Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL Date: December 17, 2018 Guest: Cal Perry
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: And you know who else quit when the investigation pressure became too tough? President Richard Nixon. So, there is a presidential model of quitting when the investigation stuff gets too tough.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, "TRMS": And a vice presidential model with Spiro Agnew, my buddy.
O`DONNELL: Yes, yes.
MADDOW: I know.
The Zinke thing -- we didn`t know that Scott Pruitt was under criminal investigation before he left the EPA until months later. We know that about Zinke even as he leaves. And I don`t know if that`s going to make a difference as to whether the Justice Department holds on to that investigation.
O`DONNELL: And there are so many investigations now in Trump world that some of them, surely some of them will outlive at least this first and possibly only term of the Trump presidency.
MADDOW: When you make -- people are now starting to make lists of what actual like criminal investigations we know are under way with regard to the Trump administration, and you have to compartmentalize them. You have to do the ones that are just about the president and his family, just about former cabinet members, just about current cabinet members, just about other organizations that the president ran. I mean, you have to narrow it done down.
O`DONNELL: It`s a lot.
MADDOW: Thank you, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel.
Seventeen. As of tonight, there are 17 investigations of the president of the United States, with Robert Mueller and his team of special prosecutors leading the way. And so, if you`re Donald Trump, you`ve got to ask yourself the Dirty Harry question. You`ve got to ask yourself the question that Clint Eastwood told the bad guys in Dirty Harry that they had to ask themselves, do I feel lucky?
Donald Trump has to ask himself, do I feel lucky because think about how lucky Donald Trump is going to have to be to survive 17 investigations. Donald Trump has probably felt lucky most of his life, but he didn`t feel lucky when his Atlantic casinos are going bankrupt and he certainly didn`t feel lucky when he was approaching a trial in the Trump University case which he avoided by paying $25 million to the former Trump University students who accused him of fraud. So, Donald Trump knows what it is to not feel lucky.
But until now he did not know what it felt like to be the subject of 17 investigations. And he`s certainly tweeting like a man who doesn`t feel lucky. He`s tweeting like a panicked president. Think about those words together -- a president of the United States who is panicking, a panicked president.
But Donald Trump`s strategy to try to prove to the world that he is not panicking is to send to send the strangest presidential lawyer in history on TV to say profoundly strange things. Here is Rudy Giuliani trying to say -- trying to say that the president will not agree to an interview with the special prosecutor.
But is that what he actually ends up saying?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: No interview?
RUDY GIULIANI, TRUMP ATTORNEY: They`re a joke. Over my dead body but, you know, I could be dead.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: I could be dead.
If your rhetorical skills are so limited that you find yourself using the over my dead body construction to express your opposition to something or just how unlikely it is that something will happen, you are never supposed to end that with, I could be dead.
That`s the Giuliani touch. That`s the Giuliani magic. It`s his way of saying I have no idea what I`m saying.
It took 170 years for Alan Bennett`s brilliant play "The Madness of George III" to arrive in London after the reign of King George III ended. It took 170 years for London to sit down and take a good hard look at the madness of King George.
Future Alan Bennetts writing about the Trump era will be delivering the madness of Donald Trump to a Broadway stage much more quickly. And surely there will be a dramatist or many who find the gold in the madness of Rudy Giuliani. Rudy Giuliani will continue to be interviewed on television, and he will continue to create more problems for the president by saying things like, Donald Trump was pursuing a deal to build a Trump Tower in Moscow all the way through the end of the presidential election campaign.
That statement was even more incriminating of Donald Trump than Michael Cohen`s previous statement that he and Donald Trump were pursuing a deal in Moscow up to June of the campaign year. That was incriminating enough.
President Trump has the most inadequate team of presidential defense lawyers in history. They are mostly inexperienced and there`s only a few of them. Just a small handful. And when they started, they thought their job was defending the president in one investigation. Now, there are 17 investigations.
We`re going to need a bigger boat. We`re going to need a bigger boat for all the lawyers Donald Trump really needs to defend him in these investigations. He needs a minimum of 17 lawyers. That`s just minimum.
And when the congressional investigations start next year, when the Democrats take over the House of Representatives, Donald Trump is going to need a lot more lawyers, a lot more. House Republicans had their final day of fun with former FBI Director James Comey today in a closed door hearing that clearly infuriated James Comey who spoke to reporters as soon as it was over.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: What impact does it have when the president calls Michael Cohen a rat, someone cooperating with the investigation, there`s a question how his office was raided by the FBI?
JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: It undermines the rule of law. This is a president of the United States calling a witness who`s cooperating with his own Justice Department a rat. Say that to yourself at home and remind yourself where we have ended up.
This is not about Republicans and Democrats. This is about what does it mean to be an American? What are the things that we care about above our policy disputes, which are important? As a set of values that represent the glue of this country and they are under attack by things just like that.
We have to stop being numb to it. Whether you`re Republican or Democrat, you need to stand on your feet, overcome your shame and say something.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Leading off our discussion now, Joyce Vance, former federal prosecutor, Mimi Rocah, former federal prosecutor, and Jennifer Rubin, an opinion writer at "The Washington Post". They are all MSNBC contributors.
And, Joyce Vance, I want to get your reaction to what James Comey had to say today.
JOYCE VANCE, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: I think Comey hits the nail on the head, and it`s surprising to us who had the opportunity to work with him when he was inside the Justice Department to see him so upset. He`s someone obviously measured in his tone. He`s obviously incensed by way he sees the diminishment of the rule of law in this regard.
One of the things that`s always made this country work, something that works inside of DOJ is that people who might disagree about politics agree upon principles and one of those principles is the rule of law. Now, we have the president undermining the rule of law from the White House. And it doesn`t matter what political party you identify with, we should all be outraged by that.
O`DONNELL: Jennifer Rubin, I`m beginning to wonder if the Trump use of Giuliani strategy is to suggest to the world that Donald Trump is not the craziest person in Washington, that there`s another one. And doesn`t Donald Trump look sane by comparison to Rudy Giuliani?
JENNIFER RUBIN, OPINION WRITER, THE WASHINGTON POST: And smart, too. Right. It is a mystery to me why he goes out there and as you say says more incriminating things, and admits, well, he didn`t, maybe he did, well if he did, it wasn`t a crime. He`s done that multiple times now.
So, I don`t know what purpose he`s serving other than perhaps entertaining on Donald Trump. He certainly isn`t representing him in any context. But the wonderful thing about it is we`ve reached that stage where what Rudy Giuliani says doesn`t matter at all.
It matters what the facts are, it matters what it law is. It matters what the Southern District of New York and what the state investigators in New York and their investigation and what Robert Mueller and his team have. It`s the law, the facts, the judges and Rudy Giuliani just doesn`t matter.
O`DONNELL: Yes. And, Mimi, it`s really striking you could say legitimately that about a presidential lawyer. Giuliani`s function now it strikes me as purely entertainment. It`s purely just to supply little things for media to use in these kinds of scripts and for others to use.
What he says has nothing to do with had president`s case, has nothing to do with what`s going to happen next. Everyone knows that a Giuliani interview is just an utterly ridiculous exercise, and yet we will I`m sure continue to have them. I`ve just never seen a lawyer used this way or perform this way in any situation.
MIMI ROCAH, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, he hasn`t been acting like a lawyer. He`s been acting really like a PR person.
O`DONNELL: And the worst PR person ever.
ROCAH: Now, although to be fair, I think what we all were acknowledging to some extent before the facts really started to come out to Jennifer`s point, the Giuliani-Trump strategy of trying to smear Mueller and calling it a witch hunt were having some impact. None of us agreed with it or bought it, but it seemed to have some impact. It with worked until the facts started to come out. Now they`re coming out.
And I don`t think we`re seeing even the tip of the iceberg or whatever metaphor you want to use. And you can`t fight facts and evidence with that kind of spin and PR strategy. For example, yesterday, Giuliani said Flynn was a perjury trap. He was still saying that yesterday. Even by the brief he knew that wasn`t true.
Now, we have the 302. If that was a perjury trap, it was the worst trap I`ve ever seen laid because they were giving him every opportunity to tell the truth and he just wouldn`t do it. So, you know, again, what he says has no basis on fact.
O`DONNELL: Yes. And, Joyce, 302, of course, are the FBI interview reports of Michael Flynn that became public today in which we see exactly how the interviews went and the sequence and how many chances Michael Flynn was given to correct the record.
What was your recording of those FBI reports that were released today?
VANCE: So, of course, we don`t know for certain why Judge Sullivan ordered the FBI, ordered the Justice Department to take the unusual step of releasing these 302s, they`re heavily redacted. But even with that releasing 302s is very unusual.
There are reports of interviews that FBI agents make near to the time they undertake that interview. And once you read this 302, it`s just abundantly clear that Flynn was appropriately charged with lying to the government. They, as Mimi says, give him every opportunity to tell the truth and he simply resists at every turn, lying perhaps when the truth would have served him better. The 302s are just a stunning confirmation of the reason why Flynn had to plead guilty in this case. He`s guilty.
O`DONNELL: Yes, and, Jennifer, this is something Flynn has brought on through this sentencing process. We weren`t necessarily going to see these if Flynn wasn`t trying to suggest through his lawyers he was somehow taken advantage of, wasn`t phrasing it anything like Donald Trump with the crazy perjury trap language, but he did seem to be trying to get some kind of sympathy from the judge about being somehow taken advantage of by FBI agents.
RUBIN: He does, and he did and it`s absurd on its face. He was a general in the United States military. And if anybody understands that when FBI agents come to your office and interview you, you better tell the truth, it would be an ex-general I would think.
Moreover, it was clear from the interview they were asking specific questions. This was not just, hey, have a beer, let`s talk about the family, how are the kids? This is straightforward interview. They go back again and again asking him his contacts. At one point, the agents even say, didn`t you have some conversation about the U.N.? And Flynn without missing a beat says oh, good reminder, because he`s been caught in one lie.
But he lies again, he says, well, we didn`t really tell them not to do anything, we didn`t tell them anything about sanctions, which again was a lie on top of a lie. So, he has brought this on himself just like he has brought himself immense shame by representing the government of Turkey while he is advising a presidential candidate in the transition and has been named to be the national security advisor while he is representing the government of Turkey.
That is absurd. And we`ve never seen behavior like this really in my lifetime, perhaps in the lifetime of the country, and not with a military person. You know, politicians, perhaps I hold to a lower standard, but military men representing in secret a foreign government?
O`DONNELL: And some of the his associates now indicted in that representation of Turkey.
ROCAH: Yes, and look, Flynn could have been indicted in that. That is clear.
O`DONNELL: And new indictments today.
ROCAH: Yes. And I think now when we look at Flynn`s cooperation before everyone said Mueller is recommending jail time, he must be providing very valuable information. And that was true. I think now, that is tenfold true, because this is very serious indictment --
O`DONNELL: And Flynn is clearly an informer on this indictment and his associates.
ROCAH: He`s clearly cooperating, but I don`t think he would be getting all this credit just for cooperating against his associates which really are somewhat lower on the totem pole. So the question is still out there and now I think it`s who and what has he given information on?
I think it`s bigger than him. It`s bigger than this. And I think the question still remains on why he lied about that phone call or those conversations with Kislyak? Because he had to know he was recorded. And so, my sense is, as reading the 302, is that he didn`t want to say yes because then he would have then had to explain more about why he had those conversations with Kislyak. So, there were more conversations going on behind the scenes that he didn`t want to be have to be asked about.
O`DONNELL: Yes, and, Joyce, this is so stunning to read this because you see the FBI agents reminding him, saying, well, what about this, they clearly know -- he can tell in the conversation that they know the truthful answers to the questions that he`s not answering truthfully.
VANCE: You know, as the interview went on longer and longer, it has to have become clear to him at some point that they knew everything that he had been lying to them about. There`s one interesting detail in the 302 that`s released, and we learn that Flynn was actually on a trip to the Dominican Republic with his wife when he had this phone conversation with Kislyak. Perhaps, he was on a scrambled channel, but for whatever reason, he believed that his conversation with the Russian ambassador was not monitored. Unfortunately for him, that wasn`t the case.
O`DONNELL: Yes. Joyce Vance, Mimi Rocah, Jennifer Rubin, thank you all for joining us tonight.
And when we come back, how Russia helped Donald Trump suppress the vote in 2016. How Russia helped Donald Trump win the Electoral College.
And later, what could be a disturbing trend for President Trump that began in the United States Senate today.
O`DONNELL: Donald Trump is both the president of the United States and the leader of the party that believes it cannot survive without voter suppression.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They didn`t come out to vote for Hillary. They didn`t come out, and that was the big -- so thank you to the African-American community.
And the African-American community was great to us. They came through bigly. Bigly. And frankly, if they had any doubt, they didn`t vote. And that was almost as good.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: The bipartisan members of the Senate Intelligence Committee have released two reports today showing that Russia`s attack on our presidential election included an attack on African-American voters trying to suppress their vote. According to one of the reports in the days leading up to the election, Russia`s Internet Research Agency began to deploy voter suppression tactics on the black community targeted accounts. The suppression narratives were targeted almost exclusively at the black community on Instagram and Facebook.
Here`s Sherrilyn Ifill, head of the NAACP`s legal defense fund with Chris Hayes earlier tonight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHERRILYN IFILL, PRESIDENT & DIRECTOR-COUNSEL, NAACP LEGAL DEFENSE FUND: Well, African-Americans have to deal with the challenge of voter suppression that is -- you know, that comes at us from state and local governments and since the Trump election even from the federal government. Now what we`re learning is we have to face voter suppression efforts by foreign governments.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining our discussion now, Richard Stengel, former undersecretary of state on the Obama administration, and Jason Johnson, politics editor at TheRoot.com. Both are MSNBC contributors.
And, Jason, your reaction to these two reports and the targeting of black voters.
JASON JOHNSON, POLITICS EDITOR, THEROOT.COM: I`m not surprised, Lawrence. I mean, this has been going on for a while. You have prominent members of black twitter who have said for years you have these sort of hostile bots going after active feminists, going after members of the community and sort of just sowing discord. But I think it`s important to remember, that as much as Russia may have tried to exploit existing racial divisions in the country, there were existing racial divisions.
Hillary Clinton had her own problems with black people. The Russians did not make her say super predators. The Russians did not make Bernie Sanders say all lives matter at Net Root Nations in 2015.
So I think as problematic as foreign intervention is, it is a reflection of pre-existing problems and Democrats need to be aware heading into 2020, to not let this happen again.
O`DONNELL: Let`s take a look at one of the memes the Russians put out there in social media. It`s about voter discouragement, it`s about trying to grab onto those elements, attach points Jason was just mentioning and in any way they possibly can, discouraging the black vote from turning out.
Rick Stengel, when you were under secretary of state, one of your jobs was to monitor social media around the world for terrorism, trying to counterterrorism influences on social media. But did you reach over into what the Russians were doing?
RICHARD STENGEL, FORMER UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE UNDER OBAMA ADMINISTRATION: Yes, we started the first counter Russian disinformation unit at the State Department based on what we saw the Russians doing around the annexation of Crimea, going on --
O`DONNELL: So, well before the presidential election?
STENGEL: 2014, the spring of 2014 we saw that. We saw kind a tsunami of Russian disinformation and propaganda about what they were doing in Crimea, in Ukraine, that they were uniting it, it was part of Russia. So we saw that on social media.
I argue in my book that this is template to what they did in 2016. It was much more successful than they thought it was going to be and much easier than they thought it to be.
So, the Internet Research Agency which has been mentioned, 55 Savushkina Street in St. Petersburg, that`s where it is. It`s a troll factory. And hundreds of people go in every day, creating content, using bots, using persona. That`s what they did to try to suppress the black vote in the election.
O`DONNELL: Yes. And, again, it looks like a scattershot approach, but that`s the way social media work. You just fire it out there in every conceivable venue that you possibly can.
JOHNSON: Right. And there`s a long history of this. They`ve been writing about this for years. This goes back to the 1960s.
The Russians have always seen America`s sort of multicultural population as one of the weak points they could attack us on. They used to approach black activists in the 1960s saying this country will never love you, give us information. Like this is not new. Social media is just a modern version of it.
What I question is this, though, I don`t know this method was necessarily going to be successful if you didn`t have the candidates on the table that you had. I don`t know that this would work against a Beto O`Rourke. I don`t know that this will work against a Joe Biden in 2020.
There are lots of different reasons people didn`t choose to vote. I don`t think this memes were as much a driving force as the people that were running for office.
O`DONNELL: Yes. And, Rick Stengel, the -- when you look at what they were doing, David Axelrod, who ran two successful presidential campaigns for Barack Obama said today the Trump margin in the Electoral College was so tiny, the way he picked up these small clusters of votes in a couple of states that this is the kind of thing that could have turned that.
STENGEL: Yes. It`s impossible to know. I mean, the thing about the Russians is they`re not very creative. They don`t create content out of nothing. What they do is they increase sentiment.
So what they were trying to do in those places, in those industrial states, increase sentiment for Trump voters to come out and decrease sentiment for Hillary voters to come out. We`re not very good at measuring how the Internet changes peoples mind. But we are pretty good at knowing about whether they increase enthusiasm or decrease it.
O`DONNELL: Yes. And, Jason, we saw the graph showing that black voter turnout decreased in 2016, the first time it`s decreased since 1996.
JOHNSON: Yes. If I were to put down a list, Lawrence, I would say first it was the Voting Rights Act, the suppression you had in Wisconsin, Michigan, North Carolina. I think a key thing of what the Russians were successfully doing is it ratcheted up white racial anxiety, because the same way they were promoting memes in the black community and saying hey, don`t vote for these people, they were pushing out these same extreme memes in the white company saying black people were going to attack, black people were going to take over.
So I think there`s a sort of synchronicity, there`s an organic way that these sort of things work together. I think the lack of black turnout vote could primarily be pushed primarily to voter suppression. But, again, I really do wonder going forward, depending on what happens in this country, how effective this is.
But I wouldn`t doubt that the Russians would simply change to another population, the LGBT community, the Latino community. Racism is always going to be in play in American politics. They`ll find some other crease in our community to exploit.
STENGEL: In fact, they have -- I mean, if you look at the report today, what they are always trying to do is sow dissent. Always trying to make the American people feel like the government is not legitimate.
So, not only did they target black voters and report today, they targeted LGBT voters. They target other people who might be unsympathetic towards the status quo. It`s not like they`re sympathetic with African-Americans or anything like that. They`re trying to sow dissent.
O`DONNELL: But, Jason, the Republicans most importantly did everything they possibly could to suppress the black vote, everywhere they could possibly influence that in any way including reducing polling places, all sorts of things they could do. And then the Russians come in and try to make that vote a bit more reluctant. So if it`s become extremely difficult for you to vote and now you have this Russia social media saying oh, voting`s not that important, those two things together can factor in.
JOHNSON: Yes. And also, I think we can`t forget also the illegal things Russia was doing, of taking people`s IDs and starting fake organizations amongst black people to discourage black people from voting. I saw those kind of memes among my own students, information that wasn`t true about Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.
And the problem I really am concerned about is when this is connected in the future, they are going to get more sophisticated. They`re going to have people assist them. And when they start putting out false information, if we`re not vigilant, if Facebook isn`t vigilant, if Twitter isn`t vigilant, this is information that moves faster than you can stop it. And that`s what concerns me about black voters. That`s what concerns me about anybody, because we`ve already seen voter suppression isn`t going to stop and we know that the Russians aren`t going to stop by 2020.
O`DONNELL: Rick Stengel and Jason Johnson, thank you both for joining us on this subject.
And we`re going to have much more still ahead, including what Trump now has to fear from some Republican senators.
But first, we have some great news about your generosity this weekend. Since you heard her tell you on Friday night how important the KIND Fund Scholarship has been to her education now she`s a freshman at Chancellor College in Malawi, you have contributed another $182,758. That brings the total we have raised for the KIND Fund in the eight years since this program began to just over $19 million.
And as most of you know, that money is used to build desks at factories in Malawi and deliver those desks to schools that don`t have any desks. And also, to provide scholarships for girls to attend high school.
We have a very long way to go to deliver desks to every school in Malawi and to be able to fund every student who needs scholarship to attend high school. So, your continued generosity remains hugely important.
Yesterday, Jane Edith Wilson tweeted this. Bake sale for the KIND Fund under way in Larchmont Village, fourth year my son has organized out here with his best friend, lots of treats. Thanks again, Lawrence, for inspiring the kids, Los Angeles, MSNBC.
Hey, Jane, I was on the other side of town yesterday. If I had known about this, I would have been there. So let me know next year. You can donate to the KIND Fund in any amount. And you can make the contribution to anyone on your holiday gift list and UNICEF will send them and acknowledgement of your gift. You can donate at lastworddesk.MSNBC.com. I thank you and the students thank you.
O`DONNELL: Tomorrow, members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus will travel to the southern border to investigate the circumstances of the death of 7-year-old Jakelin Amei Rosmery Caal Maquin who died in custody of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection. "BuzzFeed" reports that the Department of Homeland Security is refusing to allow the members of Congress to question the border agents involved in that case.
Cal Perry has been reporting for us from the border where he found children and their parents marked with numbers on their arms while they wait to be processed. And joining us now is NBC News` Correspondent Cal Perry with his exclusive reporting from both sides of the border. And Cal, there`s report tonight members of Congress at the southern border tonight trying to deal with people who are seeking asylum.
CAL PERRY, CORRESPONDENT, NBC NEWS: This is the crossing near San Diego, south of San Diego. We`re talking about Otay Mesa, California. There`s a bit of a standoff happening right now in Southern California. Two members of Congress passed into Mexico to bring 15 Honduran migrants back across the border. They crossed into the U.S., they were stopped by Customs and Border Protection.
Customs and Border Protection said, "We are full. We do not have the capacity to process these migrants through." They are now in a 10 by 10 area being held. The members of Congress along with the immigration attorneys are waving wildly towards Mexican authorities to try to get them to cross.
We have the video. We were able to speak to the immigration attorney and there it is. These individuals are in America. By law, they should be able to apply for asylum. They are not being able to do so. We are seeing this across the country. We`ve seen it in the past few months specifically in the El Paso area.
While this is new in San Diego, we`ve been seeing this in El Paso. And what we`re seeing El Paso are people being stopped on the Mexican side of the border, not allowed to cross into the U.S., being held in migrant shelters in Juarez which is a very dangerous city. And what we`re noticing is that it`s having a negative impact on children especially.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PERRY: In a non-discrete building in downtown El Paso, Ruben Garcia is welcoming yet another busload of migrants, just processed and released from ICE custody.
RUBEN GARCIA, DIRECTOR, ANNUNCIATION HOUSE: You are free now. You are not with immigration anymore. OK.
PERRY: He`s the director of Annunciation House, a group of volunteers providing shelter and food for thousands of migrants a week. Garcia is always asking for more support.
GARCIA: The phenomena of migration, the refugees coming in is not an El Paso problem. It is a problem of the United States.
PERRY: Those who made it this far are lucky.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hello? Hello, mom. It`s Luis calling. Hello? We did it. I am out of danger now. I am out of danger. They brought me to a really nice place. I am here with my son.
PERRY: On this day, Garcia explains a process that he calls metering, a controversial way of controlling the number of allowed to claim asylum each day.
GARCIA: CBP has started stationing officers right at the international line at the top of the bridges and asking for I.D. If you`re a refugee, they`re pushing you back into Mexico.
PERRY: To learn more, we travel from El Paso to Casa Del Migrante in Juarez, Mexico. It`s a 30-minute drive but for migrants seeking asylum, it`s still a world away. Hey. How are you?
DYLAN CORBETT, HOPE BORDER INSTITUTE: Good. How are you doing?
PERRY: It`s good to see you. Dylan Corbett from the Hope Border Institute works closely with Father Javier Calvillo. They care for some 250 migrants at a time in the center.
FATHER JAVIER CALVILLO, CASA DEL MIGRANTE (through translator): This is a place where we see migrants from all countries and nationalities, that it`s a place where the immigrants are expected.
PERRY: Numbers are marked by Mexican volunteers ensuring a place in line, the desire to breathe free in America is real. But parents` sacrifices come at a price.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I don`t want to separate from my son.
PERRY: Is that his biggest fear?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Yes, it is.
PERRY: In this center, are people talking about this with their kids? What are they telling their kids?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): That`s what folks are talking about right now. They worry they`re going to be separated from their child. But she -- they said they really don`t know what`s going to happen.
PERRY: For some, this is about the fabric of America.
BETO O`ROURKE: This is a defining American issue. Two hundred and forty- two years and counting, we are the strongest and most successful country on the face of the planet precisely because we are a country of asylum seekers and refugees and immigrants. We lose that at our peril.
PERRY: Texas Congressman Beto O`Rourke isn`t the only one on a collision course with the current administration.
CORBETT: People have to understand that asking for asylum is legal. These are not criminals. These people are not dangerous to our community. These are the most vulnerable. And so the American thing to do, consistent with our values, consistent with our ideals as a country is to welcome them.
PERRY: After months on the road with the American dream in sight, these migrants who know the uncertainty ahead are allowing hope to prevail over fear.
CORBETT: These are folks who have hope. These are folks who have dreams. And that`s why they`re here because they think that they have a better shot at -- they have a shot at a better life and they`re not going to give up on their hopes and dreams and we`re not either.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PERRY: President Trump has told those people to go to ports of entry. We spoke to Customs Border Protection. They gave us this statement late last night. It reads in part, port of entry facilities were not designed to hold hundreds of people at a time who may be seeking asylum. We`re going to flip the next one guys. DHS is utilizing our limited resources as efficiently and effectively as possible in the midst of the current surge. They add, the reality is unless Congress responds to our repeated requests for resources, we will continue to experience capacity changes.
So if you are Jakelin Caal and her father, you have a choice. Do we go through the desert which could be dangerous? Do we sit in Juarez which we may never get out of this migrant center which is also dangerous? Or do we go through Southern California where we will inevitably now end up in a standoff between U.S. authorities and Mexican authorities?
And speaking to Julia Ainsley who`s downstairs working this story and help break it, we can`t help think that this is what President Trump wants. These pictures around the world as a deterrent, and he`s using cruelty as his message.
O`DONNELL: Well, everything we saw in your report is a result of Trump policy.
PERRY: That`s right. And this is going to be the next chapter. We went through child separation. The next chapter is we don`t have resources, give us more resources or these folks can`t go anywhere.
O`DONNELL: Cal Perry, thank you very much for your invaluable reporting from the border. Really appreciate it.
When we come back, what Donald Trump might now have to fear from some Republican Senators. That`s next.
O`DONNELL: Here`s more of what former FBI Director James Comey had to say today after he testified to a closed-door hearing organized by House Republicans.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: Republicans used to understand that the actions of a president matter, the words of a president matter, the rule of law matters, and the truth matters. Where are those Republicans today? At some point, someone has to stand up in the face of fear of "Fox News", fear of their base, fear of mean tweets, stand up for the values of this country and not slink away into retirement. But stand up and speak the truth.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: And so the question now is, will Lamar Alexander slink away into retirement or stand up and speak the truth? Senator Alexander announced today he will not seek re-election to his Senate seat in Tennessee. We will likely see a rerun in the Senate of what happened to the House of Representatives, a series of incumbent Republicans announcing they are not running for re-election.
Might that mean that there will be a stronger voice of opposition to Donald Trump in the Republican Senate than Jeff Flake and Bob Corker have been this year after announcing that they would not run for re-election? New polling shows Americans agree with James Comey that Donald Trump is not telling the truth.
"The Washington Post" fact checked or polled Americans on 11 prominent false statements by Donald Trump and found that on average, fewer than 3 in 10 Americans and fewer than 4 in 10 Republicans actually believed those Trump false statements. The poll found 71 percent of Americans say Donald Trump regularly makes misleading claims.
After a break, Jason Johnson and Jennifer Rubin will join us to consider the new political landscape in Congress including what will probably be a large number of retiring Republican Senators and what that might mean to Trump control of the United States Senate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COMEY: People who know better including Republican members of this body have to have the courage to stand up and speak the truth. Not be towed by mean tweets or fear of their base. There is a truth and they`re not telling it. Their silence is shameful.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Back with us, Jennifer Rubin and Jason Johnson.
And Jennifer, I am fascinated by the first announced Republican retirement. There`s 22 Republican seats up. So many more than Democrats. So we`re going to have more Republicans announcing that they`re not going to run for re-election. Each one of those Republicans is a potential danger to Donald Trump if they are no longer worried about appealing to Trump voters, themselves.
JENNIFER RUBIN, OPINION WRITER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Although the Republicans didn`t make progress in the Senate, in some ways I think the -- rather the Democrats didn`t make progress, in some ways I think the Democrats are much better positioned this time --
O`DONNELL: Oh, yes.
RUBIN: -- to push back. For one thing, one of those Republicans is Mitt Romney. We don`t know how he`s going to behave. We`ve been disappointed many times before, but he could decide, "Hey. What do I have got to lose? I`m here. This is the capstone of my career. I could be independent. I could stand up to this guy." I could absolutely see him playing that role.
You know people like Lamar Alexander who was always a moderate, who was always a dealmaker, he got a renewal of no child left behind through the Senate, for example. He`s always been someone who Democrats liked and kind of a gentleman in the same way that Bob Corker was so you could see him. And then you have a handful of Republicans who are in purple or blue states, a Corey Gardner from Colorado who`s going to be in a lot of trouble.
So I think you have a nucleus of five or six senators there on the Republican side who Donald Trump is not necessarily going to be able to count on. And that`s going to play a huge role in the confirmation of appointees as these people go out the door, and have to resign in disgrace. It`s going to mean legislation. It`s going to mean in some instances Republicans cooperating with investigations, whereas they did not do so in the past.
So I think as we watch Donald Trump`s bubble burst, and as he careens out of control, becomes more and more hysterical, his poll numbers go down, the country is drifting, they`re not getting their agenda through, I think you could see a mini-revolt. I don`t suppose that they`re going to do anything extraordinary, but little steps lead to bigger steps. And bigger steps lead to who knows what.
O`DONNELL: That is true. And Jason Johnson, I think people often forget that the Senate Intelligence Committee is functioning as a bipartisan committee.
JASON JOHNSON, POLITICS EDITOR, THEROOT.COM: Right.
O`DONNELL: And with Republican support on that committee, they released these two very important reports today about Russian interference in the vote and how they targeted various voters in trying to discourage those voters. And so you have a nucleus there on the Senate Intelligence Committee that could spread as the evidence against the Trump administration mounts through Democratic-run congressional hearings in the House.
JOHNSON: Right. Lawrence, the Senate has always been a very interesting role when it comes to the 2016 election. On the one hand, they won`t protect Robert Mueller, right? They could pass a bill and make sure that Trump can`t get rid of him. But on the other hand, they`ve been slowly but surely continuing the investigation into election interference in a way that the House has not. And I think as that evidence becomes more apparent and also as people begin to realize, Trump can`t save you. Trump won`t save you.
O`DONNELL: Yes, correct.
JOHNSON: Right? And every man and woman is going to have to be for themselves. Not just Corey Gardner in Colorado but Susan Collins is going to be in trouble. These senators are looking at what happened in 2018. They`re looking at having had to defend Kavanaugh. They`re looking at what could be a cratering economy. They`re looking at scandal after scandal and they`re realizing that support for this president is not going to be beneficial.
I agree with Comey. I wish more of these senators would stay and actually stand up for democracy instead of taking their ball and going home. But as they leave, it makes it harder for existing Republicans to pretend that the Washington, D.C. isn`t burning around this incompetent president.
O`DONNELL: And let`s not overlook, Jennifer, this Republican Senate rebuke joined by Democrats of the Trump policy of basically cover-up on Saudi Arabia in the killing of Khashoggi.
RUBIN: Absolutely. There were two steps actually. One was to directly blame Mohammed bin Salman in contradiction of the president, directly finger him after this embarrassingly non-credible briefings that they received from Mike Pompeo and from Jim Mattis.
And the other was to actually take back power from the White House, to actually act within the context of the war powers and say we will not consent to the use of our forces in Yemen where a genocidal situation is building. It was extraordinary. That was a real rebuke. Maybe the first actual legislative rebuke this president has received from Republicans.
O`DONNELL: Yes. And so Jason, the question is, just how good did that feel? To those Republican senators. Hey, did that feel good? Because there`s more if you want to.
JOHNSON: Yes. I mean I hope they recognize, like, wait, we have a job here. Like, you know, you can go back and you can actually rebuke this president. But I think the other thing is this, Lawrence, you know, for so long, you had all these battles between Obama and the Senate, and who`s got more power and control.
The Senate recognizes that they are an actual equal branch of our government. And they have an opportunity to set precedent and set policy and they don`t have to go down the drain with the president of the United States. And I think increasingly, people are also recognizing that look, with 17 investigations as you mentioned, these investigations are eventually going to land in their laps and the American people are going to demand accountability from the Senate in an oversight perspective.
So I expect to see more of this going forward. I am not sure if I think that the president is going to get primaried yet but I do believe this. If his numbers, by the fall of 2019, are hovering regularly below 40 percent, I think a Bob Corker, I think a Lamar Alexander, I think not necessarily a Mitt Romney, but he will encourage people behind the scenes, we may see this president get primaried and the most likely location for the person who`s going to do that is going to be from the U.S. Senate.
O`DONNELL: And Jennifer, Bob Corker said today he thinks -- I`m quoting him. He says, "I think it`s important to remind people that we`re going through an anomaly right now as it relates to much of the standard Republican focus." And he`s saying he is hoping that there will be a Republican primary against Donald Trump.
RUBIN: In our own weak little way, Susan Collins also said she wouldn`t be opposed to primary --
O`DONNELL: Here we are.
RUBIN: -- candidates. That`s as bold as you`re going to get from Susan Collins.
O`DONNELL: There`s the crack in the wall. The primary is developing. Jennifer Rubin, Jason Johnson, thank you both for joining us. We`ll be right back with tonight`s last word.