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First Ladies denounce Trump policy. TRANSCRIPT: 06/18/2018. The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell

Guests: Michael Curry; James Martin; David Frum, Jeff Merkley, Victoria DeFrancesco

Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O'DONNELL Date: June 18, 2018 Guest: Michael Curry; James Martin; David Frum, Jeff Merkley, Victoria DeFrancesco


And Ginger Thompson, the "ProPublica" reporter who you had on during your hour has really changed our understanding of this story once again. There's been some really heroic journalism coming out of the southern border, but that audio that she was able to make public of those children under those conditions is like nothing we've ever heard before.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, "TRMS": That's right, and there will be -- there will be an ongoing fight to get footage, to get visuals to be able to show the American people instead of beyond even just allowing us to hear what it's like in there with those kids, but that she's the first one to have published anything from inside one of those facilities, it's absolutely gut-wrenching to hear it. But that will be -- this will mark a pivot point in this story. Mark my words.

O'DONNELL: We're going to play some of it more than once in this hour and I really do have to warn people. It is about the most difficult thing you could hear on this subject.

MADDOW: Yes, seriously, well done. Thank you.

O'DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW: Thanks, Lawrence.

O'DONNELL: Well, Melania speaks now she didn't actually speak, but the current first lady of the United States took the extraordinary step for her of allowing her spokesperson to issue a written public comment on her behalf about a government policy, in this case a policy created and ordered into effect by her husband.

The statement says, Mrs. Trump hates to see children separated from their families and hopes both sides of the aisle can finally come together to achieve successful immigration reform. She believes we need to be a country that follows all laws but also a country that governs with heart.

There is no indication that the first lady has actually spoken to her husband about this, as every first lady before her certainly would have done and as we can be sure now, every first lady before Melania Trump has actually done. They have spoken to their husbands about this and they have all made much clearer much stronger public comments than the current first lady.

Michelle Obama retweeted something her predecessor Laura Bush said today, quote: I live in a border state. I appreciate the need to enforce and protect our international boundaries, but this zero tolerance policy is cruel, it is immoral and it breaks my heart.

Laura Bush's predecessor, that's First Lady Hillary Clinton, said that Donald Trump's family separation policy is, quote, an affront to our values.

And Rosalynn Carter said the practice and policy today of removing children from their parents care at our border with Mexico is disgraceful and a shame to our country.

Last week photojournalist John Moore who has documented wars and refugee crises around the world captured the moment, the moment that appeared on the front page of "The New York Times" and showed the world that what was happening on our southern border is state sanctioned child abuse Trump ordered child abuse since then we have had a parade of child psychiatrists and pediatricians stepping forward to say what every parent knows that this is child abuse.

John Moore, the photographer who has covered war zones and seen it all was deeply disturbed by what he saw that night. He tried to calm one of the children who was being separated from his mother by telling him in Spanish: don't worry, everything's going to be OK and John Moore says that he regretted saying that almost immediately, because he said, quote: I have no way of knowing if things will be OK.

The president of the United States once again lied about his policy today and tried to blame the Democrats for a policy that was begun on April 6th of this year by the attorney general of the United States with this memo sent to federal prosecutors along the southwest border and titled "zero tolerance".

Donald Trump doesn't have zero tolerance for anything else. He just let a mother out of prison who was actually tried and convicted of drug dealing and money-laundering, and that was the right thing to do. At Kim Kardashian's urgings, Donald Trump was right to decide that in that case, zero tolerance for drug dealing and zero tolerance for money laundering meant zero humanity.

And so, he released one mother from federal custody that day while every day putting dozens and dozens of mothers into federal custody and separating them from their babies, from their toddlers, from their children.

And as the president does this, he lies about it every day and everyone working for the president lies about it every day. They try to tell the lie that this April 6th memo from Jeff Sessions does not exist. They try to tell you that the Democrats did something to make this happen when the Democrats did nothing to make this happen. Lying is now an official component of every Trump policy.

First comes the policy, then comes the lie about the policy. Donald Trump also told the lie last week that he hates what he's doing.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I hate it. I hate to see separation of parents and children.


O'DONNELL: OK. Now did you catch the kernel of truth in what he actually did just say? The words are very important. He said I hate to see the separation of parents and children, and that is true. He does literally hate to see it, but he doesn't hate to do it and that's why he continues to do it, but he does hate to see it because even Donald Trump can see how ugly it is, even Donald Trump can see how cruel it is. Even Melania Trump can see how ugly and cruel it is.

And so, I'm sure Donald Trump does hate to see it, and that's why he lies about the policy if he thought his policy looked good if Donald Trump thought this photograph is America at its best, then Donald Trump wouldn't be blaming the Democrats for what you see in that photograph. Donald Trump would probably be saying I did that and I'm so glad that you can see what I did.

But Donald Trump hates to see that because he knows how bad that looks and now Donald Trump is trying -- is going to hate not just what it looks like, but what it sounds like because thanks to "ProPublica", we now have an audio recording secretly made at an unnamed children's prison somewhere on the southern border.

And now, there are all sorts of euphemisms going around about what these places are. Is it a Walmart? Is it is it a detention center? Are they concentration camps as "The New York Post" called them today in an editorial?

Are they jails? Are they prisons? They are in fact being used as jails and the experience that the children are having in there is the very same experience that prisoners get in jails and in prisons where most jails and prisons have television and recreation of some kind and a small amount of time of doors.

But every adult in prison in America after being convicted of even the most heinous crimes can see his or her mother or father if they're still alive. Mothers have visiting rights in prisons but the mothers of our southern -- on our southern border have no rights, including basic human rights, not since April 6th of this year.

This is the secret audio recording released today by "ProPublica". This is very difficult to listen to. These are their children and one of Donald Trump's jails.


BORDER PATROL AGENT: Where are you from?





UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: I want to go with my aunt --

BORDER PATROL AGENT: You're going to get there. Look, she will explain it and help you.


CONSULAR WORKER: I'm going to take you to speak to the person from your consulate, OK?


UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: At least can I go with my aunt? I want here to come - -

I want my aunt to come so she can take me to her house.

BORDER PATROL AGENT: She'll help you call your aunt, if you have the number, so that you can talk to your aunt.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: I have her number.

BORDER PATROL AGENT: OK, so she'll help you right now so you can talk to her.




UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: Are you going to call my aunt so that when I'm done eating, she can pick me up?

CONSULAR WORKER: When you get your food, I'll come back so that --

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: I have her number memorized 34, 72 --



O'DONNELL: Daddy, daddy.

That's what the day after Father's Day sounds like in America today. And I'm sure Donald Trump hates to hear that. I'm sure Donald Trump hates for us to hear that, but Donald Trump does not actually hate what is happening there because Donald Trump did that to those children whose voices you just heard crying for their mothers and fathers and Donald Trump vowed today to continue to do it.

In an op-ed for "The Washington Post", former Republican First Lady Laura Bush offered her own report of life on our southern border.

She wrote: In the six weeks between April 19th and May 31st, the Department of Homeland Security has sent nearly 2,000 children to mass detention centers or foster care. More than a hundred of these children are younger than four years old. The reason for these separations is a zero tolerance policy for their parents who are accused of illegally crossing our borders. I live in a border state. I appreciate the need to enforce and protect our international boundaries, but this zero tolerance policy is cruel. It is immoral and it breaks my heart.

Laura Bush recalled another Republican first lady, her mother-in-law, Barbara Bush, who while first lady at the height of the AIDS crisis in this country visited a home in Washington, D.C. for children with HIV/AIDS.

And those days, many Americans believed they could catch AIDS, simply by touching a baby with AIDS. They were -- those babies were even sometimes called the untouchables.

Laura Bush remembers the photograph that we all saw a First Lady Barbara Bush picking up, quote, a dying baby named Donovan and snuggled him against her shoulder to soothe him. My mother-in-law never viewed her embrace of that fragile child as courageous. She simply saw it as the right thing to do.

And so, we are at another possible first lady moment, a moment where the first lady can actually do something that none of the rest of can in the jails that Donald Trump is now running on the southern border for children and toddlers and babies. The rules say that none of the people working there can touch the children. It is against the rules to hug one of the toddlers, and you don't have to be a pediatrician to know the large body of information we now have about the importance of children being hugged, especially the youngest ones, the power of the loving hug for a toddler, for a baby. It is a power that Barbara Bush completely understood.

And so, the current first lady's moment has come. She never did have that press conference that her husband promised she was going to have during the campaign, in which she would explain that she did not violate immigration law by coming to the United States when she first arrived in the United States and working here illegally.

Donald Trump promised that she was going to have a press conference in a couple of weeks two years ago. She never did it. She never explained her legal status when she first worked in the United States. She's never done that.

And so the one and only first lady of the United States who might herself have violated immigration law when she came to the United States can tomorrow do something worthy of the title first lady, Melania Trump can go to the southern border and she can enter any one of the child's jails that her husband has created and she can go find for us the girls and the babies that the Trump government is hiding from us and won't let us see.

Melania Trump can go and find one of those little girls, find one of those little babies one of those untouchables like Barbara Bush before her picked that baby up and hug her and soothe her.

Melania Trump can give one of those untouchable little girls the warmth she deserves, the hug she deserves. Let's see how long it would take for the first lady of the United States to help one of those babies stop crying just one. Let's see what the warmth of Melania Trump's embrace can do from one immigrant to another.

Joining us now from Capitol Hill is Senator Jeff Merkley, a Democrat from Oregon who was denied access to one of those facilities in Brownsville, Texas, ten days ago.

Senator Merkley, thank you very much for joining us.

As Rachel said at the beginning of the hour, you were the one -- you were the senator who first went down to Texas to say we have got to see this. You pulled our attention with you and the attention has just built over time. Where do you see this going from here? And what do you think of the most pressing issues tonight?

SEN. JEFF MERKLEY (D), OREGON: Well, one of the most pressing issues is to recognize that the situation just gets worse between when I went two weeks ago and when I went yesterday. We have a whole new development which is that the border guards are now blocking those seeking asylum at the port of entries from progressing across the bridge to be able to assert a claim of asylum.

I couldn't believe that they were doing this. I heard about this from the refugee pro bono workers. We went out on the bridge, a group of seven congressionals. We saw the border guards there blocking those checking their papers and letting only just a few in, in the course of a day.

If I can, Lawrence, I want to tell you about a little girl named Andrea, or Andrea. Her mother made it across to assert a claim of asylum and here's how she did it. We asked her, how did you get past the border guard? She smiled, she got a big smile on her face she said, I did it like this. She said I walked with the cars instead of with the people and pretended I was washing the windows of those cars until I was close enough to jump back over in line and be on American soil.

That's how she did it and she had this little girl in her arms she said her little girl was sesenta cinco dias, and had been born in route to the United States and beautiful, beautiful little girl. And we asked, how did you -- why did you come to the U.S.? And she said, my family took a loan from a private bank, and that private bank is associated with a drug cartel.

So, we couldn't repay it. They sent the folks to say that if we didn't repay, one of us would die and she said I was marked as soon as I would deliver my babies, so I had to flee while I was eight months pregnant to try to make it to the U.S. to save my life and the life of my baby.

That's the type of person who is coming to assert their right to asylum, to get a fair hearing and they're being blocked at those ports of entry. So, another dimension and when Secretary Nielsen today said, well, they just -- if they would just come to the ports of entry, she knows very well the word has gone out to slow-walk admission at those ports of entry.

So, the story gets worse the more we know at this policy horrific policy is separating parents from their children.

O'DONNELL: Yes, we've actually seen video of what you're talking about on the border done by "The Intercept". They did a great report of exactly how they are standing right at that edge of the border to prevent the these asylum seekers from getting two feet, getting both of their feet across that line because technically, legally, and correct me if I'm wrong, but the moment they get both of their feet across that line as asylum seekers, they at that point cannot legally be turned away.

MERKLEY: Well, they can certainly be slow walked from there. Two weeks ago, there were some 40 families sleeping on that bridge and they were there because night after night, they'd say, well, you can't get in the door to the port of entry, and so they would wait day after day, and they made quite a sight.

And so, with seven of us going down, they didn't want that sight there. So, therefore, they were stopping them at the middle of the bridge and we even heard that it appears that the Mexican guards in the far end we're also checking papers, which is really rare. They don't do that when people are leaving a country or leaving Mexico to come to the U.S., as if they might be working in cooperation.

We weren't able to substantiate that because our team wouldn't let us go to the far end of the bridge, said if we did, we'd have to go through the whole customs process and we wouldn't have time for that. So, we couldn't even check out that piece. But it looked like there was a little bit of cooperation across the border.

O'DONNELL: Senator Jeff Merkley, thank you for joining us tonight and thank you very much for getting this the focus on this story. Really appreciate it.

MERKLEY: You're so welcome.

O'DONNELL: Kellyanne Conway used Catholicism, yes, Catholicism as a justification for the new Trump policy of family separation and she lied about the policy while she was using her Catholicism to justify that policy. We'll talk about that.

And the inspector general of the Justice Department today called the president of the United States a liar, but he did it much more elegantly than I do.


O'DONNELL: The girls remain a mystery. Even the secretary of homeland security isn't sure what to say about what has happened to the girls who have been separated from their parents at the southern border.


REPORTER: A couple of questions. One, why is the government only releasing images of the boys who are being held? Where are the girls? Where are the young toddlers?

KRISTJEN NIELSEN, DHS SECRETARY: I don't know. I am not familiar with those particular images. So, I have to --

REPORTER: You don't know where they are? Do you know where the girls are? Do you know where the young toddlers are?

NIELSEN: We have children in DHS care, both. But as you know, most of the children, after 72 hours, are transferred to HHS. So I don't know what pictures you're referencing.

REPORTER: They were released by your department. I mean, they've been aired all over national television throughout the day, the kids who are being held in the cages. We've only seen the boys.

NIELSEN: I will look into that.


O'DONNELL: Joining the discussion now, Mariana Atencio, an MSNBC correspondent who is live at the country's largest immigration processing center in McAllen, Texas. Also with us, professor Victoria DeFrancesco of the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas. She's also an MSNBC contributor.

And, Mariana, I know there's a little delay on our satellite connection here but what do we know about the girls? That was one of the big questions in Washington today. We haven't seen any pictures of girls being held. What do we know about where the girls are?

MARIANA ATENCIO, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: We don't really know at this point all we have had access to as journalists is where these boys are which is the images that we have seen from that facility in Brownsville in this facility behind me.

Now, this is the epicenter of these family separations that are happening over 1,100 children that have been separated from their families at the Ursula processing center behind me here. But there's been very little access and that is part of the problem with this administration's new policy. I mean, today, you heard that "ProPublica" audio about these children wailing inside one of these facilities. It is just with these very little things that were just starting to get a glimpse at the trauma that these children are enduring.

I was able to speak to some children who were separated from their parents after they had been released from facilities like the one behind me because the parents even though they crossed here illegally, they were not prosecuted as zero-tolerance is still not operating at a hundred percent capacity, and these children who I spoke to were separated for span of a four or five day, six days. And when I asked them about their experiences, they just started sobbing and would tell me these horrific stories of sleeping on the floor, of not knowing where their parents were.

So, that is just what happened to a child over a span of five days. You can just imagine when we talk about 2,000 children in the span of six weeks who still don't know where their parents are.

O'DONNELL: Victoria, it's kind of surprising to hear the homeland security secretary who's supposed to be in command of all of this. Not to be able to enlighten us really at all about what's happening with the girls.

VICTORIA DEFRANCESCO, UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS PROFESSOR: Right, so there's the horror of the family separation itself but a second horror is the logistical nightmare that we're seeing. Everything has been thrown together in a very short time period, so you have ICE under Homeland Security having one entity, the initial intake and then under them, you see them separating out children to the office of refugee resettlement under HHS, and then the parents are going into the federal prison system.

Technically, there's an alien registration number that they're given once they cross the border in their process by homeland security, but what happens after that when they go to these different entities? We don't know. She herself, the head of homeland security didn't know.

So, it's this logistical nightmare. There has been no planning. And this sadly is part and parcel of the Trump administration, these throw stuff together.

But human lives are at stake here, families, babies being separated from their parents and this isn't even getting to the nightmare of the judicial component. Once these folks are set to get their court date, we're going to have a tremendous backlog because we don't have the judicial component to deal with this as well.

O'DONNELL: And, Mariana, now that we we've seen some images of what what's going on inside these places, but now we have the audio today for the first time, we're able to listen to it and I have to say there's -- it's -- it's horrible to say this, but it's not surprising that what you hear on that audio of six-year-old girls and other kids that age are kids crying about their mothers and their fathers. What did we expect to hear?

ATENCIO: It was honestly sickening to hear that audio, especially when you hear agents inside hearing these children sobbing, saying things like, do we have an orchestra here, all we need now is a conductor, instead of consoling these children.

And when you're talking about the logistical nightmare, we also need to talk about the number of caregivers that are available in facilities like the one behind me. According to our Jacob Soboroff who was inside, only four people were really qualified to take care of children in a facility that size and I go back to the conversations that I had today and really for the past four days. I've been here since Friday. With these children who were separated only for a couple of days, Lawrence, and they tell me things like, you know, I was stripped of all of my belongings, even these little wrinkled pieces of paper where they have the one phone number for their aunt or uncle here in the United States.

These are kids that were brought here through no fault of their own and also we have to emphasize the fact that these are children that are traumatized not because they're separated from their parents but this is really trauma that begins in their home countries. I mean, they're fleeing for a reason the countries like El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras. Two of those were the murder capitals of the world at one point.

So, they're already traumatized when they get here and then they have to find out that they're separated from their moms and dads for unknown periods of time -- Lawrence.

O'DONNELL: Mariana Atencio and Victoria DeFrancesco, thank you both for joining us tonight. Really appreciate. Thank you.

Coming up, Donald Trump's FBI director doesn't think that special prosecutors investigation is a witch-hunt and he had to say that today at the Senate Judiciary Committee.


O'DONNELL: The justice department's inspector general called the President of the United States a liar today in a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing but he did it in as polite away as possible as inspectors general tend to do. The inspector general was there to testify about his investigation of the FBI's investigation of Hillary Clinton's email. The inspector general was asked about President Trump saying this.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think that the report yesterday maybe more importantly than anything it totally exonerate exonerates me. There was no collusion.


O'DONNELL: And here is how Senator Patrick Leahy brought that up with the inspector general in his testimony today.


SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D), VERMONT: But there's nothing in the report that says it exonerates the President from any question of collusion with the Russians? It says nothing one way or the other, is that correct?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We did not look into collusion questions.


O'DONNELL: Such a polite way of calling the President a liar.

Donald Trump's FBI director Christopher Wray testified at that same hearing today. Remember Donald Trump chose Christopher Wray to be the director of the FBI after Donald Trump fired James Comey so he is in every sense Donald Trump's FBI director. And here is what Christopher Wray said about the President's constant tweets including the President's tweet today that Robert Mueller's investigation is a witch-hunt.


CHRISTOPHER WRAY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: I do not believe special counsel Robert Mueller is on a witch hunt.


O'DONNELL: And some Republican senators were pretending to be shocked and outraged that some FBI agents' texts revealed that those FBI agents were strongly opposed to Donald Trump's candidacy for President during the presidential campaign. How dare an FBI agent be against candidate Trump? Here is Senator Lindsey Graham in full outrage today about those FBI agents.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Here's what Ms. Page said on March the 4th, 2016. God, Trump is a loathsome human. How do you feel about that? I mean, she is entitled to her opinion.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think we laid out here why we were so concerned about it.


O'DONNELL: And here is that same Lindsey Graham offering his opinion about Donald Trump during the Presidential campaign about the very same time that those FBI agents were offering their opinions.


GRAHAM: Looking back, we should have basically kicked him out of the party. The more you know about Donald Trump the less likely you are to vote for him. The more you know about his business enterprises, the less successful he looks. The more you know about his politics, the less Republican he looks.


O'DONNELL: And here is Senator Cruz today just outraged by those FBI agents.


SEN. TED CRUZ (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: In late 2015 and in 2016, when Mr. Strzok was in-charge, he used an FBI device to call President Trump a quote "a-fing idiot," although I don't believe he abbreviated it, "a loathsome human and a disaster."



O'DONNELL: An idiot and a disaster. Who would ever say things like that?

And here is Ted Cruz during the Presidential campaign at about the same time that those FBI agents send those texts.


CRUZ: This man is a pathological liar. He doesn't know the difference between truths and lies. He lies practically every word that comes out of his mouth.



O'DONNELL: Many observers of Rudy Giuliani lately have thought perhaps he might need some psychiatric help at the moment and his previous three wives generally seem to agree he needs something like that. And now Rudy Giuliani of all people is recommending that for other people. Let's listen to this.


RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S LAWYER: It's an investigation made up of a bunch of distorted human beings --


GIULIANI: -- who cry -- FBI agents and prosecutors crying when Hillary Clinton wasn't elected. I think if I can get those pictures of them crying instead of investigating President Trump, they should go to Belleview. We want Hillary, what's going to happen! I need a psychiatrist.


O'DONNELL: Nothing crazy about that guy.

Now just for the record, I guess this has to be said. No FBI agents cried. Rudy Giuliani is imagining that in his wild ravings.

Joining our discussion now David Frum, senior editor for the Atlantic and the author of "Trumpocracy, the corruption of the American Republic."

And David, the -- there's so much that the Giuliani and some Republican senators today tried to extract from the idea that there were some members of the FBI who thought Donald Trump was a very bad Presidential candidate. So bad that they didn't want him to be President. Like, of course, all of those Republican senators are at that hearing today.

DAVID FRUM, SENIOR EDITOR, THE ATLANTIC: Well, I worked on Rudy Giuliani's 2007-2008 Presidential campaign. And I still think he was a great mayor of New York. But time catches up with all of us, I suppose.

I think what happened, there is -- I believe an HBO or Netflix special in which they show some people who are on the Obama campaign who were really upset on the night that Hillary Clinton lost as you tend to be when your person loses. And he may have miss-wired that TV special with what happened in his head to those FBI agents.

O'DONNELL: And the clinging to the texts of the FBI agents in the inspector general's report is seems to be the only thing that Republicans are trying to pull out of it. The inspector general's report says that there is no evidence that the agents involved ended up making decisions or changing the direction of investigations based on their own political preferences. And, in fact, the delay that is demonstrated in getting to the Anthony Weiner laptop, there's like a one-month delay, that delay hurt the Clinton campaign very, very badly.

FRUM: Well, today is one of those days like when those cars try to pile into too view lanes on the expressways. That there is that story -- there is another story I want to comment to your viewers and we are talking about it just before. People must not mess at the Wilbur Ross story reported in Forbes magazine. On any other day of the year, this would be the biggest scandal of the day, of the week, of the month.

Wilbur Ross apparently has lied, not illegally. He didn't break any laws but lied about divesting himself of investment in Russian-linked -- Kremlin-linked companies and when he was asked about it by journalists, shorted the stock and then five days later dives divested it, positioned himself to buy it back. And when he did sold the stock, he did sell -- he sold it to his bank to hold in trust for members of his family. And I really recommend people to read this Forbes story. It is going to get lost but it's really important.

O'DONNELL: Yes. And David, the reason why there is no criminal violation there is that the intent to divest, which is all that he had expressed earlier was that something that he did not do. And that's not -- you're not held to that intent to the point of criminal penalty.

FRUM: Well, one of the things we are going to discovery when all of this is over, is we have a lot of laws about government integrity. They were written in the 1970s on the assumption who served in government would be affluent professionals. And they are not written to capture people of complex webs of doubtful international holdings like Donald Trump and Wilbur Ross. And we need to revisit the laws written in the '70s for more egalitarian society for less egalitarian society of the 21st century.

O'DONNELL: Yes. Wilbur Ross is actually the member of the administration with the most complex and vast holdings around the world.

David Frum, thank you very much for joining us. Really appreciate it.

FRUM: Thank you.

O'DONNELL: Coming up, Donald Trump's team has been using the bible and Kellyanne Conway decided to use Catholicism to justify what Donald Trump is doing to children on the southern border.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The sort of separation of kids from their families, the lying about it. The putting of kids in cages I think is really reprehensible. And I think religious leaders, you know, and people in general need to say -- to call it what it is, which is sin.


O'DONNELL: In a country that enshrines separation of church and state in the constitution, we never need to use religion to justifying a government policy. But American politicians love to it. And the Trump administration is doing it to justify their policy of child abuse at the southern border.

Attorney general Jeff Sessions has cited what he calls biblical justification using a bible passage that was frequently used to justify slavery. And now Kellyanne Conway has come along and pulled Catholicism into this bite. At the same time that the Pope and the catholic bishops and catholic priests have objected to what the President is doing to children at the southern border.

Kellyanne Conway used it on usual preface to her comments yesterday in which she repeated the Trump why that what is happening to children on the southern border is the Democrats' fault and not a direct order issued by Donald Trump.

Here are the words Kellyanne Conway used to try to build credibility to her lying yesterday. She said she was speaking quote "as a mother, as a catholic, as somebody who's got a conscience."


KELLYANNE CONWAY, WHITE HOUSE COUNSELOR: As a mother, as a catholic, as somebody who has got a conscience and wouldn't say the junk that somebody said, apparently, allegedly, I will tell you that nobody likes this policy. You saw the President on camera he wants this to end. But everybody has -- Congress has to act.


O'DONNELL: And joining us now with the reaction, the most reverend Michael Curry presiding the shoot (ph) of the Episcopal Church and father James Martin, Jesuit priest and the editor-at-large of the Catholic Publication America magazine.

And father Martin I'm going to go to you first simply because of Kellyanne Conway's invocation of Catholicism of your faith. I would like to get your reaction to that.

FATHER JAMES MARTIN, SJ, EDITOR-AT-LARGE, AMERICA MAGAZINE: Well, I think what she is saying absurd. I believe she has a conscience obviously, but I think most people who see what's going on in the border realize that their conscience is telling them this is outrageous and it's sinful. There's a reason why we are so outraged. It's because God moves through our consciences and tries to move us through action. So it's sinful.

O'DONNELL: Bishop, your reaction.

BISHOP MICHAEL CURRY, PRESIDING BISHOP, THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH: Well, you know, I just have to say that for those of us who are Christian, the standard of our conduct and the standard of our life is Jesus of Nazareth, probably one of the most compassionate people whoever walked the face of this earth. And this Jesus tells us to love God, to love our neighbor and that that is the fulfillment of all that God intends. Fulfills the law and the prophets. And if that is the teachings of Jesus, for those of us who are Christians, we are bidden to follow that. And separating children from their parents is not loving your neighbor.

O'DONNELL: To the people in our audience who are not religious, have no religion, to atheists, they can come to the conclusion that this is an immoral act without any religious guidance whatsoever. And morality can be found in certain positions without any religious guidance whatsoever or any religious belief. How do you feel when you hear politicians using religion to justify their choices like this?

CURRY: Well, it's -- it is immoral and it's wrong. And it's a misuse of religion. The use of Romans 13, for example, to justify this action -- Romans 13 was used to justify slavery. It was used to justify Nazism in Germany. Romans 13 has -- but it was a misuse even of St. Paul.

But even with that said, for a Christian to quote Romans 13 over Jesus of Nazareth, as if Jesus of Nazareth doesn't exist, that, it seems to me, is highly problematic, and it's just flat-out wrong. It's unbiblical. It's un-Christian and it's un-American.

O'DONNELL: Father Martin, you have had your own experience working in Africa with refugees at different points in the past. You have seen these kinds of problems before. So what you are seeing on the southern border is familiar to you.

MARTIN: Sure. I worked in Africa with refugees from all over the place and settling in Nairobi, and I saw firsthand what it meant for these people to try to find a new life and flee persecution. No one wants to be a refugee. No one wants to be a migrant. But they do it out of great love for their families. They have a lot of guts to do it. And I think it's up to us to welcome them.

As bishop was saying, Jesus himself says I was stranger and you did not welcome.

It is pretty clear. I think the problem with a lot of these Christians who are saying that they are reading the bible is I don't know what bible they are reading because the bible I read has Jesus always reaching out to those on the margins, including and most especially migrants and refugees.

O'DONNELL: And Bishop, you captured the world with your sermon at the royal wedding, and I wonder if you have considered delivering a sermon on this subject.

CURRY: Well, I did just this past Sunday actually. Yes, and the truth is I have a feeling pulpits across the land, similar sermons were preached. Love your neighbor as yourself. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

My question to all those who have a conscience, and I'm not questioning that, but who may be supporting this policy, do unto others as you would have them do unto you. That's Jesus talking in Matthew chapter seven, the golden rule, is this how you would want someone to treat a member of your family? Is this how you would want your children?

I mean I'm a father of children. I remember one time our oldest daughter, she was like two or three or something. We were in the store, and I turned my head for just a split-second, and she wandered away into the little clothing thing. I couldn't find her. I panicked internally. Do we realize that's what parents are feeling when their children are being taken away from them by our government? That's not America. That's not American. We can do better than that.

O'DONNELL: Father Martin, what would you say to Catholics who hear Kellyanne Conway say -- used Catholism as her justification for the way she views this?

MARTIN: I would say pay attention to your own consciences. There's a reason why when we hear these recordings of kids who are trapped in these cages that it pulls at our heartstrings. There's a reason why we see pictures of kids being taken from their mothers and fathers why it disturbs us. That's our conscience.

And so, you know, Kellyanne Conway can say one thing but your conscience says something else. So your conscience is where you listening to the voice of God.

And also, just as bishop was saying, come to know Jesus. It's pretty clear what Jesus is saying in the gospels. I don't know how much clear I you could get that I was a stranger and you did not welcome me. And the consistent message in the Old Testament and the New Testament is welcoming and caring for strangers, period. If that doesn't work, go back and read the parable of the Good Samaritan.

O'DONNELL: To the point of conscience being the voice of God, and I just want to again stress that this is the country where the constitution separates church and state. And we all know, and I think we at this table all grant that atheists have consciences too. And for them it is not the voice of God. It is their own voice and their own conscience and their own learnings about the world and their own morality that is telling them what this is when they see it.

But, bishop, what would be -- if you could get a second with the President, what would you tell him about this?

CURRY: I would say to him, my brother, my brother, do good. Do what is just. Do what is kind, and you will be following Jesus.

O'DONNELL: Bishop Michael Curry gets the LAST WORD on this tonight.

Father James Martin, thank you for joining us also. Really appreciate it, both of you. Thank you.

Tonight's LAST WORD is next.


O'DONNELL: Tonight's last word goes to Alison Human (ph) of Valencia, Madrid who is six years old. She traveled with her mother from El Salvador to our southern border, where our border patrol separated her from her mother. Alison memorized her aunt's phone number in the United States. Here she is on audio obtained by Pro-Publica, begging to be allowed to speak to her aunt.


O'DONNELL: Alison Human (ph) of Valencia, Madrid, gets tonight's LAST WORD.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tonight the haunting images and now audio of children separated from their parents at the border. We are live in south Texas with a look at what one pediatrician calls government sanction child abuse.