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10th explosive device. TRANSCRIPT: 10/25/2018, The Last Word w. Lawrence O'Donnell.

10th explosive device. TRANSCRIPT: 10/25/2018, The Last Word w. Lawrence O'Donnell.

Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL Date: October 25, 2018 Guest:

ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST: Rachel, good evening.

I think it`s fair to say my family watches you more than they watch me, so I was quite vindicated to see your belly laugh when watching those commercials from Republican members of Congress and other candidates who say that they are the party who`s going to protect pre-existing conditions after voting again it 70 times, after running two elections to get rid of Obamacare, which is fundamentally other than the Medicaid expansion about being able to ensure people who had pre-existing conditions.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, TRMS: The most amazing thing to me is seeing -- I mean tonight I think the belly laughter to which you were referring was Martha McSally --

VELSHI: Absolutely.

MADDOW: -- who has voted dozens of times to kill Obamacare, who has been profane in her enthusiasm for wanting to kill Obamacare, literally getting up at her debate at her Arizona Senate seat and saying we cannot go back to the time before Obamacare in this country.

VELSHI: Because it`s impossible. If you didn`t have insurance from a company like ours, and couldn`t afford COBRA and you had a pre-existing condition, that was it. America is the only developed country in which people declare bankruptcy because of health care. It is, it`s remarkable.

So, thank you for underscoring it, Rachel.

MADDOW: And I love your family and I pay them all to watch me.

VELSHI: Thank you very much, Rachel. Have a good night.

MADDOW: You too.

VELSHI: All right, the past 36 hours has been a test of leadership for the United States. The nation is in a moment of crisis. Presidents typically try to unite the country after times like this.

Look at President Clinton after the Oklahoma City bombing. President Bush after 9/11. President Obama in the wake of the Sandy Hook the massacre.

But as "The New York Times" put it, President Trump, quote, confrontation rather than conciliation, rather than trying to pull together an angry, anxious country during a wave of apparent pipe bombs sent to some of the president`s most prominent critics, Mr. Trump lashed out, blaming perceived enemies for the toxic political environment that opponents say he himself have encouraged. President Trump seems unable or unwilling to understand what it means to lead us through these times.

Following a brief call for national unity yesterday, the president was back attacking the media this morning, playing that blame game. In a tweet, he claimed that the press was generating, quote, a very big part of the anger we see today in our society. That`s been the president`s response to a potential serial mail bomber.

Former CIA Director John Brennan, one of the targets of the attempted bombing, the one that went to CNN, quickly responded. Stop blaming others. Look in the mirror. Your inflammatory rhetoric, insults, lies and encouragement of physical violence are disgraceful.

Clean up your act. Try to act presidential. The American people deserve much better. By the way, your critics will not be intimidated into silence.

This morning, the White House press secretary was asked by NBC`s Peter Alexander about reports that the president has not reached out to any of the targets of those pipe bombs. She didn`t answer.


REPORTER: Has the president reached out to the Obamas or the Clintons or any of the others who received these packages to express anything? Sarah, yes or no? All we need is a yes or no just for clarity.

REPORTER: Will the president be contacting anyone, Sarah?


VELSHI: It`s just not a hard question. It`s a yes or no question.

There were a lot of pipe bombs. The count now stands at 10. That`s how many pipe bombs have been sent to eight different targets, all different officials were critics of the president.

This morning, we woke up to the news that actor Robert de Niro, a frequent and vocal critic of the president had received a package with the bomb. Two packages with similar pipe bombs were addressed to former Vice President Joe Biden. They were intercepted in Delaware.

Law enforcement officials on both coasts are working to track down the person or persons responsible. The FBI and the NYPD held a joint press conference in New York warning that more devices could be out there.


WILLIAM SWEENEY, FBI ASSISTANT DIRECTOR: We continue to advise the American public to remain vigilant as it does remain possible further packages have been or could be mailed. These devices should be considered dangerous.


VELSHI: As for the devices themselves some were apparently poorly made. Investigators are trying to determine whether or not this means that they were a hoax or the work of an unsophisticated bomb maker.

Here`s New York Police Commissioner James O`Neill.


JAMES O`NEILL, NYPD COMMISSIONER: We are treating them as live devices, as you see the way our bomb squad detectives went into CNN yesterday, this has to be taken with the utmost seriousness. So, as far as a hoax device, we`re not treating it that way.


VELSHI: Two senior law enforcement officials tell NBC News that authorities are looking into whether some of the packages were mailed from Florida.

"The New York Times" reports though investigators initially believed that some of the packages were delivered by hand or by courier, they have now concluded that all ten were likely sent through the mail, a person briefed on the matter says. There`s some speculation because they didn`t have a stamp franking on them but it`s because the way the packages were put together.

"The Verge" reports tonight the packages have already left behind clues that investigators can now examine. Trace evidence could include lingering DNA or fibers that are found on the packages.

Tonight at an event in Buffalo, New York, Joe Biden spoke publicly for the first time about the events this week.


JOE BIDEN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT: Folks, we don`t have all the facts yet and we don`t know who`s behind this or why they`re doing it, but as my mother used to say that out of something bad, Joey, something goodwill come if you look hard enough for it. And my hope is -- my hope is this recent spat of these -- who knows exactly what they were, but these pipe bombs being mailed might wake everybody in my business up a little bit and realize that we have to -- we have to begin to put this country back together again.

This division, this hatred, this ugliness, it has to end. Words matter.


VELSHI: Yes, words matter.

Joining us now, Joyce Vance, a former federal prosecutor who was the bomb prosecutor in her Alabama jurisdiction for many years. She`s a professor at University of Alabama Law School. Also joining us, Matt Miller, former spokesman for Attorney General Eric Holder, who was one of the targets of the mail bombs. And Michelle Goldberg, "New York Times" columnist. All three are MSNBC contributors.

Welcome to all of you. Thank you for being with us.

Joyce Vance, let`s start with you and the bombs. The bomb experts tell me that the one good thing about bombs, particularly bombs sent through the mail is there`s lots of evidence. There`s lots of stuff to look through. There`s lots of ways to figure out who is behind this.

JOYCE VANCE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: That`s absolutely right. Investigators can start by looking for fibers, for fingerprints and DNA. Those are some healthy clues. They can also analyze components in the bomb, figure them out and trace them back that way. So, lots of leads to follow in the next 48 to 72 hours.

VELSHI: Matt Miller, Jim Cavanaugh, formerly of the ATF who helps us through some of these things and was on with you last night said to me today, the bomb maker apparently was not the valedictorian of the bomb- making class. It seems to be a flawed setup. Some of them -- we`re not sure all of them, but some of them were not going to go off, although they truly are bombs.

To people who receive them and get these threats, the effect is very similar. The idea is this is meant to strike fear into the hearts of people. What`s the effect that it`s had so far?

MATT MILLER, FORMER SPOKESMAN FOR A.G. ERIC HOLDER: I think you`re right that`s the intent, is to strike terror. You saw John Brennan say tonight he`s not going to be intimidated. When I talked to my former boss, Eric Holder, yesterday, he said, if anyone was trying to intimidate, they don`t know me very well. I think that`ll be the effect on all the people who receive these packages or who were intended to receive these packages.

But there`s another question about what`s the effect on the country writ large. And I think what we see so far is not this is an episode that is bringing the country together like you would hope. You know, as Joe Biden said, you see it again driving the country apart.

You don`t have to look very far. You look at the president`s remarks this morning blaming it on the media. And if you look in kind of conservative circles, you see people making sort of excuses, you see people coming up with conspiracy theories, that this was somehow, you know, a liberal plot to distract from the caravan, which they think the election ought to be all about.

So, again, you have this idea because apparently they were Democratic targets, it`s not a national crisis, but something we can kind of again fight over, which is obviously just a really reprehensible idea.

VELSHI: Michelle Goldberg, I was mocked yesterday, fairly so, because during the day, during the coverage of this I`d said that the president was going to speak last night in Wisconsin and maybe it was going to be that turning point for him. Maybe it was going to be like --


VELSHI: -- Clinton after Oklahoma City, or George Bush in 9/11, or President Obama after Sandy Hook, although those were not turning points for those presidents. But maybe the president would realize that was the moment for that healing.

You write tonight in "The New York Times", Trump describes journalists as the enemy of the people. When someone sent bombs to leading figures in the Democratic opposition, he blamed the media for covering him too aggressively. We don`t know who`s behind these bombs, but we do know that Trump can`t even fake concern for their intended targets. We couldn`t get a response as to whether he`s called anybody who was one of those targets. And it lasted -- his real concerns seem to last about three hours yesterday.

GOLDBERG: Right, and what`s fascinating yesterday is if he could just, you know, fake it for a few hours, he would probably get enormous credit like you said for having turned a corner for being a statesman, but he can`t do it. This is who he is. And I think that besides it being kind of revealing about the total absence of leadership in this country, it sends a message to the kind of people who might do something like this, right?

Assuming this is person who`s on the right and not some sort of I don`t know troll, assume this is a person on the right, they are targeting people that Trump hates, that Trump constantly attacks and presumably this person believes that they have Trump`s kind of tacit approval in doing this. Presumably they believe they are on his side. And the message that he sends by, you know, refusing to take responsibility, refusing to treat this as a crisis, refusing to show any sort of presidential leadership, it`s sort of a wink and a nod to anyone who actually would follow through an the demonization of his enemies.

VELSHI: Or, Joyce, like the pizza-gate incident, the guy who went to shoot the pizza parlor up where supposedly had -- there was a pedophilia ring being run by Clinton and his associates, he really thought he was doing something good. He thought he was going to save children who are in a pedophilia ring. So, once you sow this kind of disarray and confusion, there are lots of people in America, we`ve got a big percentage of conspiracy theorists in this country, perhaps more than most democracies, who may act on this.

VANCE: I think that`s right. And our leaders need to be extraordinarily careful in the difficult and divisive times that we live in that they don`t use language in a careless way that can insight people who either might have a mental health issue or simply on the political fringes, inspire those people to use violence to resolve political differentiates. Our leaders need to make a strong stand at this point. The president needs to take the stage and tell the American people we don`t use violence in this country to resolve political differences. The leadership of the Republican Party needs to stand up behind that.

People need to hear that message. They have not heard that message. In fact, if anything what they`ve heard today is a president who continues to divide when he speaks to us.

VELSHI: Matt, we don`t know if this episode is over. We truly hope it is. It`s remarkable that we`re not talking about people injured, maimed or killed by mail bombs. But we can`t be numb to the idea that there is a campaign out thereof fear that there`s somebody who at whatever level of expertise they have launched some sort of coordinated attack on a number of people who the president deems to be his critics or enemies.

Where does this lead? Where does this go? I`m so glad we`re not talking about tragedy, but I am worried that because there was no tragedy, lots of people are going to dismiss this as there`s nothing to be taken seriously.

MILLER: Yes, and honestly, I think one of the things that`s so striking, it`s not just the president`s remarks which I think are ill-suited for the moment, but it`s the tepid response from the administration writ large. I mean, the only -- the senior most person that we`re hearing from regularly from the federal government is the assistant director in charge of the New York field office for the FBI.

We`re not hearing from the attorney general, we`re not hearing from the secretary of homeland security, we`re not hearing regularly from anyone at the White House --

VELSHI: In fairness we`ve heard from all of those people about the southern border and the caravan and the fact there`s military going to the caravan -- the Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen`s only clarification she issued tonight is we`re not aiming to kill anybody, we`re not aiming to kill anybody at the southern border. But they`re talking about sealing the border.

MILLER: That`s exactly right. At the time you had a mass assassination attempt against two former presidents, a former secretary of state, a former attorney general, and a former vice president, and the bomber is still on the loose.

And just as a thought experiment -- imagine if these bombs weren`t sent to Democrats but were sent to say business leaders and, you know, al Qaeda or ISIS took responsibility for it. We would see -- and the bomber were still on the loose, we would see every member of the national security team out to camera, doing interviews talking about this crisis and how we needed to catch this bomber before they can strike again. We are seeing none of that from the administration.

And I think -- you know, we know why we don`t see it from the president. I think you don`t see it from others in the administration because they`re worried about offending the president, they`re worried that talking about the underlying issue somehow hurts the Republican Party`s prospects. And that is not their job to worry about partisan politics.

Their job is to keep the country safe and to reassure the American public that they`re doing everything they can to bring this person to justice.

VELSHI: But what`s interesting about our partisan divide, as we go back to Kavanaugh nomination to the Supreme Court, Michelle, is that once the president had drawn the lines, he was actually more successful than some people would anticipate in rallying people around the cause. So, it became a -- you know, if you don`t support Kavanaugh, then your sons are in danger of being falsely accused.

At this point, the president has sort of dismissed this. The leadership of the U.S. government has largely dismissed this as a nonevent. In conservative media circles, there are all these false flag stories about how this is probably a left winger who is doing this to somehow bring scorn on Republicans with 12 days to go before the election. We`re not really -- we`re now seeing a partisan divide about how you feel about a potential serial mail bomber.

GOLDBERG: Right, which shouldn`t surprise us. I mean, this president sees a majority of Americans who voted against him and who have opposed him at every stage of his presidency to be his enemies, right? He`s never even tried, he`s never even pretended to be a president for all Americans. He`s a president for his small, angry conspiratorial motivated base.

And his political prospects depend on keeping them in a state of extreme fear and rage, so that they can turn out and hopefully maintain -- hopefully for him maintain power in the midterms because of their various demographic advantages. But, you know, he is unlike any other president in modern history in the constant contempt that he shows for the majority of the people he is supposed to be representing.

And I also think one of the interesting things about this moment is that it showed the extreme disingenuousness not just of his rhetoric but all of the right`s rhetoric since the Kavanaugh hearings and even before that, about quote-unquote civility, you know, that we have a crisis of civility in this country. And, you know, what they`re trying to do, I think, is to equate the fact that a lot of Americans are angry and are confronting their politicians in public and even being rude to their politicians in public. They`re trying to equate that with violent attacks because there`s far more violence on the right than the left.

VELSHI: One is an exercise of your First Amendment obligations. One is extremism and violence.

GOLDBERG: Yes, absolutely. And so -- but they`ve adopted a sort of rhetoric that equates those two things, when what we`ve really seen, you know, both in the Trump campaign, with its constant incitement to violence, you know, a kind of incitement that goes all the way through last week when he was praising Craig Gianforte, the Montana congressman who body slammed a reporter, you know, Trump -- no president has welcomed violence on the part of his supporters the way Trump has.

And just as, you know, all of his other devices have filtered down to the Republican Party, so has this infatuation with violence. You see it in the Republican embrace of this far right street gang called the proud boys. I mean, it`s an astonishing thing what we`re witnessing happening to this country before our eyes.

VELSHI: It is an astonishing thing. This is an astonishing conversation that we`re actually having it, but we`re having it.

Joyce Vance, thank you for joining us, Michelle Goldberg and Matt Miller.

Coming up, new fallout from yesterday`s "New York Times" report that the Chinese and Russians are spying on Donald Trump via his personal unsecure cellphone. Malcolm Nance joins me next.

Plus, more details about Robert Mueller`s investigation which is reportedly honing in on what Roger Stone knew about hacking and the release of Hillary Clinton`s e-mails. And if he knew, who did he tell? That`s coming up.



DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We can`t have someone in the oval office who doesn`t understand the meaning of the word confidential or classified.


VELSHI: So it seems that President Trump may be the one who doesn`t understand the meaning of the word conference or classified. "The New York Times" reports that officials have warned President Trump about using an unsecure cellphone because Russian and Chinese spies are listening in on these calls in an attempt to exploit the administration.

President Trump denied this reporting today by tweeting: I rarely use a cellphone and when I do, it`s government authorized. I like hard lines. Just more made up fake news. He tweeted again about that.

Ironically, Trump used an iPhone to send this very tweet. See it at the bottom, Twitter for iPhone. And thousands of others. Well, he is the president of the United States.

Omarosa, a former Trump staffer doesn`t even believe the president`s claims, tweeting: He always used his personal iPhone in the White House for calls even after being told over and over again about the security risk. He disliked his secure government issued cell. He said it was slow and buggy.

Taking a page from the Trump playbook, a spokeswoman for Chinese government called the reporting fake news and suggested President Trump exchange his iPhone for a cellphone made by a Chinese manufacturer.

Joining us now is Malcolm Nance, an MSNBC counterterrorism and intelligence analyst.

I mean, I`ve got a smile on my face when talking about this, Malcolm, but it`s actually pretty serious, because the Chinese and Russians and others are really good at intercepts as you know, this is a specialty of yours. They can intercept using cell towers, using the phone itself, using the device.

The National Security Council has given the president a phone that apparently is fixed for this sort of stuff, and the president doesn`t like that.

MALCOLM NANCE, FORMER COUNTERTERRORISM INTELLIGENCE OFFICER: Well, you`re absolutely right. This device that everybody carries is an intelligence aggregator and communications device, not just for you and your family but for foreign intelligence agencies should they deem that you are targetable. The top target in the United States is the mind-set, thought processes and decisions of the president of the United States.

No matter who he is, no matter who is sitting in that chair, the president of the United States will reveal information which is confidential just in his general discussions.

VELSHI: Right.

NANCE: So, if you can get an unsecured telephone like an iPhone, you know, every iPhone, each one of these they`re not shielded. They emanate, and radiate information. They`re almost location tracking devices. If you can get close enough or get within the networks to where you setup false cellphone towers, then you can collect that data.

And believe me, the Russian embassy in Washington, D.C. and the Chinese embassy and their substations that, you know, are clandestinely placed throughout the city and the United States, they can get this unsecure information. The president should not be using that iPhone at all.

VELSHI: Now, this story broke more than 24 hours ago and the White House has just responded a short time ago. It`s taken them an unusually long time to respond to this. The president tweeted a couple of times, but I want you to go to this White House response, it`s very carefully worded.

The allegation in "The New York Times" is that there are three phones, that there are two government phones that are secure and then the one that President Trump likes to use, which is his personal iPhone. Here`s what the article says. The article written by "The New York Times" presented inaccurate information about the president`s cellphone and its usage. The president does not have three cellular phones. He has one official government iPhone.

That`s a crafty response. He has one official government iPhone. So, "The New York Times" said he had two, so we`re not sure what that`s about. He doesn`t have three, he has this official phone. So it doesn`t address the personal phone, which all sorts of people have reported the president uses.

NANCE: It doesn`t matter. What it really hasn`t addressed is whether this phone is shielded, whether this phone is secure and the communications which come from it are encrypted from end to end or whether it`s just an iPhone the U.S. government purchased using the GSA purchasing process, because that`s what I got out of it.


VELSHI: Right, I was going to say, the government employees, the military guy, if you got a phone from the government it`s generally going to be speaking a normal phone. In your case, you`re an intelligence guy so maybe it`s a little different. But generally speaking, the government purchases a iPhone and you get a discount on them.

NANCE: You`re absolutely right.

And if the president is using a hard line, those secure phones, those hard lines are what he`s going to use. But we know he uses an unsecure mobile phone. People -- journalists just today have been saying they have seen this phone sitting on his desk, they have watched him tweet. It is not secure.


VELSHI: Let me just tell you, this Maggie Haberman from "The New York Times" has tweeted multiple West Wing aides say Jordan Karem who has taken over as lead of the Oval Office ops tells colleagues about screening the call logs on the non-cellphone for Kelly, the non-cellphone being the hard line. Trump uses cell to avoid -- to try to avoid the Kelly screenings.

Now, something is wrong about this, Malcolm. I totally get the guy doesn`t like control. It`s very clear that his White House chief of staff is the weakest chief of staff that a president has had in a very long time by design. The president doesn`t want Kelly snooping on or telling him who to call. Great, that`s for those two men to sort out.

The problem is by not doing it, the Russian and Chinese are possibly developing information that could be used to compromise the president or others in his circle.

NANCE: Oh, yes, you`re absolutely right. If you listen carefully that scream you`re hearing is all the watch standers of the National Security Agency`s National Signal Operations Center pulling their hair out over the fact that a non-secure cellphone, which is now a transmitter to our foreign intelligence adversaries is broadcasting the president`s most secret desires, the ones he doesn`t want his chief of staff to hear.

VELSHI: Correct.

NANCE: Whether that`s private conversations to his friends, an unknown mistress, revealing information of a clandestine or of a classified nature. The only subscriber to that right now are Donald Trump, his friends, and all the third party collectors that have the technical capability of targeting him because he is the world`s top most signals intelligence target.

VELSHI: Yes, you are right. It`s the stuff -- they`re listing in on the stuff he doesn`t want to tell John Kelly, that`s the problem.

All right. Malcolm, great to see you as always. Thank you, Malcolm Nance.

Coming up, Robert Mueller`s team hones in on the collusion question, up next.


ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST: OK, I need you to pay attention to this one. Put your phone down for a second. And you need to actually look and pay attention. This one is a complicated story.

NBC News has exclusive new reporting on special counsel Robert Mueller`s investigation of possible new links between Trump associate Roger Stone and the release of Democratic emails stolen by Russia.

A source familiar with the investigation tells NBC that Mueller`s office has obtained communications suggesting that Roger Stone`s associate Jerome Corsi, a right wing conspiracy theorist might have had advance knowledge that the emails of Hillary Clinton`s campaign chairman had been stolen and handed to WikiLeaks. OK.

Mueller is trying to find out, of course, he may have passed information about those stolen emails to Roget Stone. Corsi is the guy on the left. Roger Stone is the guy on the right. Stone claims he only got his information from the public domain. But NBC reports Mueller`s investigators have reviewed messages to members of the Trump team in which Stone and Corsi seemed to take credit for the release of Democratic emails.

Now, according to another report, Mueller is interested in Roger Stone`s attempt to obtain a presidential pardon for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, this guy. "Mother Jones" reports that on January 6th of this year Stone texted an associate quote "I am working with others to get JA, Julian Assange, probably, a blanket pardon. It`s very real and very possible. Don`t F it up." Stone then texted something very big about to go down.

Mueller`s team has reportedly questioned at least Stone associate about that efforts. Stone is not denying the report, by the way. He told "Mother Jones" quote "I most definitely advocated for a pardon for Assange."

This one`s complicated, but it might be getting us somewhere very close.

Back with me now Joyce Vance and Matt Miller.

Just to be clear. Everybody knows Roger Stone is a close associate of Donald Trump.

Joyce, this is your domain. This is heavy stuff. It is complicated. It has got a lot of connections. What do you make of this news?

JOYCE VANCE, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: So one thing that we know for sure is that there are a lot of connections between Roger Stone and various Russians involved in the release of Democratic emails that have been hacked. And on the other hand, we know that Stone had close connections to Trump. He worked for the campaign. There`s a little uncertainty about whether he was fired or left voluntarily, but he at least theoretically had access.

Given all of that information Mueller will run-down all of those leads and see whether or not there really was communication between Stone and the Russians. And if so, whether that communication then went back and forth with the campaign. That`s what this whole ball game is about.

VELSHI: So, Matt, Roger Stone didn`t deny the Julian Assange working on a pardon for him, which is interesting because Roger Stone denies having ever talked to Julian Assange. If I would ever like to help anybody get a pardon I would like to have dinner with them first or something like that.

But Roger Stone has changed his story, to Joyce`s point, many times about Russia. Here`s what he told "the Washington Post." In April of 2017 about Russia and the Trump campaign. And he later admitted this wasn`t true, but here`s what he said.


ROGER STONE, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN ADVISER: I didn`t talk to anybody who was identifiably Russian during the two years running up to this campaign. I`m not sure I did previously either. I very definitely can`t think of anybody who might have been a Russian without my knowledge.


VELSHI: All right, subsequently he said that wasn`t true. But it isn`t hard for thinking people to follow the story of Roger Stone and this Corsi fellow and this shady cast of characters.

MATT MILLER, FORMER DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE CHIEF SPOKESMAN: Yes, that`s right. And especially with Roger Stone, I mean it`s oftentimes trying to interpret his statements is like walking through a hall of mirrors.


MILLER: You know, most people in politics who involve themselves in dirty tricks or kind of unethical behavior don`t take credit for it. They don`t brag about it. Roger Stone is the rare person who when he is involved in a dirty trick will brag about it.

But not only that. He will oftentimes take credit and brag about dirty tricks that he had nothing to do with. So you know, when you look at these situations you have to ask yourself, you know, was he lying back when he took credit for these things? When he was lying when he was talking, you know, when he potentially sending emails in the campaign saying he had advance knowledge of the Podesta emails or he is lying now when he said he really didn`t?

VELSHI: Right.

MILLER: It is a very difficult thing to sort through. The thing that interested me most about today`s development is this idea of a pardon for Julian Assange, you know. One of the things, if you are, you know, a potential conspirator to a crime, like Roger Stone, you know, may be, the thing you worry most about is other people in that conspiracy eventually talking and giving you up. And one way to remove the threat of Julian Assange ever talking is to remove his legal jeopardy and a pardon would obviously do that.

And the other thing I find fascinated though is, you know, Roger Stone, we talk about how he can - it is very hard to read his denials when he changes his story all the time. The White House was contacted about that "Mother Jones" story and didn`t have a thing to say. It would be very easy for White House to say it was never discussed here. It was never considered. They never brought it to us or if they did bring it to us, we never took it seriously.


MILLER: They had no comment at all. And find that very peculiar.

VELSHI: And to Joyce Vance, voice who was a former U.S. attorney, after Roger Stone made that comment about I never met a Russian, never met a Russian, don`t know anybody whom met a Russian. Here`s what he said afterwards to "the Washington Post." He said that was false. In fact, as he acknowledged this year, he met with a Russian in May of 2016 who offered to sell incriminating information to the Trump campaign. In the wake of that acknowledgement, he was forced to amend his testimony to the House intelligence committee.

So Joyce, let`s make sense of this. He has talked to the House intelligence committee. Mueller knows about this. To Matt`s point, it is like walking through a hall of mirrors of Roger Stone because he changes his story and we will see, he puts a lot of it in public domain.

How does Mueller make sense of Roger Stone, this Corsi fellow, whoever else because they are shady characters? Corsi is the guy who gave birth to the birther conspiracy, the idea that Barack Obama was not born in the United States. He is holding a book here, talking about the birth certificate, where`s the birth certificate? How does Mueller deal with these characters?

VANCE: So fortunately, Mueller won`t have to rely on Stone to get and authoritative version of what Stone did. He has a lot of other witnesses available to him. It may be that General Flynn has some light to shed on his activities. It may well be that Manafort or perhaps Gates had some engagement.

There will be a number of different filters through which Mueller can test the voracity of statements that Stone has made. I think it`s most interesting that he has not been in front of the grand jury himself. That would appear to be how you would treat a target of an investigation. And Stone really likes he`s the place that Mueller is coming to next.

VELSHI: And he sure talks a lot for a guy who might be a target of an investigation.

Joyce, thanks. Always great to see. Thank you.

Matt Miller, as well, thanks to you.

Coming up country folk star Jason Isbell made headlines when he said Jesus would not have turned out for Donald Trump. He is working to turnout the vote for the Democrat in the Tennessee senate race as are pop starts Taylor - pop superstars, really, Taylor Swift and Cheryl Crow. But is this having an impact, let`s talk about that next.


VELSHI: If you live in America you may be familiar with the Christian acronym WWJD. It stands for What Would Jesus Do. It`s an often used -- it`s a call for members of the Christian faith to make morally righteous decisions. Now, America a folk music sensation Jason Isbell spent the last few months trying to answer that question in the age of President Donald Trump.

And in an interview with "the Guardian" last month, Isbell told reporters Jesus would not have voted for Donald Trump no matter what his pay was going to do as a result of that. Isbell is a four-time Grammy winner whose music was recently featured in the hit film "a star is born." He is a fixture (ph) of Nashville`s country and folk music scene, fans of which tend to lean more conservative.

Now Isbell has drawn that ire of conservative website like Breitbart and the federalist for his cultural apostasy. But Isbell is not the type of person to back down from his political convictions under pressure. His music is known for tackling complex social justice issues including white privilege

And last year, the Alabama native was an outspoken supporter for the campaign of Democratic senator Doug Jones in his election against the accused child molester Roy Moore. In an interview with "the Daily Show`s" Trevor Noah last year, Isbell took a stab at explaining America`s cultural divide.


JASON ISBELL, FOLK MUSICIAN: It`s not Alabama that hates you, really it`s like the people that live there. Sometimes I get a lot of anger directed towards me from my home state, and I think it`s not the mountains and rivers fault. Alabama`s a beautiful place. It`s just that there are Alabamians there.


VELSHI: All right, now the folk music singer has joined the ranks of pop star Taylor Swift by endorsing the Democratic candidate in the in his adopted home state of Tennessee. When we come back NBC`s Cal Perry has an exclusive interview with Jason Isbell where he explains why he is supporting democratic Phil Bredesen in the Tennessee election and why he thinks his opponent Republican Marsha Blackburn could actually be worse for America than Roy Moore. That`s next.


VELSHI: With just 12 days left until the midterms, the race for U.S. Senate in Tennessee remains surprisingly close. Until recently, polling in that race appeared to have been swinging away from Democratic candidate Phil Bredesen and in the direction of Republican Marsha Blackburn. But the latest poll out of Tennessee shows the two candidates in a virtual tie with Bredesen leading by one point.

Now, they may have something to do with the celebrity endorsements Bredesen has received. From Nashville-based musicians like pop superstar Taylor Swift and folk singer Jason Isbell.

NBC`s Cal Perry just sat down for an extended interview with one of those stars and he joins me now live from now from Nashville, Tennessee.

Hey, Cal.

CAL PERRY, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Ali. This country as you well know has such a rich history of social commentary and activism in its music especially when we are so politically divided. So here in Nashville, it is true with Jason Isbell. We had a chance, as you said, to sit down and talk to him about why politics are important to him but also why this race in Tennessee is so important.


PERRY: You are a writer at a time in which there`s not a lot of song writing going on at least in the main stream.


PERRY: The politics or I should say the social commentary lend itself to the music or does the music lend itself to the social commentary? How did that all shakeout?

ISBELL: I think it is all one thing for me because the music that I grew up listening to, the people who influenced the work that I do were never afraid to talk about those kinds of things, you know. Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen and Joni Mitchell, and Randy Newman and Leonard Cohen (ph), you knew them in a lot of ways when you listened to their music. You know, words and all sometimes. They would talk about parts of themselves that they were afraid of, and the parts that they were ashamed of and about the things that they believe.

And I think a lot of the change that we are seeing right now is happening because people`s belief system has been sort of swallowed up by this umbrella of politics, you know, because it`s necessary to be involved now in a way that it`s not been necessary before.

We have all been lucky enough to sit back and go oh, they have got this. We are fine, you know. The taxes will get paid. Roads will get built. People will get, you know, freedoms and justice and all this. And all of a sudden the internet smack you in the face with, look what`s happening to this person? And look, what`s happening to that person? And look, who is in-charge (INAUDIBLE). Look where your money`s going today. So everybody is forced to be involved politically.

So, you know, the songwriters who have been kind of speak in their mind the whole time, I think they kind of fit in to the (INAUDIBLE) a little bit better.

PERRY: Are people surprised when they find out you know what these things are? That you are still politically kind of in tune?

ISBELL: I don`t know. Yes, I don`t know if they are surprised by that - I will tell you one thing. The accent really throws people off because I know I did an interview with Trevor Noah on the Daily Show, and a lot of people saw that and they heard my voice. And then heard what I was saying, and it was kind of like, you know how if you cut half of a cat`s whiskers off, the cat gets really off balanced and starts walking into the wall? It was similar to that. Like hearing the person with a Alabama accent saying the things that I`m saying, not educated things, but having the stance that I have, I think, and then sort of being able to back it up, you know, is confusing to people.

PERRY: How much has religion influenced you? You said this thing, I don`t know how long it was the other day, Jesus wouldn`t have voted for Trump.

ISBELL: I grew up in the church. My grandfather was a Pentecostal preacher. And you know, I read the bible many times, took a lot of notes. And you know, now I`m not necessarily a religious person. I`m probably a spiritual person, but I don`t really go by any specific set of rules but my own. But to me that sounded like something you would hear from a fire and brim Stone preacher in the south who actually cared about his congregation and not about his job or his bottom line. It sounded like, you know, I could very much hear my grandfather saying, you know, Jesus would not have been in favor of this kind of behavior.

And I mean, I`m not speaking for Jesus, I`m just going by the red letters, you know. That`s it. I`m going by what the book says, and it doesn`t really condone the kind of things that Trump and his folks have done.

PERRY: Before I let you go, let me get you on the race here in Tennessee. What do people need to know about this race in Tennessee? What`s important?

ISBELL: It is important, you know. When we were working in Alabama with Doug Jones a few months ago, we were terrified because there was a lot at stake. And Roy Moore, I just think that it shouldn`t have gotten to the point where it was close, you know? And I think the fact that people were able to mobilize and get out and vote and make sure that Roy Moore didn`t wind up in that position, I think that was a good idea and I think it really said something about Alabama that made me proud.

But I`ll tell you this. As bad as Roy Moore would have been, I think Marsha Blackburn may be more dangerous as far as a politician. She`s not as crazy as Roy Moore and she can actually convince people to listen to her. But I don`t think she is working for the right reasons. And I don`t think she wants to help people as much as she wants to help herself. And I think Phil doesn`t need the money, you know. He had retired from politics. He doesn`t really need to be reminded that he is a powerful person. I think he really re-entered this stage or this platform in the state of Tennessee because he thought he could help.

PERRY: Why is it important for people to get out in vote, specifically in Tennessee?

ISBELL: Well, in Tennessee I know it`s very easy for people to think their vote isn`t going to matter, especially people he will on the left end of the spectrum. They think, you know, it`s Tennessee. It`s going to go a certain way no matter what I do. But we proved otherwise in Alabama a few months ago.

And you know, I think the more people that turnout, the more voices are represented, and the more politicians get elected who actually care about those voices. I think it`s pretty obvious that the people you disagree with are showing up to vote, and that`s really happening in the state of Tennessee. And they are going to show up. So if you want to cancel on them out, do it.

Personally I`m going to vote to cancel out John Rich from the man big and rich. His vote is not going to matter because I`m going to go and I`m going to vote the opposite.

PERRY: So it`s two birds with one Stone for you.

ISBELL: Yes, I get to cancel out John Rich and I get one of the stickers. I get to put myself on Instagram and say I voted.

PERRY: Thank you for having us. Have a great show.

ISBELL: Thank you. Appreciate the talk. Thanks a lot.


VELSHI: Everybody should put themselves on Instagram once they have voted.

But let me ask you this, Cal. Tennessee, like a lot of other places, we are seeing record -- unexpectedly high turnout in early voting so far. What`s the situation where you are?

PERRY: Yes, the same that we are seeing across the country. And look, what we do know about these endorsements and what we do know about artists getting involved in these races -- and you heard there a joke about John Rich, a well-known artist across the country but from here in Nashville, you get enthusiasm amongst the electorate. That is, of course, a good thing. We know that enthusiasm is up across the country. But certainly in this race when you talk about these names, and the line that Jason Isbell is able to walk in his music, where white men`s vote, as you said a song about white privilege, maybe a point that is uncomfortable for his audience, but in the same set, we saw last night him do a song called dress blues, a song written at the height of the Iraq, were written for veterans, it brought down the house, Ali. And so, it`s that fine line he has able to walk only in a place like Nashville.

VELSHI: Does he get hostility for it? Or, you know, he sort of seemed to think that people look at him a little weird for it. But he doesn`t seem to face outward hostility for his embrace of Democrats.

PERRY: Well, look, I think when it comes to Jason Isbell, the music helps. And in his case being a song writer, here in Nashville, something people respect, there is tonight people out of the town. Everybody has got live music and certainly there are fireworks. People love the music. They will take the politics with the music. And he`s aware of that. And so he is using his platform to get his sort of message out there, Ali.

VELSHI: I appreciate the fireworks for effect, Cal. Thanks for bringing it all out for us.

PERRY: Good timing, right? You like that?

VELSHI: And I appreciate you dressing up for primetime TV here on MSNBC. It is always good to see you, my friend.

PERRY: Wow. That hurts across time zones. Thank you, sir.

VELSHI: I love Cal Perry. He knows that. Cal Perry, my friend in Tennessee for us tonight.

Tonight`s LAST WORD is next.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A recent study from Northwestern University has found new evidence that animals may be able to judge time. Like this dog that just realized Trump still has two more years.


VELSHI: And that is tonight`s last WORD.

I`m Ali Velshi.



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