Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL Date: October 30, 2018 Guest: Tammy Hepps, Adam Serwer, Eric Swalwell, David Jolly
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel.
With all the voter suppression techniques we`ve been looking at in the last couple years, the Dodge City story is in so many ways the easiest, quickest one to tell. The one polling place gets moved literally out of town.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, "TRMS": Yes. I mean, in Kansas on average, a polling place serves about 1,200 voters. In Dodge City, it`s one polling place for 13,000 voters, and they took it out of town. It`s like in trying to get the local officials there, local -- the clerk who`s made these decisions is a Republican clerk who`s been in close communication with the Republican secretary of state who`s running for governor this year, trying to get answers out of them has been such an incredible saga and that`s part of why we went there to do the special report.
O`DONNELL: Can`t wait. Tomorrow night?
MADDOW: Thanks, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel.
Well, the president went to Pittsburgh today you with no invitation and with no one waiting to welcome him when he arrived at the airport. Usually when Air Force One lands anywhere in this country, the local mayor, no matter what the mayor`s party is, is there to greet the president. The governor is usually there, the United States senators, local members of Congress often fly on Air Force One with the president. None of that happened today.
No one in American politics, Republican or Democrat, wanted to have anything to do with the president`s uninvited, largely unwelcome trip to Pittsburgh. Republican speaker of the House refused the invitation to accompany him to Pittsburgh, so did the Republican leader of the United States Senate and the Democratic leaders of the Senate and House of Representatives.
Pennsylvania`s Republican senator refused to accompany the president to Pittsburgh. And Pennsylvania`s Democratic senator refused to join the president in Pittsburgh and was not invited to join the president in Pittsburgh, by the White House. Pittsburgh`s Democratic mayor said: If the president is looking to come to Pittsburgh, I would ask that he do not do so while we`re burying the dead. Our attention and our focus is going to be on them and we don`t have public safety that we can take away from what is needed in order to do both.
The president ignored the mayor`s plea not to come while they were burying their dead. The president didn`t care that his motorcade and security requirements would put further strain on the city that was also going to require massive security arrangements today for the four victims of that mass murder whose funerals took place today.
Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz, the brothers, Cecil and David Rosenthal, and Daniel Stein. Daniel Stein`s nephew, Steven Halley (ph), told NBC News` Peter Alexander today that he felt it was a stab in the back when Donald Trump said that the mass murder could have been completely prevented if the Tree of Life synagogue had just one armed guard somewhere on the premises.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is a case where if they had an armed guard inside, they might have been able to stop him immediately.
UINDENTIFIED MALE: Donald Trump should have just said, you know, our hearts and prayers go out for the people of Pittsburgh and everybody involved and kept his mouth shut.
REPORTER: You felt like he was blaming the community?
UINDENTIFIED MALE: That`s exactly what it felt like. It`s a stab in the back.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Steven Halley said his family refused a condolence visit from the president today.
Air Force One was on the ground for over three hours in Pittsburgh today. But the president spent only 13 minutes in the Tree of Life synagogue where they were welcomed by Rabbi Jeffrey Myers who did not invite the president but had always said he would welcome the president to visit the synagogue if the president did decide to come to Pittsburgh.
Thousands of people filled the streets of the Squirrel Hill neighborhood making maneuvers challenging for the presidential motorcade. One of the organizers of the protest told "BuzzFeed" he`s fostered an administration of white supremacy and he is not welcome here in our time of mourning. The protest were filled with families of all ages, grieving and joining together to say that the president of the United States is part of the problem that they are now dealing with in what always was their peaceful neighborhood of Squirrel Hill.
The president intensified the local resistance to his visit this morning when he made an inane public announcement in an interview saying falsely that he could end birthright citizenship in the United States by executive order. That is a lie. The right of every baby born in the United States to be a citizen of the United States is guaranteed in the Constitution. It would take a constitutional amendment to change that.
The Republican speaker of the house instantly said the president`s statement was false. Paul Ryan said emphatically, quote, you obviously cannot do that. You cannot end birth right citizenship with an executive order.
The president obviously made the statement as a campaign statement. That was campaigning today. The president knows it`s impossible to do this by executive order, but he wants to energize his most hard-core anti-immigrant supporters, some of whom might not think that Donald Trump has been anti- immigrant enough in his first two years as president since Donald Trump has not built one foot of the wall that he promised them he would build.
The mass murderer who went into the Tree of Life synagogue on Saturday believed Donald Trump was not doing enough to stop immigration, and that`s why, that`s why he wanted to kill Jews, because he believed that the Jews at the Tree of Life synagogue were supporting the arrival of immigrants who he believed were coming here to kill us, and that is what Donald Trump told that mass murderer was happening. Donald Trump told him and all of us that murderers are coming across the southern border, rapists, gang members, animals he calls them, murdering gang members and Middle Eastern terrorists are coming to get us across the southern border. Donald Trump has been pouring that message into the brain of that mass murderer for years now.
And on Saturday, the mass murder`s final social media post before he headed for the Tree of Life synagogue with his assault rifle and three handguns said this about the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society: HIAS likes to bring invaders in that kill our people. I can`t sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics, I`m going in.
And so he went in with his assault rifle. And so, Pittsburgh`s Jewish community buried four today. They will bury seven more. And today in Pittsburgh, the leader of HIAS said that the president`s lie this morning about ending birthright citizenship by executive order was exactly the kind of thing that the mass murderer must have been very, very happy to hear today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Back here in Pittsburgh, the head of the Jewish agency that protection refugees says the president`s announcement is offensive and ignores that the government`s hatred went beyond anti-Semitism.
MARK HETFIELD, PRESIDENT AND CEO, HIAS: This murderer was trying to check more than one box. He checked the Jew hate box, but he also checked the refugee hate box and immigrant hate box.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining us now from Pittsburgh is Tammy Hepps, one of the people who protested the president`s visit today.
Tammy Hepps, thank you very much for joining us today. And I`m very, very sorry for you and your community have suffered this weekend and are going through this week. You were one of the people who signed an open letter to President Trump saying, President Trump, you are not welcome in Pittsburgh until you fully denounce white nationalism.
What was your reaction today when the president decided to overrule the mayor`s idea that he not come until after the dead has been buried?
TAMMY HEPPS, ANTI-TRUMP RALLY ORGANIZER: Well, I think we had known for some time that it was quite likely he was going to ignore all of that and come to our city. I think what came to a real shock is his announcement about ending birthright citizenship. It felt like a direct confrontation with what we had said in the letter, the kinds of words and deeds we were looking for from President Trump to show that he was really committed to healing our nation and backtracking from the kind of hateful rhetoric that led to this murder in the first place.
So, we started the day feeling like we had no idea what the visit would bring, but it was clear that what we tried to say as a community was what we were looking for him for leadership was something that he wasn`t willing to offer.
O`DONNELL: What would you -- how would you characterize the protests today from being in the middle of it?
HEPPS: It felt to me very peripheral, very somber, very unified. We began with speeches, but much of it was like a funeral cortege. We talked through the streets of our neighborhood past houses, past as close as we could get to the Tree of Life synagogue, past our police precinct. We sang Jewish songs of strength and healing.
When we stopped a block from the Tree of Life synagogue, we performed a Jewish ritual called Keriah where everybody ripped a piece of black ribbon, which is what mourners do, and we held it high in the air and had a moment of silence and it really was peripheral. It was people from all different backgrounds, not just Jewish people engaging in this traditional Jewish mourning custom to show that we are coming together, that despite the divisive rhetoric we`re hearing elsewhere within the Squirrel Hill community, we`re coming together, we are supporting the families, we want to help heal the mourners as much as we can together as a community.
O`DONNELL: Tammy, if you could have had 60 seconds with the president today, what would you have told him?
HEPPS: I think much of what I would have said is in that letter. We who signed the letter and more than 100,000 people who signed it online, we all believe that the kinds of hateful rhetoric that he`s using for political ends is what led to this act. This wasn`t a man operating in isolation with evil in his heart. This was a man who heard what president Trump was saying and felt like it was up to him to act.
And what I would have said to President Trump is these are how these deeds happen. You`re not the first politician and you probably won`t be the last, but you are the one who can listen and change course. You are the one who can stop in the middle and say, you know what, I`m not going to keep using this language. I understand that maybe it`s politically expedient, but it has led to the murders of the people not just in Squirrel Hill but in other communities and houses of worship where his divisive rhetoric has incited people to act on the kinds of things that people weren`t acting on in this way prior to his presidency, prior to his becoming a candidate.
O`DONNELL: Tammy, so you see a direct linkage, causation possibly between the things the president says, especially the things the president says about people trying to cross your southern border, and the mass murder`s decision to, as he put it, go in on Saturday?
HEPPS: I -- he said it himself. I mean, if you look at his last public statement, he himself drew the connection. I mean --
O`DONNELL: You mean the shooter drew the connection, not the president? I just want to clarify that.
HEPPS: Right, yes. The murder, he drew the connection. He -- reflecting all the lies that he heard in the previous week about migrant families in Central America, he was the one who said that he felt like hearing all of that that he had to do something about it.
Even if that statement hadn`t been there, I`m a student of history. I understand what it means when somebody in power uses the language of white supremacy and the latent tactics of white supremacy to rally a base.
But the fact of the matter is, murder put it right out there. I don`t really even need to make the argument. Anybody can read that statement.
O`DONNELL: Adding to our discussion now, Adam Serwer is joining us, a senior editor for "The Atlantic", and Ruth Marcus, deputy editorial page editor and columnist at "The Washington Post" and MSNBC contributor.
And, Ruth, I want to get your reaction to what you saw the president`s trip to Pittsburgh today.
RUTH MARCUS, DEPUTY EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR & COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, I just felt so sad that we`re at the point where an American president`s visit to the site of a terrible tragedy itself creates controversy and discord, and that is because of what this president has done before this tragedy and actually as some of the interviews just earlier in the immediate aftermath of the tragedy suggesting that it could have been averted by armed guards.
We`re used to seeing presidents as consolers in chief, and the fact that something a community would welcome with a normal president, a regular president, all the presidents we`ve had in history, itself became divisive just tells you about where we are with this president.
And then further more, on the day of this trip and the day of these first set of just, you know, horrific, so-sad funerals, to open it up, I began my day seeing the news about the president`s plan on this executive order, which, of course, will never pass muster. But the president`s plan on this executive order on birthright citizenship, which is, of course, antithetical to the Jewish religion and the imperative, which is a Jewish value and American value to love the stranger among us and to include the stranger among us and to treat them as one of our own. It is what impelled this murder. And what a terrible way to start the day.
O`DONNELL: Adam Serwer, in "The Atlantic", you wrote: The apparent spark for the worst anti-Semitic massacre in American history was a racist hoax inflamed by a U.S. president seeking to help his party win a midterm election.
And, Adam, you were one of the first writers if not the first to put this clearly in this linkage between what we saw in the murderer`s social media posting where he said I`m going in because of what he believes is happening at the southern border which is what the president tells him is happening at the southern border.
ADAM SERWER, SENIOR EDITOR, THE ATLANTIC: Well, I wouldn`t say I was the first one to put it together. I would say the killer put it together. The killer put it right out there. He did everything but draw a map.
And I think, you know, pivoting off something Ruth just said, look, the vast majority of Jews in America are liberal, and they understand from their history that when politics in a country organizes itself around a national identity that demonizes so-called foreigners or actual foreigners, that eventually they`re going to come after us. And so, that`s why you see people resisting in this way, why you see Jews protest an American president who`s coming to visit because they know that ultimately, that kind of politics is going to affect us even if it doesn`t necessarily right now because the president is not -- you know, doesn`t personally display a lot of hostility towards Jewish.
He`s got Jewish grandchildren, his daughter converted, he`s got a Jewish son-in-law. I have no doubt that if he could spare Jews from the results of his nativism, he would, but he can`t. And he`s shown, you know, by continuing to embrace this rhetoric and pushing the caravan as an issue in the way that he does, he`s shown that he`s indifferent to the collateral damage that it causes.
O`DONNELL: Tammy, how would -- I`m sure there are some mixed feelings in the community in Pittsburgh. Can you give us what you`re feeling is about the opposition to the president coming today within the Jewish community and the support of the president coming today?
HEPPS: Look, for what we did today, obviously, we gathered together, thousands of people from our community who felt like President Trump was not welcome on that day in particular and not welcome until he understood our demands about what it would take to heal this country. We understand that there are people for whom it was healing to see president, and we tried our best and the remarks that we made today to be respectful of that.
We`re a diversity community of people, and we try to craft something that would be healing even for people who might not have agreed with the message. That`s why we focused on our pain and our mourning and trying to find our collective strength bring it back together. And my hope is that we empowered the people who wanted to see this event happen and for the people who did not, we did not detract from their own healing and grieving processes.
O`DONNELL: Adam, it seems there were two layers of protest today, one that Tammy was involved with there on the street, thousands of people, and the other by other politicians, Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi, the Republican senator from Pennsylvania who was invited and refused to accompany the president to Pittsburgh. He was boycotted by public officials and by politicians within his own party in this trip today.
SERWER: Well, I think there`s obviously a political dynamic behind the scenes we`re not exactly privy to yet. But I suspect, I would speculate, that the president believes that his putting all his chips on nativism is going to help the Republicans win the midterms and his fellow Republicans in leadership do not think it`s working, and would prefer that he not do that. And so, they`re not going to endorse his attempt to have it both ways, to gin up the American people against a frightening foreign enemy, and then try to act as though the consequences of him doing that aren`t what they are.
O`DONNELL: And today on this same day, Republicans on the house side condemned one of their members, Steve King, who is their most noted white supremacist, nationalist among them, that`s happening at the same time Donald Trump is trying to continue to push in Steve King`s direction, trying to echo Steve King.
We`re going to have to take a break here. Tammy Hepps, Adam Serwer, Ruth Marcus, thank you for starting our discussion tonight.
Coming up, Republican Congressman Steve King, as I just said, the one of the most notorious members of the House of Representatives. He`s been repeatedly condemned by Democrats for nativist and nationalist comments. Now, he is finally being condemned by his own party, and he is on the verge of possibly losing his re-election bid.
And tonight, the Robert Mueller investigation has taken a turn that no one could have possibly seen coming. It is possibly the weirdest development yet. We will have it.
O`DONNELL: Republican Congressman Steve King was the Donald Trump of anti- immigrant bigotry and white supremacy long before Donald Trump became a politician. Steve King has been condemned over and over again by Democrats in Washington and around the country.
And today, finally, finally, Steve King has been condemned by the Republicans. At the same time that a new poll reveals that Steve King might be on the verge of losing the congressional seat that he was reelected to two years ago with a 23-point winning margin, Republican Congressman Steve King, who has been a assigned -- not Steve King.
Republican Congressman Stivers, who`s been assigned the job by Paul Ryan of helping to reelect the Republican congress, finally condemned something that Congressman King said. Congressman Stivers, who is the chairman of the Republican Congressional Campaign committee, said this: Congressman Steve King`s recent comments, actions, and retweets are completely inappropriate. We must stand up against white supremacy and hate in all forms, and I strongly condemn this behavior.
Now, here is what did it. After a trip to Austria, Steve King said that Austria`s Freedom Party, which was founded by a Nazi, it is the 21st century edition of the Nazi party, Steve King said this about them. He said: If they were in America pushing the platform that they push, they would be Republicans. And, of course, the biggest problem for Republicans with what Steve King said there is that it is true. In the two-party system here in the United States, if an Austrian Nazi has to choose one, there is no question that that choice would be the Trump party.
The Republican Congressional Campaign Committee might feel free to condemn Steve King now because they might believe he`s orphan his way to losing anyway. A new poll shows him in a statistical tie with his Democratic challenger, J.D. Scholten. And that is in a district that Steve King won by 23 points just two years ago.
Joining our discussion now, Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell, a member of the House Intelligence and Judiciary Committees. Congressman Swalwell is a native of Iowa and represents a California district. He`s done extensive work campaigning on behalf of King`s opponent, J.D. Scholten.
And David Jolly is with us, a former Republican congressman from Florida.
Congressman Swalwell, the Republicans finally have decided that Steve King is hurting them and they have to say so.
REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D), CALIFORNIA: I welcome that. And good evening, Lawrence.
It shows that they have a red line, you know, for the last year and a half many of us have been wondering what`s the red line? When will the Republicans speak up and say this is not what we stand for. So, now, the question I guess is, will they also condemn the person who talks just like Steve King, and that`s the president of the United States, Donald Trump.
I know that district well. I was born in that district. My dad was chief of police in Algona, Iowa. My parents are Republicans and we grew up around a lot of Republicans.
And the Republicans in that district don`t believe in what Steve King is espousing. I had the privilege of riding around that district with J.D. Scholten and his Sioux City campaign RV. And what people in that district are talking about is health care.
And, Lawrence, so many times we would go to a KC general store and you would see a collection jar at the store for people pooling money together for somebody who has a health care condition or suffered a medical accident. That`s what`s top of mind there, not culture wars that Steve King is peddling.
O`DONNELL: David Jolly, would the Republican Congressional Campaign Committee be giving up on Steve King, condemning him if he were ten points ahead in the polls?
FORMER REP. DAVID JOLLY (R), FLORIDA: Well, either way, I think you`re seeing them distance themselves from Steve King. It may not be a written rule, but if you have to condemn white supremacy, you`re losing the debate. And we know that.
The reality is this is a member of Congress who has suggested that civilization needed to be restored, and it couldn`t be restored with other cultures` babies. Those are his words but to Eric`s point, and this is very important, listen, this is a narrative that now has been embraced and accepted within a Republican Party where, look, there are good people within the Republican Party, but we are looking for good leaders and we don`t find them in Steve King and Donald Trump, frankly, in the state of Florida where you have a gubernatorial candidate entangled in a similar type of narrative.
And at the end of the day, Lawrence, what happens is this pivots to looking at the failings often of Republican policies. And we know the Republican policies have left certain communities behind, particularly communities of color. And that`s where the narrative comes full circle because when you have voices like Steve King, you can`t defend the failings of conservative economic policies that have left others behind.
And that is where we are missing voices within the Republican Party today.
O`DONNELL: Congressman Swalwell, it seems that the King district could be a real bellwether nationally for the Democrats and for the Republicans. If Steve King is down 22 points from his last election, which he is now in the polls, that`s a stunning drop making this a tie, making this competitive.
If he were to lose that or even win it at the current polling margin by one or two percentage points, that would indicate other wipeouts for other districts where they don`t have such a big margin going in.
SWALWELL: That would be a big night for Democrats, Lawrence. That would mean that we would have gone four for four in Iowa. There are two seats in Iowa where we have Cindy Axne and Abby Finkenauer is our candidates that are much more competitive.
So, the fact that this is even close I don`t think bodes very well for the other two seats for Republicans. But going back to what David said, you know, Republicans in that district, they would much rather prefer Steve King to be talking about these economic issues, but I think J.D.`s success will be that he`s knocked on Republican doors, he`s listened to Republican voters. His phone bankers are calling Republican households and they`re just talking about kitchen table issues while Steve King is off in Europe supporting white supremacist groups.
O`DONNELL: And meanwhile, David, the national debt reaching stratospheric heights now. The United States Treasury about to borrow the largest amount it has eve borrowed in its history. And Donald Trump and the Republican Party that Steve King is supposed to be part of promised to reduce that debt, not increase it.
JOLLY: Lawrence, in a period of economic growth, the president every day talks about economic growth. The last time we saw a trillion dollars deficit was in the recession that was inherited by Barack Obama. Now, Republicans have invited and passed policies that actually expand this deficit.
And to Eric`s point, look, we`re going to find out one week from today whether the American people accept that type of fiscal policy or not. I think we`re going to know early on the east coast if you look at Carlos Curbelo, Barbara Comstock, if you look at Andy Barr in Kentucky, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, we`re going to know whether it`s a blue wave or not, and I think all signs are pointing there tonight.
O`DONNELL: And we will be watching Steve King`s district in Iowa. David Jolly, thank you for joining us. Eric Swalwell, please stay with us for more discussion.
And when we come back, this is -- it`s impossible to describe in the space that I have right now. It is just the strangest twist yet in Robert Mueller`s investigation and it`s about Robert Mueller himself. That`s next.
O`DONNELL: Oh, the Hollywood screenwriter who will someday bring Robert Mueller`s investigation of the president of the United States to the screen had a very, very good day today. The story took a turn today that is both deadly serious and takes the story into a gang that couldn`t shoot straight territory. The FBI is now investigating people who apparently tried to destroy Robert Mueller by creating fake stories accusing Robert Mueller of sexual misconduct in his past.
Robert Mueller has a press spokesperson who almost never speaks to the press but he did today to protect Robert Mueller. Mueller`s spokesperson Peter Carr said, "When we learned last week of allegations that women were offered money to make false claims about the special counsel, we immediately referred the matter to the FBI for investigation."
According to Natasha Bertrand, reporting in "The Atlantic," a woman named Lorraine Parsons has been e-mailing reporters that she had been offered roughly $20,000 by a man claiming to work for a firm called Surefire Intelligence, which had been hired by a GOP activists named Jack Burkman to make accusations of sexual misconduct and workplace harassment against Robert Mueller.
Jack Burkman is a right-wing radio host and conspiracy theorist. Lorraine Parsons has not been willing to speak directly to reporters to corroborate her story, but today a second woman also said that she was contacted by this group that calls itself Surefire Intelligence with an offer to pay her to discuss encounters with Robert Mueller.
At the same time those women were contacted, Jack Burkman posted a video to Facebook where he claimed without any evidence at all, of course, that Robert Mueller has a history of harassing women. Surefire Intelligence has been tied to a pro-Trump conspiracy theorist named Jacob Wohl. Today, Jacob Wohl told NBC News that he was not involved in a plot to discredit Robert Mueller, but then he stopped answering questions about his involvement with Surefire Intelligence.
NBC News discovered that the phone number for Surefire Intelligence redirects to Jacob Wohl`s mother`s voicemail. Jacob Wohl is about 20- years-old. We`re not sure if he lives with his mother. But one of the lessons of the day is, do not, and I mean do not try to frame Robert Mueller if your phone number redirects to your mother`s voicemail.
Joining us now is Natasha Bertrand, staff writer at "The Atlantic" who first broke this story today. She`s also an MSNBC contributor. And Ruth Marcus is back with us.
Natasha, you have the floor. This one is a complicated one to describe.
NATASHA BERTRAND, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: To say the least. So we first started hearing about this woman, Lorraine Parsons a couple weeks back when she started contacting reporters saying that she had received an odd phone call basically from this man who identified himself as a researcher, an investigator working for this firm called Surefire Intelligence, that had been hired by this GOP activist, lobbyist, conspiracy theorist named Jack Burkman.
Now, it`s important to note that no woman has actually made any allegations against Robert Mueller. The only allegations that have been made are that Surefire Intelligence and Jack Burkman have been kind of working in conjunction to try to pay off women to make false claims about Mueller just eight days before the midterm elections. I have to tell you --
O`DONNELL: And Natasha, what I was reading in your reporting is that the women specifically say, of course, that never happened. Nothing untoward ever happened with Robert Mueller.
BERTRAND: Right, of course. So we have been unable to confirm this woman`s identity, Lorraine Parsons` identity. We don`t even really know if that`s her real name. The law firm where she supposedly worked with Mueller said that it has no record of her actually working there. But she`s not the only person that has come forward saying that Surefire Intelligence "contacted her asking her for damaging information about Bob Mueller."
Another woman came forward to me today and told me that about eight days ago she received a letter from a man also claiming to work for Surefire Intelligence who asked her for information about Mueller that he would be willing to compensate her for. You know, all this aside, we can make fun of Jacob Wohl all we want and there`s plenty of fodder for that but this is a huge deal that the special counsel`s office has decided to refer this to the FBI.
When we get a statement from Mueller`s office, any kind of statement, it is an absolute earthquake because like you said he never comments. This is extremely rare. So when we saw that he had issued this statement today in response to reporters who were reaching out and asking about these allegations that were flipping around about Mueller, we knew that this was a moment that we really had to jump on this story and that it was not something that was going to go away on its own.
O`DONNELL: Ruth Marcus, one characteristic that most criminals share is that they are stupid, and it is why they are criminals. It should not surprise us when some criminal conspiracies become laughable as soon as you bring them to the light of day. But Watergate had some elements, had some bumbling gang that couldn`t shoot straight components too, but that was a conspiracy ultimately that brought down the president.
MARCUS: This is both laughable and tawdry, and there is this overwhelming urge to make fun of these folks with the phone going to the mom`s e-mail. But there`s also -- I mean, this is sick. It is sick if it`s true to try to gin up false charges of sexual misconduct against the man, Robert Mueller. That there`s just no evidence that he`s ever been engaged in this kind of sexual misconduct.
I think it`s important to remember that some of the folks involved in this were also involved in a really, really ugly and painful episode involving Seth Rich. Seth Rich is the young man who worked for the DNC who was killed in a street robbery in D.C. And some of the people involved in here, particularly Mr. Burkman, were busy pedaling a false and very painful conspiracy theory that this was part of some kind of terrible Hillary Clinton Democratic plot to shut him up. So these aren`t just bumbling people. Some of them, they are bad people.
O`DONNELL: Yes. Natasha, one of the women in your reporting indicates that what they were trying to get her to do was talk about her experience with Robert Mueller in 1974, in a law firm in 1974 where she worked briefly.
BERTRAND: Right. So it seemed like they were just fishing for any kind of information that they could get. At one point, they reached out again to this woman, Jennifer Taub who is a professor at Vermont Law School asking her about her experiences with Mueller, even though she has no experiences with Mueller. She has never met Mueller in her life.
She goes on "CNN" sometimes and she talks about him as a guest expert commentator but she`s never actually met him. And as it turns out, this was really just the same person fishing for information over and over again just trying to see whether he could kind of get any kind of details out of these women. And it`s really just like Ruth said, it`s really really sick and twisted that at this moment in the Me Too era, this is being used to try to damage Robert Mueller.
O`DONNELL: Well, with the FBI on the case, I think we`re going to be learning more about it.
Natasha Bertrand and Ruth Marcus, thank you both very much for joining us.
And when we come back, we are now one week away from votes being counted on election night, an election that can break the Republican lock on Congress. And the president wants the country tonight and for the rest of the week to be arguing about his lie that he can end birthright citizenship by executive order, but, of course, he cannot do that. And so we will not be arguing about that. We will be discussing what the president doesn`t want candidates talking about in the next week.
O`DONNELL: The president wants the country arguing tonight. He wants the country arguing about his lie that he told this morning that he can eliminate birthright citizenship in this country with an executive order because he believes he needs to energize his most rabid anti-immigrant supporters for the elections one week from tonight.
The president does not want the country arguing about the national debt tonight because he knows he will lose that argument. The United States Treasury is now on the verge of borrowing the largest amount of money it has ever borrowed in its history $1.3 trillion and all of that is Donald Trump`s personal addition to the national debt through the Trump tax cuts. Donald Trump promised to reduce the national debt, and he has increased it by $1.5 trillion.
Donald Trump doesn`t want the country arguing about who will protect people with pre-existing conditions in the purchase of health insurance. Donald Trump knows that Republicans are trying to take that away. Donald Trump knows that Democrats are trying to preserve health insurance for people with pre-existing conditions, and Donald Trump knows that Republicans are on the losing side of that argument.
Republicans know that they plan, they actively plan to cut social security and Medicare if they keep control of Congress. Mitch McConnell made the mistake of saying that publicly. But no Republican candidate out there on the campaign trail wants to have to deal with what Mitch McConnell publicly promised that they will do if they get reelected, cut Social Security and Medicare. And so Donald Trump, Donald Trump wants everyone to talk about his lie, his lie that he can change the Constitution with the stroke of a pen.
The good news today is that no one is falling for that big lie by Donald Trump today. Congressman Eric Swalwell will be back with us next with what he expects and what he wants the last week of this hugely important campaign to be about.
O`DONNELL: Remember presidential candidate Donald Trump talking about the $19 trillion, $19 trillion? You remember that? That was the national debt, $19 trillion. Here is the exchange that he had with Bob Woodward during the presidential campaign. Trump says, "We have to get rid of the $19 trillion in debt." Woodward says, "How long would that take?" Trump says, "I think I could do it fairly quickly because of the fact the numbers." Woodward, "What`s fairly quickly?" "Well, I would say over a period of eight years."
It would, of course, be a miracle to eliminate the national debt which is what he was talking about over a period of eight years. What Donald Trump has done instead is created the single biggest increase in the national debt in history, over $1.3 trillion is the next step in our debt, the next increase in our debt that the Treasury is going to pull us into, forced into because of the Trump tax cuts. Donald Trump doesn`t want that to be a campaign issue and that`s why he`s talking about birthright citizenship.
We`re joined again by Congressman Eric Swalwell who`s back with us.
Congressman Swalwell, you can see as we`ve seen all year but especially now in the last days of this campaign, president of the United States desperately trying to set the agenda for the campaign so that the candidates out there suddenly shift to yelling about birthright citizenship, forgetting about the national debt on the same day that the president talks about birthright citizenship, the Treasury of the United States has to borrow $1.3 trillion.
Forget about health insurance policies with pre-existing conditions. Forget about cutting Medicare and Social Security as Mitch McConnell has promised to, Donald Trump wants you to talk about either a caravan, as he describes it, or birthright citizenship.
SWALWELL: That`s right. It`s a strategy of scaring, suppressing, and silencing. Scaring families over immigration, suppressing voters by calling into question whether there will be illegal votes, and trying to silence the free press by intimidating them.
O`DONNELL: What should the campaign be about in these final days?
SWALWELL: Well, I think it should be about what we can protect for the people, healthcare, paychecks, and our democracy. And you see that Republicans are very, very uncomfortable talking about their votes to gut the Affordable Care Act and take away the protections for pre-existing conditions. And they think that they get a pass by talking about a family member who has a pre-existing condition. That actually makes it worse, Lawrence, that they voted to take away protections that would help people that they know.
And then, of course, when it comes to the tax cuts, 83 percent of the benefits going to 10 percent of persons and corporations in our country. And then a culture of corruption that runs rampant in Washington under a president who promised to drain the swamp. It`s only gotten dirtier. They don`t want to talk about that. So these are Hail Mary`s with just a few seconds left and they`re not going to connect.
O`DONNELL: What about, for example, in Iowa where you have been campaigning for house candidates there, what about the tariffs that are hurting the agriculture sector in the Midwest?
SWALWELL: Yes. And I`ve talked to farmers there, Lawrence. And they don`t like being hurt by China, but they also don`t want to see a real strategy carried out by the president. I heard from so many of them saying that they feel like this is just a scattershot approach where we should be prosecuting the case with our allies.
And now they`re starting to hear from their bankers and they`re not going to be able to afford these tariffs any further. And they also don`t want a bailout. They don`t want welfare from the president. They want to be able to work and stand on their own hard work and trade to 95 percent of the world which is the economy outside of the United States.
O`DONNELL: Is the national debt having any echo on the campaign trail?
SWALWELL: Well, you know, in Iowa, it`s a state of people who are very, very fiscally prudent and they expect that the government will be responsible with their investments. I see that everywhere, Lawrence. Of course, a debt isn`t bad if it`s responsible debt that makes investments in schools, in healthcare, in greening the grid through infrastructure.
But that debt is accumulating because it went into the pockets of people on the top floors in the building and hasn`t made its way down to anyone else on any other floor. In fact, people below the top floor are paying for those tax cuts, so that`s not very responsible.
O`DONNELL: Congressman Eric Swalwell, thank you very much for joining us tonight. I really appreciate it.
Tonight`s last word is next.
O`DONNELL: Time for tonight`s last word.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, LATE NIGHT WITH STEPHEN COLBERT: Another weird thing happened on the way to the rally. Take a look at this clip from Saturday of Trump carrying an umbrella and boarding Air Force One. OK. So there he is just about to board with his umbrella, and time to close it up, and he just leaves it. OK. He just walks away. Here you go. There you go. You can`t just drop an umbrella when you`re done with it. It`s not a wife.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Stephen Colbert gets tonight`s last word.
"THE 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS" starts now.
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