor`s team wants the White House to hand over material in 13 different categories including some of the president`s most well- known decisions and actions while president.
Sources tell the "Times" and the "Post" that the Mueller team wants details on the firing of former national security adviser General Michael Flynn, the firing of former FBI Director James Comey.
Also President Trump`s meeting with Russian officials the day after Comey`s firing where he discussed that firing.
They also want any documents or information about Donald Trump Junior`s meeting at Trump Towers with Russians back in June and discussions of how to respond to the "New York Times" questions about that meeting, those questions being asked this year.
And Sally Yates meetings, they also want information on Sally Yates meetings, deputy Attorney General Sally Yates meetings and conversations with Trump lawyer, the White House counsel Don McGahn about Michael Flynn.
One government official told "The Washington Post", this investigation will run to completion even if they fire Mueller.
There is a feeling of inevitability now that we didn`t have before, not of the outcome of the investigation, but that there will be an outcome.
There is no escaping this thing, whatever the conclusions. The "Washington Post" was first to report tonight that the Mueller team has in its possession an e-mail from Paul Manafort, Trump`s former campaign chair, offering private campaign briefings to a Russian billionaire who is part of Vladimir Putin`s inner circle.
Though Manafort`s spokesman -- through Manafort`s spokesman, Nbc News has now confirmed through that spokesman that Manafort made that offer, did actually make that offer.
The "Washington Post" says investigators believe that the exchanges which reflect Manafort`s willingness to profit from his prominent role alongside Trump created a potential opening for Russian interests at the highest level of a U.S. presidential campaign.
So far this week in Manafort news, we have the report that federal investigators told Paul Manafort that he would be indicted shortly after his Virginia home was raided with a search warrant.
And a report that Paul Manafort was wiretapped at various times by federal prosecutors, and now the report about Paul Manafort offering a campaign briefing to a Russian billionaire while he was chairman of the Trump campaign and it`s only Wednesday.
Joining us now, Matt Miller; former spokesman for Attorney General Eric Holder and an Msnbc contributor and Jill Wine-Banks; a former assistant Watergate special prosecutor and an Msnbc contributor.
And Jill, I want to go to your prosecutor`s prism as you look at this developing information of everything that we just discussed.
Take your pick and -- but in particular, please do address this report that we have about Paul Manafort reaching out to a Russian billionaire, offering, you know, campaign briefings, trying to make a point of contact with Russian billionaire on -- and the point of contact being about the campaign.
JILL WINE-BANKS, LAWYER: It`s so outrageous that we keep seeing these repeating efforts to reach out to the Russians.
There is something there for sure. In the case of Paul Manafort, he has made millions working for Russian allies.
And he is going to keep on trying to make money out of it. But to do it while he was in the White House is really beneath any ethical standard that even the Trump White House has had.
So it`s something that is very promising in terms of what could come of this. I think that there will be some cases. Telling him that he might be indicted is something that`s not that uncommon.
It`s sometimes used as a way to say to somebody, if you want to make a proffer of evidence and you want to come clean, this is the time to do it.
This is the time to flip and protect yourself. So maybe that`s going to happen, anything could happen in this situation.
O`DONNELL: And news from inside the world of Trump staff tonight. At George Washington University, the Trump campaign`s former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski said this tonight.
"If Paul Manafort, Roger Stone or Rick Gates or Carter Page or anybody else attempted to influence the outcome of the U.S. election through any means that`s inappropriate, through collusion, coordination or cooperation."
I hope they go to jail for the rest of their lives." And Matt Miller, that`s Corey Lewandowski who previously held the position of constantly denying that anyone involved in the Trump campaign could ever be up to anything.
MATT MILLER, FORMER SPOKESMAN FOR ERIC HOLDER: Yes, that`s right. I think what you see Corey Lewandowski doing is trying to set a little bit of a personal score.
Obviously, he was fired from the campaign and replaced by Paul Manafort and has long had it out for him. The problem with that argument though, is when you look at the scope of Mueller`s request to the White House, his request for documents, they don`t just involve one person.
It`s not just Paul Manafort, it`s not just Michael Flynn, you know, sometimes when we look at the individual strands of this investigation, it`s like looking at individual trees and missing the forest.
You see, you know, Flynn is one tree, Manafort is one tree. This meeting supposedly on adoption that the president`s son held is another one.
And when you look at the scope of all these documents, you see they`re looking at not just individual actions by Manafort or by Flynn, but also by the president`s son and also by the president himself.
And I thought it was notable in the requests that we saw. He`s not just examining whether the president obstructed justice as if that`s a small deal, but it`s one we already knew about.
He is also looking at why the president instructed his staff to lie about the meeting his son held. It`s clear there`s one thread running throughout this overall request.
And that is, you know, to what extent was the White House compromised? Was it just Paul Manafort during the campaign?
Was it just Mike Flynn; the national security adviser for the first month or did it go as high as the president of the United States himself?
O`DONNELL: We`re going to hear from Senator Chuck Grassley now and something he said today. He is the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, he has been trying to get Paul Manafort to respond to the Judiciary Committee. Let`s listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY (R), IOWA: From a layman`s point of view, as chairman of the committee, not as a lawyer, we have tried to talk to Manafort`s lawyers for weeks and we don`t get a phone call returned.
That would mandate that we have a subpoena. I don`t know whether it`s worth issuing subpoenas when somebody`s been indicted if there`s any value in that if you get any outcome out of it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is he going to be indicted? What`s your understanding?
GRASSLEY: All I know is what I saw on maybe your channel or somebody else`s channel.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Jill, your interpretation of that?
WINE-BANKS: Well, he`s right. I heard it on Msnbc that Paul Manafort was told that he would be indicted. And as I said, that`s not that uncommon.
So it`s quite possible he was told that. But also, given what we know about everything that has been taken from his home in Arlington and all of the testimony he`s already provided, it does sound like he is a good target for indictment.
And it`s really interesting to watch all of these steps and the pieces of the puzzle being put together. I think it`s going to be something big.
And I`m really looking forward to it. I`m loving, listening to the news and hearing what`s going on.
O`DONNELL: And Manafort`s lawyers have clearly decided these congressional investigative committees mean nothing to us.
Our problem is with the federal prosecutor, that`s much more serious. Jill Wine-Banks and Matt Miller, thank you both for joining us tonight, really appreciate it.
MILLER: Thank you.
WINE-BANKS: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, new report about how Russians used Facebook to support turnout for pro Trump rallies in the key swing state of Florida.
And next, we go live to Mexico City and to Puerto Rico.
O`DONNELL: The Daily Beast reported today that Russian successfully used Facebook to urge people to attend Trump campaign rallies. We`ll have more on that coming up. After a 7.1 earthquake yesterday in Mexico, the desperate search for survivors continues there tonight. Part of the rescue effort is focused on the Enrique Rebsamen School in Mexico City where rescue crews saved a girl earlier today.
They are continuing to try to reach another 11-year-old girl who they believe is alive and trapped in that rubble right now. NBC`s Ron Mott joins us live from Mexico City. Ron what`s the situation there now?
RON MOTT, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Hey there, Lawrence. Good evening to you. Well officials believe they have a number of survivors in this collapsed six-story building you see behind me. About a half hour ago Lawrence there was an ambulance that turned on it`s the lights and sirens and left this scene. We aren`t sure what any of that means but that was the first sort of action of that sort we`ve seen in the four-plus hours we have been here.
Now time, obviously, is of the essence. When you`re talking about trying to rescue people who have been sitting under rubble now for 32-plus hours since this earthquake hit yesterday. And what was really sort of a cruel coincidence for a lot of the folks here, many of the office buildings around town it just practiced a simulation of an earthquake yesterday. A couple of hours before the real thing hit here yesterday.
On the 32nd anniversary of that big 1985 earthquake that killed thousands upon thousands of people, right now the death toll is somewhere 223 officially that ticked down just two earlier today but obviously as you see scenes like this are repeated around the Mexican capital, we are anticipating that the death toll will climb higher. Most of those deaths here and around the capital.
The epicenter of this quake was about 75 miles to our south and east. Pretty deep quake, 32 miles or so and it was felt far and wide in this area. Now one thing we saw today that was quite remarkable, Lawrence is just the community spirit and people coming out to volunteer whatever they could do. We caught up with one gentleman in his neighborhood who was out saying this is the Mexican spirit at work here today.
Take a listen to what else he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think we have been preparing for this moment for 32 years. I was 5 years old when the last earthquake happened, the big one. And we have been drilling for this so it`s no surprise I believe.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MOTT: Now, we should point out there are some positive survival stories here and around the capital. We do know that a number of people, dozens of them were able to come out of this building alive yesterday in the immediate aftermath. But now we understand there are -- there is a group that was in a conference room, Lawrence. This was an employment agency building so a lot of young people in there looking for jobs yesterday.
We believe that a number of them are still alive on the fourth floor in a conference room and it`s just a matter of time if authorities can get to them in time. Lawrence?
O`DONNELL: Ron, what do we know about the rescue effort going on at that school? One of the girls who was saved today reported to the rescuers that she believed there was one more girl in that rubble still alive? Have they made any vocal contact, any confirmation of this another girl still alive in the rubble?
MOTT: Well, we understand that there were two victims taken out alive from that school today. Don`t know the updated number of many -- of -- of any sort of victims who are still alive in that rubble. Obviously there`s a lot of attention being paid to that school because there were a number of people, adults and children, still unaccounted for believed to be trapped in the rubble.
They were talking 35 or 40 more people in that structure but today was good news to get two more out of there and we have not checked with our team down there, tonight, Lawrence quite frankly to see if they are still clinging the hope that there are still voices and noises and sounds coming out of that rubble of that -- that school south of the city. Lawrence?
O`DONNELL: Ron Mott in Mexico City, thank you very much for joining us Ron. Really appreciate it.
O`DONNELL: This morning hurricane Maria knocked out power to the entire island of Puerto Rico after making landfall as a category 4 hurricane. It`s the strongest storm to hit the island since 1928. The mayor of San Juan says there`s no drinkable water in most of San Juan and it will be four months before power is restored on the entire island.
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CARMEN YULIN CRUZ, MAYOR OF SAN JUAN: The Puerto Rico and the San Juan that we knew yesterday is no longer there so we have to reconstruct, rebuild, reinvent it. We have to be resilient. But I -- I`m just concerned that we may not get to everybody in time. And that is a great weight on my shoulders.
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O`DONNELL: Hurricane Maria is now a category 2 storm and is expected to hit the eastern coast of the Dominican Republic tomorrow. NBC`s Gadi Schwartz joins us by phone from San Juan. And Gadi what is the latest there?
GADI SCHWARTZ, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Lawrence, yes. Very emotional day for the mayor there we just left a larger shelter in San Juan where she was. It`s basically our first time out in 24 hours. We were effectively there on lock down. Now while we were there, Hurricane Maria passed over us.
It`s a massive coliseum. There were hundreds of people, there are now and there are some people that are starting to try to head out tonight but the conditions there still really dangerous around here. Many of people who took shelter, they`re going to be going out and finding their homes badly damaged if not altogether destroyed. Some of the biggest concerns we heard in that shelter from the people that we spoke to was flooding. Many of them were saying that they weren`t sure if their house was high enough next to the river.
So in some places we`ve seen the river overflow six to eight feet in the roads. These people stranded on their second storey -- second stories and their roofs and some of that flooding has gone down since but the devastation that it`s left behind is pretty alarming. The wind damage has been catastrophic in some places. A little while ago we are at a small school where -- where two walls were actually blown. And these were walls with some pretty iron bars so yes, some bars so that gives you a sense of how powerful those winds are.
And then crews are just now starting to venture out for many of the rescue calls that had been holding since the hurricane hit. And right now, the whole island is basically under a blackout. There`s no power. Could be months before that power is restored and there`s a mandatory curfew right now until dawn tomorrow morning. Lawrence?
Gadi Schwartz in San Juan, Puerto Rico thank you very much for joining us tonight, really appreciate it. Coming up, we have new reporting about Russian`s using Facebook to promote pro-Trump rallies this time this time, in the key swing state of Florida.
O`DONNELL: The Daily Beast is reporting suspected Russia propagandas on Facebook tried to organize more than a dozen pro-Trump rallies in Florida during last year`s election. The August 28, 2016, events were collectively called Florida goes Trump. And they were billed as patriotic, statewide flash mob unfolding simultaneously in 17 different cities and towns in the battleground state.
Supporters attended these rallies in Florida signaling the first case of Russian operatives successfully mobilizing Americans over Facebook in direct support of candidate Donald Trump. Facebook is not the only social media platform facing scrutiny in the Russia investigation. Politico is reporting that twitter has agreed to meet with the intelligence committee`s staff investigators in Washington on a specific date before mid-October.
According to a source close to the investigation of particular interest is the prominence of bots or automated accounts used to post and amplify information on twitter and what role they may have played in making misleading campaign season tweets go viral. Investigators are also looking at how stories and memes distributed by Russian actors on twitter found their way on to U.S. News sites, particularly conservative leaning news sites. Chairman of the senate intelligence committee, Senator Richard Burr, had this to say today.
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RICHARD BURR, UNITED STATES SENATOR: I`m interested in what all the social media platforms know about activities on their platforms by specifically funded by Russians and I believe that that`s something that`s worthy of an open hearing and I plan to move to that sometime in October.
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O`DONNELL: We`ll have more on the Russian use of social media during the campaign next.
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MARK WARNER, UNITED STATES SENATOR: As far back as last winter we raised concerns that the Russians were using social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter to both advertise, to create fake accounts, to try to drive stories. We`ve increasingly seen to try to drive people out to rallies and other events. Facebook at first and this is fairly disappointing, you know, kind of blew off those notions and said that really wasn`t happening.
We now know for a fact that it has been happening. I just think there`s a lot more questions to be answered. And that`s why were going to have that public hearing come next month.
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O`DONNELL: Joining us now, Sam Stein, Politics Editor of the Daily Beast. He`s also MSNBC Contributor. Also with us Betsy Woodruff of Politics Reporter for the Daily Beast. And Sam Tell us about the Daily Beast reporting today on this Russian use of social media during the Presidential campaign especially this story in Florida?
SAM STEIN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Sure. So what we knew prior to today was that Russia created these fake Facebook accounts to try and hold these rallies among other things their doing including spreading fake news. What we`re learning today through the Daily Beast reporting is that these rallies actually had an impact.
And in certain instances they order -- they put together more than 17 or so flash mobs across the state of Florida. In certain cases it was very clear, there was evidence to show that Trump supporters, Trump voters and maybe perhaps just interested people in and around Florida attended these rallies. In one case a Trump county campaign chairwoman ended up sharing a post from a flash mob on a page herself. So it is the first direct evidence that an attempt to influence the U.S. election through these fake accounts that were disguised as in this case being patriotic did actually have an influence. Now the question is just how much of an influence and how widely spread were these fake accounts?
O`DONNELL: And Betsy, this goes to that thing -- that thing that`s been talked about since the election is did the Russians have any effect on the actual voting outcome? And that was initially interpreted as did they reach into any voting machines and tamper with them, as if that was the only way they could have an impact. If they`re part of a campaign and part of building enthusiasm over time, part of what they were doing in Florida might have converted a nonvoter into a Trump voter.
BETSY WOODRUFF, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Certainly. And that`s the entire point of having campaign rallies and of having pro candidate Facebook pages. And part of the reason that our reporting today I hate to brag --
O`DONNELL: You`re here to brag. This is to brag about the Daily Beast Reporting.
WOODRUFF: If you insist my friend. Part of the reason this reporting today is so important is that the Mueller Probe basically has two siloes. There`s the criminal part of the investigation which we hear about all the time which we know comparatively a significant amount of information on. But there`s also a counter intelligence probe.
And the entire purpose of Mueller`s counter intelligence probe is not to bring charges. It`s not necessarily to indict anyone. It`s just to figure out who in Russia, which individuals did which acts that had what kind of impacts on the American Election, if any impact, if any individuals.
That`s the point. that`s the probe that was under way when Comey was fired. He mentioned that counter intelligence probe when he testified on Capitol Hill earlier this year. And what our reporting today demonstrates not just the substance of the reporting. What is demonstrates beyond the fact these rallies happened and that Russian actors wanted them to happen.
Our reporting demonstrates that attribution is possible. And if a small news outlet with a small team can assess out from a link from individuals in Russia to individuals taking action in America, just a matter of time till they figure out what Bob Mueller and his pros can figure out.
O`DONNELL: And Sam to Betsy`s point that what needs to be investigated is of course the possibility if any crimes have been committed. But after there`s been a tampering with an election especially from of foreign players like this, what the investigation also needs to do also is basic a fact finding presentation in which there may be no criminal liability whatsoever because people are outside the jurisdiction or the stuff we`re describing in here is not a crime. I don`t think we`re describing any crimes in what we`re looking at here.
STEIN: Well, first of all, Betsy incredibly well said. So insightful, amazing job. Secondly, yes, part of this is just to determine what happened so it doesn`t happen again. I mean our election in 2016 didn`t happen in a vacuum.
We will have elections -- we are having elections in weeks. We`ll have elections in 2018.
We will have another Presidential Election in 2020. And when you talk to people on the Hill who are actually investigating this and who are looking at it, there`s a deep fear and I don`t think it`s an unfounded fear that the vulnerabilities that we`re exposing from 2016 are not going to be addressed in time for 2020. And that doesn`t just include fake news.
It includes the penetrability of our voting systems in states for instance. I mean keep in mind, there were reports that Russians were able to hack into those voting systems but may not have done anything with it. Well, what have we done to prepare for that in 2020? So in going about and finding the extent to which Facebook posts, Twitter posts were used to generate these fake rallies and are -- and what we discovered in some cases to encourage local newscasters to cover fake events like Coal Miners for Trump. When you start to see the totality of this effort that`s when you can actually start to prepare for it happening again.
O`DONNELL: And Betsy what can we expect Facebook`s response to this to be, Twitter`s response to this?
WOODRUFF: This is an issue that is sort of unprecedented for social media companies, for them to be embroiled in a story with not just national but global ramifications. So it`s hard to game out what exactly we can expect to hear from them. We know it`s something that makes very high level people at both of these powerful companies really uncomfortable.
We know it`s not their favorite thing to talk about. We know they`re trying to telegraph they`re cooperating with investigators while at the same time trying to distance themselves of course from any culpability in whatever happened in the lead up to the 2016 election.
The broader question of course is going to be going to Sam`s point what exactly these companies can do to keep things like this from happening again. And it`s complicated.
O`DONNELL: Betsy Woodruff and Sam Stein thank you both for joining us tonight, appreciate it.
STEIN: Thanks Lawrence;.
O`DONNELL: Thank you. Tonight`s last word is next.
O`DONNELL: We now have a response from Jimmy Kimmel to a Tweet the President sent earlier tonight. The President was clearly defending Senator Bill Cassidy against Jimmy Kimmel saying that Bill Cassidy lied to him. And President Trump`s Tweet was, Senator Dr. Bill Cassidy is a class act who really cares about people and their health care. He doesn`t lie.
Just wants to help people to which Jimmy Kimmel has just responded that`s great news Mr. President. Does that mean he`ll vote against the horrible bill he wrote? Jimmy Kimmel once again gets tonight`s last word.
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