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Judge rules ACA Unconstitutional. TRANSCRIPT: 12/14/2018, The Last Word w. Lwrence O'Donnell.

Guests: Jill Wine-Banks, Chuck Rosenberg, Matt Miller, Bob Woodward; Cal Perry

Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL Date: December 14, 2018 Guest: Jill Wine-Banks, Chuck Rosenberg, Matt Miller, Bob Woodward; Cal Perry

JOY REID, MSNBC: That does it for us tonight. Rachel will be back on Monday. I`ll be back here tomorrow morning and Sunday at 10:00 a.m., hosting a show with my name on it. And now it`s time for The Last Word with Lawrence O`Donnell. Good evening, Lawrence.

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, HOST, MSNBC: Good evening, Joy. I was following your coverage of what`s happening with the Affordable Care Act, and judges trying to pick apart and in this case knock it out completely --

REID: Yeah.

O`DONNELL: -- seems to add momentum for Democrats in the Congress who are supporting Medicare For All.

REID: Very interesting point because, right, if it falls, what are they going to replace it with? It seems like they`re almost making Medicare For All more likely.

O`DONNELL: Yeah, I think there`s different versions of it, but this to me just adds momentum for it among the Democrats. REID: Yeah, and isn`t it a little ironic that even Donald Trump was saying, vote for us, we`ll protect the Affordable Care Act --


REID: -- and pre-existing conditions. Surprise! No, we won`t.



REID: There you go.

O`DONNELL: Well, yeah, we covered that during the campaign. It was one of the most frustrating elements of the campaign, just trying to set that straight. Thank you, Joy.

REID: Thank you, Lawrence. Good night. O`DONNELL: Thank you. Thank you.

REID: Have a good show.

O`DONNELL: Well, we now know the revolution will be televised. Michael Cohen`s personal revolution against the man who ruled his life for many years will be televised. Michael Cohen went on television to attack what the president said about him yesterday.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: He is a lawyer. He represents a client. I never directed him to do anything incorrect or wrong, and he understands that.

(END VIDEO CLIP) O`DONNELL: So that was yesterday. And this was this morning.


MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER LAWYER FOR DONALD TRUMP: First of all, nothing at the Trump Organization was ever done unless it was run through Mr. Trump. He directed me, as I said in my elocution, and I said as well in the plea. He directed me to make the payments.

He directed me to become involved in these matters, including the one with McDougal, which is really between him and David Pecker, and then David Pecker`s counsel. I just reviewed the documents in order to protect him. I gave loyalty to someone who truthfully does not deserve loyalty.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ANCHOR, ABC NEWS: He was trying to hide what you were doing, correct?

COHEN: Correct.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And he knew it was wrong? COHEN: Of course. STEPHANOPOULOS: And he was doing that to help his election? COHEN: You have to remember at what point in time that this matter came about two weeks or so before the election post the Billy Bush comments, so, yes, he was very concerned about how this would affect the election. STEPHANOPOULOS: To help his campaign. COHEN: To help him and the campaign.

(END VIDEO CLIP) O`DONNELL: Here`s what Michael Cohen said in that interview about why federal prosecutors believe him now after he has pleaded guilty to lying to Congress.


COHEN: The special counsel stated emphatically that the information that I gave to them was credible and helpful. There`s a substantial amount of information that they possess that corroborates the fact that I am telling the truth.

(END VIDEO CLIP) O`DONNELL: President Trump has to be worrying about what that corroborating information is. Did Michael Cohen make tapes of candidate Donald Trump, saying that the payments to silence the women had to be made to help his presidential campaign?

NBC News reports that candidate Donald Trump was in the room with Michael Cohen and David Pecker, the head of the company that publishes the National Enquirer, when they were planning to use the National Enquirer to help counter negative stories about Donald Trump`s relationships with women.

Special prosecutor Robert Mueller filed new documents in court today on former Trump national security advisor Michael Flynn. In response to Michael Flynn`s pre-sentencing memo, the Mueller team wrote, the court should reject the defendant`s attempt to minimize the seriousness of those false statements to the FBI. A sitting national security advisor, former head of an intelligence agency, retired lieutenant general and 33-year veteran of the armed forces knows he should not lie to federal agents.

He does not need to be warned it is a crime to lie to federal agents to know the importance of telling them the truth. And the latest investigative front that has opened in Trump world is the Trump inauguration. The New York Times reports that in addition to the Trump inaugural committee, a pro-Trump super PAC is now under federal investigation.

According to the Times, the inquiry focuses on whether people from middle eastern nations including Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates used straw donors to disguise their donations to the two funds. The investigation into inauguration is now focusing on Ivanka Trump. ProPublica reported that the Trump inauguration paid the Trump family businesses for rooms, meals and event space at Trump`s Washington hotel and that Ivanka Trump was involved in directing that business to the Trump Hotel.

ProPublica reports reports, a top inaugural planner e-mailed Ivanka and others at the company to express my concern that the hotel was overcharging for its event spaces, worrying of what would happen when this is audited. And President Trump`s jet-lagged T.V. lawyer Rudy Giuliani just back from a trip to the Middle East where he is trying to trade on his Trump connections to do business there is now trying to rewrite the definition of big crime.

He defended Donald Trump`s hush money payments to women, payments that Donald Trump used to deny making by telling the Daily Beast "nobody got killed, nobody got robbed. This was not a big crime." Rudy Giuliani was the U.S. attorney for the southern district of New York for five years. And during that time, like most U.S. attorneys in America, most of the crimes that Rudy Giuliani prosecuted in those crimes, nobody got killed. But he seemed to think that those were pretty big crimes at the time.

Leading off our discussion now, Chuck Rosenberg is a former senior FBI official and former U.S. attorney. Jill Wine-Banks is a former assistant Watergate special prosecutor. And Matt Miller, former spokesperson for Attorney General Eric Holder. All three are MSNBC contributors.

Jill Wine-Banks, we are seeing the Cohen versus Trump revolution or war, whatever it is, now take place on television. I think we`re going to see a lot more of it. JILL WINE-BANKS, FORMER ASSISTANT WATERGATE SPECIAL PROSECUTOR: We are going to see more of it. And I feel some sympathy for Cohen and why he would want to tell his side of the story to the public when he`s being attacked by the president. But as a prosecutor, I have to say I don`t think it`s the best thing for a potential cooperating witness to be on television giving testimony basically that could be used as part of cross examination at some future date.

So, I`m torn between saying he should stop doing it. I hope that he has the permission of Mueller to do it or else, he would be in as much trouble as, for example, Manafort, who was delivering information straight from the Mueller team back to the president. O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to more of what Michael Cohen said. In this, he`s responding to President Trump saying that Michael Cohen is lying in order to protect family members. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHANOPOULOS: He said in the tweets and repeated in an interview later on that basically he says, his claim, you`re lying about him to protect your wife and to protect your father. COHEN: Inaccurate. He knows the truth. I know the truth. Others know the truth. And here`s the truth. The people of the United States of America, the people of the world don`t believe what he`s saying. The man doesn`t tell the truth. And it`s sad that I should take responsibility for his dirty deeds.

(END VIDEO CLIP) O`DONNELL: Chuck Rosenberg, it seems risky on both ends. Michael Cohen who is still part of these cases going forward and then Donald Trump who`s exposed and is obviously under investigation, for either one of them to be out there kind of conducting these kinds of fights on television is extraordinary.

CHUCK ROSENBERG, FORMER SENIOR FBI OFFICIAL: I agree with you, Lawrence. As for the president, it seems unlikely that anyone is going to turn off that faucet. That is who he is. That is what he does. I imagine he will continue to tweet and talk. But Jill made a very important point about Mr. Cohen.

Prosecutors see these two things as incompatible -- talking and cooperating. And so while he certainly wants to defend himself, and get that, I understand that, it really doesn`t make sense that he`s hoping for more consideration from prosecutors to try to make his case in public.

What he has to do, what it seems he`s done at least with the Mueller team is provide useful information that they`ve been able to corroborate. That should stand on its own. That`s what Michael Cohen needs to do. And frankly, I`m with Jill, he needs to do it quietly and privately, just with prosecutors and agents. O`DONNELL: There`s a new reporting in the New Yorker about Adam Schiff`s intentions when he takes over the House Intelligence Committee, saying Schiff talked about his plans for conducting an investigation that will be parallel to Mueller`s, probing Trump`s connections to Russia, Saudi Arabia, and other places around the world. As Schiff described his approach, it became clear that he wasn`t just planning to cross Trump`s red line, he intended to obliterate it. Matt Miller, your reaction?

MATT MILLER, FORMER SPOKESMAN FOR ATTORNEY GENERAL ERIC HOLDER: I think the problem for the president is this opens up another front against which he has to defend. And right now we already see, you know, basically every entity which he`s involved under investigation in some way. His personal business, the Trump Organization is under investigation, criminal investigation, his inaugural committee, his transition, his camp pain, his White House, all under investigation.

And not just under investigation by one office of the Justice Department but by multiple offices. And not just under investigation by the Justice Department but by also the New York state attorney general and multiple committees in Congress. That will obviously only get worse when we have a Chairman Adam Schiff as opposed to a ranking member Adam Schiff with subpoena power.

And the problem for the president is when you`re facing multiple fronts like this, you can`t just break even. You be to win on all of them. You can`t have any of them turn up evidence of criminality. In addition, they have a way of cross pollinating. So, a witness in one investigation who is flipped by the government becomes a cooperating witness and then participates and cooperates in other investigations.

We`ve seen that with Michael Flynn. He`s cooperating with two or three separate investigations. We`ve seen it with Rick Gates who is talking with prosecutors in the southern district of New York. When you have Adam Schiff opening up a new line of inquiry, every person that he talks to that comes in and maybe doesn`t tell the truth becomes vulnerable to a false statement charge from the government that may put them in play as a witness for the Justice Department as well.

It is a problem for the president that is getting worse, not better and is metastasizing across multiple fronts.

O`DONNELL: Jill, the Democrats taking over the House next year, Adam Schiff moving up to this chairmanship, Jerry Nadler in Judiciary, is making this look all the more like the Watergate investigation in which you and the special prosecutor`s office were conducting your investigation at the very same time that Congress was conducting its own investigations and running its own committee hearings, investigative hearings. WINE-BANKS: It is exactly like that. And we try to be careful that they didn`t, for example, immunize someone that we thought should be a defendant. But other than that, I think one of the best things that could happen is for the American public to be able to see as they were able to do during Watergate exactly what crimes have been committed so that they can evaluate the honesty of witnesses and all the corroboration that exists.

Plus, there were a lot of things that were very misleading when the Republicans were doing investigations because they refused to subpoena quite obvious witnesses that should have been called. And they wouldn`t investigate things like who was at the other end of that unknown phone number when Don Junior was making the arrangements for the Trump Tower meeting.

Those are things that with subpoena power the Democrats can now let the American people know exactly who that phone call was to. So i think it`s a really good thing and with proper coordination, it will not impact on the special prosecutor`s office investigation.

O`DONNELL: We have a new mystery that we`re sort of being able to watch and Politico is reporting it this way. Special counsel Robert Mueller appeared to be locked in a subpoena battle with a recalcitrant witness Friday in a sealed federal appeals courtroom, the latest development in a mystery case.

Oral arguments in the highly secretive fight played out behind closed doors under tight security. Officials at the U.S. Courthouse in Washiington D.C. even took the extraordinary measure of shutting down to the public the entire fifth floor, where the hearing was taking place.

Chuck Rosenberg, is this a consideration possibly of a subpoena to the president of the United States?

ROSENBERG: Possibly, Lawrence. But really it could be a subpoena to just about anyone who`s challenging it. Here`s why. Federal rule of the criminal procedure 6E require that grand jury proceedings be secret. And that`s strict obligation on the government and on the court. And so if somebody is challenging, litigating, moving to quash or suppress a grand jury subpoena, then it would have to be heard secretly.

And so we can guess, we can speculate as to who that subpoena was directed to, but right now it`s just speculation. I think the informed guess at least tells us that it`s a grand jury matter and that`s why it`s under seal. O`DONNELL: Matt, it`s hard to think who would have any arguable grounds for trying to fight a subpoena other than the president. MILLER: Yeah, the president is certainly one suspect. The others are maybe attorneys for the president, someone like John Dowd, if the special counsel was trying to pierce the attorney-client privilege. It could be someone inside the White House who was subpoenaed for whom the president is claiming executive privilege and trying to block that person from coming to testify. We don`t know the answer to that yet. We probably won`t know for some time. I think there are a lot of possibilities. But for now, I think we`re really just speculating. O`DONNELL: Chuck Rosenberg, Jill Wine-Banks, Matt Miller, thank you all for starting off our discussion tonight. I really appreciate it.

And coming up in this program, a 7-year-old from Guatemala died in custody at our southern border. Carly Perry (ph) is at the border tonight and will join us with his report. He spoke to Congressman Beto O`Rourke today about the death of that little girl.

And up next, we will do our best to answer the question that I get asked more than any other when some of you stop me in the street or I`m in discussion with friends, and that is where are we now? Where are we in the investigation of the president of the United States? I don`t know the answer to that question, but the best person to ask is the person who wrote not just the book but the books about the first and last president who was driven from office by a special prosecutor and congressional investigations. Bob Woodward joins us, next.


O`DONNELL: The president consistently underestimated the dangers posed by a small army of government, investigators and reporters, who were bent on prying into the innermost secrets of his White House. Those words are not mine. That was written by Bob Woodward, not in his new book, "Fear," about the Trump White House. Bob Woodward co-wrote those words with Carl Bernstein over 40 years ago.

In his book, "The Final Days," a dramatic account of the end of the Nixon presidency that reads like today`s news. The president was a man consumed my memories of past failures, a man who let his enemies dictate to him, whose actions were often reactions. He was isolated, secretive, paranoid.

Sounds familiar? In "The Final Days," we see the Nixon team mounting a strategy that the Trump team wants to copy. The president`s new team would meet matters head on. They would launch a counter-offensive. They wanted finally to get ahead of the problem, meet the current charges, anticipate future ones, answer them all. Right now. A final and definitive statement that dealt with the major allegations, both directed and implied should be drafted.

Sound familiar?


RUDY GIULIANI, ATTORNEY FOR PRESIDENT TRUMP: We`re going to go to a report. You`re going to end up -- I`ll be here with my version of the report and they will have their version of the report, and the American now essentially are going to decide it.

(END VIDEO CLIP) O`DONNELL: Joining our discussion now, Bob Woodward, associate editor of The Washington Post and the author of "Fear: Trump in the White House." Bob, thank you very much for joining us tonight.

BOB WOODWARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, THE WASHINGTON POST: Thank you. Great to see you. O`DONNELL: The question I get all the time and I got it from a dear friend last night is, where are we now, where are we in this investigation, how much more is there? And I look at your chronology of the Nixon investigation. He won re-election with 49 states in the electoral college and about 18 months or less than two years later, he was on a helicopter leaving Washington, having resigned the presidency. Where are we now, Bob? WOODWARD: Well, I wish that could be answered. We are -- so many investigations and clearly the investigative walls are closing in on Trump. But as we know from the Watergate-Nixon investigation, you need real high quality evidence. You can`t just have speculation. You can`t have people who have pled guilty of lying and then take their voices authoritative.

But getting the Michael Cohen here is game changer in so many ways. We know he taped matters. He was there for the taped conversations with Trump. He was there for 10 years. And you could see in that interview that Stephanopoulos did that there is a real sense of I got had, I got deceived, I deceived myself, I`m coming clean.

So, that`s -- that marks a real significant turning point in all of this. But you need to do these things to convince Republicans, particularly, and this was the Nixon case that for a long time the Nixon crowd, the Republicans in the Senate, in the House, stuck with him. But there was an accumulation of evidence and that evidence in its most powerful form came from Nixon`s secret tape recordings.

So, I think a lot of this is going to turn on whether Cohen has tapes or somebody else does. I think it`s also going to turn on how Trump responds. He is not as we know as I found in doing the research on my book -- we are living in a world of untruth, impulse, a series of contradictions even within a week. And then the stunning fact that President Trump does not even know what his own self-interest is. O`DONNELL: Yeah, and Bob, as I`ve been reading "Final Days," which really does read like a news story and it is so dramatic, I was seeing that this counter memo that they were trying to come up with in the White House and everyone is working on it, a gang of people were working on it, one of the big struggles in the Nixon White House was that they would go into Nixon and say, OK, what happened here, and he wouldn`t tell them.

He would just make them come into him with their draft of what they thought they could say happened. It seems like the Trump White House is a similar kind of operation. How does someone go into Donald Trump and say, for our counter report to Mueller, we need to know exactly what happened? It seems like you`d run into the same struggle with Donald Trump as they did with Richard Nixon. WOODWARD: Well, and of course Trump would tweet it out. Nixon was quite silent, and what they were trying at this point in the Watergate investigation is get ahead of the curve and anticipate the witnesses and the tapes. Of course, what happened is Nixon clearly knew about the secret taping system. He was listening to some of them. But at this point, his lawyers and staff were not told about the secret taping system and had not been publicly disclosed.

So, the surprise element was there for the staff and of course what you find in the Nixon case. And this is definitely a similarity. That the people who were closest to Nixon were most appalled by the lying and the deceit. I found that and I think we find almost daily if not weekly in the Trump case, the people there are the ones with the most profound anxiety about what`s going on.

And you see in the temper -- the appointment of chief of staff part-time, here`s one of the great jobs in Washington. You know. You were a chief of staff for Senator Moynihan, right, when he was chairman of the Finance Committee in the Senate. Do I recall correctly?

O`DONNELL: That`s correct, Bob. That`s right.

WOODWARD: And chief of staff has got to be an alter ego to the boss. He has to know what`s going on. This is not something where you can parachute in on a temporary basis. And this only compounds the anxiety and distress about we have a governing crisis in this country. Yes, there are always investigations. I`m not convinced where they`re going to go, but there`s an aroma and a smell and there is lots of evidence.

But the basic issues of foreign policy, economic policy are chaos in the White House. And that sends that message to the world. We see what`s happening to the stock market. That is a reflection of people who know say, hey, this is an administration that is running off the rails in every conceivable way. O`DONNELL: Bob, can you stay with us through a commercial break because I`d like to hear about this -- the acting chief of staff situation that`s developing at the White House.



WOODWARD: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: We`re going to be right back with more with Bob Woodward.


O`DONNELL: We now know that the next White House chief of staff is going to be Trump Budget Director Mick Mulvaney. NBC News is reporting that Mick Mulvaney insisted on the title acting chief of staff because he wanted to enter the position with a safe exit in place.

And back with us now is Bob Woodward. He is the author of the book "Fear About the World Inside the Trump White House." And Bob, I wanted to read a passage of your book about this job, about White House chief of staff and John Kelly who is -- who Mulvaney is taking over from and this is the way this job apparently works.

In your book "Fear," it says "Kelly was very chummy with the president in the first weeks, Rob Porter noticed. They were peers. Kelly always seemed to have a smile on his face when he was around the president. The honeymoon was soon over. Beginning in September, Kelly and Porter would be together alone or with a few senior staffers. "The president`s unhinged", Kelly said.

Bob, do we know enough about this Trump White House to be able to predict how this is going to go for Mick Mulvaney?

BOB WOODWARD, AUTHOR, FEAR ABOUT THE WORLD INSIDE THE TRUMP WHITE HOUSE: Well, it`s a hard duty, to say the least. Reince Priebus who had the job, I report in the book that Trump eventually was calling Priebus a little rat scurrying around. You -- again, you get this proximity to Trump. You work for him and, of course, he turns his fire on you. So, you know, maybe the title should be temporary acting chief of staff.

It`s sad -- let`s look at this. It`s sad for the country and I go back to this how when you have a chief of staff that`s not really fixed, doesn`t have the authority if you`re acting. Were you ever acting chief of staff on the finance committee?

O`DONNELL: No, I wasn`t. It was the full-on job all the time and the full time. Acting is very rare, as you know, Bob. It`s not a common condition.

WOODWARD: Right. And it diminishes your authority.

O`DONNELL: Yes, it does.

WOODWARD: And what does a chief of staff need? Authority and clout and for the staff, I mean it`s not just the White House staff, it`s the cabinet, it`s everyone in the federal government needs to know when that person speaks, they`re speaking for the president and have the president`s backing. But we know Trump gives and takes away backing instantly on whatever suits him for that moment.

O`DONNELL: And Mick Mulvaney as the budget director has been out of the White House in a cabinet post that the president doesn`t really understand all the intricacies of the budget. Now, he`s going to be up close with the president every day. And the way you report it in your book, that`s what gets you in trouble with this president is proximity. You say in the book, as a general rule in relations with Trump, the closer you were, the further away you got. Meaning, when you get in close, you immediately start getting pushed away.

WOODWARD: Yes, that`s right. And then what a chief of staff needs to be a person of stature who can advise the president, and in the president`s eyes, they need to look at that chief of staff as somebody, "Oh, yes, handle this. I`m on it. Take care of it." But Trump again is always second guessing everyone. And so, you know, I can smell the truth in that NBC report that he wanted an easy path to the door.

O`DONNELL: The other big dynamic, Bob, is that the chief of staff has to have credibility with everyone the chief of staff is dealing with. Cabinet members, foreign countries even, certainly the Congress, that when that chief of staff is speaking, it`s functionally the same as speaking to the president. Everyone knows that`s not true about the Trump chief of staff.

WOODWARD: Yes, that`s right. Or anyone who works for Trump. So, you know, we`re in for another roller coaster ride. I would expect on this. And as you see the mounting problems and the mounting pressure, what Trump does, then he shifts the subject. So standby for a new subject.

And I have to say from 47 years of doing this, I would not take the possibility even though people think this is unlikely that Trump will try to fire Mueller because he does, I believe, have the authority to do that. Nixon made two mistakes when he fired Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox in 1973. He turned over some of the tapes, eight of the tapes including the most incriminating one. And the second miscalculation was he said, "OK. Now that Cox is gone, that solves the problems so we can have a new special prosecutor" who is Leon Jaworski who actually did a tougher job. So, again, this is going to be part of the carnival.

O`DONNELL: You know, Bob, I don`t know which book to recommend to the audience tonight. I think they have to read both. You have to read Bob Woodward`s current book "Fear" and you have to go back to the "Final Days" which is just a masterwork which does read like what we`re living through now. Bob Woodward, thank you very much for joining us tonight.

WOODWARD: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Really appreciate it. Thank you.

WOODWARD: Good to see you.

O`DONNELL: When we come back, a 7-year-old Guatemalan girl crosses our southern border and then dies in federal custody from severe dehydration. The Trump policy of cruelty at the southern border has a new tragic face.

NBC`s Cal Perry will join us from the border with Congressman Beto O`Rourke`s reaction today.


O`DONNELL: There is a new tragic face of the cruelty at our southern border. This is Jakelin Amei Rosmery Caal Maquin, 7-years-old from Guatemala. She died from dehydration and shock after crossing the southern border and being taken into federal custody. She was put on a bus with her father when her father told the authorities that she was sick and vomiting. She was on that bus for at least 90 minutes. And in cases of severe dehydration, every minute counts. By the time that bus reached its next stop at a border station, she was no longer breathing.

The Trump administration including the Secretary of Homeland Security blamed the girl`s father for taking her on such a hazardous trip, but everyone in the Trump administration has done everything they possibly can to make that trip more dangerous, more deadly. They destroy water supplies that are left in the desert by Samaritans who are doing what Donald Trump`s bible tells them to do.

The Trump administration is illegally blocking fathers and daughters like this from seeking asylum at our border stations, and so they face the choice of hopelessly waiting near a border station for the Trump administration to suddenly decide to obey the law or finding another more dangerous way to cross.

NBC`s Cal Perry has been covering the situation at the border today. He spoke with border Congressman Texas Democrat Beto O`Rourke who was visiting a migrant center in Juarez, Mexico.


CAL PERRY, CORRESPONDENT, NBC NEWS: DHS says part of their assignment, look, parents shouldn`t be doing this. What is your reaction to that?

REP. BETO O`ROURKE (D), TEXAS: You do not travel 2,000 miles with your 7- year-old child for kicks or to take advantage of another country. You do it because you`re desperate. What would cause you to take your child and make that journey unless it was the only thing you could do to save your child`s life?


O`DONNELL: Joining us now from the border in El Paso, Texas and Juarez, Mexico is NBC News Correspondent Cal Perry. Cal, what more do we know about this case?

PERRY: Lawrence, we know that she died the morning after being in custody. She was being transported on a bus across New Mexico when she was taken, very ill, 105-degree temperature, to the hospital. What is unclear is what officials knew and when they knew it. She died and three days later, we heard from the Commissioner of CBP testifying on Capitol Hill.

Hanging over this story, Lawrence is an administration that has not been honest about what is happening down here at the border. The bridge behind me, up until two months ago, as a migrant you could come to this bridge, you could present yourself to customs and border patrol and your asylum request would be processed.

But two months ago, the Trump administration cut a backroom deal with the Mexican government, one that is of questionable legality. That deal was to keep migrants in Juarez at a center, Casa Del Migrante in Juarez, a center that we gained access to today. And what you see at this center are children with their moms and their dads with numbers written on their arms.

Now, the U.S. government told Mexican authorities to assign numbers to these individuals. Local groups in Juarez, they made the decision, Lawrence, to write these numbers on their arms. This is called metering. This is the slow drips and drabs of people allowed into the United States. So people are there waiting and they`re only coming across 60 people at a day.

So if you don`t trust the Mexican government or you`re afraid, and I was there today, Lawrence, and these children are terrified that they`re going to be separated from their parents, they`re never more than an arms-length away from their parents who have told them, "If I turn around and you`re not there, I may never see you again." If you don`t want to wait at that center, you do what Jakelin did with her father and you cross in a more dangerous place. That`s what`s happening along this border.

Here in El Paso, we are seeing 2,000 people a week cross illegally. That is roughly as it was put to me by an activist here in El Paso, that`s a caravan in Tijuana every other week. What the administration is doing, and let`s be very clear about this, as you stand in that Migrant Center and you look at those kids, the administration is taking things that would otherwise not be normal and they`re normalizing them.

So children in Tornio, at a tent city separated from society, talking to their lawyers only 20 minutes a week has become normal. Babies with numbers on their arms in a center in Juarez has become normal. The message that runs consistently through all of this as we show these pictures around the world is that America is closed, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Cal Perry, thank you for your invaluable reporting again tonight from the border. really appreciate it. Thank you, cal.

We will have more on this tragedy at the southern border next. We will be joined by a woman who came to this country from Guatemala when she was 5- years-old.


O`DONNELL: Norma was Torres 5-years-old when she came to the United States from Guatemala where she was born. Today she said, "Making the decision to migrate is not easy and migrants know that the journey is risky. They are coming here because they have no other choice. Their governments have failed to protect them from gangs or allow them to the possibility of a decent life."

Norma Torres is now a member of the House of Representatives representing the 35th Congressional congressional in California and she joins our discussion now. Thank you very much for joining us tonight. This is a very painful subject and I wanted to get your reaction to the administration`s reaction, which is to blame this father for trying to get himself and his daughter into this country.

REP. NORMA TORRES (D), CALIFORNIA: Thank you, Lawrence, for the opportunity to be here with you today. This is an ongoing problem with this administration is that they continue to pivot and the irresponsible way in which they have been treating migrants, people that are -- should be considered refugees at our southern border.

They murdered this child. They did that. They murdered the 18-month-old little girl that died a few days after they released her back in June. And they murdered many other children and they`re separating families. They must be held accountable.

O`DONNELL: The dehydration, severe dehydration like this cannot be dealt with just water. And yet, they are out there destroying the water supplies that good Samaritans put out there for people who find themselves in this situations.

TORRES: Absolutely. Anyone who has suffered with the flu and has had minor dehydration understands that this is a big problem. You cannot simply drink water or drink your way out of severe dehydration. The signs were there. They failed to see the signs. They asked her father if he needed health care. How did they ask his father? He is from an indigenous community. He is not bilingual.

O`DONNELL: He speaks the tribal language, not Spanish.

TORRES: He absolutely speaks a tribal language.



O`DONNELL: And when the Democrats take over the House of Representatives next month, I assume this is the kind of thing that you will be investigating?

TORRES: Absolutely. The last two years of this administration has been head in the sand approach. They have failed every step of the way at holding ICE accountable and holding border agents accountable for what they have been doing. On January 3, when Democrats take over, we are prepared to begin the process of holding them accountable, holding hearings, and getting to the truth of the matter that they are treating children and families like we would not treat anyone, not even animals the way they are treating them.

O`DONNELL: And the president is using these kinds of stories as an argument for the wall. He`s saying if you had the wall there, that no one would even attempt to do this.

TORRES: This is the problem, the ignorance of what is happening at our southern border. We have refused to allow these families to present themselves to a border agent at a border crossing. He has gone as far as shutting down major border crossings and, therefore, leaving them no other choice but to take on to the desert area where no plant life, no animal life can survive, yet this little girl was there, and that is where they found her.

O`DONNELL: The -- when the Democrats do have control of Congress and they do have subpoena power over cases like this, will you just want to talk to the secretary of Homeland Security or will you want to get into specifically who was involved in making these decisions on the ground at the border?

TORRES: Absolutely. We want to know who was involved. We want to know how they came to discover these 167 individuals. We want to know -- specifically, I want to know how did they make the decision knowing that this child was sick. The father said that she had started vomiting before they got on the bus, yet they chose to death her on the bus for a three- hour drive. And by the time they got to their destination, she was unconscious. The helicopter that they ordered at the -- after a three-hour bus drive should have been ordered prior to that.

O`DONNELL: Congresswoman Norma Torres, thank you very much for joining us tonight.

TORRES: Thank you, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Really appreciate it.

Tonight`s last word is next.


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

Since Wednesday, when Joyce Chisale appeared on this program once again reciting her new poem, she has inspired you to contribute another $129,896 to the K.I.N.D. fund.

Kids in Need of Desks is a partnership that we`ve created with MSNBC and UNICEF to provide desks to schools in Malawi that don`t have any desks and scholarships for girls to attend high school in Malawi where public high school is not free and the girls` graduation rate is much lower than the boys for several reasons.

Janice Ruth who tweets as GirlSparky said, "I`ve donated desks for my parents every year since Lawrence started K.I.N.D. You can help us at Any amount that you can contribute is very helpful.

TraceyK tweeted, "My spouse and I started a new Christmas tradition. We donated to the K.I.N.D. fund in each other`s name. We donated to provide a scholarship for two girls."

Fannie Mchimwa went to the same high school that Joyce Chisale attends now and she was able to graduate from that high school because, when I met her there two years ago, we provided her with a scholarship that kept her in school. Last month, I met Fanny again. She is now in her first year at Chancellor College in Malawi.


FANNIE MCHIMWA, K.I.N.D. FUND SCHOLAR: So when we met, my life changed because you helped me to pay my school fees. So a lot happened that, without you, I couldn`t be here.


O`DONNELL: That means without your help, she couldn`t be there. Fannie Mchimwa gets tonight`s last word.