Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O'DONNELL Date: August 9, 2018 Guest: Wesley Bell
LAWRENCE O'DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel.
And you just made the day of every Hollywood screenwriter who is dreaming of some day getting the assignment for the mini-series of the Robert Mueller investigation, that there will come a day when the "Manhattan Madam" has to walk on to the set in the drama as it unfolds. Of course, of course.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, "TRMS": You just got my hopes up because you just suggested that it is possible that some day this will be boil-downable into a mini-series. I feel like it is an unabridged DVD.
O'DONNELL: Yes, a mini-series with about, you know, 100 episodes.
O'DONNELL: You got a 100 episode mini series. Yes, it will be the new definition of mini series.
MADDOW: That's what it feels like right now. Thank you, my friend.
O'DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel.
Well, it wasn't always this way. Political parties in Congress did not spend their every waking moment in lock step with the president of their own political party. There has always been significant dissent in Congress within the party of the current president. Until now.
And last night, we heard how Republicans speak privately about what they need to do to protect their president. Rachel Maddow show obtained secret recordings of Congressman Devin Nunes at a Republican fundraiser for Congresswoman Cathy McMorris-Rodgers, and they both made it very clear that they do not care what high crimes and misdemeanors Robert Mueller might discover the president committed, if any, they are going to protect the president no matter what. They believe that is their only job in dealing with the investigation of this president.
First of all, try to stop the investigation. Secondly, if they cannot stop the investigation, make sure nothing happens to the president as a result of that investigation. And in order to do that, they need to win the congressional elections in November and preserve their majority and here is the way Devin Nunes said that on that secretly recorded audio.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
REP. DEVIN NUNES (R-CA), CHAIRMAN, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: So therein lies, so it's like your classic Catch-22 situation where we were at a -- this puts us in such a tough spot. If Sessions won't un-recuse and Mueller won't clear the president, we're the only ones. Which is really the danger.
That's why I keep, and thank you for saying it, by the way, I mean, we have to keep all these seats. We have to keep the majority. If we do not keep the majority, all of this goes away.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: We're the only ones. The only ones who can save the president.
The reason the special prosecutor was appointed to investigate President Bill Clinton was not that Republicans demanded it or that some newspaper editorials and some columnist demanded it. Bill Clinton and his Attorney General Janet Reno would have resisted those demands from Republicans. A special prosecutor was appointed because Democrats demanded it, enough Democrats in the House and the Senate, including liberal Democrats and moderate Democrats agreed that there should be a special prosecutor to investigate Bill and Hillary Clinton's financial dealings while he was governor of Arkansas.
And eventually, Bill Clinton agreed and President Clinton asked his attorney general, Janet Reno, to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate him. That is how we got the last special prosecutor to investigate a Democratic president. When Richard Nixon was being investigated by a special prosecutor and by Congress, it was a bipartisan investigation in Congress. And although most Republicans tried to look at the mounting evidence against President Nixon as favorably as possible to President Nixon, none of them ever tried to say anything like this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Just remember what you're seeing and what you're reading is not what's happening.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: Republicans did not try to deny reality during the investigation of Richard Nixon and eventually it was a group of Republican senators who went to the White House to tell President Nixon to his face that he should resign immediately because the House of Representatives would definitely vote to impeach him based on the latest evidence and the United States Senate would easily reach a two-thirds majority vote to convict and remove President Nixon from office in an impeachment trial.
And so, on this very day 44 years ago, President Nixon climbed into the helicopter on the White House lawn and waved good-bye to the White House staff for the final time.
Richard Nixon was able to win the presidency in 1968 because the Democratic Party broke into open revolt in the United States Senate and the House of Representatives against their Democratic president, Lyndon Johnson, who was so shocked and politically crippled when his re-election was challenged in Democratic primaries, first by Senator Eugene McCarthy and then by Senator Robert Kennedy that Lyndon Johnson surrendered to the insurrection in his party and announced he would not run for re-election.
Democrat Lyndon Johnson gave up his own campaign for re-election to the presidency because of dissent within his own party over the Vietnam war. And so no, it wasn't always this way. There was no Democratically controlled Congress or Republican controlled Congress where there was no resistance to the president of the same party who controlled that Congress. Not until now.
What we are seeing with Devin Nunes and Catherine McMorris Rogers and every Republican in the House and the Senate who is running for re-election is in total and complete violation of their oaths of office to defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic. Instead, they behave and they speak as if they have taken an oath to defend Donald Trump even if he is proven to be an enemy of the Constitution.
We're the only ones. That's what you heard Devin Nunes say. If Sessions won't un-recuse and Mueller won't clear the president, we're the only ones.
So, what they're saying there is if the attorney general of the United States abides by his oath to defend the Constitution, and if the special prosecutor, Robert Mueller, abides by his oath to defend the Constitution, then it will be up to them, the Republican members of the Congress, to defend Donald Trump against the defenders of the Constitution. Forty-four years ago today, Richard Nixon left the White House for the last time because there was no Devin Nunes in the House of Representatives telling all the other Republicans we're the only ones who can save their president. It wasn't always this way.
If the Republicans who served in the House of Representatives and in the United States Senate when Richard Nixon was president were still serving today, we would not have to fear that we are living with a Congress that refuses to defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic.
Leading off our discussion now, Joyce Vance, former federal prosecutor, professor at the University of Alabama School of Law. Jonathan Capehart is opinion writer for "The Washington Post". They are both MSNBC contributors.
And, Joyce, I want to get your reaction to what we heard on those secretly recorded audio recordings at that fundraiser from Devin Nunes, including this notion that if -- basically if the attorney general does his job, if Robert Mueller does his job, then we are the only ones who can save this president.
JOYCE VANCE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: It's pretty remarkable, Lawrence. What I hear him saying is if the attorney general upholds the rule of law and if Rod Rosenstein and Robert Mueller uphold the rule of law, it will be up to us in the Congress to violate the rule of law and to put an end, in essence to obstruct this investigation from coming to an ending point.
O'DONNELL: And, Jonathan Capehart, there is much more that was said that Rachel and I played last night in that meeting. But being able to hear the way Republicans talk in private is a very special opportunity, as these tapes demonstrate.
JONATHAN CAPEHART, OPINION WRITER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes. This is a situation where things that we sort of understood intuitively, things that we know just by watching the actions that they're not taking, we get to hear them say with words what it is that they are actually doing. That as you said so eloquently at the top of this show, they are putting the livelihood of the president, the presidency, their own standing because they're all living in fear of the popularity of the president within the Republican Party. It is all about protecting Donald Trump.
I don't even want to say it is about protecting the presidency. It is about protecting this man who has a 90-something percent approval rating among those people who voted for him and an 88 percent approval rating within the Republican Party. They live in fear of him.
And one other thing, Cathy McMorris-Rodgers, who's the person who this fundraiser was for, the reason why Devin Nunes was up, she barely eked out the top spot in her primary on Tuesday. And, so, if the number four ranked person in the Republican Party in the House of Representatives is having a hard time eking out the top spot in her re-election, what does that -- what should that say to her?
It should say to her that the people in her district, they see what she's doing, they know what she's doing and they don't like what she's doing. And so, she will be fighting for her political life in November.
O'DONNELL: Joyce Vance, you're someone who has taken an oath of office as a U.S. attorney to serve in this government. And as you know, there are tens of thousands of people in Washington working in Washington in the Congress, in the agencies, in the departments who have taken an oath of office.
And, you know, I know it can sound naive to people out there who have either never taken that oath or don't know people who have and Washington can seem like a purely political place. But every once in a while when people would ask me about how things would work in the Senate, I would find myself saying when they were getting overly cynical about things and it is hard to get more cynical than I am, I would find myself saying every once in a while that, well, you know, even the most political of them every once in a while, they do come up against that oath because the oath was, when I was there certainly, taken seriously. It still moves me to say or read the words of that oath tonight in talking about it.
And so, I just -- I just wonder if you share my stunned amazement at the way those oaths seem to be completely disregarded by Devin Nunes and what he had to say.
VANCE: It is almost as though the words have no meaning to them. You know, in my office in Birmingham, Lawrence, when brand-new prosecutors like me, I was a career prosecutor before I was the U.S. attorney, and when you took your oath of office, it was special.
We all went over to the courthouse and one of the federal judges swore you in in front of all of your new colleagues. But also in front of your family, your parents and your spouse and your children would come. And we would meet each other's families. It was an incredibly solemn moment.
I think it sounds a little bit sappy. DOJ prosecutors don't usually talk about it outside of their offices. But people take that oath incredibly seriously. And you will find that people when they're confronting difficult issues will use that as a touch stone to think what's the right thing to do because tomorrow, I'll stand up in court and I say I represent the United States of America.
Same thing for people in the House elected officials on the Hill. They stand up every day to represent the people of the United States of America. Some of them don't seem to take that very seriously.
O'DONNELL: Yes. And I have to say, I didn't know when I started working in the Senate that I had to take an oath, the same oath that the senators take. Everybody working there does, the receptionists, everyone.
So I was thrown into it without any real preparation that it was suddenly happening. My right hand was raised and it was instantly an emotional moment. You never forget.
Jonathan Capehart, new NBC News/"Wall Street Journal" poll. How likely are you to vote for candidate who promises to provide a check on Donald Trump? More likely, 48 percent. Less likely, 23 percent.
That is just an enormous gap in favor of what obviously is the Democrats in the way that question is asked.
CAPEHART: Right. That gets to what I was saying, I guess preemptively about Cathy McMorris-Rodgers. She's not providing a check on the president. And, so, she barely made the top spot.
In Washington state, they had the so-called jungle primaries. The top two vote getters go on to November. She's the number four person in the Republican conference. And so -- now, she might not be there. If that holds out, if that poll number holds out to be true, she could be out.
You know, back during Watergate, back during the Clinton era when Congress viewed itself as an equal to the executive, an equal to the president, the president was one branch, they, the members of Congress, viewed themselves as someone who was supposed to, no matter the party, keep the executive in check because the framers of the Constitution set this government up so that the people, through their representatives, could ensure that the executive would not roughshod over the people and over the Constitution.
And the Republicans have shown time and time again, particularly when it comes to Donald Trump, that they couldn't care less about their oath of office. That oath, I have never had to take that oath, Lawrence, but I have friends who have.
And the thing that makes it so emotional for you and for Joyce and for my friends who have taken that oath is that they suddenly realize that they are making an oath to something that is much bigger than themselves. They are taking an oath to protect, not just the Constitution, but their country, but their families.
And the fact that you have a whole branch of government that has just ceded that authority, that moral authority to a president who has shown time and again that he couldn't care less about the rule of law, it's galling. Through that number that you just showed, 48 percent of the American people think it's galling as well.
O'DONNELL: Jonathan Capehart, Joyce Vance, thank you for starting us off tonight. Thank you.
CAPEHART: Thanks, Lawrence.
O'DONNELL: And now that Republican Congressman Chris Collins and his son have been charged with federal crimes, which one of them might get a plea deal to escape prison time in exchange for testifying against the other?
And, what is it like for Donald Trump and Donald Trump Jr. watching the Collins father and son being dragged into federal court yesterday?
And up next, "New York Times" Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Tom Friedman who can be very persuasive will try to change my mind about televising Trump rallies from start to finish.
O'DONNELL: The most common complaint by far I have heard about cable TV news for the last three years now is that allowing Donald Trump rallies to go out live to viewers from beginning to end is delivering a poison to the bloodstream of the nation. And I have always agreed with that criticism. But now I'm not so sure.
And once again, it is "New York Times" columnist Thomas Friedman who has got me to think about maybe changing my mind. And I say once again because Thomas Friedman is one of the -- is one of the modern masters of counterintuitive thought that can actually shake my firmly held opinions. In his latest column, Thomas Friedman says that televising Donald Trump's rallies is the right thing for the news media to do professionally and, quote, it is the right thing to do politically if you want to see a check on Donald Trump's power.
It appears that it's the toxic lying, bullying and unpresidential behaviors that Trump exhibits most in his rallies and tweets which we in the media cover that is turning off the very moderate best educated Republicans and suburban women that Trump will need to hold the GOP majority in the House, let alone get re-elected. So bring on the coverage.
Tom Friedman makes the point that even with a strong economy, Donald Trump's approval has not increased since he was elected. He has not converted any of the voters that did not vote for him.
Tom Friedman writes, the very applause writes in abusive and divisive behaviors that appeal to his base turn off more moderate and educated suburban Republicans and do nothing to attract independents or conservative Democrats. Tom's conclusion for the news media is, quote, I want wall to wall coverage of Trump's every speech, rally, tweet and utterance because they most reveal his character and Trump's character is the sealing on Trump's presidency.
And joining our discussion now is Thomas Friedman, "New York Times" foreign affairs columnist, Pulitzer Prize winner and the author of the bestselling book, "Thank You For Being Late".
And, Tom, I believe you began this segment with this audience with approximately zero agreement to your position. But maybe some of what I just quoted is pulling people in your way. I have to say, your column really unmoored me. I -- you make a very strong case.
THOMAS FRIEDMAN, COLUMNIST, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, I appreciate it, Lawrence. It was a surprise to me. Because I watched the Senate election in Alabama where Jones, the Democrat, won coming out of nowhere.
You watch the bi election in Pennsylvania. You watch the one in Ohio. And the one in Ohio was most striking because this was a strict that had not sent a Democrat to Congress in over three decades. It's a district that Trump won by 11 percentage points and the Republican candidate Balderson seems to be winning by at the most one.
So, something clearly is going on here that has eroded Trump's base. I often start, Lawrence, by interviewing myself and what do I feel. What I feel is when I watch these rallies, when I see these tweets, I feel appalled. I feel appalled as an American by the divisiveness and by toxicity. I feel ashamed to see a president attacking such a high quality American sport star as LeBron James after he's opened a school for 400 impoverished kids.
It turns out, Lawrence, that there are moderate Republicans out there. There are independents and suburban women that are deeply turned off by this. And they voted with their feet. They voted by pulling levers, showing up in the polls. They kept the lid on Trump's support.
And I think if we deny them, you know, this sort -- the access to the president, the full Trump, I think we're not doing our jobs professional but also someone who believes that it is essential that there be a check on Trump's power for the last two years of his presidency, at a minimum Democratic control of the House. I think it would be a mistake politically.
O'DONNELL: Now, you make the point in your column something that I have heard Mike Murphy say last week I think possibly in a tweet, that the way to cover the rally is to just set up one camera for all the networks to get the feed for that one camera. Do not send reporters into that pen, that cage that the Trump campaign and now the Trump presidency sets up, a cage for reporters where they're not allowed to even talk to any of the members of the audience. So there is no reporting function for them to do there.
Set up the camera. We all get the video. My version of that is set up the camera. We all get the video, and I will show you if the president says anything worth showing to you, which might be something grotesque or it might be something newsworthy.
Your argument is -- no, let it run. Let people see every bit of it.
FRIEDMAN: Yes. I think there's -- I think Trump is a disturbed person. I think there is something deeply disturbing about these rallies. I find it appalling, people showing up in a t-shirt saying I prefer Russians over Democrats.
These are deeply abhorrent behaviors. I think there are many thinking Republicans who are telling us by how they voted. I interviewed in that column Stanley Greenberg, the veteran pollster who has been running focus groups with Republicans. This is exactly what he's found that moderate Republicans are turned off by it.
Some, you know, more die hard ones about half of them are and even evangelicals. it all reminds them of the Faustian bargain they made in supporting Donald Trump. While they are not abandoning him, you know, this is not resounding to his favor.
O'DONNELL: You know, Sacha Baron Cohen's new show on Showtime, he opens with these clips, impressive clips of former presidents of the United States saying some of their most famous lines. Then he includes this moment, which I will show now, of Donald Trump mimicking Steve Kovaleski. This is Donald Trump's entry in that line of presidential comments.
Let's listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't know what I said. I don't remember.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: And, Tom, it is absolutely repulsive every time. It is shocking when it comes up at the end of the flow in Sacha Baron Cohen's show, at the end of a flow that includes JFK and FDR. Your point is the more the public sees of that, the worse it is for Donald Trump.
FRIEDMAN: Yes, I'm a big believer that the biggest lid on President Donald Trump is the character of Donald Trump. And I think this really matters to people.
And also, you know, one of the things -- we have talked about this a little before, Lawrence. The thing you have to remember with Trump, too, is that we haven't had a crisis yet. There has been no, thank god no 9/11, no 2008.
But, you know, crises can come. And one thing we know about Trump is that when a crisis comes, he blames others. He doesn't take responsibility.
And, so, you know, all of this is part of the man's character. I think we have been exposed to it now in isolation from Hillary Clinton. You know, in the election two years ago, people said, well, I am going to plug my nose and vote for the guy with bad character because they can't vote for Hillary Clinton. I think she has a bad character.
That was enough to pull enough moderate Republicans over the line to just get Donald Trump to squeak through. But now we've had two years of the full Trump. And I think a lot of people understand that this is a personality and this is a person who needs to be checked.
I don't know if it will be enough. It depends on the Democratic candidate in every district in every state, and ultimately having a leader of the Democratic Party. You can't be something with nothing.
And, you know, that will have to come down the road. But I think character matters. And this is another thing I believe. And maybe it is just the Minnesota nice Midwestern boy in me, but I think Americans really want to be pulled together. I don't think they like being divided like Sunnis and Shiites.
And I'm not saying all of them. But I think there is a constituency there. And when you think about how narrowly Trump won some of these states, boy, it doesn't take a lot of Republicans to stay home. Just to stay home, let alone vote for a Democrat, you know, to tip the election in some of these districts.
O'DONNELL: Tom Friedman, the column is must-read. As always, thank you very much for joining us tonight. Really appreciate it.
FRIEDMAN: Pleasure, Lawrence. Thank you.
O'DONNELL: Coming up, today is the fourth anniversary of the killing of Michael Brown, the unarmed 18-year-old who was shot and killed in Ferguson, Missouri. One of the people who was protesting that killing at that time has just won the election for district attorney in Ferguson.
We will also have more on the insider trading case of Congressman Collins and his son.
LAWRENCE O'DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Crime is sometimes a father and son game in the mafia and sometimes in the Republican Party. Republican congressman Chris Collins was charged with insider trading yesterday and lying to the FBI along with his 25-year-old son Cameron Collins who was charged with exactly the same crimes. In this case the crime was not just a father and son game, it was a father and son and son's wife and son's father-in-law and son's other friends.
Reports indicate that President Trump's first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, was facing the possibility of being charged with crimes along with his son, Michael Flynn Jr., when Michael Flynn reached a plea deal with special prosecutor Bob Mueller. Michael Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI and his son, Michael Flynn Jr., was not charged with any crimes.
Watching a couple of years now of this Republican father and son mini, very mini crime spree from their front row seats are Donald Trump Jr. and Donald Trump. What Donald Trump Jr. can be sure of is that Donald Trump is no Michael Flynn. Donald Trump has never put his children first or anyone else first. There is no chance of Donald Trump volunteering to take the hit in a criminal investigation in order to save his son or his daughter or his son-in-law or anyone else.
Chris Collins finds himself in a very different situation than Michael Flynn did. Congressman Collins' son is already now charged with crimes. And so it is a lot less clear that congressman Collins can get his son off the hook by taking the hit and pleading guilty the way Michael Flynn did. Congressman Collins is the big fish in this investigation. His son, Cameron Collins, is the little fish.
So what Congressman Collins has to wonder is how long will it take for his son to turn against him? How long will it take for Congressman Collins' son to plead guilty in exchange for no prison time and testify against his father? And that is the drama that President Trump will watch most closely, how long does it take for the son to turn against the father?
Joining our discussion now, David Cay Johnston, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who founded DCreport.org. He is the author of "It Is Even Worse Than You Think, what the Trump administration is doing to America." And back with us, Joyce Vance, former federal prosecutor.
David, what do you suppose is going through the Trump minds as they watch the Collins case unfold?
DAVID CAY JOHNSTON, PULITZER WINNING JOURNALIST: Thank goodness daddy has the power of the pardon probably is their first thought.
JOHNSTON: Which Chris Collins does not have. And I have been talking tonight to both Republicans and Democrats and business people up here in western New York where I live. And it is astonishing to hear how on both sides people really dislike Chris Collins and feel like he is getting his just deserves in this indictment.
O'DONNELL: And Joyce Vance, when I look at the Collins case, the father, the congressman is the big fish. The son, it seems to me, is the place where the prosecutors would go and be willing, possibly, to make a deal for the son to testify against the father. Then putting even more pressure on the father to possibly testify or reveal something about his relationship with the five other Republican members of Congress who he got to invest in this stock that he was charged with insider trading.
JOYCE VANCE, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Yes. You know, a lot of open questions on this one. You would expect prosecutors to have typically approached Collins and his son pre-indictment to see if they could work a deal at that stage. To seeing them both together in this indictment possibly is a signal that Collins wasn't willing to cooperate, at least not pre-indictment to spare his son from being indicted and going through this charging process.
It is a little bit difficult to know what to make about Collins possibility as a witness against other Congress people. He looks like more of the big fish in this one to me than they do. And typically you don't see a big fish testifying against lesser participants in a conspiracy. But again we don't know how everything stacks up here and we don't know who else Collins might be able to offer testimony against. So a lot of shoes left to drop off the centipede in this one.
O'DONNELL: And, David, up there in upstate New York in the western part of the state near Buffalo where you live in the Rochester area, part of the same area, Chris Collins now running for re-election. Just running for re- election and his statement last night was I will not answer any questions about this case between now and election night. And, so, how is that going to work in the campaign?
JOHNSTON: Well, prior to the indictment, even with all the bad local publicity he has gotten, he was probably a shoe-in. But he may now be in jeopardy because of this. And I think there is quickly spreading awareness that he was the largest shareholder in this Australian company. He and his family owned over 20 percent of all the shares that he was touting to other members of Congress. And one of the things I expect his Democratic opponent, who is the manager of a suburban island actually, called Grand Island to hammer him on is that members of the Congress shouldn't be investors in individual stocks. And they certainly shouldn't be the largest single shareholder in a company. They should only be able to own, you know, mutual funds and things like that.
O'DONNELL: Yes. David, this is one of those stories where one of the big parts of the scandal is what was legal. He could be on the House energy and commerce committee and the subcommittee with jurisdiction over some health care issues where he's heavily invested in a health care company.
JOHNSTON: And we have had other members of Congress in the past who were known to have, with their cell phones, you know, issued orders for trades while they are in hearings about legislation in front of them. And that this has not been stopped. It is one of the biggest changes we need. We need to make sure that members of congress, just like we would expect of the President, represent the people in their district and America, not their personal financial and venal interests.
O'DONNELL: David Cay Johnston and Joyce Vance, thank you both for joining us tonight.
Four years ago, protesters in Ferguson, Missouri were demanding the district attorney be removed from the investigation of the police killing of Michael Brown. Tuesday night, the district attorney was removed from his job, in effect, when one of the people who was with those protesters four years ago defeated the district attorney in his re-election campaign, Wesley Bell, who will be the next district attorney in Ferguson, Missouri, will be our next guest.
O'DONNELL: On this very day, August 9th, exactly four years ago at 12:01 p.m., 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot six times and killed by a Ferguson, Missouri police officer. Michael Brown was unarmed at least 100 feet away from the police officer and incapable of harming the police officer when the officer began firing at Michael Brown. As the bullets hit Michael Brown, rendering him completely helpless, the officer decided to continue to fire. Michael Brown was hit with six bullets, including one in the head, to stop what was obviously a nonexistent threat especially after the first bullet hit Michael Brown.
Ferguson Missouri police left Michael Brown's body on the street where he fell for four hours on this day four years ago and the people in Ferguson roads up in protest. It was the kind of protest we had seen many, many times before in this country, including when Arthur McDuffy was killed by police in 1979 in Miami. But the protests we saw in Ferguson, Missouri, combined with the police reaction to those protests turned into the first rioting over police use of deadly force that occurred since the invention of cable news and the internet and social media.
There was no cable news to cover the rioting in Miami in 1980 after the Arthur McDuffy case or many of the other cases that occurred in those days. And so the McDuffy case remained a mostly local story. America did not wake up then to the problems associated with police use of deadly force. But four years ago, the cable news media immediately descended on Ferguson where our correspondents and others were reporting live from the streets every day and night of the unrest. And Barack Obama became the first President of the United States to publically discuss police use of deadly force and acknowledge that abuse of that police power to kill is a problem.
It took the killing of Michael Brown and the rioting that followed to finally get all of America to pay attention to police use of deadly force. Sadly, nothing gets America's attention quite like a riot. It took the killing of Michael Brown and the community's reaction to it to get the attorney general of the United States for the first time in history to respond directly to protests about a killing by police and actually go to that community and listen to their concerns.
When the attorney general went there, he met Wesley Bell who was then a law professor. Wesley bell joined us on that program on that day that he met the attorney general Eric Holder in Ferguson. He joined us by phone during our live coverage of the protests that were occurring that night.
One of the targets of the protesters was district attorney Bob McCullough who was guiding a grand jury through a process that would eventually lead to no charges being filed against the officer that shot and killed the unarmed Michael Brown. I asked Wesley Bell then about public comments district attorney McCullough had been making that sounded biased to the protesters. This is what he told us that night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WESLEY BELL (D), ST. LOUIS DISTRICT ATTORNEY: What I do know is that our elected leaders need to set a precedent or a tone of confidence so the public feels confident in that justice is being served. And I think that, you know, again, I don't know Mr. McCullough personally. But my one constructive criticism would be that the comments that are coming out of the office don't -- aren't -- they aren't inspiring. They aren't encouraging. They seem to be something other transparency. And I think that if I was - if he was to ask my advice, which he is not, I would say understand that the world is watching, that Ferguson, North County and St. Louis are watching and let us feel that this is a whole -- this situation is being handled transparently.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: Protesters were then calling for the district McCullough attorney to be removed from the investigation of the Michael Brown case. On Tuesday night, Wesley Bell removed Bob McCullough from his job in effect as district attorney by winning the Democratic primary for district attorney. No Republican is running for the job, so in November Wesley Bell will no doubt officially be elected the next district attorney with jurisdiction over Ferguson, Missouri.
Wesley Bell joins us next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CROWD: Wesley Bell! Wesley Bell!
BELL: This was a definition, an exemplification if the grassroots campaign.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: That video was recorded Tuesday night by ABC 7 Missouri when Wesley Bell beat Bob McCullough in the race for St. Louis County district attorney.
And Wesley Bell joins us now.
Thank you very much for joining us tonight. We really appreciate it. You ran -- one of the things you ran on in your platform was appointing special prosecutors for police involved shootings. That obviously is an echo of the Michael Brown case. So how much was the Michael Brown case a factor in your win?
BELL: I don't think anyone can deny the effect that Ferguson brought to light the need to address issues like criminal justice reform, the need to address issues like mass incarceration. People became aware as a result of Ferguson. So I don't know what the exact contribution would be as far as numbers or what have you, but I know when I talk to voters across St. Louis County, many were very aware of these issues and I'm sure it played some part.
O'DONNELL: It was an overwhelming victory, you got 56 percent of the vote against the incumbent McCullough's 43 percent of the vote. That is just a wipeout. Was that the way it was feeling to you as Election Day was approaching?
BELL: I will tell you what, all indications said we would win and we would win big. The only hesitancy was, man, this is a 27-year incumbent so I don't want to get too confident. But I mean, we were knocking on doors. We were seeing the support coming from all over St. Louis County. And people were enthused, even on the polls, where not said in polls and people would come up to me and I would try to introduce myself. And you know, so many people would be like, wait, I know who you are. I came to vote for you.
And so, it was very uplifting and it was just -- it was a great evening, obviously, for us.
O'DONNELL: When did you decide to run?
BELL: You know, I had forgotten that I had done that interview with you. And so, you know, I can say after I ran for city council, I started to at least think about that office because as I had worked as a public defender and as a defense attorney and even as a municipal court prosecutor. I have worked against and with that office. And I have just - I have always disagreed with the practices and policies. And I always thought to myself that I could never work in that office. I would have to run it. And so after I was elected, you know, now it's an empowering feeling. And so now your mind wanders and you think, OK, maybe I could do this. And I know around the time of that interview, the seeds were being planted, if you will.
O'DONNELL: You know, you and I have something in common. We are both the sons of police officers. And I'm wondering how that affects your approach to policing police.
BELL: First of all, I have to say retired police officer, my dad reminds me of that every single time I talk to him. But you know, what it's instilled in me is a respect for law enforcement. I know that's one of the toughest jobs in the world. At the same time, just like everyone watching this show is accountable for their actions. If officers break the law, they have to be accountable as well. Having said that, if there's an officer-involved shooting, God forbid, and the officer did everything correctly, then we are going to support that officer 200 percent. But if the officer violated the law, the officer, again, needs to be held accountable just like anybody watching would be accountable for their actions.
O'DONNELL: Wesley Bell, congratulations on the big win and thank you very much for joining THE LAST WORD again tonight. We really appreciate it.
BELL: Thanks for having me.
O'DONNELL: Thank you.
We will be right back.
O'DONNELL: And we have new numbers tonight in the vote count in the 12th congressional district in Ohio, where Republican Troy Balderson currently leads Democrat Danny O'Connor. Ohio election officials say that they found 588 previously uncounted votes in a suburb of Columbus today. The majority of those votes were for Democrat Danny O'Connor.
So Troy Balderson's lead in the count now is 1,564 votes. That is a drop of about 190 votes in his lead. There are outstanding absentee ballots and provisional ballots by the thousands still left. There's approximately 8,000 of those still left. And so we will not have a winner.
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