Trump asks court to kill entire ACA. TRANSCRIPT: 3/28/19, The Last Word w/ Lawrence O'Donnell.

Guests: Quinta Jurecic, Ron Klain, Hunter Walker, Mieke Eoyang, NicholasKristoff, David Jolly

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST:  I`m -- good evening, Rachel.  I`m confused. 

So how will we see you on the Chris Hayes show at 8:00?  Or is this kind of one of those TV things where I`ll be watching, you`ll be watching, I`ll know you`re watching, we can`t see each other watching, but in our imaginations we can see each other? 

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST:  See, what everybody`s watching at home doesn`t know and we can`t talk about on TV because it will weird them out, is we can see them all when they`re watching us.  So when we say see you there, it`s because we can see everybody who`s watching us through the cameras. 

O`DONNELL:  You weren`t supposed to say that.  That`s why I was trying to cover for you there.  I was trying to fix it. 

MADDOW:  I let out the secret.  I can see what everybody`s wearing.  I can see what you`re eating.  I can see the whole thing. 

O`DONNELL:  Mmm-hmm.  Mmm-hmm.

MADDOW:  Mm-hmm.  Sorry, I let it go. 

O`DONNELL:  I got to leave it there, Rachel. 

MADDOW:  Thank you, Lawrence. 

O`DONNELL:  Thank you, Rachel. 

Well, think of the most mild-mannered person you know, someone you`ve never seen angry, and now imagine that person angry if you can.  There`s nothing quite like it when that happens.  And that`s what we saw in the House of Representatives today.  We saw Adam Schiff angry for the first time. 

And it was the most powerful, compelling, controlled, and effective demonstration of anger I have ever seen in a congressional hearing.  It will take its place in history.  It really will.  It will take its place in history beside Joseph Welch`s "have you no sense of decency" moment in the McCarthy hearings in the 1950s. 

We are going to show you the full uncut version of what Congressman Adam Schiff had to say today because when future historians look back at this day, March 28th, 2019, in Washington, D.C., they will all be quoting Adam Schiff.  His words will live in history, his words of today.  All of those words. 

And no matter how many times you will hear these words, you will want to hear them again.  I`ve watched this video three times.  I can`t wait to watch it one more time with you.  The moral responsibility that Congressman Schiff brings to his work framed everything that he had to say today.  And at the end of this hour, I`m going to discuss a moral responsibility that every presidential candidate has and as of today exactly one, one presidential candidate has met that moral responsibility. 

And it is a moral responsibility that Donald Trump has never met and has given up even pretending that he cares about.  And that`s why it`s more important than ever for the Democratic candidates for president to meet that moral responsibility.  And I will challenge all of them to do that at the end of this hour and show you the one candidate, the one candidate who as of tonight is the first to meet this moral responsibility. 

But, first, now that the Mueller report has been delivered to Attorney General William Barr, we are getting our first leaks from the Justice Department about the Mueller report.  What a coincidence.  Every day the Mueller investigation was operative, there was not a single leak from the Mueller team or anyone in the Justice Department about the Mueller investigation.  Not one leak. 

But now, the Justice Department has decided it is time to leak.  And its first leak seems to be a very defensive leak.  Defensive of Attorney General William Barr. 

It took two days for the news media to realize that a point that was first raised by Ari Melber on this network when the attorney general`s letter became public Sunday night is a very important point, a small and simple detail but a very important point.  How many pages is the report? 

And as of last night at this hour, the only thing we knew about that was that it was less than 1,000 pages, because that is what House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler said the attorney general told him in a ten-minute phone call yesterday.  According to Chairman Nadler, the first thing he asked about was the length of the report.  Chairman Nadler did not feel free to answer reporters` specific questions about the length, but after being peppered with questions and through a process of elimination series of questions, he agreed to the notion that it was less than 1,000 pages. 

The attorney general knows that the longer the report the more suspicious his letter looks.  How could the attorney general digest a 1,000-page report and write a conclusive summary of it in 48 hours on four pages of Justice Department stationery?  So, today, the Justice Department has leaked to everyone in the news media, NBC News, "The New York Times," "The Wall Street Journal," the "Washington Post," everyone has been given essentially the same leak about the number of pages.  And that leak is pulling the number of pages down from an estimate of 700 pages that Fox News offered to the under 1,000 that Chairman Nadler offered. 

The Justice Department has decided it urgently needs to leak a lower number of pages because that apparently seems helpful to the attorney general.  The fewer the pages the easier it would be for him in 48 hours to come up with his four pages.  So, "The New York Times" reports the still secret report on Russian interference in the 2016 election submitted by the special counsel Robert S. Mueller III last week was more than 300 pages long according to the Justice Department.  It raises questions about what Mr. Barr might have left out of the four dense pages he sent to Congress. 

No kidding.  I guess it does do that.  But you know, a lot of us had those questions before we knew how many hundreds of pages the report might be.  The "Wall Street Journal" reports a person familiar with the matter said it runs between 300 and 400 pages, not including exhibits.  Really?  Not including exhibits?  Exhibits and indices and supplementary material and government reports like this could run hundreds of pages themselves. 

And so, the Fox News report last night by former Judge Andrew Napolitano that the report was 700 pages long might still be true.  Or the full report could be over 900 pages.  We don`t know. 

It could easily be the longest special prosecutor`s report in history.  We don`t know.  We don`t know anything about the Mueller report. 

That is why our first guest tonight, Quinta Jurecic, wrote in "The Atlantic," "this is a time of suspended animation.  After the investigators have finished their work but before it`s clear precisely what the conclusion of that work means." 

Suspended animation.  And most of the news media is just now starting to realize that they wildly leapt to conclusions about the Mueller report based on the Barr letter, the four-page Barr letter.  The longer the little Barr letter remains the only public document about the Mueller report, the more indignant Democrats in Congress are getting. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), SENATE MINORITY LEADER:  For Mr. Barr to quickly issue a four-page report in his attempt to try to exonerate President Trump and now to delay the release of an over 300-page report written by Mueller so the American people and we senators and congressmen can see what was written has too much of the odor of political expediency to help the man who appointed him, President Trump. 

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE:  I have said, and I`ll say again, no thank you, Mr. Attorney General.  We do not need your interpretation.  Show us the -- show us the report.  And we can draw our own conclusions.  We don`t need you interpreting for us. 

It was condescending.  It was arrogant.  And it wasn`t the right thing to do. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL:  Leading off our discussion tonight is the journalist who gave us that perfect phrase for where this story is now, suspended animation, Quinta Jurecic. 

She`s managing editor of Lawfare, a website devoted to national security law.  She`s also a contributing writer for "The Atlantic."  She`s been following every twist and turn in the Mueller investigation.  And she is patiently awaiting the Mueller report.  She`s not one of the people who leapt to any big conclusions about the Mueller report based on the Barr letter. 

Also leading off our discussion tonight is Ron Klain, who has done so many things in government that make him an expert on the state of suspended animation we are floating in now.  He was a Clinton White House official when Kenneth Starr delivered his special prosecutor`s report to the Congress and the public about President Bill Clinton.  He has Justice Department experience as chief of staff to Attorney General Janet Reno.  He was counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Obama administration and adviser to Vice President Biden and President Obama. 

Thank you both very much for joining us tonight and starting off this discussion. 

And, Quinta, how does it feel, because you`re one of the first people who tried to tell at least the journalistic world slow down, we don`t know what you think we know.  It seems like the media is catching up to their own ignorance about -- I should say our own ignorance about the Mueller report. 

QUINTA JURECIC, MANAGING EDITOR, LAWFARE:  Well, I don`t know if I`m the first.  But yes, I think that as time goes on, the media does seem to be sort of catching up to this place.  As you say, realizing how little we know to the point where now as you pointed out we`re really just haggling over page numbers, you know, between 300 and 400 pages.  But there`s so much that could be contained.  And we`re really just waiting until the attorney general gives us more to deal with. 

O`DONNELL:  And, Ron, this page number issue, which we`ve literally covered every night this week, there`s been a new piece of information about it every night, starting Tuesday night.  The page number issue is of course -- in fact, when you have nothing, it`s hugely important because it gives you some sense of the scope of this.  And it would start to give you the feeling that well, there must be several pages, for example, on the attempt to get testimony or an interview with President Trump.  Probably a narrative of that that could very well include discussions with the Trump lawyers about the Fifth Amendment and the various procedural road blocks that might have been thrown in the prosecutors` way. 

RON KLAIN, FORMER CHIEF COUNSEL, SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE:  Lawrence, I mean, look, we have actually even less information than that because we have a four-page memo from Attorney General Barr that reflects his joint conclusion with Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein about the question of obstruction. 

And while I do think in general, Barr and Rosenstein are honorable lawyers, on the particular issue of obstruction, they both had peculiar views.  Barr got the job because he wrote a memo to Trump`s lawyers saying there couldn`t be obstruction here.  And Rosenstein wrote the paper that Trump used to fire Jim Comey in the first place. 

So, taking Barr and Rosenstein`s word on the idea that there`s no obstruction here is like believing Yogi and Booboo when they say there are no picnic baskets in the cave.  We have to see the facts and we have to see the 300-plus pages plus the hundreds more pages of actual evidence of exhibits, of statements, of all the other things that are with this report.  Until we have that, we just don`t know. 

O`DONNELL:  And, Quinta, now we have people on the Democratic House talking about the possibility of having to subpoena it.  They`re already feeling as though Attorney General Barr is unlikely to meet the deadline of Tuesday next week that they initially set for when we first need to see the Mueller report. 

JURECIC:  Yes, that`s absolutely right.  And I think there are good and bad reasons why Barr may not be able to meet that deadline.  A good reason might be it really is a long document and he wants to go through it thoroughly.  You know, there`s potentially sensitive classified information or information that was provided in front of a grand jury, which is legally protected. 

The other possibility is what the Democrats seem to fear, which is that the attorney general may be stonewalling.  And I think that`s why they`re pushing so hard right now to get Barr in a position where they can make sure that they will be able to see the report. 

O`DONNELL:  So, Ron Klain, we have extraordinarily different treatment of the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is now Republican Lindsey Graham, the committee you used to work for, and the House Judiciary Committee, which is Democratic Chairman Jerry Nadler.  Attorney General Barr went out to dinner with Lindsey Graham, which gives a terrible appearance at this stage of the game, and then just had a ten-minute phone call with Jerry Nadler. 

And here`s a report NBC News has about what staff is saying about the situation with Chairman Nadler.  At a Thursday briefing, senior House Democratic staff elaborated on a Wednesday night call between Barr and Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler telling reporters that Barr refused to commit to asking a judge to release grand jury information to Congress and the staffers emphasized that Barr all but refused to give Nadler an unredacted copy of the report.

Your reaction to that, Ron? 

KLAIN:  Well, not only is there no justification for that, we`re actually now going backwards from Watergate level precedents.  In the end as you know, the House Judiciary Committee got a hold of all the materials that the special counsel -- special prosecutor Leon Jaworski developed there in part by using the appropriate federal rules to get them released from the court.  And I think it`s possible that may have to happen here. 

I mean, look, I think there may be several rounds of fighting about privilege and grand jury material, about classified material, but in the end, I think the House and Senate Judiciary Committees will see this report.  They also have other leverage.  They can cut off funding to the attorney general.  As I said, they can go apply to the court for a release of the grand jury material. 

There`s a lot of tools they have.  I don`t think they`re going to get this report by Tuesday.  But they`re going to keep fighting until they get it. 

O`DONNELL:  And so we are in a state of suspended animation.  Until at least Tuesday at the very, very earliest. 

Quinta Jurecic and Ron Klain, thank you both very much for joining us tonight leading off this discussion.  Really do appreciate it. 

And when we come back, we`re going to show you what Congressman Adam Schiff had to say today about the Mueller investigation.  He said it directly to the Republican members of the House Intelligence Committee who were sitting right beside him.  They had called for his resignation as chairman of that committee. 

And Congressman Schiff turned to them, to Devin Nunes sitting silently beside him, and Chairman Schiff unload on every one of those Republican members of his committee.  What Adam Schiff did today has been in the making for two years.  I`ve seen it, as I said, three times already.  Can`t wait to watch it again, right here as we will. 

We are living in extraordinary times.  And those extraordinary times are now playing out in very dramatic moments in what is now the Democratically controlled House of Representatives.  Tonight, it`s Adam Schiff`s turn to show us what Democratic control of that House really means.

And at the end of this hour, I`m going to pick up on a theme raised by Congressman Schiff, and that is moral responsibility.  This time the moral responsibility of presidential candidates.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL:  In the history of the Senate and House Intelligence Committees, there is no more disgraced member of those committees for his work on those committees than the former chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Republican Devin Nunes, who during his chairmanship, for which he was completely both professionally and judgmentally unprepared, Devin Nunes repeatedly violated the long established protocols of the Intelligence Committee to the point where he was forced to recuse himself from the chairmanship of the committee but then continued to try to exert control over the committee after having recused himself.  We`ve never seen anything like that, in any congressional committee before. 

Today, all nine members of the House Intelligence Committee including the most moderate of them, Congressman Will Hurd, decided to share in Devin Nunes`s disgrace by co-signing a letter by Devin Nunes to the new Democratic chairman of the committee, Adam Schiff, urging Chairman Schiff to resign as chairman of the committee because they don`t like what Adam Schiff tells the American people about the work of that committee. 

These are the same Republicans who support every single lie that Donald Trump tells every single day, no matter how dastardly or demented.  The letter did follow the congressional tradition of addressing a congressman.  It was addressed to the honorable Adam Schiff. 

The real use of the word "honorable" has sadly always applied to perhaps no more than a very small minority of the House of Representatives in the Senate.  For having watched the Congress for a very long time, now having worked in the United States Senate myself, when I see Adam Schiff everything I see publicly is honorable.  I have never seen a member of the House of Representatives who weighs his public comments more carefully, precisely and steadily.  Adam Schiff is nothing if not steady and poised. 

He has always been publicly unemotional.  I have never seen him angry -- until today -- which made his anger all the more blazing, all the more powerful, and all the more edge of the seat compelling to watch.  When Adam Schiff responded at the beginning of a hearing today to the attack on his integrity and professionalism by the decidedly dishonorable Devin Nunes and the Republicans on that committee, who today chose to share in Devin Nunes`s dishonor, you`re going see every word of that controlled, targeted, and building anger of the Honorable Adam Schiff. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), CHAIRMAN, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE:  My colleagues may think it`s OK that the Russians offered dirt on a Democratic candidate for president as part of what was described as the Russian government`s effort to help the Trump campaign.  You might think that`s OK. 

My colleagues might think it`s OK that when that was offered to the son of the president, who had a pivotal role in the campaign, that the president`s son did not call the FBI.  He did not adamantly refuse that foreign help.  No, instead that son said he would love the help of the Russians.  You might think it`s OK that he took that meeting. 

You might think it`s OK that Paul Manafort, the campaign chair, someone with great experience in running campaigns, also took that meeting.  You might think it`s OK that the president`s son-in-law also took that meeting.  You might think it`s OK that they concealed it from the public. 

You might think it`s OK that their only disappointment after that meeting was that the dirt they received on Hillary Clinton wasn`t better.  You might think that`s OK. 

You might think it`s OK when it was discovered a year later that then lied about that meeting and said it was about adoptions.  You might think it`s OK the president is reported to have helped dictate that lie.  You might think that`s OK.  I don`t. 

You might think it`s OK that the campaign chairman of a presidential campaign would offer information about that campaign to a Russian oligarch in exchange for money or debt forgiveness.  You might think that`s OK.  I don`t. 

You might think it`s OK that that campaign chairman offered polling data, campaign polling data to someone linked to Russian intelligence.  I don`t think that`s OK. 

You might think it`s OK that the president himself called on Russia to hack his opponent`s e-mails if they were listening.  You might think it`s OK later that day, in fact, the Russians attempted to hack a server affiliated with that campaign.  I don`t think that`s OK. 

You might think that it`s OK that the president`s son-in-law sought to establish a secret back channel of communications with the Russians through a Russian diplomatic facility.  I don`t think that`s OK. 

You might think it`s OK that an associate of the president made direct contract with the GRU through Guccifer 2 and WikiLeaks and considered that it`s considered a hostile intelligence agency.  You might think it`s OK a senior campaign official was instructed to reach that associate and find out what that hostile intelligence agency had to say in terms of dirt on his opponent.  You might think it`s OK that the national security advisor designate secretly conferred with a Russian ambassador about undermining U.S. sanctions and you might think it`s OK he lied about it to the FBI. 

You might say that`s all OK.  You might say that`s just what you need to do to win. 

But I don`t think it`s OK.  I think it`s immoral.  I think it`s unethical.  I think it`s unpatriotic and yes, I think it`s corrupt and evidence of collusion. 

Now I have always said that the question of whether this amounts to proof of conspiracy was another matter.  Whether the special counsel could prove beyond a reasonable doubt the proof of that crime would be up to the special counsel and I would accept this decision and I do.  He`s a good and honorable man and he`s a good prosecutor, but I do not think that conduct, criminal or not is OK. 

And the day we do think that`s OK is the day we will look back and say that is the day America lost its way. 

And I will tell you one more thing that is apropos of the hearing today, I don`t think it`s OK during a presidential campaign, Mr. Trump sought the Kremlin`s help to have a real estate deal in Moscow that would make him a fortune.  According to the special counsel hundreds of millions of dollars.  I don`t think it`s OK he concealed it from the public. 

I don`t think it`s OK that he advocated a new and more favorable policy towards the Russians even as he was seeking the Russians` help, the Kremlin`s help to make money.  I don`t think it`s OK that his attorney lied to our committee. 

There is a different word for that than collusion and it`s called compromise. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL:  Those words are going to live in history.  Those words are going to be in every history book of this period and of this saga.  Those words are going to be seen in that form in every documentary that is ever made about this investigation and these years of investigation.  You will be seeing those words for the rest of your life in some form or other when you are looking at the history of this story. 

After this break, we will be joined by Mieke Eoyang, a former staffer of the House Intelligence Committee who has sat through countless hearings in that very hearing room with that very committee, and I know she has never seen anything like what happened in that room today.  And we`ll be joined by Hunter Walker, a White House reporter who has been covering President Trump`s attacks, very personal attacks, on Chairman Adam Schiff.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE:  I`m so proud of the work of Chairman Adam Schiff.  And in stark contrast to the irresponsible, almost criminal behavior of the previous chair of the committee.

So what is the president afraid of?  Is he afraid of the truth, that he would go after a member, a chairman of a committee, a respected chairman of a committee in the Congress?  I think they`re just scaredy-cats.  They just don`t know what to do so they have to make an attack.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL:  Joining our discussion now, Hunter Walker, White House correspondent for "Yahoo News".  And Mieke Eoyang, a former staff member of the House Intelligence Committee.  She`s currently a vice president of the National Security Program at the Third Way.

And Mieke, I want to start with you.  You`ve been in that committee room.  You`ve been at more hearings than you can remember.  I know you`ve never seen anything like what happened there today.  I want to get your reaction to what we just saw, that five minutes of Adam Schiff that we just watched.

MIEKE EOYANG, FORMER STAFF MEMBER, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE:  It`s actually, what happened today in the hearing is crazy, the idea that the Republicans would try and demand the resignation of Adam Schiff.  It`s not something that is in their power to do.  It`s the sort of thing that`s only dreamed up by people who have no idea how Congress works.

If they were actually concerned about leaking, they would do what happened to Chairman Nunes, which is ask for an ethics investigation into whether or not the rules were broken.  But this is the sort of thing that you would assume got dreamed up on a midnight ride with Devin Nunes to the White House.

It`s so out of the ordinary that I have never seen anything like it, to make this kind of an attack on the chairman.  It`s very clearly an attack to delegitimize his investigation and to distract from the substance of the hearing, which is actually very informative, about how Russia attempts to undermine the United States on the global stage.

O`DONNELL:  Hunter Walker, we know Devin Nunes has colluded with the Trump White House.  He got caught and exposed doing that, violating Intelligence Committee protocols, which is why he was forced to recuse himself as chairman of that committee.

Might this simply have been an order from Donald Trump to his -- to the people on his team on that committee?  Could this just be the Trump White House, President Trump saying to Devin Nunes, hey, I`ve been -- Donald Trump have been attacking him, why don`t you just demand his resignation?

HUNTER WALKER, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, YAHOO NEWS:  Well, the president did have a meeting up on Capitol Hill with Republicans earlier this week.  And as Adam Schiff pointed out at the beginning of that extraordinary diatribe there, they are following the president`s lead in attacking him.  The president at his rally in Michigan tonight was calling him pencil- necked Adam Schiff.

And I think what`s going on here, as Mieke was pointing out, this is just kabuki theater.  They have no power to remove Adam Schiff from his position.

They also -- the president -- we can say a lot of things about him, but he is a master marketer.  This is a reality T.V. showman.

And he`s always made these enemies for himself.  He`s saying pencil-necked Adam Schiff.  It`s really in the tradition of Little Marco, Lyin` Ted, and my personal favorite, Low Energy Jeb.

And it makes sense for him to set up this grand villain and turn it into a personal battle because he`s trying to distract from the substance of the Mueller report, which you know, he`s declared couldn`t have been better even though he hasn`t actually seen it.

He`s declared it exonerates him even though it specifically says it doesn`t do that on the question of obstruction.  So he really wants to move the debate into this clash and this bevy of personal insults rather than dealing with the litany of facts that Adam Schiff presented in Congress there, which apart from his opinion that the behavior was unethical and corrupt, every factual detail he laid out was correct and accurate.

O`DONNELL:  Yes.  And Mieke, it was really something to see.  And that`s one reason why I wanted to run it in full, is that there`s the chairman doing it, occasionally glancing down presumably at bullet points.  But you and I have been in those hearings and normally something like that is written, word for word, for a committee member to basically read all the way through.  But Chairman Schiff is clearly himself in command of this information.

EOYANG:  Absolutely.  And what we`ve seen over and over again every time he`s speaking about this, he`s a very careful prosecutor.  He knows his facts.  He knows exactly what`s been going on.  He knows the timeline.  And he can recite the stuff verbatim.

Now, this is all information that`s in the public record.  We also know that the committee took closed-door testimony, that there are additional transcripts and additional information on things that he knows.

So his confidence level that he`s got a lot of evidence that points to some kind of coordinated activity between the Russians and the Trump campaign is very high.  And that was a very compelling list of facts that he read out at the hearing today.

O`DONNELL:  Hunter, at the beginning of this hour, we talked about the suspended animation that we`re in as we wait for the actual Mueller report.  Is it beginning to dawn on the White House that the Barr letter isn`t the end of the story?

WALKER:  Well, as I said earlier, they are trying to paint it as a full exoneration.  And you know, it specifically isn`t on the question of obstruction but even collusion.

This is not a legal term.  It`s a subjective thing.  And as Adam Schiff was saying there, he believes these things that we know happened, and again, they are in the public record, were collusion.

But I think one really important point to make, I`m on the older side of it but I`m still technically a Millennial.  And I`m old enough to remember when Obama wearing a tan suit was a scandal.

And it`s only in this weird new upside down we`re in where anyone could be suggesting that the president, you know, exchanging information with a foreign government, encouraging them to hack his rivals, isn`t a scandal.  I mean, imagine the outcry if Obama had reached out to the Russians or even the British and asked them to attack his Republican rivals.  I mean we would have seen a quadruple Benghazi.

O`DONNELL:  Yes.  I mean just to clarify, and I know what you mean, Hunter, that the tan suit for President Obama was something that the "Fox News" world tried to turn into something disrespectful for a president to do.  Of course, they didn`t mean it.  None of them meant it.  They were just desperately looking for that moment.

But that same side of the world puts up with every single overt outrage by this presidency that it never questions.  We`re going to have to leave it there.

Mieke Eoyang, Hunter Walker, thank you both very much for joining us tonight.

And when we come back, against the advice of Republican leaders in Congress, President Trump has once again made the Affordable Care Act the number one campaign issue of this week by ordering his Justice Department to attack the Affordable Care Act and try to completely destroy it in court.

Republican congressional leaders know that the attacks on the Affordable Care Act are what helped the Democrats win the House of Representatives and will once again help Democrats win in the next campaign.  We`re going to discuss that and the policy of the Affordable Care Act and what it means to people whose lives depend on it, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL:  The Republican congressional leaders want nothing to do with Donald Trump`s new crusade against the Affordable Care Act.  The Republican Minority Leader of the House of Representatives Kevin McCarthy had reportedly told the White House he thinks it is a big mistake that the Trump administration is now trying to destroy the Affordable Care Act in a court case.

And Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell told "Politico" today, "I look forward to seeing what the president is proposing and what he can work out with the speaker."  Meaning what`s Donald Trump going to work out with Nancy Pelosi to replace the Affordable Care Act.  Obviously, the answer to that is nothing.

The "Politico" headline of that story, therefore, is "McConnell to Trump, health care is all yours."  Tonight, at a trump rally in Michigan, Donald Trump proved once again that he still hates the Affordable Care Act because it was passed by President Obama and he really still hates John McCain for voting against the Trump repeal of the Affordable Care Act.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  We`re going to hopefully in the court, in Texas you heard we won the case.  Now, it has to be appealed.  And then we`ll go to the United States Supreme Court.  We have a chance of killing Obamacare.

We almost did it.  But somebody, unfortunately, surprised us with thumbs down.  But we`ll do it a different way.  You know what?  We`ll do it a different way.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL:  The president said that tonight in a state where the uninsured rate was cut in half by Obamacare, with nearly 700,000 people benefiting from the Medicaid expansion alone and well over a million people now benefiting from President Obama`s health care plan called the Affordable Care Act.

Former Republican Congressman David Jolly knows the politics of health care and how deadly the politics of health care were for Republicans in the last congressional election in November.  He will join us after this break along with "New York Times" Columnist Nicholas Kristof, who knows the policy and the politics of Obamacare and the people whose lives depend on it.  That`s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL:  Here`s House Speaker Nancy Pelosi discussing President Trump`s latest legal attack on the Affordable Care Act in the courts.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PELOSI:  The Trump administration radically expanded its war on America`s health care this week.  Hard to explain but who knows?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL:  Hard to explain.  That`s why we are joined by Nicolas Kristof, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for "The New York Times," and former Republican Congressman David Jolly from Florida.  He is an MSNBC contributor.

And David, let me start with you because I want to start with the politics of this and move into the human impact.

DAVID JOLLY, FORMER REPUBLICAN CONGRESSMAN:  Sure.

O`DONNELL:  You have seen your former colleagues in the Republican House of Representatives drive off the cliff in the last election over this very issue.  Number one issue in the exit polls was health care, preserving the Affordable Care Act in effect.  Here they go again.

JOLLY:  And they`re going to do it again, right.  Exactly right, Lawrence.  Look, Republicans are so hell-bent on repealing Obamacare simply because it was President Obama`s signature legislative achievement.  Not on the merits.  Not on the substance.

And what Republicans have failed to realize, you and I talked about this maybe a year or so ago, nine years into Obamacare, the reality is the politics are very different.  The American people have come to expect that they can have direct access to plans on the exchange, that they can have direct access to subsidies, that pre-existing conditions will be covered.

So Republicans may have been opposed to it at the beginning before the American people grew to expect the provisions of Obamacare but the reality is the American people now expect it and to repeal it would be out of step.  It`s nuanced but it`s patently obvious.

If it was popular to repeal Obamacare, the Senate would have done it a year ago.  John McCain would have voted to repeal it.  The reason it wasn`t repealed is not because of Senator McCain.  It`s because the American people don`t want it repealed.

O`DONNELL:  And Nick, the reason why it is so dangerous to touch politically the way the president has touched is because it`s real lives.  It`s life and death for real people.

NICK KRISTOF, PULITZER PRIZE-WINNING COLUMNIST, THE NEW YORK TIMES:  Roughly, for every 800 people who are uninsured, one person will die each year.  So the 20 million people who gained insurance through Obamacare represent about 25,000 lives saved each year.  If we, in turn, lose those coverage for those 20 million people, it`s 25,000 or so who will die each year.

And I don`t think people -- Americans fully realize how bad our health outcomes are compared to people in Europe or Canada.  The fact that women are three times as likely to die in pregnancy or childbirth as women in Britain.  The fact that American kids are 55 percent more likely to die than kids in the OECD.

And it is so frustrating that you know, we know -- I mean look, it`s hard.  It`s complicated.  But we know how to save an awful lot of these lives, and it starts with getting insurance.

And the idea that we would have registered a 20 million improvement, and then we would throw that under the bus and let an extra 25,000 die is staggering to me.

O`DONNELL:  And every one of those 20 million has a loved one or more than one loved one who are very concerned that they are able to hold on to this.  Let`s listen to what presidential candidate Kirsten Gillibrand said on this network with Ari Melber about this today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D-NY), 2020 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  This has already gone to the Supreme Court.  And so for this administration now to unwind every aspect of the Affordable Care Act is an outrage.

I hear about this no matter where I go in the country, whether in Michigan, or Iowa, or in New Hampshire or New York State.  Number one issue out of people`s minds is I can`t afford health care and I want access.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL:  David, the Republican leadership in the Congress obviously knows that the Gillibrand argument that we just heard has already won in this arena.

JOLLY:  It has.  But the Supreme Court actually -- and I think Mick Mulvaney might be betting that Roberts switches his vote.  So the nuance of the Supreme Court decision in 2012 was because the mandate was determined to be a tax under John Roberts` interpretation.  It was therefore constitutional.

That mandate was repealed.  When Republicans repealed the mandate, it wasn`t just to provide relief as they sought to individuals, it was to give attorneys the ability to go back to John Roberts and say the provision that you saw as keeping this law constitutional has now been repealed and so you can vote to overturn the law.

At the end of the day, look, Republicans have so screwed up and frankly, at the altar of the free market, they have screwed up solutions to health care that at this point is so rigged in favor of insurers and the big money medical pockets.  The American people know the only answer lies on the Democratic side of the isle at this point.

O`DONNELL:  And Nick, the legislation itself, the law in place has been remarkably resilient because these kinds of legislative constructions always we think in the design depend on every element of the design.

And if you pull the mandate out of it, there could be collapsing other parts of it but it didn`t collapse.  Somehow, the consumer came in and supported it against the collapse that the Republicans were trying to create.

KRISTOF:  I mean that`s partly because a lot of consumers didn`t realize that the mandate was no longer in effect, according to surveys.  But yes, you`re right, everything depends on each other and you can`t provide a -- can`t continue with pre-existing conditions if you get rid of other parts, right.

You know, look, at the end of the day, what is striking is -- the paradox here is that Trump voters in many cases who are particularly vulnerable to these kinds of problems.  Trump did well in the primaries in those areas that had suffered from the deaths of despair, the early deaths.

And yes, I`m from rural Oregon and Trump country and people there somehow both support Trump and also are dying prematurely from these causes.  I was at a funeral last month of a high school friend who -- they were five kids and four of those five kids have now died.

And, you know, they, for most of their lives did not have insurance and this is a tale told all across the country with life expectancy now falling for three years in a row.  This is preventable and instead, it is going to be magnified if we lose insurance for another 20 million Americans.

O`DONNELL:  We`ve got to leave it there for tonight.  Nick Kristof, thank you very much for joining us.  David Jolly, thank you for joining us once again.  Really appreciate it.

JOLLY:  Thank you.

O`DONNELL:  And when we come back, a last word tonight about moral responsibility, moral responsibility of presidential candidates.  A moral responsibility, a particular one that so far only one of the candidates has met.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL:  There is absolutely no record anywhere in Donald Trump`s life showing that he has ever understood or lived by the words moral responsibility.  The main reason I thought Donald Trump would never run for president is that I knew he could never release his tax returns.

It didn`t occur to me that a candidate could just violate that unwritten rule of presidential campaign and then getting away with it but Donald Trump did.  Candidates for president have a moral obligation to release their tax returns.

Presidential candidates are asking American taxpayers who send $1.7 trillion to the Internal Revenue Service and the United States Treasury to put them in charge of the United States Treasury.  Presidential candidates are asking American voters to put them in charge of administering all of the spending of that money that Congress authorizes.

Presidential candidates are asking for the power to sign or veto new tax laws.  Every member of Congress is empowered to write tax law.  And so they have a moral responsibility to show us how the tax law affects them and how changes in the tax law might affect them.

That`s why Democrats in Congress are advancing legislation to require presidential candidates to release their last 10 years of tax returns.  Democrats are trying to make an unwritten rule of presidential campaigning a written rule.

Senator Elizabeth Warren already released 10 years of tax returns before the Democrats proposed that legislation this year.  And today, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand became the first presidential candidate to release this year`s tax returns.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GILLIBRAND:  Hi.  I just posted my latest tax returns online.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL:  Senator Gillibrand has been posting her tax returns online for over 10 years.  This year`s tax return is a relatively simple return for a senator and her spouse.  It`s basically her Senate salary plus some book income.

There are 18 days left before the April 15 tax filing deadline and there is no good reason why every presidential candidate can`t release their 2018 tax returns by April 15 or explain exactly why they are using an extension to file after April 15.

I used to write tax law in the Senate Finance Committee.  And so I know there are many legitimate reasons for people at all levels of income but, especially the most complex tax returns to request an extension for filing.  That`s OK.

But if you`re running for president with millions of Americans now worrying about getting their tax returns done by April 15, you owe voters full transparency about your tax returns this year or requests for extensions by April 15th.

Americans are working hard to comply with the tax law and fund the government that the presidential candidates want to run.  The candidates owe the voters transparency about their taxes in return.  It is nothing less than their moral responsibility.  That`s tonight`s LAST WORD.  "THE 11TH HOUR" with Brian Williams starts now.

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