Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL Date: October 23, 2018 Guest: Ron Klain, LaTosha Brown, Jason Johnson, Cal Perry
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel.
And guess who has already early voted sitting right here in this chair? As I always do. I`ve been voting by mail, California ballot, for years now. It just seems like if you`re not doing it already -- I mean, I know a lot of people love the ritual of going to the polls, especially if you don`t have long lines. But it`s the way to do it.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Oh, yes. Susan and I both voted absentee because we both voted Massachusetts. We`re going to be in New York on Election Day when it happens. And we had our absentee ballots. And like I blocked out like the whole morning on Sunday morning.
MADDOW: I was like there`s going to be coffee. There`s going to be pancakes. There`s going to be luxuriating over the voting. In fact, it`s my favorite thing to do in the world. And so, I just sent mine in, too.
O`DONNELL: We do it as a family in California. Sometimes that involves a conference call.
MADDOW: Oh, nice.
O`DONNELL: So we can all get together.
Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Your family is organized. With me, it`s just pancakes.
O`DONNELL: Thanks, Rachel.
Well, here we are at the fear and loathing and lying stage of what is now a Trump campaign. That is the way Donald Trump campaigns. It`s the way he always campaigns. That is what he believes campaigns should be about, fear and loathing and lying, and that is what every Donald Trump campaign will always be about.
So remember what you`re really watching tonight. Tonight, you are watching a preview of Donald Trump`s reelection campaign if he actually runs for reelection. Donald Trump`s very first speech as a political candidate was about fear.
It was about fear of people crossing our southern border. They were rapists, they were murders. They were coming here to rape and murder. And so, there was Donald Trump trying to create fear of those people, trying to create hatred and loathing of those people, and doing it with lies.
And so, when he sees the Democrats threatening two weeks from now to win back the House of Representatives, to win control of the impeachment process, Donald Trump has decided to throw away the idea of trying to campaign on anything that he might claim, even falsely claim as an accomplishment of his presidency.
Donald Trump is not campaigning on his tax cuts for the rich and his giant tax cuts for rich corporations. Donald Trump is not campaigning on his illegal tariffs that are harming American agriculture and American industry. Donald Trump is campaigning as if his presidency hasn`t even existed, as if his presidency has done absolutely nothing.
He is going back to the formula that won him the Electoral College, fear and loathing and lying about people trying to enter the United States on our southern border in search of the jobs that American citizens won`t do, in search of safety for themselves and their families, in search of asylum.
Here is the pathological liar president`s closing pitch to voters to try to preserve the congressional power of what has now become the party of liars, the Republicans. America and the world must be warned that every word you are about to hear from the president of the United States is a lie, every bit of it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And you know, what`s happening right now as a large people group of people -- they call it a caravan --
Do you know how the caravan started? Does everybody know what this means? I think the Democrats had something to do with it, and now they`re saying, I think we made a big mistake.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: It`s all a lie, and no one in that room but the president knows it.
Of course, the Democrats had nothing to do with creating a movement of people in Central America so that Donald Trump could then use that movement of people as a campaign device to lie about so that he could create more fear and loathing in his desperately fearful supporters. No one actually knows exactly how this exodus of people got started, but we do know that the numbers have grown because the president of the United States has drawn so much attention to it. More people in Central America have decided to get in the flow of these refugees, and they`re doing that for mutual protection.
The caravan is now estimated to be about 6,500 men, women and children. In other words, it`s the size of a couple of large American high schools. This is a group of people who, if they wanted to come to the United States to live honorably and work hard, would be an asset to this country and represent a grain of sand on the beach of our population.
The United States of America has never in its history been threatened in any way by unarmed men, women and children approaching our southern border. But Donald Trump believes that his voters have imaginations as wild as his and can be thrown into abject fear of these impoverished women, children, men, who at their current pace of walking -- walking to the United States - - could be about a month away from the border, depending on what route they take. Could be much longer than that.
Because Donald Trump knows that the only thing his voters fear more than people from Central America is people from the Middle East. He`s decided to throw them into the lie, that there are now people from the Middle East, as he puts it, Middle Easterners, walking among the Central American refugees.
And so, Donald Trump has thrown every fear-inducing thing he can think of into his caravan of lies. But Donald Trump`s lies don`t work for most Americans. They never have. Most Americans do not share the fears that Donald Trump`s voters seem to share with him.
That`s why more Americans voted for Hillary Clinton than Donald Trump, but Donald Trump`s voters can still win elections if they show up in the right places in greater numbers than the majority of Americans who do not share the Trump fears. Not one Donald Trump voter is publicly asking why they should have anything at all to fear at our southern border after two years of a Donald Trump presidency. They voted for Donald Trump to protect them from that fear. They voted for him to take care of that border, and now Donald Trump is trying to intensify that fear, as if he has absolutely no control at all over the southern border.
He is activating Trump voter fear, in effect, by saying the Trump presidency has been useless, utterly useless to them at the southern border. Loathing and hatred is the jet fuel formula for the Trump campaigns. Donald Trump wants you to know that he hates the same people you hate -- if you hate Muslims, if you hate black people, if you hate anyone who lives south of the Rio Grand. But he knows he cannot come out and say, I`m a hater, I`m a racist.
And he knows he doesn`t have to. He knows he got the Ku Klux Klan vote without saying I`m a racist out loud. He knows he got David Duke`s enthusiastic support without having to say "I`m a racist" out loud.
But now, Donald Trump is saying he is a nationalist, and that`s something he`s never said before, and there were reports indicating he`s actually resisted saying it before. It turns out Donald Trump was saving that word, nationalist, for the last two weeks of the campaign that could change his life, change his very existence as president day to day, take his powers away.
And he knows that in America, the word "nationalist" usually follows the word "white," "white nationalist." That`s what it`s meant in the 21st century. David Duke understands Donald Trump has to leave the word "white" out of his use of the world nationalist.
But when Donald Trump uses that word, he wants you to hear it as racist so that you will express your outrage at Donald Trump`s racism and that will actually clarify -- help clarify for Donald Trump`s followers -- the racist among Donald Trump`s followers -- that he does really mean it as a racist message. That is Donald Trump`s way of saying, "I am a white nationalist."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: They have a word. It sort of became old-fashioned. It`s called a nationalist. And I say, really? We`re not supposed to use that word.
You know what I am? I`m a nationalist, OK? I`m a nationalist.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Donald Trump knows exactly why you`re not supposed to use that word, and that is why, exactly why he is using that word. And by telling his audiences that he knows he`s not supposed to be using that word, he is telling them that he is brave enough and bold enough to use the word.
He is brave enough and bold enough to use a 21st century variation of the word racist because he wants Trump voters to know that he hates the people they hate. A majority of Americans reject all of this vile Trumpism, all of it, rejecting Donald Trump`s racist nationalism has been the unanimous mission of bipartisan leaders in American politics for a long time.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT: We`ve seen our discourse degraded by casual cruelty. At times it can seem like the forces pulling us apart are stronger than the forces bringing us together. We`ve seen nationalism distorted into nativism, forgetting that dynamism that immigration has always brought to America.
JOHN MCCAIN (R), LATE ARIZONA SENATOR: To abandon the ideals we have advanced around the globe, to refuse the obligations of international leadership and our duty to remain the last best hope of earth for the sake of some half-baked spurious nationalism, cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems is as unpatriotic as an attachment to any other tired dogma of the past that Americans consigned to the ash heap of history.
BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT: A politics of fear and resentment and retrenchment takes hold. And demagogues promise simple fixes, norms that ensure accountability and try to change the rules to entrench their power further. And they appeal to racial nationalism that`s barely veiled, if veiled at all. Sound familiar?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Leading off our discussion now, Jason Johnson, politics editor at TheRoot.com, and MSNBC contributor. Ruth Marcus, deputy editorial page editor and columnist at "The Washington Post" and an MSNBC contributor. And Ron Klain, former chief of staff to Joe Biden and Al Gore, and a former senior aide to President Obama.
Jason Johnson, I have a feeling that if you`d shown Donald Trump that video of George W. Bush, of John McCain, of Barack Obama saying that, that that would make him want to declare himself to be a nationalist all the more than he already did want to.
JASON JOHNSON, POLITICS EDITOR, THEROOT.COM: Yes, yes. I mean, look, Lawrence, I have a big announcement to make, too. I`m black, right? It`s really obvious. Trump, Trump`s been a white nationalist from the beginning.
The fact that he just announced it to the world or a huge rally is just indicative of how much his appeal has really shrunk in the two years that he`s been in office. He was able to dance around the margins for a long time by claiming -- well, you know, I`m a progressive, or I`m this or that. He danced around it.
But now he knows, my core constituency, the only future this presidency has, is to be an explicit white nationalist and say, it is us, this small 26 percent of the U.S. population that wanted him against everybody else in America who actually wants a fundamental future that we can all benefit from. I`m happy that he`s being this honest because I think this is the beginning of the end of him having any sort of appeal outside of the maniacs who want to listen to him in that room.
O`DONNELL: Now, I think we can all agree Donald Trump is the most ignorant president in history, but today he used ignorance as a defense in an answer to a question. And for the first time, I actually have doubts about whether he is as ignorant as he claims.
Let`s listen to Jim Acosta asking him about the way he uses the term nationalist.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JIM ACOSTA, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Just to follow-up on your comments about being a nationalist, there is a concern that you are sending coded language or a dog whistle to some Americans out there that what you really mean is you`re a white nationalist.
TRUMP: I`ve never heard that. I cannot imagine that. You mean I say I`m a nationalist. I never heard that theory about being a nationalist. I`ve heard them all. But I`m somebody that loves our country when I say I`m a nationalist.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Ruth, I`m normally the first to assume Donald Trump is ignorant of everything. His claim that he`s ignorant of this controversy involving the word nationalist, for once, I find his ignorance hard to believe.
RUTH MARCUS, DEPUTY EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR, THE WASHINGTON POST: I was waiting for him to do you`ll never find a less racist person than I am. That`s his usual thing.
MARCUS: Where to start with this?
He obviously is using that word for a very specific purpose, and it`s obvious that even Donald Trump, ignorant as he may be, has heard the phrase white nationalist before, and knows exactly what he is doing.
O`DONNELL: And, Ron, it reads to me as a sign of real desperation on Donald Trump`s part that he`s being shown polls that say, forget about trying to run on anything you have done as president. Go back to whatever bomb you want to toss that you think will activate your voters.
RON KLAIN, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF TO VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN: Yes, but he`s running a campaign as if his two chief strategists were George Wallace and Jon Lovitz. It`s a unique combination of racism and lying that is over the top even by Donald standards.
And this now, just one step short of calling himself a white nationalist, the loudest dog whistle we`ve ever seen in modern American politics, coupled with the incessant lying, lying about where he stands on health care, lying about a magic tax cut that is going to appear in the next ten days, lying about riots that aren`t existing in California. It`s just an unbelievable combination of, as you called it earlier, lying, fear and clothing. It`s a horrid campaign.
O`DONNELL: Yes, to that tax cut point, Ruth, it`s so fascinating that they`re not -- Trump is not talking about the tax cut bill that they put through. And the proof that they know it`s a disaster is that he`s talking about this hypothetical one that doesn`t exist, it exists in his imagination.
First, he said we`re going to pass it before the election. Then someone told him how the world works.
MARCUS: There is a legislature?
O`DONNELL: So now he`s saying, OK, we`ll do it after the election. In other words, his tax campaign now is, forget about what we`ve done. If you reelect us, we will finally do something for you in taxes.
MARCUS: And it`s not just the tax thing as you point out. He does have some things that he could theoretically run on, right? There is not just the caravan.
O`DONNELL: He`s part of the tariffs, isn`t he?
MARCUS: There is Kavanaugh, right?
MARCUS: But he is running as if he had not been, as you pointed out, he is running as if he had not been president for the last two years. And so, all of that anger and resentment and all of the things he marshaled in his campaign for president, he is summoning them all up again as if he is responsible for nothing in the last two years, including the caravan that is heading dangerously in our direction.
And the fact that you have an actual tax cut to run on that you`re not running on, and the theoretical and imaginary tax cut that you`re promising us you`re going to somehow conjure and deliver before the election is just the manifestation of that craziness.
O`DONNELL: And, Ron, there were pundits saying immediately after the Kavanaugh confirmation that, oh, this Kavanaugh fight was bad for the Democrats. Obviously, it`s some kind of political advantage to the Republicans. You would never know that if you listen to Donald Trump.
KLAIN: Right. He can`t run on that because, by the way, he`s suffering the largest gender gap in American political history. Women are going to show up. They are going to vote and they`re going to vote against Trump`s candidates.
He can`t run on his economic record because he can`t explain it. It really isn`t much of a record for the middle class. He can`t run on his tax cut. That just went to rich people so he has to make up a fake one.
And so, you know, he is really back to his old tricks. But he`s back to his old tricks two years into a presidency. I don`t think even some of his people are going to buy it this time. I mean, I think, you know, fool me once shame on me. Fool me twice, shame on you.
I think Trump is trying to fool people a second time. I don`t think people are going to have it.
MARCUS: Can I --
O`DONNELL: Go ahead, go ahead.
MARCUS: -- interject a note of skepticism here. It`s nervous, and I don`t want to have this skepticism. But if you look at the NBC/"Wall Street Journal" poll, his ratings are the highest that they`ve been --
O`DONNELL: That`s a margin of error movement.
JOHNSON: Right, right.
MARCUS: And there is more enthusiasm among Republican voters than there has been. So --
O`DONNELL: But still not as much as the Democrats.
MARCUS: Still not as much as the Democrats.
MARCUS: But I don`t know about you guys, but I`m a little nervous.
O`DONNELL: Let`s see if Jason is nervous.
Jason, go ahead.
JOHNSON: Yes, I`m not nervous and here`s the reason why. One, you know, I don`t have my entire legacy on the line which is what Trump, that`s why he`s so nervous right now. He`s already laying the groundwork for, hey, hey, the shaggy defense. If it screws up, it`s not my fault, it`s Paul Ryan`s fault, it`s Mitch McConnell`s fault. But here`s the thing, he is the albatross around this entire election.
He`s not on the ballot, but people are voting against him and they`re voting against his acolytes in Georgia, in Florida, in Wisconsin. If you look at the people who have allied themselves closest to Donald Trump, unless they were able to sneak through and get onto the Supreme Court like Brett Kavanaugh, those people tend to be suffering in the polls in a lot of different ways.
And so, look, it`s going to be a close election. Elections are always close. You have voter suppression going on, you got last-minute October surprises that can occur. By and large, he is a net negative for his own political party, and that`s why he`s floundering right now and he can`t keep on message.
O`DONNELL: We have to squeeze in a break here.
Ron Klain, Ruth Marcus, thank you for starting us off.
Jason Johnson, please stay with us.
And when we come back, it was debate night in Georgia. That`s where Jason Johnson is. The Georgia`s governor`s race. And the topic was, of course, voter suppression in Georgia.
And former Under Secretary of State Wendy Sherman will join us on the Turkish president`s dramatic and revealing speech today about the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.
O`DONNELL: Today, Turkey`s president told the world that Saudi Arabia committed premeditated murder in Turkey when they sent an assassination team to Istanbul to murder "Washington Post" journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN, TURKISH PRESIDENT (through translator): The information and the evidence that we have so far collected indicate that Jamal Khashoggi was slain in a vicious, violent murder. And there are indeed strong signs that the incident was not a momentary issue or a momentary result of something that erupted on-site, but rather, the result of a planned operation. And now, there is official acknowledgment that there was a murder. Where is the body? Why do we still not have the body?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: We have never heard a speech like that by a head of state ever. President Erdogan asked Saudi Arabia to extradite the 18 people that they have detained so that they can be tried for murder in Turkey where the crime was committed.
Today in Saudi Arabia, Jamal Khashoggi`s son was summoned to publicly shake the hand of the man who surely ordered the murder of his father, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The crown prince has been preventing Jamal Khashoggi`s son from leaving Saudi Arabia, and we can be sure that the crown prince did not allow him to leave today, and did not tell him where his father`s body is.
Today in Washington, Secretary of State Pompeo revoked the visas of the Saudis who are suspected of murdering Jamal Khashoggi, meaning only that they cannot travel to the United States. And the president of the United States still cannot bring any moral outrage or even any slight moral quibbles or questioning to the case.
Instead, the president chose today to try to demonstrate his expertise in murder conspiracies by saying that the Saudis had a very bad concept for their murder conspiracy, and he presumably would have had a better one if it was his murder conspiracy.
And he tried to demonstrate his expertise in cover-ups, saying that the Saudi cover up was the worst cover up in the history of cover-ups, presumably Donald Trump would have created a better cover up for an assassination in Turkey. Donald Trump did not say how the Saudi cover up compares to his and Michael Cohen`s failed cover-up of his adventures with Stormy Daniels, which has now left Michael Cohen as a convicted federal felon and Donald Trump as an unindicted coconspirator.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: They had a very bad original concept. It was carried out poorly, and the cover-up was one of the worst in the history of cover-ups. And they had the worst cover-up ever. The cover-up, if you want to call it that, was certainly no good. The cover-up was horrible. The execution was horrible. But they should have never been at an execution or cover-up because it should have never happened.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining our discussion now, Ambassador Wendy Sherman, former under secretary of state and MSNBC global affairs contributor, and the author of the new book "Not For the Faint of Heart: Lessons in Courage, Power and Persistence."
And, Ambassador Sherman, the president begins by saying, his words, they had a very bad original concept, very bad original concept is his description of an international murder conspiracy.
AMB. WENDY SHERMAN, "NOT FOR THE FAINT OF HEART" AUTHOR: An international murder conspiracy where the body was dismembered and no one knows where it is.
It was the most, of all the many bizarre things he said to talk about this as a concept, where the cover-up didn`t go very well, when, in fact, it is a horrific crime against humanity, quite actually.
O`DONNELL: And President Erdogan today said to the Saudis, through his speech, tell us the local conspirators. Because in the Saudi story, they say that there was a local person in Turkey who is part of this who may be currently in possession of the body or know where the body or body parts are.
SHERMAN: Indeed. There is an awful lot going on here. And underneath all of this, Lawrence, are people who are authoritarian leaders. President Erdogan of Turkey is an authoritarian leader. Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince, is an authoritarian leader.
The president of the United States today said he is a nationalist, which is actually a term used as a bed rock of fascism, although I don`t think the president is a fascist, I think this had his own words he is a nationalist. You discussed in our country that is white nationalism, but it also speaks to authoritarianism. And this is a very disturbing time for all of us.
O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to what the president said today when he was asked about holding the crown prince accountable.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Mr. President, if the crown prince is implicated, how do you plan to hold him accountable? Do you think he should lose his line of succession?
TRUMP: Well, we`ll have to do something. But I will say this, I spoke with the king. I spoke with the crown prince yesterday. And he strongly said that he had nothing to do with this. This was at a lower level.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Here we go again. This is Vladimir Putin told me strongly that he had nothing to do with this election interference.
SHERMAN: Absolutely. Indeed. I wonder what he did. I guess he never saw his children when they were growing up. But when they say to their parents, I really didn`t take the money out of the -- never in that conversation. I don`t think he knows the predicate for this.
SHERMAN: The issue here is we don`t have to destroy our relationship with Saudi Arabia. We`ve all done business with Saudi Arabia. We`ve all been impressed with some ways in which they`ve helped us in intelligence, and strategic thinking about the Middle East. But this is a crime of untold proportion, to take a resident U.S. citizen, and murder them in the Saudi consulate, and there have to be consequence.
O`DONNELL: What would you be recommending to the president today?
SHERMAN: I would be recommending to the president to look at how we sanction Saudi Arabia for these actions. If I actually had the goods on the crown prince, I would have to speak out publicly about that in real terms. We certainly should look at our arms sales.
You know, this $110 billion of arms sales is just not real. There are about maybe $25 billion in sales that are on the books, and the rest of it is what we call a memorandum of intent. We hope to. And, in fact, the jobs the president talks about aren`t real either. When Lockheed Martin got a contract for Blackhawk helicopters, they`re going to be assembled in Saudi Arabia to provide jobs for Saudi Arabians, not for Americans.
So, the president isn`t telling us the truth here, something new and different. But more importantly, we are not looking at our values. Yes, we have interests and values, and they don`t always align. But if you don`t go with your values, you never get to them.
O`DONNELL: One quick point about the United States president saying we`re going to pull out of our arms agreement with Russia.
SHERMAN: It is an insane decision. We have now given up all of our leverage with Russia. You stay in arms control agreements and you have them because you are going to have problems. You ease them to create leverage.
We have given a blank check to Russia to proceed forward. The president said today, we`re going to have an arms race. We`re going to see -- to use a phrase -- whose hands are bigger here.
And we`ve have also told China, it`s fine for them to go ahead. It was a really, really insane decision. It is against our own national security interest.
O`DONNELL: Have you ever used the phrase insane decision for any previous presidents?
O`DONNELL: Former Ambassador Wendy Sherman, thank you very much for joining us tonight.
When we come back, Stacey Abrams confronts Brian Kemp about voter suppression in the debate in Georgia. We`ll have reports from Georgia. That`s next.
O`DONNELL: Tonight was debate night in Georgia. Democratic candidate Stacey Abrams faced Secretary of State Brian Kemp in the race for governor. And the central issue in the debate was possible voter suppression by the Secretary of State Brian Kemp in Georgia.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STACY ABRAMS (D), GEORGIA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: Under Secretary Kemp, more people have lost the right to vote in the State of Georgia. They have been purged. They have been suppressed and they have been scared. That type of voter suppression feeds the narrative because voter suppression isn`t only about blocking the vote. It`s also about creating an atmosphere of fear, making people worry that their votes won`t count.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: With exactly two weeks until election day, Brian Kemp and Stacey Abrams are statistically tied in the race for governor. Brian Kemp is being sued by the ACLU for suspending more than 53,000 voter registration application and for rejecting hundreds of absentee ballots for reasons that seem to be trivial. And Brian Kemp is well aware that African-American and minority turnout is a problem for his campaign since that turnout seems to be surging.
At a ticketed campaign fundraising event in Atlanta last week, Brian Kemp was secretly recorded discussing Stacey Abrams` high voter turnout. Here is what Kemp told people at that gathering for his campaign in an audio recording obtained by Rolling Stone.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRIAN KEMP (R), GEORGIA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: As worried as we were going into the start of early voting was the literally tens of millions of dollars that they are putting behind the get out and the vote efforts for their base, a lot of that was absentee ballot requests, they had just an unprecedented number of that which is something that continues to concern us, especially if everybody uses and exercises their right to vote, which they absolutely can, and mail those ballots in. We got to have heavy turnout to offset that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Brian Kemp`s campaign confirmed that he was at this event but would not comment on those remarks. It is public information that 766,000 absentee ballots were requested in Georgia for the midterms. Kemp`s comments raise further questions about his efforts to suppress voting in Georgia. Here is how Brian Kemp responded to accusations of voter suppression in the debate tonight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can you stand here tonight and say, as overseer of our state`s elections, there is no attempt on your part or your campaign`s part to suppress the minority vote that would likely benefit a minority candidate who you are in a statistical dead heat according to recent polls?
KEMP: Absolutely not. And voters should look at the numbers and know that this is all a distraction to take away from Ms. Abrams` extreme agenda. And this farce about voter suppression and people being held up from being on the rolls and being able to vote is absolutely not true.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: When we come back from this break, Jason Johnson and LaTosha Brown will join us from Georgia.
O`DONNELL: Here`s more from tonight`s gubernatorial debate in Georgia.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LISA RAYAM, CAPITAL CORRESPONDENT, GEORGIA PUBLIC BROADCASTING: Do you trust that process? And if not, how will you seek immediate intervention since your campaign stands to lose the most?
ABRAMS: I begin by saying this. I believe anyone who has submitted an eligible registration form should try to vote. If you`re on the pending list, absolutely go and cast a ballot. But the reality is voter suppression is not simply about being told no. It`s about being told it`s going to be hard to cast a ballot. And that`s the deeper concern that I have.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining our discussion now, LaTosha Brown, co-founder of Black Voters Matter and Jason Johnson is back with us.
And Jason, what were the highlights of the debate as you saw it?
JOHNSON: Well, first it was at the beginning when there was a fire alarm that chased us all out of the building. It was really strange. It was strange. It disrupted the flow.
When we got back to the questioning, I have to say, the debate was in many ways disappointing. The single greatest issue that is going on right now in Georgia, whether you are a Republican or a Democrat, is how this campaign is going to be conducted. And while some questions were asked about voter suppression and some questions were asked about Stacey Abrams` finances, I was really disappointed that no one asked about the Rolling Stone article.
No one just played that audio in front of Brian Kemp and said how do you explain the fact that it seems very clear to you that you don`t want people to vote? So I don`t think it changed anyone`s minds. But I think it was a real opportunity missed. It was basically like, it was like having the "Access Hollywood" tape and then not asking Trump about it two days later. I was disappointed in many aspects of the debate.
O`DONNELL: LaTosha Brown, what is the threat of voter suppression in Georgia mean to the tactics for getting out the vote this time? Have those tactics changed?
LATOSHA BROWN, CO-FOUNDER, BLACK VOTERS MATTER: You know, I think voter suppression, particularly we are hearing a lot about it, but we`re -- actually, even people on the ground are talking about where they have been dropped from the rolls. There is a man in one of the rural counties we`ve been working with, that he actually said he`s not missed any single election since 1978, and all of a sudden he`s dropped from the rolls.
So there`s a lot of concern around it. And because of that group, civil rights groups, groups that are doing GOTV work, and groups that are really familiar with these tactics are actually really energized. We are seeing a lot of grass root work on the ground and a lot of organizations that are leading GOTV work.
O`DONNELL: And we heard on that tape, Jason, you were talking about that Rolling Stone obtained that the Republicans are very, very worried about the requests for absentee ballots for early voting for mail-in ballots. And it is -- it`s just extraordinary what they have seen in the numbers there. They`ve had half a million early votes already in. Comparable election 2014, they had 164,000 at this point.
JOHNSON: Right. And, Lawrence, there`s two key things here. There`s good news and there`s bad news. The good news is, not only do you have a large number of early votes and a large request for absentee ballots. But the numbers are so big they don`t appear to be eating into what is going to be election day voting because that is always a concern people have.
People vote early and then you just have less turnout on that day. I think that the electorate has expanded in large part because of the work of grassroots activists like LaTosha and the Abrams campaign. The flipside is you still have some people who are discouraged and concerned. You still have people in the southeastern part of Georgia who lost a week of early voting because of hurricane Michael and none of that has been restored because you still have a secretary of state who`s running for governor himself, who is basically repping his own fight.
So there are some positives and some negatives going on with voter suppression. But again, no one is quitting this time. And I think that`s the best, most encouraging thing. It seems like for once, the Democrats are ready. They`ve got lawyers and activists in every county ready to fight this to the bitter end.
O`DONNELL: LaTosha Brown, is early voting the safest way to assure your ballot are being counted?
BROWN: I think there`s a couple of strategies. I think one, early voting certainly actually I think adds into your vote being counted. Secondly, though, I do think there are groups that are doing voter protection. People have to be educated and know that when they get to the polls, do not leave and really be able to contact organizations like the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights, that there`s 866 number, voter protection number, that they can call.
In addition, I also think that we need to think of organizations that are filing lawsuits. You know, there`s a larger issue. While this is really important for this election, we are actually talking about democracy. The whole point of democracy is that people actually have the opportunity and the right to have free and fair elections.
There is a greater underlining process in this that we really have to think about why the Section 5, the Voting Right Act was so important. And when we strip that away, how that left communities that have historically had to deal with voter suppression, how it left them really vulnerable. So I think this is a greater issue that is even beyond November 6.
So even in the short term, we`ve got to do this work. But we`ve really got to take a long hard look at how strong is this democracy going to be. And is it as strong as we protect to make sure that all voters have free and fair access to the ballot?
O`DONNELL: LaTosha Brown and Jason Johnson, thank you both for joining us from Georgia tonight. Thank you.
BROWN: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: And when we come back, could there be a surprise performance on election night by the Democratic Senate candidate in Mississippi? One of the races that need more attention, Mississippi. That`s next.
O`DONNELL: Mississippi has not elected a Democrat to the United States Senate since 1982, and it has not sent an African-American to the U.S. Senate since the reconstruction period after the Civil War. But a new poll shows that African-American Former Democratic Mississippi Congressman, Mike Espy, is competitive in Mississippi where, on election day, they will not actually be electing their Senator. It will function as a primary election where the top two finishing candidates will then have a runoff on November 27.
Mike Espy looks as though he is strongly in the running for one of the top two spots. And it is unclear what would happen in the follow-up election given that the Republican running in the race does not already have a majority of the vote.
NBC`s Cal Perry has just returned from talking to Mike Espy and Mississippi voters. And Cal Perry joins us now.
Cal, what did you find out in Mississippi?
CAL PERRY, CORRESPONDENT, NBC NEWS: Well, listen, Lawrence, in so many of these races across the country, the road to victory and the margin to victory might lie in turning out that African-American vote. But for Mike Espy in Mississippi, it`s all playing out on hallowed ground.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE ESPY (D), MISSISSIPPI SENATE CANDIDATE: You`ll vote?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mm-hmm.
ESPY: All right. You`ll vote.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
ESPY: Everybody, including you.
PERRY: There is something going on around the country. Some people say it`s a blue wave.
PERRY: Is Mississippi going to continue that or does it stop in Mississippi? I mean you have an uphill climb.
ESPY: It`s an uphill climb but I`ve climbed uphill before.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Espy is the first black since Reconstruction to win a congressional seat from Mississippi.
ESPY: I`m excited, appreciative and humbled to be asked to serve this nation.
PERRY: So where has Mississippi been? Where are we going? And are you --
ESPY: We`re right in Fair Street, at Fair Street really. During the Jim Crow era, was the black mecca of Mississippi. So it`s fallen a little bit now at the disrepair.
And I`m glad that you decided to have this interview in this restaurant that`s been here since 1939. Because it shows where we`ve been and where we have to get to again with a little bit of attention, with a little bit of concentration, with someone who really cares about the economic status of Mississippians. And now I`m talking about not just black but all Mississippians.
ESPY: I don`t look at race so much as I look at economic possibilities, common ground for everyone with all this race.
MAYOR CHOKWE ANTAR LUMUMBA, JACKSON, MISSISSIPPI: This is very much in line with the ideas of Fannie Lou Hamer.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you afraid of being killed?
FANNIE LOU HAMER, CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST: I think about it sometime.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In what way?
HAMER: When somebody call and say, "If we have you located, we`re going to put you in Mississippi River.
PERRY: Talk to me a little bit about Mississippi. Why do African- Americans need to go out and vote this election?
ANNIE HENDERSON, MISSISSIPPI VOTER: Because it`s important for us. You know Med Evers?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In a vacant lot about 40 yards away, a sniper fired a single shot from a high-powered rifle at Evers` silhouette.
HENDERSON: He died for us. And when he died, I don`t miss a vote. I vote.
MARTIN LUTHER KING, BAPTIST MINISTER: And we all sing to Mississippi, give us the ballot. Give us the ballot and we will transform the salient misdeeds of bloodthirsty mobs into the calculated good deeds of orderly citizens.
ROBERT CLARK, FORMER STATE REPRESENTATIVE: I didn`t know if I would get back home or not. And we broke the barrier and we`re there now.
KING: We`re going to make this old, drag-down Mississippi a new Mississippi.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I will remind the next generation how important the sacrifices were.
JO ANN ROSS CLARK, CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST/: By educating them. We have to tell the stories. We have to show them the way to the poll. We have to take them.
None of our dead heroes took it for granted. My husband put his life on the line daily, not knowing if he`s going to come back home because he was trying to educate people to vote. Going on plantations at night after the boss man had gone to bed, registering people to vote. Getting them to learn how to write their name for the first time.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This race does go through the blacks. I`m not pretending that it doesn`t.
BROWN: There`s something happening in the south. There`s a new south that`s rising. We are not going back to the old south. This is a new south that is inclusive to everybody.
CLARK: Sometimes I`m hopeful and sometimes I doubt it. But eventually, it`s going to happen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PERRY: Lawrence, as you said, this will not be over on November 6. It`s quite likely that we`ll have a runoff. We can put those numbers up for you one more time. The math works out like this if you`re a Republican strategist.
Cindy Hyde-Smith goes off against Mike Espy. She takes all of Chris McDaniel`s votes and wins in a landslide. Here`s the problem with that analysis. On November 7, every television camera in the country is going to be in Mississippi. And people like LaTosha Brown are going to be focusing on getting that vote out.
O`DONNELL: And Cal, what you hear LaTosha Brown say that something new is happening in the south, it seems like with your report you can`t avoid the feeling of what happened in the south in the past when you think about this new south.
PERRY: No. And you`re talking to a generation that is slowly disappearing. It is America`s history. It is the story that makes this country the country that it is today. And people my age, I think, are recognizing that those folks are starting to disappear. And when you interview them, when you talk to them, and you hear things like, there is still blood on my state Senate seat where I have sat for 50 years, it gives you a sense of real responsibility if you live inside that community, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Cal Perry, thank you for that moving report from Mississippi and thanks for joining us tonight.
Tonight`s last word is next.
O`DONNELL: Time for tonight`s LAST WORD.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, LATE SHOW WITH STEPHEN COLBERT: Trump picked a strange forum to announce he was pulling out of a major international agreement. He did it at a campaign rally in Nevada.
TRUMP: Russia has violated the agreement. We`re not going to let them violate a nuclear agreement and go out and do weapons and we`re not allowed to.
COLBERT: Do weapons? What the hell does that mean? You can`t do weapons. It`s not lunch or Dallas. No. You might be saying, "Stephen, I don`t want to get vaporized in a thermal nuclear war as much as the next guy." But at least Trump finally did something Putin wouldn`t like. In fact, Moscow proposed a joint termination of the treaty as far back as 2007 so it could deploy intermediate-range missiles in its south and east to counter Iran, Pakistan, and China. That proposal was rejected in part because George W. Bush never paid prostitutes to pee on a bed. No.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Stephen Colbert gets tonight`s LAST WORD. "THE 11TH HOUR" with Brian Williams starts now.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END
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