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HHS awaiting guidance on migrants. TRANSCRIPT: 06/21/2018. The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell

Guests: Norm Ornstein; Jason Johnson, Jonathan Ryan, Maria Hinojosa, Peter Schey

Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL Date: June 21, 2018 Guest: Norm Ornstein; Jason Johnson, Jonathan Ryan, Maria Hinojosa, Peter Schey


We actually have some news in this hour that has not been reported anywhere yet, but certainly will be tomorrow. And that is a part of the president`s executive order, one of the components of it was telling the attorney general to rush into federal court in California to try to modify the Flores case. They did that today.


O`DONNELL: Peter Schey, who`s the lawyer on the other side of the case, representing all the kids who are in custody in a class action suit, Peter Schey told us last night that the attorney general`s Justice Department called and said they might do that today. It turns out they actually did.

And Peter Schey is going to be here to tell us what they filed and how he plans to respond to it. But I have the motion, let`s see, I can squeeze it in, right here.

MADDOW: Oh, very good.

O`DONNELL: Hot off of our printer and still no reporting yet that the attorney general did take this action today. Peter Schey is ready for it and he`s going to explain it for us.

MADDOW: Great. Super important stuff. I`m already started taking notes.


MADDOW: Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel.

Well, on the president`s first day of the new policy of not separating children from their parents at the southern border, chaos reigned in the federal government where the various departments involved seemed to have no idea what to do next. One U.S. attorney`s office in the western district of Texas first announced that it would dismiss some cases for parents who had been separated from a child, but then hours later they said upon further consideration, this office is retracting the information provided in an e-mail earlier today.

And then they actually came up with another announcement, modifying that announcement later. We`ll tell you about that later, it is much more complicated. Into all of that chaos, in a secretly planned unannounced trip to the southern border came the first lady of the United States. It was a trip like no other by a first lady in a humanitarian crisis like this for a few reasons.

It now includes a fashion controversy that some people, including her husband, are trying to turn into a political controversy. And this trip revealed less useful information than any trip by any other first lady would have in a situation like this.

The first lady`s trip was cut short, quite understandably, by the way, by the pounding rains that have created some flooding conditions in the area in some of the places that prevented her from seeing the most important facility that she was scheduled to see, the one that really mattered, the one that is the largest border processing center in the country. That really was the important thing for her to see and that -- but because she couldn`t, that meant that her visit turned out to be limited to one of the smallest facilities that is dealing with this crisis population of children.

It is a Lutheran run facility that incarcerates only 55 children, ages 12 to 17. The only part of her visit there that was televised was her discussion with the staff of the facility where she asked just a few questions like this one.


MELANIA TRUMP, U.S. FIRST LADY: Those children, how many times they speak with their relatives or families per week, for example?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, the children are allowed to communicate with their family twice a week.


O`DONNELL: And she heard glowing reports of life in incarceration for these teenagers. Not from the teenagers.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is their home. And, you know, I -- they refer to these as shelters, but it is really a home for the children. This is their house. So their bedrooms are their bedrooms.


O`DONNELL: The first lady boarded her flight to Texas wearing a $39 jacket, the least expensive garment she has ever been seen wearing.

And she had to know millions of people were going to be wondering what she was trying to communicate with the words written on her back, which were: I really don`t care, do you?

She`s never been seen wearing a $39 anything. She`s never been seen wearing clothes with dialogue, a statement and a question. And on a day designed to show how much she cares. Well, the Internet got pretty excited about it. And after hours of online excitement and for some people outrage that she would have a jacket saying "I don`t care" when she was on her way to Texas to show how much she cares, when her plane landed back at Andrews Air Force Base, the first lady deliberately put that back on again.

Now, they have access to the Internet on the first lady`s flight. They knew this had become the most controversial garment any first lady in history had ever worn in the last couple of hours and the first lady still put it on again.

And at the end of the day, the first lady`s office issued a statement for her about her day which did not include anything about her jacket. The only thing she said about the children in her statement was, quote, the children were eager to learn and were kind and in good spirits.

That`s it. That`s the totality of the first lady`s report on the children she met today.

Needless to say, the president could not resist commenting on the first lady`s jacket. He tweeted: I really don`t care, do you written on the back of Melania`s jacket refers to the fake news media, Melania has learned how dishonest they are and she truly no longer cares!

Well, OK. Donald Trump`s fake news media certainly includes me. He has attacked me for years on Twitter.

But here`s something to think about in the first lady`s tele -- first family`s television viewing pattern. We know the president doesn`t just watch Fox News, he takes directions from Fox News, he gets ideas from Fox News and no one on Fox News ever suggested Melania Trump should go to the border.

No one on Fox urged Melania Trump to go to the border. So, we know Donald Trump didn`t get the idea from Fox, if it was his idea. And we know Melania Trump did not get the idea to go to the border from Fox News, if it was her idea. So where did she get the idea?

Who in the Trump White House or the Trump family has ever exhibited the sensitivity to realize that this was a first lady moment? That this is what the first lady should do? If it was Melania Trump`s idea, as I said, she sure didn`t get it from Fox News, but here`s an MSNBC moment from Monday night.


O`DONNELL: 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 us 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. Melania Trump can give one of those untouchable little girls, the warmth she deserves, the hug she deserves from one immigrant to another.


O`DONNELL: Now, I said that again on Tuesday night when I was doing our coverage from Brownsville, Texas.

So I have to wonder is it possible while the president is taking dictation from Fox News, the first lady is somewhere watching another news channel and getting ideas of her own?

We`re joined now by NBC`s Cal Perry. He`s joining us from Tornillo, Texas. Also joining our discussion, Jonathan Ryan, executive director for Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education Legal Services in Texas. And Maria Hinojosa, the anchor and executive producer of the public radio show Latino USA.

And, Cal Perry, the first lady`s trip to the area was a surprise today. I think you can vouch for her on this matter. The weather really was prohibitive for her to continue her travels in that region? It certainly looked that way even on the day I was there.

CAL PERRY, NBC NEWS GLOBAL NEWS EDITOR: Yes, massive flooding on that part of the state. Two different stories about the weather here in Texas. On that part of the state, and that end of the state, the eastern part, massive flooding, torrential rain for the last 48 hours.

Over here, it`s 105 degrees in the shade and there`s not a drop of rain in sight. So, you can imagine what the conditions are like for the kids who are in this tent city behind me. You also have to wonder what that`s driving the U.S. government to do. We`ve seen a lot of movement at night under the cover of darkness. We`ve seen vans leaving that compound. We saw three leaving last night at about 3:30 in the morning.

So, make no mistake about it, the United States government is moving unaccompanied minors around the country under the cover of darkness, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Cal, any idea how many kids are in that facility?

PERRY: No. We know there was roughly 200 here on Friday. I`ve seen two full buses come in the last 24 hours. So, hundreds to be certain.

We heard from a local congressman that they expected to build out roughly 4,000 beds here in that compound. That may have changed, though. There`s some indication that there`s reporting trickling down that the Pentagon is preparing some 20,000 beds is going to empty out this camp behind me pretty quickly.

But, again, let`s just say it like it is, if these kids end up on a U.S. military base, then we`re asking the men and women who wear the United States uniforms and protect our values to become prison cards, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: And, Cal, the facility you are was visited by a group of mayors from around the country, wasn`t it?

PERRY: Yes, a group of mayors, about two dozen of them. We saw the mayor of New York, Bill de Blasio here, very upset, of course, because in his city, in New York City, again, the Trump administration is secretly moving kids around, some 239 of them. The mayors of Los Angeles and Miami were also here.

They marched on this compound behind me. They got to the gate. There was a back and forth with a member of homeland security police, they asked to get in, they were rejected entry. They have been told that they had to apply to enter this compound, that application process could take some two weeks.

After a back and forth, just a couple of minutes, that gate was shut and they were asked to leave for their own personal security. I just want to play for you very briefly, something that a councilman said to me, councilman from Austin, just give you an idea of how angry people are.


GREG CASAR, AUSTIN CITY COUNCIL: They`re hiding these kids. I`ve been in detention centers just outside of Austin, run by the federal government, where they let you in to talk to someone. They`re hiding this. They know it`s wrong. Any American who thinks about it for a second knows it`s wrong for us to put kids in tent jails in the desert for no reason other than a political ploy.


O`DONNELL: Thanks, Cal.

PERRY: It`s not just us not getting access to the camp -- sorry. Go ahead, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: I want to go to Jonathan Ryan on this -- because, Jonathan, you`ve been working in the region on this for many years. What we just heard from the counselor there about they`re deliberately hiding these kids. Is that a fair representation of what`s happening there?

JONATHAN RYAN, REFUGEE AND IMMIGRANT CENTER FOR EDUCATION LEGAL SERVICES: I think that it`s clear on the face when they place these facilities in such far-flung desert locations as we`re seeing more and more military installations, what could be the purpose but to keep the kids from public view? We know more than two thirds of the country is in outraged over the way the president has handled the precious lives of these vulnerable women and children. And they know that the most dangerous thing possible is that we see what`s happening.

You know, of all the things you can never bring inside a detention center, a camera is one of them. And that is because if images got out, then the country as a whole would be up in arms to know that this is how our nation treats the most vulnerable children -- in fact, the only children in the custody and care of the federal government.

O`DONNELL: Maria, your reaction to the first lady`s trip to Texas today?

MARIA HINOJOSA, ANCHOR & EXECUTIVE PRODUCER, LATINO USA: I don`t think that there was a lot of substance there, frankly. But, you know, as we`re talking about what`s going on, Lawrence, I`m kind of having this moment because I was in detention camps like these in 2010 and 2011 when I was reporting on my frontline. In those camps were not children, right?

But in those camps, we were hearing stories of people being fed food with maggots, because you save money by buying food that`s expired. We reported about sexual assault. We reported about people getting beaten, rounded up like animals. We didn`t put this in the front line, but with all the talk of overmedication of kids. And so, we heard the story of a man overmedicated.

So, these were all things that we reported on that started in the Bush administration and were taking place in the Obama administration. So, if you think about where we are now, you know, how do you even logistically prepare for something like this? So, the problem is that let`s just -- let`s just give something to the people who are taking care -- let`s assume that some of those guards have a good heart. Let`s assume that, OK.

But the problem is that structurally, it doesn`t work that way and when it`s run by a private company that`s going to make money off of it, it`s all about making money by keeping a body in a cell or in a cage, and you make money by providing the least amount to those people. So, this is, you know, part of the thing that people have to make a connection to is the ka- ching thing that`s happening here.

These are wheels that are turning and people are making money, a lot, a lot of money. And there`s no end in sight, right, because this is all just part of the machinery that many of us have been talking about for decades. Decades.

O`DONNELL: Jonathan, I want to go to you on the chaos that has broken out in the federal government, because you`ve been dealing with various branches of the government for years on this. I`ve been learning as much as I can about it, as quickly as I can. I`m pretty good with legal language, I`m pretty good with reading dispatches from the U.S. attorney`s offices and the Justice Department, but I want to read you this from the U.S. attorney`s office in the western district of Texas. This is the district where they first said they were going to dismiss cases and then changed their minds about that.

This is the final what they call a clarification that they put out. They said: Following the president`s executive order, we are moving quickly to keep families together as we process the criminal charges for those who crossed illegally. The zero tolerance policy is still in effect, but there is a necessary transition that will need to occur now that those charged are no longer being transferred to the custody of U.S. Marshals and staying together with their children in the custody of our partners at DHS.

As part of that transition, the office today dismissed certain cases that were pending when the president issued the order. Contrary to reporting, the office did not issue any memorandum to the courts.

So that clears that up, doesn`t it?

RYAN: Well, we`ve talked a lot other the last few weeks about zero tolerance, and I can attest it after more than a decade working in the system. It`s really about zero accountability. It`s very purposeful that our government has so fragmented the immigration system and process among so many different agencies that it`s literally impossible at any one time to know who is responsible for a given case, who is responsible for bringing these families back together.

And that`s only been compounded in the last 18 months under this administration when you have a cabinet of sycophantic yes men and yes women. And you`ve seen a steady outflux of all of the seasoned careers professionals working in our government to the point where now, I think and I can almost attest, Lawrence, that all the people who are enforcing these policies and these orders are literally learning about them the same way I am, by watching them on television.

There literally has been, I think exposed, a massive breakdown in the functioning of our government. But I`m afraid that this might be exactly the design of this administration.

O`DONNELL: Maria, I want to go back to the treatment -- the range of possible treatment in these facilities. What Melania Trump saw today might be the model facility, it might be the place the kids are happy, it might be the place where they think it`s their home, according to one of the guys running it. I find that a little hard to believe that they think it`s their home.

But we live in a country where some of the so-called finest schools, private schools with tuitions of over $60,000 a year, have had abuse cases that have turned those schools upside downs, public schools have them. Abuse of children runs throughout the system in our country in which children are dealt with, there are new Jerry Sandusky stories coming out, you know, in this country every week.

The idea that somehow we`d be able to run these facilities in Texas with people who are less train at dealing with children that anywhere else in the country who`s dealing with children and run them cleanly is, on its face, impossible.

HINOJOSA: Which is why we -- again, we just have to kind of open our eyes. There`s a lot of talking about how this is going to be fine in this particular place where the first lady went, you know, I have been -- because again I`ve been there for years. So I have been to a few of these shelters that do operate kind of as a home setting. But now, that`s not what`s happening.

So, the problem is we have -- we have to, in fact, open our eyes. You know what, Lawrence, part of what`s happening is that it`s hidden in plain sight. That`s another thing that`s happening. We have been saying these immigration detention centers and camps are actually right around you. It`s taken this moment for people to open their eyes.

The thing is now, they`re going to start holding entire families together. We`ve been here before. We have those pictures from the Donald T. Hutto Residential Facility where they were holding men, women, and children during the Bush and Obama administration and there was a small outcry and that`s what changed it. We`re going right back there. Because now as opposed to holding a child in a caged or fenced dog house. So, now, we`re going to keep the families together.

But as you know, according to the EO, the executive order, those families could be held indefinitely.

O`DONNELL: Well, we`re going to see in our next segment whether Peter Schey will allow that since he is the lawyer on the other side of the Flores case who`s going to be dealing with this in court very soon.

Maria Hinojosa, thank you very much for joining us. Cal Perry, thank you for your reporting from the border again tonight. And Jonathan Ryan, thank you for joining us and guiding us through this subject.

When we come back, we have breaking news on what is next in this case. The Justice Department rushed into court today in California, as I told Rachel at the beginning of this hour, to file this motion in order to execute President Trump`s executive order. This motion has not been reported anywhere in the news media yet. I`m sure it will be now.

Peter Schey, one of the lawyers opposing the government in this case, will join us and explain how he and his legal team will respond to this.


O`DONNELL: We have breaking news tonight about action taken by the attorney general today to try to implement the president`s so-called executive order yesterday aimed at the treatment of children arrested at our southern border and incarcerated. This news has not been widely reported, but this is about a filing made by the federal government in a California court today. This is the filing here.

The president`s executive order remember turns almost entirely on legal actions by the Justice Department to modify the terms of the Flores case. The class action lawsuit that has for decades established the rules for the treatment of children apprehended at the southern border.

The president`s order says, quote, to the attorney general: The attorney general shall promptly file a request with the U.S. district for the Central District of California to modify the settlement agreement in the Flores settlement in a manner that would permit the government to detain alien families together throughout the pendency of criminal proceedings for improper entry.

Last night on this program, Peter Schey, who is one of the lawyers representing the children protected under the Flores case told us that the Justice Department had already told him, called him yesterday, to tell him that they might go into court seeking this modification to the Flores settlement and we can report now that the Justice Department did exactly that, they rushed into federal court today in Los Angeles with an emergency request, an ex parte request saying -- asking the judge that, first, would the judge in the case allow, quote, U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement, ICE, to detain alien minors who have arrived with their parent or legal guardian together in ICE family residential facilities. Second, the court should exempt ICE family residential facilities from the agreement`s state licensure requirement.

And joining us is Peter Schey, the president of the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law, and an attorney in this case.

And, Peter Schey, they called this an ex parte motion which means they wanted the judge to actually act on it before even hearing your reply to it because they say it`s an emergency.

Will they get an action by the judge or will you be able to reply to this in some way?

PETER SCHEY, PRESIDENT, CENTER FOR HUMAN RIGHTS AND CONSTITUTIONAL LAW: I think it`s very highly unlikely that the federal court judge in this case will issue any kind of decision without giving us, the lawyers who represent the plaintiff in this case, which is all detained minors in the United States, I think it`s very unlikely that the judge would rule on the government`s application without giving us a reasonable opportunity to respond to it.

O`DONNELL: And will you oppose the two things they`ve requested? One, dropping the requirement that the facilities be licensed by the state, have state licensing, and allowing the children to stay with their families or parents for as long as their parents are incarcerated?

SCHEY: Yes, absolutely, we will. We will oppose both of those requests. The licensing is a critical part of the Flores settlement. The licensing ensures that staff at the facility and that the policies and procedures of these facilities comply with well-established child welfare standards for the safety and well-being of the children held at those facilities.

We will also, of course, oppose their effort to modify the agreement so that children can be held for as long as criminal or immigration proceedings are pending. That would completely undercut one of the foundations of the settlement, which is a presumption of release for children, unless, of course, they are a flight risk or danger to themselves or others.

So, absolutely, we will oppose both of those requests. And I think it`s highly unlikely that the court will acquiesce in those requests.

O`DONNELL: And in general, the court holds that the children should be released within 20 days in general. And that would mean, if the Trump administration is going to allow children to stay with their parents, that the parents would then be released within those 20 days along with the child, and that seems to be the big stumbling block for the Trump administration.

SCHEY: You know, it`s very unclear what is the stumbling block for the Trump administration. This appears to be more of a publicity stunt. It was not a well-thought out policy that no plan for reuniting these children with their -- with their parents. So, there doesn`t seem to be a strategy here.

It`s really shoot from the hip, feed -- throw some red meat at his base. And in this particular case, many people throughout the country have responded, faith-based leaders, others have responded, mayors have responded with outrage. And I think the court will be outraged at what they have done.

O`DONNELL: And, Peter Schey, the first lady reported that what she saw in the facility today with 55 teenagers seemed very pleasant, the kids seemed as though they were doing very well. You told us last night that you have about 100 lawyers out there that are getting into all of these facilities because you have unique legal access to these facilities as part of this class action suit, you`re legally empowered to visit any or all of them. And what are they finding now and what are they reporting to you?

SCHEY: Boy, they sure not seeing the same thing that the first lady seemed to be seeing. What they are finding are kids who are highly distressed, children with suicidal ideations, children who are desperate, who have no idea where their parents are, when, where or how they`ll ever be reunited with their parents, or see their parents again.

We see children in extreme distress, and for no good reason, for no particular strategy that this administration really has.

O`DONNELL: Peter Schey, thank you very much for joining us on this important story.

SCHEY: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Really appreciate it.

Coming up, Republicans who have total control over the House of Representatives proved today that they are once again incapable of governing and now Donald Trump, the President who said I alone can fix it, is asking the Democrats to help him.



DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Nobody knows the system better than me which is why I alone can fix it.


O`DONNELL: Remember when superman ran for President? They do. The people in that audience do. It was just two years ago when superman ran for President and said I alone can fix it. No Presidential candidate had ever said that before because they all knew that the truth that the news media always forgets which is that the President is not superman. The President is not a king, especially when it comes to domestic governance, the truth of the job is the President has to do some variation of begging the Congress to get them to do what the President wants them to do.

But that`s not what Donald Trump`s voters voted for. They voted for the guy who could fix it all alone. Remember all the times on the campaign trail that he said he couldn`t fix it without the Democrats. He wouldn`t fix it without Nancy Pelosi`s help or Chuck Schumer`s help? No. He never told his voters` that. But that what he is telling them that now.


TRUMP: We have come up with a lot of solutions but we have Democrats that don`t want to fix anything because they think it`s bad for the elections coming up. Unfortunately, a lot of people suffering and that is unfortunate.


O`DONNELL: One of those Republican solutions went down to defeat today in the House of Representatives that`s controlled by Republicans. The most extreme Trumpists in the Republican House offered an immigration bill that got only 190 votes when it needed 218. Forty-one Republicans voted against it. Republicans didn`t need any Democratic votes to pass it but they still couldn`t do it.

Joining us now Norm Ornstein, a leading congressional scholar and co-author of the book "One nation after Trump. Also with us, Jason Johnson, politics editor at the and an MSNBC contributor.

Norm, I alone can do it turns out to be, today, I really need Nancy Pelosi`s help.

NORM ORNSTEIN, CONGRESSIONAL SCHOLAR: Well, you know, there`s a level of ignorance there about how the system works, Lawrence. But it`s the mendacity that really gets to me. Because, of course, as he was talking about all the solutions and the Democrats wouldn`t come up with anything and we have to work together. It takes me back, of course, to that famous meeting in the oval office with the bipartisan bill with broad support from the Senate with Tim Kaine, and Jeff Flake, and Lindsey Graham, and Chuck Schumer there when the President blew up that bill and very famously talked about the s-hole countries. And later on, of course, some other person was there. The secretary of homeland security Kirstjen Nielsen lied about what she said when she testified in front of the Senate.

So we know that there`s a workable way to do this but this guy couldn`t make anything work whether it`s with Republicans alone or in a bipartisan fashion.

O`DONNELL: Jason, the first lady went to Texas, which was a great thing for her to do. She visited with a very, very small number of kids. She said exactly 13 words about the kids in a statement written for her by the staff and issued by the staff.

It says, the children were eager to learn and were kind in good spirits. In that statement she said three times as much about the Congress and in effect the Democrats. It is my hope that members of Congress will finally reach across the aisle and work together to solve this problem with common sense immigration reform that secures our borders and keeps families together. And so there`s Melania Trump saying we have to reach across the aisles to those Democrats to get this done.

JASON JOHNSON, POLITICS EDITOR, THEROOT.COM: You know, it is interesting. You can literally see Trump over her shoulder dictating these messages when you hear this things from Melania. But this is the thing that always amazes me, Lawrence. And we heard this from this President. We know he lies. We know is incapable in lots of different ways.

And the most important part that any President has, you can ask any political science who is asking the consultant, is persuasion. And this guy promised he can persuade anyone. He said I can make the best deals. I can get everybody to work together. But once he got in office, realized that his obnoxious behavior, his bluster, his lying, not only to his own party for the Democrats, nobody wants to cut a deal with him. And it is certainly not an election year.

So Melania can say so, and Sarah Huckabee Sanders can say so, but if trump can`t cut a deal get anything done, he blames the Democrats.

O`DONNELL: And Norm, the President clearly does not know, since he never paid attention to this, that there`s no rule that says you are not allowed to pass a bill in the House that might not pass the Senate. And, in fact, many times in our history one body or the other passed a bill knowing that the other body wasn`t ready to pass it, but they passed the bill in order to put pressure on the other body in order to force them into a vote. Because if you never force some of these Democrats for example, like Joe Manchin in West Virginia where Trump is very popular, if you never force him to cast a vote on this for or against the President, then you are not testing what you can accomplish.

ORNSTEIN: Exactly. And of course, Lawrence, both of us were -- have been around the hill long enough to know that there are dozens and dozens of such efforts by the House against the Senate and the Senate against the house.

I think what is most important here though and we need to turn the focus a little bit away from Trump and towards Paul Ryan and the Republicans in the House. We had a discharge petition, an attempt by I won`t call them moderate Republicans because there are no such people other than Charlie Dent in the House. But the more scared ones and the less extreme ones to get a bill onto the floor that was going to pass with more Democrats than Republicans.

What Paul Ryan did instead was to push them away from that and what has been called a compromise bill, this just drives me nuts -- a compromise that involves the jut case radical Republicans trying to compromise with the anti-immigration but not quite so crazy Republicans is no compromise at all. It was an attempt to shut out the other party and still couldn`t do it with their votes alone.

O`DONNELL: And Jason, Paul Ryan`s predecessor was willing every once in a while to let a vote go to the floor where he knew the way this thing is going to pass is Democrats are going to vote for it.

JOHNSON: Right. And even Boehner played these games.

O`DONNELL: Yes, he did.

JOHNSON: He said like I`m not going to bring this to the floor and then Obama say, hey, just bring the bill to the floor.

Everyone knows that negotiations. I think, look. Paul Ryan is almost asleep at the wheel at this particular point. He knows he is not running again. His leadership has always been sort of weakened for years. But this is the ineffectiveness of this Congress, the leadership on Republicans on both sides, they are not prepared for this. They don`t have a plan. And then too big without direction for the President they don`t know what to do.

O`DONNELL: Norm, in campaign terms, the President was out there saying I alone can do it. Now he is very clearly telling his people he can`t. He absolutely cannot do it. That he needs Nancy Pelosi. He needs Chuck Schumer. That has to have a surprising sound to it for the Trump voters who believed that he alone could do it.

ORNSTEIN: Well, you know, fortunately for him, he has got Sean Hannity and others who will try and convert this into something that they will be willing to believe. But I think the fact is most voters out there other than the core of people who are going to be with Trump no matter what are going to see what`s happening and are going to be appalled by it. And what they are going to see. And this is what frightens in Republicans in the House and Senate they can`t make it work and they have the reins of power. And they are going to face it in November.

O`DONNELL: Norm Ornstein and Jason Johnson, thank you both for joining us. We really appreciate it.

ORNSTEIN: Thank you.

JOHNSON: Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: When we come back, the girls are really stopping Donald Trump. Stopping what he wants to do on the southern border. The little girls and teenage girls who have made their way to the southern border. They are the ones who are stopping the President of the United States.


O`DONNELL: We first met her a week ago today. On the front page of the "New York Times" in a painfully stunning photograph by John Moore a war correspondent who had seen it all but says he had a tough time emotionally that night photographing the work of the border patrol in McAllen, Texas.

All we know is that she is a 2-year-old girl from Honduras who has apprehended along with her mother at the border. We don`t know her name. Many reporters are working on that. I`m sure we will eventually know more about her.

But no one has made us feel more of the pain of what is happening at our southern border than she has. Now, lifted from John Moore`s photographed, she is on the cover of "Time" magazine. She has taken her place in history in a confrontation with the president of the United States. A confrontation that she seems to have won, at least in as much as the President has back down. But we don`t know what happened to her. So her victory might be won for other children but not herself.

She is not the first child who has confronted America`s conscience on the southern border. Jenny Lizette Flores was born in 1970 in El Salvador, the same year that Melania Trump was born in Slovenia then part of Yugoslavia.

Jenny and Melania took different paths to the United States. Melania Trump moved to New York in her early 20s and may or may not have worked illegally as a model when she first arrived in New York City. Melania Trump`s husband promised two years ago that she would have a news conference in which she would explain all of the details about her arrival in America and her work history and present her documents, but Melania Trump never had that news conference.

Jenny Flores travelled the 2,000 miles from El Salvador to the California border when she was 15 years old. She was arrested for being in the United States illegally. When an attorney Carlos Holdren (ph) discovered the shocking conditions that girls like jenny Lisette Flores were being held in in California, he brought a lawsuit in federal court in California entitled Jenny Lisette Flores versus the attorney general of the United States.

Attorney Holdren (ph) working with the central for human rights and constitutional law, himself a grandson of a Mexican immigrant brought the case as a class action suit on behalf of every child held in the custody by the immigration in naturalization service anywhere in America. It has become the landmark case that has established the rights of the children and of the babies who are being held in this country tonight.

The executive order that the President signed yesterday cites the Flores case and admits that the President is not more powerful than Jenny Lisette Flores, whose case has established rules that even Donald Trump now knows that he cannot break.

We don`t know what Donald Trump would have done this week. We don`t know what he would have tried to do next to the children being held in custody if Jenny Lizette Flores` case was not standing in his way or if this 2- year-old girl had not stood there and told that border patrol agent and the world in her own way exactly what she thinks and feels about what the United States government was doing to her mother.

The first lady of the United States went to the border today, which was a good thing, but she did not accomplish as much as that little girl standing up to the first lady`s husband on the cover of time magazine. And she did not accomplish as much as Jenny Lisette Flores.


O`DONNELL: President Trump`s key strategy, the one he really needs to work, is to try to get people to forget what truth sounds like. The title of Michael Eric Dyson`s new book is "What Truth Sounds Like, RFQ, James Baldwin and our unfinished conversation about race in America."

And Michael Eric Dyson joins us now.

Michael, I want to read you something that we heard today. And I wonder if this is what truth sounds like. This is written in the middle of Melania Trump`s written statement today, which said only this about the children she met today. She said, the children were eager to learn and were kind and in good spirits. Is that what truth sounds like on our southern border tonight?

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON, AUTHOR, WHAT SOUNDS LIKE: Not at all. That sounds like anesthesia. That sounds like addiction to forgetfulness. That sounds like trying to paper over a volcano of hurt and pain and trauma that these children are enduring. Can she imagine her own beloved son being subject to forcible separation from his mother or his father?

This is the politics of un-empathy. This is the denial of the humanity that binds us together. And to have such a statement, you know, emerging from a woman whom we have come to expect at least to be sensitive to the needs of the vulnerable, this is a repudiation of every good instinct we might nurture in our own hearts when we think about our children. And it`s a devastating rejection of the common decency that all of us should share.

O`DONNELL: Michael, what did you learn about what truth sounds like looking back at Bobby Kennedy, James Baldwin, that we need to hold on to today when there`s this assault, true assault, by the White House and the administration on what truth sounds like?

DYSON: That`s a great point. We have been post-truth for quite a while. 1619 when 20 slaves were brought here to America, or Africans as slaves. Bobby Kennedy was willing to confront the truth, as ugly and as fantastic sometimes as it was.

Jimmy Baldwin, again, was able to face the truth. And together as a white liberal politician and as a progressive black man, they were locked in battle against each other about what the truth was for race in America. Bobby Kennedy at least was able to evolve. He was able to grow. He understood his flaws and his weaknesses. He was defensive at first, but then he ultimately challenged them.

And what I hold on to, Lawrence, is the fact that at least this white man and this black man were able to sit down together, not at the table of brotherhood, but certainly at the table of mutual acceptance and the tolerance for a rigorous conversation that was sometimes brutal, often robust, but at least honest. And they had a set of facts that they agreed upon. And together they went forward to try to forge a kind of compact and a peace in this country. It wasn`t easy, but it begins with acknowledging the truth before us and the facts that we both have to argue with.

O`DONNELL: Michael Eric Dyson, great to have you back on the program. Thanks for joining us tonight. Really appreciate it.

DYSON: Always great to be here. Thank you.

O`DONNELL: We will be right back.



STEPHEN COLBERT COMEDIAN: Now, here`s the thing. Trump made it a big signing ceremony to make it look like he did something good instead of admitting he was just ending the evil thing he started. That`s like wanting credit for solving the crimes you committed. It`s all on the new CBS drama "Murder She Murdered." and I would watch that.


O`DONNELL: Stephen Colbert gets tonight`s Last Word.

Only one reporter traveled with the first lady to Texas today to report to all the other news organizations what the first lady saw and what she did not see. That reporter will join Brian in THE 11th with BRIAN WILLIAMS and that`s starts now.


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