Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL Date: March 15, 2019 Guest: Brian Klaas, Jimmy Gomez, Cal Perry
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler is asking these 81 people and entities for information about a gazillion different scandals and issues, everything from the president`s hush money payments to the Trump Tower meeting with the Russians to details about the inaugural committee. It`s a ton of stuff.
Some people who were targeted with these document requests have apparently said they`re not going to comply, but Nadler`s office tells us they actually think they`re getting a good response so far. They say they`ve also been working with people who might need a little bit more time, if not potentially a friendly subpoena.
But, again, deadline for all of them is on Monday. We shall see as of Monday what they get. Have a good weekend. That does it for us now. We will see you again on Monday night. Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD" with Ali Velshi sitting in for Lawrence tonight. Good evening, Ali. ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel. Have yourself an excellent weekend. We shall indeed see on Monday what we get.
MADDOW: I plan to, thanks.
VELSHI: All right. I`m Ali Velshi, in for Lawrence O`Donnell. The president is condemning the horrific terrorist attack in New Zealand where a white supremacist killed 49 people in an attack targeting Muslims. The killings are sparking a worldwide discussion about Islamophobia, but they have also brought attention to the words of our president.
Political scientist Brian Klaas writes in The Washington Post that, "Trump is an Islamophobic bigot." Brian will join us to talk about his piece later in the hour, and we will have a live report from the southern border from NBC`s Kyle Perry (ph) who is going to give the facts about a situation that Donald Trump often seems to misrepresent.
But first, a day after members of the president`s own party revolted and voted to end his national emergency declaration at the southern border, Donald Trump did something he`s never done before. He issued his first ever presidential veto today in order to block that congressional resolution.
The president was forced into that position because 12 Republican senators, these 12, voted with Democrats to send that resolution to the president`s desk. In an Oval Office photo-op to issue his veto, Donald Trump said this about that bipartisan resolution.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Yesterday, Congress passed a dangerous resolution that if signed into law would put countless Americans in danger, very grave danger. It is definitely a national emergency. Rarely have we had such a national emergency. Therefore, to defend the safety and security of all Americans, I will be signing and issuing a formal veto of this reckless resolution, and that`s what it was. Congress has the freedom to pass this resolution, and I have the duty to veto it. And I`m very proud to veto it. (END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: I`m very proud to veto it. Donald Trump also said he`d be proud of this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: If we don`t get what we want one way or the other, whether it`s through you, through military, through anything you want to call, I will shut down the government. SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), SENATE MINORITY LEADER: OK, fair enough. We disagree.
TRUMP: And I am proud. I`ll tell you what.
SCHUMER: We disagree.
TRUMP: I am proud to shut down the government for border security, Chuck.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: President Trump`s government shutdown and President Trump`s veto have something important in common. Donald Trump didn`t have to do either of them. Donald Trump didn`t have to shut down the government because he was actually offered a better deal for his wall before he shut down the government than the one he got after his shutdown. And according to Politico, Donald Trump didn`t have to suffer the rebuke by Republicans that led to his first veto.
Eliana Johnson and Burgess Everett report, "It didn`t have to be that way, Republicans say, especially in Trump had engaged more consistently with senators and made a relatively modest agreement to change the National Emergencies Act to rein in presidential power."
One Republican senator who voted against the president gave this quote to politico. "Trump quite possibly could have gotten 50 senators voting no," said Republican Senator Mike Lee, who led the failed effort to get Trump to agree to changes to the National Emergencies Act.
And here`s how Politico describes the self-proclaimed dealmaker Donald Trump`s efforts to sway Republican senators. "Trump made little effort to whip wavering GOP senators during a hearing Wednesday afternoon on trade, and said they could vote however they pleased. By Wednesday evening, however, he had grown disturbed by the brewing condemnation from his own party. On Thursday morning, White House aides began blasting a Trump tweet to GOP senators by text message to remind them of how the president viewed the impending vote."
"A vote for today`s resolution by Republican senators is a vote for Nancy Pelosi, crime, and the open border Democrats." Donald Trump now claims that he didn`t care if Republicans voted against him on the national emergency.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: I put no pressure on anybody. I actually said I could have gotten some of them to come along. I said I want you to vote your heart. Do what you want to do. I`m not putting any pressure. I`ll let them know when there`s pressure. OK? I told them that. So when I need your vote, I`m going to let you know. I didn`t need the vote because we all know it`s going to be a veto and they`re not going to be able to override.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: Congress will have a vote on overriding Donald Trump`s veto later this month. Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement, "On March 26th, the House will once again act to protect our constitution and our democracy from the president`s emergency declaration by holding a vote to override his veto."
In his statement on his veto, Donald Trump also gave greatest hits compilation of his claims about the southern border, attempting to portray an emergency where even members of his own party have said with their votes that there is no emergency. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We`re on track for a million illegal aliens to rush our borders. People hate the word invasion, but that`s what it is. It`s an invasion of drugs and criminals and people. We have no idea who they are, but we capture them because border security is so good. But they`re put in a very bad position, and we`re bursting at the seams, literally bursting at the seams.
In many cases, they`re stone-cold criminals. And in many cases and in some cases, you have killers coming in and murderers coming in. Our immigration system is stretched beyond the breaking point.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: All right. Joining us now to discuss all of this: David Corn, Washington bureau chief for Mother Jones; Joyce Vance, former U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Alabama and a professor at the University of Alabama School of Law; and Yamiche Alcindor, the White House correspondent for the PBS Newshour. All three are MSNBC analysts. Welcome and thank you for joining me on this Friday night.
Yamiche, let`s start with you. What happened today was what was expected. The House will get this resolution now. They will hold a vote on March 26th. It will pass the House. It won`t probably pass the Senate. What is the net effect of this presidential veto?
YAMICHE ALCINDOR, MSNBC ANALYST, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT FOR PBS NEWSHOUR: The net effect is that the president can say and put in the commercial that he defied even establishment Republicans and fought for what he sees as a national emergency on the border. And as a result, he can show and argue that the he alone was fighting for the American people.
Of course, there is also this net effect which is that the president has now gotten a message from at least 12 Republican senators that, yes, we will back you on some issues of border security, but we`re not scared enough to vote with you for every single thing.
And when you have Republican senators using words like dangerous, using words like king and reckless, this could be a growing problem for the president if he doesn`t get really his messaging and his communication with Republican senators in. I think it was striking when he was talking from the Oval Office today and President Trump said he didn`t put any pressure on Republican senators.
We know that that`s definitely just not true. He`s absolutely lying when he says that because we know that the White House and the president were scrambling to get Republicans not to vote for this. That`s why you saw Senator Tillis of North Carolina flipped his vote at the last minute. VELSHI: Yes. Joyce, to Yamiche`s point about Republican senators saying to the president we won`t support you on every single thing, this isn`t a break on border security or even on the wall as much as it is conservative senators, some of them with a libertarian streak, many of whom are not up for election in the next cycle, being able to say this is executive authority gone too far.
We don`t actually want you declaring a national emergency on something we don`t actually share your view as a national emergency because you or someone else can use that power in an unwieldy way going forward.
JOYCE VANCE, MSNBC ANALYST, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: I think that`s absolutely right. And this is not a vote about policy. This is really a vote about the constitution and the separation of powers. And the Republicans who joined with Democrats in the Senate were reacting to the fact that the president was trying to control the power of the purse.
Obviously that spending power is reserved to Congress in Article I of the constitution.
So if it they were willing to give it to the president here, there is no telling where he could have taken that down the road. But I think Yamiche is right, you know, everybody knows that the votes aren`t really there to overturn the veto and where this ultimately will be decided is in the court system, where I think the president will get a little bit of a lesson on how the constitution works.
VELSHI: And, David, I want to read you something from The New York Times where it says the mere act of defying Mr. Trump, speaking of senators, foreshadows potential new difficulty for the president as he seeks to push his agenda through a Democrat-controlled House and a less pliant Republican-controlled Senate.
Let`s apply what The New York Times has written there to the larger issue. It`s not so important that the president vetoed the bill. Lots of presidents get bills that they veto. The issue here is, is this a less compliant Senate? We know it`s a less compliant House because it`s controlled by the other party. DAVID CORN, MSNBC ANALYST, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF FOR MOTHER JONES: Yeah, I think marginally, I am not at this stage ready to lead a parade down Pennsylvania Avenue to the Capitol Hill to celebrate these Republicans who broke with the president on an issue of executive privilege and trying to maintain some congressional power over this.
I mean, we`ve seen for two years they just kowtow, they roll over for him, and until they get out there and start really saying that the language he`s using, calling this an invasion on the same day that a madman shoots up -- kills 49 Muslim people in New Zealand because of the invasion there, when they really start digging in on the issues, on the demagoguery and the hatred that he inspires, and as Yamiche said, you know, the lies that he puts out, then I`ll say that there is maybe a turning point.
This might be a one off. I`m not, you know, we`ll have to see whether they`re going to really create any opposition to the themes that Trump is putting out that I think are tearing the country apart. VELSHI: Or even, Joyce, if it`s not the themes, it could be the one theme that Americans are most concerned about and that is the investigations, whatever comes out of the Mueller investigation because as we know, the difference between now and Watergate is that at some point President Nixon lost popularity to a degree that he was an albatross against -- against Republicans and they decided to take action. That is not necessarily what we`re watching right now. VANCE: It`s not at all what we`re watching here. There are a lot of different schools of thought about why that might be. It could be this pervasive ability of the president to direct speak to the population through Twitter. That`s not clear.
But one wonders if at some point there won`t be something that is a bridge too far, whether that`s something that will come out of the Mueller report or at another point in time hasn`t turned that corner yet.
VELSHI: Yamiche, let`s talk about that. Does the president -- is the president at all worried about what happened today? Is he worried about the fact that he had to veto a bill because it did get past the Senate? He knew right after the midterm elections that there were going to be all sorts of things coming from the House, including investigations, but he probably thought he had a bit of a bulwark in the Senate. ALCINDOR: I think it is worrisome, and that`s why you saw the president and White House aides pressuring Republican senators because they understand that there are limits to even Republican senators saying, look, we can`t back you for every single thing because it`s going to make us also set a precedent that we think Democrats might use in the case of the national emergency.
I also think that there is something going on here, if I could ask something or answer something differently, which is the context within which this is happening. All day I was asking the White House, was there any thought given to cancelling this event or rescheduling it because of what happened in New Zealand? I heard there were talks about wrestling with it, thinking maybe we should do this.
Ultimately the president not only vetoed and held this event with people basically criminalizing immigrants, but he also said while he was being questioned, someone said, well, what do you think of the rise of white nationalism? He said, well, actually, I don`t think it`s that big of a deal. I think it`s a small group of strong people. That`s simply not true.
We know that the numbers of white extremism and white nationalism are on the rise. The person who carried out the New Zealand attack in his manifesto talked about the fact that he saw President Trump as a symbol for renewed white identity.
Now, I`m not saying that President Trump obviously inspired this person to go kill people, to make that clear, but there is something going on there in the White House, saying you know what, we`re going to hold our event because we just want to do this because we think it`s good for our popularity. VELSHI: I suppose, Joyce, you can`t go around denying everything everybody says about you, but that`s a strong accusation, right? This man who committed these atrocities, these acts of terror in New Zealand mentioned the president of the United States.
He prepared a -- weird questionnaire, a question and answer as if a reporter was interviewing him and posted it, and he did speak of this representation of white nationalism. The president never takes an opportunity to distance himself from that sort of thing. VANCE: And that`s really reprehensible because I think you`re right, you know, we are not responsible for other people`s actions, but to not take the opportunity to say as president this is not what I stand for, hate is wrong, violence is wrong, I think makes this very distasteful and almost acts as though the president in some way is willing to lend a little bit of credibility.
Look, this notion that white supremacy and that, you know, I guess the New Zealand equivalent of the domestic terrorism that we experience in this country, the notion that that is not on the rise is something that the data doesn`t support. VELSHI: Yes. VANCE: And in many parts of our country, the worst terrorism that people have experienced like in Birmingham, Alabama where I live is domestic terrorism, a Ku Klux Klan bombing a church that killed four young girls or a right-wing terrorist`s bomb that kills a police officer at a women`s clinic. That`s a much more real experience in America and something that we should be stacking up our resources up against. VELSHI: David? CORN: I don`t think we should mince words. The president had an opportunity to distance himself or to not have that event. He chose not to do so. And you have to wonder what he`s thinking. He`s thinking that he doesn`t want to. He doesn`t want to distance himself from this. He doesn`t want to say that extreme white nationalistic terror is a threat. He doesn`t want to say those things.
And why? He`s been, you know, you`re going to get to this later in the show, but on the campaign and ever since, he`s been saying things like Islam hates us. One campaign event, some guy said, we got to get rid of all the Muslims. He said, you know, we`re thinking about what we`re going to do. So not only does he not distance himself, he does encourage this. Words matter.
VELSHI: Yeah. CORN: Words can inspire people. They can cause fear. And he wants to be doing that. I don`t think there is any other explanation. VELSHI: We`ll be talking a lot about that this evening. Thank you to all three of you, Yamiche Alcindor, Joyce Vance, and David Corn. Coming up, the alleged New Zealand shooter called immigrants invaders. And as you just heard, hours later in the Oval Office, President Trump did exactly the same thing.
In a new Washington Post op-ed, Brian Klaas argues it is the president`s own reckless and dangerous language that is adding fuel to a growing international nationalist movement. Brian Klaas is our next guest.
And a Muslim broadcaster in New Zealand comments just hours after the massacre are getting attention around the world. The scariest thing he finds in the aftermath of the shooting will surprise you.
And later, the president`s treasury secretary vows to fight efforts for Congress to get the president`s tax returns, but did questions in the Michael Cohen hearings actually help Democrats in their quest to investigate the president`s finances?
VELSHI: New Zealand police say a 28-year-old Australian white nationalist has been arrested in the attacks that killed 49 people, including children at two mosques in the city of Christchurch, New Zealand. The alleged killer left behind a manifesto which detailed his hatred of Muslims and immigrants.
Today, Australian newscaster Waleed Aly, who is also a politics professor and the child of Muslim immigrants to Australia, made this powerful statement about the massacre and the political rhetoric. Listen. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WALEED ALY, BROADCASTER: I`ve gutted and I`m scared and I feel overcome with utter hopelessness. The most dishonest thing, the most dishonest thing would be to say that I`m shocked. I`m simply not. There is nothing about what happened in Christchurch today that shocks me. I went to the mosque today. I do that every Friday, just like the people in those mosques in Christchurch today.
I know exactly what those moments before the shooting began would have been like. I know how quiet, how still, how introspective those people would have been before they were suddenly gunned down. How separated from the world they were feeling until the world came in and tore their lives apart. And I know that the people who did this knew well enough how profoundly defenseless their victims were in that moment.
This is a congregational prayer that happens every week like a clock work. This was slaughter by appointment. It`s scary because like millions of other Muslims, I`m going to keep attending those appointments, and it feels like fish in a barrel. But that isn`t the scariest thing. The thing that scared me most was when I started reading the manifesto that one of the apparent perpetrators of this attack published, not because it was deranged, but because it was so familiar.
Let me share some quotes with you to show you what I mean. The truth is that Islam is not like any other faith. It is the religious equivalent of fascism. The real cause of bloodshed is the immigration program which allowed Muslim fanatics to migrant in the first place. How do those words sound now? How do they sound when I tell you that they weren`t part of the manifesto? They were actually published today after this terrorist attack on an Australian parliamentary letterhead.
I`m going to say the same thing I said about four years ago after a horrific Islamist attack. Now, now we come together. Now we understand this is not a game. Terrorism doesn`t choose its victims selectively. We are one community, and that everything we say to try to tear people apart, demonize particular groups, set them against each other, that all has consequences, even if we`re not the ones with our fingers on the trigger.
(END VIDEO CLIP) VELSHI: Today, President Trump condemned the attacks as evil.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I spoke with Prime Minister Ardern of New Zealand to express the sorrow of our entire nation following the monstrous terror attacks at two mosques. These sacred places of worship were turned into scenes of evil killing. (END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: But in the same remarks made as he vetoed Congress` rebuke of his national emergency declaration to build his border wall, President Trump said this about people at the southern border.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: We`re on track for a million illegal aliens to rush our borders. People hate the word invasion, but that`s what it is. It`s an invasion of drugs and criminals and people.
(END VIDEO CLIP) VELSHI: President Trump used the word "invasion" today to describe the situation at the border. He`s done that before. But he did it today, despite the fact that the alleged killer in New Zealand wrote in his manifesto that he wanted to fend off invaders and that there was nowhere free from mass immigration. And despite the fact that the alleged killer of 11 people at a synagogue in Pittsburgh last year also wrote that he was motivated by immigrant invaders.
We played you the president`s words calling this attack on Muslims evil, but we should also remember what else Donald Trump has said about Muslims.
TRUMP: Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country`s representatives can figure out what the hell is going on.
Hey, I watched when the World Trade Center came tumbling down, and I watched in Jersey City, New Jersey where thousands and thousands of people were cheering as that building was coming down. Thousands of people were cheering.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS ANCHOR: You know, the police say that didn`t happen at all. Those rumors have been on the internet for some time --
TRUMP (voice-over): It did happen. I saw it. It was on television. STEPHANOPOULOS: You saw it with your own eyes? TRUMP (voice-over): George, it did happen. There were people that were cheering on the other side of New Jersey where you have large Arab populations.
(END VIDEO CLIP) VELSHI: The president was lying. Brian Klaas examines all of this in The Washington Post op-ed today, a short history of President Trump`s anti- Muslim bigotry.
Brian, thank you for joining us. It`s a meaningful piece that you`ve written and you`re saying things that you think people need to understand and that is that the mood is set. As we discussed in the segment before this, the president did not take any opportunity today to distance himself from a killer, a terrorist, a person who took 49 lives of people who were worshipping.
He didn`t take any opportunity to say that he wouldn`t be inspiring people like that. And David Corn was saying that he didn`t do it deliberately because he doesn`t mind. BRIAN KLAAS, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF GLOBAL POLITICS, UNIVERSITY COLLEGE LONDON: Well, I think that`s absolutely right. I think it`s actually worse than that because he has a long track record of stoking the kind of hatred that provides the rhetorical or intellectual ammunition for attacks like we saw in New Zealand today.
And, you know, I think what you have to understand here is that President Trump is fundamentally an Islamophobic bigot. He is somebody who has mainstream hatred against Muslims and he`s done this for years. In 2011, in 2012, he insinuated that President Obama was some sort of secret Muslim and that was a problem.
And then more recently during the campaign, in addition to the fact that he said that we should track Muslims with a database, he also talked about the idea of banning all Muslims from entering the United States, an entire religion. The most un-American thing you can imagine, to target people based on their faith.
And then since becoming president, he hasn`t stopped. I mean, not only the invasion terms, but something that was a big deal over here in London was in November of 2017, Trump re-tweeted three times Jayda Fransen, who was one of the leaders of Britain First which is a neo-fascist movement, who has been personally convicted of hate crimes against Muslims and who organized what she called mosque patrols -- sorry, Christian patrols and mosque invasions, trying to intimidate Muslims. And that is who Donald Trump decided to give a platform to and to spread hate to his millions of Twitter followers.
So, what we have here is that Trump is a central figure in an ecosystem of hatred that is inspiring attacks around the world and that`s something we need to be honest about. VELSHI: Something that`s worth pointing out is that if someone wielded those accusations against you, you`d say something about it. You`re entirely not true. I don`t want to be associated with these people.
But on several occasions, including associations with David Duke and the Ku Klux Klan, including what you mentioned where someone talked to him during the election about what we`re going to do with Muslims, remember when John McCain was told that Barack Obama was a Muslim and a bad man He took the moment to be who John McCain was. Donald Trump doesn`t do this. He doesn`t distance himself from what you`re talking about.
KLAAS: That`s right. So in that clip where we saw before where Trump is basically encouraging his supporters with this question, he has this question where they say, you know, what are we going to do about all these Muslims and Trump is nodding along and saying, that`s right, we need this question. A few questions after that, there was a question about climate change and Donald Trump shut it down.
So he can shut things down when he believes that they`re wrong, but he doesn`t do that with anti-Muslim bigotry. In fact, he stokes it. And beyond that, if somebody had accused me of these things, there wouldn`t be a long track record of my statements where the shoe sort of fits, right? That`s the problem here. If the manifesto had named other politicians, there wouldn`t be dozens and dozens and dozens of statements where that figure had made anti-Muslim bigoted statements.
And so I think at the end of the day, if we want to stop this sort of bigotry and hate in our societies, we have to stop electing hateful bigots and that is what Donald Trump has become and what he continues to act like in the White House, unfortunately. VELSHI: Your article, which I hope everybody reads, is -- really does speak of a growing problem. Donald Trump was asked today about white nationalists. Here`s what he said.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you see today white nationalism as a rising threat around the world?
TRUMP: I don`t really. I think it`s a small group of people who have very, very serious problems. I guess if you look at what happened in New Zealand, perhaps that`s a case. I don`t know enough about it yet. They`re just learning about the person and the people involved. But it`s certainly a terrible thing.
VELSHI: The stats are not with the president, whether it`s in the United States or around the world. We know that rising anti-Semitism around the world is a fact. We know that rising anti-immigrant sentiment is a fact. We know that rising Islamophobia is a fact. And we know that nationalism and nativism movements are a fact.
KLAAS: That`s absolutely right. The data shows that the president is wrong. It`s a growing threat. It`s a major threat and it`s a violent threat. And I think that, you know, beyond that, it`s the different way that Trump responds to violence is conditioned on who commits it and who is the victim because, you know, after Charlottesville, he praised those people marching with neo-Nazis and the KKK as very fine people.
Here, he`s not distancing himself from white nationalism and minimizing the threat. Whereas conversely when there was a terrorist attack by Islamic radicals in the United Kingdom in 2017, I found out about that attack because my phone buzzed with a notification that Trump had tweeted, using that attack --
KLAAS: -- to sort of give ammunition to his travel ban against Muslims. So he acted immediately when it`s an Islamist terrorist, but when it`s a white terrorist, he doesn`t say the kinds of things that he would say normally. And beyond that, you know, it`s one of these things where people accuse you of politicizing tragedy when you talk about this stuff with President Trump`s words.
But our politics is part of the tragedy. Our politics is encouraging these tragedies. So we have to be outcome spoken about them and I think we have to hold anti-Muslim bigots accountable the way we would other bigots.
VELSHI: Because if you`re a bigot, it hurts all of us. Brian, thank you so much for what you`ve written, for being with us tonight. Brian Klaas, as assistant professor of Global Politics at the University of College London. He`s a columnist for the "The Washington Post". His column appeared tonight. It`s worth a read.
Coming up, President Trump`s own treasury secretary has made it clear, he`s not going to cooperate with members of Congress who want to get the president`s tax returns, but a member of Congress whose questioning during the Michael Cohen hearings may have given Democrats another legal argument to get the president`s taxes. He`ll be my next guest.
VELSHI: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi came under fire this week from members of her own party when she came out against impeaching President Trump, focusing instead on the ongoing investigations by several House Committees. But her strategy did earn her applauds from one unlikely source, former Trump campaign manager and political advisor Steve Bannon.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Has the president met his match in Nancy Pelosi? How would you grade Nancy Pelosi in the last couple of months?
STEVE BANNON, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN MANAGER AND POLITICAL ADVISOR: A 10.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A 10?
BANNON: A 10 out of 10. She`s a war horse. And I think she`s done, from what she`s trying to accomplish, I think Pelosi`s done a good job. I think the investigations the next five or six months are going to be close to insanity. I think every day, they`re going to be pounding the president, they`re going to be pounding with subpoenas, they`re going to be pounding with information requests. The House is just going to be a bear pit.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: The House is just going to be a bear pit. Yesterday, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin found himself in that bear pit and was asked about whether or not he would comply with a request from the House Ways and Means Committee for President Trump`s tax returns. Something the committee has the legal authority to demand. Here`s what Mnuchin said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEVE MNUCHIN, TREASURY SECRETARY: We will protect the president as we would protect any individual taxpayer under their rights.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: We would protect the President as we would protect Any individual taxpayer. Translation, he`s probably not Going to try and protect the President from having his tax -- he`s going to try to protect the president from having his tax returns released.
Now, the president has consistently refused to release his tax returns since the 2016 campaign, claiming he can`t release them because he`s being audited by the IRS.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I`m being audited now. A minor audit. It`s under routine audit. Like, routine. But as soon as my routine audit is finished, I`ll release my returns. I`d be very proud to.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: We`re three years away from that routine audit. But jut that justification has come under considerable scrutiny when Michael Cohen appeared before the House Oversight Committee and he said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER TRUMP LAWYER: What he had said to me was that what he didn`t want was to have an entire group of think tanks that are tax experts run through his tax return and start ripping it to pieces and then he`ll end up in an audit and he`ll ultimately have taxable consequences, penalties and so on.
REP. JIMMY GOMEZ: So that`s an interesting point, that basically he said he didn`t want to release his tax returns because he might end up in an audit. So could you presume from that statement that he wasn`t under audit?
COHEN: I presume that he`s not under audit.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: It`s the president`s guy, the president`s personal lawyer presumed that he wasn`t under audit and that he was simply not returning -- disclosing his tax returns so that he wouldn`t be audited.
That congressman you saw there asking that question, freshman Congressman Jimmy Gomez. He`s the only member of Congress who sits on both the House Oversight Committee and the Ways and Means Committee, which can demand Trump`s tax returns. He joins me next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MNUCHIN: I have not discussed with anybody in the White House the issue of his tax returns or a request of his tax return.
GOMEZ: His attorneys?
MNUCHIN: I`ve had no discussions with his attorneys, but, again, I`m not continuing to go down this -- again of you asking me 20 questions on this.
GOMEZ: That`s what we do here, we ask questions. I always ask questions instead of --
MNUCHIN: Actually, with all due respect, I take that back. You can ask the questions and I will try to answer them, but I think what --
GOMEZ: Thank you. I appreciate that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: Wow, I`m not going down this thing we`re you`re going to keep asking me questions. That`s the Congress of the United States, Mr. Secretary. Jimmy Gomez questioning Treasure Secretary Steven Mnuchin and explaining to him how congressional hearings work.
Joining me now, Congressman Gomez, a democrat, freshman Democrat from California. He`s a member of the House Ways and Means Committee as well as the House Oversight Committee.
Congressman, I credit you for the fact that you`re new at this, but you knew actually what Congress` job is and had to school the Treasury Secretary of the United States who has been on the job, by the way, for more than two years.
GOMEZ: Yes. First, thank you for having me. I want to send my condolences to the people of New Zealand for their tragedy today.
VELSHI: Thank you, sir.
GOMEZ: But yes, this administration doesn`t want to answer any questions. We had a hearing on the same day with Wilbur Ross. We had one with Steve Mnuchin and neither one of them want to answer questions. They want to dodge. They want to make sure that they never answer anything that puts them or the president at jeopardy.
So we`re going to push them because that is our job.
VELSHI: That is your job.
GOMEZ: That`s the responsibility of Congress.
VELSHI: That`s what you`re elected to do, sir. Let`s go back to the conversation that you had with Michael Cohen. It was kind of remarkable. Michael Cohen was at the time, his lawyer, his personal lawyer, his self- described fixer, a guy who by all accounts seemed to know a whole lot about the president of the United States, saying that the president didn`t want tax experts fishing through this tax returns.
This is an important issue because the president has said prior to becoming president and since becoming president that he is under audit.
GOMEZ: Yes. No, it`s a huge issue. You know, what we discovered is that he basically was misleading the people since he started running for the presidency. And why is that? That`s the question.
We believe that it has to do with his finances. We believe it has to do with who he`s in bed with. We believe that it has to do with how is he making decisions as he`s currently in the White House.
So with Cohen answering basically that he`s not under audit, it really helped set up the stage and lay part of the foundation for our request for his tax returns.
VELSHI: Quinnipiac asked people a couple of questions about the president`s tax returns just last week roughly, and the first question was, "Should Donald Trump release his tax returns?" Sixty-four percent of respondents said yes, 29 percent said no, which roughly fits in. I mean Donald Trump doesn`t really ever get below 29 percent on anything.
And they also asked if Trump refuses to release his tax returns, do you think Congress should investigate? Again, 57 percent said yes, 38 percent said no. Talk to me, Congressman, about what happens next. When you said that what Michael Cohen to you sets up what you might do next. How does that play out?
GOMEZ: So, first, I think that we still want to continue to lay the foundation on our argument. You know, we do have the right as the House Ways and Means Committee to request his returns, but we still need to provide justification.
I would love to see Allen Weisselberg, his finance guy, come before the House Oversight Committee and answer questions about what he knows about President Trump`s finances, some of his dealings, you know, the payments to Michael Cohen regarding Stormy Daniels, the inflating of his property values and deflating of his property values. Did he cheat on his tax returns?
We want to really get to the bottom of that to start setting up even more and providing the justification we need in order to ask for those returns.
VELSHI: How do you keep this all straight? Because you`re on Oversight, you`re on Ways and Means. The Southern District of New York is investigating some things. The Manhattan D.A. is now dealing with this inflating and, you know, they`re dealing with Paul Manafort.
But, you know, it almost sounds like it`s a warning shot to say, hey, if you`re fiddling with real estate and mortgages and things like that, we`re going to come after you, to the president. How do you keep track of who is supposed to do what?
GOMEZ: Well, we work as a team, right? It`s not just one committee. We have Ways and Means with Richie Neal, the chairman. We also have Oversight with Elijah Cummings and then we have the Judiciary Committee.
So everybody is working as a team and providing and sharing information. And that`s what makes this -- our ability to investigate this presidency, this administration, hold them accountable powerful because we`re really working together.
I just happen to be on two committees. That gives me a lot of information and understanding of what we need to do to make sure we hold this president accountable.
VELSHI: I have to say, I`m not shocked by a lot today -- these days, but when the treasury secretary said he`s not going to take your questions, I thought that was a new one for me. Congressman, good to talk to you. Thank you for joining us.
GOMEZ: Nice talking to you as well.
VELSHI: Congressman Jimmy Gomez of California.
All right. Coming up, President Trump described America`s border with Mexico in war-like language, where armies of criminals and gang members are launching an invasion. But MSNBC`s Cal Perry is at the Mexican border. He spent a lot of time there and he`s going to tell us about the reality which is very different. That`s ahead.
BETO O`ROURKE, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE 2020: It`s beyond the shadow of a doubt to me that if there was not collusion, there was at least the effort to collude with a foreign power. Beyond the shadow of a doubt that if there was not obstruction of justice, there certainly was the effort to obstruct justice. Whether that`s firing James Comey, the principal investigator into what happened in the 2016 election or in the light of day tweeting to your attorney general as President Trump did the end the Russia investigation.
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VELSHI: Presidential Candidate Beto O`Rourke this morning saying that he does believe that the president did try to conspire with a foreign government and that President Trump has indeed at least tried to obstruct justice. So what does Beto O`Rourke think should be done about it?
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O`ROURKE: How Congress chooses to address those sets of facts and the findings which I believe we are soon to see from the Mueller report is up to them. I think the American people are going to have a chance to decide this at the ballot box in November 2020. And perhaps, that`s the best way for us to resolve these outstanding questions.
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VELSHI: All right. You have a chance this weekend to find out more about Trump and Russia and about the latest candidate to enter the democratic presidential primary. Sunday night, 9:00 p.m. Eastern, MSNBC presents Headliners, Beto O`Rourke, presented by my colleague Katy Tur.
And then immediately after that, you can watch Russia, are you listening? A profile of President Trump`s questionable relationship with Russian President Vladmir Putin, Sunday night at 10:00 p.m. Eastern hosted by me.
Today, President Trump was focused on the border and he described the crisis there as if it were a war zone, without ever mentioning the crisis that his own policies have created. MSNBC`s Cal Perry is at the border and he`s going to show us what the Trump policies are actually doing to people at a part of the border that already has a barrier. That`s next.
VELSHI: El Paso, Texas is a city where the humanitarian crisis at the southern border has become a local crisis. Migrant centers are at capacity. Hundred are added each day, despite already having a wall along much of its border.
The White House is doing little to help leaving local organizations and now taxpayers to shoulder the cost of caring for these migrants. NBC News` Cal Perry spent the week in El Paso where he visited a church that recently opened its doors to take in asylum seekers from other overcrowded shelters.
Cal joins me now with that story. Good evening, Cal.
CAL PERRY, CORRESPONDENT, NBC NEWS: Good evening, Ali. We`re here inside the Caminos De Vida Church where you can see behind me donations are piling up.
Look, in this sector of the El Paso sector, as you mentioned, which has a wall, 25,000 families came across in just the first four months of the fiscal year 2018. And many of them were left on the side of the road by the federal government after they were released by custody with no food, with no water, dropped at bus stations with ankle bracelets.
And so the local community has stepped up. The donations behind me keep coming, Ali, because so too do the families.
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PERRY: The City of El Paso is trying to bend but not break under the weight of tens of thousands of migrant families. For this pop-up shelter, Caminos De Vida Church, another day means more migrants fresh from government custody.
There is little coordination between these volunteer efforts and the government. That lack of coordination has forced El Paso County to approve spending 20,000 tax dollars on a full-time migrant coordinator.
VINCENT PEREZ, EL PASO COUNTY COMMISSIONER: The federal government used to have a hand in all that coordination and they have stopped that. If the federal government isn`t really concerned with what happens to the migrants after they`re being processed and they`re leaving them in the streets of El Paso or they`re just expecting the non-profits to pick it up, I mean what`s going to happen if we take no action? You`ll see a wall that`s in most parts of our county but yet we`re still receiving a record number of migrants.
PERRY: The county is now waiting on the city and local non-profit organizations to add funding for what they hope will be a short term solution. It`s also forced community groups and Pastors like Israel Cabrera to step up where the government has failed.
ISRAEL CABRERA, PASTOR, CAMINOS DE VIDA CHURCH: If we weren`t here, they would probably just be released on the streets.
PERRY: Why isn`t the government handling this?
CABRERA: I don`t know.
MONICA CABRERA, SOCIAL SERVICES PROVIDER: This is what she came with. No shoe laces, this. And we`re going to throw them away. And they gave her this, sparkly pink. Look at her face.
PERRY: Monica Cabrera is the social services provider and the center`s caretaker for asylum seekers that are dropped of here.
CABRERA: We know that they`ve been through a lot. And we want to make them so welcome to know that this is a place that they can be safe, that we`re going to care for them, we`re going to love them.
PERRY: This shelter opened just two weeks ago to help the other overwhelmed non-profit organizations that care for migrants.
CABRERA: Places that normally shelter them and actually do this or have been doing this for years or for months, their facilities are too full. There`s no place for them to go. There`s too many of them. There`s a state of crisis.
PERRY: Inside the shelter, it`s about getting people what they need but it`s also about a return to normalcy.
CABRERA: His son is not wearing any shoes right now because the shoes got stuck in the mud crossing the river to get over to the immigration to turn himself in and the child has been five days with no shoes. We`re going to get him some shoes right away.
PERRY: Migrants like Cornelio Martinez and his are grateful after a dangerous journey.
CABRERA: He says that he suffered a lot coming here. But once he got to this place, that he felt overwhelmed with joy.
PERRY: Volunteers work quickly to help transport migrants to their next destination before the next bus load arrives.
CABRERA: Other than giving them food, water, and shelter, the most important thing is to get them to the point of contact and get them along the wild because we can`t house them here more than three or four days. We just don`t have the resources and we don`t have the money. If we keep a lot of people here, we`re not able to help the next group.
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PERRY: Ali, the issue of immigration is being used to divide America. And around the world, politicians use fear and fear of other people as a way to divide. And we saw how that fear can sometimes turn to violence yesterday in New Zealand. But El Paso remains a beacon of hope and a beacon unity.
See, behind me, the people sorting through medical equipment, unified in a way of helping people who have come here to find a better life. Ali, I would submit to you in a way that only Texas can sort of pass the refinery and over the railroad tracks this old abandoned furniture warehouse and the people behind me represent the best of what America can be.
VELSHI: Cal, thank you for that. Thank you for your great reporting this whole time along the border and on this story. It`s an important one. Cal Perry gets tonight`s LAST WORD.
"THE 11TH HOUR" with Brian Williams starts now.
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