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Giuliani muddles story. TRANSCRIPT: 1/21/2019, The Last Word w. Lawrence O'Donnell.

Guests: Glenn Kirchner, Francesca Chambers, Jonathan Capehart, Jerry Zremski, Kurt Andersen

Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL Date: January 21, 2019 Guest: Glenn Kirchner, Francesca Chambers, Jonathan Capehart, Jerry Zremski, Kurt Andersen

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

And Wednesday night at 10:00 p.m., I`m going to have the very first cable news highlights of the Rachel Maddow interview with Senator Harris when she appears on your show.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Yes, no pressure, right?

O`DONNELL: Yes. By the way, I have nothing prepared that night. I`m going to be sitting there. I`m going to be waiting to just harvest all the gold so you got to create a whole show for me there.

MADDOW: Well, I`ll focus on that intently while I lay awake staring at the ceiling for the next two nights. Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: All right. Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW: Thanks.

O`DONNELL: Well, one of the central mysteries of Donald Trump`s political life has been why was he the most pro-Russia presidential candidate in history? And why is he now the most pro-Russia president of the United States in history?

And one explanation, there might be more, one explanation that has emerged is that Donald Trump wanted to build a Trump Tower in Moscow. And the more we know about the Moscow Trump Tower, the more it explains or seems to explain about Donald Trump`s public attitude toward Vladimir Putin and Russia, and it might to the be the only explainer of Donald Trump`s views on Vladimir Putin and Russia. There could be other reasons why President Trump is willing to express more confidence in Vladimir Putin`s denial that Russia attacked our democracy than the CIA`s insistence that Russia did, indeed, attack our democracy and tried to turn the presidential election in favor of Donald Trump.

During the campaign, Donald Trump said that he could go out onto 5th Avenue and shoot someone and his voters would still support him, but apparently, the one thing Donald Trump was really afraid of his voters finding out is that he was still trying to negotiate a deal to build a Trump Tower in Moscow during the presidential campaign. Candidate Trump clearly did not believe that his voters would stick with him if they found out that he was trying to do business in Russia during the campaign.

And so, during the campaign, candidate Trump said this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I mean, I have nothing to do with Russia. I don`t have any jobs in Russia. I`m all over the world, but we`re not involved in Russia.

I have no relationship to Russia whatsoever. I don`t deal there. I have no businesses there. I have nothing to do with Russia, folks. OK?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Special prosecutor Robert Mueller seems to maybe have some doubts about that. Seems to think the truth is probably something different from what Donald Trump said during the campaign. And so, according to "The New York Times," one of the questions that the special prosecutor asked President Trump to answer in writing is, what communication did you have with Michael D. Cohen, Felix Sater, and others, including foreign nationals about Russian real estate developments during the campaign? Key phrase, "during the campaign."

And the answer is, a lot. According to President Trump`s TV lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, and that is a new public answer for Rudy Giuliani and Donald Trump. And it is an answer that actually does confirm part of what "BuzzFeed" reported last week about Donald Trump`s personal attorney, Michael Cohen, about what he will say when he testifies next month in a congressional hearing.

"BuzzFeed" reported that Michael Cohen will testify that he was actively engaged in discussions with Russians about a Trump Tower project through much of the presidential campaign. And yesterday, Rudy Giuliani not only confirmed that aspect of the "BuzzFeed" story, but he took it a step further and included the possibility of discussions of a Trump Tower in Moscow right up until the returns were coming in on election night and that those discussions at any moment could have involved Donald Trump, himself. Rudy Giuliani, of course, has no doubt read the answer that president Trump`s lawyers wrote in response to Robert Mueller`s question about this, and so it is very likely that Rudy Giuliani`s answer is a preview to what we will see, if we ever get to read President Trump`s written answer.

And Rudy Giuliani`s tour of the Sunday morning shows, he was, of course, asked about the most damning part of last week`s "BuzzFeed" report, which says that Michael Cohen will testify that Donald Trump urged him to lie under oath in his first round of testimony with Congress.

Now, special prosecutor`s office on Friday issued a statement saying that at least part of the "BuzzFeed" article is not accurate.

Here is what Rudy Giuliani said on Sunday when he was asked if the president spoke to Michael Cohen before Michael Cohen testified to Congress.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP`S ATTORNEY: As far as I know, President Trump did not have discussions with him, certainly had no discussions with him in which he told him or counseled him to lie. If he had any discussions with him, they`d be about the version of the events that Michael Cohen gave them which they all believe was true. I believed it was true. I still believe it may be true because unlike these people who want to just believe him, I believe Michael Cohen is a serial liar.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You --

GIULIANI: They have a hatred for the president.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But you just acknowledged that it`s possible that President Trump talked to Michael Cohen about his testimony.

GIULIANI: Which would be perfectly normal.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But you just acknowledged that President Trump might have talked to him about his testimony.

GIULIANI: And so what if he talked to him?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, it`s not --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: So what? Perfectly normal. Those two words. That was Rudy Giuliani`s job yesterday, perfectly normal, to try to convince America that it is perfectly normal for a president under investigation to talk to witnesses in that investigation before they testify under oath in that investigation.

And, of course, there is nothing perfectly normal about that, just as there is nothing perfectly normal about the presidency of Donald Trump.

Leading off our discussion now, John Heilemann, national affairs analyst for NBC News and MSNBC. He`s co-host and executive producer of Showtime`s "The Circus." Also with us, Glenn Kirchner, former federal prosecutor and an MSNBC legal analyst.

And, John, it does seem if you stare at the Rudy Giuliani performances long enough, if you rewind tape and if you try to think it through, you can sometimes find, not only sometimes, what that was all about, like, what the mission was. And it seems to me the more I stared at it, yesterday`s mission was perfectly normal.

Normalize the idea that Donald Trump was talking to Michael Cohen and others, possibly, during the presidential campaign, throughout the presidential campaign, about trying to build a Trump Tower in Moscow.

JOHN HEILEMANN, MSNBC NATIONAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Yes. I think, Lawrence, the key element here is that you have to do it in phases because if you listen to Rudy for long enough, your brain is reduced to mush.

O`DONNELL: Yes, true.

HEILEMANN: And you reconstitute your brain into a functioning organ and then you apply it and you can make sense of what he`s trying to do. I mean, I think on first pass, your reaction to it is that the back and forth between "BuzzFeed" and the special counsel`s office late last week was an unequivocal win for the president in a sense that it allowed him to make his argument about fake news. It put them, kind of let them get up off the mat after a lot of bad days of headlines. It gave him a small, apparent victory, and you thought all Rudy had to do was go out and stick to that script.

But, again, as you point out, once you step back a little bit further from it, what you realize is that in this respect, Rudy is playing a longer game. He knows what is going to come out. Or at least he knows what Donald Trump has told him is going to come out.

He has some rudimentary base of the facts. He knows some facts that we don`t know about what damaging material is going to eventually become public. And so, Rudy is, in fact, try to serve some kind of strategic goal and normalization certainly seems to be that goal in this case however ham- handed and clumsy and occasionally ludicrous he is as he goes about trying to do it.

O`DONNELL: It`s true what you say about watching the Giuliani interviews live, really all I can see for a while are just the rings when he`s holding up his hands to the cameras.

But, Glenn, it`s an interesting strategy what John just described and what it feels like we saw yesterday, and one of the things that`s interesting about it is this could have been treated in the Trump team and in the Giuliani approach to TV this weekend as a kind of triumphant turn of, look, the special prosecutor has said "BuzzFeed`s" wrong, and just stomp on that and leave it at that. But within that, Rudy Giuliani decided, and the team must have decided, actually this is a good time to also throw out there what`s going to eventually emerge, which is Donald Trump has answered in writing that he may have been even engaged in these kinds of talks throughout the entire presidential campaign, talks about developing a Trump Tower in Moscow, that within all the noise about "BuzzFeed" being spanked by the special prosecutor, let`s also throw this thing out there now.

GLENN KIRCHNER, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Yes. Doesn`t make a lot of tactical sense, Lawrence, but, you know, I think what Giuliani is, perhaps, trying to do is what we call draw the sting. Every prosecutor knows that when you stand up and give an opening statement, you want to certainly highlight all the incriminating evidence that makes it seem beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the crime. But even more importantly, you want to draw the sting of any really bad evidence that cuts against your theory of the prosecution.

It looks like maybe Giuliani is trying to draw the sting with what is some pretty blockbuster and really damaging information that we have now come to learn. When the president stands up and we see the highlight reels where he says over and over and over again, I have no business dealings in Russia, no business interests, I don`t plan to build Trump Tower monument to myself in Moscow. Then only to have his own lawyer shoot that down, definitively, as both you and John say, at a moment when they should be celebrating sort of the special counsel shooting down some really damaging information from "BuzzFeed".

So, it`s really tough to figure out the tactical wisdom behind Giuliani`s choices, but, perhaps, it is to try to draw the sting from some really damaging information that would be coming to all of our attention fairly soon.

O`DONNELL: I need a second here. I`m just making the same note that every Hollywood scriptwriter of courtroom drama is doing right now.

HEILEMANN: Draw the sting.

O`DONNELL: Draw the sting. We`re going to hear that in dialogue pretty soon.

And, John Heilemann, the way that Giuliani chooses to do this is one of the other mysteries of Trump world. But when you look at what his job is, which is to go out there and either assert the ridiculous, or withdraw the ridiculous that he`s previously asserted in favor of what he knows is a coming revelation, there`s not a lot of people who`d be willing to do that job.

HEILEMANN: No. I mean, look, you`re basically, you know, with every Trump story, I know we`ve talked about this before, Lawrence, I will say one thing, you and I can draw the sting as if, like, as easily as it is for us to fall out of bed in the morning, right? We`re constantly drawing the sting no matter what we do. I will keep that phrase in my mind for a long time.

Look, every Trump, the trajectory of every Trump lie is, you know, essentially like if Bill Clinton were Donald Trump, it would be the trajectory from, I did not have sex with that woman, Ms. Lewinsky, to yes, I admit I did have sexual relations with that woman, Ms. Lewinsky, to, of course, I had sex with that woman, Ms. Lewinsky, it was great, it was perfectly normal and appropriate and you wish you did, too. That`s Trump, right, on every lie.

So how many people are willing to go out and try to pave that road as outrageous as that behavior is? Because that is what Trump did with Stormy Daniels, that`s what Trump tries to do with everything, and in this case, just like with the payments to Stormy Daniels which we minimize when we talk about them as if they were payments to a porn star, they were perpetrating a fraud on the American electorate, just so in this case, what Donald Trump said was in a much more severe and consequential way, perpetrated an 18-month-long -- from the time he got into the presidential race to election day -- he perpetrated an 18-month-long fraud against the American electorate by lying to them about something that would have had huge political consequences had he told the truth.

And so, now, this attempt to make that seem like it was not just normal, and not just OK, but beyond any possible impugning of the integrity of this, of course, every businessman would do it, and every businessman would talk to Michael Cohen about his testimony before Congress before he went in. That is hard work and work for a very -- for someone with very low standards of ethics and nothing like any -- the way in which any normal lawyer or the kind of lawyer we would ever want to hire would have willingly participated in but that`s Rudy Giuliani`s job.

O`DONNELL: So, after the tour of the Sunday morning shows, Rudy Giuliani then realized the stir that he`d created with these comments and so did some follow-up work with "The New York Times." He then in his interview with "The New York Times" took words right out of Donald Trump`s mouth, quoted them.

Put them in quotation marks for "The New York Times." He said to "the New York Times" that the Trump Tower Moscow discussions were, and this is where the quotation marks appear in the article, going on from the day I announced to the day I won. Mr. Giuliani quoted Mr. Trump as saying during an interview with "The Times."

So, Giuliani quotes Donald Trump as saying the Moscow Trump tower discussion -- deal discussion was, quote, going on from the day I announced to the day I won. And, Glenn, that lasted about 24 hours when later today, Rudy Giuliani put out a statement saying, oh, I didn`t mean that, I didn`t mean to be quoting him saying those words. He never exactly said those words, and so, you know, we`re now back -- Giuliani wants us to forget we ever heard that, forget we ever heard from Donald Trump`s mouth from the day I announced to the day I won.

And so, the method that Giuliani is employing here risks -- apparently risks madness at every moment.

KIRCHNER: Yes, so I did my best, Lawrence, to try to come up with some kind of a theory that was reasonable and rational for why Giuliani was trying to draw the sting, but then as you note, he takes that stinger and reinserts it into his own arm. So, it`s -- it`s -- but here`s the other thing that might be going on, Lawrence.

Listen, the American people love a smoking gun, right? And I think we saw that vividly play out with the "BuzzFeed" reporting because that sure looked like a smoking gun when, you know, it was reported that the president told Cohen to lie to Congress. Smoking gun.

Now, it was a momentary win. I don`t know if it was -- it wasn`t an unqualified win. It was a momentary win for the president. But what does it show us? It shows us that Bob Mueller doesn`t really care what the evidence shows with respect to who it incriminates and who it exonerates.

He stood up and he stomped on that reporting because he has something in his arsenal of evidence that told him that reporting was inaccurate. Now, Bob Mueller knew that would be a momentary win for the president and, of course, the president I`m not going to say took the bait but then you start seeing tweets about from the president how awful this inaccurate "BuzzFeed" reporting was, but what does that tell us?

Inferentially, that tells us the president is holding up Bob Mueller as the teller of truth, right? So that`s going to end up backfiring. But I think the people are dying for a smoking gun. So maybe what Giuliani is doing is he`s sort of loading all this presidential misconduct into the gun and he`s firing it in advance of any impeachment hearings so the smoke dissipates and it won`t be a smoking gun three months or six months from now, it will be old news.

I`m not saying that`s a good tactic, perhaps it is part of his tactical choice, but, again, it`s hard to make sense.

O`DONNELL: It`s as good a theory as anything I got. Glenn Kirchner and John Heilemann, thank you both for starting us off tonight.

When we come back, the longest government shutdown in history, in history, now has Mitch McConnell finally admitting that the solution is in the United States Senate. But what Mitch McConnell wants to do next will not be the solution.

And later, what it means for campaign -- to campaign against President Trump that Senator Kamala Harris is running for president and we will see some of her announcement and some of what the first day of what she hopes will be a campaign against President Trump was like for her.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: On this Martin Luther King Day, which is the 31st day of the record-setting Trump shutdown of parts of the federal government, the president of the United States, as is traditional for presidents, visited the Martin Luther King Memorial in Washington and according to the pool reporter there, the entire visit covered approximately two minutes.

And here is everything the president reportedly said at the Martin Luther King Memorial today in Washington.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Good morning, everybody. Great day. It`s a beautiful day. Thank you for being here. Appreciate it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: That`s it. That`s the whole thing. Not one word about Martin Luther King.

It was another day without pay for the 800,000 government workers who are victims of the Trump shutdown. Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell is now acknowledging that the solution to the shutdown resides in the United States Senate. Something we have been insisting on on this program since the House of Representatives passed bills to re-open the government and sent those bills to the Senate where Mitch McConnell has been ignoring them.

Mitch McConnell has now announced he`s going to take up a new bill this week that has not been considered by any congressional committee, that has not passed the house of representatives, and does not contain -- and does, in fact, contain all of the funding that Donald Trump wants for his border wall. This, of course, violates Mitch McConnell`s own promise made on the Senate floor not to take up any bill that cannot pass the Democratically controlled House of Representatives also. McConnell, himself, has said that that would be a pointless waste of time, but at least Mitch McConnell will appear to be doing something for those people who are convinced that the shutdown belongs to Republicans.

"The Washington Post" reports that Donald Trump is losing support among voters in key states that won him the Electoral College like Michigan. Many here, even those who still support Trump, say they hold him most responsible. They recite his comment from the Oval Office that he would be proud to shut down the government. When he said it, they listened.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I am proud to shut down the government for border security. So I will take the mantle. I will be the one to shut it down. I`m not going to blame you for it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Joining our discussion now, Francesca Chambers, White House correspondent for the dailymail.com and John Heilemann is still with us.

And, Francesca, Mitch McConnell violating his own promise. He said at the outset of the shutdown that he didn`t want to bring any bill to a vote in the Senate that wouldn`t pass the House of Representatives and wouldn`t be signed by the president and so here he is bringing up a bill, promising to try to bring up a bill, in the Senate, that will probably please at least some, or maybe even most, Senate Republicans, but doesn`t look like it has a chance of passage.

FRANCESCA CHAMBERS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, DAILYMAIL.COM: You`re really putting the cart before the horse there, though, Lawrence, because it would have to get past a cloture vote in the Senate, 60 votes, and it`s not very clear how the White House, how Mitch McConnell plans to get to those 60 votes. Republicans hold 53 seats and even with the help of someone like Joe Manchin, they would still need six additional votes and the vice president and Mick Mulvaney and Jared Kushner sat down with reporters immediately after the president`s address on Saturday and that came out and the White House wouldn`t say who the other Democrats that it was speaking to were. And they didn`t seem very optimistic in that conversation about hitting that 60-vote threshold.

O`DONNELL: And, John Heilemann, one thing Mitch McConnell does with this, though, is focus the solution in the United States Senate. I mean, he was sitting there for all of these days now saying that there was absolutely nothing for him to do until some global agreement had been reached with the House, the Senate, and the White House, and now he`s decided, oh, no, no, the Senate can take action.

HEILEMANN: Yes, well, look, Lawrence, I think, obviously, McConnell is starting to feel the heat and his members are starting to feel the heat. That`s who he cares about, right? So it seems like he -- we know with McConnell is a cagy, crafty guy.

It`s clear he`s not going to be able to assemble 60 votes. There`s not been any splintering. The hope was they`d splinter off enough of these moderate Democratic senators that they could get the seven that they needed, Manchin and six more. And they`d be able to be in business. Then at least they`d send it, put pressure on the House.

He`s not going to get that. There`s been total Democratic unity on this question. So, I think it must be his plan, I`m curious if you think this is a smart plan or not, knowing the Senate, that his place has got to be now, he`s got to get all Republicans to vote for it, the Democrats are going be in the way of it and going to try to turn that I guess into a partisan thing to try to focus on it`s Democrats who control the House, and Democrats in the Senate who are standing in the way of any kind of progress.

I don`t think that that`s going to work for him, but it does seem to be what his game is now given that he can`t get the votes that he needs to get to 60.

O`DONNELL: Well, I think that`s what he`s telling the White House, what you just said, John. But a lot of times when a leader is in an absolutely hopeless position like this in the Senate, one of the things you have to do is show your side that your side has a losing hand.

HEILEMANN: Right.

O`DONNELL: You bring your side`s position to a vote. You watch it lose. And then you turn to the people on your side and say, OK, what now?

And, Francesca, that at some point, at some point, can be what the solution to these things so often has been in the past. Mitch McConnell just agreeing to take up a continuing resolution passed by Nancy Pelosi.

CHAMBERS: So in that same briefing that I mentioned before, I also asked Mick Mulvaney about that next step, potentially, if they can`t reach the 60-vote threshold. I asked about a national emergency and whether that`s still something the president is considering and he asserted he still believes the president does have the authority to do that.

Now, the president doesn`t want to do that, he said, because he`d prefer to solve this legislatively. However, they continue to believe that the president has that authority. So that`s something else to keep an eye on after this Senate vote if it does, indeed, fail.

O`DONNELL: Francesca Chambers and John Heilemann, thank you both for joining us tonight. Really appreciate it.

And when we come back, we have two more candidates for president now actively running, both women, both United States senators, and both top- tier candidates. We`ll be back with those campaigns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: Faithful viewers of this program have known for eight years that Kamala Harris was going to run for president. And so we`re not surprised when Senator Harris officially announced her candidacy for the presidency today because when she made her very first appearance on MSNBC, which was on this program, I introduced her as a future presidential candidate.

She was then the district attorney of San Francisco and I had seen Kamala Harris campaigning earlier that year for attorney general of California. And the politician she reminded me of most then was Barack Obama who was, of course, then the president of the United States.

Republican Strategist Karl Rove had the same reaction I did, which is why he helped pour money into a campaign to try to defeat Kamala Harris for attorney general because Karl Rove could see that if Kamala Harris won a statewide office in California, there would be no stopping her rise in national politics.

And he was right. Kamala Harris won the attorney general election and a close one. And a few years later, when California`s Senator Barbara Boxer decided she wasn`t going to run for re-election, as I predicted, Kamala Harris ran for Senate and won. And right on schedule as predicted here eight years ago, Kamala Harris is now running for president.

And she is one of the top-tier candidates in a highly competitive field that does not yet have a clear front-runner among the announced candidates. Senator Harris had her first campaign press conference today in Washington, D.C., at her alma mater, Howard University, and she explained why.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D), CALIFORNIA: Howard University is one of the most important aspects of my life, and it is where I first ran for my first elected office, which was freshman class representative of the Liberal Arts Students Council at Howard University. So this is where it all began.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Senator Harris was asked about President Trump`s withdrawal from Syria. She expressed no disagreement with the policy but said she`s concerned about the process or lack of process the president uses in such impulsive decisions and objected to what she called foreign policy through tweets.

She was asked the usual horse race questions by reporters about her so- called path to victory, and she was asked a question no other candidate is going to get.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPORTER: You`re an African-American woman but you`re also Indian-American and I`m just curious --

HARRIS: Indeed.

REPORTER: What`s the best -- how do you describe yourself?

HARRIS: Did you read my book? How do I describe myself? I describe myself as a proud American. That`s how I describe myself.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Another proud American and top-tier presidential candidate, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, who announced her candidacy last week, spent the weekend in Iowa where she fielded questions from reporters but more importantly, got to take questions from real Iowa voters.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPORTER: I would love to get more about the environment.

SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D), NEW YORK: I`m 100 percent, literally 100 percent. I want to have -- put a price on carbon. I think we should focus on how you can build an infrastructure with green jobs. I think it`s very important to make sure clean water is accessible to every human being in America.

I believe in making sure we take on the causes of global climate change. I believe in global energies. I believe in putting more investment into battery cars, mass transit. Investing in infrastructure as a way to address global climate change, 100 percent. And I have a hundred percent record on my (INAUDIBLE) entire time in public service.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: When we come back, Jonathan Capehart will join us on the launch of these two new presidential campaigns and we`ll be joined by Jerry Zremski who covered Senator Gillibrand`s first visit to Iowa as a presidential candidate this weekend.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GILLIBRAND: Now is our time to reclaim our power. Now is our time to raise our voices. Now is our time to fight for our beliefs. Now is our time to get off the sidelines. Our democracy only works when regular people like every one of you stands up, demands it and fights for it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Joining us now, Jerry Zremski, the Washington bureau chief for the "Buffalo News." He was with Senator Gillibrand in Iowa this weekend. And Jonathan Capehart, Pulitzer Prize-Winning opinion writer for the "The Washington Post" and an MSNBC contributor.

And Jonathan, you`ve interviewed Senator Harris earlier this year about her book, actually. And I think -- I`m sure you`re among the unsurprised that she has finally officially launched the presidential campaign. But as she starts off, it is a kind of a crowded starting gate of United States senators, particularly Democratic Women United States senators.

JONATHAN CAPEHART, OPINION WRITER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes, which is a terrific thing, the first time we`ve ever seen this in American history. But as you rightly predicted nine years ago, Lawrence, that Senator Harris was going to jump into the race.

And 12 days ago, I interviewed her here at George Washington University. And on page 5 of her book, of a book that`s filled with illusions to her running for things and doing things that people told her that she couldn`t do and taking chances.

All the races she ran were races that people told her she shouldn`t run or that she couldn`t win. That was San Francisco district attorney. That was California state attorney general. Both races she defied the odds and won.

And when you read her book, the reason why she`s now trying to defy the odds, if you will, and run for president is because she feels there`s a calling. At the end of the book, I tried -- I asked her to read the final paragraph of her book where she basically asks, you know, herself and Americans, what will you do when your children look you in the eyes and they ask you, how did you feel at this moment and what did you do?

And her answer when that time comes for her, as we found out today, is, I ran for president. That is going to -- that will be her answer.

O`DONNELL: And Jerry Zremski, no reporters get a better look, I think, at New York politicians than "Buffalo News" because you get to see them even - - the Washington correspondent, you get to see them in dealing with areas of interest in New York that most people in the national media never notice.

And so this is part of why when Senator Gillibrand was in Iowa this weekend, she was telling people that she represents some pretty big tracts of territory that feel and look a lot like Iowa in Upstate New York.

JERRY ZREMSKI, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, THE BUFFALO NEWS: Yes, that`s very very true. And I was very much struck by the fact that she made that a specific point in dealing with people in Iowa.

She was clearly trying to bond with people in Iowa by saying look, I understand agriculture. I understand your issues. And that means that you really ought to listen to what I have to say because I can really represent you.

O`DONNELL: And Jonathan, as I think it often gets ignored in the United States, our biggest agriculture state is a place called California. So when you go out to Iowa and you`re talking agriculture, and you`re the senator from California, that`s something that California senators traditionally know an awful lot more about than they ever get to publicly display to national news media. Also true, by the way, of senators like Gillibrand who represent big tracts of farming land in Upstate New York.

And so they may both, but especially I think Senator Harris when it comes to agriculture issues and some of those Midwest issues, she might surprise people with her fluency in those arenas.

CAPEHART: Right. That`s going to be the interesting thing here that you`re going to have these two senators from two big states that have urban reputations.

O`DONNELL: Yes.

CAPEHART: Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York City, Buffalo, Syracuse. But when they get to Iowa and when Iowans do what they do every four years and kick the tires on all these people who think they want to be president, when they hear from a senator from California or a senator from New York being able to talk to them with fluency about agricultural issues, it will be a different kind of race.

Everyone`s trying to figure out who`s going to be the person who`s going to swoop into Iowa and sweep them off their feet, and you never hear them talk about Gillibrand or Harris. But as you rightly point out, they have as much shot as a Sherrod Brown or a Joe Biden if he gets in, as anyone.

O`DONNELL: And once they`re on the debate stage, everybody`s equal on that stage. And, Jerry, according to your report in the "Buffalo News," one of the things that Senator Gillibrand is kind of -- has to run out of, is this lack of awareness of both who she is and a certain point what she`s running for.

There were voters saying to you, OK, what is she running for? And she doesn`t come in there with the kind of name recognition that Elizabeth Warren has or, you know, others might have, entering that state.

ZREMSKI: Yes, that`s very much true. And I think the only way she really can compete is to work Iowa the way generations of candidates have worked Iowa. That means going there again and again and again, meeting voters one-on-one, and slowly but surely building your name recognition. Slowly but surely becoming a force in the race.

She has a lot of money. She has $10.5 million in dollars left over from her Senate race. So she has the means to promote herself to get better known. What I thought was important about her appearance this weekend was that she really handled the retail side of things very, very well.

She really seemed to resonate with the voters. She was funny. She was relaxed. She was very pointed in criticizing President Trump, which some candidates had not done on the Democratic side, interestingly. So I think she did very well, just for starters.

O`DONNELL: And Jonathan, Senator Harris has something that Senator Gillibrand and Senator Warren don`t really have. And that is the experience of winning an incredibly tight race. Her first statewide race, when she was going from San Francisco district attorney to attorney general of California really, came down to the wire, really came down to counting every single vote.

And there`s something about those candidates who`ve had to fight to the very last second for every single vote without a single poll telling them in those final 48 hours that they`re going to win. That`s a candidate who`s been through a different kind of test than others.

CAPEHART: Right. As you -- I don`t know if you showed the clip of her from Howard today where she said, you know, she knows how to fight. She`s not afraid of a fight.

O`DONNELL: Yes.

CAPEHART: Those races are sort of proof positive that, no, she`s not afraid of a fight. She knows how to fight. And she knows how to run with conviction.

You know, in her book, there`s a lot of illusions -- there are a lot of illusions to fighting. And she says in there that the toughest race she ever -- she has ever run was against a woman in college who she called Jersey Stacey I think was her name. She has to go all the way back to college to find the toughest candidate she`s ever run against.

O`DONNELL: They never forget. Jerry, quick one before we go. The very last line of your article is so striking. You have an Iowa voter talking about Senator Gillibrand. The last line is simply, "she just radiates."

So she seemed to be really effective in meeting voters. But on the other hand, what is the biggest resistance or point of resistance she ran into in Iowa?

ZREMSKI: The biggest point of resistance actually came from the press. And it`s been coming at her for really quite some time. I can recall 10 years ago stories about these very same points. And those points were that back in the day when she was a member of the House of Representatives, she represented a very conservative district in Upstate New York and she was very conservative on immigration and she had an A rating from the NRA.

That is very difficult to explain if you`re a Democrat in 2019 running in 2020. She has been trying to explain it for the better part of a year now. She went on "60 Minutes" about a year ago and explained it. And again and again, in her show -- in her appearances with the press this weekend, she talked about it and tried to say "Basically, I was wrong back then, I`ve learned, I`m better now."

O`DONNELL: Jonathan Capehart, thank you for joining us tonight. And Jerry Zremski of the "Buffalo News", thank you for helping us tonight.

CAPEHART: Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Really appreciate it.

And when we come back, in his latest column, George Will calls Donald Trump "an almost inexpressibly sad specimen." The sadness of Donald Trump apparently includes his physical appearance. And so the Trump team is reportedly retouching photographs to help Donald Trump lose the weight that he doesn`t lose by watching "Fox News".

The control room here assures me they are trying to do exactly the same thing with the cameras here at THE LAST WORD.

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O`DONNELL: "Washington Post" reports that President Trump has made 8,158 false or misleading claims in the first two years of his presidency. And in that same vain, "Gizmodo" reports in recent months Trump`s official Facebook and Instagram accounts have published photos of the president that have been manipulated to make him look thinner.

In addition, the president`s index finger appears to have been altered in the post to make it seem longer than it was in the original photos as seen in this image from "Gizmodo".

In his latest column in "The Washington Post", George F. Will writes about Donald Trump, "He is an almost inexpressibly sad specimen. It must be misery to awaken to another day of being Donald Trump. His childlike ignorance preserved by a lifetime of single-minded self-promotion concerning governance and economics guarantees that whenever he must interact with experienced and accomplished people, he is as bewildered as a kindergartener at a seminar on string theory. Either the electorate, bored with a menu of faintly variant servings of boorishness, or the 22nd Amendment will end this, our shabbiest but not our first shabby presidency."

Joining our discussion now, Kurt Andersen, host of the public radio program "Studio 360". He has covered Donald Trump for decades. And Kurt, you and Graydon Carter famously of "Spy Magazine" were the first to observe the size of the president`s fingers, which apparently the tech crowd at team Trump has figured out a kind of digital solution to them.

KURT ANDERSEN, HOST, STUDIO 360: Yes. No, we -- based on empirical observations called him a short-fingered Bulgarian 30 years ago. And extraordinarily, I saw this "Gizmodo" story. Oh, they`re trying to make him look less fat. As you suggested earlier, who wouldn`t want that?

O`DONNELL: Oh yes. If they can do that right now, I`m all for it.

ANDERSEN: But they also, in more than one photograph that are on his Instagram and Facebook pages, made his finger look longer. So 30 years later, this silly piece of ridicule we threw at him repeatedly apparently is still weighing on him.

And you mentioned the lies, "The Washington Post" tally, which I follow. I`m a student of Donald Trump fantasy and falsehood. And, yes, the absolute number is great. But if you follow it, you see that his first year in office, there were six lies a day on there.

Last year through the summer, 20. Then up through the election, it got to be 35 lies, misleading claims, and falsehoods a day. Then suddenly, after the election had dropped off and now he`s getting it back up there. He`s now up to 25 just so far this year.

The other thing, if we`re going to talk about falsehoods and lies in Trump land, there is this news that was reported about Michael Cohen when he worked for Donald Trump trying to rig a drudge report online poll rating the approval among Republicans of the various Republican candidates. And he hired this guy to do that.

Even with the cheating to flapper --

O`DONNELL: Yes.

ANDERSEN: -- Donald Trump, he only got him to number five. So, again, this web of falsehood, fantasy, lies, much of it born by his narcissism is just like a gift basket of Donald Trump falsehood.

O`DONNELL: Having watched him for so long, do you have a theory that we`re all kind of pondering is that, a theory of Giuliani, a theory of why Giuliani and why is Giuliani sent out there to do those kinds of performances? Is it because Donald Trump is the only one who understands them when he sees Giuliani?

ANDERSEN: Well, there is, as you talked about earlier, somewhat compelling with your previous guests about there may be a strategy to get out and take the sting or whatever that wonderful phrase was. But my theory of Giuliani and Trump is that Giuliani is simply dealing with the mercurial liar who is his client.

And, so, Trump lies to him and he goes out and says the lie and then gives him some truth. And Giuliani tells the truth. And then he has to walk that back to the lie. So I don`t -- maybe there is tactics here and maybe there is indeed this trying to get the dirt out so it seems like old news by the time somebody is indicted for it.

But I just think it`s a guy whose sense of intellectual rigger is iffy Giuliani dealing with his client whose sense of reality and truth is absolutely iffy. So that`s -- to me, that`s the theory.

O`DONNELL: That`s as good as we`ve got. Kurt Andersen, thank you very much for joining us tonight.

ANDERSEN: My pleasure.

O`DONNELL: Tonight`s last word is next.

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O`DONNELL: On Friday night, I mentioned to Joy Reid on this program that I was going to the Saturday matinee performance of Kerry Washington`s new Broadway Play "American Son" written by Christopher Demos-Brown. And that sparked Joy Reid to get tickets for the show this week and sparked some of you to actually shop at that matinee on Saturday where you were lucky enough to grab the last available tickets for that performance.

Well, you have now just one week left before the play closes. And I mention it because this play, alone among Broadway Plays speaks directly to an important issue we have covered on this program from the start. An issue that I have been writing about throughout my career, police use of deadly force and the many aspects of the burden that that has always imposed on black men and their loved ones.

But this is not a play about an issue. It is about real people in a riveting drama with Kerry Washington delivering what "The New York Times" calls a great performance. If you see one play this week, make it American Son. It is a theater experience you will never forget. And you never know who you might run into in the audience of that play. That`s tonight`s LAST WORD. "THE 11TH 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