IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

One on one with Pres. Candidate Tim Ryan. TRANSCRIPT: 4/5/19, The Last Word w/ Lawrence O'Donnell.

Guests: George Yin, Jimmy Gomez, Neera Tanden, Rick Wilson, Tim Ryan


ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST:  This is the kind of ongoing vulnerability that you would expect to spark real concern and apparently, it has. That does it for us tonight. Rachel will be back here on Monday. You can catch me here Monday at 1:00 p.m. and again at 3:00 p.m. Time now for "THE LAST WORD" with Lawrence O`Donnell.

Good evening, Lawrence.

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST:  Good evening, Ali, and thanks for filling in for Rachel tonight and thanks for filling in for me as often as you do. Really appreciate it.

VELSHI:  Thank you, sir.

O`DONNELL:  We`re going to have another tax class tonight now that the president is desperately trying to prevent the IRS from handing over his tax returns to the House of Representatives. But in tonight`s class, I`m not going to be the teacher. I`m going to be the student because our first guest tonight is the highest authority that we have ever had on this program on taxation.

George Yin is a former chief of staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation. Now, you don`t hear about that very much, but the Joint Committee on Taxation is a Congressional committee composed of both House members and Senate members and the staff of the joint committee actually advises the two tax writing committees and their staff, the Senate Finance Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee.

And the staffs of the Joint Tax Committee are by far the leading experts on taxation in Washington and the chief of staff of that staff on the Joint Tax Committee is simply regarded in awe by all members of the staff of the tax writing committees.

And so I am filled with awe tonight and very excited to have George Yin with us tonight. He was actually hired by Republicans to run the staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation. There is usually -- depending on which party is in power -- a Democratic chairman of that committee or a Republican chairman of that committee, it was always a Republican in George Yin`s time.

But the staff of that committee is always considered nonpartisan. It isn`t even bipartisan. It`s just they`re nonpartisan. They are completely trusted by both sides. And George Yin has actually written the definitive article on the tax writing committee`s legal authority to obtain the president`s tax returns.

And so you are going to hear from the highest authority in the land on this issue tonight and I`m going to be taking notes. And later in this hour, we`re going to hear from the newest Democratic presidential candidate. In our contenders` series tonight, we will be joined by Democratic Congressman Tim Ryan of Ohio. Any Democrat who can win in Ohio is someone the Democratic Party has to pay attention to.

And in the lazy labels of the political news media, Tim Ryan is often referred to as a moderate, but I don`t know what moderate means anymore because Tim Ryan is in favor of Medicare for all, which was just a short time ago, the most extreme liberal position that you could take in Congress. So, you may be surprised by some of Tim Ryan`s positions.

And remember, there are two slots that have to be filled at the Democratic National Convention, president and vice presidents. We need two candidates, and it`s never too early to start looking for a vice presidential candidate who can maybe help the ticket win in a very important state like say Ohio. So you`re going to want to hear from Mr. Ryan of Ohio tonight.

But first, Donald Trump has a new lawyer, and that lawyer is trying to do something that has never been done before, and the reason it`s never been done before is that the law is very clear about the case that President Trump has hired his new lawyer to handle. And it may be the case that Donald Trump fears more than any other thing that has happened to him since he took the oath of office.

The president`s new lawyer is a private attorney who does not work in the White House. He is not on the government payroll. He`s a private lawyer hired by Donald Trump to try to stop House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal from legally obtaining Donald Trump`s tax returns. As we`ve been discussing at this hour for the last two nights, the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee has the unique power written into law that allows him to obtain anyone`s tax returns.

And obtaining public official`s tax returns including the president is one of the things that this law was actually designed to do. The law allows the chairman of the tax writing committees in the House and in the Senate to obtain any tax returns they want to see, and no one has ever successfully blocked them from doing that, ever.

The president`s new lawyer, William Consovoy, wrote a three-page letter today trying to block Chairman Neal`s demand for the Trump tax returns. It could have been a much shorter letter if anyone had ever successfully blocked one of the tax writing committees from obtaining a tax return because if that had ever happened, the president`s lawyer could just cite that case, claim it applies here and be done with it.

Instead, the president`s lawyer wrote a letter filled with irrelevant references, political argument, and faulty legal scholarship. In other words, the president has hired yet another lawyer who literally doesn`t know what he`s talking about. But the president is desperate this time because there is nothing the president has worked harder to hide than his tax returns, nothing.

The president is happily living with the public knowledge and his wife`s knowledge of his affair with Stormy Daniels shortly after his third wife gave birth to his fifth child. I mean, the president was hoping we didn`t find out about that, but he sure doesn`t seem to care that we did. His tax returns are something else.

Tim O`Brien is a frequent guest on this program who has been studying Donald Trump`s financial affairs for years and as a result of a lawsuit, was once allowed to see one year of Donald Trump`s tax returns when he was a "New York Times" reporter.

Today, Tim O`Brien said this, "This is something he is going to fight tooth and nail. It opens a vein. He`s the most financially conflicted president of the modern era. The tax returns are both emblematic of that and a potential road map of what his conflicts might look like."

Because like most people most of the news media is usually intimidated by lawyer`s letters, you should brace yourself for days of news coverage in which the president`s lawyer`s letter will be taken much more seriously than it should be. It takes its place among the long list of lawyers` letters sent on behalf of Donald J. Trump that have absolutely no legal basis.

Like the letter another private attorney sent on behalf of President Trump to block the publication of Michael Wolf`s book "Fire and Fury." Charles Harder has had a very successful law practice in Beverly Hills, but his place in the legal Hall of Fame became secure on January 4th, 2018 when he wrote this absurdist letter to Michael Wolf and his publisher saying on page 3, "Mr. Trump hereby demands that you immediately cease and desist from any further publication release or dissemination of the book."

And of course the book went on to be a giant best seller. That was one lawyer`s letter that everyone in the news media instantly knew was a joke because it affects their business. They know that the First Amendment made that letter a joke and helped Michael Wolf`s book sales skyrocket.

It was an 11-page letter by one of the most expensive lawyers in America, and it meant absolutely nothing, and everybody realized that. And there was no follow-up to that letter, none. The three-page letter that the president paid for today must have been much cheaper and even though it has no legal basis, this one, this one is not a joke because it is addressed to a Trump appointee, Brent McIntosh, the general counsel of the Department of Treasury.

And the letter asks the general counsel of the Treasury to tell the Treasury secretary to not allow the IRS commissioner to deliver the Trump tax returns to Chairman Neal. The IRS is technically part of the Treasury Department, and so it is technically under the jurisdiction of the Treasury secretary, although the IRS is usually allowed to operate as a completely independent entity.

The letter says, "The IRS should refrain from divulging the requested information until it receives a formal legal opinion from the Justice Department`s office of legal counsel, which brings us to another Trump appointee, Attorney General William Barr. And so this becomes another test of what Attorney General William Barr is willing to do for Donald Trump.

And it becomes a test for Donald Trump`s commissioner of the IRS who has absolutely no legal basis whatsoever for not turning over those tax returns by Wednesday of next week as Chairman Neal has demanded.

And so, all the Donald Trump appointees involved, Treasury Secretary Mnuchin, Brent McIntosh the general counsel of treasury, Attorney General William Barr, and IRS commissioner Charles Reddick might all be staring at Donald Trump`s lawyer`s letter tonight right now trying to see if there is any legal hook they can possibly hold onto as an excuse for not complying with very clear law, or they might not.

They might all be honorable men who happen to be appointed by Donald Trump who take their oaths of office very seriously and recognize that the president`s lawyer`s letter is a legal joke to be dismissed as soon as they read it, maybe.

The lawyer`s letter says requests for tax returns and return information must have a legitimate legislative purpose. Chairman Neal`s letter demanding the tax returns says, "consistent with its authority the committee is considering legislative proposals and conducting oversight related to our federal tax laws including but not limited to the extent to which the IRS audits and enforces the federal tax laws against a president."

It is necessary for the committee to determine the scope of any such examination and whether it includes a review of underlying business activities required to be reported on the individual income tax return. And that is why the chairman is asking for Donald Trump`s tax returns instead of Barack Obama`s tax returns because Donald Trump is the only president who has significant underlying business activities.

The chairman wants to know whether the automatic IRS audit of presidential tax returns includes Donald Trump`s business tax returns. The president`s lawyer`s letter claims that Chairman Neal is only asking for Donald Trump`s tax returns because he is a political opponent.

The letter makes no attempt to prove that, and the letter does that classic bad lawyer thing of saying that the chairman has no legitimate committee purpose for requesting the president`s tax returns, and then immediately says, even if the Ways and Means Committee has a legitimate purpose for requesting the president`s tax returns, that`s not the real reason Richie Neal is doing this.

The letter simply says that the president`s lawyer does not believe the reasons Richie Neal gave for demanding the president`s tax returns. The president`s lawyer`s letter also includes this glaring mistake. It says, "The president has even greater authority than Congress to obtain individual`s tax returns." That is not true.

The president does not have authority to obtain individual`s tax returns that is more powerful than the Congress`. It is actually much more limited than committee chairman`s authority to obtain individual tax returns.

Richie Neal is in his 30th year of service in the House of Representatives where everyone calls him Richie just like they do back home in his congressional district in Western Massachusetts. He`s not Chairman Neal back there, he`s Richie Neal and he was Richie Neal to me when I was working on the staff of Senate Finance Committee working on tax policy and he was a member of the Ways and Means Committee working on tax policy.

Most of you have never heard his voice because his approach to congressional life has always been about carefully doing the work and the homework including carefully doing the work for his constituents in western Massachusetts so that he is always re-elected, but never seeking the limelight in Washington.

Richie Neal has had an open invitation to be on this program every night since the Democrats won the House of Representative, and full disclosure I think of him as a friend of mine, and he won`t do this show because he doesn`t want or need the attention. Richie Neal is the opposite of Donald Trump in every good way that you can be the opposite of Donald Trump.

And tonight, Donald Trump has no idea what he`s up against in Richie Neal. But I, for one, have no doubt who is going to win. Richie Neal is going to get Donald Trump`s tax returns. Leading off our discussion now, it is an honor to be joined by George Yin. He`s the former chief of staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation. He is now a professor of law and taxation at the University of Virginia Law School.

And also joining us, Democratic Congressman Jimmy Gomez of California. He is now a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, also a member of the Oversight Committee, but he is a member of the House Ways and Means where this demand for Donald Trump`s tax returns originated. George Yin, let me start with you.

You`ve read the president`s attorney`s letter about this. You`ve also written the definitive article about this law. Tell us -- give us your review of the president`s lawyer`s letter, and do you see any merit in it?

GEORGE YIN, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF, JOINT COMMITTEE ON TAXATION:  Thanks, Lawrence, pleasure to be with you. That was an over the top introduction.

O`DONNELL:  Well, you know -- let me just stop you, you know and Jimmy Gomez knows exactly how us former and current tax committee staff regard the chief of staff of the Joint Tax Committee.

YIN:  Thanks.

O`DONNELL:  We always bow.

YIN:  Thanks. That`s very nice, but I completely agree with you. The letter really didn`t say anything useful. I thought Chairman Neal`s letter request lays out a couple of reasons that would qualify as the legislative purposes and one of the ones that is laid out I think is particularly strong, which is to lend oversight over the IRS`s audit of the president`s returns.

The president has indicated repeatedly that his returns are under audit, but the fact is there have been problems with that in the past. The first audit by the IRS of President Nixon`s returns, actually, the IRS gave President Nixon a complete, clean bill of tax health as a result of that audit.

And even sent President Nixon a letter complimenting him on the care with which he had prepared those returns, but on later audits of the same returns, one by the nonpartisan staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation and one by the IRS again, we discovered that, in fact, President Nixon owed almost a half a million dollars of additional tax and interest.

So there`s an inherent conflict of interest when the IRS is asked to audit, essentially its boss, and it`s absolutely the responsibility of Congress and the Ways and Means Committee to exercise its oversight responsibility to double check that those audit -- that audit is being done appropriately or whether there`s any funny business going on. So I think that the chairman is very smart in laying out that rationale as well as others for this request.

O`DONNELL:  Let`s listen to Richie Neal. The audience will finally get to hear his voice because they don`t hear this very much. He did make some comments yesterday about his approach to getting the Trump tax returns.


RICHIE NEAL, CHAIRMAN, HOUSE WAYS & MEANS COMMITTEE:  We followed IRS guidelines, which suggests to taxpayers that six years is generally the measurements that they use for advising taxpayers on how long to keep their forms.

So, we didn`t want to have the case perhaps dismissed on a technical glitch. So again, I think as I`ve said to you now for a long period of time, we`ve taken a very methodical approach to what will likely be an established court case.


O`DONNELL:  Congressman Gomez, talk about the way your chairman has approached this because you`ve seen it from the inside. We only knew about it the moment his letter came out saying he was doing this, but you saw him, how he approached this, how he built to this moment.

REP. JIMMY GOMEZ (D), MEMBER, WAYS & MEANS COMMITTEE:  You know, Chairman Neal is one of the most strategic, methodical individuals in Congress and he knew what was going to be before us as a committee and before him. So, he was setting up something to make sure that we abided by the law by statute and made sure every committee member understood the statute.

And this is why he`s done it so slow. He had a lot of pressure on him to go after the taxes right away, but he didn`t do that because he knows that this is too important and the American people are counting on him.

O`DONNELL:  George yin, I want to talk about the law that governs this. It refers to it, uses the phrase the secretary shall furnish the tax returns meaning the secretary of the Treasury, and that`s simply because of the organizational chart where the IRS is technically within the treasury department.

Historically, though, these requests have always been handled directly by the IRS commissioner. Isn`t that the precedent we have for it and isn`t that why Chairman Neal addressed his letter directly to the IRS commissioner?

YIN:  Well yes, you`re right. The commissioner of the IRS has more direct custodial responsibility over the returns. Obviously people under -- directly under him are the ones who actually have the material that the chairman has requested. So it makes some sense to direct the request there, but you`re right.

The statute does indicate that the secretary of the Treasury shall furnish it. So ultimately, the response, assuming that there is a response, the response of the information requested would presumably come from Secretary Mnuchin.

O`DONNELL:  And so George, let me stay with you on the implications of the president`s lawyer`s letter. He`s addressing it to the Treasury Department, to the counsel at the Treasury Department. He makes a reference to asking the Treasury Department to wait until the Justice Department basically tells them what to do. What`s your reaction to that part of it?

YIN:  Well, I don`t really see any grounds for that at all. Again, the law is very clear, and I thought that Chairman Neal`s request was actually very smart also in that it was quite targeted. So, you know, there`s a limited amount of information that`s being requested, and I would think that, you know, depending on how difficult it is to assemble it, it could be forwarded fairly quickly. I don`t really see the need for Justice Department interpretation. The law is pretty straightforward.

O`DONNELL:  And Congressman Gomez, the president has always said as a campaigner and he still says, you know, you can`t see my tax returns because they`re being audited. We don`t know if that was ever true when he was a candidate, but it is true that the president`s tax returns are routinely automatically audited by the IRS, but Barack Obama as president did two things.

He always filed his income tax returns on time before April 15th, and he always released those tax returns publicly upon filing them even though every one of those tax returns was being audited?

GOMEZ:  That`s correct. You know, Trump has avoided releasing his taxes since he started running for president, and I think we need to really focus in on that. Why does he not want the American people to see his taxes? And this is something that`s been done for 40 years, Republicans and Democrats alike have released their tax returns, and even while under audit.

So there`s nothing that prevents him from actually showing his taxes and putting the American people at ease that he`s not under leverage or being leveraged by an individual or by a foreign government.

O`DONNELL:  Congressman Jimmy Gomez and George Yin, thank you both very much for joining us. I really appreciate you starting us off.

YIN:  Thank you, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL:  Thank you. And when we come back, Donald Trump`s presidency is not about governing. It`s about the rallies. It`s about what sounds good at his rallies and that is why Donald Trump is constantly retreating from things he says to his rally audience that he just can`t get done or do in government, things like, you know, closing the border with Mexico.

But appealing to his rally audience also means that Donald Trump`s support has never increased, and that makes him a very weak re-election candidate. And later tonight, we will be joined by the newest Democratic candidate for president, Ohio Congressman Tim Ryan.


O`DONNELL:  This morning a liar tried to explain a liar.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST:  Has he dialed down the lying?

ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATION DIRECTOR:  No, he`s very consistent. He`s probably consistent over the last 40 years in terms of the way he frames a narrative in a story. He does it because he thinks its fun.


O`DONNELL:  So the president of the United States lies because he thinks it`s fun according to a liar who has known President Trump for a long time and sort of kind of almost worked in the White House for about a week or so even though he was never on the White House payroll.

The problem for the president is that a majority of Americans do not think there is anything fun about him. That`s why the president`s approval rating seems to be locked at a maximum of 43 percent. The president was elected with only 46 percent of the vote. So, he`s in no positive to lose any bit of that support which he`s already done.

And also, unlike any other president, Donald Trump has never once, never once tried to appeal to a voter who has not already voted for him, and the way the president has chosen to appeal to the voters he already has is exactly the same way he appealed to them as a candidate, at rallies.

This is the rally presidency. The only thing that matters to Donald Trump is how it sounds in a rally. Donald Trump doesn`t care if he can do the things that he says like close our southern border with Mexico. I haven`t been covering that story on this show because I believed it was just another Trump rallying cry not something he was actually going to do. And that of course turned out to be right.

And so many in the media are reporting that Donald Trump has once again retreated from a Trumpian idea, an idea that no other politician would ever suggest, a crazy idea of shutting down the border, but is it a retreat if he was never going to do it? Do his voters think it`s a retreat, or do his voters just want him to sound tough about the Mexican border? Is that good enough for them?

His voters also seem to want him to actually be tough about the Mexican border, but Donald Trump knows they most of all appreciate him sounding tough and when Donald Trump tries to sound tough, he sounds hateful. It`s very difficult to compare what Donald Trump says to what previous presidents have said or presidential candidates have said, and so presidential candidate Beto O`Rourke has found a very dark comparison to what President Trump says.


REP. BETO O`ROURKE (D), TEXAS :  I compare the rhetoric that the president has 0employed to rhetoric that you might have heard during the third Reich, calling human beings an infestation is something we might have expected to hear in Nazi Germany.

Describing immigrants who have a track record of committing violent crimes at a lower rate than native born Americans, as rapists and criminals, seeking to ban almost all people of one religion. What other country on the face of the planet does that kind of thing or in our human history or in history of the western world?

Because they are somehow deficient or violent or a threat to us, putting kids in cages, saying that neo-Nazis and Klansmen and white supremacists are very fine people? You draw your own conclusions, but this is not something I expected to hear the president of the United States ever say.


O`DONNELL:  Joining our discussion now, Neera Tanden. She`s the president for the Center for American Progress. She`s a veteran of the Obama administration. She worked on the Affordable Care Act. Also joining us, Rick Wilson, a Republican strategist and contributor to "The Daily Beast." He`s the author of the book "Everything Trump Touches Dies."

Neera, it`s hard to recite Rick`s book titles without chuckling about them. Neera, this is inevitable, that candidates are going to be asked about Donald Trump`s rhetoric. Beto O`Rourke did not shy away from it. For him, the closest comparison is something outside of our politics, something very dark.

NEERA TANDEN, PRESIDENT, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS:  In fact, this afternoon Donald Trump further compared immigrants and people coming across the border as animals, not humans, he said animals. Basically making Beto O`Rourke`s point which is essentially Donald Trump for years now has tried to adopt and has adopted the language of making immigrants, undocumented immigrants animals, otherizing them, making them people that you don`t feel are people.

And in my view it`s absolutely accurate that fascists do that. And I think it`s really important that we call this language out for what it is, which is not the language of Democrats or democracies or leaders of the free world but language of dictators.

And I think there`s going to be a forceful debate within the Democratic Party about immigration and other issues. But I also think the Democratic Party is looking for leaders who are going to take the fight to Donald Trump, not power, but to take the fight to him and say the way he`s speaking is really frankly not American.

O`DONNELL:  Rick Wilson, let`s talk about Trump voters for a second.  I mean I`m sure I have a smaller sample who I know, than you know, but the Trump voters who I know do not believe him.

For example, the Trump voters I know, they never believed Mexico was going to pay for the wall.  They weren`t sure if there would be a wall, but what they cared about when they heard Donald Trump talk about the southern border is what they believed was no candidate is going to be tougher on the southern border than Donald Trump, and that`s what they cared about.

WILSON:  Right.

O`DONNELL:  And so for them, when Donald Trump does these things, I`m going to close the border with Mexico and then he doesn`t do it, the Trump voters I know don`t think of that as retreat.  They just think of that as another day where Donald Trump said the toughest thing he could think of about the southern border and that seems to matter to them as much or more than what he actually does.

WILSON:  Lawrence, I think that`s exactly right.  They`re always about the spectacle of Trump.  They`re always about the show of Trump.  This is a reality T.V. president, a reality T.V. constituency that supports him.

And so they believe these things that own the libs or that cause the media to blow up.  They love that effect of Donald Trump saying something outrageous and stupid and pointless, but they think that that accomplishes something politically for them that no one else could do for them.

And ultimately, though, it has a diminishing returns sort of effect over time because we`re never going to have Mexico pay for the wall.  There`s not going to be a wall.  There`s not going to be a fence.  There`s not going to be anything that Trump promises them ever, but they still play this game because they think that Donald Trump is some transgressive figure.

O`DONNELL:  And Neera, he went to the southern border in California today where the Obama administration had authorized some additional wall structure where there already is a lot of fencing wall reinforcement.  And so this was a project authorized, paid for by the Obama administration.

President Trump put a Trump plaque, President Trump plaque on that new piece of construction authorized by the Obama administration and claimed to his voters that that`s my wall.  That thing right there that you can see through.

TANDEN:  I don`t know.  It looks like a fence to me, not really a concrete wall, 30-foot high wall.  I don`t know.  My eyes tell me it`s a fence, not a wall.

But I think Rick is absolutely right.  Look, Donald Trump is a one trick pony, whether it`s, you know, 2016, 2018, or 2020, he is going to use like xenophobic appeals, anti-immigrant appeals, calling them immigrants -- calling them animals.

And that is his -- that`s his strength.  He thinks -- he`s not president of the United States, he is president of his base.

Now, the good news is that that is not a majority of the country.  A majority of the country thinks that what Trump is doing is actually morally indefensible and wrong, but he is counting on exciting his base, getting them enthusiastic, riling them up.

And I do think it is because they`re attacking some other group.  It`s always a politics of subtraction, never addition for him.  And I think the bottom line of this is he`s not growing his base.  His tactic is to destroy whoever the Democrat is and ensure his base is really strong.

O`DONNELL:  Yes.  Rick, when I`ve watched the news media over the two years of this presidency so far talk about what Donald Trump is doing, so many people in the news media seem to forget what you have to do to get reelected.

WILSON:  That`s right.

O`DONNELL:  And so I mean Richard Nixon, for example, who won the presidency by less than one percent of the vote, on re-election he won 49 states.  When Ronald Reagan was reelected, he won 49 states because he spent four years trying to appeal to voters who did not vote for him the first time.

WILSON:  Remember, Lawrence, the Morning in America ads in `84 were target on world democratic on rural Democratic voters.  They weren`t the Republican evangelical base or the economic concerted base.  They were spreading the message out.

Donald Trump is always recursive.  It`s always internalizing everything else.  It`s a smaller, smaller, smaller, shrinking base.  And at some point, you run out of Cletus`s Slack-Jawed Yokel guys to go oh, MAGA.  At some point, you run out of people who are going to endorse things that are intellectually bankrupt, morally dishonest and Trumpian in every respect.

At some point, you end up with people saying, wait a minute, 38 percent is not going to get you home in an electoral college battle that requires you to win 271 votes in this equation.  And so that`s always sort of the dead end of Trumpism is that they are always recursive.  They`re always internal.  They`re always reducing the number of people they appeal to.

O`DONNELL:  Rick Wilson and Neera Tanden, thank you for joining us on this Friday night edition of THE LAST WORD.  Really appreciate it.

WILSON:  Thanks, Lawrence.

TANDEN:  Thanks so much.

O`DONNELL:  And when we come back, the field of Democratic presidential candidates gets bigger every day, and one of the things that that means is that the new ideas keep coming from the candidates in the campaign almost every day.  And some of those are among the best ideas I have heard in democratic campaigns in a long time.  That`s next.


O`DONNELL:  A presidential campaign came to midtown Manhattan today where several candidates appeared at Reverend Al Sharpton`s National Action Network Conference.  One of the results of this large group of presidential candidates is that we are watching a very competitive field in terms of their policy proposals.

The Democratic presidential campaign has already supported and created important policy ideas that are going to become part of the boilerplate of the Democratic campaign.


SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D), CALIFORNIA:  Black households are twice as likely to rent as to own, and nearly half of black families spend more than 30 percent of their income on rent.

So what I am proposing is that for families who are spending and individuals who are spending more than 30 percent of their income on rent plus utilities, they get a tax credit to help them get through the month.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D) MASSACHUSETTS:  We are the richest country in the history of the planet.  Access to high-quality child care and education during the early stages of a child`s life should not be a privilege reserved for the children of the rich.  It should be a right for every single child in America.

And that`s why I`m proposing a big structural change.  Universal child care and early education for all our babies.

SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D), NEW YORK:  We have to pass a national paid leave plan.

HARRIS:  I have proposed what will be the first in the history of our country, federal investment in closing teacher pay with an emphasis also on those districts and areas that have the highest needs.

SEN BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT:  And you know we`re going to pay for many of these programs by not giving tax breaks to billionaires and large corporations as Trump does.  We`re going to tell them that they`re going to finally start paying their fair share of taxes.


O`DONNELL:  After this break, our contender series continues.  We`ll be joined tonight by a presidential candidate who knows how to win elections in the crucially important State of Ohio.  Congressman Tim Ryan announced his campaign yesterday and we`re lucky to have him for his first MSNBC prime time interview as a presidential candidate, tonight.  Mr. Ryan of Ohio is next.


O`DONNELL:  Congressman Tim Ryan supports Medicare for all, the green new deal, universal background checks for gun purchases, and barring people on the terrorist watch list from buying firearms.  And yesterday, "The View" became the venue for Congressman Tim Ryan to make an important announcement.


REP. TIM RYAN (D-OH), 2020 DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I can go back just a few weeks where my daughter called me crying from school because her friend was crying to her, her dad just got transferred at the local General Motors Plant.  The kids had to move.


RYAN:  And my daughter called me and she said you got to do something.  And I said I`m going to do something and I`m going to run for president of the United States, and we`re going make --


O`DONNELL:  And that was Congressman Tim Ryan`s official announcement that he is a candidate for president of the United States.  And joining us in tonight`s contender`s interview is Democratic Congressman Tim Ryan of Ohio.

Congressman, thank you very much for joining us in your first MSNBC primetime interview.  Really appreciate it.

RYAN:  Thanks, Lawrence.  Great to be with you.

O`DONNELL:  I want to get through as many issues as we can.  And the way I frame my questions is what will you do as president?  I want to know if you`re in the Oval Office at that desk what you will sign, what you will veto, what you will do.

I have a new question for the candidates that I`ve just started asking because we don`t really know at this point what is going to happen to the Mueller report and whether Congress is going to end up with a redacted Mueller report and never get their hands on the full unredacted Mueller report.

And so as president, if you are the next president of the United States, would you authorize the release of the unredacted Mueller report to the relevant Congressional Committees?

RYAN:  Of course.  I think it`s important to have transparency.  I think we`ve got to rebuild some credibility and some trust with the American people.  I most definitely would with the exception if there was some national security issue or some sources that would be revealed that we wouldn`t want to go down that road and put anybody`s life in danger or lives in danger.

That would be the only exception I would have but I think it should be transparent.

O`DONNELL:  And it`s April which is, of course, tax filing time for all of your constituents who are nervously trying to get theirs filed by April 15.  You voted for HR1, which makes it the law if it becomes law, that all presidential candidates must release 10 years of tax returns.  Have you released 10 years of tax returns, or do you plan to do that?

RYAN:  We have not yet but I most certainly will.

O`DONNELL:  And will you be filing --

RYAN:  I think that should be a pretty straightforward question for the president of the United States.

O`DONNELL:  Can you give us a timetable?  We know April 15th is the deadline for getting this year`s taxes done.

RYAN:  Yes, I would imagine the next few weeks.  Have to get everything in order, but yes, we just announced yesterday.  And we`ll be getting all of these affairs in order but we will make sure we get that to the American people.  They deserve to see that.

O`DONNELL:  And do you support higher income tax brackets and higher rates for incomes over $10 million, or $20 million, $50 million, these astronomically high incomes that we`ve never seen before?

RYAN:  Well, I do but let me put a -- not necessarily a caveat here.  I think it`s important, Lawrence.  We have so many broken systems in the United States.

The health care system is broke.  We spent two and a half times more than any other industrialized country and we get the worst results.

Our environmental system is broke.  We`ve got algae blooms in the Great Lakes, a dead zone at the mouth of the Mississippi River.

You look at our education system and the rankings there, you look at our food system where half the country has diabetes or prediabetes.  All of these systems are broke.

So while I think we have to get more revenue and we have almost a trillion dollar a year deficit that`s coming in the years to come, a year.  We are going to need more revenue.

But I think as Democrats, we have a responsibility to reform the government so that whether we are asking middle-class people to pay taxes or the wealthy to pay taxes, we are not asking them to dump money into a black hole that`s wasting money.

And we have a responsibility in 2019, `20, `21.  We`ve got to reform the government.  We`ve got to get it running more efficiently.  It`s got to be more modernized and I think we owe that to the taxpayers.  So sure yes, and not yes but.

O`DONNELL:  I normally don`t ask political campaign questions of the candidates but you are the one from Ohio and I simply can`t resist.  Ohio is a crucial state on the electoral map.

And what do you feel you know about appealing to Ohio voters which would translate across the electoral map?  What is it that Ohio teaches Democratic politicians about how to win hearts and minds there?

RYAN:  The entire ball game is about economic security.  It is about having dignified jobs for people who want to work hard and play by the rules.

They want health security.  They want retirement security.  They want to work hard and then go home and not have to stare at the ceiling at night and worry about whether or not their kids are going to have healthcare or they can pay for their kids to go to college or they`re going to make the bills this month.  That`s the reality of it all.

And it is important for us to be a big tent party and talk about all of the justice issues that are out there but we have to do both.  If we are going to win and rebuild that blue wall, Lawrence, it is going to be around economic security.

We have the highest stock market we`ve ever had.  We have the lowest unemployment we ever had.  And yet 40 percent to 50 percent of the American people can`t withstand a $400 or $500 emergency.

That is disgraceful in the United States.  I am going to change that as president.  We`re going to have a laser light focus on rebuilding the middle-class and the United States.

O`DONNELL:  We`re going to have to take a break here

RYAN:  And that`s how you win.


RYAN:  That happens to be how you win too.

O`DONNELL:  I get that.  We`re going to take a break here, Congressman.  And when we come back, we`re going to go back to policy questions.

And I want to give you the next question right now.  You just have a couple of minutes to think about it.  What is the best idea that you`ve heard from one of the other Democratic presidential candidates?  Think about it during the commercial.  We will be right back with more from Congressman Tim Ryan.


O`DONNELL:  We are back with presidential candidate Congressman Tim Ryan of Ohio.  And Congressman, what is the best policy idea you have heard from another Democratic presidential candidate?

RYAN:  Well, I`ll be hard pressed not to say I like Kamala Harris`s increasing teacher pay.  As the husband of a first-grade school teacher, I think that would benefit us well.

But I really do think Elizabeth Warren`s idea of really breaking up the monopolies and the agricultural industry is really the most important thing that I would agree with at this point.  What`s happening in rural America is an absolute disgrace.  Farmers haven`t made a profit in five years.

There are complete monopolies around the seed, the fertilizer, the whole process and it is stimming our ability to really start growing healthy food and sequestering carbon.  So I think that`s a piece of legislation that I will be supportive of.

O`DONNELL:  One of the ways President Trump won your state and others is the way he talked about the coal industry and how he was going to save coal jobs and increase coal jobs.

RYAN:  Yes.

O`DONNELL:  Exactly, the opposite has happened.  In your State of Ohio, you have some big coal-fired power plants that are shutting down, a lot of jobs in the coal industry are being lost.  What would you say to workers in the coal industry about their future and your support of a green new deal?

RYAN:  We are going to make sure that coal miners who`ve worked hard and played by the rules in some very dangerous circumstances are going to get their healthcare benefits and they`re going to get their pensions.  They`ve earned it.  They deserve it.

And as president, I am going to make sure that that happens.  And I am also going to make sure that as we grow into the new technologies that are going to help us sequester carbon, that are going to help us move towards renewable and wind and solar and electric vehicles, and batteries, and charging stations, as we move down that road, we need to have incentives, public-private partnerships that are using venture capital, the tax codes, the Department of Energy to drive investment into these distressed communities.

Old coal, old steel, auto where we have been losing jobs the last 30 years, the next generation of energy jobs has to be directed into these areas that have been hurt.  And they need to be paying what those coal miner jobs have paid and the auto worker jobs have paid.

So we got to make sure we cut the worker in on the deal.  So while we can`t go back, we`re going to go forward.  And instead of old economy, we`re going to go to the new economy but the government has a responsibility to push those investments and the communities that have gotten left behind by globalization and automation.

O`DONNELL:  When you talk to workers in the coal industry, do they understand the big picture that coal consumption in the United States is declining and that could only mean one thing for the future of their jobs?

RYAN:  Oh, yes, they know it better than anybody.  They have the economic anxiety more than anybody.  They have the health issues more than anybody.  They understand it very, very intimately.

But here is the deal.  These are the best jobs in town and parents love their kids.  So when you are making $90 or $100,000, that`s the job.  We got to go to them with a real plan of which I will have for resuscitating coal country and these older industrialized areas.

And anybody that hears me, Lawrence, and thinks this make sense, please go to  I need your help and support to help implement some of these ideas.

O`DONNELL:  You got it just in time, Congressman.  We`re six seconds over pass the hour.

Thank you very much for joining us tonight, Congressman Tim Ryan of Ohio, really appreciate it.

RYAN:  Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL:  Tim Ryan gets tonight`s LAST WORD.  "THE 11TH HOUR" with Brian Williams starts now.