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GOP talks pre-existing conditions. TRANSCRIPT: 10/18/2018, The Last Word w Lawrence O'Donnell.

Guests: Abigail Spanberger; Cal Perry

Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL Date: October 18, 2018 Guest: Abigail Spanberger; Cal Perry


I`m glad you talked about Abigail Spanberger coming on. It`s a fascinating video we`re going to show what Congressman Brat said.

But I want to ask you, Rachel, for a minute about what I heard talking to Congressman Cummings about earlier, in the middle of your show, about what Donald Trump has been doing in relation to the FBI building across the street from his multi-million dollar hotel business in Washington, D.C. and in the middle of your conversation you asked the congressman just what are the possible legal implications for the president. And I found him to be kind of reluctant to go right into a forceful answer, because I was sitting at it looking at it saying at any previous time the president would be under serious impeachment investigation threat at minimum threat that would be the beginnings of impeachment investigations over this very issue.

We`ve never had a president with a multi-million dollar business on Pennsylvania Avenue before. So we`ve never seen this particular thing before, but it is truly stunning.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, "ALL IN": Well, and also just nailing a president black and white, with photographic evidence and the e-mails to back it up. I mean, they have nailed down a very solid case that I think any prosecutor would take as to the president taking official action as a government official to benefit his business, and then lying about it and orchestrating a cover-up of it.

I mean, it`s really cut and dry. This is a story that fits inside a shoe box. This is not something that you need to understand this whole sprawling thing about. This is just rank -- basically proven corruption. And Congressman Cummings is a smart guy and a savvy guy and a politic politician, and I don`t think he`s going to come out before the election and saying, yes, that`s impeachable. But that`s the kind of a story you might even to teach people what impeachable means.

O`DONNELL: Exactly. And if you go back to, say, President Nixon, previously, the most known corrupt president we`ve had, if he owned a building on Pennsylvania Avenue, he would never have been caught himself in the conversations about anything about any federal business that could affect that building. He would have made sure that maneuver was done in a way he could deny he knew anything about it. It`s astonishing to see the president right in the middle of it.

MADDOW: And literally people who worked for him then writing follow up emails after the meeting describing the president`s orders, what the president has told us to do, and the timeline he wants to do it on. I mean, this is -- this isn`t even dramatic. It`s just a question of -- it`s not dramatic in terms of like figuring out what happened here. It`s clear of what happened here. Just a question of whether there will be accountability.

O`DONNELL: And have I to wonder how many of those people who put that in writing wanted someday that writing to be public, to show what the president has actually done.

We might find out if the Democrats win the House.

MADDOW: Yes, exactly.

O`DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW: Thanks.

O`DONNELL: Well, today, the president of the United States finally acknowledged the obvious about "Washington Post" columnist Jamal Khashoggi.


REPORTER: Do you believe Jamal Khashoggi is dead?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It certainly looks that way to me, it`s very sad. It certainly looks that way.

REPORTER: What are you considering as a possible consequence for Saudi based on those --

TRUMP: Well, it would have to be severe. I mean, it`s bad, bad stuff but we`ll see what happens, OK?


O`DONNELL: That came toward the end of a long day at the White House where the Trump administration`s continued to avoid the simplest question that anyone has ever asked a secretary of state.


PETER ALEXANDER, NBC NEWS: Sir, is he dead? Is he dead? Sir, is Jamal Khashoggi dead? Sir, is Jamal Khashoggi dead?


O`DONNELL: Is he dead? That`s the question that NBC`s Peter Alexander asked, a question that has been vexing the Trump administration, while the Trump administration has been working with Saudi Arabia to try to come up with what sources told "The Washington Post" would be, quote, a mutually agreeable explanation. That was their term for it, mutually agreeable explanation for what happened to Jamal Khashoggi.

Earlier today, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo having just returned from Saudi Arabia, tried to continue to buy time for Saudi Arabia to come up with their cover story while refusing to even acknowledge that he was asked more than once, is he dead?


MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: They also assured me that they will conduct a complete, thorough investigation of all of the facts surrounding Mr. Khashoggi and that they will do so in a timely fashion. I told President Trump this morning that we ought to give them a few more days to complete that.

REPORTER: Why should Saudi Arabia be trusted to conduct a fair and impartial investigation when they`re accused of the disappearance and apparent murder of Jamal Khashoggi?

POMPEO: So, we`re all going to get to see the work. We`re all going to get to see the response that the kingdom of Saudi Arabia takes with this. Whether it`s truly accurate, fair and transparent in a very way that they made a personal commitment to me and the crown prince also made a personal commitment to the president when he spoke to him.


O`DONNELL: Tonight, "The New York Times" is reporting, quote, the rulers of Saudi Arabia are considering blaming a top intelligence official close to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for the killing. According to "The Times", that official is General Ahmed al-Assiri, a high ranking adviser to the crown prince. People close to the White House have already been briefed and given General Assiri`s name.

"The New York Times" is also reporting the president`s son-in-law Jared Kushner is urging the president to stand by the crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman. Quote: Mr. Kushner has argued that the crown prince can survive the outrage just as he has weathered past criticism. NBC News reporting tonight, U.S. intelligence agencies investigating the killing of Jamal Khashoggi believe it`s inconceivable that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had no connection to his death.

Earlier this week, "The New York Times" published images that show one of the alleged members of the 15-man team that is suspected of murdering Jamal Khashoggi also frequently traveled with the Saudi crown prince. Today, a Turkish newspaper released new surveillance video images that show the same man entering the Saudi consulate hours before Khashoggi disappeared. The images also show him at the Saudi consul general`s home later that day and then leaving an Istanbul hotel and then at the airport to leave Turkey that night.

In an interview with "The New York Times" today, Donald Trump gave up the game of pretending that he was still waiting to find out what happened to Jamal Khashoggi. He told "The Times": This one has caught the imagination of the world, unfortunately. It`s not a positive -- not a positive. Unless the miracles of all miracles happens, I would acknowledge that he`s dead. That`s based on everything, intelligence coming from every side.

Joining our discussion now, Ned Price, the former senior director and spokesperson for the National Security Council and a former CIA analyst. He`s an MSNBC national security contributor. Also joining us, Peter Wehner, senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. He was an advisor to the past three Republican presidents. And Josh Lederman, national political reporter for NBC News.

And, Ned Price, I wanted to get your reading of how the administration`s language has changed or possibly whether Donald Trump himself has just fallen out of the chorus that Mike Pompeo was obviously trying to maintain of refusing to use the words dead or alive or just acknowledge that there was even a question about is he dead.

NED PRICE, FORMER CIA ANALYST: Yes, Lawrence, I was reminded watching your intro that this was the same Mike Pompeo who just earlier this week wrote an essay in foreign affairs on the U.S. strategy towards Iran. And the last section of that essay is called "The Power of Moral Clarity".

Well, we have seen nothing but moral clarity from Mike Pompeo and from his boss Donald Trump. It is certainly not moral clarity to turn your back on a reporter who asked, is Jamal Khashoggi dead? It is certainly not moral clarity to travel to Riyadh for a grip and grin to be all laughs and all smiles next to Mohammed bin Salman who seems to be the prime suspect or the prime architect in this murder and then to come back to D.C. and claim that you issued something along the lines of an ultimatum.

There is a tremendous discordance between those two. That is not moral clarity. What we have seen from Mike Pompeo is nothing but moral cowardice, and we have seen the same from Donald Trump. Donald Trump has become an all of this what seems to be a co-conspirator in the cover-up.

There`s an old adage in this town, that the crime -- that the cover-up is worse than the crime. I`m not -- that is certainly not the case given the heinous crime we`re talking about here, but there is a cover-up that is going on that the Saudis seem to have been behind but that Donald Trump would have been all too happy to support.

O`DONNELL: Peter, the give the Saudis more time -- give the Saudis more time to figure out what happened in one of their consulates, how much time would that take?

PETER WEHNER, SENIOR FELLOW, ETHICS & PUBLIC POLICY CENTER: Well, it would take in one sense forever and it would take no time at all because they know what happened. They were of course complicit. The crown prince was involved in this. And I think Ned is right, this is part of a cover-up.

I just want to say this idea of Mike Pompeo talking about moral clarity, what`s so absurd about that is that presupposes there is in the president a person with a moral view of things. And I think the fundamental interpretive fact of the Trump presidency and I think that this Saudi example is only one manifestation of it, is this is a person who is fundamentally amoral and immoral. He`s a man without human empathy or without sympathy, and in many respects, a man without conscience.

And I think what you`ve seen over the last several days is a person who is reacting that way. There`s most of us hear about this, not just a murder but a particularly gruesome murder of dismemberment and torture and you`re horrified by it, you`re angered by it and you feel there has to be a response to it.

I don`t think Donald Trump is capable of that, and I think that we`ve seen that lack of human empathy and conscience in almost every arena of the Trump presidency. It explains the cruelty, it explains the policy at the border, separating kids from children. It explains the pathological lies.

It explains the fact that he`s a man without loyalty. And I think that this is just the latest arena in which we`re seeing this ugly drama play itself out.

O`DONNELL: The Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Bob Corker said this, this is going to come to a head in a very short amount of time. This isn`t getting better over time. It seems to me in the next week or so, people are going to know more about what happened. It can`t go on that long. They need to come out and share their views of what happened and share with us.

And, Josh, he`s talking about the administration there when he says they need to come out and share their views. And so, the Trump administration has not been sharing their views with Republican senators.

JOSH LEDERMAN, NBC NEWS NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: They have not. They have been trying to keep their comments very limited. Until the Saudis come out with whatever their new explanation is going to be. And all indications, Lawrence, are that the Saudis are trying to reverse-engineer how much information is already out there, how much does the U.S. intelligence community and other spy agencies already know about what happened, and therefore what can the Saudis really get away with in their explanation?

So the U.S. is trying not to get ahead of that. We see Secretary Pompeo saying we need to give the Saudis a few more days to fully investigate this, and the U.S. light on this has been, look, they say they`re going to do a transparent investigation, and we are going to see the results of that. And if it`s a credible investigation, if it`s thorough, we`ll be able to see that. And if it`s a sham and they`re trying to cover things up, we`ll be able to see that, too.

But the question here that the State Department, the White House, top U.S. officials have been unable to answer, Lawrence, is how does an authoritarian government perform a full-fledged investigation when the chief culprit of who is likely implicated in this is the person atop that government? There seems to be no indication that the Saudi government would be able to conduct an investigation that would turn up actually, yes, Crown Prince Mohammed ordered a killing.

So, if that possibility of an investigation is taken off the table, it`s very difficult to see how this turns out something that the world sees as credible.

O`DONNELL: And, Ned Price, tonight, Secretary of State Pompeo was running away from questions has he heard the audio recording of the murder, has he read any transcript of the recording of the murder, because reporting, investigative reporting at "The Washington Post" and "The New York Times", NBC News, is running ahead of the official story as it`s being managed by both the Saudis and the United States.

And so, reporters are now equipped with questions that are running ahead of where Mike Pompeo wants to be.

PRICE: Yes, Lawrence, we`re getting into pretty dangerous territory because it seems like what our intelligence community has in its possession is quite different from what we`ve heard from people like Donald Trump and Mike Pompeo. This is not the first time there`s been a disparity. We need only look back at the Russia case to see our intelligence community believing one thing firmly and unanimously and something else completely different coming from Donald Trump`s mouth.

But it seems like we`re getting in that territory again. And this is going to create even more tension and frustration between Donald Trump and his intelligence community if he continues to spout conclusions, to say things like rogue killing teams that just don`t comport with what our intelligence community already has in hand.

O`DONNELL: Peter Wehner, how should a president handle a crisis like this with a historic geopolitical ally for whom there are many reasons to try to maintain the alliance in the way that works best, when that ally is possibly implicated in something as bad as this?

WEHNER: Yes, that`s a good question. And I should stipulate that this is not an easy foreign policy challenge, any president would face a challenge for the reason that you said. I think what I would do first in terms of halting President Trump is that all of his instincts and all of his reactions have made the situation worse not better. I think what you would want from a president is one to speak out with really some degree of moral clarity on this, and that is not what happened with Trump.

All of his reactions were really discordant with traditional American values, right? One was nativistic. He said Mr. Khashoggi wasn`t an American citizen, get it. He`s not Caucasian, he`s Muslim. He`s not really one of us.

It was transactional. It`s going to cost us money. And then there was the alibi, the rogue killers.

You`ve got to give moral voice. That is from -- that arise from a real moral instinct. At the same time, you`ve got to be able to work with that regime and say there has to be a consequence to it without necessarily overturning the entire regime.

The concern here if the worry is that the House of Saud may fall is that in mishandling this so badly both them and us, there`s so much pressure that is created is that it actually accelerates the fall, and that would be problematic because Saudi Arabia for all of its problems and oppressive ways is something of a bulwark against Iran. So, I think what we`re seeing with Trump is somebody who is mishandling it and may get the worst of all possible worlds.

O`DONNELL: Ned Price, Peter Wehner, Josh Lederman, thank you for starting us off tonight. Really appreciate it.

And when we come back, Donald Trump`s desperate lies and they are becoming more and more desperate lies about covering pre-existing conditions in health care policies. Why the Republicans are campaigning on the big lie.

And as Rachel said, we will be joined by former CIA officer Abigail Spanberger who is running for Congress, and she`ll describe what she says are shameful comments made by her Republican opponent, Congressman Dave Brat.


O`DONNELL: This afternoon, President Trump issued a campaign tweet lying to voters about the Republican position on health insurance for people with pre-existing conditions. The tweet says: All Republicans support people with pre-existing conditions, and if they don`t, they will after I speak to them. I am in total support. Also, Democrats will destroy your Medicare and I will keep it healthy and well.

Donald Trump, of course, does not know the meaning of the word healthy.

Here is what Donald Trump promised when he was running for president.


TRUMP: Repeal and replace that horror show called Obamacare.

We`re going to repeal and replace Obamacare.

We`re losing with Obamacare which will be repealed and replaced.

Obamacare is a disaster. We`re going to repeal it and replace it.

You know, my poll numbers are going through the roof. You know why. I really believe a big part of it is Obamacare because we`re going to repeal it and replace it.


O`DONNELL: And now, Republican poll numbers are in trouble because of exactly that. Once elected, Donald Trump and Republicans tried to repeal Obamacare and failed, and then Republicans did manage to find room in their giant deficit exploding tax cut for the rich to effectively repeal the individual mandate to buy health insurance and Obamacare.

And then, the Trump Justice Department joined Republican state attorneys general in a lawsuit that seeks to repeal all of Obamacare, including the legal provision that requires health insurance to cover people with pre- existing conditions. Donald Trump and the Republicans have done everything they possibly can to eliminate the guarantee of health insurance for people with pre-existing conditions.

And now, that they have discovered that is very unpopular thing to do, they have simply begun to lie about their position while continuing to push the lawsuit that would in fact eliminate coverage for pre-existing conditions.


SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: We can protect pre-existing conditions, and you need to understand everyone agrees we`re going to protect pre-existing conditions.


O`DONNELL: It was Donald Trump who called him "Lyin` Ted", not me. Ted Cruz is lying, of course. And he is one of the Republican Senate candidates who`s smart enough to know that he is lying.

Republican Senate candidate in Arizona, Martha McSally, is telling the same kind of lies to voters there. Josh Hawley, Republican Senate candidate in Missouri is telling the same kind of lie in his campaign against Democrat Claire McCaskill who actually does support coverage for pre-existing conditions and actually voted for the only federal law in American history that does that, Obamacare.

Republican Governor Scott Walker is struggling in his re-election bid in Wisconsin. Republicans have actually advised the White House not to waste President Trump`s campaign time in Wisconsin where they believe Scott Walker cannot win election, but President Trump wants to go to Wisconsin anyway, probably just to remind people that he won Wisconsin.

And when President Trump does campaign with Scott Walker in Wisconsin, you will surely hear some version of this big lie.


GOV. SCOTT WALKER (R), WISCONSIN: Covering pre-existing conditions is personal to me. Plus, it`s just the right thing to do. As long as I`m governor, I will always cover pre-existing conditions.


O`DONNELL: It is the right thing to do, but Governor Scott Walker is fully supportive of the wrong thing. He`s fully supportive of his state attorney general who has joined the federal lawsuit to effectively repeal Obamacare and eliminate the federal guarantee covering pre-existing conditions.

Joining us now, Jared Bernstein, senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, he was an economic policy advisor to Vice President Biden. And Ron Klain is with us, he`s a former chief of staff to Vice Presidents Joe Biden and Al Gore, and a former senior aide to President Obama.

And, Ron Klain, I have to say, when a party gets in trouble campaigning because they`re on the wrong side of an issue, I have never before seen the strategy of let`s all hold hands and just lie about everything we`ve been trying to do for the last two years.

RON KLAIN, FORMER SENIOR AIDE TO PRESIDENT OBAMA: Yes, you know, Lawrence, voters trusting Republicans to protect their pre-existing conditions at this stage will be like Dorothy in the very last scene of the "Wizard of Oz" handing Toto over to the wicked witch and saying, I`m sure this will all be fine. I mean, Republicans voted 60 times to get rid of protection for preexisting conditions. They went to court to get rid of it. President Trump campaigned on getting rid of it, and then he threw a beer bash in the Rose Garden to celebrate Republicans passing a bill to get rid of it.

They tried to strong arm John McCain, one of his last votes in the Senate to get rid of it. And if all that wasn`t enough, just the other day, Mitch McConnell promised that the Democrats don`t take back the House and the Senate, he will try again to get rid of it. So, it`s absolutely clear what`s going to happen and the only way to protect coverage of pre-existing conditions is for voters to elect a Democratic House and Democratic Senate, otherwise this will go away.

O`DONNELL: Jared Bernstein, can the Republicans just get away with this lie? Is the subject complicated enough that the voters just can`t follow this?

JARED BERNSTEIN, FORMER ECONOMIC ADVISER TO VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN: Well, not if they listen to the very, very clear logic that both you and Ron Klain just laid out. In fact, he even threw Toto into the mix, frankly broke my heart there for a second. Of course, people who are paying any attention to the reality of the situation as the two of you just articulated have to know these lies are so pervasive.

But there`s a wrinkle I want people to know about. Some of the Republican plans argue that insurers must cover everyone, all comers, they can`t deny coverage. And some of these plans actually do have that. However, they then say those insurers can charge people with pre-existing conditions whenever they want in terms of premiums and they don`t have to even cover illnesses related to the pre-existing condition. So if you have heart disease and you get coverage, they can charge you hundreds of dollars for your premium, and if you have a heart attack, your insurer can say, well, we`re not covering those claims because that was pre-existing.

So, it`s precisely what you and Ron said. Sometimes you have to read the fine print, but I think at this point, I`ve got to say, I mean, if a voter does not recognize that these folks are not just gunning for pre-existing conditions but actually gunning for Medicare and Social Security to help offset the cost of their corporate tax cut, then they`re just not paying attention.

O`DONNELL: And, Ron, I think it`s fair to assume that Donald Trump has absolutely no idea what he say talking about and has no idea how pre- existing conditions works in law now and how it would work if the lawsuit was successful. But people like Ted Cruz know exactly what they are lying about.

KLAIN: Yes, you know, it really is interesting, as you said. Maybe Donald Trump doesn`t know better. Although it`s kind of crazy he has his own attorney general in court suing to take away this coverage as he`s promising he`ll protect it.

But a lot of these Republicans do know better. What you`re really seeing is that in a reversal of where we were just two or four years in American politics, the Affordable Care Act is popular. Democrats are running on the Affordable Care Act, and they`re going to win elections on the Affordable Care Act. That`s a dramatic reversal in how the public regards this law.

So, great credit to President Obama. He was right in 2010. A lot of people paid the big political price to pass this law and finally, the American people are appreciating what it does for people.

BERNSTEIN: And you know what`s interesting is that I agree with Ron about the popularity of the Affordable Care Act. But I also would like to point out the unpopularity of the tax cut. OK?

So the Republican National Committee just leaked a memo, came out where they were advising their candidates that voters recognize that Republicans want to cut Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid in order to offset the costs of their tax cuts. That`s not a popular message, and I think it`s probably pretty hard at this point to find a Republican who is running on these deficit-inducing tax cuts because we now have Republican leaders like Mitch McConnell pointing to those deficits as a rationale for cutting Social Security and Medicare, programs that Republican based voters actually like a lot.

O`DONNELL: Jared Bernstein, Ron Klain, thank you both for joining us tonight.

BERNSTEIN: Thank you.

KLAIN: Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: And coming up, Virginia Republican Congressman James Brat is facing one of the many women running for Congress for the first time. His opponent is Democrat Abigail Spanberger, a former CIA officer. And as Rachel mentioned, at the top of this hour, she will join us next.


O`DONNELL: Republican Congressman Dave Brat is in a tight re-election race against Democratic challenger Abigail Spanberger, a former CIA officer who will be our next guest. Congressman Brat is in the normally safe Republican Virginia district which he won in 2016 by 15 points while Donald Trump was winning the State of Virginia by 5 points.

Now, Congressman Brat believes he needs Donald Trump`s help. Today, the president tweeted, "Dave has my total endorsement." Also today, Congressman Brat issued this statement. As a Christian, we love the least of these. We visit those in prison. As a member of Congress, one of the most moving experiences I have in this job is talking with recovering men and women fighting to rebuilding their lives.

Fighting to rebuilding their lives. That was their choice of words. Congressman issued that statement after a recording became public of what he said when he was speaking with prisoners at a county jail in Virginia.


DAVE BRAT (R), VIRGINIA CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: You think you`re having a hard time? I`ve got $5 million worth of negative ads coming at me. How do you think I`m feeling? Right? Nothing`s easy. For anybody. You think I`m a congressman. Oh, it`s easy. This guy is off having steaks. Come on. Baloney. I`ve got a daughter. She`s got to deal with that crap on TV every day.


O`DONNELL: Democratic candidate Abigail Spanberger tweeted this. It is absolutely shameful for Dave Brat to compare the hardship of addiction and the struggles of recovery to his campaign. This is an affront to every person in recovery and the Virginians who die daily due to their addiction.

Abigail Spanberger is one of many Democratic women running for Congress for the first time.


ELISSA SLOTKIN (D), MICHIGAN, CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: Before I announced my candidacy for Congress.


MJ HEGAR (D), TEXAS, CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: I bled on foreign soil for people to have the right to vote.

ABIGAIL SPANBERGER (D), VIRGINIA, CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: This is the first time I`ve run for office.

AMY MCGRATH (D), KENTUCKY, CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: I have never run for political office before.

HEGAR: I started realizing maybe I should run myself.

JONES: Let`s go, let`s do this.

SPANBERGER: And come November 6, I will continue to serve the people.

SLOTKIN: The people of Michigan.



MCGRATH: Kentucky.


HEGAR AND JONES: The people of Texas.

SLOTKIN: I will continue to serve the people of the United States of America.

MCGRATH: Are you ready to serve America?


O`DONNELL: Joining us now Abigail Spanberger, the Democratic nominee for Congressman Virginia`s seventh district and former CIA officer.

Abigail Spanberger, I want to get your reaction again to what Congressman Brat said. We heard him telling people in jail and struggling with their addiction problems, that he has problems, too, because he`s trying to run for re-election to Congress.

ABIGAIL SPANBERGER (D), VIRGINIA, CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: Yes. To me, his comments were just emblematic of how out of touch he is with the challenges people across our district are facing. I spend so much time going across our 10 counties, talking to voters, listening to the questions that people ask, listening to people`s concerns and very personal, personal stories.

And the idea that someone in a position of elected office, someone in a position of power would sit before people facing incredible challenges like substance use disorders in their own recovery and compare it to an election experience is just kind of beyond the pale for me.

O`DONNELL: Opioid addiction has hit the country hard. It`s hit your district in a serious way. Donald Trump running for president said he was going to address this, he was going to fix it, the problem was going to go away. What has President Trump -- what have you seen in your district that President Trump and Congressman Brat have done?

SPANBERGER: So in our district like so many districts across the country, the opioid crisis and substance use disorders continue to really impact people across the district. It`s one of the top issues that people talk about and we need to make a lot more forward movement. You know, Congress passed a good bill recently making some forward progress but there`s still a lot to be done.

We have the rates of death by overdose in our district in the state is now -- it`s continuing to rise. It`s surpassed other causes of premature death, and, you know, it`s got to be a focus that people continue to have. And I think looking at these comments, the real issue is that, you know, when we are looking at the challenges facing people who are struggling with substances use disorders and recovery, it needs to be -- we need to hear their stories and we need to listen to the challenges that people are facing with substance use disorders, with health care related issues and really try to find solutions.

O`DONNELL: What is your background as a former CIA officer bring, in terms of in your view and in terms of an asset to your possible service in Congress?

SPANBERGER: So my background with CIA is one of service. First and foremost, I was serving the mission of helping to keep our policymakers, our president, our military and our diplomats informed about issues of national security. And in order to do my job well, I needed to spend a lot of time listening, listening to people, asking the right questions, seeking to understand really complicated interrelated issues. And so I think that`s an experience.

From a values perspective, it`s a focus on service to this country. But from a skillset, it`s a focus of really truly deeply understanding complicated issues.

O`DONNELL: Less than three weeks now in what is traditionally a Republican district, you`re polling very close to the incumbent Republican. What is there left to do? What is the closing case for you to make to your district?

SPANBERGER: At this point, it`s an issue of turnout. We have had over I think it`s 137 events, meet and greet events across the district. We`ve done forums. We`ve done policy-related events.

We`ve just had our first and only debate with my opponent this past Monday. So we`ve done all the right things. It`s about turnout at this point. We have an incredible field operation on the ground. We have incredible volunteers, over 4,000 volunteers registered with our campaign.

Just getting people excited, making sure that people know that their voice matters and their voice counts. But their voice has to be heard and it has to be heard at the polls. So making sure people know, you know, where to go to vote and how to get there and ensuring that they do.

O`DONNELL: What has been your biggest surprise as a first-time campaigner?

SPANBERGER: For me, honestly, the biggest surprise that I`ve had is the level of personal stories, the depth of real personal experiences that people are willing to share with candidates, with me because they hope that my story -- the story they share with me will inform decisions and policy objectives that I may pursue later. And the trust that people put in you on the hope that you might someday be able to help them is really profound and very, very special.

O`DONNELL: Abigail Spanberger, thank you very much for joining us. I really appreciate it.

SPANBERGER: Thank you. Thank you.

O`DONNELL: And when we come back, with just 19 days until election day, Democratic Senator Jon Tester is leading in his re-election campaign in Montana. And that`s where Donald Trump decided to go to campaign tonight.


O`DONNELL: With just 19 days until election day, early voting is already underway. In some states, yesterday was the first day of early voting. In Tennessee, one of the states that could decide which party controls the Senate, new polling is giving Democrats a new hope of picking up the Tennessee Senate seat currently held by retiring Republican Senator Bob Corker.

A poll from Vanderbilt University shows the Democratic Senate candidate, former Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen one percentage point ahead of the Republican Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn. President Trump won the State of Tennessee by 26 points. And tonight, the president was campaigning in Montana, trying to defeat the re-election campaign of Montana`s Democratic Senator Jon Tester.


TRUMP: Montana to me is a very big and powerful state, I can tell you that. At least, it will be after Matt Rosendale becomes your Senator.


O`DONNELL: Donald Trump won Montana by 20 points in 2016, but Democratic Senator Jon Tester has been consistently polling ahead of his Republican challenger. The latest polling shows the Democrat at 49, the Republican at 45 in a state that the president won by 20 points.

Donald Trump made the mistake of holding his rally in Missoula County, one of the most liberal parts of the State of Montana, and one of the few Montana counties that Donald Trump lost in 2016. Hillary Clinton actually beat Donald Trump in Missoula County by 16 points. And tonight, the resistance to Donald Trump in Missoula County, Montana appears strong.

There`s a giant letter M on the side of Mount Sentinel overlooking Missoula, Montana. Today, some residents of Missoula added a few more letters to their giant "M" that President Trump couldn`t miss, spelling the word "iMpeach." That`s what it says there. Maybe we have to zoom in on it, "iMpeach".

On nearby Mount Jumbo, there`s a giant L high above Loyola Sacred Heart Catholic High School. Some Missoula residents also added a few letters to that giant L which now spells the word Liar. And there`s no doubt who they were talking about.

NBC`s Cal Perry has been talking about this all over Montana where Democrat Jon Tester continues to hold the lead in the polls. Cal Perry will join us next with the latest on the race in Montana and more.


O`DONNELL: Here is Donald Trump campaigning for the Republican Senate candidate in Montana tonight.


TRUMP: They used to say, "He wears a hairpiece. He wears a hair." They don`t say that anymore.


O`DONNELL: That`s what you get when Donald Trump comes to campaign for you.

NBC`s Cal Perry has been all over Montana talking to voters about the election. Cal, what have you found?

CAL PERRY: Yes. Lawrence, you know, in Montana, it`s about authenticity. Montana is a long way from Washington, D.C. People pride themselves on that. It`s not just about who`s the best rancher, though we do see Tester and Rosendale firing back and forth at each other over that issue.

Authenticity in Montana means independence. It means specifically independence from Washington, D.C. politics.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What does it mean to be Montana?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It`s beautiful here. You`ve got mountains. You`ve got the lakes. You`ve got everything.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I wouldn`t live here for nothing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Whenever God comes to earth, he stays in Montana.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have a lot of great things to offer. We`re the last best place.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Montana is mountains. In my opinion, being in the mountains means hunting and fishing.

PERRY: Here, the way you live your life outdoors matters. People attack Tester because he doesn`t have a hunting license. Rosendale is from Maryland but in the past, he`s voted for the state to control these public lands.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Maryland and other states bought it all up and they blocked it all off.

PERRY: You say Maryland because of Rosendale, right?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m just saying. Claims to be a cattle rancher, doesn`t even have a brand. Doesn`t even own cattle.

DAVID SPADY, MONTANA SPORTSMAN: I think the problem with Tester is he portrays himself one way when he`s in the State of Montana, but when he`s in Washington, D.C., he`s voting most of the time with Chuck Schumer and liberal Democrats.

PERRY: People who live here call Montana the last best place. That`s how important public lands are. You can go in this part of the state where you`re hunting on horseback to an entirely separate part of the state.

The Yellow Stone River where public lands are just as important. People come from All over the world to fish. Is there a difference between Rosendale and Tester on public lands?

JOE BALYEAT, FORMER MONTANA STATE SENATOR: I don`t believe there`s any real difference at all in public land issues in the State of Montana, on the other side of the aisle. We all believe in public land. It`s just a question of whether you want the state`s management or the feds.

PERRY: Who should control public lands, the state, federal government? Why it`s important --


PERRY: Tell me why, sir.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because the feds, there is too much bureaucracy. Everything is done in D.C. Nobody knows what goes on out here in the west.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think the state is more qualified to control public lands than the federal government sitting on their ass in Washington, D.C.

DAN VERMILLION, CHAIR, MONTANA FISH & WILDLIFE COMMISSION: Folks do genuinely sincerely believe if somehow we transfer the public lands to the state, that everything would be solved, they`d have a much more direct access to the people that were making decisions about management policies on the land.

The truth of the matter is we can`t afford to run our office of public assistance. We had to close down our mental health center. We had to close down the job placement center, the job service. So if you can`t fund just basic social services for the state, how are you going to suddenly manage however many million acres we have of public land in Montana? And the answer is we`re not.

SPADY: I think that whoever is managing those lands, be it the state or federal government, providing as much access as possible to the public for their lands is -- should be one of their highest priorities.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You cannot be dogmatic. You can`t be overly partisan because if you are, you`re not going to get anything done.

SPADY: There is a big divide between urban and rural and I think in order to fix that, people need to see the west. They need to come out west and experience it and talk to people in the west firsthand.


PERRY: Lawrence, these rallies that we see from the president which are really Trump rock concerts, you see these consistent Trump notes. One of them is, of course, on the media. There was a nasty one tonight about Gianforte and how Trump basically approved that assault on the reporter.

But the other note that we`re hearing more and more consistently is this idea that he`s worried about votes. He`s worried about votes in the Senate. He said tonight, you know, a senator gets sick and we lose a vote. And with impeachment sitting on that mountain behind him, that`s what he`s thinking about. He`s whipping votes and what a place to start in a state that he won by 20 points. It`s a state where you can tell he kind of feels like he should be doing an end zone dance, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Yes. And, Cal, it`s stunning to see those signs on the hills there. Who made the mistake of choosing Missoula as the location for this event, one of the liberal outposts in Montana?

PERRY: It seems like an arrogant move and an intentional one and an overt move. This is a president who is more and more doing things overtly. He`s doing things in the face of liberal cities around the country and Missoula is sort of the one place in Montana that is a little liberal leaning. As you mentioned, he won the state by 20 points.

His son has been out there hunting, holding these rallies, thumbing his nose at liberals, talking about the Second Amendment. This rally tonight was as Trumpian as you can get, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: And Montana, strong Republican state in presidential elections, but it has been sending a Democrat to the United States Senate, at least one, for a very long time, Jon Tester. Max Baucus in the Senate for a couple of decades before Democrat, before Jon Tester. So there is a formula for Democrats in Montana.

PERRY: And, listen, you know, the Republicans should be pretty happy with Jon Tester. He`s not the most liberal person in Washington D.C. The problem is for Donald Trump. Again, he doesn`t vote like a Republican. He may share some of the ideals of the Republican party, but he votes like a Democrat.

And you see the touchstone issue. The thing that people really hit on is this Schumer idea. Oh, he votes with Schumer, right? We heard that out in Montana a lot. And we heard this idea of Donald Trump is going to have to defend Donald Trump one day on the floor of the Senate, and that`s the day that he`s planning for and you can see it in these rallies.

O`DONNELL: Cal Perry, thank you for your reporting from Montana. Really appreciate it.

Tonight`s last word is next.


O`DONNELL: Time for tonight`s last word.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Allegations of voter suppression in the Georgia governor`s race, an "Associated Press" report revealed Georgia put a hold on more than 53,000 voter registration applications with nearly 70 percent of them belonging to African-Americans.

SAMANTHA BEE: Seventy percent? That`s in a state that`s only 30 percent black, by the way. So, if I do the math in my head, let me see, that`s racist.


O`DONNELL: Samantha Bee gets tonight`s last word.

TONIGHT`S LAST WORD coming to you live from Boston tonight.


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