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Trump warned by Obama to not hire Flynn. TRANSCRIPT: 12/5/18, The Last Word w/ Lawrence O'Donnell

Guests: Peter Zeidenberg, Mieke Eoyang, Evan McMullin, Mieke Eoyang

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST:  Good evening, Rachel. 

And watching President Trump sit so close to President Obama this morning in the cathedral, you could only wonder what would have happened if President Trump had followed President Obama`s advice about not hiring Michael Flynn. 


O`DONNELL:  Where would the Trump presidency -- where would the Mueller investigation be today?  Would there be a Mueller investigation today? 

MADDOW:  Well, you know, and it is remarkable given -- I mean, we now with a couple years distance, we now know more about the interactions between President Obama and President-elect Trump at the time.  And it wasn`t like Obama was giving him a piece of his mind and telling him how he should govern and what he should do in terms of policy and everything.  He seemed to have basically come with two things, like the North Korea thing is bigger than you think it is, A, and B, the only other thing I`m giving you advice about is don`t hire Mike Flynn. 

And I -- we can debate how he dealt with A, but B has absolutely turned out to be something that may end up being the dominant story of his presidency when it`s over and is finally written.

O`DONNELL:  Yes, and possibly the single worst decision he made as president-elect choosing Michael Flynn as his national security advisor. 

MADDOW:  We will find out. 

O`DONNELL:  Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW:  Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL:  Well, today in the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., at the state funeral of George H.W. Bush, five presidents sat in the front row.  And from the altar, one of them was told that he is corroding, rotting away inside. 


FORMER SENATOR ALAN SIMPSON (R), WYOMING:  He never hated anyone.  He knew what his mother and my mother always knew, hatred corrodes the container it`s carried in.  The most decent and honorable person I ever met was my friend George Bush, one of nature`s noblemen. 


O`DONNELL:  Hatred corrodes the container it`s carried in.  And there, sitting in front of former Republican Senator Alan Simpson in the front row is a man who is nothing but hatred, filled with hatred, in Alan Simpson`s view, a corroding container of a man. 

When Donald Trump`s time comes and he is being remembered by people gathered in a cathedral, no one, not one person will step up to a microphone and say he never hated anyone.  No one will step up and say he was the most decent and honorable person I ever met.  No one will say he was one of nature`s noblemen.  No one will say that. 

I know Alan Simpson.  I worked with him when I was on the Democratic staff on the United States Senate, and he was one of the most reasonable Republicans with whom we mostly disagreed on policy but worked with every day.  Alan Simpson knew that by saying George Bush never hated anyone and by saying hatred corrodes the container its carried in, his words would be interpreted as a direct reference to Donald Trump.  Alan Simpson knew that his words would be taken as praise for George Bush and at the same time as condemnation for the president who has publicly spewed more hatred than any president in history. 

Donald Trump had to take his seat in the front pew of the National Cathedral today, the day after special prosecutor Robert Mueller revealed some of the reasons why he is recommending no prison time for Donald Trump`s first national security advisor Michael Flynn, who has pleaded guilty to one count of lying to the FBI.  The Trumps had to sit beside the Obamas in that front row today. 

The only time Donald Trump and Barack Obama sat as close together in a private conversation is when President Obama invited President-elect Trump into the Oval Office.  And when the door was closed, President Obama warned Donald Trump not to hire Michael Flynn as his national security advisor.  Donald Trump had to sit in that front row today with the other presidents, with Donald Trump drowning inn the countless humiliations he has brought upon himself as president, including recurring proofs that he is the most ignorant president in history. 

Donald Trump had to sit there in the front row of the National Cathedral covered in the humiliation he has earned, thanks to Stormy Daniels` description of his pursuit of her and the federal criminal case in which Donald Trump is named as an unindicted conspirator for arranging illegal payments to Stormy Daniels.  It`s hard to know which of Donald Trump`s many humiliations weighs on him the most.  But today, sitting in that front row with President Obama, on a day when Michael Flynn is once again dominating the headlines, it must have been extra painful for Donald Trump that Barack Obama was sitting in the -- I told you so position on Michael Flynn. 

Where would the Trump presidency be today if Donald Trump was smart enough to have followed Barack Obama`s advice and not hire Michael Flynn as his national security advisor? 

Leading off our discussion tonight, Joyce Vance, former federal prosecutor, Jill Wine-Banks, former assistant Watergate special prosecutor, and Jason Johnson, the politics editor at, all three are MSNBC contributors. 

And I want to begin with this political point, Jason, so I`m going to go to you.  And that is, Alan Simpson`s words today were surely chosen carefully, knowing that there was a double entendre there, there was the direct praise for President Bush that he wanted to delivered, but the unmistakable condemnation of the Donald Trump, to say things with Donald Trump sitting right in front of him about George Bush never hated anyone and to talk about what hatred does to a person, how it corrodes a person, was something that I know Alan Simpson deliberately intended to apply to Donald Trump. 

And I`m sure Americans watching that today had to think about that comparison about Donald Trump`s relationship to hatred and hating people versus President Bush`s? 

JOHNSON:  Yes, at this point between, you know, Aretha Franklin and John McCain and President Bush, I don`t think we`re going to have a large funeral in America that does not include criticism of President Trump at some point or another.  But I hope to the degree that he goes to these events as a pouting surly 7-year-old, which is usually how he seems to behave when he`s in the room, that he takes some of the advice that`s being given in the intention which it`s being given, which is like, look, we all want you to do a better job. 

But, Lawrence, I think the key thing also is this.  If there`s one thing we understand about this president, is it`s his desperate need for attention and praise and some attempt of creating a legacy where he`ll be looked at as a great man.  And perhaps in sitting down and listening how people talked about George Bush, for all the many criticisms I have of him and his policy, maybe Donald Trump might pick up a little something about how he should behave as president so that one day when he passes away, there may be possibly a room full of former officials who may speak some words about him.  Although right now, I don`t think it`s going to happen. 

O`DONNELL:  Jill Wine-Banks, I want to rewind history for a moment here and go back to that Oval Office discussion that President Obama had with President-elect Trump and imagine if Donald Trump took the advice seriously and followed that advice and did not hire Michael Flynn, it is possible we would not have a Mueller investigation tonight because James Comey was fired only after Donald Trump asked him to go easy on Michael Flynn.  If there was no Michael Flynn case to go easy on, where would we be now? 

JILL WINE-BANKS, FORMER ASSISTANT WATERGATE SPECIAL PROSECUTOR:  I think that`s an interesting speculation and it is, of course, possible because anything is possible.  But given the type of people that Donald Trump has hired and surrounded himself with throughout the campaign, the transition and in the administration, it`s quite likely that someone else would have been the cause.  If it wasn`t Donald Trump asking Comey not to go after Flynn, maybe it would have been don`t go after Papadopoulos, don`t go after Gates, don`t go after who knows who it would have been. 

There were so many that were under investigation, rightly so, because of criminal acts that they have committed.  You could not have had the number of indictments and the number of defendants, the number of guilty pleas, the number of convictions, if it wasn`t for the fact that so many people are guilty.  So I think it would have happened anyway.  It just would have been delayed, and it would have been wonderful. 

He had two opportunities to act.  Of course, first was President Obama, but then remember the Acting Attorney General Sally Yates came and warned him right away, and he didn`t fire him.  He waited 18 days and let him stay in office as his national security advisor, knowing that he was compromised by the Russian government, which only indicates to me that there`s more to Donald Trump`s being compromised by the Russian government, that he didn`t care and he kept him on anyway. 

O`DONNELL:  And, Joyce Vance, Michael Flynn`s problems began during the transition and these phone calls that he was having with the Russians during the transition.  And so, presumably at some point, the FBI was going to get interested in those phone calls during the transition, so even if Donald Trump in the end did not appoint him as national security advisor, there probably at some point would have been an investigative process that involved Michael Flynn and might just have us where we are tonight. 

JOYCE VANCE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY:  I think that`s absolutely right.  The idea that you can have as an American citizen phone calls with the Russian ambassador and not expect those phone calls to be subject to some kind of surveillance in Washington is a little bit iffy.  We know that those are the sorts of calls that at least there`s intelligence about the content of. 

So that forces us to consider the question of what did Flynn know or what did Flynn think he knew that would protect him from likely discovery of what he was up to at some point?  That I think is a very interesting unanswered question. 

O`DONNELL:  Let`s listen to what the president said about why he fired Michael Flynn, and we`re going back to February 2017 because reconsidering these words tonight, given all that we know since then makes this -- the president`s answers to these questions all the more interesting.  Let`s watch this. 


REPORTER:  Did you direct Mike Flynn to discuss sanctions with the Russian ambassador --  



REPORTER:  -- prior to your inauguration?  And would you have fired him if the information hadn`t leaked out?

TRUMP:  No, I fired him because of what he said to Mike Pence, very simple.  Mike was doing his job.  He was calling countries and his counterparts.  So it certainly would have been okay with me if he did it.  I would have directed him to do it if I thought he wasn`t doing it.  I didn`t direct him, but I would have directed him because that`s his job.  No, I didn`t direct him, but I would have directed him if he didn`t do it, OK? 


O`DONNELL:  Jill, you want to try and make sense of what we just heard? 

WINE-BANKS:  Well, making sense of much of what Donald Trump or his legal team, particularly Rudy Giuliani, says is very difficult.  But it`s his typical defense.  I didn`t do it, but if I did do it, it`s perfectly legal.  If he did it, it`s legal.  But he didn`t do it, and it would have been okay if he did it. 

It`s really nonsense.  He shouldn`t have been doing it.  All of these things that he says are okay -- he`s convincing a certain portion of America that it is okay.  And I just hope anyone listening to this show knows that it isn`t okay. 

You can`t have private citizens, and remember during the transition they were just private citizens.  They were not representing the government of America.  The Obama administration was still the government of America.  And you don`t transition until noon on the day of inauguration. 

And it`s wrong to have any private citizen interfering with the conduct of foreign affairs.  And anyone who is about to become president and/or the national security advisor should know that and should not engage in that kind of conduct.  So it makes no sense. 

O`DONNELL:  And, Joyce Vance, the questions we just heard Kristen Welker asked are certainly questions that Mueller wants to know the answers to.  Did you direct Mike Flynn to discuss sanctions with the Russian ambassador?  And in Robert Mueller`s firing about Michael Flynn and why he should not get prison time, he said among other things the defendant`s assistance to the government was substantial, the defendant has assisted with several ongoing investigations. 

So that`s certainly more than one investigation and probably at least three or more than three.  And one of the questions that they need to get from Michael Flynn is, did the president tell you to discuss sanctions with the Russians, especially since we now know through the Michael Cohen case that the president was interested in doing business in Moscow and creating a Trump Tower in Moscow, and was presumably still interested in doing that while he was president of the United States. 

VANCE:  That question would probably have been close to if not at the top of Mueller`s list of questions that he wanted to ask after Flynn started to cooperate.  And we have to stop for a minute and think about what Flynn has been charged with.  He`s been charged with making false statements to the government.  So Mueller`s not taking any of his words at face value. 

And we see from the sentencing memoranda that Flynn was able to provide documents and also communications.  And so, at this point, it seems logical to assume that however Mueller has answered that question, he`s not just relying on what Flynn tells him, he`s relying on documentary evidence that Flynn can provide as well to back up the story he`s told. 

O`DONNELL:  We have to squeeze in a break here. 

Jason Johnson, Joyce Vance, and Jill Wine-Banks, thank you for starting us off tonight. 

And when we come back, did Michael Flynn talk to the special prosecutor about the Trump family, and what could he have told them about Donald Trump`s children?  That`s next. 

And some Republican senators are finally breaking with Donald Trump, and it is over Saudi Arabia`s murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.


O`DONNELL:  With each new court filing by special prosecutor Robert Mueller, the legal danger for those closest to President Trump seems to ratchet up.  Today, the senior legal analyst for Fox News, Judge Andrew Napolitano, predicted the indictment of a member of the Trump family. 


HOST:  So do you think that any of Trump`s inner circle`s now going to get indicted? 

ANDREW NAPOLITANO, FOX NEWS SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST:  Yes.  I don`t know who, but I do know Donald, Jr. has told friends he expects to be indicted. 

HOST:  Do you expect he`d be indicted? 



O`DONNELL:  Andrew Napolitano has very solid sources on that side of the world. 

Last night`s filing in the Michael Flynn case might have other members of the Trump family worried.  According to the filing, Michael Flynn, has, quote, provided substantial assistance in a criminal investigation separate from the special prosecutor`s investigation.  That section is entirely redacted. 

The filing also says Michael Flynn, quote, provided first information about the content and context of interactions between the transition team and Russian government officials.  Those include Michael Flynn`s phone call with the Russian ambassador in December 2016 asking Russia to help defeat a U.N. resolution on Israel.  Flynn admitted he lied to the FBI about that conversation.  He also told the FBI he contacted the Russian ambassador at the direction of, quote, a very senior member of the presidential transition team. 

We know based on NBC news reporting that that very senior member of the Trump transition team was Jared Kushner, Donald Trump`s son-in-law. 

Joining our discussion now, Peter Zeidenberg, a former federal prosecutor and former deputy counsel for the prosecution of Scooter Libby in the George W. Bush administration.  Also joining us is Mieke Eoyang, vice president of the national security program at the Third Way and a former staff member of the House Armed Services Committee. 

Peter, the Jared Kushner liability seems to be the one that first comes to mind when considering what Trump family members might be in jeopardy now. 

PETER ZEIDENBERG, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR:  Oh, I would think so.  And I think as frustrating as it is for those of us who are watching all of this to get that redacted filing, can you imagine how frustrating it is for the  people who are really in jeopardy from this, who are dying to find out and read the tea leaves?  And they don`t even have any to read.

So, yes, I`d be very nervous because they`ve all been interviewed.  And we know that Mueller thinks that Flynn has been completely forthcoming and honest.  And he`s had opportunity to share with them everything that happened leading up to the election and then that entire post-election right to up the inauguration.  So we know from the reporting that you were referencing there were a lot of conversations that Flynn had with the Russians.  And it seems very unlikely he was doing that on his own and without the knowledge, support, direction from others inside that circle.  And all of that is in Mueller`s hands now. 

O`DONNELL:  Jared Kushner has spoken about this exactly -- publicly.  Exactly once was in July of the first year of the Trump presidency 2017.  Let`s listen to that. 


JARED KUSHNER, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE OFFICIAL:  Let me be very clear, I did not collude with Russia nor do I know of anyone else in the campaign who did so.  I had no improper contacts.  I have not relied on Russian funds for my businesses.  And I have been fully transparent in providing all requested information. 


O`DONNELL:  Mieke Eoyang, case closed, very convincing.  What else -- any follow-up questions? 

MIEKE EOYANG, FORMER STAFF MEMBER, HOUSE ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE:  Yes, I think that there are some real follow-up questions for Jared Kushner because he made these representations, but I don`t know that he knew at the time that Michael Cohen would go out there and say that the Trump business was continuing to try and do business and build this Moscow Tower all the way through into the point where the president -- where Trump got the nomination. 

And he hasn`t explained why it was he was trying to setup a secret back channel with the Russians at their -- on their property that couldn`t be intercepted by American intelligence agencies. 

O`DONNELL:  And, Peter, when you put that together with your reading of the filing yesterday by Mueller, there are a few different spots in those redactions where it could be starring Jared Kushner. 

ZEIDENBERG:  Could be starring Jared Kushner as well as a lot of other people.  You know, Kushner has been interviewed by the House, I believe, either the House or the Senate committee.  So there is a transcript of his that is taken under oath. 

And if it contradicts what Flynn has been saying, and I think there`s likely to be serious contradictions, we know who`s -- who Mueller will feel as being credible.  He`s always credited Flynn, and, you know, he does not take Flynn`s representations without verifying them and corroborating them.  So he`s going to be confident that he`s getting the straight scoop from Flynn.  So with their contradictions, the verdict`s going to go in favor of what Flynn is telling the Mueller team. 

O`DONNELL:  And, Mieke, Donald Trump, Jr.`s testimony in the Senate Intelligence Committee when he was asked about the involvement in a potential deal in Moscow, he said, like I said, I was peripherally aware of it, but most of my knowledge has been gained since as it relates to hearing about it over the last few weeks. 

Now, that could sharply contradict with Michael Cohen.  What we know from Michael Cohen`s guilty plea last week about having lied about this is that Cohen briefed family members.  The documents indicate that Michael Cohen briefed family members of individual one within the company about the project.  Individual one, of course, is Donald Trump. 

And so that -- Michael Cohen could be the sharpest contradicter of Donald Trump, Jr. 

EOYANG:  That`s right.  And remember Donald Trump, Jr. is the one now the one responsible for the Trump Organization.  So, all the real estate deals that they are doing around the world where other foreign governments are trying to put money in, Don Jr. is the one who was aware of all of that and supposed to be keeping the business afloat. 

So his representations he`s only peripherally involved seems at odds with his role as the head of the Trump Organization`s business operations. 

O`DONNELL:  Mieke Eoyang and Peter Zeidenberg, thank you both for joining our discussion tonight.

And when we come back, some Republican senators are finally joining Democrats to challenge President Trump, and it is about Saudi Arabia and the assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.


O`DONNELL:  Tonight in the Republican-controlled Senate, some Republicans are finally breaking with President Trump.  Three Republicans joined Democrats in introducing a resolution that holds Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman accountable for the murder of "Washington Post" journalist Jamal Khashoggi.  The resolution blames the crown prince for, quote, contributing to the humanitarian crisis in Yemen, preventing a resolution to the blockade of Qatar, and jailing and torture of dissidents and activists inside kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the use of force to intimidate rivals. 

This resolution was introduced in the Senate just one day after a select group of bipartisan Senators had a closed-door briefing with CIA Director Gina Haspel and declared they are confident that the crown prince ordered the murder.


SEN. BOB CORKER, (R) TENNESSEE, FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE CHAIR:  I have zero question in my mind that the crown prince MBS ordered the killing, monitored the killing, knew exactly what was happening, planned it in advance.  If he was in front of a jury, he would be convicted in 30 minutes guilty.


O`DONNELL:  Republican Senators called on the Trump administration to strongly condemn Saudi Arabia for the murder and accused Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary James Mattis of towing the White House line to deliberately mislead Congress and distort the truth of the killing.

Tonight, "The Washington Post" is reporting that shortly after President Trump`s election, lobbyists for the Saudi government paid for 500 rooms at the Trump hotel in Washington, D.C. as part of an unorthodox campaign that offered U.S. military veterans a free trip to Washington, then sent them to Capitol Hill to lobby against a law the Saudis opposed.  In all, the lobbyists spent more than $270,000 to house six groups of visiting veterans at the Trump hotel which Donald Trump still owns.

Joining our discussion now, Evan McMullin, former CIA operative and a former independent presidential candidate.  And Mieke Eoyang is back with us.

And Evan, your reaction to Republicans finally breaking with the president and the Senate over the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi?

EVAN MCMULLIN, FORMER CIA OPERATIVE:  Well, I think it`s appropriate and I`m encouraged by it.  I think there are a couple of things going on here.  In the political category, of course, the Democrats have just taken the House.  They`re going to be, as of January, conducting hopefully, you know, and I would expect appropriate oversight of the president.  That has the potential to sort of overshadow what the Senate has been doing, and they`ve been taking the sort of the lead between the two chambers here before.  But they run the risk now of being shown up by the House.

And that`s an issue because coming up in 2020, you have over 20 Republican Senators who are up for re-election.  Only about half as many Democrats at the same time.  And so Republicans as, yes, Trump or as the Russia investigation seems to get closer and closer to Trump and his inner circle, his family, and the Democrats in the House are conducting appropriate oversight of this administration, these Senators and Republicans in general run the risk of creating more challenges for themselves in 2020.  That`s the political side. O n the policy side, look, our relationship with Saudi Arabia, our partnership with them is important.  They`re an important country but the reality is that under Mohammed bin Salman`s leadership, they`ve become a destabilizing force in the region, not a stabilizing force.  And so we have been relying on them in part to sort of stand up to Iranian efforts, to destabilize the region.  And in the end, now Saudi Arabia under the leadership of this young, aggressive, reckless crown prince, they`re doing far more harm than good.

And I think the Senators, Republican Senators and, of course, Democratic Senators are seeing that and understanding the need to respond.  And that`s what they`re doing here.

O`DONNELL:  Let`s listen to what Democratic Senator Chris Murphy had to say about the CIA Director Gina Haspel`s briefing.


SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D), CONNECTICUT:  My understanding is that the CIA briefing this morning was very different than the state department and defense department briefing.  Secretary Mattis and Secretary Pompeo didn`t want Congress to know what the CIA knew.


O`DONNELL:  Mieke Eoyang, how will this change -- how will these dynamics change in January when the Democrats take over the House of Representatives?  The committee you worked on in the House of Representatives, the House Intelligence Committee, when it`s controlled by Democrats, how will they handle a situation like this?

EOYANG: Yes.  When the Democrats have the gavel, they can compel agency officials to come before them and tell them what they know.  There`ll be no more of this hide the ball, at least as far as the House is concerned.  And because they can move legislation through the chamber at the speed that they want and the kind of legislation that they want, the Senate and the Trump administration will be forced to vote on or make decisions on pieces of legislation that will hold them accountable.  And they will have to either stand in the way of those things or they`ll have to agree to hold the president accountable.

O`DONNELL:  Evan McMullin, I have to say I`m surprised that the defense secretary and the secretary of state, and not so much in Pompeo`s case because he`s such a politician, but that they would be -- they would deliver a briefing that is at such apparently dramatic variance from the CIA director`s briefing today.  Knowing when they were doing that briefing that at some point these Senators were going to hear from the CIA director.

MCMULLIN:  Yes.  You know, Lawrence, I`m disappointed by that too.  And just like you, I`m not surprised by that in Pompeo`s case at this point.  I think he`s very ambitious politically and has sort of prioritized the audience of one, the audience of Donald Trump over everything else it seems.  You know, maybe that`s not fair but it certainly seems that way.

Mattis has been a different case.  In this case, I`m uncomfortable with his approach here.  I have a lot of respect for him. I trust him.  He`s perhaps one of the only senior members of this administration who I genuinely trust.  Maybe he`s trying to play to an audience of one here solely because he knows how important it is for him to stay in that role and for the whole country for him to stay in that role.

I shudder to think what would happen if Trump became so unhappy with Mattis that he replace him with someone like Whitaker over at DOJ.  It could be a total disaster, a real, real disaster for the country.  So maybe that`s what`s running through Mattis` head.  I hope it`s something like that.  But yes, Mattis and Pompeo, in this case, are playing games with intelligence, playing on the reality that the American people because they don`t -- they`re not consumers of intelligence themselves, they won`t exactly understand who to believe in this case.

But Pompeo and Mattis are basically saying that because there`s not a smoking gun, we can`t make a judgment about what actually happened in the case of Khashoggi`s murder at the hands of the Saudi government.  That`s ridiculous.  It`s like saying you come home from work at the end of the day and you find your dog sleeping on your couch and your couch has been eaten up, and you can`t somehow draw a conclusion.  And it`s sort of the same idea here.

There are all kinds of very solid pieces of evidence that MBS was very involved as Corker was saying in planning and following up and monitoring this operation, which involved his very own security detail.  And yes, we don`t have a smoking gun according to reporting.  But if you know anything about the facts that have been reported thus far and anything about Saudi Arabia, you understand that this simply could not have happened without Mohammed bin Salman`s approval and support.

If I could just say one more thing, Lawrence, I`ll just mention it very briefly because it doesn`t -- it hasn`t gotten any coverage as far as I`ve seen.  Jamal Khashoggi was banned from speaking publicly and writing publicly in Saudi Arabia in December 2016 after he spoke critically about Donald Trump here at a Think Tank in Washington.

So it`s just interesting and important to point out in addition to Trump`s conflicts of interest with Saudi Arabia, which you pointed out in the beginning and which are significant, but Khashoggi was a critic of President Trump and of MBS.  He was a critic of these aspiring authoritarians.  And in the case of Mohammed bin Salman, an actual authoritarian living out his authoritarian dreams.  But it`s significant that Khashoggi was a critic of President Trump as well and I don`t think we should ignore that.

O`DONNELL:  Mieke, quickly.  I was hoping that your reaction and your experience working on the House Intelligence Committee, this whole issue of smoking gun, this whole issue of standard of proof, how often would the CIA come in and present to you what people would call a so-called smoking gun?

EOYANG:  You know, when Secretary Mattis said that, he`s actually using the completely wrong standard.  This is not about beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.  You don`t need a smoking gun.  The question is, is the State of Saudi Arabia responsible for these actions?  Did they somehow, whether or not it`s MBS or someone else, did they do this?  Did they, as a nation, do this?  Are they condoning this?

And the answer is very clearly yes, which is why we`re talking about punishing the nation, not the individual.  So this standard of proof they`re talking about is inappropriate to a foreign policy conversation.  And that`s exactly what we would have heard on the Intelligence Committee.

O`DONNELL:  Mieke Eoyang and Evan McMullin, thank you both for joining us tonight.

And when we come back, we will go to North Carolina to that stunning case of election fraud that is now being investigated there by federal and state authorities.  Jason Johnson is in North Carolina and he will join us once again with the report from there.


O`DONNELL:  If you think you saw the United States Capitol behind Jason Johnson when I just said that he was in North Carolina, you are right.  He is in Washington, D.C. tonight but he has been in North Carolina.  And state and federal authorities are now investigating that case of voter fraud in that North Carolina congressional election that no Republicans now seem to care about.

President Trump and other Republicans who have incited fears repeatedly about possible voter fraud without ever actually finding any voter fraud have all remained silent now that a Republican congressional campaign is being investigated for stealing absentee ballots from Democrats and destroying those ballots or filling out the ballots with votes for the Republican candidate.

McCrae Dowless was hired by the local Republican party and by the Republican congressional campaign of Mark Harris who came out 900 votes ahead of Democrat Dan McCready.  McCrae Dowless` specialty is absentee ballots.  But Republicans lead in the vote count could be based on the stolen ballots.  People who McCrae Dowless has paid to collect absentee ballots illegally have told reporters that they have been doing this for years in North Carolina.  One of the people who had their ballot stolen described what happened to NBC`s Leigh Ann Caldwell.


DATESHA MONTGOMERY, NORTH CAROLINA RESIDENT:  A young lady came to the door.  She knocked on the door, asked if she could get the absentee ballot.  I told her sure.  I had broke the seal in front of her to show it was never open.  I broke it in front of her.  I filled out two boxes.  She said she will fill the rest out, that it wasn`t important.  I signed it, gave it to her, it was not filled.  She said she will fill it and come back to me and show that it was filled.  I never got a show back from her.

LEIGH ANN CALDWELL, REPORTER, NBC:  And so you found out though that your absentee ballot was never turned in.

MONTGOMERY:  Yes.  The investigators came.  He came and he showed me that my name was on the list but my absentee ballot did not come up in the system.


O`DONNELL:  More on this case of Republican voter fraud after a break.  Jason Johnson will join us.


O`DONNELL:  Local television reporter Joe Bruno has been doing extraordinary work on that Republican-run election fraud scheme in that congressional race in North Carolina.  Here he is interviewing one of the people who was hired to illegally collect absentee ballots.


JOE BRUNO, REPORTER, WSOC-TV:  So what were you doing?

GINGER EASON, BLADEN COUNTY RESIDENT:  I was helping McCrae pickup ballots.

BRUNO:  Eason says McCrae Dowless paid her $75 to $100 a week to go around and pick up finished absentee ballots.  But after picking them up, she didn`t mail them.  She gave them to McCrae Dowless.  Did all the people who voted, did their votes count?

EASON:  I guess.  Like I said I know nothing what happened after I drop them off.


O`DONNELL:  Joining us now Jason Johnson, he`s the politics editor at and an MSNBC contributor.  Jason, the details here that Joe Bruno`s uncovering have just been extraordinary.  He`s done interview after interview with voters, with people who were paid to illegally collect these ballots, collecting blank ballots that which they then presumably filled out for the Republican.  This was all paid for by the local Republican party and by the Republican candidate.

JASON JOHNSON, POLITICS EDITOR, THEROOT.COM:  Yes.  There are so many levels to this.  But Lawrence, I want to say the same thing you were saying.  To start off, this is what the local press is about.  The work that`s being done in North Carolina right now is famous.  This is not a story that national news would be able to dig out this level of details.  Unfortunately, the kind of fraud they`re talking about actually happens all the time, especially in rural parts of the South.

There was a case of this in 2004 with a Democratic primary where the Democrat actually asked then-governor Mark Sanford of South Carolina to completely eliminate a primary because absentee ballots had been stolen.  So what you have happening right now is basically Republicans who`ve been complaining about voter fraud all throughout 2018 basically have a candidate Mark Harris who has used shady connections to take absentee ballots from people.

And just so everybody understands how is this possible, if you apply for an absentee ballot, your name becomes public information.  So if you have a shifty business person or a political operative who wants to go downtown to the State Election Board and find out where you are, they can go to your home.  They can give you some sort of story, and they could potentially steal your ballot.  All paid for by the local Republican party in North Carolina.

O`DONNELL:  "The Charlotte Observer" editorial is saying unless new evidence somehow clears the clouds hanging over this election, the Board of Elections should toss out the 9th district results.  And Jason, the Board of Elections is empowered to order a new election.

JOHNSON:  Yes.  And thank goodness, Lawrence.  Because this has to do with another issue that we`ve been talking about lately in Michigan and Wisconsin.  In North Carolina since 2016, Republican legislators have been trying to weaken and basically absolutely destroy the State Board of Elections` ability to step in when you have cases like this.  And fortunately, because of Democratic Governor Cooper, he`s won several court cases so now the Board of Elections can get involved.

I think this race can be thrown out.  In fact, I think that Pittenger, who was the Republican who lost in the primary to Mark Harris, he might have a case here that maybe he was robbed as well.  It`s amazing that not only do we have a Republican party that claims they`re concerned about voter fraud and voter integrity who is knee deep in this situation financially but it`s being done by a candidate who is also a pastor, supposedly a man of God and integrity, might possibly be responsible for stealing not one but two elections from the people of North Carolina.

O`DONNELL:  Yes, the statistics, when you hire McCrae Dowless on your campaign, you win the absentee ballot count by extraordinary numbers, 437- 17 in the primary that you`re talking about this time.  It is just an extraordinary set of numbers.  They make no sense other than the product of this criminal enterprise that Joe Bruno and other reporters are uncovering there.

Jason Johnson, thank you so much for joining us tonight.  Really appreciate it.

Tonight`s last word is next.


O`DONNELL:  Time for tonight`s LAST WORD.

I`ve got a big thank you on Twitter today from the brilliant actress Dana Delaney.  But I did nothing to deserve a thank you from Dana.  And so when I read the rest of her tweet, I could see that she was adding me to her thanks to her friend screenwriter and producer John McNamara who tweeted this.

"I gave my friend Dana Delaney a gift we both love.  Thank you, Lawrence and THE LAST WORD.  Please join me and contribute.   Happy holidays.  Help save children`s lives.  Be kind to a student in Malawi.  Donate a desk or a scholarship."

John McNamara made a gift to the K.I.N.D fund in Dana Delany`s name.  Kids in Need of Desks is a partnership that I started with MSNBC and UNICEF to build desks in factories in Malawi and deliver them to schools there, where kids have never seen desks.  We have been doing this for eight years now on this program, and your generosity has delivered desks to over 830,000 kids in Malawi schools.

There are still over two million students in Malawi classrooms who do not have desks.  And so we have a long way to go.  But since our last update to you on your record-breaking Giving Tuesday of last week, since then, you have contributed another $329,916 which means that this week, the K.I.N.D fund crossed the $18 million threshold and you have now contributed a total of $18,228,953 in the eight years that we have been supplying desks to schools in Malawi.

Marla Johnson contributed two desks on Giving Tuesday and said, "Thanks for providing me with this opportunity to help these children.  As a retired third grade teacher, this gives me more joy than you can know."  We have had extraordinary support over the years from teachers, who recognize the value of this project as soon as they hear about it.

The K.I.N.D fund also provides scholarships for girls to attend high school in Malawi, where like many African countries, public high school is not free.  We have provided scholarships to over 5,000 girls to attend high school in Malawi.  But there are many thousands more who we hope to support with your future contributions.

You can go to to contribute any amount.  You can specify that it is for desks or girls` scholarships.  And you can give a contribution in the name of anyone on your holiday gift list and UNICEF will notify them of your gift in their name just the way John McNamara did today for Dana Delany.

Diana Perez tweeted "I am making a donation to the K.I.N.D fund`s scholarship for girls.  I was a poor single -- I came from a poor single- parent home and attended the University of Southern California because a scholarship made it possible.  I am paying it forward today."  Thank you, Diana.  And thank you to all of you for being so kind to kids in need of desks.

Here is one classroom of kids sitting at their brand new desks just two weeks ago in Malawi saying thank you.  Tonight`s LAST WORD is zikomo (ph), thank you.  "THE 11 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