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Manafort tentatively agrees to plea. TRANSCRIPT: 09/13/2018. The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell

Guests: Daniel Goldman; Mike Quigley; Lisa Graves; Jonathan Capehart; David Jolly

Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL Date: September 13, 2018 Guest: Daniel Goldman; Mike Quigley; Lisa Graves; Jonathan Capehart; David Jolly


We`re going to continue the hurricane coverage but also fit in the dramatic news about Paul Manafort possibly reaching a plea bargain deal, which we may or may not discover is tomorrow`s news.


O`DONNELL: And then that kind of stunning hard to describe news about Brett Kavanaugh and about his nomination, and Rachel, I can tell you that I actually was informed about this letter on Friday.

And so, I have been aware of it since then. I have also been aware of the constraints on it that indicated it might not become public because the offer of author of the letter did not want to be identified and did not want to come forward. So, as of Friday, both the congresswoman and Senator Feinstein had a situation in which the person who had given them information was someone who did not want to be publicly identified, at which put her in the identical posture of where Anita Hill began with the Senate Judiciary Committee. She believed she had information, Anita Hill did, about Clarence Thomas that the committee might want to know, but she did not want to come forward publicly.

That presented a challenge for the committee because they were faced with the question of as Joe Biden described it at the time, could we take secret information, in effect, about a nominee and not -- and would the nominee never get a chance to confront the accuser, in effect, by cross testifying as they ultimately ended up doing. The committee has this challenge again tonight, a question of what do we do with someone who has something that is negative information about a nominee but that person doesn`t want to come forward publicly.

MADDOW: Lawrence, you said you knew about this letter Friday.

O`DONNELL: Friday afternoon.

MADDOW: And do you any about the content of the letter?

O`DONNELL: I know more about content than has been publicly revealed. But it`s all been in this kind of box. I would say that I don`t have that much more, the indication that I have on it is that it occurred when both Brett Kavanaugh and the complainant were minors. That`s consistent with some of the reporting that`s out there tonight saying they were in high school or it occurred when he was in high school.

But there -- I do have an indication that there was specifics in this letter. There`s -- you`ll notice in tonight`s reporting it`s a little bit of a conflict going on in the public reporting about how specific was this letter. And so -- and also that the people who were staring at this letter, some of the important people staring at this letter found it to be credible. They found it to be something that they simply had to deal with.

And so, I can completely understand the legal kind of box that Dianne Feinstein found herself in with someone who does not want to come forward, but she`s staring at a letter that involves a possible violation of law, and what does she do with that? And so, this is where we are. The FBI has it.

Now, what`s described in that letter does not fall within the criminal investigative jurisdiction of the FBI. It`s not a federal crime. It would be state law involved. But their relevance to this obviously is in the background checking arena, which is where they are and where they are with it right now.

MADDOW: And the question of whether the FBI might take this, might treat this seriously enough, depending on what the allegation is, that they would go to local or state law enforcement authorities to try to pursue this, that, of course, would depend on the seriousness of the allegation, how credible found it was, and, of course, statute of limitations, depending on what the allege behavior was, and then that, of course, would become a matter for local or state law enforcement, wherever the alleged infraction happened, or wherever jurisdiction would go.

And then there`s factor in terms of Dianne Feinstein, this dilemma that you`re describing. I mean, some of what`s been reported tonight is that in "The New York Times" is that it was other Democratic senators who told Senator Feinstein if this letter contains what you say it does, this is matter for the FBI. I mean, the other senators she would have been talking to other Democratic senators on the Judiciary Committee include a lot of former prosecutors.

So if that was their advice to her, I mean it`s -- this is a mess. An idea that the nomination vote is just going to go through while all this remains unsettled is very hard to imagine.

O`DONNELL: Well, this is one thing that the delay is about. And that`s why as we`ve talked about before, every day of delay in this particular instance matters because the shape of this story could be dramatically different tomorrow. I mean, there was -- you know, there was a day in her life when Anita Hill firmly believed that what she had to say about Clarence Thomas was never going to become public, and the next day it was.

And so, and she didn`t know when that was going to happen. And so sometimes these things, the dynamic of this kind of story can change. And it is now, in effect, in terms of what could be the next public stage all up to the potential accuser here as to whether or not she wants to engage in this publicly.

Now, the FBI absolutely has a mandate to try to speak to this complainant. They absolutely -- and this isn`t necessarily as a matter of a criminal investigation, but they are still on the background investigation of a Supreme Court nominee. They have information that they need to know.

I am sure that the FBI will make an effort to contact and speak to this person, but this person is under no obligation to speak to the FBI.

MADDOW: Yes, Frank Figliuzzi was just saying there just on our air when he was part of doing background investigations into potential nominees, that was the sort of thing that would have to have to happen. In case derogatory information came up, you would have to talk to the complainant, you have to see if that person has, you know, exists in FBI files for some other reason, you have to assess the seriousness of it.

And now, this letter having been held by Ana Eshoo and by Senator Feinstein and gone through this kind of very difficult process that you`re describing, we now know this letter has gone to the FBI, it`s gone from the FBI to the White House. We also know it`s gone to Senator Grassley and presumably his staff on the Republican side of the Judiciary Committee.

So, this is now -- this is now moving. And if the FBI needs to speak with the complainant, too, this is process that`s going to plod forward in some way or another.

O`DONNELL: And, Rachel, I have to tell you that when I came upon this information on Friday and stared at it and discussed it and talked it through with the source telling me about it, I had the expectation at that point that this would not become public, that this was a box no one was going to be able to penetrate because of the complainant`s desire to not be known publicly and to not be revealed publicly. And that was the lock that was holding this information.

And so, the fact that the senator and Congressman Eshoo issued statements about it today and took this step, Senator Feinstein took this step to the FBI is where we are now, and we do not know where we`re going to be tomorrow.

MADDOW: No, this is -- I mean, we overuse the word unprecedented, but for Supreme Court nominations, even with the Clarence Thomas background, this is absolutely unprecedented.

O`DONNELL: It really is.

MADDOW: Thanks, my friend.

O`DONNELL: Thanks, Lawrence.

MADDOW: Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Well, there is new reporting tonight that former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort is close to an agreement on a plea deal with special prosecutor Robert Mueller. Paul Manafort was found guilty last month, of course, in federal court in Virginia on charges of bank and tax fraud. He`s scheduled to go on trial in Washington, D.C. in federal court with jury selection beginning next week on charges of money laundering and witness tampering.

And tonight, ABC News is reporting the deal is expected to be announced in court Friday. But it remains unclear whether Manafort has agreed to cooperate with prosecutors or simply conceding to a guilty plea which would allow him to avoid the stress of an expensive trial, according to three sources with knowledge of the discussions. Manafort and his most senior defense attorneys spent more than four hours Thursday in discussions with a team of special prosecutors.

President Trump has been very supportive of Paul Manafort, even when Paul Manafort was convicted by that federal jury in Virginia.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is a disgrace. This has nothing to do what they started out, looking for Russians involved in our campaign. There were none. I feel very badly for Paul Manafort.


O`DONNELL: After Manafort was convicted the president tweeted, such respect for a brave man.

Leading off our discussion now, Jill Wine-Banks, former assistant Watergate special prosecutor, and Barbara McQuade, former federal prosecutor and a professor of law at the University of Michigan. Both are MSNBC legal contributors.

And, Jill, first to you on the significance of Paul Manafort if tomorrow`s story is he is pleading guilty.

JILL WINE-BANKS, FORMER ASSISTANT WATERGATE SPECIAL PROSECUTOR: It`s very interesting because it depends on whether there`s a cooperation agreement with the plea agreement. The plea agreement will get him out of spending a lot of money on a trial, and it will help President Trump by avoiding all these horrible facts coming out just before the midterms.

So that would be a reason why he might plead even if it was without a cooperation agreement, which means that he would be sentenced for the crimes that he admits in court and wouldn`t get any special recommendation from the prosecutors to remove any part of the sentencing that he might get. And he`s already facing a long prison term.

So, it could end up being a very lengthy conviction for him if it`s without a cooperation agreement. So, that`s the real significant question. Is he doing it to benefit the president and to save himself money or is he going to cooperate and paint a real picture of what was going on during the campaign and what was the relationship to Russia?

Those are the questions that we`re hoping he`s going to tell.

O`DONNELL: And, Barbara, what does it mean for the Mueller investigation if Robert Mueller gets another guilty plea from another defendant tomorrow?

BARBARA MCQUADE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Yes, either way with or without cooperation, I think a conviction or guilty plea has value for Robert Mueller and his team for a lot of reasons. One, you eliminate the risk of an acquittal or a hung jury. You can save the resources that you would spend on trial, working on other aspects of the investigation.

But I think maybe more importantly is it would make it clear that this isn`t some witch hunt, that Paul Manafort was not unfairly targeted because he would have to admit under oath in open court what he did. The rules of criminal procedures require a defendant to provide a factual basis for a guilty plea. And so, he would have to state on the record all the things that he did that makes him believe he`s guilty before a judge would accept a guilty plea.

And so, I think that has value for Robert Mueller to show everybody he`s not out to get anybody, this is person that`s committed serious crimes.

O`DONNELL: And, Jill, it`ll be interesting to see if the president tweets his admiration for Paul Manafort if Paul Manafort cites his crimes in court.

WINE-BANKS: I think he would -- possibly, Trump would still consider Manafort a strong person as long as he doesn`t agree to cooperate and testify against the president. As long as he doesn`t do that, the president will be very supportive of Paul Manafort.

O`DONNELL: And, Barbara McQuade, if Paul Manafort is playing for a pardon, this is not inconsistent with that. This, in fact, saves him money because the most expensive clock ticking for legal fees is once you enter the courtroom, those trial days. Trial days for Paul Manafort in this case could easily be $20,000 days. If he doesn`t have to go to trial and is waiting until after the midterm elections for a pardon from President Trump, this is not in conflict with that in any way.

MCQUADE: Yes, you`re right, Lawrence. A guilty plea does not mean you can`t get a pardon, because remember a pardon doesn`t say you were innocent, that you didn`t commit a crime. A pardon is forgiveness. It is a show of mercy.

Ordinarily, it`s done after a person has served their sentence and five years have passed to demonstrate that you have gotten on with your life, you`ve led a productive life. You`ve become a contributing citizen in society, a pardon indicates forgiveness, mercy, so that you can move on with your life.

And so, it does not in anyway exonerate you. And so, pleading guilty would not in anyway interfere with a pardon down the road.

O`DONNELL: Before we get back to our hurricane coverage, I want to check with both of you on this other breaking news story of the night, and that is this Brett Kavanaugh confirmation, and the possibility there is a woman out there who has brought information that is now being considered by the Senate Judiciary Committee and is now entering the background investigative file of Brett Kavanaugh of some kind of possible sexual misconduct by Brett Kavanaugh basically during his high school years.

What have we learned from the Anita Hill hearings? What have we learned since then for someone who finds herself in this position and is thinking about the possibility for coming forward possibly as a witness against a nominee like this?

Jill, what would your advice be to someone finding herself in that situation?

WINE-BANKS: It is a very tricky situation. Obviously, Anita Hill must feel very let down by how her testimony went and by the failure to call all the witnesses that could have been called. I think we`re in a different era now with the #MeToo movement.

But I would also like to point out that there is this question about his having clerked for a Judge Kaczynski (ph) who left the bench because of sexual misconduct in his courtroom -- or in his chambers, sorry. Not in his courtroom, in his chambers. And this is during the time that Brett Kavanaugh worked for him.

And either he did not know -- Kavanaugh did not know about it, which is impossible to believe because it was widely known. Everybody knew it. Or he just ignored it.

And that is also something that relates to how he would behave now in terms of judging cases of this nature or how he would behave in his own chambers. So, I think it`s a very significant issue, and to rush the confirmation through without giving him a fair chance to defend himself, and even just the way we`re talking about it now means he needs to come forward and defend himself and we need to hear the whole story. It`s very important.

O`DONNELL: And, Barbara McQuade, what would you say to someone -- I mean this person is obviously engaged enough and concerned about this she brought this to the attention of the first Congresswoman Ana Eshoo, and the congresswoman brought it to her Senator Dianne Feinstein, California congressman brings it to the California senator, who`s on the Judiciary Committee.

So this person has thought about the possibility of bringing some information against Brett Kavanaugh, but as of tonight does not want to go public in anyway. What have we learned since the Anita Hill hearings that you might bring advice to someone in that situation?

MCQUADE: Well, I would point to the seriousness in which people take these allegations. I think we`ve seen a real sea change in the time since Anita Hill testified. I think there`s a great deal more attention paid to these matters and people take it much more seriously. And also a point to me the fact Dianne Feinstein looked at this and issued a press statement and took it to the FBI suggests to me that there is some there there.

If this were a frivolous matter, you know, some might say, well, it goes back to high school, how serious can this be? Dianne Feinstein and her staff thought this was serious enough to bring to the FBI, which is now going to the White House and make a public statement about it. And so, I think this is something that she takes seriously but suggests that maybe all of us should be taking seriously.

O`DONNELL: Barbara McQuade and Jill Wine-Banks, thank you for starting our discussion tonight.

And when we come back, the latest on Hurricane Florence, it could make landfall in the Carolina coast. And meanwhile, President Trump is denying -- denying deaths, denying the deaths from the hurricane in Puerto Rico.


O`DONNELL: Hurricane Florence is bearing down on the Carolina coast, bringing winds of up to 100 miles an hour and drenching rainfall that could reach up to 40 inches in some areas. More than 1 million people were ordered to evacuate ahead of the storm. The National Hurricane Center forecasts a life threatening storm surge and catastrophic flooding along the coast. And high tide is expected soon, which could make the situation much more dangerous.

For the latest on the conditions, NBC news correspondent Gadi Schwartz is in the coastal town of Buford, North Carolina, tonight.

Gadi, what`s the latest there?

GADI SCHWARTZ, NBC NEWS: Well, the situation is really bad, so we`ve fallen back to our area where we`ve determined this is safe place to be, safe place to ride out this storm.

I`m going to show you exactly where we`re at right now. You can see this is the radar. That`s us. The eye wall is likely going to pass this way, but that`s us, that little blue dot right there.

So, once we start seeing that, that`s going to be the strongest winds, we`re talking possibly 100-mile an hour winds, and it is insane outside. I`m going to take you right out there.

But, first, I want to give you a perspective what it`s like when people are hunkering down in a hurricane. We got audio -- Luz, can you crank up what we`re hearing inside here? Because it`s this howling wind that`s really haunting.

So, that`s kind of what it`s like for hours and hours and hours for people inside of places like this, concrete -- surrounded by concrete. All the power has gone out of this building, so all we have are these emergency lights. But let me show you what`s going on outside. There`s debris starting to fly around.

We actually saw a pretty large kayak that flew over this way. That`s when we made the decision to come back inside, but that`s the direction that the kayak is. There`s several kayaks that have been sliding around and flying through the air. Those kayaks are probably 60, 70 pounds.

And then over here, this is where we`ve staged all of our cars. We`ve got all the cars up here because this is the highest point of the island right now. We`re on Radio Island. We`ve got all of the cars staged here just in case the storm surge comes up.

We`ve also been monitoring to see if that storm surge comes up. It`s supposed to be high tide right around 11:00. So far we haven`t seen significant storm surge. We`ve seen it come up to where the docks are, but it hasn`t surpassed that and come onto the island proper.

We have seen storm surge reports from different places all around this coast where the storm surge has surrounded houses, has gone into houses. But at this point right now, Radio Island, that`s the situation.

Lawrence, back to you.

O`DONNELL: Gadi, thank you.

Let`s go now to NBC News national correspondent Miguel Almaguer, who`s in Wilmington, North Carolina, where the storm is expected to make landfall tomorrow.

Miguel, what`s the latest there?

MIGUEL ALMAGUER, NBC NEWS NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Lawrence, we`re just beginning to feel the outer bands of hurricane Florence moving then this direction. Over the last several hours here, the rain has increased. It`s now coming down steady at times in sheets.

Just a few minutes ago, we saw a cup of bolts of lightening in this area. That`s the first time we`ve seen that tonight. So, we certainly know the winds here are increasing and the conditions are beginning to deteriorate.

We`re only about 50 feet or so away from our safety fall back condition here along our pier here. You can see the rain is whipping in several different directions. The water behind me has several white caps on it. Several boats in this area have been tied out for some area.

But what they`re so concerned about here is twofold. Number one, that storm surge, which can reach 13 feet high and easily go inland upwards of two miles we`re told, and also this steady rain. They`re expecting upwards of three or four feet of rain in this area. That would certainly trigger catastrophic flooding.

We were with the mayor earlier today, and he told us everyone in the emergency offices will be up monitoring this storm. We know those folks are in that building right now hunkering down, watching this storm come in. So far, no significant reports of damage, but that will certainly change. We`re expecting the storm surge to cause serious damage to this area.

And as you can see here, this wind whipping in different directions, at times swirling and bringing the rain town in sheets. This is just the beginning of what they`re anticipating to be, at least 72 hours of steady rain, and again, we`re talking upwards of 4 feet of rain.

We`re not far from the coast. Heading over towards the beach the bridges have now been shutdown. There is no access in and out or out of the outer island areas. So many folks who are here are hunkering down. This is the beginning of certainly, no doubt, a very long night, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Miguel Almaguer, thank you for joining us.

And we`re joined now for the big picture by NBC News meteorologist Bill Karins.

Bill, what do we know?

BILL KARINS, NBC NEWS METEOROLOGIST: Well, Lawrence, all eyes right now is where we`re seeing the worst flooding and that`s along the Pamlico sound and where the Neuse River basin is. The water is piling up all day long, the water gauge is showing that the water levels are up 7 feet in the New Bern area. So, the city of New Bern, via Twitter, sent us this map.

This is what New Bern generally looks like. This is the downtown area right in here. This is the Neuse River. They sent this out saying this is where the water is now and this is what it looks like.

So, this is the downtown area. All these blue dots are high-water calls where people are saying there`s water in their homes or they`re trapped in their homes. Now, again, let me turn that off. So, here`s the downtown area in New Bern, and this is what it normally looks like.

I`ll turn the water back on to show you where the water is now and how it is just kind of surrounding and even moving through and cutting off areas in the city. And at 12:30 is when they`re supposed to hit their peak high tide in this region. The water levels are going to continue to rise higher than this. So, this could be the storm of record there.

One of the worst tragedies and where the most destruction is being done anywhere because of this storm. So, the storm itself is still located -- and here`s New Bern, by the way, well away from the center of the storm. Because of this consistent easterly wind all day long, it`s taken all the water and just piled it up and areas like the Neuse River have been unable to unload.

Plus, they`ve got 3 inches of rain in the last six hours and that water has nowhere to go either. So, it just continues to rise. And until we get that wind direction to change, the water levels there on the western side of the Pamlico Sound, I mean, that`s where the most significant flooding is going on right now.

The winds are a problem, 100,000 people now without power. We continue to see gusts now, 86 miles per hour. That`s definitely power outage and tree damage territory.

And we`ll get the new update here at the top of hour from the Hurricane Center. This was the path they were looking at. And, Lawrence, we`re looking at a landfall now could easily be delayed. Maybe noon tomorrow, maybe 10:00, 11:00 a.m., and that means tomorrow at high tide, about 11:00 a.m. morning is where we`ll see the coastal locations with their storm surge.

Right now, it`s an inland water problem. Tomorrow we`ll watch that high tide towards landfall for storm surge issues and record flooding possible along the beaches of southeastern North Carolina. Multifaceted storm and, Lawrence, because it`s walking at 5 miles per hour, it just makes it so much worse.

O`DONNELL: Bill Karins, thank you for joining us. Appreciate it.

And when we come back, the president spent today denying the tragedy from Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, denying the number of people who were killed.

And we will have more on the breaking news tonight about Brett Kavanaugh`s nomination for the Supreme Court, and the possibility of new accusations about him emerging in the confirmation process. We`ll be right back.


O`DONNELL: That`s a live shot of Wilmington, Delaware where we`re going to be joined by Kerry Sanders -- sorry, Wilmington, North Carolina. We`re going to be joined by Kerry Sanders in just a moment.

We will also be turning back to the controversy surrounding Brett Kavanaugh`s Supreme Court nomination. The new breaking news on that tonight.

NBC News Kerry Sanders joins us now from Carolina Beach. Kerry, what`s the situation there?

KERRY SANDERS: Well, we still yet to feel, Lawrence, the hurricane force winds here. It is a miserable night, and we know what`s coming because of that radar loop and the satellite pictures. The eyewall is predicted to probably arrive here, that`s where the most intense winds are, right there next to the eyewall, sometime at around 4:00 in the morning. So there`s a lot we`re not going to be able to really see, but we will definitely feel it.

I think one of the things to note right now that you can see clearly in this shot is we still have power that is unlikely to survive the evening. However, into the morning, Duke Energy which serves about four million, people on this coast here and inland estimates that there`s likely to be power outages worse than they had during hurricane Matthew. And there, they lost about a million and a half, $125 million worth of repair to get electricity back. It takes some time, and that`s why they have 4,600 restoration workers as they like to call them, that had positioned themselves to move in after the storm goes through.

But as we heard Bill say just a short time ago before the break, this storm is moving really slowly. It`s walking as he says. And when you`re standing out here, it feels like it`s crawling. So it`s going to be a long miserable night into tomorrow morning, Lawrence before we can really get a general idea of what the damage is going to be associated with this storm.

Most people hunkered down, and hopefully, we know here in Carolina Beach, evacuated inland. We`re in a safe position and I`m going to move back inside here. I came outside just so you can get a general sense of what it looks like here, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Kerry Sanders, thanks for joining us. And we will get back to our hurricane coverage, hurricane Florence in just a moment.

But first, we have a new document related to Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and an allegation from his past that sources tell "NBC NEWS" is sexual in nature. Today, ranking member of the judiciary committee Senator Diane Feinstein turned over a letter to the FBI saying, "I have received information from an individual concerning the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. That individual strongly requested confidentiality, declined to come forward or press the matter further and I have honored that decision. I have, however, referred the matter to federal investigative authorities."

The FBI confirmed that it received the information, saying in a statement, "We included it as part of Judge Kavanaugh`s background file as per the standard process." Two sources familiar with the matter have told "NBC NEWS" that the letter involves a sexual misconduct allegation against Brett Kavanaugh dating back to his high school days.

One source told "NBC NEWS" the conduct described could allege sexual assault but said it could also be a lesser allegation. "The New York Times" reports that this letter was sent in July first to democratic representative Anna Eshoo who then passed it along to California Senator Diane Feinstein. But the letter`s contents did not come up at any time during Brett Kavanaugh`s questioning.

Senator Feinstein did not share the existence of the letter or its contents with her democratic colleagues until late last night according to multiple reports. In just one week, the judiciary committee is set to vote on Brett Kavanaugh. That vote has been delayed by the Democrats until September 20.

And joining us now is Lisa Graves. She`s a former chief counsel for nominations for the ranking member of the senate judiciary committee and was deputy assistant attorney general in the Department of Justice. Lisa, this is an extraordinary situation, and it has echoes of Anita Hill testifying to the senate judiciary committee. She too was reluctant, as you will remember. She did not want to come forward publicly but she believes she had information to share about Clarence Thomas. What do you make of what the committee has done with this so far? What would you recommend the committee do?

LISA GRAVES, ACTIVIST: Well, I think it`s certainly troubling for something like this to be brought forward. And I know from observing Senator Feinstein that she`s a cautious and careful senator. And so I think in this instance, we have to wait and see, and I think that there`s obviously more things we need to wait and see.

We know that most of the documents that pertain to Judge Kavanaugh have not been released to the committee, and there are serious issues about whether he`s been honest to the committee. I think he`s lied to the committee under oath, as I`ve said. And so I think that this is one more instance where the committee needs to take a closer look in terms of not rushing him, not rushing a judgment.

But really, Lawrence, I think in this case, the American people deserve a judge whose record shows that he`ll be honest about the facts, the law. And Judge Kavanaugh in the broader debate that`s happening about the documents that have come forward, Judge Kavanaugh has not been honest. He has not lied about a white lie or trivial things but about consequential things.

And so I think that Senator Durbin`s letter also from last night that talks about new documents showing even further proof of Judge Kavanaugh lying to the committee is a serious matter for the Senate. It`s a serious matter for the court. It`s a serious matter for the American people because he wasn`t just making a political speech, he was testifying under oath to the truth of his statements and I think he lied repeatedly.

O`DONNELL: Lisa, I`d like to get your advice. What advice would you give to a witness out there like this woman? And what we know so far is that a woman wrote a letter, put this in writing to Congresswoman Eshoo in California sometime this summer, and at some point, Congresswoman Eshoo passed that letter along to Senator Feinstein.

It`s been made very clear by the author of the letter that she does not want to go public in any way, but she also, obviously, put in writing these accusations about Brett Kavanaugh which have been described as a sexual assault, believes that she has something important for them to know. How do you balance those two challenges, one, someone who doesn`t want to go public as a witness but seems to have important information, and what would you tell a potential witness like that?

GRAVES: Oh, my goodness, that`s such a hard question, Lawrence. I think that, first of all, it`s important to honor the wishes of someone in that circumstance that they do not want their name to be known. There are procedures for the committee to have a session, an executive session or a closed-door meeting to consider matters that aren`t in the public demand. I think it`s a difficult position because the person`s name might leak.

And, in fact, we know from the documents that memoranda stole (INAUDIBLE) server that there was a similar circumstance in the documents that were conveyed to Judge Kavanaugh where a woman who was a lawyer representing a young woman in an abortion case came forward to the committee with a confidential letter and her name was revealed by memoranda to Judge Kavanaugh even though that document was given only exclusively to the Democratic Senators, to the council on the Democratic side.

And so there`s a lot of danger of a person who does not want to be named, and there are significant consequences for that person. There are also significant consequences for the United States and the court in terms of what someone`s true record is, what a nominee`s true record is.

O`DONNELL: Lisa, we`re going to have to go to a break and get back to some more hurricane coverage. But I just want to ask you, the Anita Hill hearings were clearly one of the low points in the history of the judiciary committee. I`m just wondering if the committee -- I mean Orin Hatch is a member now, he was a member then. He went through that hearing. I would say shamed himself in the Anita Hill hearings in the way he performed. He wasn`t the only one.

And I`m wondering if the committee, if the members, if the staff thought about that after the fact in the years that they`ve had to think about it after the fact and tried to come up with some kind of corrective procedure for a situation like this, for another Anita Hill if the committee were ever confronted with it again. Has the committee ever thought this through and figured out how to handle this?

GRAVES: Well, my conversations with other counsel and former counsel over time has been to really take the time necessary in the Senate as part of the advising process, to have as many witnesses as really need to come forward to not move quickly, to not leave witnesses off who have significant material information as came out after the fact in the Clarence Thomas hearings.

And I think that that`s another reason why the procedures and the lack of procedures, in fact, the breaking of the rules by Senator Grassley is so troubling because there`s such a rush here, and that goes against the entire -- all those lessons learned, how it`s important to be very deliberate, take all the time needed to make this very monumental decision about whether someone should be entrusted for the rest of his life as a Supreme Court Justice. And Brett Kavanaugh is only 52 years old.

O`DONNELL: That`s such a great point, Lisa. If this were a normal confirmation scheduling process, we wouldn`t have had the hearing yet and therefore this item we`re discovering tonight and talking about tonight, we probably would have been discussing before the hearing and staff like you working on that committee and Senators would have had the time to process it.

Lisa Graves, thank you for your expertise on this. Your input is invaluable to us. Really appreciate it.

GRAVES: Thank you so much, Lawrence. Thank you very much.

O`DONNELL: We`re going to have more breaking news reaction to this story about Brett Kavanaugh, this new breaking news that there is a potential accusation of sexual assault when he was a young man when he was in his high school years. We`re going to come back with more on that.


O`DONNELL: And we`re back with more of our breaking news coverage tonight of the new controversy surrounding the Supreme Court nomination of Brett Kavanaugh. We`re joined by Jonathan Capehart, opinion writer for "The Washington Post" and host of WNYC radio`s America on the Line. He`s also an MSNBC contributor. And David Jolly, former Republican Congressman from Florida.

And Jonathan Capehart, this story is such an echo of Anita Hill. The Anita Hill, of course, emerged after Clarence Thomas had we thought completed these confirmation hearings, and suddenly there were rumblings that were some accusations and that there was a woman, and there was I can remember 24 hours of suspense in the Senate.

And suddenly there was Anita Hill doing a TV press conference announcing what her information was. And I can tell you, at the time, the Senate stopped and stared at this woman, and I knew senators who were basically on their way to the Senate floor to announce their support for Clarence Thomas and turned right around. And it changed everything that happened.

JONATHAN CAPEHART, OPINION WRITER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes. And I remember that time as well. A completely different time, no internet.


CAPEHART: It was the three broadcast networks, it`s cable and everything stopped. Everything stopped in Washington, everything stopped around the country as everyone sat at home, in front of radios, if they had a television to watch these hearings. And now, the parallels are just amazing but now we are in a 24-hour news cycle. We have cable channels. We have Twitter. We`ve got social media. I`m not sure if this woman who is insisting on her anonymity will be able to hold it, will be able to stay anonymous.

And also, it`s unclear whether this is going to have any impact on Judge Kavanaugh`s nomination. It`s sort of like a reversal thing. The guy could still get confirmed despite this allegation that`s out there against him.

O`DONNELL: Well, David, the allegation, if it becomes public and if she makes it public is much more serious than anything that was ever said about Clarence Thomas. This is an allegation of sexual assault, and my understanding of the information is at the time both the victim and Judge Kavanaugh, if he did do this, they were both minors. There`s been reports saying that it was when he was in high school.

We`ve certainly never seen a confirmation hearing reach that far back into someone`s past. But on this particular kind of item, there`s no such thing as a moral statute of limitations in a confirmation hearing.

DAVID JOLLY, FORMER REPUBLICAN CONGRESSMAN: That`s right, Lawrence. And thank you for saying that. This is an allegation that requires a direct response from Judge Kavanaugh. More than what we saw from the White House today when the White House suggested that somehow Judge Kavanaugh has been vetted for 20 years and this is a last-minute allegation.

The reality is even if it is a last minute allegation, it is one that suggests criminal activity to which the judge must own up and offer a response. Lawrence, I was in a tight race at one point, and I`ll lay it all out on the table here. I was involved in a vehicle accident that took the life of the pedestrian when I was a teenager. It came up in my very first race and though I was never charged, never at fault and I was exonerated. It was a legitimate question to which I had to answer. And I was a teenager and I had to answer to that as an adult.

Judge Kavanaugh has to answer to this allegation. Whatever that answer is, let the United States Senate, let the American people decide on his response.

O`DONNELL: And Jonathan, your point about there`s a whole new level of pressure in the way people can find out who an anonymous source is today, the box clearly that the office holders both the congresswoman and the senator found themselves in was the person delivering this information to them was saying, "I absolutely do not want to be public." And Senator Feinstein knew that means there`s nothing she can do with it. You`re either a witness or you`re not in the Senate Judiciary Committee proceedings.

CAPEHART: Yes, which makes me -- I feel for the person who has this information, who takes it to people of accountability and responsibility, putting them in a box. But I hope she knows and is ready for the possibility of her anonymity being completely uncovered and being just thrust into the maelstrom. We`re talking about something here that is very, very important.

It`s a Supreme Court nomination. Under normal circumstances, this would be big, big news. But we`re talking also about the potential shift hard to the right of the Supreme Court. The majority that will far outlive President Trump`s administration, however long that lasts. And so at some point, we`re going to know who she is and at some point, to David`s point, more importantly, Judge Kavanagh has to come forward and answer for this. Whatever this is, talk to the American people, talk to the Senate, say what happened, and give his side of the story. So at least the committee and then the full Senate can make an informed vote.

O`DONNELL: And so far the Republican reaction we`ve seen is identical to the Republican reaction when Anita Hill`s accusations first emerged. It`s a late hit. This is late information. This is some kind of grudge match.

And so Dave, there wasn`t a single member of the Republican Party who believed they were going to reopen the Clarence Thomas hearings for Anita Hill. They believed they had this thing completely under control, even when Anita Hill went public. And so this is one of those stories where we don`t know where this story is tomorrow and we don`t know where it is the day after.

JOLLY: This is a political mob ring enshrined in the Constitution. Mitch McConnell, we saw it with Merrick Garland. We`re seeing it today with Kavanaugh. He has the votes and he`s going to make this happen and he`s going to do it for nothing more than political power. We have seen this from Mitch McConnell on down the line.

There is little conviction within the Republican caucus today to own up to the responsibility that the American people ask of the United States Senate, that we vet our nominees. We saw that before this allegation. We`re seeing this since the allegation. The fix is in. We know that. And Mitch McConnell, for as quiet as he is, he is a quiet assassin. He is going to make sure that Kavanaugh gets confirmed. Voters have an opportunity in about five or six weeks to give voice to whether or not they agree with what the United States Senate is doing right now.

O`DONNELL: And, Jonathan, in Anita Hill`s day, we had never seen a powerful man brought down by these kinds of accusations from a woman. In the last year, we have seen it every month and sometimes faster than that. We have seen Ronan Farrow`s reporting from women. It`s not Ronan, it`s the women giving witness in his articles, "The New York Times" articles bringing down most recently Les Moonves, a giant powerful man in his field, that no one believed could be knocked down this way until he was.

CAPEHART: But here`s the difference. Even though Anita Hill came forward, even though she riveted the nation with her testimony over those days, 20 something years ago, Clarence Thomas was still confirmed to the Supreme Court. And I think I agree with David, that the fix is in.

Senator McConnell didn`t even want Judge Kavanagh to be the nominee. He had two other people he was pushing the White House to name because they didn`t have paper trails as wide as Judge Kavanagh`s. But this is something that has nothing to do with his paper trail and everything to do with his past. But to David`s point, the Senate majority leader is all about getting a conservative majority on the court and if this is the vehicle and it`s not the vehicle he wanted, he`s going to push for it anyway.

O`DONNELL: I think if a credible woman steps forward with credible accusations against Brett Kavanagh, the kind that are described in what we know about this already, that Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins are gone. They are not going to confirm a judge in this year, at this point in our history, under those kinds of climates.

JOLLY: And if not, hold them accountable and vote them out and don`t let them get away with suggesting they`re the moderate conscience of the Republican Party because they are not if they the other way on this.

O`DONNELL: We`re going to take a break here. David Jolly, Jonathan Capehart, thank you for joining us.

Our hurricane Florence update right after this break.


O`DONNELL: NBC News meteorologist Bill Karins is back with us. Bill, what`s the latest?

BILL KARINS, METEOROLOGIST, MSNBC: Well, we`re waiting for the 11:00 P.M. advisory coming from the national hurricane center. We can get an updated forecast track, see how slowly the storm is moving and how long it`s going to take to get out of here.

Just starting to see some of the new information. Sometimes, our computers even update when they start getting the new information in. The first thing we picked up on is that the category 1 at the current time. So it does look like we`ve gone down from a category 2 to a category 1. Just trying to get the confirmation from the public advisory on that.

Right now, I have the forecast advisory came out first. So all that really means, again, the wind with this storm was never going to be the huge headline-making storm. Once we knew it wasn`t going to be a cat-4 which three days ago we thought maybe we would see a cat-4 landfall. Once we knew that wasn`t going to happen, when the inter-core kind of fell apart over the last two days, we knew it was going to be a water story as far as the storm surge and the rainfall.

So I don`t want to even pay too much attention to that because a lot of the problems with the water are already happening in areas, in inland areas from the Pamlico Sound. And then tomorrow, we`re high tide. We`re still going to have a ton of water building up in areas along the coast. So, you know, just moving, you see how it went from the 2 to the 1 here and you can notice it`s a slow drift.

They`re saying it`s moving at five knots so that`s 5-1/2, 6 miles per hour. And that`s really about it. And it still has to travel about 80 miles to get to Wilmington. So you do the math on that, six miles per hour going into Wilmington, an 80-mile walk, that`s going to take until maybe noon tomorrow until it gets over the top of Wilmington.

So that means, whenever you`re in these storms, you don`t want to be in the front right quadrant of the storm because that`s where the worst of it is. And that`s right where Carteret County is. We just jumped in the last hour from 100,000 people without power, now we`re at 151,000 people without power. So the numbers are quickly skyrocketing because this area is just being hammered by these winds in the 60 to 90 mile per hour range hour after hour now.

We`ve lost the gauge in the Beaufort area but Marine Base now 67. This Havelock hasn`t updated in a while either so we may have lost that. And you notice that Wilmington has jumped up to 53. So I`m going to take and go back and look, see if the new path analysis is out which calculate exactly how long it`s going to take into move into South Carolina and I`ll read the discussion and will be back with Brian Williams while I give you all the latest update.

O`DONNELL: Bill Karins, thank you very much. And our coverage of hurricane Florence continues now with Brian Williams.


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