Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL Date: February 20, 2018
Guests: Thomas Friedman
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel.
And so, there seems to be or is there really a struggle over the Jared Kushner security clearance business with John Kelly or is John Kelly just going along with this whole thing?
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, "TRMS": You know, Friday is going to arrive which is going to be the date by which John Kelly said the new security clearance thing was going to be in effect, and either the new security clearance thing isn`t going to be in effect and Jared Kushner is going to still have his gig, or there`s going to be some magic nepotism exception for Jared Kushner or we`re all just going to pretend like they didn`t say any of the things they said in the past week. It`s -- I don`t know.
O`DONNELL: I`m betting on the nepotism exception issued specifically by the president. He has the power to simply grant Jared Kushner whatever security clearance he decides to grant him. And then we`ll see that little White House line that we see at the briefing every time where they say oh, we can never comment on security clearances. And that`s the end of it.
MADDOW: The thing interesting about this is by John Kelly`s own design. This one is a fuse that ends in a firecracker. This is a specific timeline. He says this will all be done by Friday. So, it`s -- he`s either going to be humiliated here, or Jared Kushner is going to be humiliated here, or the White House is going to have something inexplicable to explain.
But it`s all going to happen on a very specific timeline by the end of this week.
O`DONNELL: And, Rachel, just quickly, my -- I told you so moment last night. We talked about the 2:00 briefing schedule for today and I told you do not even look at the TV at 2:00.
MADDOW: Do not worry, it won`t start on time. You were very, very right. I got lots of people telling me today, hey, Lawrence was right.
O`DONNELL: Yes, but everybody knew that. That was not a prediction. That was just a subtle fact.
MADDOW: It was a prediction and you got it right. I think you can rest on those laurels.
O`DONNELL: OK, I`m going to take that one. Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Thank you, Rachel.
O`DONNELL: Well, another day, another guilty plea. Special prosecutor Robert Mueller obtained another guilty plea in the investigation of the president and the president`s campaign and the president`s family and the president`s assorted associates around the world. This time, Robert Mueller charged and got a guilty plea from a lawyer involved in the case. No doubt stunning the rest of the criminal defense lawyers representing witnesses and suspects in this investigation. We`ll have more details on that guilty plea later.
But one of the extraordinary things about that new guilty plea is that it was not even mentioned in today`s White House press briefing because the briefing was so short. It was less than 20 minutes long. And that is the White House strategy on briefings. Make them so short and so rare that it is impossible to ask all of the questions about all of the chaos and all of the suspected corruption and all of the violations of security clearance protocols and all of the failures of the president of the United States to defend this country against an attack by a foreign power.
There has not been a White House press briefing in a week. At the last White House press briefing, most of the questions were about what John Kelly knew and when he knew it and what John Kelly did to protect his favorite staff member Rob Porter after it was revealed that Rob Porter was accused of violence against both of his former wives. That is where we left it in the White House press briefing room last week and today there was not one question about Rob Porter in the briefing, because it worked.
The White House strategy worked. Just wait out the news cycle. Just wait for a subject change. And that`s how they`ll get away from Rob Porter and the John Kelly problem. And they got that subject change in the form of mass murder in the president`s own backyard in Florida on Wednesday. A tragedy that provoked this question today from John Roberts of Fox News.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN ROBERTS, FOX NEWS REPORTER: Does the president have any ideas, any ideas at all on how to address this or is he starting from scratch?
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I can tell you that the president supports not having the use of bump stocks and that we expect further action on that in the coming days. He ordered the Department of Justice and the ATF to review the regulation of bump stocks.
My understanding is that review his been completed and movement will take place on that shortly. But the president, when it comes to that, is committed to ensuring that those devices are -- again, I`m not going to get ahead of the announcement, but I can tell you the president doesn`t support the use of those accessories.
ROBERTS: And on the broader problem of deranged individuals getting ahold of weapons and killing people indiscriminately, does he have any ideas on how to deal with this?
SANDERS: Look, again, that`s part of a lot of conversations that we`re going to have over the next --
ROBERTS: So are you suggesting he starts from scratch? If he has to listen to a bunch people and if he doesn`t have any ideas of his own, that would suggest that he doesn`t have any ideas.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Any ideas of his own. That`s fox news asking does the president of the United States have any ideas of his own? And, of course, he doesn`t have any ideas of his own. But apparently he used to have at least one idea.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: The president in 2000 did support an assault weapons ban. What`s his position now?
SANDERS: Look --
REPORTER: Is he open to reinstating the band?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Now, I`m going to spare you the gibberish of the White House press secretary that followed that question. It was a simple yes or no question and there was nothing in that answer that indicated a yes or no, just the usual nonsense words that comes out of that microphone.
The press secretary was asked if the president supports the utterly foolish and dangerous and impossible idea advanced by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich that six to eight American teachers in every American school should be carrying guns at all times to fight off mass murderers. It is an idea that would create more armed teachers in America than armed police officers in America.
I promise you, Newt Gingrich has not done the math on this. It is the single most ridiculous idea that has been suggested in this arena and the White House press secretary`s answer was --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SANDERS: I haven`t spoken with him about Speaker Gingrich`s plan, so I`ll have to get back to you on that front.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: So the White House press secretary has no idea whether the president supports a crazy idea. But that is her standard answer for most questions. The White House press secretary standard answer for most questions is I have no idea what the president thinks about that. The White House press secretary offered gibberish and lies when asked about the president`s reaction to the indictment on Friday of 13 Russians for interfering in our election.
She actually offered the lie that president Trump has been much tougher on Russia than president Obama.
Now, let`s just zoom in on one particular exchange on Russian interference.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Is he angered by this or outraged that Russia tried to interfere in our system?
SANDERS: I think he`s angered that anybody would try to meddle into our system.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Is he angered that Russia interfered? And notice that she cannot bring herself to say that the president is angered that Russia has interfered in our system. She switches it to he`s angered that anyone would interfere with our system.
She cannot say the word Russia in that sentence. She is not allowed to. She knows it. She knows what the demand is from her audience of one. And then she was asked this about Jared Kushner.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: The chief of staff on Friday issued a memo on security clearances that those with interim security clearances by the end of this week that were outstanding since June of last year would lose their access to classified information. One of those people, we know from his attorney, would be senior adviser Jared Kushner. Can you talk about how he`ll be able to do his senior job in the White House if he does not have access to classified information?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Again, in the interest of time and your sanity, I will spare you the nonsense that came out of the microphone in response to that.
The -- but you should know that tonight John Kelly issued this written statement. I will not comment on anybody`s specific security clearance situation or go beyond the memo released last week. As I told Jared days ago, I have full confidence in his ability to continue performing his duties in his foreign policy portfolio, including overseeing our Israeli- Palestinian peace effort and serving as an integral part of our relationship with Mexico. Everyone in the White House is grateful for these valuable contributions to furthering the president`s agenda.
There is no truth to any suggestion otherwise.
Joining our discussion now, Josh Earnest, former White House press secretary for President Obama. He`s also an MSNBC political analyst. David Frum is with us. He`s senior editor for "The Atlantic," and the author of the "New York Times" new bestseller "Trumpocracy: The Corruption of the American Republic". And Neera Tanden is with us. She`s the president of the Center for American Progress, and a former campaign official in the Hillary Clinton campaign.
Josh, I want to start with you. This was about an 18, 19-minute press briefing. I remember you used to do them that could last over an hour if there were enough questions to fill that space. This clearly looks like the strategy is limit these briefings to the point that they can`t possibly ask everything that needs to be discussed approximate. And also have them infrequently enough that the way to end the John Kelly/Rob Porter story is to let enough days of silence go by before you speak again.
JOSH EARNEST, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Lawrence, you have touchdown on what is clearly an element of their strategy. Some of this has to do with the impossible situation that Sarah Huckabee Sander finds herself in. You know, the question that you`ve had up on the graphic on your screen since the beginning of the show, in some ways crystallizes exactly the problem that she faces which is that President Trump doesn`t actually have any ideas of his own. And it makes it very difficult to put her in a situation where she`s supposed to use the White House briefing to go and advocate for ideas that don`t apparently exist.
When I was the White House press secretary, my responsibility, what I spent my entire morning on leading up to the briefing, was actually gathering my staff and policy experts throughout the White House to discuss what our position, what our ideas, what our record and what results we had on the topics of the day. What are the questions we know we`re going to get asked about, whether it`s foreign policy and the progress we made against ISIS or domestic policy and the progress we have made on the economy or on a range of other areas.
But anybody who stands behind that podium these days doesn`t have the benefit of that kind of substance that they can go out and defend or advocate for. And so, it`s not particularly surprising that they might go for a week without doing a briefing. Just for your viewers at home, you need to understand how unusual that is. It would -- there might have been a couple of times over the holidays or when president Obama might have been on vacation, over the summer, in August, with his family, where we may not have done a briefing for a week, but typically, that was because there wasn`t that much controversy in the world. There wasn`t that much that the White House had to account for directly.
And, you know, that clearly is not the case for what`s transpired in the last week. And it`s put the Trump White House in a very uncomfortable position. For a White House that is focused on optics and projecting strength, they look to everybody who`s watching, scared to answer any questions. It`s not a good look for the leader of the free world and his team.
O`DONNELL: David Frum, as the veteran of a Republican White House yourself, I just want to get your reaction to what you saw in that briefing room today.
DAVID FRUM, THE ATLANTIC: Well, Lawrence, I mean, you are right about the power of the change the subject messaging method. But you do run out of rope if your plan is to distract attention from scandals with more scandals, because evenly you just have a big bag of a lot of scandals.
White Houses don`t do these things because they are so committed to openness. I mean, they say they do. The real reason you do them is in order to assert a White House message, to be able to assert some kind of dominance over the news narrative, because otherwise, the TV is going to be there. The media are going to be there. They`re going to run stories and the question for a White House is, do you want to have an impact on those stories?
When you hunker down and put your pillow over your head, you surrender the ability to do that. Look what happened this morning. The president got a little bit late access to a "Washington Post" story in which another woman came forward to say that President Trump had assaulted her. She had contemporaneous e-mails that this happened a decade ago but that day she e- mailed her mother and other people in a short period of time.
What was the White House response? The president this morning erupts in a two-part Twitter storm about this.
Well, this is now part of the national agenda. There was no plan. There was no consideration. He insisted this is something I would never have done except we have his voice on record at about the same time as he was assaulting this woman boasting this was his method.
O`DONNELL: And, Neera, I`m so glad David mentioned that case because this was a front page story in "The Washington Post". It`s not mentioned in this briefing today because -- partially because of how short it was, deliberately short. Scheduled to start at 2:00. It doesn`t start until 3:30. It goes less 20 minutes.
And it`s because the front page stories -- latest front page story of the latest sexual assault by the president and so many other things that this White House is afraid to talk about.
NEERA TANDEN: Absolutely. I mean, I would say the problem for them is not that they have dominance or they don`t have dominance. The headline is they are drowning in scandal.
The operative thing they were asked about today that Trumped everything else was the fact that Russia meddled with our elections and Donald Trump hasn`t said word squat about that really. Fundamentally, we have a foreign adversaries interfering on our elections to help him and to elect him and he`s basically fine with it. They have to in essence, Sarah Huckabee Sanders had to lie and basically say this is really Obama`s fault and he`s done less, when everyone knows that Donald Trump isn`t doing the sanctions, hasn`t actually lifted a finger in any way to impact Putin from any tool that he had.
So I think the real issue here is that they are mired in one scandal after another. What`s so really pathetic about this White House is someone could have asked them about their "Washington Post" quote in which you have a White House staffer saying the slaughter of 17 children was a reprieve for them, a political reprieve from the Porter scandal. That is how rock bottom this White House is.
O`DONNELL: But it`s also obvious that that`s the way they were using it and so that unnamed source in "The Washington Post" who said that was simply speaking -- I mean, Josh, a quick last word, that was simply a statement of the obvious for this White House.
EARNEST: Yes, it was, Lawrence. I think we saw more of that over the weekend with the president`s tweets on a variety of topics, most of them attempting to obscure the scandal that engulfed his White House.
I was actually remembering back to five years ago this weekend. I traveled to Florida. I was the deputy press secretary at the White House. I traveled down to Florida with President Obama who was looking for a long weekend away.
The big scandal of that weekend, the big scandal that left the White House press corps enraged at the way that I was managing them was that President Obama had the temerity to go golfing with Tiger Woods without telling the press corps in advance. It`s a pretty good indication of just how far we`ve come in the last five years.
O`DONNELL: Those were the days. Josh Earnest, David Frum, Neera Tanden, thank you all for joining us tonight. I really appreciate it.
EARNEST: Thanks, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Thank you.
TANDEN: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: "New York Times" columnist Tom Friedman issued a code red. That was a phrase. A code red on Donald Trump yesterday. It has become Tom Friedman`s most circulated column ever. It is mandatory reading and Tom Friedman will join us next.
And later, in the rewrite tonight, above and beyond the call of duty, the new job description for American school teachers who in the words of one teacher take a bullet for the kids.
O`DONNELL: Our democracy is in serious danger. That was the first sentence of an extraordinary column by "New York Times" columnist Tom Friedman. It almost instantly became the most viewed article on "The New York Times" Website. It describes the Trump presidency in truly threatening terms, threatening to the United States of America.
Tom Friedman was not scheduled to publish a column Sunday night, when this column was posted on "The Times" Website, but at the end of a weekend of presidential misbehavior, Tom Friedman found himself compelled to say something. The Friedman column is one of "The New York Times" nonpartisan columns and one of the most instructive in the history of "New York Times" columns. Tom Freidman travels the world, trying to translate everything that`s happening into clear concepts that readers around the world need to know.
Now, you might not agree with everything you read in Friedman columns, but you will also learn something important in a Friedman column. The Friedman columns at their best are a continuing nonpartisan search for the world`s best ideas, and that is a search that is usually optimistic. Those columns are read closely by leaders around the world, but it is entirely possible that the president of the United States has never read a Tom Friedman column. He certainly sounds like someone who has never read a Tom Friedman column.
But if he reads just one, we should all hope it`s this one which ends this way.
This is code red. The biggest threat to the integrity of our democracy today is in the Oval Office.
And joining us now, Tom Friedman, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for "The New York Times".
Tom, thank you very much for joining us tonight. I really appreciate it.
And, you know, my internal clock told me when I saw this column, this is out of sequence. He`s not scheduled to write right now, is he? This isn`t his day.
Tell us why you were moved to do this one.
TOM FRIEDMAN, COLUMNIST, NEW YORK TIMES: Well, Lawrence, it was -- it was the holiday and I picked up the paper like everybody else and saw that Robert Mueller had indicted 13 Russians and several Russian organizations for basically intervening in our last election both to poison our politics and to tilt the election toward Donald Trump.
And I waited to see what the president would have to say about this and he had nothing to say about it. And that struck me as not only appalling, but actually frightening, because up to now, Donald Trump, he`s violated the norms that we expect in a president. His tweeting, his incessant lying, his general, you know, the way he speaks about people, his diminishing of others in different countries. He`s violated the norms of the presidency.
But when the president of the United States does not react to a clear and present danger, then he`s violating his oath of office. Then he is not defending -- protecting and defending the Constitution and the country. And that struck me as I said not only appalling but extremely dangerous and it needed to be called out. Judging from the reaction of readers, a lot of people felt exactly that.
O`DONNELL: I want to read something the president tweeted this morning. He said, I have been much tougher on Russia than Obama. Just look at the facts. Total fake news.
What`s your reaction to that tweet?
FRIEDMAN: Well, you know, it`s probably lie number 2,342. The fact is that we`ve -- the Congress has imposed sanctions that he has not imposed. What would actually -- what would it look like? I think, Lawrence, we have to step back and say, what would a real president do in this situation?
He`d do three things. Now, let`s remember, this came after a week of our three leading intelligence agencies, the FBI, CIA and NSA all testifying to Congress that not only did Russia intervene in the election, they were still doing it and they plan to continue to do it in the next round of elections. And when asked, the FBI director what had the president instructed him to do, he said nothing.
So what would it actually look like if we had a real president, not someone who`s running the Trump organization and seems to moonlight as president of the United States?
Here`s what a really president would do. First of all, he`d give a speech to the country explaining the problem to people in a language and way that would be both compelling and illuminating people so they understand the nature of the threat. Secondly, he would call together all the stakeholders, state and local election authorities, all the social networks, all the people who run our federal elections, leaders of the two parties, and basically layout a plan of defense for how we`re going to prevent this intervention in the future.
And the third thing he would do would call in his national security team and layout an offense. Why are we sitting here every day reading about Russian intervention in our election? How Putin is basically using lies to divide us and poison our democracy. Why are we not selling the truth about him, all the money he`s stolen, all the people he`s basically made disappear from Russian politics? Why are we not using the truth to undermine his autocracy when he is using lies and poison to undermine our democracy? That`s what a real president would like.
Donald Trump did none of these and it is appalling. He should be ashamed of himself.
O`DONNELL: Tom, I always look to Friedman columns for something hard to find in my own view of things and that is at least a glimmer of optimism. I`m very bad at finding that when I look at things.
And this is the Friedman column where I would say where I can`t find the optimism. I don`t think it`s in this column. But do you see something here for what we should be optimistic or can hope to be optimistic?
FRIEDMAN: No, I don`t, Lawrence, because many readers pointed this out and it was for me just a space issue. Why am I the one raising this? Why are you the one raising this? Where`s the Republican Party?
Where is his own party which claimed to for so many years be the daddy party, the national security party, the adults in the room that not a one of them has come out, none of their leadership and basically called the president out on this. That`s disgusting. And it`s deeply troubling.
I wish I could find a glimmer of hope in this. You know, an Israeli general once said to me, Tom, we know why you`re an optimist. It`s because you`re short. I said, what do you mean I`m short? I`m not short. He said, yes, it`s because you can only see the part of the glass that`s half full.
Well, that`s usually the case, Lawrence, but this time I cannot see any of the glass half full. We have a president who is either compromised by Russia or is such a towering fool he actually believes what he told us he believes, that he asked Vladimir Putin if he did this and Putin told him no and he believes him. That is the president who said he`s done more than Barack Obama?
O`DONNELL: Tom Friedman, thank you very much for joining us to expand on your column at this extraordinary point in our history. Can`t thank you enough. Thank you, Tom.
FRIEDMAN: Thank you, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Today, special prosecutor Robert Mueller got another guilty plea. That`s next.
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC ANCHOR: Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller has secured a fourth guilty plea. Alex Van Der Zwaan, a former lawyer at the law firm Skadden, Arps, a worldwide law firm that is based in New York. He worked in the London office. He pled guilty in Federal Court to lying today to Mueller`s investigators in November, 2017, about his communications with former Trump campaign aide Rick Gates.
Gates was indicted along with Paul Manafort in October for financial crimes. According to court documents, Alex Van Der Zwaan concealed conversations he had in September, 2016, with Gates and someone called person A who is a long-time business associate of Manafort and Gates in Ukraine. Alex Van Der Zwaan`s father-in-law has ties to Vladimir Putin.
He is a Russian oligarch named German Khan. Well, I`m going to let someone else try to pronounce that. He owns Russia`s Alpha Bank. That bank and German, I can`t read this name in the prompter, So I`m going to skip it. And that bank is mentioned in Christopher Steel`s dossier.
Joining us, Jennifer Rogers, a former Federal Prosecutor and the U.S. Attorney`s Office in Salinger`s New York and Executive Director of the Senate for the advancement of public integrity at Columbia Law School. Jennifer, your reading of this plea today?
JENNIFER ROGERS, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, they obviously have another cooperator or on their hands. It was information, not an indictment which is kind of the clue here. So my assumption is they`re going to use him to persuade Gates finally. Apparently he`s been in talks about cooperating but it will get him over the line. And then of course who they really want is Manafort who knows a lot about the Trump Campaign. So my guess is they`re continuing to exert pressure in the way of Paul Manafort that he ultimately puts himself.
O`DONNELL: Yes, the L.A. Times reported days ago that Gates it completed a plea agreement. There was an earlier report saying he was getting close to one. And what`s unusual about the rhythm of that is usually when one organization gets that kind of leak, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the others all get it. NBC News gets it within 24 hours or less of that. And no one else has gotten that confirmation that Gates has made his plea deal.
ROGERS: Well I suspect he hasn`t. You know he just got new lawyers a couple weeks ago. There was a whole kafuffle about that. So I suspect new lawyers come on the case. They don`t have to start over in the negotiations exactly.
But there`s a little bit more kind of getting to know one another and then they`ll finalize the deal when they can. It`s also, you know, it`s a tough thing for someone like Rick Gates to plead guilty so sometimes it takes the lawyer a while to get the client there too.
O`DONNELL: And this guilty plea today involves communication with Gates so Gates and his lawyers are now sitting there, if they didn`t know this already. And let me go to that. What are the chances the prosecutors have said to Gates attorneys, look, you know, we have this lawyer. We`ve got him about to plead guilty or we`ve got everything. Would they have to wait until they actually got the guilty plea from the lawyer before they could in any way discuss that with the gates lawyers?
ROGERS: They usually would. I mean there`s no legal obligation to do that, but it can all fall apart until it`s done. Usually they would wait. But I`m sure the moment they did they said you know hey we`ve got this guy on board. So now it`s time to sign the paper.
O`DONNELL: So when Rick Gates wakes up tomorrow, it`s a different legal climate he`s waking up in?
ROGERS: I think so. I think he`ll finally decide it`s time.
O`DONNELL: Which also makes it a different legal climate for Paul Manafort and ultimately for Donald Trump.
ROGERS: I think so. I mean Manafort has held out for a long time the charges against him from last year are quite serious. I`m surprised at how long he`s been dragging it out. it just gets worse and worse. you have to assume at some point he`s going to do it.
O`DONNELL: Jennifer Rogers, thank you very much for joining us, really appreciate it.
ROGERS: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, the new job description for American school teachers. That is next in tonight`s rewrite.
O`DONNELL: In tonight`s Rewrite the job description of the American teachers. Last night I told my wife I would take a bullet for the kids. That`s what Robert Parish told The New York Times today. He said I think about it all the time. It`s not theoretical for Robert Parish.
He`s an Elementary School Teacher at a school near the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School where 14 students and three teachers were murdered last week. Teachers all over the country are now thinking about it all the time, talking about it with their families, talking about it with their kids.
Stoneman Douglas High Geography Teacher Scott Beigel, talked about it with his fiance Gwen Gosler. She told that story at his funeral on Sunday. He said that he told her promise me if this ever happens to me, you will tell them the truth. Tell them what a jerk I am. Don`t talk about the hero stuff.
These are the same public school teachers who are so often condemned by Republicans as being the overpaid members of an all-too powerful union. Well it`s union that`s not powerful enough to get them combat pay. It`s a union that`s not powerful enough to get them death benefits like soldiers get for being killed in the line of duty. The families of American soldiers killed in battle get $100,000. America teachers killed in massacres and schools just get their names taken off the payroll, zero.
Republicans eagerly attack teachers unions because the Teachers Unions often choose to support Democrats who are in favor of increased funding for education instead of Republicans who are in favor of decreased funding for education. President Trump`s budget proposes a cut in funding for school security. President Trump wants to make teachers and students even more vulnerable to gunfire. President Trump doesn`t know that of course.
He doesn`t know that`s in his budget because he doesn`t know anything that`s in his budget. And so when he meets with some of the people who survived this school shooting tomorrow, he will try to say what he thinks they want to hear. What he needs to hear is what it`s like when a mass murderer comes to your school. English Teacher Dara Hass had three of her students killed last week, three. She told NBC Kerry Sanders that at first she thought it was just a drill.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DARA HASS, ENGLISH TEACHER, MARJORY STONEMAN DOUGLAS HIGH SCHOOL: I thought it might be the drill and I went to shut the blinds and then I turned to say turn the lights off. When I turned, my saw my student. I saw him, and he was bleeding.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 14 -year-old Alex Schachter had been shot.
HASS: And my students, they were so brave.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Haas grabbed her cell phone.
HASS: And I called 911 and they asked if I could get to my student that was injured. And I couldn`t get over to him. And then 911 said he`s coming back. He already shot in my room twice. Wasn`t that enough?
But no. he`s coming back. And I figured If I have to go, I`m going to hug my students closer and I kissed my students on their head and you know tried to comfort them.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Schachter and two more students, 14-year-old alaina petty and 14 Alyssa Alhadeff were killed in her classroom.
HAAS: it`s so hard to grasp that I lost their sweet little faces.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One building over amid the chaos.
JACK MCCLOUD, STUDENT, MARJORY STONEMAN DOUGLAS HIGH SCHOOL: I was locked out of all the classrooms.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 16 year old, 11th grader Jack McCloud trapped in hey hallway with nowhere to hide.
KERRY SANDERS, REPORTER, NBC NEWS: And you could get in that first door?
MCCLOUD: I could not get into that classroom.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Then a math teacher, the kids call Mama Trizzino did what she was trained never to do.
MARY TRIZZINO, MATH TEACHER, MARJORY STONEMAN DOUGLAS HIGH: I broke protocol. I opened my door and looked out. And here`s a group of children with an adult and he goes can we come in and I said everybody come in as fast as you can.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At 65 Mary Trizzino is a year away from retirement.
TRIZZINO: I turned to the kids and I said I want you to know that if anybody comes through that door to harm you, they have to come through me. I will be the first defense. They will have to shoot me to get to you. And maybe that will give you a chance.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It would be 90 minutes before the S.W.A.T. Team finally came to their rescue. English Teacher Daria Haas had given her students an assignment to write a poem. She got Alex`s poem texted from his father while we were there.
HAAS: Life is like a roller coaster. It has ups and downs. Eventually comes to a stop And you won`t know when or how. But you will time that it will be time to get off and start new. It`s not fair that he had to be taken. It`s not fair.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Jim Gard is 58 years old. He`s been a teacher for 36 years. He was in math class at Stoneman Douglas during the shooting. Two of the dead had been students of his and the shooter was a former student of his.
Jim Gard told the New York Times, you know if I go through my college transcripts, master degree, doctorate courses, all that, I know for sure there are no courses that say shooter on campus 101. This is what life in America has become in the age of the AR-15. What should be the most non- violent profession in America has become one of the front lines of mass murder in this country.
And so American teachers and their fiancees and their husbands and their wives and their children are worried that they might not come home from work tomorrow or they will come home from work tomorrow drenched in the blood of their students. Andrea Suarez is a 35-year-old middle school teacher in Broward County Florida. Her own four children at home have been urging her to quit -- to quit her job of teaching because it`s too dangerous.
She says she`s been having trouble sleeping because she told The New York Times I keep hearing kids screaming and gunshots in my head. No doubt there are thousands of teachers in America tonight who are considering leaving their profession because they don`t want to get killed because they don`t want to watch children be killed. because they don`t want to be in a classroom where they will see with their own eyes what an assault weapon does to children`s bodies. And under these working conditions who would have the audacity to tell an American school teacher to stay -- to stay in the line of fire with no support from American politicians who continue to follow the National Rifle Association`s mandate to make sure that the American mass murders have everything they need when they walk into a school.
Everything they need to kill as many students and teachers as possible. Still, Jim Gard wants to stay. He wants to stay at Stoneman Douglas High School. He told The New York times I want to go back. I want to go back to my kids.
I want to go back to my classroom. I want to see the kids. I want to teach the kids and that`s the bottom line. And that is the voice of true bravery in America today. The bravery to walk into an American classroom and try to continue to teach math with one eye on the classroom door waiting for the next mass murder to burst in with an assault weapon and start firing.
Every teacher in America that chooses to go to work tomorrow knows that this is going to happen again. There is going to be another mass murderer with an assault weapon in another school. Every teacher knows that. But none of them know if their classroom is going to be next.
And none of them know which of them will take a bullet for the kids. For American school teachers, the simple act of going to work tomorrow has become an act of pure heroism.
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SANDERS: What`s going on in America?
TRIZZINO: I don`t know. But these children are going to change it. This young man and all his school mates are going to change it.
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O`DONNELL: Joining us the discussion now, Ruth Marcus, Deputy Editorial Page Editor and Columnist at the Washington Post. Ruth, I was a public schoolteacher for a few years. I never had to face this question. It was before the age of mass murder in public schools. But the idea that thousands and thousands of teachers all over the country tonight talking to their kids who are worried about whether they come home again just by going to work is a new working condition for the American teacher.
RUTH MARCUS, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: It`s a new working condition for the American teacher and it`s a new kind of life condition for all of us. Every parent who sends a child off to school, everybody who sends a family member to a workplace. We know this can happen in so many places.
It can happen in movie theaters. It can happen in parking lots. It can happen at concerts. We are not safe, and the -- I am not taking anything away from the incredibly powerful story of the teachers and the heroism of their actions in Florida and elsewhere.
But there is a lack of -- there is a new worry for all of us that we are not safe. And it`s not about kind of the random risks that we all need to take when you get on the Beltway here in D.C. or anything, it`s risks that we should not have to assume because our politicians aren`t willing to do the various things to do that wouldn`t ensure our safety. But that might help us a little bit.
O`DONNELL: The President apparently is going to meet with -- seems a carefully selected group of people from Florida tomorrow who were at the school or parents, kids and also people who were exposed to the violence at Columbine as well as Sandy Hook at the Whitehouse. I spoke to one of the students from Douglas High School today who has been very active in this and he`s been seen a lot on television.
He told me he got an invitation from the Whitehouse late this afternoon when the Whitehouse knew that it was impossible for people like him to get there tomorrow for this because they are all participating in something else in Florida, a very public event in Florida tomorrow. And so it seems like The Whitehouse has done something with the invitations to this to try to protect the president from what would be the confrontations that some of these students publicly promised if they got a chance to speak to this President.
MARCUS: Well, what can be said to that? How -- it`s not surprising in any way. This is not a President who does very well taking criticism, even not to his face. the notion of him withstanding the sort of in-person criticism from some of these young people who are so brave and so articulate and so forceful in what they say, that is not the kind of thing -- I have to say, if you were the Whitehouse Communications Director, that is not a setup that you would want to facilitate in any way.
So pardon my cynicism here. But I can`t totally blame the Whitehouse for not making that -- making certain that that happens. it`s A rare moment of competence on their part.
O`DONNELL: And, Ruth, one of the stunning moments today in the Whitehouse Press Briefing was John Roberts of Fox News just saying, does the President have any ideas of his own about this gun violence, does he have any ideas at all?
MARCUS: That was pretty stunning, and, in fact, the one idea that we heard the President put out today which has to do with ordering the Justice Department and the ATF to do something about these bump stocks. It`s really I think too little, too ineffective, way too late. These bump stocks, remember, are the things that basically turn semiautomatics into automatics and allowed the carnage in Las Vegas to be as horrible as it was. So, first of all, if the President cares about this, why didn`t this happen after Las Vegas?
Why did it take 17 dead high school students? But, second of all, it`s not at all clear that actually the -- that this can be accomplished by regulation. His own Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms has basically concluded that you can`t do this by regulation alone, and so if you wanted to get rid of bump stocks, what you would be doing is supporting legislation to do it.
O`DONNELL: Ruth Marcus, thank you very much for doing this tonight on this very sad subject, really appreciate it.
MARCUS: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: Thank you. Tonight`s last word is next.
O`DONNELL: We have breaking election news tonight from Kentucky, Democrat Linda Belcher won a Special Election for the Kentucky house with 68 percent of the vote, and this is in a district that voted 72 percent for Donald Trump in 2016. This is the 37th State Legislative Seat Democrats have picked up since Donald Trump took office. That is tonight`s Last Word. Up next on the 11th Hour Steve Kornacki will join Brian with a look at poll --