Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL Date: October 12, 2018 Guest: Neera Tanden, David Jolly; Jess Morales Rocketto; Lee Gelernt, Richard Engel, Michael Isikoff, Evelyn Farkas, Jill Wine-Banks, Barbara m McQuade
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Good evening Rachel. Have a great weekend.
MADDOW: We pretend to. Thank you, my friend.
MELBER: You deserve it. I am Ari Melber in for Lawrence O`Donnell. We begin with developments in a story that Lawrence brought you last night. A Turkish official now telling NBC with 100 percent confidence the Saudis executed the missing journalist, Jamal Khashoggi.
And late today we learned even more about the audio recording of this alleged killing. There had been reports that Turkey had gruesome recorded proof of the reporter`s torture and alleged murder. NBC News Richard Engel reporting the source of that audio recording when he joined us on MSNBC just earlier this evening.
RICHARD ENGEL, NBC CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: So these are stunning new details. They put a whole new twist on this story about what happened to Jamal Khashoggi when he went into the consulate behind me. We`ve been reporting for all day now that there are these recordings, that Turkish officials have recordings of Khashoggi inside the embassy, inside the consulate being tortured, being beaten, being interrogated and ultimately being murdered.
But there has been a big question. Where did these recordings come from? Tonight a pro-government Turkish newspaper the Sabah (ph) is saying that Khashoggi recorded these messages himself, that he went into the consulate very suspicious. He thought something bad might happen to him.
He asked his fiance to wait outside. He gave her his cell phones, but according to this newspaper, he went into the consulate wearing an apple watch, which he synced up with one of those cell phones outside so that the information would be transmitting. So that whatever happened to him while he was inside the consulate was being up loaded to a cloud and being saved.
And that he went in and terrible things did in fact happen to him, that he was murdered, that he was interrogated, that he was tortured, and that he with this act of foresight, this act of cunning really left behind the clues that Turkish authorities are using to solve his murder.
MELBER: To solve his murder. Well, let`s be clear, the solving of this murder in almost realtime and in public is putting new more significant pressure on the Trump administration for its stance and any potential punishment that it would consider for Saudi Arabia in retaliation. And while let`s be clear, administrations in both parties have often cozy up to the Saudis as a dangerous but useful ally in the region.
Donald Trump is not only following that controversial approach and precedent. He`s doing so with far less discretion than some other past presidents who at least would use the bullying pulpit to press the Saudis on U.S. priorities. Trump`s not pretending to do that thus far this week.
Instead claiming that relations with the Saudis are excellent, (inaudible) push back even from his interviewers at Fox News, and also Trump (inaudible) saying he hasn`t called Saudi Arabia to even discuss this. Here he was this evening.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Nobody knows quite yet. Nobody`s been able to put it all together. People are starting to form ideas and as they`re formed we`ll let you know. But it certainly is a terrible thing.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Had their record otherwise been overlooked for too long?
TRUMP: I think a lot of records are overlooked. If you look at Iran, if you look at so many other countries, take a look at Syria. You take a look at a lot of country`s, a lot of country`s records have been overlooked, but this is very serious thing and we`re looking at it in a very serious manner. And we`ll see you, we have a big crowd.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you spoken to the king of Saudi Arabia about this matter?
TRUMP: I have not. I have not.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you plan to soon, sir?
TRUMP: I will. I will be calling them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Well, the American government under Trump may be holding back. There are other people taking action. Business leaders like Richard Branson and Steve Case announcing they are suspending deals with the Saudis. Corporate sponsors bailing on a financial conference there later this month, that includes media companies like "The Times" and Bloomberg and CNBC, which is the sister company of MSNBC.
The head of the World Bank also drawing a line here. Now, dropping a conference is a pretty simple step. It won`t have a huge impact on the Saudis but it does send a message and try to build towards more unified international condemnation. But let`s be clear, even that step is apparently still too much for the Trump administration as of tonight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You had leaders elsewhere pulling out of the event. Are you still determined that you will attend at this point given that there is still, I think, no clarity as to what has happened to Mr. Khashoggi, "The Washington Post" journalist."
STEVEN MNUCHIN, U.S. TREASURY SECRETARY: I am planning on going at this point. If more information comes out and changes, we can look at that, but I am planning ongoing.
TRUMP: Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is it right for the treasury secretary to go to their investment conference?
TRUMP: Well, I guess a lot of people are going over to an investment conference. He was partially over there anyway. A lot of people are going over top the investment conference.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
MELBER: Joining us now Michael Isikoff, chief investigative correspondent for Yahoo News and Evelyn Farkas, senior fellow at the Atlantic Council and former deputy assistant secretary of defense and MSNBC analyst.
Evelyn, there are plenty of harrowing things that happen in state craft, but the blatant manner of this and the fact that we live in a world where so much of it is really unspooling almost in realtime, seems to make it an extraordinary breach. What precedents or historical context do you think of when you look at this, and what more if anything, should the United States do?
EVELYN FARKAS, MSNBC ANALYST: I mean, Ari, it`s shocking. First of all, I`m appalled at the fact our administration is behaving as if they don`t know anything, because I think it`s probably pretty credible as "The New York Times" and other media outlets have reported that the Turkish officials have said that they already told the United States and gave our government their intelligence.
So the fact -- I mean I think the treasury secretary should be saying unless I find out information that, you know, proves that he`s alive and he wasn`t murdered by the Saudis, I`m not going. The other precedent, I mean, I guess the thing I thought of because I spend so much time on Russia is, you know, the condemnation that the world and certainly the Europeans.
And we, together with the Canadians, you know, in the transatlantic sense, expressed about the murders of residents of the United Kingdom and citizens of the United Kingdom by the Russians, especially those that were committed using chemical weapons. And here we have another case where we`ll find out how clear-cut it is, but I think we need to hear more from governments.
And because this is journalist, I think our president needs to speak out. Because we know -- you know. You`ve covered it very clearly here on your program, on "The Beat" that, you know, that this president has spoken with alarming words against journalists. And so I think it`s incumbent upon him to speak clearly right now to get to the bottom of this and to tell the American people what he already knows.
MELBER: Right. And you make the reference to extra judicial killings abroad, which have the geographic overlap that Russia also will go into other countries and take people out. Michael, one big difference is some of their targets have been what you might call ex-spies or people they view in a way as a sort of an intelligence combatant, certainly debatable.
But as Evelyn emphasizes, this isn`t even near that. This is a journalist and that goes to your report today which I`ll read for the viewrs and let you explain. You say that kKashoggi crossed this line that made him a marked man and probably led to his brutal death. This is according to your discussions with at least one of his close friends.
His offence, he dared criticize the country`s (inaudible) crown prince Mohammad bin Salman in a "Washington Post" column that accused this supposedly reformist strongman. By the way, a partner of (inaudible) of imprisoning intellectual journalist and other political dissidents. Explain, Michael.
MICHAEL ISIKOFF, CHIEF INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT, YAHOO NEWS: Well, you know, this stung for MBS, Mohamed bin Salman and other members of the royal family precisely because Khashoggi was no bomb thrower. He was not a renegade. He was not defector. He was a guy who had been closely tied to members of the royal family. He had been a top advisor to Prince Turki bin Faisal, who had been the chief of Saudi intelligence, and then later the Saudi ambassador to the United Kingdom.
So, his criticisms were very much from somebody inside the tent. And that`s what I think outraged the -- MBS and his clique (ph) around him so much because he was a respected voice, he had a huge megaphone thanks to that "The Washington Post" column. And to have him questioning Mohammed bin Salman`s reformist credentials, saying he`s arresting the wrong people.
And then most recently, just a couple of weeks ago, writing a column calling on the Saudis to end their cruel war in Yemen. It was I think -- there was a view that he had crossed a line and the Saudis did what they apparently did here.
MELBER: So that analysis makes sense but obviously anyone listening would say, well, if you were concerned that someone from inside your own network is sort of calling you out for this kind of attack on the free press, and then you go ahead and execute that person, that would seem to reinforce among other things that very critique.
And so that goes to what they thought this would do, is that they didn`t think it would break in this way internationally, or they don`t care about international coverage of it and they`re just going to handle spinning it back home. How do you make sense of that?
ISIKOFF: Look, that s truly fascinating and important question, like how could they have been so clueless as to think they could get away with this. You know, for years the Saudis have had on retainer, you know, former CIA officials, former State Department officials, a whole coterie of Washington lobbyist and national security experts who could advice them on what they could get away with and what they can`t get away with.
Mohamad bin Salman, who is the defacto ruler of the country is somebody who is clearly cocksure, confident of himself, doesn`t feel he has to play by the same rules, viewed himself as a reformer. He was trying to get all this street cred as somebody who is allowing women to drive and making other modest reforms. And I think he was sort of a little bit divorced from reality as to how this would play out.
One other point that I want to make that`s in our article, this is based on an interview with one of Khashoggi`s very close friends, somebody he was talking to regularly over the last few months (inaudible) and he said, look, you know, you cannot take out of the equation president Trump`s rhetoric here calling --
MELBER: Trump hates journalists and he would not react if we kill one.
ISIKOFF: I think that was, you know, very likely the way this was processed in Riyadh given that, you know, we all now expect and come to view, you know, almost the daily President Trump saying sort of off-the- wall things and a lot of people in the United States no longer take them seriously.
But people around the world do hear this rhetoric. People do hear a president calling the press the enemy of the people. And when they hear that, they might take it more seriously than many people in this country do, and that may have been what happened here.
MELBER: And so do you think -- to you in a second -- but Michael, just to button that up, do you think there is some notion of U.S. contributing role, liability here, that they should clean that up?
ISIKOFF: Not conscious, but I think that is this kind of inevitable, you know, by-product of the kind of outlandish rhetoric we sometimes hear from the president.
FARKAS: Well, I was just going to answer that to say in effect, you know, our president went to Saudi Arabia first. It was the first country he visited. Not Canada, which is would be normal, what the most conventional presidents would do, not Mexico, our neighbors. But he went to Saudi Arabia where they already have a mixed history in terms of their, you know, foreign and domestic policy.
Now you have a crown prince on the scene who thinks that he in effect is running Saudi Arabia, although his elderly father the king is notionally in charge. But he`s running the country now. He`s kind of running a Jekyll and Hyde policy.
So, he`s loosening up some reforms and he`s trying to attract foreign investments on the basis of being reformer, economically, and a little bit culturally, but at the same time, you know, while he allows women to drive, he jails some of the original women who called for the driving. He put his family members under house arrest, which are in effect basically the people who are running Saudi Arabia, the rich relatives --
MELBER: But let me push you on that and also show another diplomat, Robert Jordan, who`s a former U.S. ambassador, because a lot of folks in both parties in the diplomatic corp. or the national security community are still, you know, quite careful about how everyone talks about Saudi Arabia no matter what they seem to do because they seem to have this stranglehold as a real politics and strategic ally. Here is Mr. Jordan only using question marks to say what I think he`s trying to say which is they`re responsible and something must be done. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT JORDAN, FOMER AMBASSADOR: I think this is the worst moment in U.S.- Saudi relations since 9/11. I arrived in Saudi arabia as ambassador a month after of 09/11. And the question then was are the Saudis friend or foe? I think we`ve got similar questions going on right now. The time has come for us to stand up and show some leadership on this issue.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: I guess you could say he`s a good diplomat, Evelyn, because he didn`t quite say anything. Are they friend or foe? Do you care to answer?
FARKAS: I mean, I don`t think it`s a question of friend or foe. The question is what are U.S. values and interests globally and domestically. And, you know, this business about arms sales which President Trump threw out there as sort of an excuse for why he was not doing anything about what looks like a murder of this journalist who was a permanent resident of the United States, was oh, we have $100 billion in arms sales going with the Saudis.
Well first of all, we don`t have $100 billion of arms sales going with the Saudis. On paper they agreed to that.
MELBER: I get that.
FARKAS: Under president Obama --
MELBER: And I think that`s fair. But Bush and Obama were never going to do much against the Saudis either. I don`t know why we`d expect this administration to be different unless somebody wants to say that actually we`re going to tit our oil, financial and military plans so that we`re less reliant on them.
FARKAS: Well, I think this is a bridge too far. Although many people would argue that Yemen was already a bridge too far. You know, we had in -- I believe it was September, the bombing of the school bus with the children dying. We know there are about I think 20 million people at risk of famine, you know, and drought and lack of medical assistance.
So there are people in dire straights in Yemen because of the way the Saudis have been fighting that war. In fact Khashoggi was specifically most recently criticizing that I think as Michael said. But it maybe that we reached the point now where we have to reassess this relationship, and we may not need the Saudis as much as we thought we did.
I certainly think it`s been bad policy on the part of this administration to swing so far towards the Saudis because we need to maintain a balanced relationship in the gulf area, and again, also with regard to Iran, we don`t need to be sucked into the Saudi-Iranian rivalry as much as we have been under this administration.
MELBER: A lot of interesting points here on a fascinating, harrowing and profoundly disturbing story. Evelyn Farkas and Michael Isikoff, our thanks to you for your reporting and your expertise. Coming up, a key judge in the Russia investigation with a new order that reaches all the way back to Watergate and provides what some are calling a blueprint for potential impeachment if Mueller wants that kind of report. Jill Wine-Banks will explain it all next.
Later, dozens of children separated from their families tonight as a result of Trump administration policies. But a shocking new story you need to hear about a 5-year-old child asked to sign away their own legal rights. That important story coming up later.
MELBER: Have you noticed how quiet the Mueller probe has been lately? You know, as recently as August there were those guilty pleas from top names like Manafort and Cohen, but lately nothing. That is of course for a reason you`re probably familiar with. We`re a month out from a big election, and DOJ guidance -- it`s not a law but the guidance discourages any big moves that could interfere with political races.
But tonight, we have a new development that actually could give Mueller more precedent for any report he ultimately sends to Congress. A federal judge ordering a partial release of a Watergate report that informs Congress` impeachment proceedings against Nixon. This is the blueprint essentially for Nixon`s removal. Even Ken Starr never got to see it because of the rules they have for the archives.
But, this federal judge now ordering archivist to unseal a so-called road map that federal (inaudible) sent to the House Judiciary committee in early 1974. And this is not a coincidence. Legal scholars sued for the release of this road map because of the current moment we`re leaving in.
They suggest that both Mueller and the public could benefit from knowing how Leon Jaworski, the famous Watergate special prosecutor who finished that up, used the information that was found in the investigation to try and give Congress clear facts and legal context for whatever they wanted to do, which is widely believed for potential impeachment at the time.
Let me read, quote, "The primary significance of the document lies in its role as a kind of template for subsequent impeachment referrals. This is What does scholars argued and they say, look, if Mueller decides to send a report to Congress, which he can do to through Rosenstein. The road map would be a vital touchstone for the public and congress to assess his action.
We have some perfect guests for this. Jill Wine-Banks, former assistant Watergate special prosecutor and Barbara McQuade, a former federal prosecutor and professor of law at the University of Michigan, both MSNBC legal analysts, or as we call them legal eagles. So, nice to see you both. Thanks for joining me on a Friday night. Jill, on the Watergate front, how is this different from all the other voluminous Watergate material that has come out? And do you think Mueller really hasn`t seen it and would want to?
JILL WINE-BANKS, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: I`m sure he hasn`t seen it because he has followed the rules completely and so he won`t have seen it. It is correctly described in the decision by the judge as being basically just a very short index to the documents that we provided to the House.
And the difference now is that you had a House that was actively investigating the president, a House that we felt we could trust to take the evidence and do something with it. Right now a report to the House could end up going absolutely nowhere because they`ve shown time and time again their total lack of interest in getting to the truth.
So, we turned over a briefcase that we called a road map to impeachment. We did not specify crimes. We said here`s the evidence that we have that`s relevant. And we did it on the day that we indicted all of the president`s top advisers and named him a secret unindicted co-conspirator. We didn`t identify him by name until a bill of particulars later.
And so the only way that we could get the information to the Congress, which did not have the legal authority under the court decisions to get the same documents we had was to use the inherent authority of the grand jury and to get the judge`s permission to turn over this information. And I think that Mueller has the same opportunity to use the inherent authority of the grand jury to let Congress know the facts that he has.
Now, we don`t know what those facts are. Ours were very dramatic and very clear. But if he has that kind of evidence, I`m hoping that he will give to the congress and that he will use the authority he has under the current rules that appointed him to let the public know as well. There is that opportunity. And I think it`s important for the public to know what the facts are.
MELBER: Barbara, do you view this as a potentially interesting thing for them to use? And is the road map here as important if we don`t know what Mueller finds? In other words, if you find bad stuff about the president there`s a lot more of a reason to get Congress involved. If you don`t, you have all the normal charging function to deal with anyone other than the president that actually you believe is chargeable?
BARBARA MQUADE, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I think because this whole area is so unprecedented. They are not case law that you can look to figure out how you do these kinds of things that I think any kind of information and any kind of precedent that you have has got to be useful to Robert Mueller.
Now, certainly there are going to be facts unique to Nixon investigation and the Watergate investigation that are not pertinent here, you know, whether Howard Hunt paid somebody who demanded a certain amount of money. That fact itself is not going to be relevant, but the process that they used and this procedure, as Jill described, using the inherent authority of the grand jury and the courts to order that that information get turned over to Congress.
Just those kind of things I think can be very useful as Robert Mueller figures out his course and what he wants to do at the end of this. He`s gathered his information and now what does he do with it? Does he indict the president? Does he turn it over to Congress? And I think using this road map as one potential avenue has got to be helpful.
MELBER: It also seems, Jill, that this mostly would arise under the current law if there was a disagreement between Mueller and his supervising authority, which currently is Rosenstein but if they fire Jeff Sessions he could go back to being the A.G. because the way those rules are written as long as he has that clearance he can send something over to Congress, right?
The issue would be if there`s a conflict or there`s a new Attorney General who takes a narrower view. It`s not automatically improper if that person decides well, we don`t want you sending the report to Congress, and then you get into whether Mueller has any plan B.
WINE-BANKS: Right, exactly. And I think that is a very significant point. I`m glad that you pointed it out because it is the plan B. Hopefully, under the rules that appointed Mueller, he can and will be able to get information to all of the Congress, not just to the chairs but to all of congress.
But I think it is important that he be aware -- Mueller, be aware of this option that he has to get the information out in another way because it is important. We can`t keep hiding these things. If there`s nothing that he has found that is damning of the president or anybody else, then we need to know that. But if there`s significant evidence, we need to know that, too.
And as long as the office of legal counsel is insisting that he cannot be indicted, then there`s the only way to proceed if you can`t indict is through Congress. And so getting information to Congress because again remember, the Supreme Court made it clear that a criminal investigation by a criminal prosecutors has a right to get documents that the Congress cannot get.
Now, if it was directly asked by the judiciary for impeachment purposes, the court might rule differently. But when it was a senate just for an investigation, they could not get those documents. Only we could. So it`s an important legal distinction.
MELBER: Well, you`ve walked us through exactly where those roads lead and so significantly potentially if the chess pieces change in November. You could have a House that is more aggressive if the Democrats take it back. You could also have Mueller`s boss shift from Rosenstein to a ne A.G. who might be far less aggressive so, a lot to try to understand. Jill Wine- Banks and Barbara McQuade, thank you both.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you.
MELBER: Coming up, we turn to a very important story 25 days out from these mid-terms with Georgia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams is doing and why she spoke out on Rachel Maddow tonight. We`re going to show you the important part and getting to the voter suppression, next.
MELBER: Twenty-five days until the midterms, Donald Trump out on the campaign trail, but where? Well, this is weird. He`s in Ohio, which is a state that did go more than eight points for Trump in 2016, and Republicans aren`t really in the running when it comes to the Senate race. Actually, Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown is leading his Republican opponent by a healthy margin 18 points. So is there another reason that Trump is there?
It may have something to do with the race for governor. Polls show it`s quite tight between Democrat Richard Cordray and Republican Mike DeWine. And the winner of that race could determine not only the future of Ohio politics and what happens inside the state but national politics because whoever controls Ohio State government has power over how people vote in one of the most critical races in any presidential campaign.
Now, troubled Republicans know that. In fact, look at what`s happening in another highly contested race for governor, this one in Georgia. There, the Republican Secretary of State Brian Kemp is in this heated battle with Stacey Abrams. Kemp currently being sued by multiple groups for the way he`s holding up and many say suppressing 53,000 voter applications, the majority from black voters.
Now, Stacey Abrams who actually was part of an organization that sued Brian Kemp over these alleged suppression tactics, well, she just joined my colleague, Rachel Maddow tonight and said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STACEY ABRAMS, CANDIDATE FOR GOVERNOR (D), GEORGIA: Well, I`ve been fighting Brian Kemp on voter suppression for more than four years, that we were able to pull together a coalition, fight him in the court and win. And so what I`ve told people is this, we`ve won before and we will win again. But we beat him first by making sure that the 53,000 have all the good information they need.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Joining me now Neera Tanden, president of the Center for American Progress and Hillary Clinton`s policy director in `08, and former Florida Republican Congressman David Jolly.
Neera, you look at what Ms. Abrams was saying. You watched -- if you saw the top of the Rachel Maddow show tonight, it was blistering when you look at the inherent conflict between a person overseeing who gets to vote while they`re trying to get a promotion into the governor`s mansion.
NEERA TANDEN, PRESIDENT, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: Yes, it`s like being the umpire of a game that you`re the team in. It`s ridiculous. And I`m glad Stacey Abrams has asked for Brian Kemp to resign from his position but Brian Kemp and Chris Kovach are the secretaries of state and are remaining in their jobs as they compete for the governor`s races.
In both, we see shady practices. And I think the truth is that I hope the people of Georgia recoil at the idea that essentially Brian Kemp is trying to determine the electorate that will vote for him. And he`s looking at people who he doesn`t think will vote for him who happen to be people of color and trying to ensure that they can`t vote. It`s obviously anti- democratic and I hope the people of Georgia are repulsed by it because it is repulsive.
MELBER: David, let me read some more of these facts that people have heard about. There`s a county in Georgia that has some of the highest rate of rejection of this mail-in ballots numbers. And so they have numbers reported by the secretary of state`s office. It has only 12 percent of the state`s overall mail-in ballots, but they have 40 percent of the rejections and Asian and Pacific island voters are rejected at four times the rate of white voters. Black voters rejected at three times the rate of white voters.
So either you come down on the side of thinking that there is a giant statistical abnormality in how people fill out their forms based on race or you think that this is a problem with who`s doing the picking. What do you make of it?
DAVID JOLLY, FORMER FLORIDA REPUBLICAN CONGRESSMAN: Yes. Sometimes, political analysts and academics overthink things. This is not one of those scenarios. The reality is the allegation that when Republicans are losing they cheat is very obvious in Georgia right now. And the bigger picture here, Ari, is this, in the last seven presidential elections, Republicans have only won the popular vote once across the country.
The popular vote, the political demographics are getting away from them. The cultural demographics are getting away from them. And so this conversation we have often about gerrymandering, about closing primaries, about campaign finance, about voter suppression, look, these are real narratives. And we`re seeing that in Georgia right now.
The upshot for Democrats, if you will, is this. If this is happening in the deep red State of Georgia, it suggests that this is going to be a very difficult year for Republicans. We are seeing Republicans likely to lose the House. We are seeing Senate races getting away from Republicans that they should be winning. And in Georgia, they`re now having to engage in this.
Look, the reality is Kemp should resign his office or replace himself with some type of subordinate that can handle this. But the vital role here is both for the media to bring highlight to it, but to also inform voters that apparently in Georgia, you still can show up. With an I.D., you can show up and prove your identity and still vote. Don`t allow yourself to be purged in this situation.
MELBER: Appreciate the points you make there, David. And Neera, David speaking to what`s wrong with this morally and also speaking to the politics of it. If you have to cheat this much for Republicans to even win a state like Georgia, what does that say about what`s slipping away from them?
For folks who are wondering at home, OK, so what else do we know about Brian Kemp and what`s the actual way that he`s running? This is how he depicts himself in his ads. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRIAN KEMP, SECRETARY OF STATE, GEORGIA: I`ve got a big truck, just in case I need to round up criminal illegals and take them home myself. Yes, I just said that. I`m Brian Kemp. If you want a politically incorrect Conservative, that`s me.
I say Merry Christmas and God bless you. I strongly support President trump, our troops, and ironclad borders and I stand for our national anthem. If any of this offends you, then I`m not your guy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: I mean, Neera, it reads a little bit like a movie plot-type conservative.
TANDEN: Yes. I mean I think -- look, we`re seeing races in the south. We saw Doug Jones win and I think Doug Jones win in Alabama with a warning shot for deep Conservatives in states like Georgia. And obviously, Brian Kemp is trying to model himself on Donald Trump. But I think the reality is that what David said is right. If you need to basically change the rules midgame to win, basically cheat to win, that shows that you do not have popular support.
And let`s remember, this is a neck-and-neck race between an African- American woman and a Conservative in Georgia. That is a C change. And the voter registration has been very high. Lots of people are excited to vote for Stacey Abrams. She could be changing the electorate, and that`s what Conservatives are scared about. They`re scared about people excited to vote, more people voting. And that`s just basically anti-democratic.
MELBER: Neera Tanden, David Jolly on this important story, thank you very much for joining us.
Coming up, a story that we are staying on here at MSNBC, this border crisis. Officials now asking a 5-year-old girl who was separated from her family, writing her name on a legal document that she could not in any way understand legally or ethically for punitively signing away her rights. We want to bring you the Helen story next.
MELBER: President Trump created a crisis at the border, we know that but it is not anywhere near close to over. And four months after the president backed down, in a way, from his so-called zero-tolerance policy separating at the time roughly 3,000 children from their families, there are now reports from "The Washington Post" that Trump is now looking at another go at a family separation policy.
"One option under consideration is for the government to detain asylum- seeking families together for up to 20 days, and then give the parents a choice. Stay in family detention with their child for months or years as their immigration case proceeds or allow children to be taken to a government shelter so other relatives or guardians can seek custody."
In other words, separation. This type of proposal could cause the same, of course, worldwide outrage that led Trump to try to say, as you may recall, that he wasn`t really about family separation and zero-tolerance in the first place.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So we`re going to have strong, very strong borders but we`re going to keep the families together. I didn`t like the sight or the feeling of families being separated.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: He didn`t like the feeling of the thing that he ordered. So let`s keep a spotlight on this as the administration reportedly considers going back at it. Here`s some heartbreaking new details about Trump`s immigration policy as it stands now.
The 3,000 children that were separated, 136 are still to this day in federal custody, even though the original policy has been narrowed. Three of those children are under 5-years-old. Parents of 96 children have been deported. That means permanently separated as far as we can tell.
"The New Yorker" reported on the journey of one person, Helen Nohemi, a 5- year-old migrant girl separated from her family at the border. In July, she fled Honduras with her grandmother after a family member was threatened with gang violence. Helen and her grandmother detained at the U.S. border. Helen was separated and taken into government custody.
Now, while in custody, and this is the U.S. government here, she was asked to sign a document relinquishing her rights to a bond hearing. We`re leaving this up on the screen so everyone could take it in because this is America right now. You see Helen`s attempt at that signature because she`s a 5-year-old and that is how she signs her name when told to. She doesn`t have her family here. She is literally fending for herself.
Now, she was, we want to tell you, reunited with her family four months later on, not because of Trump`s executive order or an immigration judge. It was public pressure from a local non-profit organization. In fact, there was an online petition about her specifically with 10,000 signatures. This is important, and the pressure and the scrutiny and the public awareness of this, it may very well impact what happens to other similarly situated people.
When we come back, we`re going to get into all that with some special guests. Stay with us.
MELBER: More and more children are in immigration courts in America right now because of Donald Trump`s policy. "The New York Times" reporting "The youngest child to come before the bench in federal immigration courtroom number 14 was so small she had to be lifted into the chair. Her feet stuck out from the seat in small gray sneakers. Her legs, too short to dangle. Her fists stuffed under her knees. As soon as the caseworker who sat her there turned to go, she let out a whimper that rose to a thin howl, her crumpled face, a bursting dam."
This young girl, Fernanda Jacqueline Davila was 2-years-old. That is another one of these stories that we are documenting as we understand where this policy is going. This young girl was 2 years old.
I`m joined now, as mentioned, by two special guests who know a lot about this. Lee Gelernt is a deputy director of the ACLU`s Immigration Rights project and Jess Morales Rocketto, the chair of Families Belong Together and an immigration rights activist.
Jess, when people look at this and they say, I thought Trump backed down, which he partly did, and I thought America is a country with safeguards, no matter who is president, why is this happening to children this young in court right now?
JESS MORALES ROCKETTO, CHAIR, FAMILIES BELONG TOGETHER: Yes. I mean the Trump administration is doing anything they can to put fear in immigrants to do everything they can to stop them from crossing the border. And so even in the face of the American public and the law, forcing to change our policy, they won`t stop the policy. They will just give it makeover.
MELBER: So on that point, we played before the break Donald Trump, asserting, claiming he doesn`t like the feel of this. That`s what he says to the cameras. You`re saying, in your view as an analyst of these policies, the cruelty is deliberate because it is a deterrent.
ROCKETTO: Absolutely. We hear reports from our community all the time. They are so afraid. They are afraid for their own status. Even if they`re documented, they are afraid for their children, to take them to school. All they are doing is creating fear.
LEE GELERNT, DEPUTY DIRECTOR, ACLU IMMIGRATION RIGHTS PROJECT: Yes. I mean I completely agree with that. It`s just real cruelty. I mean -- and now with them talking about doing additional stuff, additional separation, they ought to be trying to fix the mess that they`ve already created. The one thing I would say, response with Jess is, there is no question there is fear in the U.S. and it`s deterring families from coming forward, going to school, those things.
But to the extent the administration thinks that migrants won`t come here seeking asylum because of these policies, that`s wrong. I don`t think anybody can tell you Democratic or Republican administration, people who are fearing for their lives are going to have to come anyway. When I talk to these parents and ask them, would you have come anyway if you had known your child is going to be taken? They say, "What choice did I have? I mean if I`m going to be killed, my child is going to be killed, I have to come." So essentially, it`s quotitive (ph) cruelty.
MELBER: So how do you get DHS and all these other experts that work within this onboard with something that you say, apart from the ethical considerations, doesn`t work?
GELERNT: Right. You know what? I think what Jess said is right. We`re going to have to push back on what you said in your intro. It`s going to have to be a public outcry. We will be in court. The ACLU will be in court but we need that public outcry to make the administration realize that the public won`t stand for it. And we also need experts to stand up and say, "Look, this is not going to work." And we need the experts within the administration, career people to say, "This is simply not going to work."
MELBER: Right. Well, and that goes to again, "The Washington Post" reporting because it has become commonplace to say, "Well, does anything matter anymore and does Donald Trump get away with everything?" This story is complicated because, on the one hand, from a moral perspective, one child punished by U.S. policy for things that they had nothing to do with is one child too many.
On the other hand, the pushback did work. And so reading here from "The New Post" reporting. It said some inside the White House and DHS given what happened are concerned about the "optics" and the political blowback of renewed separations. Steven Miller who is big on this stuff now has determined to act according to several officials.
ROCKETTO: I mean we have never stopped protesting what is happening here. We were just at Kristen Nielsen`s house last night. We were at the hearing that she did because we`re calling for her resignation. We`ll call for Steven Miller`s resignation next, as well. What is happening here is happening at the hands of these administration officials. They are proving family separation 1.0 and they`re proving family separation 2.0.
MELBER: Well, and Lee, the issue with Steven Miller, of course, is that he`s a descendant of indigenous state of Americans so he doesn`t relate to these issues.
MELBER: That`s not true.
MELBER: Like so many of us.
MELBER: Like so many of us in this country --
ROCKETTO: And his own family members--
MELBER: I happened to be the son of an immigrant. Steven Miller happens to come with a family with immigration. The president`s first lady, wife is from another country and yet --
GELERNT: Yes. You know, so I think all joking aside, you`re making a critical point. I think everyone needs --
MELBER: I would never make a critical point through a joke but go ahead.
GELERNT: Everyone needs to, I think, look at their family. I mean I think So many people believe that their grandparents came over here speaking perfect English and had all these job skills. You know, we have thrived on our country allowing immigrants to come here. And the last thing we want to do, whether you agree with the ACLU on immigration policy, you don`t want to be taking it out on kids. And I think that`s what the administration start when they did family separation the first time. I think they`re going to see it doubly if they try and do it again because people are already sick of it.
MELBER: Well, the ACLU seems to be a great advocate on these human rights immigration issues. I think the larger issue is that you guys are communist, right?
GELERNT: No, we are not but --
MELBER: It`s Friday night. Final word, Jess.
ROCKETTO: You know, I`m a fourth generation American but my own grandfather was deported under a government program. So I know that this is actually history repeating itself. Unlike the last time, what is different now, the American public is really putting out outcries. So it`s really critical for us to continue to take action to go to protests, to call our senators because that is really what is going to be able to stop the Trump administration here. People think that he can`t be swayed but we have already seen that happen with family separation.
MELBER: Right. It`s the work, it`s the exposure, and it`s the sustained attention when it comes obviously in and out of the newsroom. And there are so many things going on but that work clearly has helped affect and protect the lives, even as we look at some of these heartbreaking stories.
GELERNT: Exactly right.
MELBER: So for that, Jess and Lee, thank you both for the work you`re doing --
GELERNT: Thanks for having me.
MELBER: -- and for sharing to me your expertise.
GELERNT: Thanks, Ari.
Tonight`s last word is next.
MELBER: You know what it is. It`s time for tonight`s last word.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Well, if you look at it, when you think of it, there was collusion between Hillary, the Democrats, and Russia.
JIMMY KIMMEL, HOST, JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE: He accused Hillary Clinton of colluding with Russia in the election. He accused her of colluding with Russia. He might as well accuse her of having sex with Stormy Daniels. That`s how much sense that makes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: That`s how much sense that makes and that`s tonight`s last word.
I`m Ari Melber, in for Lawrence.
If you`re looking for me, you could find me next week at 6:00 p.m. Eastern on "THE BEAT" and check out some of the great guests we have, comedian Sinbad, Ralph Nader, Pulitzer-Prize winning novelist Alice Walker and Historian Dorris Kearns Goodwin. That`s all next week at 6:00 p.m. Eastern.
But don`t go anywhere. "THE 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS" starts now.