Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL Date: July 10, 2018 Guest: Ezra Levin
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel.
And if you were hiring Michael Flynn, wouldn`t you want to know what his sentence is going to be now that he`s pleaded guilty? What if he gets six months or a year or something in his plea bargain in?
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, TRMS: You can imagine the negotiations. So what are the personal time plans --
MADDOW: -- that you guys worked with? Is there flex time? And if I`m not able to telecommute, will I still be able perhaps through the glass -- I know. It`s awkward.
O`DONNELL: Business development in possibly a federal penitentiary.
MADDOW: Yes, I don`t know.
O`DONNELL: What do we know about that stuff?
MADDOW: Well, he we know he`s not taking the job.
O`DONNELL: Right. Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Thanks, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Well, a couple of hours after the president landed in Brussels today for a NATO summit to be followed by a visit to London where he will meet the queen and then a private one-on-one meeting with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, the United States Senate had a roll call vote that was almost unanimous. And that is the same United States Senate that is paralyzed by party divisions more extreme than we have ever seen in the Senate`s modern history. That same divided Senate voted 97-2 to in effect rebuke the president of the United States today.
Here is what provoked the Senate to act today.
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DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They`re going, will President Trump be prepared, you know, President Putin is KGB and this and that. You know what? Putin`s fine. He`s fine. We`re all fine. We`re people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Putin`s fine.
Democratic Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island didn`t like hearing that.
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SEN. JACK REED (D), RHODE ISLAND: And let`s be clear. President Putin is not, quote unquote, fine. As recently reaffirmed by the Senate`s Select Committee on intelligence on which I sit President Putin directed an attack on our 2016 elections with the intent of undermining public confidence in our democratic process.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: That is just some of what Senator Reed said when he rose on the Senate floor today to introduce language to be attached to a defense authorization bill. Senator Reed is the senior Democrat on the Armed Services Committee. And so, that means he is the Democrats` floor manager on this bill.
And it was in that role as the floor manager of that bill that he introduced language to be attached to the bill to, quote, reaffirm the commitment of the United States to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization alliance as a community of freedom, peace, security, and shared values including liberty, human rights, democracy, and the rule of law.
Jack Reed introduced that language at the end of a day that was full of Trump attacks against NATO including false statements on Twitter about the financing of NATO and the president tweeting repeatedly about NATO. And so, after the president spent the day attacking NATO on his way to the NATO summit, a Democratic senator, Jack Reed, rose on the Senate floor, a member of the seemingly powerless Democratic minority in the United States Senate, and introduced language to attach to a bill that would rebuke everything, everything that the president said today about NATO.
And Democrat Jack Reed got 97 votes on the Senate floor today against everything that the president has been saying about NATO. There was more in the language of the Senate, that the Senate attached to that bill today, more of that language, including reaffirming, quote, the ironclad commitment of the United States to its obligations under Article 5 of the North Atlantic treaty, to the collective self-defense of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization alliance.
The Senate reaffirmed today in that language that the United States would rush to the defense of any member of NATO that comes under attack. Mitch McConnell voted for that direct disagreement with the president. Every Republican voted for that except the two Republicans who sometimes call themselves libertarians, Rand Paul and Mike Lee.
And every Democrat voted for that. The language that 97 senators voted for today went on to endorse, quote, long-term strategy using all elements of United States national power to deter and if necessary defeat Russian aggression.
The Russian aggression that Donald Trump pretends doesn`t exist. And that language made a demand of the president in dealing with Russia. The language attached to the bill now says that it calls on the administration to urgently prioritize the completion of a comprehensive whole of government strategy to counter malign activities of Russia that seek round mine faith in Democratic institutions in the United States and around the world and to submit that strategy to Congress without delay. Ninety-seven senators voted for that rebuke of the Trump administration and its relations with Russia. A display of bipartisanship unlike anything we have seen in recent memory.
And on the Senate floor today, Jack Reed explained something about NATO that everyone in the Senate already knows but the president does not seem to understand.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REED: The United States participates in NATO because we believe the transatlantic partnership is in the U.S. national interest and not because other countries are paying us for protection.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: And that was a very direct rebuke to what the president said this morning on his way to Air Force One.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: NATO has not treated us fairly, but I think we`ll work something out. We pay far too much and they pay far too little. So I have NATO. I have the U.K., which is in somewhat turmoil. And I have Putin.
Frankly, Putin may be the easiest of them all. Who would think? Who would think?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: No one would think. No one would think Putin is the easiest to deal with. And no one in the United States Senate would think that Putin is the easiest head of state that president Trump will deal with this week.
This morning, the European Council President Donald Tusk directed these remarks at President Trump as he was on his way to the NATO summit.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TUSK, EUROPEAN COUNCIL PRESIDENT: Dear President Trump, America does not have and will not have a better ally than Europe. Dear America, appreciate your allies. After all, you don`t have that many.
Please remember about this tomorrow when we meet at the NATO summit. But above all, when you meet President Putin in Helsinki, it is always worth knowing who is your strategic friend and who is your strategic problem.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Leading off our discussion now, David Corn, Washington bureau chief for "Mother Jones," co-author of the best-selling book "Russian Roulette" and an MSNBC political analyst. Ruth Marcus is with us, deputy editorial page editor and columnist for the "Washington Post," she`s an MSNBC contributor. And David Leonhardt, op-ed columnist for the "New York Times," is also joining us.
And, Ruth Marcus, I wanted to begin with you with this. A vote that we saw on the Senate floor today, 97 votes, basically rebuking the president`s Twitter feed (AUDIO GAP) hours and just about everything the president has to say publicly about Vladimir Putin.
RUTH MARCUS, DEPUTY EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR, THE WASHINGTON POST: It`s astonishing (AUDIO GAP) 97 votes for anything that goes beyond naming a post office. But I think what`s even more astonishing is that it`s necessary, right? Who would have thought that you would have to have the Senate explaining to a president of the United States about the role of NATO, the importance of NATO, and the need to take action against a country that interfered in your election? That`s where we are.
Remember, a year ago, we were all in a tizzy about whether the president would reaffirm the NATO commitment to go to the defense of other countries, other NATO allies were under attack, and whether he would say the magic words. Now, we`re not worried that he`s going to fail to say the magic words. We`re just worried he`s going to blow the whole darn thing up. And that is why you get 97 very alarmed senators.
O`DONNELL: David Leonhardt, your newspaper reporting about the Trump-Putin phone -- telephone relationship saying during a phone call with Mr. Putin in march Mr. Trump he told Mr. Putin that Russia and the United States should get along better and he described as stupid people the unnamed Trump administration officials whom the Russian president said had tried to prevent the call from happening according to a person with direct knowledge of the conversation, which sounds like H.R. McMaster. You always have to be concerned about those people who`ve left the administration with knowledge of conversations like that.
But, David, the idea the president is having these phone calls with Vladimir Putin and basically disowning the people who work with him in the White House.
DAVID LEONHARDT, OP-ED COLUMNIST, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Disowning his own aides, disowning congress, disowning decades of American policy. What is so alarming about this is if you ask yourself what would Vladimir Putin want Donald Trump to be saying, what would he want him to be saying out on that White House driveway, what would he want him to be tweeting? Donald Trump is consistently doing basically exactly what Vladimir Putin would want him to do in terms of his public statements.
I have no idea why that is, right? That`s part of what the Mueller investigation is trying to get at to get at whether there is some kind of leverage Russia has over Trump. We have no idea. But day after day after day, Trump does things that are damaging to the interests of the United States of America, damaging to our allies, and really quite helpful to Vladimir Putin and Russia.
O`DONNELL: David Corn, after almost two years of this presidency now, approaching the second year of it, are we any closer to understanding why Donald Trump views Vladimir Putin this way?
DAVID CORN: Yes and no. I mean, some of it might be quite simple. In the book that I did with Michael Isikoff, we talk about Trump`s desire to do business in Russia over a couple decades, and that certainly led him to want to curry favor with Putin. Probably.
We don`t know, but he`s probably not trying to do business right at this moment, although he did during the campaign. But I think he has a psychological affinity for Putin. When he took the Miss Universe contest there in 2013, he tweeted out, will Putin become my new best friend?
his is a thug who committed human rights abuses, election fraud, it was right before Ukraine, but yet a lot of reasons to not want this guy as a friend. And in the run-up to the summit now, we see him tweeting that Russia says they didn`t meddle in our election, and as you showed, him calling Putin a fine person. What`s happening is that both Trump and Putin are engaging in the same cover-up. They`re both trying to cover up Russia`s attack on the 2016 election.
It`s -- you know, I don`t want to light my hair on fire, Lawrence, but seriously. The president of the United States is legitimizing Russian disinformation to protect Moscow after it attacked the United States. To me, the 97 vote in the Senate while fine doesn`t go nearly far enough to address the seriousness of the situation.
O`DONNELL: And, Ruth Marcus, your newspaper, the "Washington Post," reporting that some White House officials worry that Putin, who has held several calls with Trump, plays on the president`s inexperience and lack of detailed knowledge about issues while stoking Trump`s grievances. It`s not us, Putin has told Trump, the official summarized, it`s the subordinates fighting against our friendship.
And, Ruth Marcus, those subordinates are leaking profusely to the "Washington Post" and the "New York Times" about their worries about the president meeting with Vladimir Putin.
MARCUS: Well, we have seen time after time how easily President Trump is manipulated, including manipulated by foreign leaders. One of the best ways to manipulate him is to flatter him and to tell him how wonderful and good he is.
He is ignorant of a lot of historical facts. So you start to explain to him, for example, that Crimea really should be part of Russia and he`s like oh, yes, OK, that makes sense to me.
Putin is of perhaps all the foreign leaders the most adept at manipulating. He`s dealt with many U.S. presidents. And he is just in the catbird`s seat with Trump. And the notion that they could be meeting without any other officials or aides present just should scare the heck out of not just 97 senators but all of us.
O`DONNELL: And, David, the president will probably surely be discussing sanctions with Vladimir Putin. Vladimir Putin`s attempt to get rid of those sanctions.
But this is the only president in history who has in effect applied sanctions to the European Union through tariffs. This is a president who has illegally imposed tariffs on the European Union, claiming a national security purpose for those tariffs, which is the only legal way of doing it. That is both a violation of the law. Directly, it`s a violation of international law. It`s a violation of the world trade agreements that we are a part of.
And this president is going to be in a discussion with those European leaders. They have to decide for themselves apparently how they`re going to deal with him on tariffs or whether there`s even a way to deal with him on tariffs.
LEONHARDT: And what`s so crazy about the tariffs is they undermine another part of Trump`s trade policy. So, Trump is also levying tariffs on China, which while they`re not the smartest way to go about it, he`s -- with China, there`s actually a real problem there. China has been doing all kinds of bad stuff on the world stage, stealing intellectual property, subsidizing their own businesses, not letting other countries into their market.
And so, Trump talks tough about China but the real way to be tough on China would be to come up with an alliance with Europe and together have Europe and the United States say to China, you guys are too big and powerful to be cheating as much as you are. And instead what Trump has done is he`s picked all these fights with Europe that you`ve mentioned, levying these tariffs on Europe really for no reason, sort of made-up problems between the U.S. and Europe and how they levy tariffs on us.
And so, it undermines what is a much more serious issue in trade, which is how to go after the role that China is playing today. And, of course, in the process it also ends up hurting a whole bunch of U.S. companies and U.S. consumers. So, it`s just really a big loser for the U.S. economy and a big loser for the U.S. on the geopolitical stage.
O`DONNELL: David Corn, we will, I suppose, never be able to trust what was actually said in the one-on-one meeting between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin. Can`t trust Donald Trump`s account of. Can`t trust Vladimir Putin`s account of it.
That leaves us with the translators. They will be -- they will be getting chased for the rest of their lives by reporters and historians trying to figure out what these two actually did say to each other. And there`s the question of how much can we trust the translators? We just may never know.
CORN: I don`t think so. It`s like that great song from "Hamilton." No one was in the room where it happened.
And as Ruth so aptly described, it really seems like Putin has the upper hand at least psychologically in playing Trump. Trump, you know, fawns over this guy. He wants acceptance from Putin. He sees the world as a club that he and Putin perhaps can rule together and he shows nothing but dismissiveness toward our allies who share our values -- whether it`s Germany or Canada or a number of other countries.
So, I mean, we`re kind of at the mercy here not of Trump but almost of Putin who I think has the ability to turn Trump against his own staff, against American interests certainly, and against our allies.
O`DONNELL: David Corn, David Leonhardt, thank you for starting our discussion tonight. Ruth Marcus, please stay with us.
And when we come back -- no Supreme Court nominee has ever written more about presidential crimes and prosecuting presidents and impeaching presidents than President Trump`s new nominee for the Supreme Court.
And later, the president suffered more legal setbacks with the federal judges who have now taken control of the Trump administration policy of separating families at the Southern border and turned that into a reunification policy at the southern border. We will hear from some of those families.
O`DONNELL: President Trump`s nominee for the Supreme Court, Judge Brett Kavanaugh, had an easy first day on Capitol Hill today, making courtesy calls with the two most important senators in his life, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who will decide when to bring the nomination to a vote on the Senate floor, and the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Chuck Grassley, who will try to schedule the Kavanaugh confirmation hearing as soon as possible.
The average elapsed time for confirmation hearings from the day the nomination is announced to the confirmation hearing is 40 days. The average elapsed time for a vote on the Senate floor from the time the nomination is first announced is 66 days. And so, this confirmation drama is likely to fill at least the next two months in the Senate.
As with all Supreme Court nominees, Judge Kavanaugh`s legal writings are already being studied and he has taken more positions on investigating a president than any previous Supreme Court nominee.
As one of the staff lawyers in the special prosecutor`s office run by Kenneth Starr in the investigation of Bill Clinton, Brett Kavanaugh co- wrote the Starr report submitted to the House of Representatives that made the claim that lying to the American people was grounds for impeachment and also claimed that President Clinton`s delays in agreeing to testify to a grand jury constituted obstruction of justice. The report co-written by Brett Kavanaugh said President Clinton endeavored to obstruct justice during the grand jury investigation by refusing to testify for seven months and lying to senior White House aides with knowledge that they would relay the president`s false claims to the grand jury.
But a little over ten years later, Judge Kavanaugh wrote a law review article in which he argued that presidents should not be subject to criminal investigations during their presidency. But he did specify in that article that it would take an act of Congress to change the law to specifically prevent a president from being the subject of a civil lawsuit or a criminal investigation and prevent the president from being indicted or put on trial in a criminal courtroom until after leaving the presidency.
That article might turn out to be the basis for the most challenging questions Brett Kavanaugh faces in the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Joining our discussion now, Dahlia Lithwick, senior editor and legal correspondent for slate.com. Also joining us, Matt Miller, former spokesperson for Attorney General Eric Holder and an MSNBC contributor.
Dahlia, I`ve been studying that law review article, and last night I was absolutely virtually almost completely certain that what he was saying in that law review article is that only the Congress can protect the president from being investigated, from being indicted, from actually being put on trial in a criminal courtroom during his presidency, that currently, under current law and the Constitution the president is not protected from that.
DAHLIA LITHWICK, SENIOR EDITOR AND LEGAL CORRESPONDENT, SLATE.COM: I think that`s right. I think that that article -- the quick trigger version of that article we were hearing last night is he was expansively saying the president is immune from civil and criminal, you know, suit. He wasn`t saying that. I think you`re right.
What he was saying is I`m not sure -- I think this is an open constitutional question, I`m not sure what it should be, but Congress could immunize the president. I think that`s what that article is saying.
O`DONNELL: And he seems to be saying in the article that that`s the way he thinks it now should be. That this naive young man who was part of prosecuting and investigating Bill Clinton later goes to work in the George W. Bush White House and discovers that the presidency is a very serious job, has a lot of important duties, and should not be distracted by anything like what he was doing to Bill Clinton.
LITHWICK: In fairness, he wrote it in 2009. So, this is an Obama-era -- something that he writes. But I think you`re exactly right, that he seems to have said with the wisdom of hindsight, it`s very distracting for a president to have to fend off major lawsuits.
So, yes, it`s a little bit inconsistent with the sort of driving, driving attitude he had during the Clinton investigation.
O`DONNELL: So, Matt Miller, we are staring at this and wondering what the judge thinks today. Certainly, President Trump must have been wondering what the judge thinks today about the prosecuting of presidents since the judge has obviously gone through a variety of opinions about it.
Do you suppose that somewhere in the vetting process the White House and the president figured out what the judge thinks today?
MATT MILLER, FORMER SPOKESMAN FOR A.G. ERIC HOLDER: If they did I`m sure they did it very carefully. I think they would have been very careful to instruct the president not to ask Judge Kavanaugh any question like that in his personal one on one interview because, of course, Kavanaugh will be asked about that at his hearing.
Remember, Justice Gorsuch when he was a nominee was asked if the president would ask him for a loyalty pledge because his confirmation hearing came after disclosures about Jim Comey. So, he will be asked questions, I`m sure, and I would suspect they wouldn`t be so blatant to ask him outright, but I bet they did try to tease it out in other ways, as the Senate is going to try to tease it out.
The positions he took in that law review article I think it`s one thing to claim the president either can`t be indicted constitutionally or shouldn`t be indicted as a matter of policy. That`s one thing. The position he took is that a president shouldn`t even be investigated really is I think a position far out of mainstream. If Richard Nixon hadn`t been under criminal investigation during Watergate, the Congress never would have gotten the evidence they needed from the special counsel to begin the proceedings that ultimately led to his resignation.
If a president couldn`t be criminally investigation, you would basically have a president who could act with impunity as long as you had a supine, you know, willing Congress that wouldn`t do anything, which sounds familiar, he could act with impunity in break the law and the American people couldn`t do anything about it until he left office, when his term expired. I don`t think that`s a really tenable position.
O`DONNELL: Dahlia, Mitch McConnell was warning against apparently, according to reporting in the "New York Times," was warning against nominating Kavanaugh precisely because he has enough time on the federal bench in the appeals court to have committed himself to a lot of written opinions and because of writing like this and because of the creation of documents while he was working in the Bush White House which according to precedent will all be something that the Democrats have a right to demand to see.
Now, McConnell can suddenly defy president but McConnell was concerned about that and was telling the White House Kavanaugh is the one we should not nominate, this one could be the difficult one because of all of this writing.
LITHWICK: That`s exactly right. I read today, I think "Politico" reported there`s a million pieces of paper, just e-mails from either his time on the Starr report, from his time as staff secretary, from his time at the Justice Department, a million pieces of paper to comb over, plus 300 judicial opinions.
And judicial opinions that range not just, you know, this law review article but things where he`s talking about the unitary executive theory, things where he`s talking about presidential power to just disregard enacted law. So, there`s so much here.
And it`s I think important to understand that that hasn`t stopped the Senate majority before, right? In the lower courts they`re stacking up two circuit court nominees, five district court nominees, giving folks a couple days to vet them. Certainly I think Mitch McConnell can force this through and say good luck reading everything.
O`DONNELL: He can. There`s nothing that prevents him from doing that.
Matt Miller, one of the things Mitch McConnell was probably concerned about was revisiting something that Judge Kavanaugh got in some trouble with in his last confirmation hearing and that was the questions by Dick Durbin about what did he know about possible torture and the authorization of torture within the White House.
Rachel did a look at this in her last hour and the idea that Dick Durbin on the Judiciary Committee gets another chance with this nominee under oath to go after that, after being highly dissatisfied with what he heard from him in his previous confirmation hearing, that`s the kind of risk that Mitch McConnell is concerned about.
MILLER: Yes, absolutely right. You know, after that confirmation hearing, Dick Durbin later sent him I letter asking to clarify his position after there were reports about what he might have known and he never got a response. So, he`s going to now have a chance to get that response under oath in front of the entire country.
I think the reason this is so important and the reason it`s so important that Democrats do insist on all of those documents being turned over as by the way happened for Elena Kagan is because look what happened at the Bush White House the time that Brett was first in the White House counsel`s office and then as a staff secretary where just about every piece of important paper of the presidency goes across your desk. They endorsed torture. They misused intelligence in the run-up to the Iraq war. There were a number of, you know, highly inappropriate if not in some cases lawless actions that White House took. And the Senate has the obligation to know to what extent he was involved in that.
It`s a very important -- it is the first thing they need to do. There are a number of important issues. The woman`s right to choose, the affordable care act that they have to fight over. But the first thing they have to do is ensure they get access to those documents so they can see just what his record really looks like.
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Dahlia Lithwick and Matt Miller.
Dahlia, you are only going to have to read about a million documents in covering this confirmation hearing. You should be able to do that very quickly.
Coming up, the pro-choice Republican women senators who might, might oppose this nomination spoke about the nominee for the first time today. We will have that next.
O`DONNELL: It has become increasingly clear that the confirmation of the next Supreme Court justice will come down to the two Republican pro-choice senators who support Roe versus Wade. Senator Susan Collins of Maine and Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.
And Senator Collins does not seem to be enjoying being the focus of all of that pressure.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: There are a lot of lobbying campaigns on both sides under way right now. But my vote doesn`t count any more than those of my 99 colleagues.
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O`DONNELL: Oh, yes it does. Susan Collins` vote is in doubt, and Lisa Murkowski`s vote is in doubt tonight. And they are the only two Republicans really who might vote against the President`s nominee. And so they hold in their hands the power to confirm the nominee or defeat the nominee. And here`s what senator Murkowski had to say.
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SEN. LISA MURKOWSKI (R), ALASKA: I`m going to have an opportunity to ask more questions myself. I will have an opportunity to review some of the writings that he has made since the time he gave those statements to the Senate back in 2006 and just confirm again or confirm for the first time in other areas again that are also very, very important. So there`s some work to be done.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: MSNBC`s Garrett Hake caught up with Senator Collins.
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GARRETT HAKE, MSNBC REPORTER: He was asked about his views on roe back in 2006 when he was up for his current job. You voted for him at that time. Are you comfortable that he is someone who will stand by precedent and uphold Roe? Should it be challenged?
COLLINS: Well, back then he said that he considered Roe to be settled precedent. And that is my judgment as well. So I was glad to hear him say that at that time. Obviously, it`s an issue that I`m going to raise with him. His role as the circuit court judge is very different from a Supreme Court judge.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining our discussion now, Ezra Levin, executive director of the Indivisible Project and Ruth Marcus is back with us.
And Ruth, to what senator Collins just said there, should she be satisfied if she hears judge Kavanaugh say that he believes Roe versus Wade is settled precedent?
RUTH MARCUS, DEPUTY EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR, THE WASHINGTON POST: No. And to quote or somewhat quote Bill Clinton it sort of depends on what the meaning of settled is.
Senator Collins was saying a few weeks -- last week or the week before that she didn`t think Justice Gorsuch would vote to overrule Roe. That was just after Justice Gorsuch had voted in a 5-4 majority to overrule another 40- plus-year-old precedent.
So the wavering senators, and I suspect as they waver they will either -- they will stick together and we will either see most likely the two of them voting to confirm judge Kavanaugh or they will defect together, not one peeling off and the other one going the other way.
But they will hear in what judge Kavanaugh says kind of what they want to hear because every nominee gets before the Judiciary Committee and talks about their respect for president and ticks through the various factors that are involved when you decide to jettison the President. So, it`s a kind of trust but verify situation. If you want to trust them, you will trust them. Let`s see what she, you know, she will hear what she wants to hear.
O`DONNELL: Ezra Levin, your organization was very effective in countering the Republican congressional attempts to repeal the affordable care act. It seems you`re trying to bring the same activism to this. Do you have a strategy to deal specifically with Senator Collins and senator Murkowski?
EZRA LEVIN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, THE INDIVISIBLE PROJECT: Yes, that`s right.
You know, the way we win this is the exact same way that we defeated Trumpcare. Back then, it looked quite unlikely. If we keep in mind that was the top legislative priority of a unified conservative government the like of which we hadn`t even seen in over a decade, folks thought there was no way we are going to defeat it and we won by keeping Democrats together and peeling off a couple Republicans.
It`s the same game plan now. Look. I`m not saying we are guaranteed victory but there is a path to victory. It is narrow and I think you are exactly right. It`s going to be through Maine and Alaska and through keeping the entire democratic caucus together. Literally today there were events by indivisible groups in Maine and Alaska, let alone in places like Texas and California and all across from sea to shining sea.
This is going to be won by constituent power. It`s going to be won by people actually showing up. And the way this starts is not just by focusing on Maine and Alaska, though. The way that we will get Maine and Alaska on our side is by getting every single Democrat out immediately to oppose this nominee, which will eliminate any kind of political cover for Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski. They don`t want to be the deciding vote on this. We`re going to force them to be the deciding vote on this.
O`DONNELL: And so, does this mean that when Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins are making public appearances in Alaska and Maine, they will be hearing from opponents of this nomination?
LEVIN: They are already hearing from opponents of this nomination. In anchorage today there were indivisible groups showing up at Lisa Murkowski`s district office. In Maine, there were indivisible groups showing up.
This has already begun. Folks are energized. When we launched this campaign just about a week ago in order to fight this nominee our Web site crashed with the number of people signing up in order to oppose this nominee. We know that this is possible if people stand up, and that means focusing on your two senators, getting them On the Record. Doesn`t matter if you are in a red state or a blue state or a purple state. We need leaders out there to fight this nominee and win. If we lose the three Democrats who voted for Gorsuch, we are going to lose this fight. So we need Senate minority leader Schumer to actually fight and whip the vote to get those Democrats back. If we can`t unify the democratic caucus on this, we are going to lose. If we can`t pick up a Republican or two, we are going to lose. But we can do all of those things. We did it a year ago to defeat Trumpcare and we can do it now.
O`DONNELL: Ezra Levin and Ruth Marcus, thank you for joining us. I really appreciate it.
LEVIN: Thanks so much.
O`DONNELL: And coming up, where are the babies? They are not back with their parents tonight despite a court order for the Trump administration to reunite all of the families that it has torn apart at the southern border. Oh, and one of the babies might actually be a United States citizen. That`s next.
O`DONNELL: Before the President flew to Europe today he said he has no idea how to reunite the children and parents who he ordered to be separated and arrested at the southern border. Of course the President didn`t say it quite as clearly as that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Well, I have a solution. Tell people not to come to our country illegally. That`s the solution.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: No, that`s not a solution. The President was being asked about the people who have already come to this country and are being held in federal custody including babies and children. And his response was to talk about people who have not come to this country.
In other words, he has no idea what to say about his government`s inability to reunite the children who the President ordered to be separated from their parents. And two weeks ago a federal judge in San Diego ordered that all of the children under the age of five be reunited with their parents as of today. And the government told the court that 102 children under the age of five have been separated from their families. And that as of today`s court session, the government was able to reunite only four. Four of those children with their families.
Government lawyers told the judge in San Diego that they hoped to reunite more later today. Because the government now has to account for every one of these children in court, the department of health and human services was forced to reveal today that they have no idea what to do with one of the children who might actually be a citizen of the United States.
In documents filed in court and in a press release, the department of health and human services said one child cannot be reunified at this time because the parent`s location has been unknown for more than a year. Records show the parent and child might be U.S. citizens.
The judge ordered the government to speed up the process of reunification while another federal judge in Los Angeles overseeing the Flores case which has established the rules for holding children crossing the border in federal custody denied the Trump government`s request to change the Flores rules to allow children to be held in custody for more than 20 days.
The judge in the Flores case said that the Trump administration`s legal argument for changing the rules was quote "tortured." Faced with these court orders, "the New York Times" reports tonight that the Trump administration will release hundreds of migrant families wearing ankle bracelet monitors into the United States effectively returning to the catch and release policy that President Trump promised to eliminate.
When we come back from this break, we will hear directly from families who have been separated at the southern border.
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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE).
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I know today is the deadline. But they haven`t told me anything. It worries me because the youngest one is only two. He is one of the kids that should be reunified, but I`m very concerned because I don`t know anything.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Yesterday Republican Linda Chavez, a veteran of the Reagan administration said this.
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LINDA CHAVES, VETERAN REAGAN ADMINISTRATION: The sheer level of incompetence of this administration in dealing with this issue, it`s just such callous indifference. They are not treating these people as carefully as airlines treat dogs who you ship overseas.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: NBC`s Gabe Gutierrez joins us from El Paso, Texas.
And Gabe, to Linda Chavez`s point about the incompetence, we have the shocking story tonight that one of the children might actually be a United States citizen. And that child`s parents might actually be United States citizens. Putting the child in custody would have been wrong from the start.
GABE GUTIERREZ, NBC NEWS REPORTER: Yes. Hi, Lawrence. What we have been hearing on the ground from the immigration activists and from the migrant families themselves, this is an incredible frustration with the process and with the lack of planning that went into this. The fact that government agencies don`t seem to be talking with each other in order to reunite these families.
Now, as you have been reporting, there is a lot of confusion now and there continues will to be over the next couple of days as the government lawyers and the attorneys for the ACLU try to hash out this timelines for when these final reunifications will happen.
But we can tell you that we have been speaking with several of these migrant families today and yesterday and throughout the past several days. One of the man we spoke with was a migrant father. His name is Mario, 32 years old. He was able to speak face to face with his 10-year-old daughter for the first time today after only being able to speak with her for a couple of times by phone over the past several weeks.
He was in a desperate situation. He said really wanting to finally be reunited with her and he doesn`t know when that will happen.
This is really happening throughout the country, Lawrence. We have been hear being about the parents of these younger children which there was a question about how many of them have actually been reunited tonight. The government is saying that 32 would happen before the end of the day.
But we heard from another father from Guatemala. He was outside a courthouse in Los Angeles today, emotionally talking about how he couldn`t get ahold or couldn`t be reunited with his son all the way in New York at a shelter in New York. Here`s some of his emotional news conference that he gave today. Take a listen.
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HERMILINDO, GUATEMALAN (through text): He asked my wife if I was alive or, according to her, according to my son, I was dead. When we spoke on Monday, my child was crying. Dad, don`t you love me anymore? Why haven`t you called me? I know it is not my fault.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GUTIERREZ: And this is something that we have been hearing from many of these families. They saying once they finally do reach their children, that these children are so young that they seem angry at times. They feel that these children think that their parents somehow abandoned them and it speaks to really the trauma that some of these families are going with.
We spoke with another woman, 37 years old, Digna. She is from El Salvador. We met her at local shelter here, an (INAUDIBLE) house. And she talked about that gut wrenching moment which she had to say goodbye to her young children. The 9-year-old son and another girl who was six years old. Take a listen to her story.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DIGNA, IMMIGRANT (through text): I just hugged them and gave them a kiss and said, my love, don`t worry, I will be back for you. I don`t know where, if it will be a (INAUDIBLE).
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GUTIERREZ: So while the government said that those 38 of the youngest children will be reunited by the end of today and we are still awaiting confirmation on that, Lawrence, nearly 3,000 separated children of all ages now have to be reunited according to a court order by July 26th, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Gabe Gutierrez, thank you and once again tonight for your invaluable reporting. Really appreciate it.
Tonight`s LAST WORD is next.
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