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Cohen to testify tomorrow. TRANSCRIPT: 2/26/19, The Last Word w/ Lawrence O'Donnell.

Guests: Joaquin Castro, Tom Donilon

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

Rachel Maddow calls for a national sick-out for Michael Cohen day in America. 

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST:  Well, we didn`t rent the movie theater.  So, I feel like I got to do something, got to at least plan for some sort of accommodation.  I`m not planning on coming to work.  I`m planning on getting in my jammies, getting, you know, all pie snacks, calling the dog walker, sorry, doggie, I can`t go out, and then we`ll be here tomorrow night. 

O`DONNELL:  But then at some point, Rachel, you`re going to have get here during the testimony maybe. 

MADDOW:  I`m hoping there`s a lunch break, dinner break. 

O`DONNELL:  That`s the thing.  They`ve said that they`re not really scheduling a lunch break as of now which sometimes happens in these hearings, and they will break only for votes.  And so that can give us at least a 20 to 25 minute window to rush from the pajama place to here. 

MADDOW:  Well, the good thing about the way we do TV is that the pajama place can always exist from the waist down.  Who knows, I might be wearing my PJs right now. 

O`DONNELL:  That is -- that is for your crew to know, Rachel. 

MADDOW:  See you tomorrow, Lawrence.  Thank you. 

O`DONNELL:  Thank you, Rachel. 

Well, there was a three-way tie tonight for our top story, so what we will present to you is a series of hugely important stories that could each be our top story, including an overwhelming vote in the House of Representatives to rebuke the president of the United States.  President Trump was on the losing end of a bipartisan House vote of 245-182 on a resolution to terminate the president`s declared emergency at the southern border to build his wall. 

The author of that resolution, Congressman Joaquin Castro, will joins us.  Congressman Castro will also be one of the members of Congress who will question Michael Cohen in a closed door hearing in the House Intelligence Committee later this week.  He has much to say to us tonight. 

Tomorrow when Michael Cohen testifies publicly to the House Oversight Committee, President Trump will be watching his former lawyer`s testimony in his presidential hotel room in Vietnam where the president is meeting with the North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un. 

We are lucky to be joined tonight in a rare television appearance by President Obama`s national security advisor Tom Donilon who will tell us what to look for in the negotiations with North Korea and what he thinks of President Trump`s hope that North Korea`s beaches will soon be the home of glamorous beach resorts attracting tourists from around the world. 

And in my LAST WORD tonight, at the end of this hour, we will show you the most important piece of video that you absolutely must see from the House of Representatives today.  A new star was born in the House of Representatives today, and you will see her in action at the end of the hour. 

But first, we knew as I said on this program at the time, at the moment that it was announced that Michael Cohen would testify publicly in a congressional hearing, that that day was going to be the worst day of the year for the Trump presidency.  We now know that it will surely be that, although there might be many worse days coming for the Trump presidency after this testimony.  President Trump and his most fervent allies are apparently living in such abject fear of Michael Cohen`s testimony that it has driven one of them to the point of possibly committing a crime. 

Florida Republican Matt Gaetz tweeted this threat to Michael Cohen this afternoon: Hey, Michael Cohen, do your wife and father-in-law know about your girlfriends?  Maybe tonight would be a good time for that chat.  I wonder if she`ll remain faithful when you`re in prison.  She`s about to learn a lot. 

It is a federal crime to threaten witnesses who are coming before a congressional committee.  18 U.S. Code Section 1505 says: Whoever corruptly, or by threats or force, or by any threatening letter or communication influences, obstructs or impedes, or endeavors to influence, obstruct or impede the due and proper administration of the law under which any pending proceeding is being had shall fine -- shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than five years.

That specifically applies to congressional hearings.  Congressman Gaetz surely didn`t read that law before he wrote that tweet, and Congressman Gaetz is not a member of any of the committees that will be questioning Michael Cohen this week. 

So what does that threat mean?  Did Congressman Gaetz engage in a conspiracy with other members of Congress who are on those committees to threaten Michael Cohen?  Is that tweeted threat coordinated in a conspiracy with other congressmen who are on those committees who will then ask Michael Cohen the questions that Congressman Gaetz is threatening in his tweet?  Are they also complicit in what could be a federal crime? 

Here`s what Congressman Gaetz told reporters about his threatening tweet. 


REP. MATT GAETZ (R), FLORIDA:  We already know that Michael Cohen lies to Congress.  We already know that Michael Cohen lies to law enforcement.  Now, we`re going to find out if Michael Cohen lies to his own family. 


O`DONNELL:  Because, I mean, if a guy lies to his own family that does it, right?  In Congressman Gaetz`s world, who`s not currently married, is obviously going to make the case if Michael Cohen has ever lied to his family, anyone in his family he cannot be believed about anything.  That same Congressman Gaetz worship at the alter of Donald Trump as if Donald Trump is a god and Donald Trump has lied to everyone he`s ever been married to. 

Donald Trump has lied to his children.  One of his sons despised his father`s lies so much that he stopped talking to his father for a year. 

So, not only has Matt Gaetz risked indictment today in this crazed defense of Donald Trump, the man who lies to his family nonstop, Congressman Gaetz has announced a standard of credibility for Michael Cohen that Donald Trump could never pass, not for one day in Donald Trump`s life.  We already have leaks about what Michael Cohen will testify to tomorrow, and the leaks are block busters before we even hear the specifics of the testimony tomorrow.  A knowledgeable source told NBC News today that Michael Cohen will detail his allegations of the president`s lies, racism and cheating as a private businessman and that Michael Cohen will provide evidence of Donald Trump alleged criminal conduct since becoming president. 

And "The Wall Street Journal" also reporting on that same score, Michael Cohen will provide documentation of his reimbursement for the $130,000 of the Stormy Daniels payment.  Michael Cohen will show a panel a signed check.  "The Wall Street Journal" is also reporting that, quote, Donald Trump signed some of the checks reimbursing Mr. Cohen, which Mr. Cohen began receiving after Mr. Trump took office, according to another person familiar with the payments. 

Michael Cohen began his week of congressional testimony today with nine hours of testimony today behind closed doors to the Senate Intelligence Committee.  Afterward Michael Cohen made a rare, short public comment to reporters. 


MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER TRUMP ATTORNEY:  First of all, I want to thank you all for sticking around and waiting for me.  At this point in time I really appreciate the opportunity that was given to me to clear the record and to tell the truth.  And I look forward to tomorrow to being able to give my voice to tell the American people my story, and I`m going to let the American people decide exactly who`s telling the truth.  So I want to thank you all again for sticking around.  Have a good night. 


O`DONNELL:  Senator Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the committee, told reporters this about Michael Cohen`s testimony today. 


SEN. MARK WARNER (D-VA), VICE CHAIRMAN, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE:  Two years ago when this investigation started, I said it may be the most important thing I`m involved in my public life in the Senate and nothing that I`ve heard today dissuades me from that view. 


O`DONNELL:  On the eve of such a hearing that could implicate the president of the United States in crimes, a hearing that could in effect be the beginning of impeachment hearings in the House of Representatives, we need to hear from people with legal expertise and the vision and experience to place events like this in their historical and political context, and we are fortunate tonight to have all of that in our lead off panel tonight. 

We are joined now by Joyce Vance, former U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Alabama, and a professor of the University of Alabama School of Law.  She is an MSNBC legal contributor.  We`re also joined by Jennifer Rubin, who`s an opinion writer at "The Washington Post," and Eugene Robinson, associate editor and Pulitzer Prize-winning opinion writer for "The Washington Post". 

And, Joyce Vance, I want to gen with you just on the legal matter, this breaking news, possible federal crime by a congressman today via tweet.  In your reading of the statute controlling this and in your reading of that tweet, do you see the possibility of the crime of intimidation and interference in a congressional hearing by Congressman Gaetz? 

JOYCE VANCE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY:  Based on just the tweet itself, it`s something that prosecutors might take a look at.  It doesn`t look to me like something offhand I would charge unless there was much more significant evidence that Gaetz actually intended to either prevent Cohen from testifying completely or was trying to get him to not testify about different subjects. 

I think it`s when you pull the camera back further out and you think about the fact this is sitting congressman making this kind of comment to a witness who`s coming out on a serious matter involving the president that you see that it`s just so awful.  It`s so vulgar, it`s such a schoolyard bully kind of taunt that even if it doesn`t technically violate the law, that doesn`t really give Gaetz much to hang his hat on. 

O`DONNELL:  And, Eugene Robinson, of all the things for a Republican congressman to turn to defense of Donald Trump, he turns to the question of if someone ever lies to anyone in their family, then you can`t possibly be telling the truth. 

EUGENE ROBINSON, COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST:  Yes, that would be like attacking Cohen for having funny looking hair or small hands.  It`s almost tailor made for the, you know -- but, look, you`re arguing in defense of a guy who literally lies all the time.  I mean, you know, the lies so far outweigh the truth. 


O`DONNELL:  But the president has very specifically lied to all of the people he has made Mrs. Donald Trump.

ROBINSON:  Every single one, every single one all the time.  And, by the way, all the mistresses and casual lovers and whatever, I`m sure he`s lied to them, too. 

O`DONNELL:  Jennifer Rubin, the blockbuster leaking about the blockbuster testimony is really quite extraordinary, and we basically with "The Wall Street Journal" reporting what we`re getting is apparently that Michael Cohen is going to hold up in that hearing tomorrow that famous big Donald Trump signature on a check to him reimbursing him for his Stormy Daniel payments.  And that check would have been written and signed during the Trump presidency. 

That check in and of itself, that payment scheme has been called a federal crime by the prosecutors in Manhattan in the Southern District of New York.  So we are going to see evidence of the president of the United States committing a federal crime in that hearing tomorrow. 

JENNIFER RUBIN, OPINION WRITER, THE WASHINGTON POST:  This is big news, folks.  Circle the data in your calendar.  We are in essence getting the back story to those court filings that we have seen from the Southern District of New York.  The allegation by the prosecutors that he was directed to engage in illegal conduct.  We`re going to see and hear, I guess, from Michael Cohen much Donald Trump knew, what direction he gave him, how specific it was. 

It sounds like we`re going to go into the belly of the beast.  And you have to go back to the Michael Cohen raid on his office and the fear that that instilled in Donald Trump and those around him.  They knew that this was the most dangerous source of information because Michael Cohen has been there from the beginning.  He knows just about everything having to do with Donald Trump. 

Now, he`s not going to testify about Russia tomorrow.  The committees have worked that out.  But he`s going to testify about a lot of other things.  And it`s those other things that, frankly, may be even more persuasive both for the public and for Congress when they hear and see physical proof of that. 

O`DONNELL:  The one thing we know he`s going to be testifying about is the Stormy Daniels payment scheme.  Let`s watch those 20 seconds on Air Force One that will surely be quoted in tomorrow`s hearing in which President Trump lied about those payments and his knowledge about those payments to Stormy Daniels. 


REPORTER:  Mr. President, did you know about the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels? 


REPORTER:  Then why did Michael -- why did Michael Cohen make it if there was no truth to her allegations?

TRUMP:  You`ll have to ask Michael Cohen.  Michael is my attorney and you`ll have to ask Michael. 

REPORTER:  Do you know where he got the money to make that payment? 

TRUMP:  No, I don`t know.  No. 


O`DONNELL:  So, Joyce Vance, that`s the guy who Congressman Gaetz is trying to defend by calling Michael Cohen some who lies to his own family -- the trouble is his client there, in effect Donald Trump, is right there on video lying to America, lying to everyone in America when he says, no, he didn`t know about the payments to Stormy Daniels.  And that`s what we`re going to be hearing about in the hearing tomorrow. 

VANCE:  Donald Trump has definitely flunked the Matt Gaetz test, right, for honesty and integrity. 

O`DONNELL:  Right there on Air Force One. 


VANCE:  The most interesting thing about this, and this happened so often for prosecutors in trials and it`s true here, too, nothing that Cohen is going to testify to tomorrow will come as a surprise to the president.  The president lived through these experiences with Cohen.  None of this is new. 

And the danger to Trump from Cohen is Cohen is really the first real witness who was with the president, who knows what the president said, who may know what the president thought.  And the challenge for Cohen, now a convicted felon for lying to Congress, will be coming with corroboration, whether that`s physical receipts that proves with any sort of a doubt whatsoever that what he`s saying is true. 

And that`s the real challenge, whether there`s any incremental space between what Cohen says and brings along with him and what one needs to accept as god`s truth to find this president is responsible for crimes. 

O`DONNELL:  Gene Robinson, the talk of impeachment turned a very serious corner when the evidence in the Michael Cohen case became public in court and Michael Cohen was pleading guilty, and what he was pleading guilty to was very specifically pleading guilty to committing crimes at the direction of the president. 

ROBINSON:  Of the president. 

O`DONNELL:  And so, now, we are taking those revelations to a new level, where Michael Cohen will be testifying about them for hours on end publicly.  He`ll be questioned in detail about them.  And it reminds me of the stage of the Watergate hearings before there were impeachment hearings.  The Congress went about investigating what happened here, and they weren`t in an impeachment process.  But those were the hearings that then laid the foundations for the impeachment hearings.

ROBINSON:  For impeachment hearings, right.

So, this -- we have this nub of a fact.  This puts substance and context around that fact and also makes clear, apparently, that the president committed crimes while in office.  And that fact sits there and festers and something has to be done about it. 

Now, if that something is ignoring it, that`s a decision, an affirmative decision by Congress that will have consequences and that will be debated and ultimately they`ll be accountable for if they move toward impeachment, same thing.  But something will have to be done.  Some decision will have to be made. 

You have a president committing a crime.  That calls for some kind of accountability.  And so, where does that accountability come from? 

O`DONNELL:  And, Jennifer, the Republicans in Congress when the Michael Cohen information first came out, they started to say things like -- well, this was about a campaign finance violation, and campaign finance violations are common.  They tried to pretend this one is like other campaign finance violations where you got the address wrong on a contributor form. 

And now, they`ve got the problem they`re going to have to live with apparently tomorrow is that the campaign violation, the campaign finance violation that Michael Cohen and the president engaged in paying off these women carried over into the presidency, long after the campaign was over with the president signing those checks. 

RUBIN:  And that, I think, is a little tidbit that I`m not sure that we all realize.  That he`s sitting in the Oval Office or wherever he sits, maybe this is what we does in executive time, he pays off women.  And he is signing this check.

  It also makes clear this is not just an ordinary campaign violation.  This was a campaign violation meant to disguise and defraud the American people to hide his relationship because he believed that had that relationship come out before the election, that it could have contributed to his loss.  It`s also significant enough that while in office he continued to cover-up, to lie about it. 

That`s not what one does with a clerical campaign finance violation.  They always point to Obama did that, Obama did that.  Well, many of these are in the variety of a campaign violation.  And they`re quickly cleared up and people pay fines and they go forward. 

They don`t lie about them continuously.  They don`t begin harassing witnesses who are going to testify about them.  This is a whole different kind of ball game that we`re in here now.  And I think it`s going to be very hard for members of Congress who seem to be continually moving the goal posts, well, it`s not collusion, well, it`s just a process crime, well, it`s just a little process crime to really escape the import of what he is saying. 

O`DONNELL:  I don`t normally -- I try to avoid coverage of what`s going to happen tomorrow tonight.  I usually have enough to handle with what`s happening today, but this is one of those nights we really had to set the table for what`s happening. 

And, Joyce Vance, Jennifer Rubin, Eugene Robinson, you have done that perfectly for us.  I really appreciate it.  Thank you for starting us off tonight.

And when we come back, the congressman who wrote the resolution that just passed the House of Representatives rebuking President Trump and terminating his emergency declaration at the southern border will join us.  Congressman Joaquin Castro will also be questioning Michael Cohen in a closed hearing later this week.  He has much to tell us tonight. 

And President Trump is going to be paying more attention to Michael Cohen tomorrow than he is to the North Korean dictator who he now calls his friend. 

President Obama`s national security advisor Tom Donilon will join us in a rare television appearance to discuss what we can expect from the president`s meetings with Kim Jong-un. 

And in my LAST WORD tonight at the end of the hour, you will hear from one of the rising stars of the extraordinary freshman class in the House of Representatives.  Katie Porter is the first Democrat in history to be elected in her congressional district. 

And today, she turned into a performance at a congressional hearing that had me and everyone watching that hearing hanging on her every word.  I started following her on twitter after that.  You will, too. 

Wait until you hear what she did with a CEO from a big company whose lobbyists were paid big money to prepare him to testify today, but just couldn`t prepare him for the new congresswoman in town, Katie Porter. 


O`DONNELL:  Breaking news tonight from the House of Representatives.  The House voted 245-182 in favor of a resolution blocking the president`s national security emergency declaration at the southern border.  Thirteen Republicans joined 232 Democrats voting to pass the resolution.  It now heads to the Senate where the Democrats need four Republican to vote for the resolution to pass it. 

They already have three: Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski and Thom Tillis.  Republican Senator Roger Wicker said earlier this month that he would likely vote for a resolution to block and told reporters today that he would, quote, be making a statement in a few days.  As many as ten Senate Republicans could support a resolution of disapproval if a vote were held today according to four GOP senators familiar with the discussions. 

Republican leadership has done little to whip votes against it.  Today, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wouldn`t make a prediction on whether or not the resolution would pass and refused to say whether or not he thinks the Trump emergency declaration is even legal. 


KASIE HUNT, MSNBC CAPITOL HILL CORRESPONDENT:  Do you personally believe that the president`s emergency declaration is legal? 

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), SENATE MAJORITY LEADER:  Well, that`s part of what we were discussing today. 

HUNT:  What do you think? 

MCCONNELL:  Well, we`re in the process of weighing that.  The lawyer was there to make his arguments.  There were some counterarguments.  I haven`t reached a total conclusion about, you know?


O`DONNELL:  And joining us now is a member of Congress who wrote that resolution against President Trump`s national emergency in the House, Representative Joaquin Castro, Democratic congressman from Texas.  He`s also a member of the Intelligence Committee who will be questioning Michael Cohen later this week. 

Congressman, thank you very much for joining us on this important night.  Really appreciate it.

REP. JOAQUIN CASTRO (D), TEXAS:  Thank you for having me, Lawrence. 

O`DONNELL:  How did it fall to you to write this resolution?  How were you the lucky one?

CASTRO:  Well, about six weeks ago or eight weeks ago when the rumor started that the president might declare a national emergency to pay for his border wall, my staff and I reached out to the legislative counsel to try to figure out a way to give Congress the final say on this issue.  And what we came up with is H.J. Res. 46, which was a privilege resolution which means the House votes and the Senate has to vote on this resolution to terminate President Trump`s national emergency. 

And, Lawrence, I believe you worked in the Senate, so you know that this vote is extremely consequential in terms of the administration of powers and the balance of power between the president and the Congress.  And as I said today in my remarks, if the Congress allows this to stand, then I believe the president, President Trump will come back for more perhaps on the border issue but possibly on other issues and future presidents, Republicans and Democrats, will circumvent Congress in the same way. 

O`DONNELL:  I just made the point that the reports are that the Republicans are not whipping the vote as the phrase goes in the United States Senate, but how could they when we just saw Republican Mitch McConnell not able to say whether he thinks that the emergency is legal. 

CASTRO:  Yes, that`s amazing, I had not heard that clip.  But that`s amazing that the Senate majority leader would stand behind an emergency declaration when he can`t even look the American people in the eye and say that he believes this is a legal or was a legal declaration.  I just find that incredible. 

And as I said also, you know, how am I supposed to tell a future president that thousands of gun deaths and thousands of opioid deaths and the threat of climate change, that these aren`t national emergencies in two years or four years or whenever you may have a president that wants to declare a national emergency for those things?

O`DONNELL:  You`re the only member of Congress we have in this hour, so I`ve got to ask you about this breaking news story about Congressman Gaetz tweeting what clearly appears to be a threat to Michael Cohen about his testimony tomorrow.  One of your Democratic colleagues, Congressman Bill Pascrell of New Jersey tweeted a response to that, saying that it appears to him to be grossly unethical and probably illegal.  He says House Ethics must investigate this disgrace and stain. 

Do you believe at a minimum the House committee has to investigate this? 

CASTRO:  Yes, I do think they have to take a look at it.  I do think Matt Gaetz is mostly immature, unfortunately.  But yes, I think they should take a look at it.  I mean, it`s almost an attempt at witness tampering. 

O`DONNELL:  What do you expect from tomorrow`s hearing, the public hearing with Michael Cohen?  And then the closed door hearing that you on the intelligence committee will have?

CASTRO:  Well, you know, he was obviously with the Senate for hours, where and I suspect the public hearing tomorrow and our hearing on the Intel Committee will go the same way.  What I want to know most of all is whether President Trump directly asked him to lie to Congress regarding the Stormy Daniels payments or any other issues. 

And also, Michael Cohen was not just the president`s lawyer.  Remember this was basically one of his buddies. This was a confidant for him.  So I think he`s got something to tell us on each of these lines of inquiry, obviously on the payments, about also on perhaps obstruction of justice issues, on money laundering issues.  So we`re going to have a lot to talk about.

The first interview, I co-led that for Democrats with Adam Schiff who`s now our chairman.  And so there`s gaps of information that we`re going to try to figure out in our interview on Thursday.

O`DONNELL:  Congressman Joaquin Castro, the big winner in the House of Representatives today on that vote, thank you very much for joining us tonight.  I really appreciate it.

CASTRO:  Thank you.

O`DONNELL:  And when we come back, President Trump is again praising the murderous dictator he now calls his friend, Kim Jong Un.  Tom Donilon has served three previous presidents who would never do anything like that including President Obama for whom Mr. Donilon served as his first national security advisor.  Tom Donilon will join us next.


O`DONNELL:  President Trump`s workday will be over tomorrow in the time zone he will be in, in Vietnam, when Michael Cohen begins testifying tomorrow morning in Washington, D.C.  And so the president will be available to watch every word of Michael Cohen`s testimony on T.V. like the rest of us.

About an hour ago, President Trump once again tweeted his very firm belief in the economic vitality of totalitarian communism in North Korea.  The president said, "Vietnam is thriving like few places on earth.  North Korea would be the same, and very quickly if it would denuclearize.  The potential is awesome, a great opportunity like almost none other in history, for my friend Kim Jong Un."

So there`s the president of the United States declaring a murderous dictator who starves his people to be his friend while at the same time the president of the United States is saying that North Korea`s economy would instantly become great just by getting rid of nuclear weapons.  When economic history shows that the only way dictatorial communist economies have ever improved is by liberalizing the economy in very significant ways that North Korea has never considered doing.

Joining our discussion now about what the president can and cannot accomplish with the person he now calls his friend, Kim Jong Un, is someone who worked with President Obama on all of these issues, President Obama`s former National Security Advisor Tom Donilon.  Tom Donilon also served in the State Department during the Clinton administration.  Got his first White House experience working in Jimmy Carter`s White House.

Tom Donilon might not be a familiar face to many of you and that`s because he does not often join us in television discussions.  And so we feel very fortunate to have him here tonight.

Tom, this tweet that the president just issued, it`s something that I`ve noticed he`s been doing a lot.  He doesn`t seem to realize that nuclear weapons are not the reason North Korea is a backward country.  There`s plenty of very modern forward countries without nuclear weapons.  It`s totalitarian communism and a murderous dictator.  That`s the reason it is an economically bad country.

TOM DONILON, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR, PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:  Yes.  In North Korea, of course, it`s a combination of a cult and kind of a mob operation.  And the other really is a question about whether or not North Korea`s leader would ever want to go to the type of openness that you would need to go to in order to get economic development.

I think that we always wish our president well and we wish him success abroad.  But we also wish that he would level with us and I think that`s an important point to make tonight as he goes into these discussions.  He came out of the last discussion in Singapore eight months ago and said that the nuclear threat from North Korea is over.  We no longer have a nuclear threat from North Korea.  That, of course, obviously is demonstrably not true.

And if you look at the facts, they didn`t come out with an agreement on what denuclearization means.  There wasn`t really any strategic evidence by Kim Jong Un to denuclearize.  Indeed, the intelligence committee went in front of the Congress and the worldwide threat and said they`re not likely to denuclearize.

The program has not frozen.  Because they`re not testing, and by the way, these tests stopped before the Singapore Summit, does not mean the program is frozen.  They`re proceeding on a whole bunch of lines including (INAUDIBLE) and missile developments.

And the formulation the president has, I`m not in a hurry, is really an analytical mistake for this reason.  As the program continues, they continue to at least put themselves in a position to make more and more nuclear weapons.  That`s a more difficult problem for the United States.  It`s difficult from a proliferation perspective, a verification perspective and in terms of missile defense.

So we should wish our president success but he needs to level with the American people about what`s really going on here.  And that`s not been the case to date.

O`DONNELL:  When you see the president tonight -- he`s done this before, but tonight he puts it right there in writing, Kim Jong Un is my friend.


O`DONNELL:  What would you tell this president that he apparently does not know about the man who he calls his friend?

DONILON:  Well, as you said earlier, it`s a murderous dictatorship, right, with a large gulags history of incredible human rights oppression.  There are bookshelves of the United Nation`s reports on human rights abuses in North Korea.  We have all manner of reports about brutal killings and purges there.

So this is a combination, as I said earlier, of a mob operation and a cult and a brutal dictatorship.  And it makes a big difference to the United States in terms of the leverage that we have around the world to give up our values, to give up our posture as a country in the world that stands for something in terms of values and democracy and human rights.  So we give up something in the course of this.

And the last thing I`ll say about that in response to your question, Lawrence, is this.  This guy -- the president seems to believe that Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un are somehow susceptible to charm incentives.  That`s not the way this works, right.

These guys will pursue their interests.  They`ve been in the world stage.  Kim Jong Un has been the leader since 2011.  Vladimir Putin has been the leader of Russia since the turn of the 1999-2000 period. The charm incentive is not what`s going to happen.  And this is hard bargaining leverage knowing where you want to go.

O`DONNELL:  Did President Obama ever come out of a meeting with a foreign leader where he felt like he had somehow charmed his way towards some progress and you kind of had to debrief him and say it doesn`t work that way?

DONILON:  Well, you can build relationships and you should do that.  But I don`t think that President Obama was ever under any illusion that somehow that he could go into a meeting with Vladimir Putin and come out because he had charmed him, that Vladimir Putin wasn`t going to pursue the interest that he thought was best for the Russian Federation.

O`DONNELL:  We have to squeeze in a quick break.  I would love you to stay because there`s something I want to ask you about the president said something extraordinary in his State of the Union address about how we would now be at war in North Korea if we had a democratic president.  I want to get your reaction to that if you can stay after the break.


O`DONNELL:  OK.  We`re going to be right back with Tom Donilon after this break.


O`DONNELL:  Let`s listen to the only president in history who has said we would be at war with North Korea today if the other party had won the presidential election.


TRUMP:  If I had not been elected president of the United States, we would right now, in my opinion, be in a major war with North Korea.


O`DONNELL:  Back with us Tom Donilon, President Obama`s former national security advisor.  And your reaction to that when you heard that.

DONILON:  What an irresponsible statement with no basis of fact, obviously.  President Obama, his predecessors, understood very directly and with experience the issues of war and peace, the issues about sending men and women into combat and putting them at risk, the costs of war.

President Obama, when he came into office had overseen three wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and a global war against terrorism that we were fighting in a very aggressive way.  So it`s an irresponsible statement.

O`DONNELL:  Yes.  The president doesn`t seem to realize that we have very successfully stayed out of war in North Korea with every president prior to him since the Korean War.  The president just tweeted tonight, "The Democrats should stop talking about what I should do with North Korea and ask themselves instead why they didn`t do it during eight years of the Obama administration."

That is a question for you, Tom Donilon, President Obama`s national security advisor.

DONILON:  Well, the issue right now is what we`re going to do going forward, isn`t it?  The President Obama`s reports are indicated to President Trump -- President-elect Trump that he would be facing a crisis in North Korea, a very serious national security challenge to the United States and he should bring it to the top of the list.

And I think if President Obama, if he had been allowed a third term under the Constitution or another president who would have been elected would have had the same crisis or challenge facing them and would have dealt with it appropriately.  Including by the way through a maximum Treasury effort, which in my judgment this administration took its foot off the pedal on prematurity.

O`DONNELL:  To President Trump`s question about what was going on during the eight years during the Obama administration with North Korea.

DONILON:  Yes.  The United States was putting increasing pressure on North Korea and I think building up to a maximum pressure campaign which is a campaign that was run at the beginning of the Trump administration, that was an extension I think and an intensification of the program of the United States would have I think been put on the path to run against North Korea.

O`DONNELL:  Tom Donilon, thank you very much for coming in tonight.  Really appreciate it.  Appreciate your voice on this.

And when we come back, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is clearly the most famous freshman member of Congress in history.  The most freshman member of the House in history that is.  She is not the only star, though, among the freshman Democrats in the House.  We will show you the new star who dazzled us in a congressional hearing today.


O`DONNELL:  Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is by far the biggest star we have ever seen in the history of freshman members of the House of Representative, and she is using her celebrity superpowers for good.  She brought us standard House Oversight Committee hearing to life in a five- minute questioning session that has gone viral in which she used a panel of experts to show just how corrupt a member of Congress can be without getting into any legal trouble at all.


REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D), NEW YORK:  If I want to run a campaign that is entirely funded by corporate political action committees is that -- is there anything that legally prevents me from doing that?



O`DONNELL:  Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez then showed how muddy the ethical waters of Congress are including ways that she could use her position to make herself rich, which are perfectly legal.  And having made that point of just how dirty the dealings of a member of Congress can be and still be legal, she ended her five minutes with this.


OCASIO-CORTEZ:  So I`m being held and every person in this body is being held to a higher ethical standard than the president of the United States?

WALTER SHAUB, SENIOR ADVISER, CITIZENS FOR RESPONSIBILITY AND ETHICS, WASHINGTON:  That`s right because there are some ethics committee rules that apply to you.

OCASIO-CORTEZ:  And it`s already super legal as we`ve seen for me to be a pretty bad guy.  So it`s even easier for the president of the United States to be one, I would assume.

SHAUB:  That`s right.

OCASIO-CORTEZ:  Thank you very much.


O`DONNELL:  If you haven`t seen the full five minutes, you must.  And so we`re going to post the full five minutes of Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez`s questioning on THE LAST WORD Twitter and Facebook page so that you can just watch that whole thing.  You really have to see it.

I said at the time, it was the most brilliant use of five minutes in a congressional hearing that I have ever seen.  And then came Katie Porter, who is another freshman member of Congress in what is already the brightest group of freshman House members that I`ve ever seen.

After a break, we`re going to show you what Congresswoman Katie Porter did in a hearing today that made me start following her on Twitter as you will, too, after you see this.


O`DONNELL:  Katie Porter is the first Democrat in history to be elected to represent California`s 45th congressional district in Orange County.  She`s about 25 years younger than Elizabeth Warren and watching Katie Porter at work in Congress now has the feel of what we might have seen if Elizabeth Warren had become a member of the House of Representatives 25 years ago.

Like Elizabeth Warren, Katie Porter was a tenured law school professor when she decided to run for office.  Katie Porter is a magna cum laude graduate of Harvard Law School where one of her professors was the now Senator Elizabeth Warren.

Senator Kamala Harris had a hand in Katie Porter`s career when Kamala Harris was California`s attorney general.  She appointed Katie Porter to be the state`s independent monitor of banks in a $25 billion mortgage settlement that brought reforms to the mortgage business in California.

Now, Katie Porter is a member of the most impressive freshman class of members of the House of Representatives that I for one have ever seen.  And she used her five minutes today in a House Financial Services Committee hearing in a way that the witnesses did not anticipate.

The CEO of Equifax was testifying to the committee today and CEOs have very expensive lobbyists who prepare them for congressional testimony like this, very expensive lobbyists who are supposed to anticipate every possible question, but Equifax`s very expensive lobbyists did not anticipate Katie Porter.


REP. KATIE PORTER (D), CALIFORNIA:  My question for you is whether you would be willing to share today your Social Security, your birth date and your address at this public hearing.

MARK BEGOR, CEO, EQUIFAX:  I would be a bit uncomfortable doing that, Congresswoman.  If you`d so oblige me, I would prefer not to.

PORTER:  OK.  Can I ask you why you`re unwilling?

BEGOR:  Well, it`s sensitive information.  I think it`s sensitive information that I`d like to protect and I think consumers should protect theirs.

PORTER:  If we gave that sensitive -- if that sensitive information were provided at this public hearing, what are you concerned about could happen?

BEGOR:  I think like every American, Congressman -- Congresswoman, my apologies.  Congresswoman, I`d be concerned about identity theft.  I`m actually a victim of identity theft.  It happened three times in the last 10 years to me.  Twice with my tax returns and once as a consumer of someone opening up fraudulent credit accounts in my name.  Somehow they got my Social Security number, my date of birth, and my address and then changed the address and opened up the account.  So I think like all Americans, we`re concerned about that.

PORTER:  OK.  So my question then is if you agree that exposing this kind of information, information like that that you have in your credit reports creates harm, therefore you`re unwilling to share it, why are your lawyers arguing in federal court that there was no injury and no harm created by your data breach?

BEGOR:  Congresswoman, it`s really hard for me to comment on what our lawyers are doing.

PORTER:  Look sir, respectfully, excuse me, but you do employ those lawyers and they do operate at your direction.  They`re your counsel.  And they are making these arguments in court, arguing on the record -- I have the pleadings here from the court case.  They`re arguing on the record that there was no -- that this case should be dismissed because there is no injury and no harm created by the disclosure of people`s personal credit information.

Yet I understand you, as I would, to believe that the exposure of that information, I asked if you would give to the committee and you understandably said no, would, in fact, create harm.  So I guess I would ask you to look carefully at what your lawyers are doing and the arguments that they`re making because I feel they`re inconsistent with some of the helpful testimony that you`ve provided today.


O`DONNELL:  The honorable Katie Porter gets tonight`s LAST WORD and takes her place among the rising stars of the freshman class of the House of Representatives.

"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